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`Muslim Clerics Told Tractor Killer to Act'

By Israel News

Muslim clerics visited the home of the tractor terrorist in the weeks before the attack and convinced him to carry out a "heroic act," according to Yechiel Leiter, a researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Policy Studies.

In an exclusive interview with Israel National News, Leiter said that he learned from "very reliable sources" that the Muslim clerics visited the terrorist's home in the weeks before the attack "on a daily basis," spoke to him "for hours on end" and convinced that him he needed to carry out "a heroic act to atone for all of his sins."

Iran Threatens to Close Strait of Hormuz

By AFP/Reuters/Ha'aretz

Iran's army chief warned that his country would shut the Strait of Hormuz if its interests were threatened, the Fars news agency reported. "All the countries should know that if Iran's interests in the region are ignored, it is natural that we will not allow others to use it [the strait]," Gen Hassan Firouzabadi was quoted as saying.

The strait between Iran and Oman's Musandam peninsula is a vital conduit for energy supplies, with as much as 40 percent of the world's crude passing through the waterway.

However, Iran's armed forces joint chief of staff stressed his country's priority remains that "the Strait of Hormuz be open." His threat repeats comments made by the commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Mohammed Ali Jafari, more than a week ago, when he said Iran would definitely act to impose control on the Gulf and Strait of Hormuz if attacked.

Speculation has been on the rise that Israel could be planning a military strike against Iranian nuclear sites, using force to halt Tehran's controversial atomic activities.

The commander of the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, Vice Admiral Kevin J Cosgriff, said last week that his forces would not allow Iran to close the Strait of Hormuz. President Bush has not ruled out using force in the nuclear standoff between Iran and the West, but emphasized that he preferred a diplomatic solution.

Iran insists its atomic drive is peaceful, but Western powers fear Tehran is using the program to develop nuclear weapons.

The country's oil minister said today that any military attack aimed at curbing Tehran's nuclear work would push crude prices to "unpredictable" highs.

In a statement on the Oil Ministry's website, Gholamhossein Nozari said: "When oil prices change by $10 to $15 by official comments [about the market], oil prices will be pushed to unpredictable highs if some take an unwise decision to attack Iran." Nozari likened talks on attacking Iran to a "joke.

Senior U.S. defense officials fear that a much-anticipated Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear facilities would fail to destroy them due to lack of intelligence about their location, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

The British newspaper stated that evidence of the CIA and Mossad espionage agency's dearth of knowledge on the matter emerged during recent Israel-U.S. talks.

Citing an official familiar with the discussions who has briefed Iran experts in Washington and London, the Sunday Telegraph stated that the talks were between Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the American Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Israeli generals.

Despite the gaps in intelligence, the Pentagon chiefs worry that Israel will feel compelled to act within the next 12 months, despite no guarantee that it can do more than slow Iran's development of a nuclear weapon, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

IDF Prepares to Exhume Terrorists Bodies

By &

The Military Rabbinate has received orders to report to Israel's cemetery for enemy combatants ahead of an imminent exchange with Hizbullah, which Palestinian media reports is scheduled to take place on Thursday

Military officials believe the exhumation process will begin Monday, or Tuesday at the latest – when a command center will be established to handle the transfer of the caskets. To this end, several reservists from the Military Rabbinate have been summoned for duty.

The identification procedure will be conducted by the rabbinate. Meanwhile, all in Israel will be closely monitoring reports from the other side and the fates of kidnapped soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.

Throughout the day Sunday, the army pressed on with preparing the ground at the cemetery, clearing brush from around the graves before the bodies are exhumed. The security measures surrounding the site, namely fences, have been reinforced to prevent civilians or journalists from accessing the cemetery.

Israel's negotiator for the release of captives has returned to Israel with a Hizbullah report stating that Ron Arad died two years after he was captured.

The Hizbullah terrorist organization, based in southern Lebanon, prepared the report on its investigation of Ron Arad's disappearance, as part of its obligations in the recently approved "humanitarian agreement" with Israel.

The agreement stipulates that Israel would release murderous terrorist Samir Kuntar and four other terrorists, as well as the remains of dozens of Lebanese infiltrators and others, and would provide information on four missing Iranian diplomats, and will provide maps of mines in southern Lebanon. In exchange, Hizbullah is to free captured IDF soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser - assumed by Israeli intelligence to be dead - and provide a detailed report on Ron Arad.

It is this report that Dekel received on Thursday from German mediators, and has now given to Israeli government officials for their review.

Ron Arad was an IDF navigator who was shot down over Lebanon in late 1986. His pilot was dramatically rescued by Israeli forces, but Arad was captured and transferred from one terrorist group to another until his tracks were lost. Three letters from him were received in 1987. The Israeli government negotiated for his release, but talks failed in 1988. Arad was then apparently "sold" to Iran, though this is not certain.

In 1989 and 1994, Israel captured two leading Lebanese terrorists involved in Arad's capture and incarceration, as a means of gaining information on Arad. This attempt ultimately proved to be a dead end, and they were released in 2004 as part of the exchange for Elchanan Tenenbaum and the bodies of three captured IDF soldiers.

Various Israeli intelligence reports say Arad died sometime in the 1990s. There is no concrete proof that he is dead, however, and his wife Tami has remained an agunah - not permitted to remarry - since his disappearance.

This week, the Israeli Cabinet approved, in principle, the exchange deal for Goldwasser and Regev. Dekel spent Wednesday and Thursday in Germany ironing out final details, and was given the Hizbullah report in which the terrorist organization states it knows for certain that Arad died shortly after he was taken to a southern Lebanon village in May 1988.

Before the report was handed to Dekel, German mediator Gerhard Konrad reviewed it and ascertained that it met the standards of detail required by the agreement with Israel.

Though this report marks an important milestone in the long search for Ron Arad, the saga will end only once Arad either returns home, or is ruled to be dead by the IDF Rabbinate.

Hebrew Tablet Tells of Resurrection Before Jesus


A stone tablet written in Hebrew is generating debate as some scholars are saying its words point to a suffering messiah who was killed and rose again three days later decades before Jesus of Nazareth.

Daniel Boyarin, a professor of Talmudic culture at the University of California at Berkeley told The International Herald Tribune, "Some Christians will find it shocking – a challenge to the uniqueness of their theology – while others will be comforted by the idea of it being a traditional part of Judaism."

The tablet itself, about three feet tall and containing 87 lines of Hebrew in two neat columns, is a rare find because its words are written in ink, rather than engraved. Experts who have analyzed the writing date the stone from the late first century BCE, and a chemical examination conducted by a professor at Tel Aviv University showed no reason to doubt the date.

The content of the writing, however, remains much in doubt, as evidenced by a handful of articles on the stone and several due to be published in coming months.

The tablet was discovered roughly 10 years ago, purchased from a Jordanian antiquities dealer and stored until recently in a private collection in Zurich. According to the Tribune, news of the tablet excited scholars last year when Ada Yardeni, an Israeli scholar of Hebrew scripts, published a long analysis of the stone in Cathedra, a Hebrew-language history and archaeology quarterly.

David Jeselsohn, the tablet's owner, told the Tribune, "I didn't realize how significant it was until I showed it to Ada Yardeni, who specializes in Hebrew writing, a few years ago. She was overwhelmed. 'You have got a Dead Sea Scroll on stone,' she told me."

The tablet, called "Gabriel's Revelation," is broken and faded, making much of its content debatable. The words tell of a vision, supposedly given by the angel Gabriel, of the apocalypse.

Lines 19 through 21 of the tablet contain words, which translated read: "In three days you will know that evil will be defeated by justice."

Line 80 of the tablet begins with the words "L'shloshet yamin," meaning "in three days," but then fades. Some scholars see the next word as illegible, but Israel Knohl, a professor of Bible studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, says the word is Hebrew for "live," followed by even more difficult-to-read words that he claims complete a command meaning, "I three days you shall live, I, Gabriel, command you."

Knohl told the Tribune that he interprets the tablet to tell of a messianic figure named Simon, whose death was recorded by the Jewish historian Josephus. The tablet, Knohl contends, was likely written by Simon's followers and demonstrates that messianic followers even before Jesus looked to their leaders rising again, thus nullifying the frequent claim that Jesus' resurrection was a uniquely developed story.

If Knohl's interpretation of "Gabriel's Revelation" is correct, it would lend evidence to his previous theories, published in his 2002 book, "The Messiah before Jesus." Knohl is one of several scholars who suggest Jesus may not have been unique in his claim to face suffering, death and resurrection, but that sources, like this tablet, suggest a common messianic story that New Testament writers may have merely been copying.

"This should shake our basic view of Christianity," Knohl told the Tribune. "Resurrection after three days becomes a motif developed before Jesus, which runs contrary to nearly all scholarship. What happens in the New Testament was adopted by Jesus and his followers based on an earlier messiah story."

Moshe Bar-Asher, president of the Israeli Academy of Hebrew Language and emeritus professor of Hebrew and Aramaic at the Hebrew University, however, remains skeptical of Knohl's interpretation of the tablet.

"There is one problem," he told the Tribune. "In crucial places of the text there is a lack of text. I understand Knohl's tendency to find there keys to the pre-Christian period, but in two to three crucial lines of the text there are a lot of missing words." Bar-Asher plans to publish his own paper on the tablet in coming months.

If the stone tablet does represent a "Dead Sea Scroll on stone," the debate over its meaning will likely continue for many years. The Dead Sea Scrolls, originally discovered in 1947 in caves near the Dead Sea, contain pre Christian-era copies of the Hebrew Scriptures, the oldest known copies at the time.

The Scrolls continue to be studied and debated, and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Scrolls' discovery, begins a three-day "The Dead Sea Scrolls and Contemporary Culture" conference today. Israel Knohl is scheduled to speak at the conference about the "Gabriel's Revelation" stone.

Will the Real Zohan Please Stand Up?

By Ha'aretz

Brig. Gen. Zohar Dvir, commander of the Israel Police Valleys District, likes to keep a low profile. He talks to the media sporadically, and stubbornly refuses to divulge details of his past as an IDF and police commando fighter.

Millions of cinemagoers worldwide have already acquainted themselves with the outlandish character of the unrelenting Israeli commando fighter Zohan Dvir, played by Adam Sandler in Dennis Dugan's multi-million blockbuster comedy You Don't Mess With the Zohan.

As unlikely as the analogy might be, some people staunchly argue the character is based on the famed police officer, who is the former commander of the Special Police Unit (SPU), Israel Police's flagship counterterrorism unit.

"I haven't seen the film yet," Dvir told Ha'aretz in a telephone interview last week. "I don't know whether it's based on me or not, it's open to speculation."

In this wacky parody of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Zohan, a fearless hit man who brushes his teeth with hummus and has a license to kill as well as a penchant for pretty women, is fed up with killing after years of serving his country. He fakes his own death and flees to New York to pursue a slightly different line of work - hairstyling. Having specialized in killing Arabs, Zohan finds, to his amazement, Jews and Arabs living side by side in relative peace.

Dvir led the SPU through one of its most ominous periods - the years of the second Intifada, during the course of which it killed 129 militants. In 2003, he was critically injured in a car crash, but soon recovered and returned to the unit's helm until his promotion in January 2007. Unlike his Manhattan-based counterpart, Zohar Dvir was relocated to the Valleys District headquarters.

He told Ha'aretz that he intends to see the film soon to find out, among other things, whether taking up his current job was a grave mistake in judgment. "I have no ambition to become a hairstylist," he said, "but I want to see the film and see whether it pays off."

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