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Africans Convert to Judaism in Uganda Ceremony

By Israel Faxx News Services

More than 250 Africans converted to Judaism last week in Uganda. The mass conversion was supervised by Gershom Sizomu, Africa's first native-born black rabbi, and other Conservative rabbis from the United States.

The ceremony in the Abayudaya village of Nabogoye included converts from Uganda, Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria. Some 800 Abayudayans formally converted to Judaism in 2002. "The relationship between God and the Jews in the Torah resonates for many spiritual seekers," Sizomu said. "It is important that Africans and others know that they can choose Judaism as a spiritual path and that we are open to them."

Prisoner Swap: Israel Mourns, Hizbullah, PA Celebrate

By, Ha'aretz &

As the prisoner exchange with Hizbullah played out, dozens of news crews at Rosh HaNikra and throughout the country broadcast its tragic climax. The bitterly contested prisoner exchange developed into one of Israel's most riveting and painful episodes, as Hizbullah and the PA celebrated victory and renewed their threat to kidnap more IDF soldiers.

The conclusion of the prisoner exchange began Tuesday night with the release of child-murderer Samir Kuntar and four of his co-terrorists, and continued through Wednesday morning with the release of the coffins of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, all caught on camera for the nation and the world to see.

To the families of the two captured IDF soldiers, the news that their sons are dead is a tragedy, while to others in Israel the prospect of handing over alive-and-well murderers of innocent Jews in exchange for dead bodies is a travesty. For those who support terrorism, the release is being hailed as a victory for Hizbullah and the struggle to destroy Israel, coupled with an admission of defeat from the Jewish state.

As images of the coffins of Regev and Goldwasser appeared on television, cries could be heard coming from the Regev family home when they suddenly realized what they feared most: They would never see their son Eldad alive again.

Once the news he was dead began to spread, the area around the Regev residence became quickly crowded with family members and friends of Eldad, who gathered outside his home to show support for the grieving parents and to honor the memory of their loved one. The visitors began a vigil outside his Kiryat Motzkin home as they lit memorial candles for Eldad. Another vigil formed at the Goldwasser home.

Eldad Regev's aunt, Hanna, collapsed when she saw the images of her nephew's coffin, and had to be treated by paramedics who were standing by.

Meanwhile, the family of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit sent the Regev and Goldwasser families "all their love and support on this hard day." The words of comfort came from Gilad's father Noam, who added: "We support the families, love them and strengthen them." Noam said that he has not spoken yet to the two families. "I assume they want to be alone right now, and I respect their wishes," he explained, but said he will contact them later in the day.

Speaking hours before he saw the televised images of his brother's coffin, Eyal Regev accepted the prospect of his brother's death with equanimity: "We understand the weight of the price, and it is a source of pain." He went on to praise the Israeli government for their decision to release multiple murderers in exchange for his likely-dead brother. "The State of Israel should be proud of returning the boys; this is our moral responsibility towards their fate," Eyal remarked.

Shlomo Goldwasser, father of Ehud Goldwasser, had defiant words for those who killed his son. "If Hizbullah's great achievement is the release of Kuntar, who is nothing but a repulsive murderer, then I pity them."

The Regev and Goldwasser families quietly accepted the fate of their slain sons and expressed gratitude for Israel's willingness to hand over the terrorists in order to get their boys back, dead or alive. However, there are many who have strongly opposed the swap, including top military and intelligence officials who urged Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's cabinet to reject the deal, considering it a big mistake for Israel.

A backlash against the prisoner release was heard from many in the Knesset. Knesset member Yuval Steinitz (Likud) condemned the release of Kuntar and the other terrorists, calling it a "tragic."

"This is a tragic end for the families [of the soldiers], and it is also a very bad end for Israel's fight against terrorism," said Steinitz. "The celebrations of the terrorist organizations in Lebanon - and they have reason for celebration - conclude two years of a failed Israeli battle against terrorism."

Steinitz underscored the growing strength of Hizbullah as a factor in the terror group's ability to manipulate Israeli policymaking. "Hizbullah has come out of these two years stronger military and stronger politically. With our help, Hizbullah has misled us for two years regarding the condition of the abducted soldiers, as to whether they are dead or alive.

"We have become the only country in the West and perhaps in the entire world, which is ready to release terrorist murderers in exchange for bodies and body parts," he remarked. "This is a dangerous precedent… and I must say that the entire country has derailed."

Steinitz also indicted the Israeli press for contributing to national derailment: "The media has a part in this," he charged. "Even in difficult situations, there remain principles. And our leadership…must lead, and not be led by the public or by the media, and not even by the families [of the POW's]. And when you lead, there are long term factors of national security to be taken into consideration.

"A prize was awarded today to terrorism. It reflects a general policy of surrender to Hizbullah and to Hamas in Gaza. We have given Hamas a de facto authorization to continue to rearm and build itself into a Hizbullah II in Gaza," Steinitz concluded.

Former Defense Minister Moshe Arens echoed the anti-swap deal sentiment, deeming the decision to release the terrorists a "complete lack of judgment" and calling the Olmert cabinet's deal a "mistake that is forbidden to make," as it encourages the enemy to kidnap more soldiers.

There has been public as well as official outcry in Israel at the prisoner swap.

Shifra Hoffman, founder of Victims of Arab Terror International (VAT) organization, said her group "strongly condemns the government of Israel for agreeing to release Samir Kuntar, the bestial child killer and other Arab terrorists with `blood on their hands.' This obscene exchange with Hizbullah, has, in effect, murdered the Jewish victims twice, and has opened the door for future terrorist attacks by Arab killers, who see that they have nothing to fear in perpetrating these horrendous acts on innocent Israeli men, woman and children."

While Israel mourned a painful homecoming for its dead soldiers amid a chorus of protest over the release of living and unrepentant terrorists, the enemies of the Jewish state are cheering what they see a clear victory over Israel.

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbullah, emerged from his bunker and spoke briefly to a crowd gathered in a Beirut stadium in order to celebrate the release of five terrorists.

"As I said in the past, the time for defeats is over and it is time for victories," Nasrallah said. "The people, the homeland and the land gave the world a clear picture today," he said. He then left the stadium hurriedly, surrounded by bodyguards.

The Lebanese government then held a state ceremony in Beirut honoring the terrorists. In the ceremony, Prime Minister Fouad Saniora and President Michel Suleiman officially greeted the freed operatives, ahead of a Hizbullah event celebrating what the terror group declares is an Israeli admission of defeat.

Hizbullah boasted about the prisoner swap in a report from the AP. The terrorist group who kidnapped and killed several IDF soldiers announced Tuesday that Israel's approval of the swap deal is an official admission of defeat by the Jewish state.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas congratulated the family of Samir Kuntar and sent his condolences to the Lebanese families receiving their loved ones' bodies as part of the deal. Abbas praised the Hizbullah terror group for successfully orchestrating a prisoner swap deal with Israel.

"I congratulate the deal between Israel and Hizbullah in which prisoners were released. I congratulate the family of the hero Kuntar and the families of other prisoners to be released," Abbas told the Arabic media, speaking from outside a meeting in Malta.

Abbas' Fatah organization, considered moderate by the U.S. and Israel, sponsored festivities and victory rallies throughout the West Bank Wednesday, celebrating the deal.

Other PA officials and Fatah leaders also heaped praise on Kuntar. Ziad Abu Ein, manager of the PA's prisoner ministry, sent congratulations to Hizbullah stating, "We are proud of the resistance that succeeded to release Kuntar."

Fadwa Barghouti, wife of imprisoned Fatah leader and convicted murderer and terror group founder Marwan Barghouti, traveled to Lebanon where she joined with the Kuntar family as a sign of solidarity. The Lebanese government declared today a national holiday to celebrate the "liberation of prisoners from the jails of the Israeli enemy and the return of the remains of martyrs."

In Gaza, Hamas terrorist leader Ismail Haniyeh congratulated Samir Kuntar on his impending release from Israeli prison and his triumphant return to Lebanon. Haniyeh praised "the great victory the resistance has had, which proved the righteousness of our ways," and said his own terrorist organization would likewise remain loyal to its operatives jailed in Israel as well, a hint that Hamas has been emboldened by the release to kidnap more IDF soldiers.

"From the al-Bureij camp, the camp of strong standing, I once against congratulate Lebanon," proclaimed Haniyeh. "We tell them that this operation is the best lesson that can be achieved – a victory over the occupation, liberating lands and liberating prisoners."

Israel posted a clip on the web site detailing the crimes committed by Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar, who was freed on Wednesday as part of a prisoner exchange deal with Hizbullah. (

The Prime Minister's Office produced the video and released it on Tuesday as part of a campaign to tarnish the image of the Lebanese terrorist group in light of the victory celebrations held in Lebanon for return of Kuntar, jailed in Israel in 1979 for a terrorist attack that left four Israelis dead.

Along with four Hizbullah terrorists also released in the swap, Kuntar was given a hero's welcome upon his return to Lebanon on Wednesday.

The film describes Kuntar as a murderer, and emphasizes the fact that he killed a four-year-old girl by smashing her skull.

In return for Kuntar, the four operatives and some 190 bodies of Lebanese and Palestinian fighters, Hizbullah on Wednesday morning transferred to Israel the bodies of Israel Defense Forces reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.

In a similar awareness-raising move in March, the government posted three videos showing images from the terror attack at Jerusalem's Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in which eight students were killed.

Iran Threatens Bush: USA Kowtows to Iran: Israel Concerned by U.S. Plans to Meet with Iranian Envoy

By & Ha'aretz

Iran's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a personal threat against President George W. Bush Wednesday, warning the US leader that he would be punished by the Iranian nation if he orders a strike on Iran.

"If George Bush orders a military strike against Iran, even if he leaves it up to the next administration, the Iranian nation will sue and punish him even after his term in his office is over," Khamenei said.

In a speech delivered on national television, Iran's supreme leader promised a harsh response to any attack. "If anyone attacks Iran, our response will be decisive," he said. "The fact that the US government and Zionist regime are talking in order to cover up their own internal problems is their business. Yet if the plan to attack will be realized, they should know that the Iranian nation will cut off the arm of those who attack it."

In his speech, the Iranian leader hinted that his country will be no suspending uranium enrichment efforts. "Our red lines our clear. If the other sides respect the Iranian nation, the Islamic Republic's honor, and these red lines, our people will engage in negotiations, as long as nobody threatens Iran," he said, adding that his country has decided to take part in negotiations, "but will not agree to accept any threat."

Israel is concerned by American plans to send a senior envoy to meet with a senior Iranian representative to discuss Iran's nuclear program. "There is a bad feeling in Israel and dissatisfaction with the U.S. move," Israel told senior Washington officials, according to a source in Jerusalem. "There can be no concession on the demand to end uranium enrichment as a precondition to negotiating with Iran," Israel added.

The U.S. informed Israel of its plans to send Under Secretary of State William Burns, considered No. 3 in the State Department, to the talks, emphasizing that this is a one-time meeting and not a change in policy. The source said the Americans considered the talks "feelers" to test whether it should be speaking with Iran.

The U.S. also claims it is sending an envoy to the talks because it "doesn't trust" the reports from EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, the liaison with the Iranians. The Americans said Solana "pulls the wool over our eyes," according to the source in Jerusalem.

Israel emphasized to the U.S. that "there is great importance in maintaining the international demand to suspend uranium enrichment, as mandated by the UN resolution, as a precondition to entering negotiations with Iran. We believe there can be no concession on this demand," the source said. The Americans responded that "the condition remains."

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