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Tombstone Proclaims Mayor Koch's Judaism


EX NYC Mayor Ed Koch has everything in place for his funeral, which includes a tombstone at the nondenominational Trinity Church cemetery, according to The New York Times.

The headstone features a Star of David, and is engraved with the Shema Yisrael prayer (Hear Israel, the L-rd is G-d, the L-rd is One). It is also graced with the last words of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was murdered by Pakistani Muslim terrorists in 2002: "My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish."

Israel to Present Clinton with 'Red Lines' on Talks with Iran

By Ha'aretz

Israel plans to present Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with a series of "red lines" it wants Washington to incorporate into its planned dialogue with Tehran about Iran's nuclear program. She meets with various Israeli officials Tuesday.

The red lines were jointly formulated by the Foreign Ministry and the defense establishment, and Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu has been briefed on them. The document recommends that Israel adopt a positive attitude toward the planned U.S.-Iranian dialogue, but proposes ways of minimizing what Israeli officials see as the risks inherent in such talks.

Its main points are 1. Any dialogue must be both preceded by and accompanied by harsher sanctions against Iran, both within the framework of the UN Security Council and outside it. Otherwise, the talks are liable to be perceived by both Iran and the international community as acceptance of Iran's nuclear program.

  1. Before the dialogue begins, the U.S. should formulate an action plan with Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain regarding what to do if the talks fail. Specifically, there must be an agreement that the talks' failure will prompt extremely harsh international sanctions on Iran.

  2. A time limit must be set for the talks, to prevent Iran from merely buying time to complete its nuclear development. The talks should also be defined as a "one-time opportunity" for Tehran.

  3. Timing is critical, and the U.S. should consider whether it makes sense to begin the talks before Iran's presidential election in June.

The red lines were approved by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak at a meeting with senior defense officials last week. All three plan to raise them at their respective meetings with Clinton Tuesday.

Within the defense establishment, the majority view, led by chief of Military Intelligence Amos Yadlin, is that Israel should regard the U.S.-Iranian dialogue as an opportunity rather than a threat. The minority view, spearheaded by the Defense Ministry, is that the dialogue entails grave risks.

Israel's estimate of the progress of Iran's nuclear program differs from both that of the International Atomic Energy Agency and that expressed on Sunday by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Two weeks ago, the IAEA reported a significant increase in Iran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium since November, to 1,010 kilograms - enough, some physicists say, for conversion into high-enriched uranium for one bomb. And Mullen told CNN on Sunday that he believes Iran already has enough enriched uranium for a nuclear device.

Israel's assessment, in contrast, is that Iran does not yet have enough uranium for a bomb; it thinks Iran will reach this point only in late 2009 or early 2010.

Nevertheless, Olmert told Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon on Sunday that the "timetable for Iran's nuclear program is pressing, and therefore, determined action is necessary. Israel will not tolerate a nuclear Iran."

One question to which Israeli officials will be seeking an answer from Clinton is what role Dennis Ross, the secretary of state's newly appointed special advisor for the Gulf and Southeast Asia will actually play. It is widely expected that Ross will focus on the Iranian nuclear issue, but this has not been stated officially.

In addition to Olmert, Livni and Barak, Clinton will meet Tuesday with Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. Wednesday, she will travel to Ramallah for meetings with Palestinian officials.

Durban 2 Draft: Israel's Palestinian Policy is Crime Against Humanity

By Ha'aretz

A draft of the closing statement prepared for the upcoming United Nations-sponsored conference against racism, dubbed Durban 2, states that Israel's policy in the Palestinian territories constitutes a "violation of international human rights, a crime against humanity and a contemporary form of apartheid."

The conference, to be held in Geneva next month, is a follow-up to the contentious 2001 conference in the South African city of Durban which was dominated by clashes over the Middle East and the legacy of slavery. The U.S. and Israel walked out midway through that eight-day meeting over a draft resolution that singled out Israel for criticism and likened Zionism - the movement to establish and maintain a Jewish state - to racism.

Israel, Canada and the U.S. have already announced that they will boycott the upcoming summit.

The draft statement, obtained by Ha'aretz, goes on to say that Israel's policy poses "a serious threat to international peace and security and violates the basic principles of international human rights law."

In the draft, the organizers of the UN summit express "deep concern" over Israel's practices of "racial discrimination against the Palestinian people as well as Syrian nationals of the occupied Syrian Golan and other inhabitants of the Arab occupied territories."

The draft accuses Israel of implementing collective punishment against the Palestinian people, as well as "torture, economic blockade, severe restriction of movement and arbitrary closure of their territories."

Furthermore, Israel is charged with perpetrating "a foreign occupation founded on settlements, laws based on racial discrimination with the aim of continuing domination of the occupied territories," and is termed a "threat to international peace and security." Finally, the draft calls on the international community to protect the Palestinian people against Israel's "racist" policies.

Report: Israeli Plans Could Double West Bank Settlers

By VOA News

An anti-settlement Israeli group says Israel's Housing Ministry has plans that would nearly double the number of settlers in the West Bank.

The Peace Now report says Israeli authorities have planned 73,000 new Jewish housing units in the "occupied Palestinian territory." The report released Monday also says authorities have already approved about 15,000 of the units.

Peace Now cautions that a large expansion could destroy chances for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The U.S. supports a two-state solution.

Israel's Housing Ministry said the new plans for the West Bank only refer to potential construction and would need to be approved by government bodies.

Binyamin Netanyahu, who is trying to form a coalition government, has said his government would expand existing settlements to accommodate for "natural growth" of Israel's populations.

Rabbi Yosef: Women Can Read Aloud Book of Esther


Rabbi Ovadia Yosef has caused a stir by repeating his ruling that women may, under certain circumstances, read the Book of Esther aloud, even for men, in fulfillment of the upcoming Purim holiday obligation.

Yosef noted that women may enable men to fulfill their obligation in this way only in a case where there are no men who can read the Book of Esther with the proper notes and pronunciation.

One of the commandments of the Purim holiday is to read aloud the complete Book of Esther from a scroll, without the help of punctuation or pronunciation symbols. It is read both evening and morning, and preferably with the proper musical intonations on each word. The reading is generally a festive one, with frequent noisy interruptions to "wipe out" the evil Haman's name - while at the same time, the congregation must make sure to hear every word.

Rabbi Yosef served as the Rishon LeTzion, Israel's Chief Sephardic Rabbi, between 1973 and 1983. The Ashkenazi practice on Purim is also to allow women to read the Megillah for men only if no knowledgeable man is available, but she should not recite the blessings; if a man who can read it aloud later appears on the scene, he should read it for them again.

Yosef said that one reason to be stringent might be the ban on men hearing a woman singing – but he said this is not a concern: "The most proper way is for a man to read, but there is a custom to have the woman read if, for instance, there is a small town with not many people and there is no one who knows how to read properly, but there is a woman who, thank God, knows how to read, she should read with the notes and they will all thus fulfill their obligation."

The rabbi, aged 89, said that those who hear the scroll via a microphone or radio do not fulfill their obligation, because they are not hearing a human voice, but rather a technological reproduction thereof.

Many rabbis endorse the widespread practice of having a "second" reading of the Book of Esther for women, following the main public reading in the synagogue on Purim night and morning, in which a woman reads aloud for other women.

Vending Machines Dispense Torah Learning


Learning Torah has replaced chips, candy bars and pretzels at a vending machine on the second floor of the Jerusalem Central Bus Station. Passengers can receive a small booklet that allows them to cover a precept of Jewish Law, Mishna, Aggadah (allegories and non-legalistic text from the Talmud) and part of the weekly Torah reading.

It takes only five minutes to read the booklet, which costs NIS 15 ($3.60). The V'ten Khelkenu ["give us our portion in the Torah"], is the brainchild of Meorot HaDaf HaYomi, which for 12 years has attracted an international community of Jews learning the Written and Oral Torah.

Yehoshua Frei, marketing director of Meorot, explains that the idea is to encourage people to use their time productively and to improve the quality of their spare moments by learning Torah for five minutes a day.

"We made the format for five minutes so that everyone can feel he is learning Torah and Judaism," he said. The bus station location, between the middle staircase and the escalator, was chosen because of the large volume of passengers who pass through, enabling them to learn while waiting for a bus or sitting during travel.

Frei estimates that hundreds of booklets are snapped up every month, and contacts have been made with officials at Ben Gurion International Airport to install a machine at the terminal there. Malls and supermarkets also are on the list of potential dispensing venues.

Several companies' employees learn through the Meorot Internet site and via pamphlets that include a more extensive Daf Yomi - a daily page of the Talmud, studied every day by Jews around the world. One example is Amdocs, where 25 workers learn every day following the afternoon prayers, according to Frei.

More than 100,000 families learn through the Meorot HaDaf classes and website, which is available in English, Hebrew, Yiddish, Spanish and French.

Arab-Jewish Duo Chosen to Represent Israel at Eurovision

By Reuters

A Jewish-Arab duo whose selection to represent Israel in the Eurovision song contest stirred controversy will perform a peace song chosen on Monday by fellow Israelis.

The tune "Your eyes," sung by Achinoam Nini, a Jewish singer better known abroad as "Noa," and Mira Awad, a Christian Arab Israeli, got the most votes in text messages from among four selections the duo performed on state television.

"People want to believe in something, how much can you just watch the horrors?" Nini said on Israel's Channel One television of the song, which has lyrics in Hebrew, Arabic and English and whose chorus says: "There must be another way."

Awad, criticized by some Palestinians when her plan to represent Israel was first announced during a three-week war in the Gaza Strip in January, said in response: "There were people who supported us, and I would seize on those."

Israel's President Shimon Peres said he admired the duo, Israel's first mixed ethnic entry to the contest in decades, "for what they are doing for their people and the sake of peace".

Israeli Arabs, made up largely of Palestinians and their descendants who stayed in Israel after a war over its founding in 1948, account for about 20 percent of Israel's mostly Jewish population.

This year's Eurovision contest will be held on May 12-14 in Moscow.


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