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Attack Thwarted in Jerusalem


Police prevented a terrorist attack that was meant to take place on Monday night in the Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhood of northern Jerusalem. Officers stopped two young Arab men after noticing that the pair was acting suspiciously.

The two refused orders to submit to a search and began struggling with police. During the struggle, a commando knife fell from one of the suspect's pockets. Police subdued the two and discovered that both were armed with knives. The young terrorists admitted that they had intended to stab Jews. They told officers they wanted revenge following Israeli operations in Gaza.

Syrian Leader Says Peace with Israel May Be Possible

By VOA News

An Arabic newspaper quoted Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as saying he may agree to sign a peace deal with Israel, but the two countries will not have fully normal relations unless the Jewish state also makes peace with the Palestinians.

In an interview with the United Arab Emirates newspaper "Al-Khaleej," Assad said he can envision Syria and Israel exchanging embassies, but "there is a difference between a peace agreement and peace itself."

The Syrian leader said "a peace agreement is a signed piece of paper" but does not mean open borders, trade or normal relations. He said it will be impossible to have a "comprehensive peace" that will be accepted by the Syrian people without also resolving the Palestinian situation. He called on Palestinian negotiators to coordinate with Syria over their own peace talks with Israel so the two issues will not be separated.

Last year, Turkey mediated indirect talks between Israel and Syria. They had previously held direct negotiations, but those stalled in 2000.

Damascus wants Israel to return the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau the Jewish state captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war. Israel wants Syria to cut ties with Iran and militant groups such as Lebanon's Hizbullah and the Palestinian movement Hamas.

A senior U.S. senator who met with Assad in Damascus last month said the Syrian leader would like the United States to join the peace discussions. John Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the U.S. should play a role in the peace talks if it helps move the process forward.

In the same interview, Assad told the newspaper that Syria has constructed new buildings on the site bombed by Israeli warplanes two years ago. U.S. officials have said they believe Syria was building a nuclear reactor on the site, known as al-Kibar.

The Syrian president denied this. He questioned the results of United Nations tests that found traces of man-made uranium at the location, saying a nuclear facility still under construction would not have uranium yet.

Assad said Washington had only provided evidence supporting its allegations "eight months later," and asked why genuine evidence would have taken so long. Last month, diplomats at the U.N. nuclear agency said Syria has built a missile facility on the al-Kibar site.

Syria said the structures bombed at al-Kibar were a conventional military facility. The International Atomic Energy Agency said last year that al-Kibar had "features" characteristic of a nuclear site.

Hizbullah: War with Israel Unlikely in Near Future

By Ha'aretz and Reuters

Hizbullah Deputy Leader Sheikh Naim Kassem said on Monday that there was little prospect of another conflict with Israel in the near term. But he warned that, "In the distant future all things are possible." Israel fought a 34-day war with Hizbullah in 2006, which it launched after the Lebanese terrorist organization abducted two Israeli soldiers.

The Hizbullah official also welcomed a review of policy towards Hizbullah by Britain, which says it is willing to talk to the political wing of a movement listed as a terrorist group by Washington.

"We welcome this British revision and perhaps there will be meetings in the coming days," Kassem told Reuters in an interview. "There is no request for a meeting but we expect this to happen soon," he said, adding that Hizbullah already had "wide contacts" with other European governments.

The group's military arm is on Britain's list of banned organizations, but Hizbullah itself makes no distinction between its political and military functions.

With Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu set to lead a new government, Kassem also said he saw no chance of progress in any peace talks between Israel and Syria and the Palestinians.

The government's counterterrorism unit on Monday warned Israelis that Hizbullah still seeks to perpetrate terror attacks against them abroad, urging that they take extra precautions ahead of the Jewish holiday of Pesach. "Hizbullah has repeatedly blamed Israel for the death of Imad Mughniyeh, something that increases the threat of terror against Israeli targets abroad," the Counter Terrorism Bureau said in a communiqué.

The bureau, which is part of the Prime Minister's Office, was referring to Hizbullah's slain terror operations head, who was assassinated in a February 2008 car bombing in Damascus. Israel has denied involvement in the killing. "As such," the communiqué continued, "the Counter Terrorism Bureau stresses its existing travel warning on the matter of the abduction of Israelis, or harm to them, abroad."

The bureau reiterated its guidelines for Israeli nationals abroad, stating that they should be even more stringent in light of the current threat. It called on them to pay attention to unusual phenomena, refrain from visiting Arab and Muslim countries, reject tempting proposals from suspicious or unknown individuals and meet in crowded places with trustworthy companions.

Israelis abroad should make an effort to change their routines, especially in reference to hotels and restaurants, and also refrain from bringing suspicious guests into their hotel rooms, the bureau said.

Last month, bureau issued a severe travel warning for Israelis abroad, two weeks ahead of the one-year year anniversary of Mughniyeh's assassination. "Hizbullah appears to be prepared to carry out a serious attack in the form of an assassination or a kidnapping of an Israeli target, including abroad," the bureau said. "This threatens every Israeli, especially senior figures."

The government agency described the threat as "concrete and at the highest level."

Hebron: Muslim Worshipers Desecrate Holy Texts


Muslims in the city of Hebron were allowed to access the entire Tomb of the Patriarchs (Maarat HaMachpelah) this week in honor of the birthday of Mohammed, whom Muslims revere as a prophet. Worshipers took advantage of the opportunity to desecrate Jewish holy texts, including prayer books and books of Psalms.

The damage was discovered on Monday when Jews were allowed to return to the prayer halls usually set aside for Jewish use. The desecration caused upset and anger among the returning Jewish worshipers.

Jewish community spokesman David Wilder said such damage is unfortunately common. Jews have often returned after Muslims made use of the entire holy place to discover ruined holy books, damaged mezuzah cases and other destruction, he said. Jews try to remove all holy objects from the sanctuary before turning it over to Muslim use, he explained, but books are occasionally accidentally left behind.

The damage is not accidental, however, Wilder clarified. "They know exactly what it is that they are doing," he said of those who destroy the holy texts. The IDF is aware of such incidents, he added, as video cameras in the building allow them to see what takes place in the prayer halls. "It's very unfortunate that more care isn't taken to prevent these things from happening," he said.

Hebron's Jews are now calling on the IDF to refuse the next request for Muslim access to the Jewish prayer halls. If the desecration is not met with punishment, such acts will continue, they said.

Anti-Zionist Neturei Karta: Dressing Up as Soldiers Forbidden


The anti-Zionist Neturei Karta's leaders have urged the public not to wear popular costumes of policemen, soldiers on Purim, because they include 'impure symbols' of State of Israel

The faction has come out against the custom - common among ultra-Orthodox boys - of dressing up as soldiers on Purim, and warned that such costumes were even worse that those of Christian priests.

In pamphlets distributed among their public, the stream's leaders urged their followers not to masquerade as policemen, soldiers, rescue workers, ZAKA crew or other forms of national service, and avoid wearing "impure symbols."

In an article titled "On Purim I Do Not Wear Zionist Outfits," they wrote: Would anyone wear the clothes of pagan priests? Let alone the clothes of those who serve the heretical monstrosity that descended from Israel."

The article went on to say that, "The offspring of God, the king of kings do not wear the clothes of the Zionist Amalek… also on Purim one must not wear a garment adorned with words that are insulting to the leader and the congregation."

Neturei Karta is an extremist ultra-Orthodox stream that opposes Zionism and does not recognize the State of Israel and its institutions, believing that the existence of a secular state constitutes heresy against God.

The community's members do not recognize the courts' authority, do not take part in local and national elections, do not send their children to the public education system and do not serve in the army. They also refrain from using Hebrew as their daily language, do not carry an identification card and refuse to accept money from the state, although most of them pay taxes.

Most of the congregation, about 400 families, resides at the Mea Shearim neighborhood in Jerusalem; 100 more families live in Beit Shemesh and several other families live in Bnei Brak. Other Neturei Karta communities can be found in the United States, the UK and Canada.

Financial Crunch Hits Historic US Synagogue, Cancels Tours


The oldest existing synagogue in the United States announced that it must cancel tours due to financial difficulties. The Touro Synagogue Foundation, originally comprised of volunteers, has disbanded its paid staff and has stopped conducting public tours, announced the president of the foundation's board of directors, Keith Stokes, The Providence Journal reported.

Nevertheless, plans to open a new museum at the synagogue this coming summer are continuing, according to John L. Loeb, who is financing the project. He stated that the tours would be resumed when the museum, the George Washington Institute for Religious Freedom, opens its doors this summer.

Stokes, who was eager to dispel rumors that the downsizing was related to the foundation's investments in Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scam, stated, "We're making the necessary adjustments in lieu of the fact that the non-profit philanthropic market has shrunk. There is less money out there…So we have to reduce our overhead."

Thousands of Jews fled religious persecution from Spain in 1492, seeking refuge in the Netherlands, Caribbean Islands, and South America. When the Inquisition followed on their heels, they searched for sanctuary in the America's newly-founded colonies.

In 1658, a group of 15 Jewish families, hearing about Roger William's "Lively Experiment," where the civil government was devoid of power over spiritual matters, sailed into Newport harbor. These Sephardim (Hebrew term for "Spanish Jews"), who like their ancestors were seeking a haven from religious persecution, founded the second Jewish settlement in the colonies and Congregation Jeshuat Israel (Salvation of Israel).

In 1677, they purchased and consecrated property as a Jewish cemetery, a place where they could bury their dead according to Jewish tradition.

Over the next 100 years the Jewish population of Newport flourished. In 1758, Isaac Touro, a Dutch Jew became the congregation's first spiritual leader. A year later, the congregation purchased land and hired Peter Harrison, the preeminent architect of the colonial era, to design Touro Synagogue, the oldest synagogue building in the United States. The synagogue was completed and dedicated in 1763 during the festival of Chanukah.

In 1946, the Synagogue was designated a National Historic Site by the National Park Service and was renovated in 2005 by the National Historic Trust and the Park Service. Touro Synagogue took on a special significance in 1790 when President George Washington, in his letter "To the Hebrew Congregation in Newport," declared that the new nation would "… give to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance."

These few words affirmed the founding fathers' commitment to the principles of religious freedom as a cornerstone of democracy in America.

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