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Egyptian Minister Calls for Muslim Pilgrimage to Jerusalem


Egyptian Religious Minister Mohammed Hamdi Zaqzuq called for Muslims worldwide to visit Jerusalem, according to AFP. If millions of Muslims begin to go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, as they do to Mecca, "we can show the whole world that Jerusalem is something that concerns all Muslims."

Muslims claim the Al Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount as Islam's third most holy site, following Mecca and Medina. However, most Muslim countries are officially at war with Israel and do not allow visits to the area, and relatively few Muslims visit the city.

Swastikas Painted on Joseph's Tomb


Jews who arrived Wednesday night to pray at Joseph's Tomb – Judaism's third holiest site – were stunned to learn the structure had been vandalized, with the headstone smashed in and swastikas painted on the walls.

"Only barbarians could do such things. People who pathologically disgrace such a holy place don't deserve to be called human beings," said Gershon Mesika, head of the Jewish regional council in the West Bank.

Joseph's Tomb is the believed burial place of the biblical patriarch Joseph, the son of Jacob who was sold by his brothers into slavery and later became viceroy of Egypt. Following repeated Palestinian attacks, Israel in October 2000 unilaterally retreated from Joseph's Tomb and, with very few exceptions, banned Jews from returning to the site purportedly for security reasons. The tomb area is now controlled entirely by the Palestinians.

Mesika has been working with the Israel Defense Forces to lead monthly midnight excursions to the tomb in hope of restoring a Jewish presence to the area. However, Wednesday evening, a group of 500 Jews arrived to pray at the site under heavy protection of the IDF. But they were stunned to see the tomb had been defaced. The headstone was smashed and swastikas were painted on the walls, as was graffiti of a blood-dripping sword over a Star of David.

Last year, WND was first to report Palestinians tried to burn down the tomb. And in 2001, within less than an hour of the original Israeli retreat, Palestinian rioters overtook Joseph's Tomb and reportedly ransacked and then partially destroyed the structure.

The tomb is located just outside the modern city of Nablus, or biblical Shechem, in the northern West Bank. Under the 1993 Oslo Accords, which granted nearby strategic territory to the Palestinians, Joseph's Tomb was supposed to be accessible to Jews and Christians. But following repeated attacks against Jewish worshippers at the holy site by gunmen associated with then-Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat's militias, then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak in October 2000 ordered an Israeli unilateral retreat from the area.

Immediately following the Israeli retreat, Palestinian rioters overtook Joseph's Tomb and reportedly began to ransack the site. Palestinian mobs reportedly tore apart books, destroying prayer stands and grinding out stone carvings in the Tomb's interior. Palestinians hoisted a Muslim flag over the tomb. Amin Maqbul, an official from Arafat's office, visited the tomb to deliver a speech declaring, "Today was the first step to liberate (Jerusalem)."

One BBC reporter described the scene: "The site was reduced to smoldering rubble – festooned with Palestinian and Islamic flags – cheering Arab crowd."

The Torah describes how Jacob purchased a land plot in Shechem, which was given as an inheritance to his sons and was used to re-inter Joseph, whose bones were taken out of Egypt during the Jewish exodus. Joseph's sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, are also said to be buried at the site.

As detailed in the Torah, shortly before his death, Joseph asked the Israelites to vow they would resettle his bones in the land of Canaan, biblical Israel. That oath was fulfilled when, according to the Torah, Joseph's remains were taken by the Jews from Egypt and reburied at the plot of land Jacob had earlier purchased in Shechem, believed to be the site of the tomb. Modern archeologists confirm Nablus is the biblical city of Shechem.

Yehuda Leibman, who until the Israeli retreat from Joseph's Tomb in 2000 was director of a yeshiva constructed there, explained, "The sages tell us that there are three places which the world cannot claim were stolen by the Jewish people: the Temple Mount, the Cave of the Patriarchs and Joseph's Tomb."

There is evidence suggesting that for more than 1,000 years Jews of various origins worshipped at Joseph's Tomb. The Samaritans, a local tribe that follow a religion based on the Torah, say they trace their lineage back to Joseph himself and that they worshipped at the tomb site for more than 1,700 years.

Israel first gained control of Nablus and the neighboring site of Joseph's Tomb in the 1967 Six-Day War. The Oslo Accords signed by Arafat and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin called for the area surrounding the tomb site to be placed under Palestinian jurisdiction but allowed for continued Jewish visits to the site and the construction of an Israeli military outpost at the tomb to ensure secure Jewish access.

It's Difficult Making Aliyah


This is the story of an American Jewish couple who decided to come to Israel despite the financial insecurity involved in the move. But they say that financial dilemmas deter many others from making aliyah Anyone who has experienced the aliyah process can attest that it can be one of the most difficult transitions in a person's life. Adjusting to Israeli culture, learning Hebrew and finding work can be very stressful.

Every immigrant has their own unique story about what led them to the Holy Land. This is the story of Zev and Neta. They are two American Jews from the former Soviet Union, who are facing challenges immigrating to Israel.

In the United States, Zev worked as an attorney at a successful law firm specializing in international transactions, business immigration, criminal law, and family law. He also served as a consultant for issues dealing with the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and issues in violation of the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Neta holds a bachelor's degree in accounting and has been accepted into an MBA program in Israel this fall.

The couple's main issue is trying to pay off law school loans while going through the immigration process. Zev must pays more than $700 a month in student loans which will be unaffordable without job security once he arrives in Israel.

It will take at least two years to become proficient in Hebrew to re-bar as an Israeli attorney. It takes many new olim up to six months to find a job and with mounting student loans, the couple enters Israel with tremendous financial insecurity.

The financial dilemma of immigrating to a new country creates a catch-22 for many potential olim. On one hand, moving to Israel is a dream fulfilled for many Jews throughout the Diaspora, but that decision can result in dire financial repercussions.

Zev said, "It is true that life can be more comfortable in the US, but you do not go to Israel to be rich. You go to Israel to be and live in Israel. Even Israelis living in the US tend to be more cynical when you tell them you are considering aliyah."

The Immigration Absorption Ministry and organizations like Nefesh B'Nefesh, provide a lot of assistance benefits to new olim. Families are provided with a free one-way ticket from their country of origin to Israel. During the first 18 months of residence, a married couple with no children is eligible to receive NIS 30,100. To assist with language immersion, a five-month-long, intensive Ulpan program is provided.

New olim also receive the benefit of generous rent subsidies for their first five years in the country, as well as free health coverage for the first year. "We feel that the State of Israel does quite enough for its new immigrants with absorption centers, free ulpanim, cash allowances," said Zev. "The State of Israel does not owe us anything. The one thing that could be improved is not necessarily the State's processing of olim, but perhaps a phase in the planning of aliyah which includes state sponsored employment fairs.

"If an oleh knows that he will have employment after aliyah and can support his/her family, then the 'uncertainty' feeling is gone," he added. Zev and Neta's situation is not unique. Many Jewish professionals are encountering the same dilemma in the immigration process.

The Jewish Agency has organized career fairs in central cities throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe to address this issue. But for American Jews living outside New York, these types of programs are difficult to attend. For many potential olim it can take decades to pay off student loans and by the time they are in their thirties, many have families and are less likely to make the move.

The fear of unemployment and financial uncertainty is deterring numerous Jews from making aliyah. Despite efforts by the Jewish Agency to assist new olim, many fall between the cracks.


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