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Chief Rabbi Calls for Day of Prayer for H1N1 Flu


Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar asked Jews on Monday to set aside a day of prayer and fasting for this coming Thursday for the welfare of the world in light of the H1N1 flu outbreak. He also called on people to repent and increase their study of Torah.

Amar cited a Talmudic precedent that in the time of Rabbi Yehuda around 1,500 years ago, when he learned that the pigs had a disease, he immediately declared a day of fasting because he said that pigs have a similar digestive system to humans.

Israeli Company Developing Swine Flu Vaccine


A revolutionary vaccine against all types of influenza is scheduled to enter phase 1 clinical trials in humans in the next few days.

The vaccine, an Israeli development, is intended to provide universal multi-season/multi-strain protection against most human influenza virus strains, as well as the Avian flu, for a period of five years. This would enable a long-term planning of vaccine production and prevent shortages in national reserves.

The Health Ministry is expected to provide the final authorization for the first clinical trials, which will take place at the Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv. The outline for the trial was developed jointly by the Clinical Trial Unit and BiondVax Pharmaceuticals Ltd, which is developing the universal vaccination in accordance with international and FDA standards.

The vaccination is the result of a 20-year study conducted by a team of researchers led by Israel Prize laureate Prof. Ruth Arnon. The technology on which it is based is meant to provide protection against a wide range of virus strain, including future strains.

Dr. Ron Babkov, Biondvax's founder and CEO, explained that in addition to being a multi-season vaccine, the new vaccination is not influences by the changing flu strains. It can be effective both in cases of an epidemic – which is limited in geographic scope and is mainly seasonal, and a pandemic – which is a worldwide outbreak of severe influenza which takes place once in a decade.

Peres: Israel Open to Peace with Palestinians

By VOA News &

Israeli President Shimon Peres said Monday that his country remains open to peace with the Palestinians and other Arabs. Peres was interviewed by CNN and in a speech to the annual convention of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, AIPAC, the chief pro-Israeli lobby in Washington.

The Israeli president sought to reassure his listeners that new Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu wants peace with the Palestinians. But Peres did not mention proposals for creating a Palestinian state.

Palestinian statehood has been the centerpiece of U.S. mediation efforts in the Middle East for most of the past decade. Peres is to meet Tuesday with President Barack Obama.

In his speech to AIPAC, Peres also said Iran's nuclear activities threaten the United States, Europe and Arab nations, as well as Israel. He said the Iranian government also has invested heavily in long-range missile development even though, he said, Iran is not threatened by any enemies.

Last month, Peres indicated Israel would be willing to launch military strikes against Iranian nuclear sites if international efforts to stop its disputed nuclear activities fail. He later retracted those comments, saying there is no military solution.

Iran said its nuclear program is only for civilian use and that it has a right to develop such technology. The United Nations, prompted by the concerns of the U.S., European nations and others, has imposed three sets of sanctions on Iran because of the program.

Peres said "President Obama elegantly articulated what is needed, when he called for an outstretched hand instead of a clenched fist. In the future, our time may be considered as the age of outstretched hands. Israel stands with her arms outstretched and her hands held open to peace with all nations, with all Arab states, with all Arab people. To those still holding a clenched fist I have just one word to say – enough! Enough war. Enough destruction. Enough hatred. Now is the time for change."

Peres praised the Saudi peace initiative, which was accepted by the Arab League. "Israel wasn't a partner to the wording of this initiative. Therefore it doesn't have to agree to every word. Nevertheless, Israel respects the profound change, and hopes it will be translated into action."

Poll: Majority of Jewish Israelis Favor Strike on Iran

By VOA News & Ha'aretz

A new Israeli opinion survey said the majority of Israeli Jews favor a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. The poll published Monday by Ha'aretz and co-sponsored by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, indicates that 66 percent of Israeli Jews surveyed backed such an attack on Iran, while 15 percent opposed it and 19 percent gave no opinion.

Seventy five percent of those who supported a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities said they would continue to back the attack even if the United States opposed it, but 15 percent said they would change their minds based on Washington's position.

The survey also indicated that most Jewish Israelis feel positively toward U.S. President Barack Obama. But only 38 percent thought that Obama has a friendly attitude toward Israel, compared with 73 percent who thought his predecessor, George W. Bush, had a friendly attitude toward their country in 2007.

Israel considers Iran an enemy because of repeated calls by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to "wipe Israel off the map." Israel and its Western allies believe Iran's nuclear program may have a military component. Iran says its atomic activities are for peaceful, civilian use.

The survey, administered by the Maagar Mochot research institute, involved 610 respondents, constituting a representative sample of Israeli Jews over the age of 18.

Iraq Refuses to Compensate Jews


The Iraqi government has rejected recent claims made by an organization demanding that the country's Jews be compensated for property lost when they immigrated to Israel, the London-based Arabic-language al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper reported.

The issue was raised after an organization by the name of "Nachum," claiming to represent Iraqi Jews that immigrated to Israel, issued a statement demanding compensation for the property and funds deposited in the banks before the Jews escaped.

The organization stated that the Jewish property and the community's assets were confiscated by the authorities. According to "Nahum." Iraq's Jews had controlled some 80 percent of the country's economy in the past, and the value of their assets is estimated today at some $100 billion. The organization's claim focuses on the Basra district, which housed tens of thousands of Jews in the past.

Iraqi lawyer Hashem Muhammad Ali, who lives in Basra, expressed his support for the Jewish organization's statement. According to him, the Jews were part of Iraq's social and economic fabric for thousands of years, and the British Mandate and Iraqi government's policies forced them to leave the country.

On the other hand, the former manager of Basra's department of antiquities and heritage argued that the Jews sold their property before leaving Iraq. According to him, communal property is subject to the supervision of the Iraqi government's Waqf office.

The Iraqi government, on its part, said that the Jews who emigrated from Iraq could have been compensated had they been able to prove that they were forced to emigrate. The official Iraqi policy states that the Jews' emigration was "made out of choice." Iraqi government workers quoted by the Arab media stated that the new compensation claim was "provocative" and was part of an Israeli attempt to extract funds from the Iraqi treasury.

'Israelis in New York More Connected to Judaism Than U.S. Jews'

By Ha'aretz

Israelis living in New York are much more connected to their "Jewishness" than American-born Jews, according to a new study.

The study, recently released by UJA-Federation of New York, claims that Israelis "far outscore" Americans in terms of synagogue attendance, kashrut observance, participation in Jewish charity events, volunteering to aid needy Jews, visiting Jewish museums and Web sites as well as in membership in Jewish community centers.

The study showed that 60 percent of Israelis in New York light Shabbat candles and maintain kashrut in the home. Nine out of 10 light Chanukah candles, fast on Yom Kippur and view Jewish education for their children to be "of supreme importance." Seventy-two percent maintain close connections with Israel.

The divorce rate, however, is lower among Israelis in New York than among American Jews, the study continued. "More than 96 percent were married with 40 percent having four to five family members and 15 percent six or more, which points to a large proportion of Orthodox or Haredi families in the New York Israeli population," the authors of the study stated.

Conducted by Prof. Steven M. Cohen and Dr. Judith Veinstein in order to enable UJA to create effective programming for Israelis in New York, the study also revealed surprising data about their numbers.

While previously it was estimated that 1.5 million Israelis live in the East Coast metropolis, the study showed the actual number to be 41,000. This estimate includes Jews born in Israel as well as those who lived there for at least one year and then returned

Hot Air, High Winds Heat Up the State of Israel


There are numerous names in Hebrew and Arabic for the hot, nearly gale-force wind that swept up from the Sahara Desert and into the Land of Israel on Monday.

But all added up to the same thing: extreme heat, downed power lines and fires in communities around the country. A thick, dusty haze settled into the air from the morning hours, casting an eerie orange tint in the sky. Temperatures ranged from the low to mid-30's Celsius (approximately 86 – 95 degrees Fahrenheit).

In the northern Negev community of Arad, Lili Muallem told Israel National News she called a neighbor from her job to make sure all the windows in her house were closed. "We live on the edge of town, right next to the desert," she explained. "Any time we have a sand storm it just pours in any open window, even if it is only a little bit open. This time maybe I will be lucky."

Moving up the coast, in the Tel Aviv area, three houses were set afire when a tree crashed down on nearby power lines in the Chassidic village of Kfar Chabad. A short circuit plus dry conditions and high winds were all it took to kindle the blaze. No one was injured.

In central Israel, three apartments were badly damaged as flames shot up after high winds brought down more power lines near a building in Petach Tikvah. No one was injured in the blaze. In Elad, near Bnei Brak, a fire broke out near a school – also causing no injuries. Small fires also broke out in the Tel Aviv suburb of Givatayim.

Along the northern coast, firefighters were called to battle a large blaze in Netanya. Another firefighting unit was summoned to Kibbutz Ziv to put out a fire near the cooperative community's chicken coops.

Near Route 44, a fire broke out at a carpentry shop, and at Moshav Avial a fire broke out in a field. Towards Jerusalem, firefighters were called to battle a forest fire that struck the hills around Beit Shemesh.

At Ben Gurion International Airport, the haze also affected traffic, and pilots took extra precautions due to the poor visibility. Dov Air Field in Tel Aviv limited its air traffic due to weather conditions.

The weather was expected to break by evening, with temperatures predicted to drop some 12 degrees Celsius (20 degrees Fahrenheit) by Tuesday, and a new weather pattern bringing a light rain to the north of the country. Cool weather is in the forecast for the rest of the week, with temperatures rising slight on Friday and the Sabbath.

The Bible in Comics


The Education Ministry has recently introduced a new comic book into school curriculums in order to facilitate Bible studies among elementary school students.

The book, which contains an illustrated version of the books Samuel and Judges (Shoftim), is intended for use among fifth and sixth grade students, but the ministry plans to gradually expand the use of comics to all elementary school grades. It should be stressed that the books are meant to accompany and compliment the students' reading of the original biblical text, rather than replace it.

This is yet another move in a series of initiatives taken by the national supervisor of Bible studies at the Education Ministry, Drora Halevi, whose purpose is to bring children closer to the subject matter. She explained that love of the Bible stems from an understanding of the text, sympathizing with the characters, a sense of familiarity with the places where the stories took place, and dealing with ethical dilemmas.

She said that the comic book, which was written by Noya Sagiv and illustrated by Bella Goldenberg, enables teachers to "obtain quality teaching objectives through a humoristic experience. The comics allow students to understand the text, particularly at a time when students read very little, and read the Bible even less, and are having trouble understanding it."

Studying through cartoons, Halevi believes, "Connects the students to the Bible via their own world, and we have to adjust the teaching to the reality of the 21st century. We have to teach students in their way and help them feel close to the events."

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