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Mideast's Wealthiest Woman to Divorce Husband

By Ha'aretz

Bank Hapoalim owner Shari Arison said she will divorce her husband of six years, Ofer Glazer. Arison, listed by Forbes as the wealthiest woman in the Middle East, and the only woman among the region's 20 wealthiest people, met Glazer in 2003.

Glazer is Arison's third husband. They married that year, but a few months later Glazer was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault. He was convicted and sentenced to six months in prison, which he served in 2007.

Pope Prepares for Middle East Visit

By VOA News

Pope Benedict XVI is preparing for a week-long visit starting Friday to the Middle East that will take him to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories. Many Vatican observers see this trip as the most challenging foreign visit by Pope Benedict to date, due to past relations with Jews and Muslims. But there are hopes this visit will help improve relations with the other religions.

The first leg of the pope's Middle East tour will take him to Jordan, where Catholics are less than two percent of the population. During three days there he will visit sites of religious significance: Bethany-Beyond the Jordan and Mount Nebo.

Vatican observer The Rev. Thomas Williams said the pope would attempt to give Christians living in the Middle East new hope. Many have been leaving the region, driven by a difficult economic and political climate.

"One of his main goals there is to bolster Christians in the Middle East and give them encouragement to stay there, to hold firm," Father Williams said. The pope has made a visit to the Middle East one of the early priorities of his papacy.

The Rev. Rifat Bader, who is the Roman Catholic Church's spokesman in Amman, said the pope said that he is coming as a pilgrim of peace. Father Bader said any voice that calls for peace and justice should be encouraged and listened to.

"We hope that the Holy Father will gather the people because the main title for his visit is to bring unity and peace for the Middle East and for the world. We believe that unity has many aspects, unity between the Christians, unity between the religions and unity between the states," he said.

Pope Benedict is scheduled to meet with Muslim religious leaders while he is in Amman. Some have not forgotten how they were insulted by the pope's remarks in a speech he gave in Germany in 2006 about the Muslim Prophet Mohammed.

Father Thomas Williams said the pope would be visiting Amman's largest mosque, the King Hussein Mosque. "It is the first time a pope has visited a mosque in Jordan, the second time that Benedict himself has visited a mosque after the Blue Mosque. And this is hugely important because Jordan is setting itself up as the seat of Christian-Muslim relations," he said. "So this is a very, very important move that Benedict is making in hopes that this will be a continued dialogue."

Pope Benedict is also expected to celebrate mass in a soccer stadium Sunday in Amman, before he leaves for Israel and the Palestinian territories. He is due back at the Vatican on May 15.

Israel's Hebrew Catholics Keep the Faith

By Agence France-Presse

With just 400 faithful, the Hebrew-speaking Vicariate is dwarfed by the much larger Palestinian Christian community, estimated at some 180,000 in Israel and the Palestinian territories, which will be the main focus of the pope's eight-day visit starting Friday.

Established in 1955 by a small group which included several converted Jews, some of them Holocaust survivors, the vicariate largely keeps to itself in a country founded as a Jewish state in which Christians are often suspected of being missionaries.

The Hebrew prayers reverberate through the humble Catholic chapel in Jerusalem where whitewashed walls are adorned with a small metal cross and two pictures of Jesus lined with Hebraic inscriptions.

The worshippers are part of a tiny Hebrew-speaking Catholic community, some of them descendants of Holocaust survivors, that has quietly kept the faith in the heart of Jewish state for half a century and will remain in the shadows during the visit by Pope Benedict XVI.

"Shalom Hamashiach," the church members quietly say, using the Hebrew phrase for "Hail the Messiah," as two white-robed priests offer communion in front of the altar in their church, a beautifully restored 19th century building just off a bustling Jerusalem street.

The unique use of Hebrew in all religious rites at the church began after the creation of Israel in 1948, when the nearly 4,000 Catholics living within the Jewish community searched for a rite of their own, said the Hebrew-speaking Catholic community's leader, David Neuhaus. "All of the other Christians in Israel were members of the Arab community and there was a need to find a religious framework for those Christians living in the Hebrew-speaking Jewish community," the 47-year-old monk said.

Apolinari Szwed, who heads the Jerusalem parish, sees himself as part of Israeli society, despite the community's peculiar position within a society in which Jewish religion and ethnicity are so tightly entwined. "The reality of my community is that of any other Israeli. They live their lives just like any Israeli but believe in Jesus," said Szwed, 41, who arrived in Israel from Poland 16 years ago.

Beyond the practical necessity that led to the creation of their community, the Hebrew Catholics "shared a sense of duty in the 1950s to inform the Church of its Jewish origins, of Jesus' Jewish roots and of the ties between the two faiths," Neuhaus said.

The group has faced suspicions from both Jews and Christians over the years. "We still encounter the suspicion of the local Palestinians, who think we are a Zionist Christian body supporting Israel," Neuhaus said. "But we have no political agenda and our members are of different stripes."

The Hebrew Catholics are also constantly at pains to counter any suspicions among the Israeli authorities or the population at large that they are intent on proselytizing among their Jewish compatriots. Instead they have tried to act as a model for efforts to heal Jewish distrust of Christianity following centuries of persecution and anti-Semitism that culminated in the Nazi Holocaust.

Evidence of the deeply ingrained animosity finds expression even in the modern Hebrew language. Linguists say the modern Hebrew word for Jesus, Yeshu, is derived from the word, Yeshua or Yehoshua, which was given by rabbis in the Middle Ages and which is in fact an acronym of the expression "may his name and memory be obliterated."

Also, the Hebrew word for a Christian priest, Komer, originates in a biblical term signifying a worshipper of idols. Neuhaus uses the term Cohen, the same name for the Jewish priests who worked in the Temple.

The tiny Hebrew-speaking Vicariate still maintains centers in each of Israel's four main cities. Its members include Christians married to Jews, monks and nuns who live in Israel out of solidarity, Christians who immigrated from the former Soviet Union and Jews who converted.

Neuhaus himself was born into a Jewish family that fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s for South Africa. After immigrating to Israel in 1979, he took the rare and unpopular step in the eyes of many Israelis and was baptized at the age of 26, three years before entering a monastery.

Relations between Israel and the Vatican have improved over the past couple of decades but suspicion of the Church still runs high in some Israeli circles.

"As long as there are Holocaust survivors living in Israel, the opinion towards the Catholic church will remain negative," Joshua Schwartz, a professor at the Bar Ilan University outside Tel Aviv. "A large part of Jewish society thinks that the Catholic Church in Europe was guilty of turning a blind eye to the Holocaust."

Obama Prepares to Throw Israel Under the Bus (and the West is Next)

By Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors (Commentary)

Obama is attempting to throw Israel under the Islamist bus, and he's getting American Jews to do his dirty work for him. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel reportedly told the Israel lobbying group AIPAC on Sunday that efforts to stop Iran hinged on peace talks with the Palestinians. General James Jones, National Security Adviser to Obama, reportedly told a European foreign minister a week ago that unlike the Bush administration, Obama will be `forceful' with Israel. Ha'aretz reported.

Jones is quoted in the telegram as saying that the United States, European Union and moderate Arab states must redefine `a satisfactory endgame solution.' The U.S. national security adviser did not mention Israel as party to these consultations.

Of course not. If you are going to throw a country under the bus, you don't invite it to discuss the manner of its destruction with the assassins who are co-coordinating the crime. As I said here months ago, the appointment of Jones and the elevation of his post of National Security Adviser at the expense of the Secretary of State was all part of the strategy to centralize power in the hands of those who want to do Israel harm.

Tuesday, Vice-President Joe Biden and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry turned the thumbscrews tighter, telling Israel to stop building more settlements, dismantle existing outposts and allow Palestinians freedom of movement.

This is all not only evil but exceptionally stupid. The idea that a Palestine state will help build a coalition against Iran is demonstrably absurd. The Arab states are beside themselves with anxiety about Iran. They want it to be attacked and its nuclear program stopped. They are desperately fearful that the Obama administration might have decided that it can live with a nuclear Iran.

The idea that if a Palestine state comes into being it will be easier to handle Iran is the opposite of the case: a Palestine state will be Iran, in the sense that it will be run by Hamas as a proxy for the Islamic Republic. The idea that a Palestine state will not compromise Israel's security is ludicrous.

It is of course, by any sane standard, quite fantastic that America is behaving as if it is Israel which is holding up a peace settlement when Israel has made concession after concession – giving up Sinai, giving up Gaza, offering all the territories to the Arabs in return for peace in 1967, offering more than 90 percent of them ditto in 2000, ditto again to Mahmoud Abbas in the past year -- only to be attacked in return by a Palestinian terrorist entity, backed in its continued aggression, let us not forget, by the countries of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which has made no concessions at all and is not being pressured to do so.

It is not the aggressor here but the victim of aggression that America is now choosing to beat up. In any sane world, one might think the Americans would be piling the pressure on the Palestinians to renounce their genocidal ambitions against Israel, to stop teaching and training their children to hate and kill Jews, to adhere to the primary requirement in the Road Map that they must dismantle their infrastructure of violence as the first step in the peace process; one might think, indeed, that they would view Mahmoud Abbas' repeated statements that the Palestinians will never accept Israel as a Jewish state to be the main impediment to peace.

But no. The repeated professions that America will never jeopardize Israel's security are stomach churning when Obama is actually blaming Israel for measures it has taken to safeguard its security – the settlements were always first and foremost a security measure, and the travel restrictions are there solely to prevent more Israelis being murdered – and trying to force it to abandon them. Today comes further news that Obama will also try to force Israel to give up its nuclear weapons – which it only has as a last ditch insurance against the attempt to annihilate it to which several billion Arabs remain pledged.

Of course Obama doesn't care that Hamas would run any Palestinian state. Of course he doesn't care that Israel would be unable to defend itself against such a terrorist state. Because he regards Israel as at best totally expendable, and at worst as a running sore on the world's body politic that has to be purged altogether (see this bleak assessment by Sultan Knish).

His administration is proceeding on the entirely false analysis that a state of Palestine is the solution to the Middle East impasse and the route to peace in the region. What that state will look like or do is something to which at best the administration's collective mind is shut and at worst makes it a potential cynical accomplice to the unconscionable. So Israel is to be forced out of the West Bank. Far from building a coalition against Iran, Obama is thus doing Iran's work for it.

None of this, however, should come as the slightest surprise to anyone who paid any attention to Obama's background, associations and friendships before he became president and to the cabal of Israel-bashers, appeasers and Jew-haters he appointed to his administration, with a few useful idiots thrown in for plausible deniability.

American Jews, meanwhile, are reacting as predicted – with a total absence of spine. As IsraelMatzav reports, AIPAC was sending delegates to visit Congress to 'convince' representatives and senators to sign a petition calling for a two-state solution. Inspired! Almost 80 percent of American Jews voted for Obama despite the clear and present danger he posed to Israel. They did so because their liberal self-image was and is more important to them than the Jewish state whose existence and security cannot be allowed to jeopardize their standing with America's elite.

But the ordinary American people are a different matter. They do value and support Israel. They do understand that if Israel is thrown under that bus, the west is next. And it is they to whom Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu must now appeal, over the heads of the politicians and the media and certainly America's Jews and everyone else. He must tell the American people the terrible truth that America is now run by a man who is intent on sacrificing Israel for a reckless and amoral political strategy which will put America and the rest of the free world at risk.

This is shaping up to be the biggest crisis in relations between Israel and America since the foundation of Israel six decades ago. Those who hate Israel and the Jews will be gloating. This after all is precisely what they hoped Obama would do. To any decent person looking on aghast, this is where the moral sickness of the west reaches the critical care ward.

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