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El Al: We Can 'Defuse' Tefillin in Flight


The ad agency for Israel's national carrier, El Al Airlines, has raced to take advantage of an incident one week ago in which a Jewish teenager was taken off a U.S. domestic flight after he began to don a pair of tefillin, or phylacteries.

"Fly with us! Our cabin crew will know how to "defuse" them..." the advertisement for El Al Airlines jocularly proclaims in English, with a full-color photo of the tefillin against a mild blue sky.

Obama Hints Israeli Nationalists Hinder Peace

By & Ha'aretz

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's coalition partners are preventing him from going as far as he would like to in peace talks with the Palestinian Authority, President Barack Obama said Thursday.

Obama was speaking at a town hall meeting in Tampa, Florida. Answering a question on the subject, he explained to the audience that the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority are both being held back by more extremist elements in their nations.

He said that he believes PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas truly wants peace but needs to deal with Hamas, which does not recognize Israel and believes is the use of violence. Obama said that the US is currently making an effort to reinforce both sides of the process, so that they can resume peace talks.

He declined under questioning to condemn Israel for actions against the Palestinians. He said Israel is a strong U.S. ally and that he would "never waver from helping Israel keep its people safe" in the hostile Middle East.

Obama said the situation facing the Palestinian people is one that needs attention, too. Obama cautioned both sides against "mutual demonization" that threatens to jeopardize the resumption of peace negotiations.

Saying Israelis and Palestinians both have "legitimate aspirations," Obama quickly insisted, "The plight of the Palestinians is something that we have to pay attention to. It is not good for our security and for Israel's security if you have millions of individuals who feel hopeless."

Israel Plans To Repatriate `Lost Jewish Tribe' in India

By The National

The Israeli government is reported to have quietly approved the fast-track immigration of 7,000 members of a supposedly "lost Jewish" tribe, known as the Bnei Menashe, currently living in a remote area of India.

Under the plan, the "lost Jews" would be brought to Israel over the next two years by right-wing and religious organizations who, critics are concerned, will seek to place them in West Bank settlements in a bid to foil Israel's partial agreement to a temporary freeze of settlement growth.

A previous attempt to bring the Bnei Menashe to Israel was halted in 2003 by Avraham Poraz, the interior minister at the time, after it became clear that most of the 1,500 who had arrived were being sent to extremist settlements, including in the Gaza Strip and next to Hebron, the large Palestinian city in the West Bank.

Dror Etkes, who monitors settlement growth for Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights group, said there were strong grounds for suspecting that some of the new Bnei Menashe would end up in the settlements, too.

"There is a mutual interest being exploited here," he said. "The Bnei Menashe get help to make aliyah [immigration] while the settlements get lots of new arrivals to bolster their numbers, including in settlements close to Palestinian areas where most Israelis would not want to venture."

The government's decision, leaked this month to Ynet was made possible by a ruling in 2005 by Shlomo Amar, one of Israel's two chief rabbis, that the Bnei Menashe are one of 10 lost Jewish tribes, supposedly exiled from the Middle East 2,700 years ago.

He ordered a team of rabbis to go to north-east India to begin preparing Bnei Menashe who identified themselves as Jews for conversion to the strictest stream of Judaism, Orthodoxy, so they would qualify to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return.

The Bnei Menashe belong to an ethnic group called the Shinlung, who number more than one million and live mainly in the states of Manipur and Mizoram, close to the border with Myanmar. They were converted from animism to Christianity by British missionaries a century ago, but a small number claim to have kept an ancient connection to Judaism.

The brand of Judaism the Bnei Menashe have been exposed to during their "Jewish education" in special camps in India was indicated by Rabbi Eliyahu Avichail, who has worked closely with the tribe since the early 1980s. He said he believed in the biblical prophecy of a coming apocalypse – one shared by "End of Days" evangelical Christians – in which "all the world is against Israel" in a battle to be decided in Jerusalem.

"I believe we are very close to the time when the Messiah will arrive and we must prepare by making sure that all the Jews are in the Land of Israel. There are more than six million among the lost tribes and they must be brought to Israel as a matter of urgency."

Bill Clinton Praises IDF Haiti Hospital

By & Ha'aretz

The IDF's rescue operation in Haiti received praise Thursday from former President Bill Clinton, who is the UN Secretary General's Special Emissary to the Caribbean disaster zone.

Clinton mentioned the hospital at a round table session on philanthropy held Thursday at the International Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, in which Israeli President Shimon Peres was also a member of the panel.

Addressing Peres as the audience looked on, Clinton said: "Shimon, I don't know what we would have done without the Israeli hospital at Haiti. The Israeli hospital was the only operational facility which was able to perform surgery and advanced tests."

Clinton added that "in the name of the aid workers that operated in Haiti, in the name of the people who live there, and on a personal level I want to thank, we all want to thank, Israel from the bottom of our hearts."

Peres responded by saying that "Israel will be happy to offer all of its abilities in assisting the rehabilitation of the island." After the plenary session Peres met with Clinton and the two discussed in detail the ways in which Israel could assist the international effort in Haiti.

The Israel Defense Forces team dispatched to Haiti in the wake of the devastating earthquake two weeks ago returned home on Thursday morning, receiving a hero's welcome from top Israeli officials at the Ben Gurion International Airport.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi were on hand at the airport to laud the 200-member team as it landed. "You have raised human spirits and elevated the name of the State of Israel and the Israel Defense Forces," Netanyahu told the returning team. "As many plot against us, distort and muddy our names, you have shown the real IDF."

"Many have tried recently to tarnish our image," Ashkenazi said in his welcome. "With you deeds, you have proven that the opposite is true. Facing this massive catastrophe was an exceptional group of people from the Home Front Command and the IDF Medical Corps," Ashkenazi said. "This group was a source of pride for every Jew."

In his welcoming address, Barak added his own accolades and praised the team for its efforts. "We all watched with excitement as the eyes of the world were on you. It warmed the heart to see you fulfill your professional mission. In a world where the IDF is criticized, you showed the true spirit of the IDF and the true spirit of Israel," Barak added.

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