Jerusalem — Diana Normatov, a Queens College junior, signed up last summer for her first visit to Israel this month. Then she had second thoughts about taking part in the program sponsored by birthright israel. The intifada raged, in Israel and on CNN. Scenes of Palestinian carnage throughout the country scared her and other prospective tourists.
“I was almost not going,” she admits.
Her mother had an opinion. “My mother said ‘no.’ ”
But Diana’s father had the last word; he told her to go.
Israel has embarked on a new strategy in its effort to convince Palestinian President Yasir Arafat to end the violence and return to the negotiating table — seize or destroy Palestinian property. It also positioned tanks to forcibly end regular Palestinian shooting at the residents of Gilo in southeastern Jerusalem.
Clashes erupted this week for the first time between radical Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority, a sign political analysts see as a weakening of Palestinian President Yasir Arafat’s hold on his people even as the popularity of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon rises among Israelis.
In a development that marks a new escalation in the 8-month-old intifada, Palestinians were caught smuggling sophisticated weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles, into Gaza this week, prompting Israeli authorities to take precautionary steps at Ben-Gurion Airport.
All airplanes using Ben-Gurion are being instructed to remain above 7,000 feet until only seven miles from the airport because of the threat from anti-aircraft missiles.
World Jewry is facing an interfaith crisis with Christians and Muslims over the anti-Jewish tirade spouted by Bashar Assad in the presence of Pope John Paul II, who failed to repudiate the Syrian president.
Anxious and irate Jewish leaders this week called for an unprecedented interfaith summit and dashed off letters imploring the Pope to renounce the stunning remarks by Assad. Experts say Assad has elevated anti-Jewish religious charges to dangerous levels.
As Israel paused this week to remember its 19,312 war dead and to celebrate 53 years of independence, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres was dispatched to Egypt to present Israel’s response to its proposal to end seven months of violence.
Just how successful that effort will be is anybody’s guess.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-Westchester) upon her return to Washington following a five-day tour of Israel, Jordan and Egypt.