A spate of vandalism against Reform and Conservative Judaism in Israel has non-Orthodox leaders worried about a new, intensified level of physical violence against them by Orthodox opponents.
The concern by both American and Israeli leaders is being expressed following a window-breaking attack last week against the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem — the second attack at HUC in less than a month.
Two weeks ago, vandals torched a Conservative synagogue in Jerusalem’s Ramot neighborhood.
In a stepped-up response to the 13 Iranian Jews charged with spying for Israel — 10 of whom were convicted last week — the organized Jewish community is planning its first rally at noon Monday to protest the charges. Until now, it has restricted its public events to prayer vigils.
The Jewish National Fund exercised damage control this week to head off repercussions from an Israeli newspaper’s charges that saplings planted by tourists at a JNF planting site in Jerusalem had been uprooted by staff to make room for other saplings planted by another group of tourists.
The organization’s parent body, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL), immediately appointed a committee, which verified the charges that appeared in the June 29 Maariv daily. Three staff members at the site and their boss then were promptly suspended.
The deep divisions between Israel and the Palestinian Authority surfaced this week when Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met with both sides to assess whether the time was ripe for a summit meeting that would lead to a final peace accord. The Palestinians said no, the Israelis said yes.
Albright said it would now be up to President Bill Clinton to weigh the prospects for success and decide whether to call a summit, which might be held before the end of July.
With Secretary of State Madeleine Albright slated to arrive next week in a bid to arrange a crucial retreat-style summit meeting involving Israel and the Palestinians, Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s attention was focused instead on the Shas party and its threat to bring down his broad-based coalition government.
A still-stunned Sharbel Barakat, former deputy commander of the South Lebanon Army, admitted here last week that he felt “betrayed” by the sudden withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon a month ago.
“We’re confused [about the retreat],” he said softly. “For 23 years we had an alliance with Israel. We had more families in Israel than in Lebanon.”
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