by Michele Chabin
Jerusalem — Having successfully recovered millions of dollars worth of Jewish property lost in the Holocaust, restitution experts in Israel and the U.S. are now setting their sights on the Arab world.
The Knesset Parliamentary Committee on the Restitution of Jewish Property announced plans this month to create a national center to register documents and testimony about the possibly “tens of billions of dollars” in property left behind by Jews who emigrated to Israel from Arab/Muslim countries.
If the Israeli economy were a patient, doctors wouldn’t know whether to release it with a clean bill of health, keep it overnight for additional tests or simply prescribe vitamins to perk it up a little. That’s how confusing the symptoms are at the start of 1999.
# Israel’s economy last year grew just 1.9 percent, down from 2.4 percent in 1997 — the slowest rate in the decade, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.
Violence against Christians in Jerusalem appears to be rising as concerns increase over the millennium and its affect on fervent cult groups making pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Israeli officials said this week. Jerusalem police said they are investigating a recent wave of threats and assaults against Christian organizations in Jerusalem.
In one incident, vandals hurled stones at Jerusalem’s St. Andrew’s Church of Scotland two weeks ago, breaking several of its stained-glass windows.
Jerusalem — Yosef Begun, one of the more high-profile Soviet refuseniks of a decade ago, shook his head and whispered, “We’re forgotten heroes.”
Begun, a former electrical engineer who spent 17 years as a refusenik — 10 in prison and in exile — now lives here at the age of 66 on 2,600 shekels ($650) a month. The poverty level in Israel is 2,500 shekels.
Even before new elections were a certainty this week, Labor Party posters touting their chief, Ehud Barak, began appearing in Israel reading: “One Israel for everyone and not for the extremists.”
Barak, a former army chief of staff who once served as foreign minister, has already hired American media gurus, including James Carville, who gained prominence helping Bill Clinton to the White House. It is clear from Labor’s new slogan that it will portray Netanyahu as too closely aligned with right-wing extremists.
Reform and Conservative leaders are threatening to hit Israeli politicians where it hurts — in the pocketbook — for supporting a new two-pronged legislative attack aimed at blocking non-Orthodox efforts to gain equality in Israel.
In this sudden escalation of Israel’s religious pluralism war, non-Orthodox leaders this week angrily denounced the Israeli Orthodox coalition’s aggressive political maneuvers to try and prevent Reform and Conservative representatives from taking their seats on local religious councils.