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.
Ziv Barak is scheduled to start two weeks of reserve duty with the Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank beginning Sunday.
“In the past when I have been called, it has been for drills,” said Barak, 26, who completed nearly four years of military service in September 1996. “This is the first time it will be for real [as a reservist].
“I was on duty during [Palestinian rioting] in 1996, and I saw a lot of action. One of the scariest moments was when bullets hit the ground next to my feet.”
Even as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak began preparing the country this week for the possibility that last-gasp peace efforts with the Palestinians would fail and that a regional war was increasingly likely, a glimmer of hope emerged.
On the eve of Yom Kippur, a dispute between two groups of Jews leads to a divider being placed at Judaism’s holiest accessible site, the western retaining wall of Herod’s Second Temple.
But Muslim sheiks, who “own” the Wall, demand the divider be removed, calling it an unacceptable alteration to their site. They suspect that the Jews are trying to find a way to give the Wall the status of a synagogue “as a first step in taking it over.”
Likud Party leader Ariel Sharon has been Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s harshest critic during Barak’s 17 months in office, claiming the prime minister was making too many concessions in his quest for peace. Now, three months of Palestinian rioting may have set the stage of Sharon to unseat Barak in elections Feb. 6.
In the battle of the former generals, polls put Sharon as many as 18 points ahead of Barak, 58, who if defeated would be Israel’s shortest-serving prime minister.