Jerusalem — Standing alone in the cool shadow of the western retaining wall of the Temple Mount, God’s representative on Earth to 800 million Catholics slipped a typewritten white sheet of paper into a crack in the holiest site in Judaism, and then he prayed.
The powerful moment, symbolizing Pope John Paul II’s desire to build a new peaceful relationship with Israel and the Jewish people, was relayed to tens of millions around the globe on the Internet and television, and in newspapers.
Northern Israel came under attack Wednesday from Hezbollah terrorists who fired several Katyusha rockets over the border from positions in southern Lebanon. It was an apparent attempt to avenge the deaths of a Lebanese soldier and civilian killed in three days of massive Israeli air attacks against Hezbollah positions and suspected armed Palestinian camps close to the Syrian border.
In another surprise that has come to symbolize Middle East peace talks, Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat met at midweek and announced another “breakthrough” — the restarting of talks that have been stalled for weeks. The move came after both Barak and Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy had expressed doubts about achieving peace with the Palestinians and Syrians this year.
touch with the people. Indeed, he seems so focused on achieving peace on, as he says, “two-and-a-half fronts” (including Lebanon), that he may not be hearing the deep skepticism voiced by coalition partners as well as average Israelis who fear the government is on the verge of giving away too much, too soon.
With figures indicating that as many as one-fourth of immigrants to Israel from the former Soviet Union are not Jewish, the government of Israel is about to embark on a program to teach prospective immigrants Hebrew, Israeli culture and Judaism.
“These are courses in Judaism, they are not for conversion,” said Rabbi Michael Melchior, Israel’s minister for Israeli Society and Jewish Communities. “Of course, there may be some non-Jews who might wish to continue their studies for the purpose of conversion once they are in Israel.”