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.”
Sparked by fund-raising events nationwide, the State of Israel Bonds drive to attract individual buyers rather than institutional investors is paying dividends. Last year, 95,000 Jews purchased a total of $600 million in bonds, compared with about 55,000 in 1997. Banks, meanwhile, bought only $31 million last year — 3.4 percent of the $920 million sold — after purchasing $300 million two years earlier. Pension funds and city and state governments bought the rest last year.
This was to have been the weekend Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak was to meet with Palestinian President Yasir Arafat to sign the framework of a peace treaty. Instead, it was a week that saw Palestinians break off further peace talks and that found Barak in northern Israeli bomb shelters, commiserating with Israelis ordered there for fear of a Hezbollah rocket attack from Lebanon.
In the midst of fending off a no-confidence vote this week in the Knesset over his party’s alleged campaign finance abuses, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak was informed that three Israeli soldiers had been killed in a fierce Hezbollah terrorist attack in southern Lebanon. Another Israeli soldier had been killed there just a week earlier.
When Moshe Livne came to New York earlier this year, Israel’s new deputy consul general here set an unusual mission as one of his top priorities.
“I want to work on relations with Latinos,” said the former ambassador to El Salvador, who is fluent in Spanish.
Latinos, the fastest-growing ethnic segment in New York, are as disparate in location throughout the five boroughs as in their cultures, economic class and lands of origin.
The criminal investigation launched against Ezer Weizman, Israel’s president for the past seven years and one of its most respected leaders, has rocked a country that was recently stunned by the very public probe of its former prime minister. And coming on top of a series of other high-profile corruption cases, it has forced many Israelis to question whether their nation has lost its moral compass.