Israel's Interior Ministry is revamping its procedures for allowing Christian clerics, religious students and volunteers to enter the country in response to growing complaints by Christian groups, The Jewish Week has learned.
The groups said they have had serious trouble in recent months obtaining entry visas and renewals for their flock.
The popular birthright israel program that has brought 40,000 college-age students to Israel in the last three years narrowly averted a funding crisis this week. The Israeli cabinet restored much of the $14 million the Finance Ministry had proposed eliminating as part of the government's emergency budget plan. Had all the money been cut, it may have forced the end of the project.
"It's encouraging to see that the Israeli leadership recognizes the importance of its role in the birthright israel program for world Jewry," said Marlene Post, chairman of the organization.
The surprise announcement by President George W. Bush last Friday that he was on the verge of releasing the "road map" to Israeli-Palestinian peace was seen as a "gift to the Jewish people" by one observer and a cause for concern by another.
"It wipes away the accusation that the war with Iraq is to save Israeli hegemony in the region," said Stephen Cohen, national scholar of the Israel Policy Forum. "The president did more with that speech than all the programs of the last two years to combat anti-Semitism."
by Joshua Mitnick, Stewart Ain and Michele Chabin |
Staff Writer and Israel Correspondents
Israelis were told to keep their gas masks with them at all times as they braced for an Iraqi missile assault Prime Minister Ariel Sharon insists has "only a 1 percent" chance of happening.
What has many Israelis worried even more is the possibility of a major terrorist attack in Israel as the American-led military coalition advances toward Baghdad.
When the city's Districting Commission earlier this year approved a plan that split Brighton Beach in two, some say it weakened the political power of Russian-speaking new immigrants in south Brooklyn.
But the long-term effect may be the opposite.
Galvanized by what many feel was a raw deal, Russian-Jewish activists more than ever are making themselves heard, exhibiting a "don't tread on me" attitude that is as classically New York as it is alien to the mores of Moscow, Kiev or Minsk.
Despite vows of revenge by Hamas terrorists for the capture Monday of one of its founders, Israeli analysts insist that Wednesday's suicide bombing aboard a bus in Haifa that killed 15 and injured more than 40 had no bearing on the arrest.
"It's part of the ongoing, never-ending campaign by radical elements of the Palestinian community to continue using suicide bombings" against Israeli civilians, said Hirsh Goodman, deputy director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.