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.
Instead of having a messenger take an X-ray from one end of the hospital to the other earlier this month, technicians at Soroka University Medical Center of the Negev used an internal computer network to effect the transfer.
“We are one of the most advanced hospitals in Israel because of this,” said Dr. Shlomo Mor-Yosef, the hospital’s director general. “Our whole hospital is wired — 1,000 beds spread over 75 acres. Every departments is now connected.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Speculation that an Israel-Syria peace treaty could cost up to $65 billion was brushed aside by Sen. Arlen Specter following a trip to Israel, but the Pennsylvania Republican said a way would be found to come up with the necessary funding from a host of nations.