Israel News

Civil Campaign

Staff Writer
The ad is striking, showing two trains converging onto the same track with the headline: “Are secular and religious Israelis on a collision course?” Beneath the picture are the words: “Not if we can help it.” The ad, which appears in this week’s Jewish Week, launches a yearlong campaign in the U.S. and Israel by Bar-Ilan University designed to promote tolerance and stop the culture war. One line reads: “Isn’t it time for the rest of the Jewish people to stop pointing fingers and to start joining hands?”

Web War

Staff Writer
The battle for Jerusalem has hit cyberspace. Israel’s mission to the United Nations this month created its own Web site to counter what Israeli officials maintain is a stepped-up offensive by the Palestinian Authority to argue its case on the Internet. On the new Israeli UN Web site, a section titled “Palestinian Web Watch” contends the Palestinians are using their Web pages to violate the Wye agreement that calls for resolving outstanding issues through negotiations.

Lebanon Fires Up Campaign

Staff Writer
Israel’s conflict with Hezbollah terrorists in southern Lebanon moved from the battlefield to the political arena this week. Ehud Barak, the Labor Party candidate seeking to unseat Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the May 17 elections, vowed to withdraw Israeli troops from Lebanon by June 2000, within the context of negotiations with Syria. Netanyahu, whose Likud Party at first chastised Barak for turning the issue into a “simplistic election gimmick,” later came close to matching Barak’s pledge.

Families Reject Court Compromise

Staff Writer
After three years of postponement, Israel’s High Court of Justice finally convened this week to consider the validity of two non-Orthodox conversions in Israel — and immediately sought to sidestep the issue. At the very start of the nearly three-hour hour session, Supreme Court President Aaron Barak surprised the plaintiffs with this question: would they be content having the state recognize the nationality of the two adopted children as Jewish, but leave their religious status blank?

Like Father, Like Son?

Staff Writer
Even before King Hussein’s death Sunday, his eldest son and successor was mending fences with old foes and reassuring friends like Israel and the United States of Jordan’s continued close ties and commitment to Middle East peace. But without the political acumen and moral suasion of his father, King Abdullah, 37, is expected to face formidable challenges as he tries to maneuver Jordan among the conflicting forces that make up this highly volatile region.

Shahak Seeks To Defuse

Staff Writer
Former Defense Minister Yitzchak Mordechai was not “fully aware of the impact” of his Knesset vote last week in favor of a bill designed to keep Reform and Conservative representatives off of Israel’s religious councils, according to his running mate on the new centrist party. “He was not aware,” insisted former Israeli Chief of Staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak in an interview here with The Jewish Week just hours after he called Mordechai for an explanation.

Mixed Signals On The Fiscal Front

Staff Writer
If the Israeli economy were a patient, doctors wouldn’t know whether to release it with a clean bill of health, keep it overnight for additional tests or simply prescribe vitamins to perk it up a little. That’s how confusing the symptoms are at the start of 1999. Consider: # Israel’s economy last year grew just 1.9 percent, down from 2.4 percent in 1997 — the slowest rate in the decade, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.

Refuseniks: Israeli Gov’t Neglecting Us

Staff Writer
Jerusalem — Yosef Begun, one of the more high-profile Soviet refuseniks of a decade ago, shook his head and whispered, “We’re forgotten heroes.” Begun, a former electrical engineer who spent 17 years as a refusenik — 10 in prison and in exile — now lives here at the age of 66 on 2,600 shekels ($650) a month. The poverty level in Israel is 2,500 shekels.

Shahak Value

Staff Writer
Even before new elections were a certainty this week, Labor Party posters touting their chief, Ehud Barak, began appearing in Israel reading: “One Israel for everyone and not for the extremists.” Barak, a former army chief of staff who once served as foreign minister, has already hired American media gurus, including James Carville, who gained prominence helping Bill Clinton to the White House. It is clear from Labor’s new slogan that it will portray Netanyahu as too closely aligned with right-wing extremists.

McCharity Hits Israel

Staff Writer
Tel Aviv — A revolution of sorts is taking shape in Israel. First it was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s promise two years ago to wean the country of American foreign aid. Then last month he surprised many North American Jewish federation leaders with his pledge to spend Israeli tax dollars to subsidize educational trips to Israel for every Jew age 15 to 26. Now, a newly created Israeli philanthropy is planning to spend some of the money it raises here to support Jews in distress overseas.
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