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>PD OCTOBER 13, 1994 V2, #187

Israel Holds Palestinian Authority Responsible for Kidnapping

By Al Pessin (Jerusalem) & Ron Pemstein (Kuwait)

In an emergency meeting, Israel's Cabinet has endorsed the government's actions in response to the kidnapping of a 20-year-old Israeli soldier by the radical Palestinian group, Hamas. The government holds the new Palestinian Authority responsible for the soldier's safety, regardless of who kidnapped him or where he is being held.

Palestinian officials have cast doubt on whether the captured soldier, Nachshon Waxman, is being held in Gaza, which falls under their authority and where the main base of Hamas is located. But Israeli officials said those comments are an attempt to avoid responsibility. Acting Cabinet Secretary Shmuel Hollander read the government's official position after Wednesday's emergency meeting.

"The Government of Israel regards the head of the PLO and the Palestinian Authority responsible for the safety and for the safe return of the soldier Nachshon Waxman."

The Cabinet endorsed the government's decision to seal off the Gaza Strip, and the prime minister's statement Tuesday night holding Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat responsible for the soldier's safe return. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin also spoke to Arafat by telephone and told him if Waxman is harmed it could have grave consequences for the peace process. Israel suspended negotiations with the Palestinian Authority on the expansion of autonomy, pending the outcome of the kidnapping.

One Palestinian official close to Arafat, Ahmed Tibi, pledged the Autonomy Authority will do all it can to secure the soldier's release.

"I totally reject the kidnapping of people in order to achieve political goals. I hope that this soldier will be brought again to his family, alive, as soon as possible. Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian National Authority will do its utmost in order to help in this direction."

Hamas, which is holding Waxman, is opposed to the peace process and has vowed to continue fighting to destroy Israel. Hamas says it will kill the 20-year-old soldier if Israel does not release as many as 200 of its members and supporters by the Friday deadline. Israel has always refused to accede to terrorist demands.

The Reuter news agency obtained a videotape from Hamas on Wednesday showing Waxman guarded by a masked man wielding the soldier's rifle. On the tape, Waxman says he is OK and asks the Israeli government to do what it can to get him released. It was not clear when the tape was made.

There were reports that Arafat had called the kidnapped soldier's family and promised to help secure his release, but in an interview on Israel Radio Waxman's mother, Esther, said that was not true. Mrs. Waxman had this message for the Hamas activists who hold her son. "I turn to the Hamas, as a religious body, to treat my son in accordance with their religious and moral ethics and standards. We have the same God. And that is my message."

Mrs. Waxman also called on the US government to help gain her son's freedom. She said her son has dual US and Israeli citizenship. Secretary of State Warren Christopher called Arafat Tuesday night to demand that he work for the soldier's release.

The secretary of state says the action by the Hamas organization, the rival to the PLO, cannot be allowed to stop the Middle East peace process. He told reporters in Jordan, Arafat is personally concerned about the kidnapping.

"He realizes it was a very serious incident. He said it was aimed at him personally. He said it was a criminal act and he promised that he would do everything he could to see that the kidnapping ended in a safe and peaceful way."

The secretary of state calls on countries to cut off funding, support and sanctuary for Hamas. These include Iran, Syria and Sudan. US officials say Israel's interruption of the talks with the Palestinians is an understandable reaction to the kidnapping.

Israeli-PLO Negotiations Suspended

By Susan Sappir (Jerusalem)

Israel withdrew its negotiating team from talks with the PLO in Cairo after Moslem militants in PLO-ruled Gaza kidnapped an Israeli soldier. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin told PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat he held him responsible for the life and the safety of the soldier. Rabin warned Arafat any harm to the soldier, Corporal Nachshon Waxman, could have grave consequences for the future of the Israeli-Palestinian peace accord.

Shortly after the warning, the Israeli negotiating team on Palestinian elections in the West Bank, withdrew from the Cairo talks. A spokesman for Arafat, Nabil Abu Rdeineh, confirmed reports the Israelis left the negotiations. "They just withdrew from the negotiations and that's it."

Arafat's office issued a written statement condemning the kidnapping, calling the action an attempt to embarrass the Palestinian Authority. Arafat's office also acknowledged a phone call from Rabin but did not give a reaction to Rabin's warning. It also acknowledged an appeal by the mother of the abducted soldier for help in returning her son safely. The statement said Arafat promised the soldier's mother he would make every effort to help.

Russian Jewish Exhibit Opens

By Chris Simkins (New York)

A historic look back at the way some Russian Jews lived before World War I has opened in New York. The unique exhibition sheds new light on the traditions and customs of what was once the largest and most concentrated Jewish population in the world.

On display at New York's Jewish Museum is a rare collection of objects and photographs detailing Jewish life in Russia between 1835 and 1917.

The exhibition -- entitled "Jewish Life in Czarist Russia: A World Rediscovered" -- comes from the collections of the Ethnographic Museum, located in St. Petersburg, Russia.

More than 300 well preserved items are on view. They include articles of everyday and ritual clothing, things such as men's and women's belts with beautifully embroidered designs, skull caps, and traditional long coats and robes.

Also on display are household items, intricate papercut pictures, and colorful Jewish folk prints. The collection documents a way of life that once thrived, but no longer exists largely because of the Holocaust.

The exhibition traces "shtetl life" in eastern Europe. It was a period when Russian jews were confined to certain areas in Lithuania, Ukraine and Russian Poland.

Forbidden at times to live in Russian capital cities, most Jews settled in smaller cities or villages. They spoke Yiddish among themselves, but learned Hebrew by reading and praying at synagogues. The exhibit's photographs, taken in the mid-1800s, document the conditions of poverty and oppression many Russian Jews had to endure.

Ludmila Uritskaya of Russia is one of the curators. Speaking through a translator, she says people of all ages can learn from this exhibition.

"I am particularly fond of the collection because it may evoke the memories of the Russian ancestors of American Jews who are two or three generations removed from Russia. I would also like to say that this exhibit borders on archaeology. This is because the only items, especially the articles of clothing, are the first to go. They become shabby very fast. In many cases the clothes were the only items this person was wearing day in and day out. Viewing this exhibition creates a warm feeling of memories for a culture long gone."

Lillian Wachtel -- a New Yorker who came to view the exhibit -- says she is happy that museum visitors can learn about a culture that no longer exists.

"I think it is a very thrilling thing to see something that deserved to live, that had been buried, so to speak, brought to life with honor and brought to the attention of the world. It is a world and a community that is gone."

The curators of the exhibition say it also reveals that Russian Jews were not as isolated as many people thought. Historians say the exhibition now at the Jewish Museum presents evidence which contradicts many historical writings that said 19th century Russian Jews had not adapted to modern times. Curators say, in fact, the modernization of Russian Jews was one reason why many migrated to western Europe and the United States.

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