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>Israel Faxx
>PD Jan. 3, 1995, V3, #1

Rabin Orders El Khader Construction to Stop

By Patricia Golan (Jerusalem)

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin says construction must halt on expanding a Jewish settlement in the West Bank. The Cabinet worked out a compromise between settlers who want to expand their town and Palestinians who want construction stopped.

The proposed compromise would move the building site from the new neighborhood to a hill next to Efrat, not next to the Arab village.

The dispute erupted two weeks ago when bulldozers were sent to clear a road for a new neighborhood of Efrat, near Bethlehem. The rocky hilltop site lies between Efrat and the adjoining Arab village of El Khader, whose residents claim ownership of the land.

Palestinians and Israeli sympathizers have been holding almost daily protest demonstrations against the expansion of the settlement.

Cabinet Minister Amnon Rubinstein says most government ministers are opposed to the expansion of Efrat. "We think it was erroneous to start this conflict. It was erroneous to switch this project from an area which was adjacent to the Jewish settlement to an area which was very close to an Arab village. And we think it was a mistake to bring about this bone of contention."

The government must decide how to freeze construction without provoking a confrontation with either the 120,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza, who oppose territorial compromise, or the Palestinians, who see any construction in these areas as a violation of the peace agreement.

Palestinian attorney Shauki Issa, who represents the residents of the village of El Khader, says anything less than a full halt to the construction at the site and returning the land to the Palestinians is unacceptable. "All the land confiscation on the West Bank is illegal and last week they confiscated more lands in different areas of the West Bank. The aim was clear to have new roads for the settlers and to expand the existing settlements. All these kinds of activities from settlers and from the Israeli government are illegal."

Will Male Circumcision be Banned Next?

By Kim Reid (Cairo)

During the International Population Conference in Cairo last September, Egyptian officials pledged to bring an end to the practice of female circumcision. However, because of opposition from conservative religious groups in Egypt, the government is backing down on its earlier promise, and is even allowing the procedure to be carried out in government hospitals.

An estimated 80-percent of Egyptian girls -- Muslim and Christian -- undergo the procedure, in which some or all of their outer genitalia is removed. This is thought to guarantee a woman's chastity later in life, by denying her sexual pleasure.

Egypt's most prominent family planning activist Aziza Hussein has been fighting to eradicate the practice for more than a decade. "It's an old tradition that has been going on, and it gets covered up by any kind of religious justification, especially that it is thought that it really preserves a girl's chastity. That is the worst part of it."

Hussein says most of her efforts were low-profile before the UN conference three months ago. A Western television broadcast during the conference showed a village barber cutting off the genitalia of a screaming 10-year-old girl.

The broadcast embarrassed Egyptian officials during their shining moment as the conference's host country. Egypt's Population Minister Maher Mahran quickly made a public pledge to women's groups at the meeting to stop the practice.

But as the glare of international media coverage has faded, so too, has Egyptian resolve to halt a practice that is so deeply ingrained in the country's culture.

Mahran has run into stiff opposition from conservative Muslim clerics who say this is a matter for families to decide.

The Egyptian Health Ministry took a different tack. It says banning the practice would only drive it underground, and cause more illegal, unsanitary operations. The government passed a decree ordering government hospitals to perform the circumcision operation for free, one day a week, for anyone who wants it.

Despite the odds against her, Hussein says she is not discouraged. She says women's groups were not able to fight female circumcision so openly until the recent UN Population Conference in Cairo gave them a voice.

Ending Thought:

From "Jewish Humor" by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

A man brings some very fine material to a tailor and asks him to make a pair of pants. When he comes back a week later, the pants are not ready. Two weeks later, they are still not ready. Finally, after six weeks, the pants are ready. The man tries them on and they fit perfectly. Nonetheless, when it comes time to pay, he can't resist a jibe at the tailor.

"You know," he says, "it took God only six days to make the world and it took you six weeks to make just one pair of pants."

"Ah," the tailor says, "But look at this pair of pants, and look at the world!"

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