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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                       Aug. 1, 1995, V3, #138
All the News the Big Guys Missed

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Israel Wants abu Marzuq Extradited

By Al Pessin (Jerusalem)

Israel will ask the US to extradite a man identified by officials of the militant islamic group Hamas in the Gaza Strip as a leader of the organization's political wing. Mousa abu Marzuq was detained by US authorities last week in New York, and an Israeli court Monday issued a warrant for his arrest on a series of charges, including conspiracy to murder.

There were reports Israel would not request the extradition, either because it did not have enough evidence, or because its evidence came from intelligence sources which it wanted to keep secret. But on Monday, officials said Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had decided to make the request. Justice Minister David Libai says the government would not have been able to explain to the Israeli people why, given the opportunity to take a man identified as a senior Hamas leader into custody, it did not even try.

Hamas officials in Gaza confirm abu Marzuq is a senior political leader of the movement, but his lawyer in New York has denied that he is even a member.

Hamas has issued a vague threat of retaliation if any action is taken against abu Marzuq, saying it would hold the US responsible. One senior Hamas leader, Imad Faluji, said any action against abu Marzuq will not improve stability in this region. But others in the Hamas movement have been more blunt. One activist said if abu Marzuq is extradited to Israel there will be "retaliation and vengeance."

Faxes to God are Published

By Al Pessin (Jerusalem)

There is a tradition in Jerusalem of writing personal prayers on pieces of paper and putting them in the crevices of the Western, or "Wailing" Wall, the last remnant of Judaism's holy Temple, which was destroyed almost 2,000 years ago. The small pieces of paper wedged between the ancient stones are silent testimony to the faith, or hope, of the people who write them, but their contents have always been secret. Now, an American author has found a way to report on what people write to God in those notes.

The slips of paper are in cracks and crevices all over the wall, as high as a person can reach. After a storm, piles of the prayers sit at the base of the wall, and are disposed of, without revealing their contents, by the site's caretakers, making room for hundreds more which are placed in the wall by Jews and other visitors every day.

Two years ago, Author Joyce Starr figured out a way around the strict code of secrecy which protects those notes. She set up a fax line and a computer electronic mailbox and invited people to send her their prayers, promising to have them put in the wall. People were told that the author would read the prayers sent by this route and would publish some of them in a book. The result is her small paperback book just published called "Faxes to God."

"This little book, which seems a light book, 'Faxes to God,' and it seems somewhat humorous and poignant and a mix of emotions, and yet it has a very strong message about our need to relate to God. And I think people, whether they're very religious or not, can relate to that, and obviously they did relate to that because they sent the messages."

In fact, Starr says most of the people who responded to her advertisements do not appear to be religious, but they do seem to turn to prayer when a particularly important aspect of their lives is at stake.

"They understood exactly the essence of this book. And they were sending messages that really in some ways go right to the heart of the question of God and our relationship to God. People talked about the issues that really matter, whether it was family or loved ones or the issue of love."

Many of the letters deal with those issues. People ask God to find them husbands or wives, to cure sick family members, or to take care of friends or relatives who have died. There are few prayers asking for money or prosperity, but several offer thanks for good things which have happened to people. Many letters are from children, and their notes to God tend to be brief and direct.

"They ask God the most wonderful questions: 'Dear God, when are you coming down?'" Or "'Dear God, thank you for inventing my parents, thank you for my wonderful family, and for keeping everyone healthy. And why don't girls like boys, and boys not like girls? I wish they liked each other.' I think that we see so many messages from children that really cut through all the various verbiage and get right to the heart of what really matters to human beings."

Two five-year-old boys even ask God if they can be God.

But most of the prayers in the book are serious and many of them are sad. A woman named Gert writes, "Dear God, please help my mother find friends in heaven. She was so awfully lonely on earth." A man named Johnny writes, "Dear God, give me the strength to take care of my wife." A woman named Robin writes a long letter, saying in part, "Dear Creator, let me lean on you for I can't do this alone. I have felt alone for so long, so sad, so miserable. I ask you to heal Bryan. This disease has taken so much from him. Please heal my child."

And a nine-year-old girl writes, "Dear God, I wish that my parents would get back together. In other words: a perfect life."

Author Starr says she was a bit concerned that she might get a lot of frivolous responses to a request for "Faxes to God." But she says most of her respondents appeared to be eager to take advantage of the opportunity to have their prayers put into the Western Wall from far away, and that made them willing allow those private thoughts to be published.

"I can't say that there is anyone who would suggest that a prayer said from your heart will not get there as fast as a message placed in the Wall. But what the Wall represents is much more than a wall. It represents the basis of the Judeo-Christian ethos as many people feel it, and therefore is quite powerful in that imagery."

Starr says the letters published in her book have struck a chord of kinship with many readers, who find their own thoughts and prayers reflected in other people's faxes to God.

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