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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                      Sept 24, 1996 V4, #176
All the News the Big Guys Missed

Israel to Ease West Bank-Gaza Closure

Israel will ease the closure on the territories this week, Ha'aretz reported. The decision was made after a meeting last week between Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasir Arafat. Security authorities will issue an additional 6,000 exit permits as well as partially lift limitations on the passage of commercial goods.

Pre-WW2 Hungarian Synagogue Reopens

By Stefan Bos (VOA-Budapest)

Europe's biggest synagogue reopened this month in the Hungarian capital, Budapest, after a painstaking reconstruction. Hungary's Jewish community hopes the reopening will lead to a revival of the Jewish faith.

Religious music reverberated through the 137-year-old synagogue during the ceremony, as the building was reopened following a careful reconstruction.

Twenty-seven bombs damaged the historic structure during World War 2. But after the war, Hungary's communist government did not allow the Jewish community to rebuild the synagogue. The renovation was not started until just five years ago, in 1991.

Speaking trough an interpreter at the ceremony, Hungarian President Arpad Goncz called the reopening of the synagogue a triumph over persecution. "The reopening of this synagogue, for us, is a double holiday because first the synagogue was reopened, but second holiday for us is because it is a synagogue in which the people suffered during the war, and is created on the basis of the many thousands of Jewish people who died here in this place."

The director of the Jewish Museum in Budapest, Robert Turan, sees the reopening as a bitter sweet victory after the Holocaust in which 600,000 Hungarian Jews died.

"The restoration of the synagogue and the whole complex for us is symbolic. It symbolizes the restoration of the Jewish spirit in eastern Europe, and it is very important for us."

But Turan fears extremists may try to obstruct religious services from taking place. He noted a series of attacks by vandals on Jewish cemeteries in Budapest and elsewhere in Hungary this year.

Just how serious the problem is in Hungary was made obvious immediately after a conversation with Turan, when an angry woman said Jews and gypsies are taking over Hungary. "I am very angry. They want only to develop, to establish a Jewish community here and a gypsy community here. But for we Hungarians, there is no life here. We are dying from starvation here."

This view is shared by extreme rightwing parties who try to exploit Hungary's difficult economic situation.

One man, 77-year-old Laszlo Varkony, whose family survived the Holocaust, said this kind of idea cast a shadow over the reopening ceremony. He says he was hoping the synagogue on the edge of what was the Jewish ghetto during the Nazi-era would become a meeting place for both Jews and non-Jews. But Varkony says extremists are trying to block the road towards reconciliation between the different religious groups in Hungary.

"Unfortunately, there are people still in Hungary who are anti-Semites. That is a very sad thing. Fifty years after the Holocaust there are still people who are of that opinion. It is abominable."

Among the people attending the re-opening ceremony were former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Congressman Tom Lantos, who was born in Hungary.

Lantos said he hopes Hungary will overcome what he calls its dark past. And he said the reopening of the synagogue is of great importance for Hungary's future relationship with the international community.

"The reopening of this enormously important and historic place of worship is a tribute to Hungary's commitment to religious freedom, which surely was not the case during earlier periods when I had the occasion to live in this country."

Lantos and leaders of the Jewish community say they hope the rebuilt synagogue will lead to a revival of the Jewish faith and its centuries old traditions in Hungary.

FDA OKs Israeli Multiple Sclerosis Treatment

An advisory committee of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recommended approving Copaxone, a drug developed by Teva Pharmaceuticals, for sales in the United States.

The drug was developed as a treatment for multiple sclerosis. The breakthrough for Teva marks the first time that U.S. officials have approved a new drug developed in Israel that is not an imitation of an existing medicine.

The decision carries great financial significance due to the fact that American sales alone for the drug are expected to reach over $1 billion. The decision is also expected to push up Teva's stock values.

Copaxone, or copolymer-1 as it is referred to by scientists, was developed based on breakthroughs made by scientists at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot.

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