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>Israel Faxx
>PD Dec. 10, 1996, Vol. 4 No 223

The Western Wall Goes Live on the Internet

The Western Wall in Jerusalem, the holiest site in Judaism is on the World Wide Web. People can see the lighting of the Hanukkah lamps at the Wall. The web site, offers live photos 24 hours a day, of events at the Wall. A camera at Aish HaTorah's headquarters transmits a still photo once a minute.

Tomb of Patriarchs Desecrated

When Jewish worshippers entered the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron Monday morning, they were horrified to see that their places of worship had been vandalized. Palestinians ripped a mezuzah (a Scriptural passage embedded in the doorpost) off the main entrance to the Tomb. In addition, bookcases in the Ohel Yaakov section of the Cave containing Jewish holy books were damaged.

The permanently-stationed video camera in the Cave recorded an unsuccessful attempt by Arabs to break into the Holy Ark, containing Scrolls of the Torah. The ark had been reinforced with iron subsequent to the Arab pogrom of 1977 on the eve of Yom Kippur when Palestinians destroyed Torah Scrolls and prayer books. Security forces are searching for the Arabs who appear in the video. Sunday was one of 10 days of the year that the Cave of the Patriarchs was closed to Jewish worshippers because of a Moslem holiday.

Tension Escalates in Hebron

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Palestinian students defied Israeli troops in Hebron, Monday, by entering the city's Islamic University campus. Israel has kept the campus closed since a series of bus bombings, blamed on Islamic militants in February and March. Monday's incident was the latest in a series of events in hebron which demonstrate the tension in the city as negotiations on an end to the Israeli occupation drag on.

It was a small group of students, only about 200, but they arrived with food and sleeping bags, hoping to defy the Israeli forces which came to confront them. A student spokesman said they came to protest the school's closure, and hoped to stay until it was allowed to re-open. But the students agreed to leave in the afternoon following an army promise to open a smaller campus and to meet with Palestinian officials about possibly opening the Islamic University soon.

Israel closed the university after the series of bus bombings earlier this year, calling it a center for radicalism in a city where there is widespread support for the violent militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad -- which claimed responsibility for the bombings. Some classes have continued elsewhere in the city, but students cannot reach the library and other facilities on the main campus.

The standoff at the Islamic University was only the latest in a series of almost daily incidents in Hebron, pitting Israeli security forces against Palestinians and Israeli settlers. On Sunday, the army removed concrete barriers blocking traffic from a main street in Hebron. Opening the street is a key Palestinian demand in the negotiations on Hebron's future. A Palestinian official said the move indicated Israel was preparing to grant the Palestinian demand. But by the end of the day, troops had brought in new, plastic barricades and the army said the change was routine -- not part of any preparations to open the street.

The delays are good news for the 400 Israeli settlers in Hebron, but the continued prospect of an eventual army withdrawal from most of the city makes them perhaps even more tense than the city's 100,000 Palestinians. The settlers are concerned about their own security after a withdrawal, and that giving control of 80 percent of Hebron to the Palestinians will end hopes of expanding the Jewish presence in the city.

They have vowed to resist any Israeli army re-deployment and have clashed with soldiers, police and Palestinians to emphasize their point in recent weeks.

Israeli officials say they are ready to put an end to the uncertainty in Hebron by withdrawing their troops almost immediately -- if the Palestinian Authority will only accept the terms being offered. But the Palestinians are not willing to do that. So the talks drag on, with no indication of when they might end, in spite of almost daily meetings and intensive efforts by US mediators.

Mazel Tov Mohelim

The Chief Rabbinate has certified 20 new mohels (ritual circumcisers) during the past year. The announcement was made in anticipation of the upcoming yearly conference of mohels. A list of certified mohels in Israel (now up to 270) is available in all maternity wards throughout the country, as well as in the local religious councils. The Rabbinate recommends the payment of 500 shekels for a certified mohel, and 720 shekels for one who has more than 10 years' experience.

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