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>Israel Faxx
>JN May 16, 1997, Vol. 5, Number 89

10 percent of Nazi Gold may be from Victims

Research shows that about 10 percent of the gold looted by the Nazis during World War 2 could have came from concentration camp victims, according to an internal World Jewish Congress memorandum. The memo came a week after a U.S. government report confirmed that the Nazis sold Switzerland and other neutral nations gold looted from individuals along with gold stolen from the national treasuries of the European nations they occupied. The WJC memo makes its 10 percent estimate partly on smelting records.

Ross Ends His Mediation Today

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

The senior US Middle East mediator, Dennis Ross, met with the top Palestinian and Israeli leaders Thursday, after a late-night negotiating session that Israel says was positive and the Palestinians say was not.

After the first of two meetings with Ross, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the first direct Israeli-Palestinian meeting in two months created a basis for further talks. Netanyahu called the meeting between lower-ranking officials "a beginning," which he hopes will lead to enhanced security cooperation and to talks on a final peace settlement. He said formal negotiations will resume eventually because they are in the interest of both sides.

Ross had made similar comments, calling Wednesday's meeting a useful beginning of a dialogue that he hopes can be developed. He also said both sides had recommitted themselves to the peace process.

But the Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, said the meeting did not achieved what was needed. And the chief Palestinian negotiator, Sa'eb Erakat, described the session as "bitter and angry" at some points, and said for him, it exposed the depth of the crisis in the peace process.

Ross and his team are expected to end their two-week mission today. He managed to get some Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation going again, although not as much as Israel wants.

Israel Couple's Lawsuit Attacks Orthodox Judaism

An Israeli couple is fighting the Orthodox definition of Judaism. David and Ayala Milstein had adopted their son, Omri, as a 7-week old baby from an orphanage in Uzbekistan, brought him to Israel and considered him Jewish.

Orthodox rabbis declined to convert Omri to Judaism unless the Milsteins, who are secular, agreed to follow an Orthodox lifestyle, And the Israeli government has refused to recognize Omri's conversion by non-Orthodox rabbis.

The Milsteins filed a lawsuit this week in Israel's Supreme Court to force Jerusalem to recognize the child as Jewish. Such recognition ensures that a person can marry or even be buried in Israel, a nation in which the Orthodox establishment controls marriage, divorce and death proceedings.

Last month, a bill to invalidate conversions by non-Orthodox rabbis inside Israel passed the first of three readings in parliament. Although the bill addresses only conversions inside Israel, it outraged thousands of Reform and Conservative Jews in the United States who provide Israel with political and financial support.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has assured American Jews that his government would not do anything to affect their status. But religious parties say they want to expand the bill to include overseas conversions as well.

Like most Israelis, the Milsteins had never had any contact with non-Orthodox Judaism before they turned to Reform rabbis to convert their son. "People don't know what Reform is about," David Milstein said. "The Orthodox are making it look like a big circus, not like a religious movement."

When the Milsteins brought their son to Israel last fall, they took him to the Orthodox rabbinate in Beersheva to be converted. "How do we know the biological father wasn't a murderer?" the rabbi asked them.

Another rabbi told them he was willing to convert the boy, but only if the Milsteins agreed to raise him according to Orthodox Jewish law -- including sending him to religious schools, keeping the Sabbath, and observing Jewish dietary laws.

On the advice of a Reform rabbi, the couple took Omri to London, where he underwent conversion -- including a ritual immersion -- before four Reform rabbis.

In Israel, the Interior Ministry registered Omri as Israeli, but refused to list him as a Jew -- leaving blank the space for nationality that appears on every Israeli's ID card.

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