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>Israel Faxx
>JN June 25, 1997, Vol. 5, No. 114

Israel Takes sixth in Car Rally in Jordan

The International Car Racing Rally was held this year in the Middle East for the first time in 15 years, with drivers racing their cars in the first stage in Jordan, and Israelis participating. 25 cars took part, and Yuval Melamed, 33, of Kibbutz Shefayim, drove the Israeli entry. The course involved two days of driving and was 497 miles long. Melamed finished third, but was listed as sixth in the overall judging.

Hero-Addict-Thief Begins Recovery Program

Moti Ashkenazi, the man who found an explosive device in a handbag he stole on Friday, has entered a drug-rehabilitation program near Nahariyah. His mother, Naomi Ashkenazi, said, "I am now praying to God that just like my son saved many people, He will save my son."

Moti said "The policemen all shook my hand, and people stop me on the street to say thanks. I feel that as a result of this story, my life has begun anew. This morning I'm starting this new program, and I hope that this time it will work."

He admitted that at first, he was inclined to throw the bag away and ignore the consequences. "But then I thought to myself that if [a tragedy happens], I would not be able to live with the feeling that I could have prevented it. I knew that I must take the responsibility upon myself." After he stole the bag and found in it a hairbrush, a hat, a set of keys, and a suspicious plastic box attached to a watch, he alerted the police.

"They didn't give me a certificate of honor," Ashkenazi said, "but I received something better: this drug recovery program."

Bnei Brak Crime Up

An alarming increase in crime in the Orthodox city of Bnei Brak has been registered over recent months. Robberies and violent break-ins have been on the rise, and municipal authorities have requested more police patrols and the establishment of a police station in the city.

The police say they are willing to establish a station, despite the fact that the crime rate in the largely-hareidi city of 143,000 is still relatively low.. They say, however, that rabbinical authorities in the city have objected. The objections stem partly from the Sabbath desecration that will inevitably be involved in police activity; this fear is compounded by the fact that most of the robberies take place on Sabbath.

Known criminals, foreign workers and Arabs are suspected in the crimes. Municipal and police representatives will meet later this week to discuss the issues.

Egypt--Female Circumcision

By Douglas Roberts (VOA-Cairo)

A Egyptian court has overturned a government ban on the practice of female circumcision. The Cairo court ruling is being hailed as a victory by Muslim fundamentalist groups. But human rights activists and women's organizations are vowing to continue their campaign to end the age-old practice, also known as female genital mutilation. The government banned female circumcision in a decree issued less than one year ago.

A group of Muslim clerics, led by Sheikh Yousef al-Badry, filed suit, arguing the ban was un-Islamic. Tuesday's Cairo court ruling was not so much about the substance of the issue as about the government's authority to rule by decree.

Presiding Judge Abdelaziz Hamade noted the ban was announced without parliamentary approval. He said the government overstepped its authority and took away the rights of the medical profession. Sheikh Yousef appeared triumphant as the ruling was read. He called it a victory for Islam.

But human rights campaigners and women's rights activists say the issue is far from resolved. Some are vowing to continue their drive to ban female circumcision through the courts. Others are engaged in a grass roots campaign, trying to persuade women who have been subjected to female circumcision to speak out against the practice.

A social scientist who oversees the work of several non-governmental organizations, Marie Assad, says more Egyptian women are coming out in support of the campaign, vowing their own daughters will not endure the pain they suffered.

"So when you have people who are so engaged and committed, this is what we are trying to repeat. We are trying to have the women who have experienced that to fight with us to save their daughters, and I think we are getting a very good momentum on this."

Assad says she was not surprised by Tuesday's court ruling. She said the issue had become too politicized, but she remains confident of an eventual victory over what she called -- a bad social custom that violates a woman's dignity.

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