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>Israel Faxx
>JN July 23, 1997, Vol. 5, Num. 133

Netanyahu Loses Confidence Vote but Stays in Power

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lost a parliamentary no-confidence vote Monday but stayed in office as opposition parties failed to rally enough support to topple his government. The vote in the 120-member parliament went 49-44 against Netanyahu on a no-confidence motion over rising unemployment. Bringing down the government requires an absolute majority of 61 legislators. Netanyahu's coalition partners from the National Religious Party stayed away from the vote.

Dead Sea Scroll Conference Under Way

By Patricia Golan (VOA-Jerusalem)

An international conference marking 50 years since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls opened this week in Jerusalem. Most scholars believe the 2,000-year-old scrolls were written by a secretive breakaway Jewish sect that hid them in caves for safe keeping. While considered one of the greatest archeological discoveries ever made, the scrolls are still buried in both political and scholarly disputes.

With 350 scholars from all over the world, the Congress on the Dead Sea Scrolls is the largest scholarly conclave ever held on the subject.

Between 1947 and 1956, scrolls were found in 11 caves dotting the hills above Qumran on the Dead Sea. In all, 800 documents were found, written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, containing Old Testament texts, psalms, commentaries and other works. Some of the scrolls are written in code. A 60-member team of experts is trying to piece together thousands of scroll fragments and publish a complete text by 2001.

Israel Museum Director James Snyder calls the scrolls the most significant patrimony of the State of Israel and one of the most significant in the history of mankind.

"In a way, the scrolls are for us what the Mona Lisa is for the Louvre in Paris. People come to Jerusalem and on their checklist of significant cultural objects they have the Dead Sea Scrolls. They feel the need to come and see them, to look at the shrine, to observe the scrolls and to leave. Our great worry... is that people look at the scrolls without any sense of understanding of their history, importance, context and meaning. So for us this Congress became an opportunity through the course of the year to celebrate the scrolls."

The Dead Sea Scrolls conference is already provoking lively, even bitter debates. The most widely held view of the origin of the scrolls is that Qumran was the library of the secretive Essenes, but some scholars challenge that view, saying the scrolls were written elsewhere, possibly in the Temple in Jerusalem.

One dispute that is not being debated at the conference is the political one. Israel bought some of the scrolls in the 1950s soon after they were unearthed. These are kept at the Israel Museum, located in west Jerusalem. Other scrolls were acquired after the 1967 Mideast war when Israel captured east Jerusalem. That's where the Rockefeller Museum is located and serves as home to many of the scrolls. The Palestinians challenge Israel's right to ownership of the scrolls, calling the capture of the documents "theft."

Speaking at a news conference, the head of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Amir Drori, rejected Palestinian claims, saying Israel would keep the 2,000 year-old documents because they were legally inherited and an inseparable part of Jewish tradition. So the issue of the ownership of the scrolls has been left to final status talks, aimed at reaching an overall political settlement.

Document Says Vatican Hid Fascist Gold

The Vatican stored 200 million Swiss francs, mostly in gold coins, for Croatian fascists just after World War 2 to keep the money out of Allied hands, according to a previously classified U.S. document.

The October 1946 document marks the first time in more than a year-long hunt of national archives that the Vatican has been mentioned in connection with gold looted by the Nazis or their allies. A&E Television said it found the document during research for a two-hour documentary, "Blood Money: Switzerland's Nazi Gold," that it will broadcast Saturday.

The Vatican denied the report that it had stored $130 million for Croatian fascists. The U.S. document, dated said that pro-Nazi Croatian fascists removed about $230 million from Yugoslavia at the end of the war. In the document, U.S. Treasury Department official Emerson Bigelow wrote to the department's director of monetary research that the British managed to capture only about $87 million. He said a reliable source in Italy had told him the Vatican held the rest.

In other news. Swiss banks published a list of more than 2,000 names on dormant accounts opened by foreigners before 1945, including assets left by Jewish Holocaust victims, in the Wednesday edition of the Russian newspaper Izvestia.

There was no mention in the list of how much money the accounts contained but Swiss sources said it was around $40 million -- much more than originally believed. Izvestia was the first newspaper to carry the advertisement, which was to appear in papers worldwide as the Swiss Bankers' Association breaks with a tradition of secrecy after criticism by Jewish groups.

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