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>Israel Faxx
>JN Feb. 24, 1998, Vol. 6, No. 35

Israeli Tension Relieved

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israelis and Palestinians were relieved but cautious Monday after President Clinton's tentative acceptance of events in Baghdad appeared to remove the possibility of Iraqi missile attacks, at least for now.

Up on the third floor of a Jerusalem department store, just beyond the toys and stuffed animals, sandwiched between the new stoves and the luggage department, is the gas mask center. Frequent British visitor Juliet Feffer wants to turn in her old mask, from 1991, and buy a new one for the equivalent of $57.

It is the second day of mass distribution of gas masks to foreigners in Israel, and it is two hours after the announcement in Baghdad seemed to eliminate the already small chance Iraq might launch chemical or biological weapons in this direction. But Feffer seems surprised by the question of why she decided to get a mask now.

"Why not? Because you think that he is going to keep his word? In two months time, three months time, we'll have the same business again. He's a monster! It's going to last five minutes, until somebody says something he doesn't like. With that monster, you can't trust him, not farther than you can throw him."

That view reflected the thinking of many Israelis Monday, even as much of the tension which has built up in recent weeks dissipated. Still, the staff at the gas mask desk reported a sharp drop in business from Sunday -- from 60 people an hour, to just a handful.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the agreement "good news." But he is also cautious about what might come in the future. "I think it's too early to say what the results of this agreement are. We'll wait to see and to assess both what is happening in the Gulf and what should happen here."

Palestinian officials welcomed the news from Baghdad, saying they hope this will enable the world to re-focus on the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat called the agreement an important start toward achieving real peace. "It was very successful step. We are appreciating it very much."

But Palestinian young people were not so impressed. A group of pro-Iraq demonstrators clashed with Israeli troops on the Bethlehem-Hebron road Monday afternoon, just as other groups have every day in various parts of the West Bank for the past two weeks.

Parents Seek Daughter's Return

By Arutz-7 News Service

Tamara Reukiss and her husband, who immigrated to Israel with their daughter, Leora, in 1991 from Estonia, are now in Australia, in an attempt to retrieve their daughter from a family who refuses to hand her over.

Arutz-7 spoke with Ada Yaalon, a friend of the family from their kibbutz in the Arava (southern Negev), who explained the story.

"The immigrant family faced the expected social, economic, and psychological difficulties. The mother was studying for her profession, and arrived home only on Shabbat, and the father worked long hours in the kibbutz, and the problem of what to do with Leora became acute.

"Her parents considered sending her to her grandmother in Estonia, but then a cousin of the father, part of a well-to-do, non-Jewish family living in Adelaide, Australia, offered to take her. The family saw certain advantages to this, and decided to go along with it, although they made certain conditions: the arrangement was to be temporary, the girl was to be connected with the Jewish community there, and she was to study in the Jewish school Massada in Adelaide.

"Unfortunately, after a few months, the 'kidnappers,' as I call them, suddenly took her out of the school, without notifying or asking the parents, and a few weeks later put her into a Catholic school. The parents are now in Australia, and have even gone to court, but have been unsuccessful.

"The Catholic family is very well-to-do and influential, and if they get a psychologist to tell a court that it's better for the girl to say there, then what can two refugees from Estonia do to counter that?"

She said that lawyers have been contacted, and although one has agreed to work for the cause for free, he said that to return Leora to Israel and her parents, much money would be required.

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