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The next issue of Israel Faxx will be published on July 2, 2002

Truce in Jeopardy as 4 Palestinians Killed

By VOA News

Palestinian militant groups have vowed revenge for attacks that killed four Palestinians Wednesday, casting doubt on chances for a ceasefire deal with Israel. Hamas' military wing said it would retaliate against Israel for attacks that killed two of its militants in the Beit Hanoun area of Gaza.

Also Wednesday, senior leaders of Palestinian militant groups denied reports that they have agreed to a temporary ceasefire, saying internal discussions are still on going. Senior Hamas official Abdel Aziz Rantisi said Wednesday night that reports of a ceasefire were "all lies." He said he would have an answer to Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas' request for a ceasefire in a few days.

A Palestinian official said in Jerusalem that Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Fatah have agreed to a three-month halt in attacks. Media reports said top leaders of the three factions in Damascus, Syria, signed an agreement and that jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti was instrumental in getting the groups to agree to the truce.

Barghouti was said to have signed on behalf of the main Palestinian faction Fatah. He is currently being held in an Israeli jail while he is being tried on terrorism charges.

In exchange for a cease-fire, the Palestinian militants have demanded an end to Israel's targeted killings, an end to incursion into Palestinian areas and the release of Palestinian prisoners. Prime Minister Abbas has been trying for weeks to bring about a halt to the violence in order to give the so-called 'road map' peace plan a chance.

In Washington, President Bush - reacting to reports of a ceasefire - said he would believe it when he sees it. He also said groups such as Hamas must be completely disbanded in order for there to be peace.

Bush said there couldn't be peace in the Middle East until Palestinian militant groups like Hamas are put out of business. He added that the true test for these militant groups is their ability to shut down their terrorist operations. "In order for there to be peace, Hamas must be dismantled."

In other violence, two Palestinians, including a woman, were killed and 14 others wounded in an Israeli air strike near the town of Khan Younis in Gaza. Israel said the air strike was aimed at Hamas militants who were about to shell a Jewish settlement in Gaza. And in Kafr Kassem, near the West Bank, Israeli security forces said they prevented a possible suicide bombing with the arrest of two Palestinian militants who had a powerful explosive device.

Rabbi: Women Allowed to Read from the Torah

By Yair Sheleg (Ha'aretz)

Women can perform the act of aliyah la-Torah and even read from the Torah, says Prof. Rabbi Daniel Sperber, an Orthodox rabbi who is also the chairman of Hemed, the public council that advises the Education Ministry about national religious education.

The word aliyah means "ascending" and refers to the act of going up to the Torah (which is read from the bima on a level higher than that of the congregation, signifying its holiness) and reciting the blessing over the Torah. The question of whether women are allowed to perform the act has been one of the most contentious issues between Orthodox Jewry and other Jewish schools of thought.

Sperber, a Talmud professor and an Israel Prize Laureate, stated this opinion in the recent issue of Deot, a publication of one of the liberal movements of religious Zionism. Although Sperber is careful not to refer to his article as a ruling, this is apparently the first time an Orthodox rabbi permits women to perform the act of aliyah.

Sperber states that the prohibition on women was limited from the outset. According to Megillah tractate of the Gemara, "All may be included among the seven [called to the Torah on Shabbat], even a minor and a woman," but the Sages said a woman should not read from the Torah because of the dignity of the congregation (kevod ha-tsibbur).

Sperber quotes a popular interpretation for the phrase "dignity of the congregation," according to which this dignity is only compromised when none of the men present can read the Torah, and if a woman reads the men will be shamed. Therefore, ostensibly, in this day and age when most men can read the Torah, this reason to bar women is no longer relevant.

Moreover, Sperber notes it is not clear whether the statement that a woman should not read from the Torah because of the dignity of the congregation was ever a categoric ruling or a mere recommendation.

Sperber also quoted some relatively recent Halakhic rulers who said the prohibition is limited to certain circumstances. Rabbi Meir (the Maharam) of Rutenberg, a 13th century Jewish scholar who was considered quite a conservative where women were concerned, stated that, where there are not enough men who can read, "the dignity of the congregation will take second priority."

How Do You Say Street Signs In Hebrew?


Knesset member Michael Eitan (Likud) has proposed legislation that would exempt certain municipalities from having to post street signs in Arabic.

The Supreme Court recently obligated the city of Tel Aviv-Yafo to switch its all-Hebrew signs and replace them with Hebrew-Arabic ones. Eitan wishes to stipulate that localities whose Arabic-speaking population is less than a third of the total may suffice with all-Hebrew signs.

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