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TA Resident Arrested On Suspicion of Driving Without License for 26 Years


A Tel Aviv resident was stopped for a traffic violation and was found to be driving without a driver's license. He has been driving without one since 1977. A 53 year-old man was stopped on Allenby Street in Tel Aviv by police for crossing a white line. While checking the license he presented them, a call came in on his cell phone. The caller mentioned a different name than was written on the license and on further investigation police discovered that he was using his brother's license - for the last 26 years.

Israel Approves Release of 350 Palestinian Prisoners

By VOA News

Israel has approved the release of more than 350 Palestinian prisoners, but says the release of members of Palestinian militant groups will have to wait. The prisoners are to be freed gradually in the coming days.

But Israel said a decision on releasing members of Islamic Jihad and Hamas who have not been implicated in attacks on Israel will not come until after a debate and vote by all government ministers. Israel's decision not to free militants from among the more than 6,000 Palestinian prisoners it holds is a political blow to Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, who had hoped to secure their release in order to ensure that a three-month truce signed by the main militant groups halting attacks on Israel would hold.

Hamas official Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi blasted Israel's decision not to release any militants and hinted at retaliation, saying Israel would be responsible for what might happen. Earlier Wednesday, Palestinian Information Minister Nabil Amr said that Abbas could face a political crisis at home if he returns from Washington empty-handed on the prisoner issue and other parts of the so-called "road map" peace plan. Abbas has been invited to meet with President Bush at the White House on Friday for talks on the peace process.

In addition to the prisoner issue, he is likely to discuss the freezing of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Israeli troop withdrawals from Palestinian towns.

New Standards for Rabbinical Courts Dealing with Divorces


L'Maan B'nos Yisrael International, an organization dedicated to helping Agunot and their children, has announced two new services to Jewish families. The organization seeks to ease the difficulties of "chained women" (Agunot), whose estranged husbands are withholding a Jewish divorce and thus preventing them from re-marrying.

Rabbis of LBYI have issued standards for rabbinical courts that deal with matrimonial problems, with the aim of eliminating abuses that have resulted from the current practices. LBYI asks rabbis all over the world to publicize the standards - which can be seen at "" - and educate their communities and Rabbinical courts regarding their importance.

In addition, LBYI has arranged for women who have received a "ptur" - proof of receipt of a Jewish divorce - to register the document on the computers of the Rabbinical Courts of the State of Israel. The arrangement "could prove to be invaluable," the organization states, "in case of loss or damage of the document in the future. It will serve as an undisputed record that your [divorce] has been accepted by Israel, and will benefit your children and grandchildren forever by serving as proof of their legitimate status in the Jewish community."

Documentary Shows World's Religions Have Similar Focus on 'Heaven'

By Mike O'Sullivan (VOA-Los Angeles)

Most of the world's religions have an idea of "heaven," but the concepts are very different. An American filmmaker asked believers from major religions what heaven means to them, and found their distinctive visions have a similar focus.

Is heaven a destination or a state of mind? Documentary filmmaker John Scheinfeld was curious, and teamed up with cable television's National Geographic Channel to explore the concept. "The idea of heaven is important in many religions, but the filmmaker asked himself how to approach the topic for a one-hour film for television," he said.

"We can't go there," he laughed. "We can't shoot there. So what are we going to do? I didn't want to do a straight-ahead boring academic history of heaven. So I said, where does the concept come from? How does the concept manifest itself in the five great religions today? And then how do some people within those religions live their lives to get there?" he said.

To look at heaven in Judaism, he turned to the mountain Jews of Azerbaijan, who find heaven in a moral life, lived within their ancient religious tradition. "What really fascinated me about the mountain Jews is that here's this group of people that have been in this place for 2,500 years. And secondly, they are engulfed by a sea of Islam, and how do they survive as Jews. And what I learned is that they have accomplished this really by clinging to their faith. Their faith has sustained them," Scheinfeld said.

Living in a region subjected to many empires, from the Persians to the Russians, the Mountain Jews have also embraced tolerance as a central religious tenet. The film features worshippers and community leaders, including this town elder. "We want the place that we live in to be peaceful and be secure. No murder, no killing, no robbery, no gossip. This is what our community considers to be heaven," the town elder said.

For believers, heaven can be the focus of devotion, a foundation for moral law, or the source of forgiveness. The filmmaker added that for most of the people he talked with, heaven was an ideal that inspires life in the here and now.

"If there's a message of the film, it's that. For many, many centuries, blood has been shed because of what people believe and what religion they practice. And I think what we can see is that we're not all that different. We all have some of the same goals and some of the same hopes and dreams, and if we paid a little more attention and we learned a little bit about this, perhaps hate would work out of the vocabulary," the filmmaker explained. And we would all be a little closer to the ideal of heaven.

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