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Ukrainian Skinheads Beat Israeli Teenager


Recently in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, six skinheads attacked an 18-year-old Israeli originally from the former Soviet Union. Anton Miromanov was wearing a T-shirt with Hebrew letters printed on it when he and his friends were approached on Independence Square by the skinheads who asked him if he was Jewish. When he said that he was a Jew and proud of it, the skinheads knocked him to the ground and started kicking him. His friends were able to save him. A police source said that the authorities were actively looking for the culprits.

Israel Warns Syria on Lebanon Border Security

By Larry James (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel has warned Syria it will not permit a further deterioration of the situation along its northern border with Lebanon and has called on the United States to stress that point to the Damascus government. On Sunday night, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon convened a special meeting of senior military officials on the situation.

Senior Sharon advisor Raanan Gissen said afterward that Israel had no intention of escalating the situation, but added that the country would not tolerate further attacks. He said Syria bore responsibility for not fulfilling a United Nations resolution following the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon three years ago.

"It was Syria's responsibility to ensure that Lebanese troops deploy along the border and that Hizbullah be removed form there and, as a matter of fact, expelled from Lebanon as well as Syria, and that did not happen," Gissen said.

Israeli warplanes bombed Hizbullah positions in southern Lebanon Sunday, after cross-border artillery fire from the terrorist group killed an Israeli teenager and wounded four others in the Israeli town of Shlomi.

Hizbullah said it fired anti-aircraft shells at Israeli warplanes that had intruded into Lebanese airspace and was not targeting the town. Israeli military officials said there were no Israeli aircraft in the area when the shelling began.

The Israeli air raid followed artillery exchanges Friday between Israel and Hizbullah in the disputed Shebaa Farms border region. Shebaa Farms is occupied by Israel and claimed by both Syria and Lebanon. The United Nations says the area belongs to Syria and that Syria and Israel should negotiate its future. Israel withdrew its forces from southern Lebanon in May 2000 following a 22-year occupation.

The Passion: New Mel Gibson Movie Prompts Controversy Long Before Release

By Maura Farrelly (VOA-Washington)

Academy award-winning actor and filmmaker Mel Gibson is accustomed to attracting people's attention by this point in his career. But the star of such films as "Braveheart" and "Lethal Weapon" may not be used to the kind of attention he's been attracting lately. A number of prominent Jewish and Catholic leaders are concerned about a film Gibson recently directed, which is scheduled for release some time next year.

The film is entitled The Passion, and it's about the last hours of Jesus' life. Christians believe the central figure in their religion suffered great physical and emotional torment before being crucified, and dramatizations of this torment have a long tradition in the Christian faith. Gibson's film will join a list of so-called "Passion Plays" that can be traced back to the 13th century, a time when Christians began to take a particular interest in the human qualities of their savior. The 13th century was also a time of rising anti-Semitism, and for hundreds of years, this antipathy toward Jews was reflected in the various adaptations of Christian scripture that became Passion Plays.

That's one of the reasons the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights group, was concerned about Gibson's film when they first learned of it. And according to Ken Jacobson, associate director of the ADL, when group members got hold of a preliminary script that was leaked to the public without Gibson's permission, they didn't like what they saw. "They seemed to feel that there was much too much of an emphasis on the role of the Jews, as opposed to the role of the Romans," he said.

The role of the Jews, that is, not only in the Christian messiah's execution, but also in the injury and humiliation he suffered before his death. For many centuries, the Catholic Church taught that Jews were partly responsible for the crucifixion. In fact, it wasn't until the Second Vatican Council in the mid-1960s that that interpretation of Scripture was renounced. Jacobson said since that time, great strides toward reconciliation have been made between Jews and Catholics.

But not all Catholics embrace the dictates of the Second Vatican Council. There's a splinter group known as "Traditionalist Catholics" that rejects most of the intended reforms of what came to be called Vatican II, and this group counts one very prominent film actor among its members. "Gibson himself calls himself a "traditionalist Catholic," and involved in that position are some very strong criticisms of the modern Church, including what we would call the revolution in attitudes toward Jews within the Church which has taken place over the last 35 years," said Jacobson.

It's been estimated there are about 100,000 traditionalist Catholics in the United States. That's not even one percent of the entire American Catholic population. One of the most vocal and radical traditionalist voices, however, is that of Hutton Gibson, Mel Gibson's father. Hutton Gibson lives in Texas and has published a book that characterizes every pope since Vatican II as an "enemy" of Catholicism. In a recent interview with The New York Times Magazine, Hutton Gibson also denied that six million Jews could have been killed in the Holocaust.

It's statements like that that prompted the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to ask a group of scholars to review the preliminary script to Mel Gibson's film. Those scholars expressed concern that the script may be drawing upon an 18th-century adaptation of Scripture that exaggerates the role of the Jews in Christ's death and violates current Catholic teachings on the subject. Gibson's publicist did not return any of VOA's phone calls, but in a published statement, the actor and director insisted his film is not anti-Semitic, saying that anti-Semitism is "contrary to the core message of my movie." Gibson said the film is meant to "inspire, not to offend."

Father Kevin Ashe is director of the oldest, continuous Passion Play in the United States. The Park Theater in Union City, New Jersey, every Easter since 1915 has produced it. Ashe said it is possible to do a Passion Play that doesn't offend Jews. He suggests the script should emphasis that Jesus himself was a Jew, something Ashe said his own theater's version didn't always reflect. "We missed that entirely. We would point out that people who were against him were Jewish, but what happened was no one pointed out that Jesus was Jewish, and that his disciples were. So it gave a very lop-sided thing, and when you'd walk away from it, you'd say, 'Oh, those people are against Jesus. The Jews are against Jesus.'"

Ashe said in the 1960s, people involved with the Park Theater Passion Play voluntarily removed a lot of the dialogue from the nineteen-teens and twenties that depicted Jews as bloodthirsty. But it wasn't until the 1980s, when theater officials asked members of the Anti-Defamation League to review the script, that Christians working on the play realized the need to emphasize Christ's Jewish identity.

The Anti-Defamation League has asked to view Mel Gibson's film, to see whether they think the final version is as problematic as they believe the preliminary script to be. Meanwhile, The Passion continues to attract both supporters and critics, long before its release.

Jewish Visits to Temple Mount are Likely to Resume in Week

By Ha'aretz

Public Security Minister Tzachi Hanegbi told the Knesset House Committee on Monday that he might order the Temple Mount reopened to visits by Jews within a week, even if the Waqf (Muslim religious trust) objects, Israel Radio reported Monday.

Hanegbi said Israel would wait another week for the agreement of the Waqf to visits by Jews. If consent was not forthcoming, he said he might anyway order the resumption of visits by Jews to the disputed site, which is Judaism's holiest. But Infrastructure Minister Yosef Paritzky said that he has asked the government to rule on visits by non-Muslims, Israel Radio reported Monday, citing the Shinui minister as saying that a decision on the matter should not be taken by Hangebi alone.

Visits by groups of Jews and tourists to the compound, which contains the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock and is Islam's third holiest site, resumed several weeks ago, after they stopped with the outbreak of the intifada almost three years ago. Fearing violence, police again barred the trips up to the Mount after Arab leaders, including Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasir Arafat, warned that the renewal of visits would have dangerous consequences.

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