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Israelis Win Oud Competition in Egypt

By IsraelNationalNews.com

A panel of musicians from Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria and other states awarded two Israelis first and second prizes in an international music competition in Cairo for their performances on the oud (al-'oud), a traditional Middle Eastern stringed instrument, from which the European lute was derived. The competition draws musicians from across the Arab world. This year's winners, a student and a graduate, respectively, of the Eastern Music Department of the Jerusalem Music Academy, were the first Israelis to have won the competition. They were competing against 14 other 'oud artists.


Jewish Cemetery Desecrated at Auschwitz

By Reuters

Vandals have wrecked tombs at a Jewish cemetery at Auschwitz, southern Poland, the site of the biggest Nazi German concentration camp, the local Jewish cultural center said on Wednesday.

It said 16 tombstones had been knocked down, probably early this week. Days before, someone painted two large swastikas on the cemetery's wall, which municipal police quickly removed. "It's difficult to say who did it. This cemetery is frequented usually once or twice a day. We noticed the desecration on Wednesday," said Artur Szyndler of the Jewish Center in Oswiecim, known as Auschwitz in German. The then-vibrant Jewish community in the Polish town established the cemetery more than two centuries ago.

Most of the town's Jews were killed during World War II by Nazi German occupiers, who built the world's largest concentration camp at Auschwitz and nearby Birkenau. The Nazis killed 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, in Auschwitz. Poland had the largest Jewish population in Europe until the war when Nazis murdered all but 300,000 of the country's 3.5 million Jews. About 10,000 Jews remain in Poland.


Court Sets Precedent Obligating Alimony in Civil Marriages

By Yuval Yoaz, Ha'aretz

The Supreme Court Wednesday in a precedential decision ruled that couples married in a civil marriage, as well as couples who have not formally wed but have lived together and shared a common household, would be required to bear mutual alimony obligations.

Religious law rules the field of alimony for Jews married by the rabbinate in Israel. In cases of civil marriages, there has been no clear precedent so far concerning the rights of the spouses towards one another once the marriage is terminated.

Wednesday's ruling was given in the case of two Jewish Israeli-born citizens, who met eight years ago and decided to get married outside of the rabbinate. They consulted their lawyer and at his recommendation, opted for a "Paraguay wedding," named after the procedure that entails sending wedding requests via mail to a foreign country, thus obtaining civil marriage documentation, which is recognized by authorities in Israel.

The couple decided to separate a year and a half later, and before the divorce procedure was completed another man impregnated the woman, and the Rabbinical Court decided to annul the marriage instead of ruling on the question of the divorce.

Some time later, the woman decided to file for alimony payments not only for the period during which the couple were considered married, but also for the period when they were separated. The Family Court before which the matter was brought ruled that the marriage was not valid for alimony purposes, and that the husband was therefore under no obligation to pay his former spouse. The Tel Aviv District Court upheld the ruling, and the case was brought before the Supreme Court on appeal.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday set a precedent for the right to alimony, arising from contract law, even in the absence of a written prenuptial agreement. "Couples are not bystanders that a traffic accident brings together. They asked to share their lives. Considerations of fairness and a sense of justice lead to the conclusion that there exists a right for alimony," Justice Aharon Barak wrote.

The court further stated that the right to alimony, arising from contract law and the principle of equality, exists mutually for each of the spouses. This means that in certain cases the woman could be obligated to pay alimony to her husband, in contradiction to Rabbinical Court precedents under which a woman is never obligated to pay alimony to her husband.


Israel's First Eskimo Soldier

By Raffi Berg (BBC News Online)

The Israeli army has inducted into its ranks one of the most unique recruits in its history - an Eskimo girl from Alaska. Eighteen-year-old Eva Ben Sira is training to become a squad commander in the Negev desert - a far cry from the frozen wastes of her homeland. She was born to a Yupik Eskimo mother and a Cherokee American father before being adopted by an Israeli couple. Her twin brother, Jimmy, will become the army's second serving Eskimo, when he joins the force next year.

The twins' remarkable journey to Israel began when their mother, Minnie, found herself unable to support Eva and Jimmy after their father walked out. Alaskan social services stepped in and, at the age of two, the twins were sent to live with their grandmother, who struggled to raise the children herself.

Their plight came to light when an Orthodox Jewish couple, Meir and Dafna Ben Sira, came to visit Minnie's neighbor - Dafna's mother - a Swiss Catholic woman, who had immigrated to Alaska from Israel in 1989. The Ben Siras offered to adopt Eva and Jimmy, but had to overcome a welter of religious and cultural obstacles to get the adoption approved by both the Inuit tribe and an Alaskan Orthodox rabbi.

They remained in Alaska for five years until the adoption process was completed. Eva and Jimmy were brought to Israel (they learned to speak Hebrew in three months), converted to Judaism and integrated into Israeli society among the Orthodox community of Nir Etzion, a village near Haifa.

The twins attended religious schools and had bar- and bat mitzvahs. After nearly a decade in Israel, Eva has forgotten the smattering of Yupik she spoke as a child, but with her long black hair and almond-shaped eyes, she has retained her ethnic looks.

Dafna said Eva has no wish to delve too deeply into her past and is very happy living in Israel. Jimmy, however, is more intrigued and wants to go back to Alaska, if for only a visit.

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