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Shalom Calls for Immediate Revocation of Arafat's Nobel Prize


Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom has turned to the Nobel Prize Committee calling for the immediate revocation of Yasir Arafat's Nobel Peace Prize. Shalom stated that Arafat's prize is an "embarrassment" and a "stain" to all the other recipients of the prestigious peace prize. Marking 25 years since the prize was bestowed upon Prime Minister Menahem Begin; the senior government minister stated he would be pleased to see the committee revoke the award since Arafat continues his efforts to block peace overtures in the region.

Jewish Settlers Vow to Stay in Occupied Territories

By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem) &

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has taken another step towards unilateral withdrawal, or the plan he calls "disengagement," by appointing IDF Maj. Gen. Giora Eiland to head the team that will develop the plan. Sharon announced 10 days ago that if the Palestinian Authority continues to refrain from fighting terrorism and the Road Map plan thus fails, he would initiate a unilateral withdrawal from some areas in Yesha (Judea, Samaria and Gaza).

"At the same time," Sharon said, "in the framework of the Disengagement Plan, Israel will strengthen its control over those same areas in the Land of Israel which will constitute an inseparable part of the State of Israel in any future agreement."

Jewish settlers are vowing to oppose Israeli government plans to dismantle unauthorized Jewish outposts in the West Bank. The settlers say they will launch a legal challenge to the move and confront soldiers who attempt to evacuate them. Jewish settlers reacted angrily to an order from Sharon, who demanded that four outposts in the West Bank be removed.

All four were established without Israeli government approval. Three are currently empty, but the government fears that settlers are planning to inhabit them in the near future. The fourth, known as Ginnot Arieh, is populated by about 10 families. The secretary of the populated outpost, Oren Brund, said he would appeal to Israel's High Court to block the evacuation of the community.

If the court backs the government, he said, he would gather thousands of fellow settlers at the site in a bid to prevent the dismantling of the settlement. Rabbis in the West Bank also called for settlers to form what they called a living wall and resist the planned evacuation.

More than 200,000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank, one of the areas seized by Israel during the 1967 Middle East war. Many settlers say the area is part of the land given to the Jews by God and refer to the territory as Judea and Samaria, the names used in biblical times. Palestinians vehemently oppose the existence of all Jewish settlements, saying they are an attempt to reduce the amount of land on which they want to establish a future independent state.

Israel is also facing pressure from the United States and Europe over the settlements issue. Under the international road map peace plan, Israel has been called upon to freeze all settlement activity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Samaritans Fight to Survive

By The Observer

The Samaritans won renown for kindness in the time of Jesus. But today they are ruthless in defense of the purity of their tribe, prepared even to shun their own daughters to preserve their lineage, a fate that has befallen one of Israel's most celebrated actresses.

The ancient sect, which was celebrated in the Christian world through the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke's gospel, now numbers only 600, divided between two communities - one near Tel Aviv in Israel and the other near Nablus in the West Bank. Women are banned from marrying outsiders; those who disobey are ostracized and rejected by the close-knit community.

The Samaritans are essentially a Jewish sect, although Jews have tended to regard them as lower than the Gentiles. Their language is ancient Hebrew and their religion is akin to Judaism, although it does not contain modifications that Jews added over the past 3,000 years, such as the festivals of Purim and Chanukah. The main difference is that the Samaritans never left the holy lands and they believe Abraham bound his son, Isaac, in preparation for his sacrifice on Mount Gezirim, not on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem.

Despite their similarities, even in the time of Jesus the Jews shunned the Samaritans and the two communities were often at war. Now the Samaritans find themselves in the middle of the modern-day war in the holy land. They remain strictly neutral and carry both Palestinian and Israeli identity cards.

Men can marry outside the community because for the last 200 years there have been more sons born to the community than daughters; the ratio currently stands at about five men for every three women. The Samaritans allow their women to mix freely with the Palestinian community in Nablus and the Jewish community in Israel. Because of the doctrinal differences between Samaritans and Jews, Samaritans are educated in secular Israeli schools.

The Samaritans, like ultra-Orthodox Jews, insist that women are isolated from men for seven days during menstruation and separated from their newborn children for up to 80 days.

Yefet Cohen, a Samaritan priest and curator of their museum on Mount Gezirim near Nablus, said it was vital that women married Samaritan men. "We are afraid we will lose our religion if we do not keep separate. Women must marry a Samaritan; otherwise they will be cut off from everything. Once they leave, they cannot return except as a foreigner," he said.

For Cohen, the traditions are the source of strength of the community. "We are the oldest society, but in the face of everything modern we have managed to keep our values. We have Internet, television and beautiful homes. This does not conflict with our values and traditions. We lead lives like anybody else during the week, and then on the Sabbath the whole community comes here and it is like being in heaven." He says it is terrible when they lose a Samaritan, because many of them still feel on the verge of extinction and a single loss will reinforce the fear.

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