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Average Monthly Wage


According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, in October 2003 the average gross monthly salary among wage earners was NIS 6,822 -- $1,529 at the current exchange rate. According to the CBS, the figure represents a 7 percent decline as compared to the beginning of 2003. In addition, the CBS points out that 28 percent of the wage earners bring home only NIS 2,000 a month ($448). Leading the salaried employees are Israel Electric Company and Mekorot Water Company employees. At the bottom end of the wage ladder are restaurant and hotel employees.

Mideast Israel Changes Route of West Bank Security Barrier

By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel, acting under strong international pressure, said it was making changes to the route of its West Bank security barrier to try to make life easier for the Palestinians.

Israeli officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that they plan to alter the route of the controversial security barrier. Under the changes, Israel intends to widen the opening in the barrier that links the Palestinian town of Qalqilyah to the rest of the West Bank.

The changes mean the final route of the barrier will be 360 miles, about 60 less than under the plan originally approved by the cabinet. The revised route will be presented to senior officials of the U.S. administration who are due to visit Israel this week.

Under the original plan, Qalqilyah was faced with being enclosed by the barrier from both the east and the west, making it an enclave. The motivation behind that version of the plan was to allow Jewish settlers free movement between their communities and in the direction of Israel.

No decision has yet been made to remove the barrier on the eastern side of Qalqilyah, but a large opening will be cut into it, in a bid to give Palestinian residents greater freedom of movement. Israeli commentators say the change has been prompted by the continuing protests in the town against the project, which has attracted international attention and harmed Israel's reputation abroad.

Israel also has dropped plans to encircle the Palestinian village of Baka al-Sharkiya in a similar fashion. While agreeing to make such changes, Israel is still determined to complete the barrier, which runs along and inside the West Bank. Israel said the project, which consists of razor wire in some sections and concrete slabs in others, is already stopping Palestinian suicide bombers from entering the Jewish state.

The Palestinian leadership claims the barrier is an attempt by Israel to seize more territory and to unilaterally determine the borders of a future Palestinian state. Israel insists the barrier does not constitute a new political boundary and that it can be removed if and when there is a final peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Media Confusion and Conflicting Headlines


Some of the largest media outlets in Israel are tripping over themselves in their rush to report on an "imminent" evacuation of Gaza - so much so that Sunday's front pages of the two leading papers, usually clones of each other, herald diametrically opposing scenarios.

Yediot Achronot, Israel's largest paper, blares out, "Israel Will Not Destroy the Communities to be Evacuated," adding that Arab refugees will be able to live in the houses that remain. This is followed by a two-page spread of homes in Gush Katif with a large caption, "Gush Katif Before the Evacuation," and sub-headlined, "The luxurious villas and factories in the settlements won't be destroyed after the retreat."

Maariv, on the other hand, which also contains several references on its first three pages implying the certainty of a retreat, evacuation, and expulsion from Jewish Gaza, has a totally different headline: "We Will Destroy Every House and Greenhouse in the Withdrawal," it reads, quoting a source "close to Sharon." Staffers in the Prime Minister's Bureau say that neither of the two reports have any basis.

It will be recalled that in 1982, after Israel withdrew from approximately a dozen communities in northern Sinai as well as the city of Yamit, under the supervision of then-Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, barely a building was left standing.

In the meanwhile, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met with his cabinet ministers in an attempt to garner support for his plan to retreat from Israel's Gaza Strip in exchange for nothing from the Palestinian Authority.

Ir David (The City of David) Continues to Grow


The ancient community of the City of David continues to grow despite the hardship to area residents. The City of David is located south of and below the Temple Mount, the Western Wall Plaza and the rest of the Old City of Jerusalem. It continues to flourish, some 2,750 years after its founding as preparations are finalized to accept new families.

Members of the Elad Association, which has settled the area with 26 Jewish families in the past 15 years, moved into three new complexes this past weekend. They were granted control of the buildings - located on the slopes of Mt. Zion, just to the west of Ir David proper - after more than two years of quiet but intensive work, and faced no legal problems. Some of the apartments must be renovated before families will be able to live in them.

Teacher Told to Drop Star of David

By Aftenposten

Inge Telhaug, employed in a public school in Kristiansand (Norway) was instructed to remove his Star of David necklace for fear it might be "deemed a provocation towards many Muslim students," Norwegian Broadcasting reported.

Telhaug refused to comply, deciding to hire and attorney instead. The head of the Education Association in Kristiansand, Heidi Hauge Uldal, called the school's decision "unacceptable."

Telhaug, who is not Jewish, said he felt it was a violation of his freedom of speech. "I can't accept this. It is a small star, 16 millimeters (0.6 inches) that I have around my neck, usually under a T-shirt. I see it as my right to wear it."

Telhaug teaches immigrants Norwegian language and culture at the education center. "I see it as the oldest religious symbol we have in our culture, because without Judaism there would be no Christianity."

The principal of the school, Kjell Gislefoss, feels that the Star of David can also be interpreted as a political symbol for the state of Israel, and is afraid the star can provoke and offend students, for example immigrants from the Palestinian territories.

"The Star of David would be a symbol for one side in what is perhaps the world's most inflamed conflict at the moment. Many have a traumatic past that they have escaped and then we feel that if they are going to learn Norwegian then they can't sit an at the same time be reminded of the things they have traveled from," Gislefoss said.

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