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N.Y.C. Water Story Hits Front Pages, but Vegetables are Kosher


A New York story first reported in Kosher Today about a concern that New York's water supply might not be fit for drinking by kosher consumers has captured headlines in Israel and around the nation. The New York Times showed an enlarged photo of the copepods, insects found in New York's water, which health officials say are harmless but rabbis say may not be ingested because of the prohibition of eating insects. Most rabbis advised congregants to purchase water filters. Sources say that sales of water filters to Orthodox Jews in New York are brisk. "There's absolutely no health risk," said Charles Sturcken, a spokesman for the city Department of Environmental Protection.

Southern Gaza Palestinians Begin Rebuilding

By Sonja Pace (VOA-Rafah, Gaza)

Israel has begun to ease a three-week closure of the Gaza Strip, allowing shipments of badly needed consumer goods, including milk products, fruits and cigarettes. Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, was the area hit hardest by last month's Israeli military incursion.

The troops came with tanks and bulldozers to demolish dozens of houses in Rafah that Israel says were being used by militants to hide tunnel entrances and to shoot at Israeli soldiers patrolling the border. The heavy machines also knocked down power lines, broke sewage and water pipes, and dug up the streets.

Juma'a Abu Hamad, 57, has pitched a makeshift tent made of old blankets. Inside, some cushions are scattered on the ground. This is where he spends much of his day now. "The tanks came here," he said. "First thing they did was open fire on our home. There were a lot of people inside the house, and then they went back and brought the bulldozer with them and started demolishing our home while we were in, like what you see, the whole house has been wrecked."

Abu Hamad says the family lost everything in the demolition, including cash, gold jewelry and other belongings. The family now spends nights at a local school, which has become a temporary shelter. Just around the corner, the Qishta family has fared no better. They have put a few plastic chairs on the broken concrete slabs where the family home once stood.

Fathiya Qishta, 55, remembers the commotion outside the day the Israeli troops came. "I heard people, children screaming outside," she said. "I went outside to see what was going on and I saw that everyone was just grabbing the children and leaving. Then they came to our house and started demolishing it. We took the children and left. We lost everything."

The children in Rafah are back in school, shops are open even though there is a shortage of goods to buy due to the closure imposed on the Gaza Strip, and traffic is back on the streets. But there is no talk of any return to normalcy, and those living here express a mixture of despair, frustration and anger.

Rafah's mayor, Sayid Zorob, says he believes he has failed his people. "You feel that you are nothing when any kid in your city asks you for the minimum service and you fail to achieve it," said Zorob. "We feel that we are nothing and I am thinking to leave my job because I failed to achieve the minimum for a secure, safe life for my city. All the playing cards are in the Israeli hands, it is not in our hand."

The Israeli operation lasted a week. Then the soldiers withdrew. But they are never far away and move in periodically to continue their search for suspected militants and weapons. The border to neighboring Egypt is closed off by Israeli troops and soldiers guard nearby Jewish settlements.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is vowing to dismantle Israeli settlements and pull his troops out of the Gaza Strip. While the political debate over the Sharon plan rages in Israel, there is little debate about it in Rafah. Palestinians say they would welcome any Israeli withdrawal, but they do not believe it will really happen.

Former Chief Rabbi Calls for Abolishment of Religious Marriage Law


Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron, who served as the Rishon LeTzion - Israel's Chief Sephardic Rabbi - from 1993-2003, made this shocking statement: "Israel's Marriage and Divorce Law should be abolished." The law states that all Jewish marriages in Israel must be performed according to Jewish Law. The rabbi made the call at a conference of the Tzohar Rabbis organization in Jerusalem.

Bakshi-Doron later explained that many secular Jews do not abide by this law, and that they either marry in Greece or Cyprus, or do not marry their partners at all. "Compulsion merely causes antagonism towards religion among the secular," the rabbi said. "Just as brit milah [ritual circumcision] is not mandated by law, and yet 95% of Jewish parents in Israel perform this ceremony, I feel that if marriage is not in a forced framework, more people will choose to marry via the rabbinate."

Many religious leaders reacted with fury to the Rishon LeTzion's statements. Knesset member Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism) said, "This opinion is more Shinui than Shinui... It is a deviation from the opinion of all the rabbis and Orthodox circles in the Jewish world. According to his logic, we should also permit public Sabbath violation, since the trend is towards opening malls on the Sabbath and holy days... David Ben-Gurion himself signed a 'status quo' document with [the hareidi party] Agudat Yisrael that stipulated that everything would be done to prevent a division of the Nation of Israel into two.

Ben-Gurion understood that marriages and divorces according to Jewish Law was the way to preserve the nation's unity [as otherwise many Jews would not recognize others as 'kosher' Jews]. Just a few weeks ago, the Knesset rejected a bill that would recognize non-Halakhic marriages, understanding that this would destroy the nation's Jewish character."

New Law Allows Solitary Confinement of Divorce Dodgers

By Ha'aretz

Men who refuse to comply with rabbinical court rulings to grant their wives a "get" allowing them to divorce will be sentenced to 14 days in solitary confinement, in accordance with a new law approved in its second and third readings on Tuesday by the Knesset.

According to the law, initiated by Gila Finkelstein (National Religious Party) and approved by a majority of 14 supporters with no opposition, rabbinical courts are authorized to send men who refuse to grant divorces to seven straight days of solitary confinement in prison. If the husband continues to refuse to grant his wife a divorce after the first week of imprisonment, the court is authorized to sentence him to another seven days in solitary confinement.

Up until now, rabbinical courts were authorized to take other, less severe, sanctions against men refusing to grant divorces to their wives. These measures included forbidding men to leave the country, not permitting the renewal of their driver's license and the placing of restrictions on their bank accounts. There are currently four men sitting in jail for refusing to grant their wives a divorce.

New Home in Samaria For Ohio's Banned 10 Commandments


Church leaders and clergy from Adams County, Ohio, traveled to Israel last week in order to dedicate a Ten Commandments monument they had previously shipped to Israel. The monument is to be erected in the Yesha (Judea, Samaria and Gaza) community of Barkan.

The monument is similar to ones removed by court order from four public schools in Adams County after a federal court ruled that having the monuments in the county's high schools and middle schools violated the U.S. Constitution's Establishment Clause.

Christians in Adams County facing the threat of a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union were surprised when their case aroused the sympathies of Jews living "halfway across the world, in Israel," said Rev. Ken Johnson. Rev. Johnson is pastor of the Seaman United Methodist Church and is also the president of a group called Adams County for the Ten Commandments (ACTC).

Pinchas Gerber, director of the Shomron (Samaria) Development Fund in the town of Barkan, said he decided to make contact with the group when he saw a small picture in the paper of a bulldozer tearing a Ten Commandments monument out of an Adams County school.

Upon the Christian groups arrival in Barkan, Gerber told them, "I looked at it and said, 'I was born in Ohio. This doesn't sit right with me... It's not the way you want to have the Ten Commandments being treated." Minutes after seeing the item in the paper, Gerber got the high school's telephone number off of the Internet and called the school's principal, who put him in contact with Johnson. Gerber introduced himself, explained the Jewish people's love for and connection to the Ten Commandments and suggested to Johnson that he send one of the monuments to Israel.

Johnson said he was amazed at how his rural river county of some 28,000 residents, with more than 100 churches, had made national and international headlines for its stand in support of the Ten Commandments, and he said hearing from Israel was a highlight. "That was probably one of the greatest joys that I've ever had in my whole life, is when [Gerber] called...saying [he'd] like to have one of these monuments that were removed from the schools," said Johnson. "I was elated."

Because the Adams County legal appeal is still pending -- and due to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in a few weeks -- Johnson said the county did not want to part with one of its own monuments, which the committee hopes to be allowed to re-install. Nevertheless, the ACTC decided that the Israeli request was important enough to have a new, similar monument built and shipped to Barkan.

The 800-pound granite monument inscribed with the Ten Commandments was a gift from the ACTC and cost about $3,000. It now stands in front of the mayor's office of the Samaria Regional Council in Barkan, in the northern Shomron. The only difference in the monuments, which both bear engravings of an American flag, is that the Israeli version bears an engraving of an Israeli flag in place of the America Eagle inscribed on the American monuments.

Tom Claibourne, senior pastor of Bethlehem Church of Christ in Winchester, Ohio, accompanied Johnson to Israel. Claibourne said he was happy to be involved with "bringing the Ten Commandments home, just to be a part of seeing them here in Israel again with the people God originally gave them to."

According to the Torah, God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses and the Jewish people. "The Ten Commandments are not only for the Jewish people but...are a moral compass for our society," Gerber said at the dedication ceremony. He also linked them to the rest of the Torah, which he said gives the Jewish people the "fortitude" to continue living in the Biblical land of Samaria.

People Attracted to Religion for 16 Reasons Israel Faxx News Services

People are not drawn to religion just because of a fear of death or any other single reason, according to a new comprehensive, psychological theory of religion. There are actually 16 basic human psychological needs that motivate people to seek meaning through religion, said Steven Reiss, author of the new theory and professor of psychology and psychiatry at Ohio State University In Columbus.

These basic human needs - which include honor, idealism, curiosity and acceptance - can explain why certain people are attracted to religion, why God images express psychologically opposite qualities, and the relationship between personality and religious experiences.

"Previous psychologists tried to explain religion in terms of just one or two overarching psychological needs. The most common reason they cite is that people embrace religion because of a fear of death, as expressed in the saying 'there are no atheists in foxholes," Reiss said. "But religion is multi-faceted - it can't be reduced to just one or two desires."

Reiss described his new theory - which he said may be the most comprehensive psychological theory of religion since Freud's work more than a century ago -- in the June issue of Zygon, a journal devoted to issues of science and religion. "I don't think there has been a comprehensive theory of religion that was scientifically testable," he said.

The theory is based on his overall theory of human motivation, which he calls sensitivity theory. Sensitivity theory is explained in his 2000 book Who Am I? The 16 Basic Desires that Motivate Our Action and Define Our Personalities (Tarcher Putnam).

Reiss said that each of the 16 basic desires outlined in the book influence the psychological appeal of religious behavior. The desires are power, independence, curiosity, acceptance, order, saving, honor, idealism, social contact, family, status, vengeance, romance, eating, physical exercise and tranquility.

In fact, Reiss has already done some initial research that suggests the desire for independence is a key psychological desire that separates religious and non-religious people. In a study published in 2000, Reiss found that religious people (the study included mostly Christians) expressed a strong desire for interdependence with others. Those who were not religious, however, showed a stronger need to be self-reliant and independent.

The study also showed that religious people valued honor more than non-religious people, which Reiss said suggests many people embrace religion to show loyalty to parents and ancestors. In the Zygon paper, Reiss explained that every religious person balances their 16 basic human needs to fit their own personality. "They embrace those aspects of religious imagery that express their strongest psychological needs and deepest personal values."

One example is the desire for curiosity, Reiss said. Religious intellectuals, who are high in curiosity, value a God who is knowable through reason, while doers, who have weak curiosity, may value a God that is knowable only through revelation. "People who have a strong need for order should enjoy ritualized religious experiences, whereas those with a weak need for order may prefer more spontaneous expression of faith," he said.

"The prophecy that the meek will inherit the earth should appeal especially to people with a weak need for status, whereas the teaching that everybody is equal before God should appeal especially to people with a strong need for idealism."

If religion and personality are linked, religion must provide a range of images and symbols sufficiently diverse to appeal to all the different kinds of personalities in the human population, Reiss says. Religious imagery potentially accommodates everybody because in many instances the images and symbols are psychological opposites. "How we value and balance the 16 psychological needs is what makes us an individual, and for every individual there are appealing religious images," he said.

"The values that guide a personality with a strong need for vindication are expressed by a God of wrath, or a war God, while the values that guide a personality with a weak need for vindication are expressed by a God of forgiveness. The values that guide a personality with a strong need to socialize are expressed by religious fellowship and festivals, while the values that guide a personality with a weak need to socialize are expressed by religious asceticism."

The need for acceptance makes meaningful images of God as a savior, while its opposite inspires the concept of original sin, according to Reiss. The need to eat motives some people to value abstinence and others to value sustenance. "Because this theory can be tested scientifically, we can learn its strengths and weaknesses, and gradually improve it," Reiss said. "Eventually, we may understand better the psychological basis of religion."

Reiss emphasized that the theory addresses the psychology of religious experiences and has no implications for the validity or invalidity of religious beliefs.

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