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Bush Reneges on Moving Embassy to Jerusalem


President George W. Bush has signed an order that delays moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as per a 1995 Congressional decision. Bush is continuing the tactic used by President Bill Clinton, citing "security considerations" for postponing implementation of the decision that would result in a political stir in the Arab world. Bush's signature puts the move on hold for an additional six months.

Israel Seizes Suspected Teenage Suicide Bombers


Israel is holding two teenage Palestinian girls it claims were preparing to become suicide bombers. Asil Hindi, 14, and her friend Majd Kuhan, 15, were seized when troops stormed their homes in the West Bank city of Nablus.

Their parents said today the girls were unlikely targets for militants recruiting suicide bombers. The teenagers spent hours listening to modern music; neither prayed or wore a headscarf and both were closely chaperoned to protect their marriage prospects, they said. "My daughter is always with me. She doesn't leave. We are not religious. We are secular. Her father doesn't even pray," said Asil's mother, Sania.

Although there have been a few secular suicide bombers - a handful of them women - most have been observant Muslims. In the past few months, 10 Nablus teenagers have been arrested on suspicions of planning suicide attacks. Earlier this year, a 16-year-old was caught and filmed with an explosives vest strapped to his body. The youngest bomber, Sabih Abu Saud, also came from Nablus. Abu Saud blew himself up in November, just 10 days after his 16th birthday, killing only himself.

Suicide bombers are considered heroes by many Palestinians and are seen as avenging the hardships of nearly four decades of Israeli occupation. The pictures of some of the most popular "martyrs" are traded like baseball cards among Palestinian youngsters.

The Israeli army said it learned of the plot involving the two girls after arresting a member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a violent group with ties to Yasir Arafat's Fatah movement. The militant identified Majd as the bomber and Asil as the recruiter, the military said. Asil's mother said at most, the girls should not be taken seriously. "I think the girls talk in school. They say things jokingly, 'I want to carry out an attack,' but they aren't serious," Asil's mother said. "It is part of Palestinian culture."

Naef Abu Shareh, the head of Al Aqsa in Nablus, denied he recruited the girls, saying his group has enough "serious men willing to carry out attacks." But he said being a suicide bomber is a "dream" for many Palestinian youths. "Some of the boys who want to get closer to the girls and look like heroes say things like this. It is not really true. They just want to look strong," he added.

Nasser Kuhan, Majd's father, said he kept close tabs on his daughter. She was only allowed to leave the house with her mother or her sisters. She wasn't permitted to mingle with boys. "She has no freedom, she isn't allowed to have a mobile phone," Kuhan said. "I pray my daughter will be returned to me ... and then I will watch her even more closely."

Palestinian PM Welcomes Egypt's Help with Post-Israeli Gaza

By VOA News

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Queira is welcoming Egypt's offer to help rebuild Palestinian institutions when and if Israel withdraws from the Gaza Strip. Queira also told reporters in Cairo his administration is holding talks with the "militant" groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad and said those talks would continue until there is agreement on security issues.

An Israeli pullout plan calls for the evacuation of all 7,500 Israeli settlers in Gaza by the end of 2005. Four small settlements in the West Bank would also be closed. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Wednesday his government would train Palestinian commanders to maintain security once Israel leaves.

And Israel is seeking bids from contractors to build a huge trench along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Israel's Defense Ministry published a notice for the bids in local newspapers Thursday. The trench would run along a four-kilometer stretch of the Philadelphi corridor between the Palestinian town of Rafah and Egypt and would be 25 meters deep. The ultimate goal of the trench is to prevent Palestinians from digging tunnels to carry smuggled weapons into Gaza.

Hungarian Nazi Victims' Wallets are Found


A Jewish "treasure" was received in Yad Vashem Holocaust Center recently: the wallets of 177 Jews who were shot and killed by Hungarian Nazi Arrow Cross militias. The Jews had been drafted into work forces in Hungary and were killed during the last days of World War II. The wallets contain papers and letters, which have been of great value to Holocaust researchers.

This information was reported at a seminar on "Hungarian Jewry During the Holocaust," which was held this week at the Jerusalem College (Michlalah) in Bayit Vegan, Jerusalem.

Civil Marriage Proposal is Far from Final


The most explosive issue on the religious-secular agenda is a controversial new piece of proposed legislation drawn up by a four-person Knesset committee on the issue of civil marriages in Israel. The four MKs - chairman Roni Bar-On (Likud), Nissan Slomiansky (NRP), Roni Brizon (Shinui), and Yuri Stern (National Union) - have been working on their proposal for eight months.

The committee convened in light of the increasing number - estimated at well over 350,000 - of non-Jews and others who cannot be married under the auspices of the Rabbinate or according to Jewish Law. The committee proposes a new form of partnership between a man and a woman, to be known neither as civil marriage nor as common-law wife/husband, but rather as a "brit zugiyut" - a "pact for living together as a couple."

The new framework, if approved, would be open for anyone who is not already married. The proposal outlines the way in which the "pact" is initiated and the guidelines for the "registrar" - a Family Court judge. It also stipulates the way in which the "pact" could be ended, namely, death of one of the partners, marriage, or mutual consent. "Pact" couples would have the same rights and obligations as married couples.

Slomiansky said Thursday that there is a genuine problem with those who cannot marry, and that an effort is underway to find a solution, "but in the final analysis, if a proposed solution does not meet with the Halakhic [Jewish Legal] approval of the rabbis, it won't be accepted. As of now, there is no final proposal, and certainly the rabbis have not yet approved anything. It's a long process... Whoever leaked the news of this proposal apparently wanted to destroy its chances."

Hareidi Yisrael Eichler (United Torah Judaism) attacked the proposal, advising religious Jews to "begin preparing family trees." He was referring to the prospect that illegitimate and/or non-Jewish children would be born of these unions. Similarly, Shas Party leader Eli Yeshai said that there is "no difference between marriage and 'coupling pacts,'" and that the "NRP and Shinui are once again causing us trouble with their word games."

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