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Syria Confiscates Alleged Israeli Goods Bound for Iraq


The Syrian media report that Syrian customs authorities on the Jordanian border confiscated approximately $60,000 worth of Israeli goods on their way to Iraq. A Syrian official said that five Jordanian trucks loaded with made-in-Israel beams for laying electric cables were stopped on June 24 on their way via Syria to the northern Iraqi city of Irbil. A $480,000 fine was levied, and the beams were confiscated.

Earthquake Registering 4.7 Rattles Israel

By & Ha'aretz

Seismologists report the earthquake felt around the country Late Wednesday afternoon registered 4.7 on the Richter scale. The epicenter of the quake appears to have been 25 kilometers (15 miles) north of the Dead Sea. There were no injuries or damage.

The tremor was felt in Haifa, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Be'er Sheva, and the Jordan Valley, media and witnesses said. Buildings shook for several seconds along Israel's coast, Israel TV said.

The last earthquake felt in Israel was centered in the Jordan Valley on March 6. That quake measured 3.2 on the Richter scale. On Feb. 11, an earthquake measuring 5.1 and centered in the Dead Sea area was felt across Israel.

Last year a number of quakes, which registered 2 to 3 on the Richter scale, occurred in the Dead Sea area. The most recent strong quakes, registering 5 to 5.3 on Richter, were felt in 1956 and 1979. In 1927 a powerful earthquake of magnitude 6.3 with its epicenter near Ein Gedi killed 400 people and brought down many buildings. The last strong quake in the region was in November 1995, south of Nuweiba in Sinai, with a magnitude above 7 - several hundred times stronger than Wednesday's tremor.

Geologists said that statistically a strong earthquake with a potential for destruction hits Israel every 50 to 100 years.

Free Iraq Says No to Relations with Israel


A top Iraqi official has made it clear that although Iraq is free of Saddam Hussein, it is not free of its enmity towards Israel. Speaking to the Arabic news site Albawaba, Hamid Al-Bayati, Iraq's new deputy minister of foreign affairs, asserted that his country refuses to have any diplomatic relations with Israel.

Bayati emphasized that Iraq will always be on par with the Arab consensus. "Arab consensus is currently against having any diplomatic relations with Israel," said Bayati, "and so we will be in support of this stance."

Israel's Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom has said that it should be up to the Iraqi people to decide whether Iraq should have diplomatic relations with Israel or not. Although there have been reports of Israeli businessmen working in Northern Iraq and even training Kurdish fighters, Bayati denied such claims. "Kurds in northern Iraq have denied any Israeli entry into Kurdistan... and I can assure you that we do not have any individual or corporate Israeli activity in other parts of Iraq," Bayati emphasized.

Netanyahu Inspired Iraqi President


Iraq's new president, Ghazi al-Yawer, said that it was Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who inspired him to pursue a career in politics. Speaking with Al-Sharq al-Awsat of London last week, Al-Yawer said, as reported in the Jerusalem Post, that his career plans changed when he saw a documentary on the life of Netanyahu.

The new Iraqi leader said he was particularly impressed with the fact that Netanyahu twice "sacrificed his future for his country" when he left the United States to fight in Israeli wars in 1967 and 1973. (Netanyahu's family moved to the U.S. from Israel in 1963.) "Ever since," Al-Yawer said, "I pledged to work towards establishing a regime in Iraq where the people of Iraq can love their country and sacrifice for it, as did Netanyahu."

Marlon Brando's Holocaust Connection


Dr. Rafael Medoff, director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, in a statement released following the passing of Marlon Brando: "Marlon Brando should be remembered not only for his theatrical accomplishments, but also for being one of the first public figures in post-World War II America to speak out about the failure of the Allies to aid Europe's Jews during the Holocaust.

"In 1946, 22-year-old Brando co-starred in A Flag Is Born, a Ben Hecht play that raised funds to bring Holocaust survivors to Palestine in defiance of British restrictions. Brando's character spoke of the world's silence while the Nazis 'made a garbage pile of my people,' and he criticized American Jews for being 'ashamed to cry out as Jews.' As a gesture of sympathy for the cause that the play was promoting, Brando performed for the minimum Actors' Guild wage.

"Brando championed the Jewish cause offstage, as well, joining his acting coach, Stella Adler, in the American League for a Free Palestine (better known as the Bergson Group). Brando became, as he put it, 'a kind of traveling salesman' for the group, speaking at numerous rallies and meetings around the country. In city after city, the young actor spoke to audiences about the international community's silence during the Holocaust, the plight of Holocaust survivors languishing in Europe's Displaced Persons camps, and the need for a Jewish state."

Athens 2004: NIS 500,000 Offer for Olympic Gold

By Yoav Borovich

Education Ministry Director General Ronit Tirosh has pledged to pay NIS 250,000 to any Israeli athlete who brings home a gold medal, matching the bonus offered by the Israel Olympic Committee (IOC) and lifting the offer for gold at Athens to NIS 500,000.

Speaking before the Israel Olympic team gathered in Caesarea, Tirosh said she would also take steps to help athletes who wished to pursue higher education after retiring from sports. IOC chairman Zvi Varshaviak said that the squad would be aiming for two or three medals, with nine or 10 athletes having the potential to reach the finals in their respective events.

Tennis players Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich, who will compete in the men's doubles, and Anna Smashnova Pistolesi, who will compete in the women's singles, joined the squad. "The Olympics may not be the biggest tournament in tennis, but all the same I am very excited to represent Israel," said Smashnova-Pistolesi.

European champion Judoka Arik Ze'evi, who was picked to carry the flag at the opening ceremony in Athens, said he was not daunted by expectations for him to win Israel's first-ever Olympic gold. "I am aware of the expectations of me, but they don't scare me. On the contrary, they only serve to spur me on."

A Traffic Ticket - And a Letter From Your Rabbi

By, a news site for the Israeli Haredi public, reported this week on a unique new weapon added to the traffic law enforcement arsenal set to be deployed in Beitar Illit. Drivers stopped for a traffic violation will be receiving, in addition to a ticket and fine, a letter from leading local rabbis imploring people to obey traffic laws and warning against endangering life.

The decision to distribute the rabbis' letter with traffic tickets was taken during a meeting between representatives of the police department and the municipality following a series of serious traffic accidents in Beitar Illit in recent months. The rabbinical letter is part of a wider operation of increased enforcement by traffic police in the city.

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