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Israeli Windsurfer Wins Israel's First Olympic Gold Medal

By Ha'aretz

Gal Fridman was awarded a gold medal for the windsurfing event at a ceremony in Athens on Wednesday evening, Israel's first ever gold at the Olympics.

During the ceremony, the Israeli national anthem "Hatikva" was played for the first time ever in the Olympic games, while Fridman and the dozens of Israelis in the audience sang along. Alex Giladi, the Israeli representative on the International Olympic Committee, bestowed the medal to Fridman, who looked very excited.

Fridman - the first Israeli to win two Olympic medals after winning the bronze in 1996 - finished the last of the 11 races in second place, but took the gold by scoring 42 points. After the ceremony, Fridman said: "I didn't believe that so many people would come to the ceremony. Everyone sang the 'Hatikva' with such intensity that people were in shock, they didn't understand where it came from." Fridman added that he also hoped to win the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called to congratulate Fridman after the ceremony. Sharon said: "An entire nation held its breath today in the afternoon during the last race. We were all excited to see you win. We always knew that you are worthy of a medal and you got it. The confidence and serenity you demonstrated throughout the contest were remarkable. You are truly a great sportsman. Israel is very proud of you."

Sharon also congratulated Fridman's trainer Gur Steinberg and the entire team that accompanied him. Fridman thanked the prime minister and said that he is excited by the gesture.

After Fridman crossed the finish line, he took a victory dip and then wrapped himself in an Israeli flag when he came out of the water.

"It feels like a dream," Fridman said after his victory. "It's an amazing, indescribable feeling. I'm happy that you were all able to view the race live. I simply felt that the entire country was pushing me from behind. I suddenly felt extra energies, and I didn't know where they came from. I planned the race well. My strategy was to pass ahead of the Brazilian, who was close to me. He missed a wind shift, and I was able to sail away from him. I saw that he was under pressure, which is evident by the fact that he came in fourth place. We knew that he could fall because of lack of experience, Fridman said of the race.

"I'd like to thank the entire country of Israel. I didn't want to celebrate before crossing the finish line; afterwards everything came out," he said.

Residents of Fridman's hometown of Karkur, near Hadera, streamed to the family's house to celebrate, Israeli media said. "It's very, very hard to believe that he succeeded in doing this," said Fridman's father, Uri.

President Moshe Katsav congratulated Fridman and invited him for a meeting to give him a hug. "I'm happy together with everyone about this win," Katsav said. "We all had great expectations that Gal would do this.

"Today, Gal simply raced with a lot of confidence and he deserved this victory," said his trainer Gur Steinberg. "Thanks to the entire country for all its support... This shows that we can beat other countries."

Palestinian Security Official Wounded as Legislature Considers Reforms

By Larry James (VOA-Jerusalem)

A senior Palestinian security official was wounded and his bodyguard killed in a Gaza City shooting on Wednesday. The attack comes as the Palestinian Legislature Council meets to debate reforms in the Palestinian Authority, including the security apparatus.

The attack occurred when a convoy carrying the Palestinian Authority's deputy chief of intelligence was traveling through the northern part of Gaza City. Tareq Abu Rajab suffered gunshot wounds to the chest. His condition is not considered life threatening. Four of his bodyguards were also hit by the gunfire. One of them died of his injuries. No one has claimed responsibility for the shooting attack that witnesses said was carried out by masked men.

Abu Rajab, who maintains a very low public profile, has close ties to Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat. Before taking up his current post he was in charge of security for Palestinian diplomatic missions overseas. The Gaza Strip has been going through a wave of violence over the past month. The unrest comes as various factions are fighting to establish their positions in anticipation of the power vacuum that is expected once Israel withdraws its forces from Gaza by the end of 2005.

Skunk Bomb Added to IDF Arsenal


The "Skunk Bomb" is being added to the IDF arsenal, intended for use in riot control situations. The new weapon will be armed with a unique warhead, a synthetic skunk odor described as extremely powerful, in the hope of repelling rioters without having to resort to more lethal ammunition. Testing showed the device releases such a pungent odor that clothes will carry the smell for a number of years, a reality that would be particularly problematic to Muslims, who are forbidden to pray with clothes that emit an odor.

The latest non-lethal weapon comes following the announcement of a stun tank rocket, intended to carry the scare of a tank rocket without the potential for injury or loss of life. Officials are indicating the Skunk Bomb is not field ready but should be up and running in the near future.

Scientology Alert in Jerusalem


Yad L'Achim, a Jerusalem-based anti-cult organization, announced this week that the dangerous Scientology cult is actively pursuing new members among religious and Hareidi women.

At Diskin St. 17, one of the tall buildings whose "shorter sides" face the Hareidi neighborhood of Shaarei Hessed, dozens of women can be seen entering the offices of the Shachar Institute, where courses are offered in reflexology, holistic healing - and Scientology. Shachar is directed by a religious-looking woman who denies any connection to Scientology - despite the fact that the main Scientology office in Tel Aviv told Yad L'Achim that she is their Jerusalem representative.

Yad L'Achim said that the cult has an interesting way of attracting the religious women. A college named Tif'eret advertises that it is looking to hire a secretary, and candidates who arrive for an interview are told at the end that if they want to be hired, they must take a course in "dianetics" - a method that is claimed to get rid of "the hidden part of your mind that stores all painful experiences and then uses them against you." Dianetics is a central method of Scientology, which has been described as the "world's most dangerous cult."

Justice Anderson of the Supreme Court of Victoria, Australia, wrote, "Scientology is evil; its techniques are evil; its practice is a serious threat to the community, medically, morally, and socially; and its adherents are sadly deluded and often mentally ill... [It is] the world's largest organization of unqualified persons engaged in the practice of dangerous techniques which masquerade as mental therapy."

One-time British Health Minister Kenneth Robinson said, "The government is satisfied that Scientology is socially harmful. It alienates members of families from each other and attributes squalid and disgraceful motives to all who oppose it; its authoritarian principles and practice are a potential menace to the personality and well being of those so deluded as to become followers; above all, its methods can be a serious danger to the health of those who submit to them..."

Yad L'Achim plans to publicize the dangers of Scientology and the Jerusalem courses in the Hareidi newspapers in the coming two weeks. Chairman Rabbi Shalom Dov Lifschitz said, "We have here a cynical attempt to entrap innocent Hareidi women who are not aware of the many dangers inherent in this destructive cult. These women want only to learn new psychological methods... This is a clever method of entrapment that should be thrown out of the Holy City."

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