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ARMDI Dispatches Urgently Needed Medical Supplies to Sri Lanka


The American Red Magen David for Israel (ARMDI), in cooperation with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent, on Thursday dispatched urgent medical supplies to hospitals in Colombo, Sri Lanka, to aid victims of the Tsunami disaster there. The cargo is being delivered by Israel's national carrier El Al and included 4,080 vials of critically needed serum albumin valued at over $100,000. Albumin is a protein produced from blood plasma for use in treating trauma victims and patients suffering from malnourishment and other diseases.

Pius XII Told Churches Not to Return Holocaust War Babies

By Ha'aretz

The Vatican instructed the Catholic church in France not to return Jewish children to their families after the Holocaust, according to a letter dated Nov. 20, 1946, that was published Tuesday in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

The children had been placed in the church's care to save them from Nazi murder, but after the war the church was instructed to return them to surviving parents only if they had not been baptized. The letter containing these instructions was sent by the Holy Office to Angelo Roncalli - later Pope John XXIII - who was then the papal representative in Paris. "Please note that this decision has been approved by the Holy Father," the letter emphasizes, referring to Pope Pius XII.

The letter reveals how the controversial wartime pope sought to restrict the number of children the church returned to their families by, among other things, instructing that baptized children "may not be entrusted to institutions that are not in a position to guarantee them a Christian upbringing." As for orphans who had not been baptized, the church must not hand them over to any "persons who have no rights over them".

Roncalli had a reputation when previously serving as the Holy See's envoy to Istanbul for favoring Jews. In Paris he helped many Jews escape to British Mandate Palestine, and disobeyed the Vatican instructions by helping to return Jewish minors to their families. On July 19, 1946, he sent a letter to the chief rabbi in Palestine, Isaac Herzog (father of Israeli president Chaim Herzog), in which he gives him permission "to use his [Roncalli's] authority so these children can return to their original environment."

Amos Luzzato, president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, said in response Wednesday: "The documents indicate that the Vatican completely ignored the Holocaust and murder of Jews. There is a sticking to theological arguments as though this were an ordinary situation, when in practice these children were not entrusted to churches to convert to Christianity but to save them from murder."

The publication of the letter to Roncalli will only add to the controversy surrounding Pope Pius XII, making it difficult for the Vatican to ignore accusations that the Vatican under his tenure did not do enough to combat Nazi persecution of Jews, and even helped Nazi war criminals to evade justice. The latest revelations are also likely to hamper efforts by Pope John Paul II to lay the groundwork for beatifying Pius XII.

Senior Israeli Official Says More West Bank Settlement Dismantling Coming

By Larry James (VOA-Jerusalem)

A senior Israeli official said that more Jewish settlements in the West Bank would be closed after next year's initial dismantling of all settlements in the Gaza Strip and four small ones in the West Bank. The official said the closure would come regardless of who emerges as the new Palestinian president following next month's elections.

Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the Jerusalem Post Thursday that Israel should follow up next year's planned pullout from the Gaza Strip with a much larger withdrawal from the West Bank. Olmert said sitting and doing nothing is not an option adding that it is in Israel's interest to close even more settlements than outlined in the current disengagement plan.

The deputy prime minister gave no details of the extent of what he termed a second disengagement, but said it was the only alternative to an even more massive pullout of the West Bank called for by the internationally-backed "road map" peace plan.

Ehud Olmert is a close confidant of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. His announcement is viewed as a trial balloon to gauge public sentiment about future policy. He played just such a role last year when he called for the closure of all Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip. Sharon has since made plan the centerpiece of his administrations policy.

In his interview Olmert said even if front-runner Mahmoud Abbas wins the Palestinian presidency in the January 9 election it is far from certain he would be an effective partner for peace. He described the Palestinian official as having a hard-core stance on such critical issues as final borders, the status of Jerusalem and the right of return of Palestinian refugees. Olmert said such positions might make it impossible to reach a deal with him.

Number of Muslim, Christian Arab Volunteers in IDF Growing

By Ha'aretz

New figures made available by the Israel Defense Forces show the number of Muslim and Christian Arab Israeli volunteers in the army is growing. The deaths of five soldiers from the IDF's Desert Reconnaissance Unit (the so-called Bedouin unit) in an attack on an army outpost near Rafah earlier this month drew public attention to the service of Bedouin in the IDF.

However, the reports on the incident paid little attention to the fact that most of the dead were not Bedouin: Three of the five soldiers killed were Muslim Arabs from villages in the Galilee and Triangle, who had volunteered for military service. Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon paid condolence visits to the three families - the first such visits by a chief of staff. During one of the visits, Ya'alon shook the hand of a relative of one of the soldiers, a Palestinian woman from Jenin, who had married into the family of the deceased soldier, and had taken up residence in Israel.

If among the Bedouin community its soldiers encounter hostile reactions and charges of aiding Israel's war against their Palestinian brothers, the situation is far worse for Muslim and Christian Arabs. While Bedouin have been volunteering for the IDF, primarily as trackers, for dozens of years, Muslim and Christian Arabs have been doing so, on a very small scale, only since the 1990s.

The numbers increased slightly prior to 2000, but then fell significantly with the outbreak of the intifada in September of that year and Israel Police's killing of 13 Arab citizens in the October riots. Nevertheless, partial figures given to Ha'aretz by the IDF indicate a renewed increase in the enlistment of Muslim and Christian youth over the past two years.

The number of Muslim volunteers in 2003 was 64.5 percent higher than in 2000, while the enlistment of Christians increased by 16 percent over the same period. A senior source at the IDF's Personnel Directorate notes that incomplete figures for 2004 show a further increase, at a rate of some 20 percent, in the enlistment of youth from both sectors.

The IDF does not furnish exact numbers, but it appears that the annual number of volunteers from both sectors together does not exceed 150. About half this number serves in infantry units, primarily the Desert Reconnaissance Unit. Soldiers not medically fit for combat serve in combat-support positions such as drivers.

A source at the Personnel Directorate attributes some of this increase to the intensive work carried out by IDF representatives in Arab villages, particularly those with mixed populations. The IDF officials inform high school students and youth movement members of career opportunities in the army; but, the Personnel Directorate source notes, the IDF tries not to "push its way into" these communities, and focuses only on those to which it is invited.

Communities that are also home to Druze residents, who are required to enlist, and Bedouin are considered more likely targets, because they are more open to inviting the IDF representatives. "From our point of view, we have an interest in incorporating these populations," said the Personnel Directorate source.

"From the point of view of those who enlist, it is a step toward becoming more a part of Israeli society." The source added that the IDF has boosted its Hebrew-language teaching activities among members of the Desert Reconnaissance Unit, and also has diversified its professional training program for these soldiers so they can find work after they are discharged.

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