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Peres: 'The Messiah Will Not Come Today'

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Labor Party leader Shimon Peres, who was sworn in as deputy prime minister Monday, told Army Radio that "The Messiah will not come today," in his response to the election of (Mahmoud Abbas) Abu Mazen as Yasir Arafat's replacement. This said, Peres added that the fact remains that Abu Mazen was elected in an overwhelming showing of support, calling him a "wise man," capable of leading his people to peace. recently quoted the widow of an Olympic wrestler murdered during the 1972 Munich Olympics as saying Abbas was the Fatah minister under Yasir Arafat who raised the money to pay for the massacre.

PA Renews Incitement


The Arab promise to Israel to stop incitement has given way to renewed speeches by Moslem clerics and the PA's president calling Jews a cancer, enemy and the cause of the Tsunami disaster.

Less than two months ago Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he would not grant any concessions to the Palestinian Authority (PA) concerning security in Gaza unless there was an immediate cessation to hateful anti-Semitism in the Arab media that encouraged violence against Israelis.

Incitement continued in a milder tone as Arabs shied away from calls for suicide bombings and concentrated on the demand for the immigration of more than three million Arabs living elsewhere while repeating the theme that all of Israel is Palestine. Sharon announced Israel would give the PA more authority on security following the reduction of anti-Israel rhetoric. Since then, "hate Israel" speeches have returned to the PA airwaves and in the streets.

Several days before Sunday's elections in which Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) was elected as successor to Yasir Arafat, Arabs heard him call Israel "the Zionist enemy." A Moslem cleric last Friday preached about the Arabs' "longing for the destruction of Israel and America," according to Itamar Marcus' Palestinian Media Watch. The cleric also blamed American and Israel for the Southeast Asia disaster that killed more than 150,000 people.

Another cleric told listeners "Jews are a cancer that spreads inside the body of the Islamic and Arab nation. The same cleric said a week beforehand, "'No' to the return to the 1967 borders. We are interested in returning to our genuine borders. We want to return to the 1948 [pre-Israel] borders and we are interested in returning to 1929 borders [when] a group of our grandfathers and fathers became martyrs for Allah." He then denounced Britain for helping with the establishment of the State of Israel, "which is a false state on a true land." Arabs heard on PA television, "America will be buried the day the American embassy will be moved to Jerusalem and it will be the last nail in her coffin."

The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center reports that inflammatory sermons remain popular in mosques on the Temple Mount. The PA pays salaries to clerics administering the Temple Mount mosques from where many sermons are broadcast on PA radio. In one sermon last month from a Temple Mount mosque before 30,000 Moslems, a sheikh read a well-known verse from the Koran which is featured on many posters and death notices and speaks of martyrs who "found their death [in battle] and some still await [their turn]." Suicide bombers often have been encouraged by this slogan. The same sheikh also preached that "the U.S. is going to try to weaken the Middle reinforcing Israel's military and economy" and weakening Arab states.

Bush Looks Forward to Working With Abbas on Mideast Peace

By Paula Wolfson (VOA-Washington)

President Bush said he looks forward to working with the newly elected Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas. Bush said all sides now have to take steps to make the dream of a free, democratic Palestinian state a reality.

President Bush spoke of the Palestinian elections in hopeful terms. And in his comments, he made clear that times are changing, and he was optimistic about the chances for peace under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas."I look forward to talking with him at the appropriate time. I look forward to welcoming him here to Washington if he chooses to come here." That is an invitation Bush refused to extend to the late Yasir Arafat, whom he considered an obstacle to peace. He made clear he believes Mahmoud Abbas will choose a different course, and spoke of the job ahead.

During a brief question and answer session with reporters, the president stressed all sides need to take significant steps to move the peace process forward. He said Israel understood the importance of Sunday's Palestinian election, and must take steps to help the Palestinians develop democratic institutions, and bolster the cause of reform.

"Israel can play and must play an important part in the development of a Palestinian state," Bush said. "At the same time, it is essential that the Palestinian leadership consolidates security forces so that they can fight off those few who still have the desire to destroy Israel as part of their philosophy and those few who fear there to be a free vote amongst the Palestinian people."

Knesset Approves New Sharon Government

By Larry James (VOA-Jerusalem)

The Israeli parliament, with a two-vote margin, approved Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's new government coalition that brings together his right-of-center Likud Party with the two opposition factions, the left-of-center Labor Party and the right-wing religious party, United Torah Judaism.

After a three and one half hour debate, punctuated by loud denunciations from opponents, the final tally was very close - 58 for and 56 against. The new national unity government was sworn in immediately after the vote. The new coalition controls 66 of the 120 legislative seats in the Knesset, but not all of Sharon's own Likud Party members (only two-thirds) voted for the new government. During the debate, Sharon warned Likud rebels that failure to approve his new government would bring disaster to the country by forcing new elections and a period of turmoil.

The victory gave Sharon the parliamentary majority he lost last year when some allies quit the government or refused to back him in protest over the planned pullout from the Gaza Strip and four small West Bank enclaves. Sharon also enjoys a parliamentary cushion by virtue of six votes he won from the dovish Yahad party in the critical Knesset vote. Yahad is committed to supporting his controversial withdrawal plan.

Tsunami 'Wave Rat' Sells Domain Name, Gives Cash to Chabad

By Reuters

A Canadian student dubbed the "wave rat" for offering the domain name for $50,000 on the online auction site eBay has sold it and donated the money to a Jewish charity's relief efforts, the gaming company that bought it said Monday.

Josh Kaplan, 20, branded a "wave rat" by the New York Post, which suggested he was trying to profit from the disaster, sold the domain name to the Montreal-based internet gambling company for $10,000. The entire amount was given directly to Chabad of Thailand, the company said. Kaplan's mother Linda told Reuters last week her son had always intended to donate the money from the online auction to charity and had not tried to profit from the Indian Ocean tsunami, which struck on December 26 and has killed more than 150,000 people.

A spokesman for the gaming company said Monday he also believed Kaplan had the best intentions. "We spoke with him and we wanted to verify his story. We believed him to be quite sincere about not trying to profit from the sale of the web site," said spokesman Drew Black. "He was helping to raise as much as he could for those in need."

Kaplan was not available for comment Monday. now lists 13 charities, including the American Red Cross, CARE USA and Save the Children, with direct links to their web sites to make donations. The domain name had been initially registered to Michelle Tirado of Southbury, Connecticut, the morning she heard of the tsunami disaster. She listed it for sale with an asking bid of $99, but donated it to Kaplan, who she said claimed to represent an international fund-raising effort.

Israel at Forefront of Tsunami Relief Campaign


The Israeli people have opened their hearts to the survivors of the tsunami disaster in Southeast Asia, and from government agencies to children in their neighborhoods, the country is making a significant contribution to the international relief effort. Israeli schoolchildren have been collecting non-perishable food and raising money, Israeli humanitarian organizations providing blood, supplies and aid, medical and forensics experts working on site, and the country has been utilizing its cutting-edge technology to expedite rescue and identification of the victims.

Beginning this week, the Israeli Campaign for Southeast Asia Disaster - spearheaded by IsraAID, the coordinating body of Israeli and Jewish NGOs - will be focusing efforts on feeding the survivors of the tsunami, first in Sri Lanka, and afterwards in other countries.

"Feeding people is the top priority for the coming months," said Shachar Zahavi, founder and coordinator of IsraAID. "Relief agencies are distributing food and water, but that's not enough. People need stations to go to for meals since they're not in a position to prepare food for themselves. We have been asked by international organizations, including the Red Cross, to fill this niche," he told ISRAEL21c.

According to Zahavi, the first step will be the opening this week of a center for nutritional aid in Sri Lanka in coordination with Israel's Foreign Affairs Ministry. The center, which will also include a first aid clinic, will include a kitchen donated by an Israeli company and volunteers provided by humanitarian arm of the kibbutz movement and Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel's rescue organization.

MDA, in cooperation with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent, have dispatched additional urgent medical supplies to hospitals in Colombo, including 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 another diseases. The organization has also assembled and equipped a self-standing field clinic for the disaster zone.

A 70-ton shipment from Israel arrived in Sri Lanka from the Israeli charity organization Coah Latet Meir Panim, transporting 250,000 water-purifying tablets, 1,000 water containers, medical equipment and medication. According to Sri Lankan sources, Latet provided the largest aid thus far from any civilian organization.

Zahavi said that Israel was this week sending another humanitarian team of 14 medical and logistical personnel to Sri Lanka to assist thousands of people affected by the tsunami. The group, including medical personnel from Magen David Adom and logistical personnel from the humanitarian arm of the Kibbutz movement, will be working near the southernmost city of Matara and laying the groundwork for future Israeli Jewish emergency medical and feeding projects in the field.

Working closely with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent, more than 4,000 MDA workers and volunteers stood outside the supermarkets and shopping malls collecting the food. "The response in Israel of individuals, organizations, companies, schools and kindergartens to the "One World" food collection drive launched by MDA early this week was of unprecedented scope," said Israeli Magen David Adom's International Director, Mr. Yoni Yagodovsky. "The people of Israel proved that its humanitarian capacity to disasters stands strong, and that it is geared to offer aid even if disaster strikes thousands of miles away from Israel."

The 80-ton cargo will be delivered by phases; the first container left Haifa Port over the weekend and the second container is being sent this week, according to the MDA. "MDA is known to every Israeli for being their to save lives during times of emergency," said an ARMDI representative in New York City, "The impulse to provide some relief to the victims of this horrible tragedy gripped the Israeli public, and MDA was able to translate those feelings into instant tangible assistance."

Israel's national air carrier El Al also joined the effort, when an El-Al cargo plane loaded with over 3,000 pounds of baby food, medicines and other emergency supplies donated by California residents arrived in Bangkok at the end of the week, with the supplies being transferred to the hardest hit areas of Sri Lanka. The chartered jet was arranged after an urgent call for assistance was made from Gamini Pemasiri, the acting consul general of Sri Lanka in Los Angeles, to the local consul general of Israel for logistical help in ferrying the supplies.

On another grassroots level, children around the country also got involved in the relief efforts. In one example, children in an after-school program in city of Modi'in near Tel Aviv began focusing on another aspect of the loss for their own age group in the disaster areas - they collecting cuddly stuffed animals and dolls to send to the children in Southeast Asia. "The children thought about what helps them feel better when they are sad, sick, or lonely and they came up with the idea of a soft warm fuzzy with which to cuddle," Sandra Apperman, who runs the after-school program for children aged 3 to 8 in this town in central Israel, told ISRAEL21c. "The children hope that this may help ease some of the pain, fear, and sadness of the child victims. It's our one small gesture." The donated animals and dolls will be shipped to Southeast Asia this week.

Zahavi notes that IsraAID is in close contact with various Jewish humanitarian organizations worldwide in an effort to pool their resources to help victims of the tsunami. In one such program, Israeli schools will twin with Jewish schools worldwide, matching dollar for dollar contributions to be sent to help victims of Southeast Asia. Zahavi said that several schools, particularly in Canada, have already contacted IsraAID to take part in the joint aid program.

On the ground in the disaster-ridden countries, Israeli teams were among the first responders, sending doctors and forensic experts to Thailand. Israel's ZAKA organization (Disaster Victims Identification) is widely considered the most experienced and professional in identifying corpses, and the organization was asked to direct the efforts of local forensic teams.

Part of the Israel Police criminal identification team which was sent to region, the ZAKA volunteers have been working around the clock attempting to identify the victims of the disaster, according to Zaka head Yehuda Meshi-Zahav "We are trying to identify people by matching photos taken of bodies and those sent by desperate relatives," Meshi-Zahav told The Jerusalem Post. "It will take months to match dental records, fingerprints and DNA samples, long after the bodies are buried or cremated by the Thai authorities."

Ordinarily used to being the first on the scene at terror attacks in Israel, the volunteers have become the experts in Sri Lanka and are sought for advice and help. Other forensic teams have dubbed the group "the team that sleeps with the dead" because they toil nearly 24 hours a day at Buddhist pagodas transformed into morgues.

"When we are getting ready to leave at 3 a.m., we're the only ones that are still with the dead," Meshi-Zahav told The Boston Globe. In one case, they examined 300 bodies to find a victim who was missing a toenail, but were unsuccessful. "In all this pain of the families, you see a family that has gotten a confirmed identification and been able to bring back their loved one. You see the relief. There's no greater feeling than that," he said.

Dr. Efraim Laor, chairman of Fast Israeli Rescue and Search Team (F.I.R.S.T.) headed a search and rescue mission to Tamil Nadu, India. Laor is also chairman of the national steering committee for earthquakes in Israel. F.I.R.S.T. has conducted over 2,800 search and rescue operations in Israel and around the world, including Turkey, India, Mexico, El Salvador, Greece, Armenia and New Guinea.

Israel has also sent a mission of 19 forensic experts to Thailand according to Brig. Gen. Dr. Azi Zadok, head of the division of identification and forensic science of the Israel National Police. After four years of identifying the remains of Israelis killed in suicide bomb attacks, Israeli DNA experts are some of the most experienced in the world. The Israeli delegation, which includes two forensic pathologists, a forensic anthropologist, investigators and a dentist, is one of more than 15 delegations in the disaster region still taking samples from the bodies.

According to Zadok, an Israeli proposal to establish an international DNA database raises the possibility that foreign nationals killed in the tsunami disaster may yet be identified. "There is no possibility to identify [them] unless there is an international effort using DNA as a means of identification," Zadok told CNS News. "Our delegation raised the proposition for a DNA database. All bodies [would be] sampled. All nations [would] contribute DNA of family members. Our initiative was accepted by all nations," Zadok added.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon praised the Israeli public's response to the disaster in Southeast Asia, saying it "reminded us what mutual assistance is." Sharon extolled the thousands of families across the country that came to the centers collecting donations for disaster victims. "An entire country followed and is still following the search for its missing citizens," Sharon said. He expressed appreciation for the work of the Foreign Ministry, the Israel Defense Forces, police, El Al airlines, Zaka volunteer rescue service and others. "Their work in Israel and in the disaster zone was an example that proves Israel is a country that does not abandon its missing, sparing no effort to locate and bring them home," Sharon said.

Others can do their part too. Readers who would like to contribute to the Israeli relief efforts can do so by clicking

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