Newsletter : 5fax0120.txt
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Rain, Snow and Hail in the Holy Land
By Israel National News
Heavy rains, snow and hail fell across Israel Wednesday, with flooding closing many
major arteries. Major flooding took place in the Tel Aviv region at major intersections
such as HaMasger and La Guardia and the Ben-Gurion and Abba Hillel intersection in Ramat
Gan. Shefa Tal ('Abundance of Dew') Street in Givatayim was closed in both directions,
also due to flooding. Two women were injured when a concrete wall near the Kiriya on
Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv collapsed on their car due to the heavy rains. The Hermon ski
resort will open its doors to the public this Friday following heavy snowfall in the Golan
Israel Resumes Contact with Palestinians
By Benjamin Sand (VOA-Jerusalem)
Israel has agreed to hold security talks with Palestinian officials, reversing a total
ban on contacts ordered by Israel last week after a deadly attack by Palestinian
terrorists in Gaza. Wednesday's decision comes after newly elected Palestinian President
Mahmoud Abbas ordered his security forces in Gaza to crack down on militants launching
attacks against Israelis.
Israeli and Palestinian field commanders met Wednesday night to coordinate new security
operations in the Gaza Strip. Israeli officials said the new security talks do not signal
a complete resumption of wider-ranging contacts. Israel has also threatened large-scale
military raids in Gaza unless reins in the terrorists.
Under pressure, Abbas spent the past two days trying to craft a ceasefire with militant
groups. "What we are trying to do is to reach a Palestinian consensus to go to the
Israelis and the world with," said Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath. Some
Palestinian officials said Abbas was nearing a deal with the militants to accept a truce.
However, there is no word from the armed groups that they are ready to lay down their
The top Palestinian security officer in Gaza and the West Bank, Abdel-Razek al Majaide,
said Wednesday Palestinian security forces would be deployed along parts of the Gaza
border with Israel to prevent militant attacks. But Palestinian officials also said that
any ceasefire or internal crack down against the militants could be successful only as
long as Israel also respects the ceasefire and halts its military operations.
Ending Militant Attacks on Israel Key Challenge for Abbas
By André de Nesnera (VOA-Washington)
Mahmoud Abbas, the newly elected president of the Palestinian Authority, has to tackle
several major issues in order to raise hopes for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Experts on Middle Eastern affairs say Abbas faces enormous internal and external
challenges in the weeks and months ahead. These include fighting corruption, improving the
economic well being of the Palestinians, reforming the security apparatus, not to mention
relations with Israel.
But analysts say Abbas faces an even greater test: how to deal with extremist groups
such as the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the Islamic Jihad and the largest group, Hamas, the
Islamic Resistance Movement. All three are on the State Department's list of terrorist
Walter Reich, Middle East expert at George Washington University, says Hamas' aim is
clear: "Hamas has absolutely no hesitation to say our [their] goal is the end of Israel.
There should be no Israel and that Palestine, when we talk about Palestine, we're talking
about the whole area from the river, namely the Jordan River, to the sea, the
Mediterranean," he said. "There is no place for Israel. And we're going to get rid of it
one way or the other, no matter how long it takes. And we're going to continue fighting.
We're going to continue doing whatever we can and in whatever way we can to blow up
Israelis wherever they may be: whether they're in the West bank, whether they're in Gaza,
whether they're in Tel Aviv, or Jerusalem, or Haifa or wherever."
Many analysts say that goal is diametrically opposed to Abbas' vision. One of those
experts is Fawaz Gerges, professor of Middle Eastern studies at Sarah Lawrence College in
Bronxville, New York. He says the new Palestinian leader believes the years of militant
attacks on Israel have hurt his people's cause.
"Mahmoud Abbas believes that the militarization of the intifada four years ago has done
a great deal of damage, not only to the Palestinian cause and society, but even to the
moral compass of the Palestinians. He believes that the armed struggle does not take the
Palestinians too far and as such, there is an urgent need for a new paradigm, a paradigm
based on negotiations, based on bargaining, on coalition building, on appealing to at
least the unity and empathy of the international public opinion, including European and
American public opinion."
The Israeli government has called on Abbas to crack down on terrorist groups. In the
past few days, Islamic militants claimed responsibility for rocket attacks and a suicide
bombing against Israeli targets. Israeli leaders have said their patience is running out:
a reference to possible major military action in the Gaza strip. Following the recent
attacks, a senior Palestinian commander said militant groups would deploy security forces
in Gaza to try to prevent attacks.
Nathan Brown, a Middle East expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,
a Washington D.C. research organization, says there are two ways Abbas could stop attacks
by extremist elements: "One is through brute force and the other is by trying to talk
these groups out of it. Mahmoud Abbas has made clear that he doesn't want to use brute
force; he doesn't think he has the ability and he doesn't think it would stick. He doesn't
have the political will to do it and for whatever reason he is not going to follow that
path. Instead, he is going to try to talk them into a ceasefire."
Hamas and other militant groups have said they would consider a ceasefire only if
Israel agrees to stop its raids on Palestinian areas and ends its targeted killings of
wanted Palestinians. Israel has rejected those demands.
Israeli Research Prescribes Pets
Israeli researchers have found that therapy-involving pets can help people suffering
from schizophrenia increase their motivation and improve their quality of life. A
research team at Haifa's Technion Institute of Technology has examined the effect of
bringing pets into therapy sessions. Patients who brought dogs into their therapy sessions
turned out to be much less apathetic, compared with those undergoing conventional therapy.
The research team looked at the phenomenon of anhedonia, which is the inability to gain
pleasure from normally pleasurable experiences - a major factor in schizophrenia. The
researchers compared 10 schizophrenic patients who underwent animal-assisted therapy with
10 who were given non-animal therapy over a 10-week period.
The group who were given pet therapy showed a significant improvement in the hedonic
tone (sensation of pleasantness) compared to the other group. They were also seen to show
an improvement in the use of leisure time and a trend towards improvement in motivation.
The study, reported by Israel21c, was recently published in the Psychotherapy and
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