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Mossad Chief Warns of Iranian Nuclear Capabilities


Mossad Intelligence Agency director Meir Dagan said Monday that "soon Iran will reach a point of no return" regarding ongoing avid efforts to develop enriched uranium. Dagan was addressing members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee. He said this reality will be achieved in the near future and it is cause for serious concern. Dagan stressed that soon; Tehran will be able to move ahead with the manufacture of nuclear weapons without outside assistance. Dagan also warned that there are signs that several Middle East states other than Iran - including Egypt and Syria - are at varying stages of development of nuclear programs.

UN Observes Anniversary of Liberation of Nazi Death Camps; Chamber was Half Empty

By Peter Heinlein (VOA-United Nations) & Ha'aretz

The U.N. General Assembly has held a special session marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps. Foreign ministers and a host of dignitaries joined death camp survivors for the observance.

It was an unprecedented occasion; the first time the General Assembly has held a commemorative session. In his opening remarks, Secretary General Kofi Annan called it fitting that the gathering was dedicated to remembering the evils of the Nazi holocaust. "The United Nations must never forget that it was created as a response to the evil of Nazism, or that the horror of the Holocaust helped to shape its mission. That response is enshrined in our Charter, and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

Death camp survivor and Nobel peace prizewinner Elie Wiesel led the list of ministers and dignitaries addressing the session. In a powerful speech, Wiesel said the horrors of the death camps defy understanding. He reminded the gathering that indifference to suffering only helps the aggressors, never the victims. "I'm convinced if the world has listened to those of us who tried to speak, and nobody listened, but if the world had listened, we may have prevented Darfur, Cambodia, Bosnia, and naturally Rwanda."

Israeli Foreign Minister Sylvan Shalom warned the assembly that, despite efforts to stamp out hatred, anti-Semitism is again on the rise. He pointed in particular to the rise of movements aimed at denying the Holocaust. "Who could have imagined, 60 years after Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, the Jewish people would be the targets of anti-Semitic attacks, even in the countries that witnessed the Nazi atrocities. Yet this is exactly what is happening."

He added that the "dry bones" of Holocaust victims live today through the establishment of the State of Israel and the UN. The foreign minister referred to the Biblical prophet's Ezekiel vision in the valley of dry bones, which symbolized Israel. Ezekiel asked, "Shall these bones live?" Holocaust survivors participating in the ceremony are people "who have given life to dry bones," Shalom said.

Speaking about the Allied soldiers who arrived at the Auschwitz death camp, Shalom said "nothing could prepare them for what they would witness there." He quoted one of the soldiers who wrote, "As I walked through the barracks, I heard a voice, and I turned around and I saw a living skeleton talk to me. He said, 'Thank God you've come.' And that was a funny feeling. Did you ever talk to a skeleton that talked back? And that's what I was doing. If Israel represents one heroic attempt to find a positive response to the atrocities of the Second World War, the United Nations represents another." By convening here today in this special historic session, we honor the victims, we pay respect to the survivors and we pay tribute to the liberators."

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said the stain of the Holocaust makes it his country's duty to banish and combat anti-Semitism, as well as racism, xenophobia and intolerance. "This barbaric crime will always be a part of German history. For my country it signifies the absolute moral abomination, a denial of all things civilized without precedent or parallel. The new democratic Germany has drawn its conclusions. The historic and moral responsibility for Auschwitz has left an indelible mark on us."

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz led the U.S. delegation. He said the lesson of the Nazi death camps is that peaceful nations cannot sit idly by in the face of genocide. He noted that Americans have throughout their history pursued war as a duty when necessary. "Americans have fought often to liberate others from slavery and tyranny in order to protect our own freedom. Cemeteries from France to North Africa, with their rows of Christian crosses and Stars of David, attest to that truth. When Americans have taken up arms, it was believing that, in the end, it is never just about us alone, knowing that woven into our liberty is a mantle of responsibility, knowing that the whole world benefits when people are free to realize their dreams and develop their talents."

A U.N. spokesman said 150 of the 191 member states had written the Secretary-General in support of the unprecedented special assembly session. Still, there were signs of division. Most Arab countries did not send representatives to the gathering, and the assembly hall was less than half full. The UN hall was less than half full, and Jordan was the only Arab nation to remain during Holocaust memorial speeches by Annan and Shalom.

However, as Holocaust survivors delivered their speeches, a group of Russian parliament members demanded that several "anti-Semitic" Jewish groups be outlawed. They charged that the "democratic world is under the economic and political control of international Jewry."

Blood Libel Makes Comeback in Russia

By Ha'aretz

A fundamentalist Russian newspaper ran a letter Sunday asking the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Ustinov, to open an investigation against all Jewish organizations throughout the country on suspicion of spreading incitement and provoking ethnic strife.

The letter, published in the Rus-pravoslavnaya newspaper, which defines itself as "patriotic," calls for an end to government subsidies for these groups. The lengthy document was signed by 500 people, including newspaper editors, academics and intellectuals. These signatories were joined by 19 nationalist members of the lower parliament, the State Duma, from the nationalist Rodina (homeland) party, Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), and the Russian Communist Part.

Even though the story was picked up by radio stations and leading Internet sites in Russian, there has been no official condemnation. The libelous document is divided into chapters with such titles as "The Morality of Jewish Fascism," "Provocateurs and People Haters," and "Jewish Aggression as an Expression of Devilry."

"I'm not a psychiatrist, and I can't help them if they're crazy," said Russia's co-chief rabbi, Berel Lazar, in response. "The worst possibility is that they're sane and are making a cynical move for electoral purposes."

The blood libel, described here as a ritual murder of Christian children that has already been proved in the courts, is only one thrust of the letter, which runs into thousands of words and weaves a convoluted web between classic religious anti-Semitism and current anti-Israeli sentiment. The writers see a direct line between the Shulhan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) and other halakhic sources they quote profusely, and the transfer program espoused by Yisrael Beitenu chairman Avigdor Lieberman.

The letter also indirectly criticizes President Putin and the state courts for their policy of trying anyone charged with anti-Semitism and incitement, without verifying the claims' veracity. Those charged spoke the truth, the letter maintains, and those accused of anti-Semitism were nothing but patriots.

The writers make use of quotations from traditional Jewish sources and current Israeli and Jewish publications. In the chapter on the Jewish oligarchs' devastating control of Russia's economy and politics, the letter quotes Jewish writers from Israel and the United States, along with excerpts from interviews with the oligarchs themselves.

Minister of Diaspora Affairs Natan Sharansky expressed shock Monday at the fierceness of the anti-Semitic letter, saying that although the signatories represent a slim segment of Russian society, latent anti-Semitism is clearly a major danger there. Sharansky quoted Putin saying that anti-Semitism is not only a danger to his country's Jewish population, but also a threat to the stability of his regime.

According to Sharansky, even though popular anti-Semitism is entrenched in Russian culture, Putin viewed the Jews as a bridge in new relations with the West, and granted freedom to Jewish communities there. "However, Putin, for reasons of his own, precisely now needs to bolster Russia's national pride. The problem is that the moment you start playing with nationalist slogans, they immediately link up with the most primitive prejudice." Sharansky called on Putin and the Russian parliament to treat the letter and its authors harshly.

Elderly Kabul Jew Dies; Burial in Israel Being Organized

By Ha'aretz

Yitzhak Levy, the elderly Jew who was living in the last synagogue of Kabul when the American invasion reached Afghanistan, passed away last week, and Israeli and American officials are now trying to make arrangements to bring his body to Israel for burial. Holding up the procedure, apparently, is an Afghan government insistence that Levy converted to Islam.

Levy, who was in his 70s, was not the last Jew of Kabul. Indeed, living in the same building was another Jew named Zevulun Simantov, in his 40s, who is said to make his living selling amulets. He is said to be still alive. Both men had wives and relatives living in Israel, but despite pleas from their relatives, they refused to leave Afghanistan.

After Levy's death, his family in Israel appealed to Rabbi Zvi Simantov, the spiritual leader of the Afghan community in Israel, and asked for his help to bring the body to Israel for burial. Simantov went to Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who passed on the request to U.S. Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer.

American troops in Kabul have stored Levy's body in a morgue, and the chief rabbi of the U.S. Marines is working on getting the body out of the country. It will most likely be flown to Tashkent in Uzbekistan for delivery to the Israeli Embassy there. The two Jews of Kabul had a falling out before the American invasion, with Levy complaining that Simantov stole a Sefer Torah. The Taliban arrested both men, tortured them and confiscated the scroll.

Israeli Ice Hockey Makes Tracks

By (Copyright 2005)

It could be a rink anywhere in North America. The kids, in their hockey gear, scramble onto the ice and begin practice. They've got a former NHL coach training them. And the jersey of legendary Montreal Canadiens captain Jean Beliveau is on display in the rafters. But this is not Montreal, New York or Philadelphia. These players speak Hebrew and their uniforms bear a Star of David.

Meet Israel's junior national ice hockey team - the only team from the Middle East that competes in the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship. They practice three times a week in Metulla, the northernmost town in Israel, straddling the Lebanese border. Why Metulla? Because this is the site of the Canada Center, Israel's only Olympic-sized skating rink and sports complex (built courtesy of Canadian Jewry).

In the summer, the hockey devotees congregate in Metulla for the annual Roger Neilson Hockey Camp where, last year, they were trained by Jean Perron, the former NHL coach who led the Montreal Canadiens to the Stanley Cup in 1986. Perron - who is now head coach of the Israeli junior team - will also be working with them in North America next month and in Israel this summer. The rest of the year, local Israeli coaches, almost all of them immigrants from the former Soviet Union (FSU), train the team.

Ice hockey in Israel began around 1990 with the influx of immigrants from the Soviet bloc. The coaches, as well as most players on the senior (adults) team, still hail from the FSU. But new generations of native-born Israelis have adopted the game, and they make up the majority of players on the junior (under 18) team. Players like Daniel Gada, 17, whose parents didn't even know what ice hockey was when their son joined the team three years ago. "They still can't follow a game," bemoans Gada, who says he tried the more common Israeli sports - soccer and basketball - but settled on hockey. "I just got the bug."

Another talented sabra player, Oren Zamir, 16, was spotted by Perron and selected to study this year at Notre Dame College - a hockey boarding school in Canada that has produced many NHL luminaries. The 5'10", 197-pound right- winger is the first Israeli - and only Jew - at the Catholic school in Wilcox, Saskatchewan. "It was a little strange at first," Zamir told ISRAEL21c, "since I didn't have any idea where Saskatchewan was, and many of my schoolmates were surprised to learn that we have cars in Israel; they thought it was just a desert."

Zamir, who grew up next door to the Metulla center, has been playing hockey since he was 8. "I love the action and speed of the game," says the high school student who dreams of going pro. A handful of players are Israeli-born offspring of immigrants from English-speaking countries. Junior team captain Raviv Bull, who was born and bred on Shamir, a kibbutz in northern Israel, is the son of a Canadian-born mother and British-born father. He took up hockey when someone built a roller hockey facility on the kibbutz. Bull says one of the highlights of his hockey years is being coached by Perron. "He is mesmerizing and pushes us really hard."

The growth of hockey in Israel seems almost surreal to the teams' longtime coaches Boris Mindel and Sergei Matin, both from Russia, and Latvian-born Edouard Ravniaga. "I played in the national league in Russia," recalls Mindel, "but I never thought I'd be able to work in hockey once I came to Israel." Matin also thought his hockey days were over when he immigrated. "Being able to be part of the hockey world again has boosted my spirits enormously," says Matin, who is both a coach and general manager of the Israel Ice Hockey Federation.

The main hurdle preventing a further spread of hockey in Israel is the scarcity of rinks. At present, there are only two - the one in Metulla, and another in Nahariya, also in northern Israel. That limits the hockey culture to the periphery of the country. Members of the senior team, most of them workingmen with families, come from all over the country - sometimes traveling three or four hours each way - for a weekly practice in Metulla.

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