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Hundreds Mark 23 Years Since the Yamit Disengagement


Hundreds of persons took part in Tuesday's event marking 23 years since the Government of Israel destroyed the Jewish settlement in Sinai. The event was held in the Gaza community of Alei Sinai, one of the communities slated for destruction under the disengagement plan. Some of the residents of Alei Sinai were former Sinai refuges, sent to Gaza to rebuild their lives after being uprooted from their former communities.

Anti-Pullout Forces Plan Mass Rally in Gush Katif on Wednesday

By Ha'aretz

The anti-disengagement forces are to demonstrate their strength Wednesday with a mass rally in Gush Katif, with tens of thousands of supporters expected to arrive in the Gaza settlement bloc on board some 600 buses hired by the Yesha Council and the campaign against withdrawal.

The buses are expected to bring in about 30,000 people, while those arriving in private vehicles are going to be directed by police to park in the very same lots near the Kissufim junction that the army has prepared for its own equipment when the evacuation begins.

The anti-disengagement forces are counting on mass demonstrations in Gush Katif leading up to the evacuation, in order to persuade the government that it will be impossible to go ahead with the withdrawal. Police are preparing for 50,000-80,000 people Wednesday. "If 100,000 people come, the prime minister and his plan will have a problem," said Itzik Iliya, deputy council chief in the Gaza Coast district.

Yesha leader Pinchas Wallerstein said, "Every politician will have to take into account the meaning of the numbers who arrive in Gush Katif."

Organizers met Tuesday with the police to go over the arrangements and plans. To avoid the massive traffic jams that took place last year on Independence Day, police are closing the Kissufim junction to private vehicles, sending them to the parking lots. They will then be bused to Neveh Dekalim, and then march to the settlement of Shirat Hayam. The march route takes the settler supporters through the Mouassi, the Palestinian area in the heart of Gush Katif. From there, they will take the beach route to the settlement bloc's artificial lake, where the main rally will take place.

Thousands of visitors have been in Gush Katif since the start of the Pesach holiday. However, despite plans to beef up the settler presence ahead of the evacuation, which is slated for the summer, there are no expectations that people will start moving into Gush Katif settlements now for the duration. The bulk of activists are expected after the school year ends, when authorities believe pre-army religious-nationalist youths will try to infiltrate the settlement bloc.

The army and police have not yet decided when they will declare the entire area off limits to anyone who doesn't live there. Unless the date of the evacuation is changed, any Israeli citizen inside the Gaza Strip as of July 20 will be in violation of the evacuation-compensation law, and presumably subject to arrest.

The anti-disengagement forces are predicting that having to arrest tens of thousands of protesters will be too daunting for the government to go ahead with the evacuation. The army and police are making plans to prevent those tens of thousands from ever getting into the settlement bloc this summer.

Putin Set to Arrive in Israel for Historical Visit

By Ha'aretz

Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to arrive in Israel Wednesday night for an unprecedented state visit by a Russian - or Soviet - head of state. Government sources say the visit is important by virtue of it taking place, and is part of a broader swing through the region indicating Russian interest in taking a higher profile in the region.

Putin will be officially hosted by President Moshe Katsav, but will hold a working meeting with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, visit Yad Vashem and the Russian Orthodox Church in Gethsemane, and will meet with a group of Red Army veterans of World War II, and possibly pay a visit to the Western Wall.

Putin is bringing a present of a statue by the well-known Georgian artist Zurab Tsereteli depicting Jews behind barbed wire in a concentration camp, a symbol of the Russian people's identification with the suffering of the Jews during the Holocaust.

The statue, to be placed at the President's Residence, had originally been offered to Yad Vashem, but the institute turned it down out of concern for religious sensibilities, since some of the figures in the statute are naked.

The meeting with Sharon, who was surprised by Putin's announcement in March that he was making a tour of the Middle East, is slated to take place over lunch Thursday. On the agenda are a host of issues, many of which will remain in dispute between the two countries, despite the famously warm relations between Sharon and Putin.

The top issue on the agenda will likely be Putin's position on Iran's nuclear ambitions. In an interview with Channel One's Ayala Hasson, Putin said last week that trying to put restraints on Iran - a neighbor of Russia - would not be helpful, and it is unlikely that he will accede to Sharon's request that Russia join in the international front trying to put an end to the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

Russia's view seems to be that engaging Iran, rather than confronting it, would be a more effective way to reduce the risk of an Iranian bomb.

The next issue on the agenda is the Russian sale of anti-aircraft missiles to Syria. Putin pointedly told Hasson that while the SA-18 missiles would not affect Israel's security because they could not reach Israel from where they will be positioned, "they will make it difficult for low-flying aircraft over the president's palace" in Syria, a clear reference to occasional Israeli air force flights over Bashar Assad's residences.

Putin will argue that the missiles will be placed under Russian supervision, and that the only type being sent to Syria are jeep-launched so they won't end up in Hizbullah hands, a major concern of Israel. Although Putin has indicated the deal has been signed, Israel believes that until the missiles are delivered, it is not too late to convince Russia not to go ahead with the sale.

The next issue on the agenda is the state of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Putin will be hosting a summit with President George W. Bush upon his return to Moscow, and one of the items on that agenda will be a meeting of the Quartet: the U.S., Russia, EU and UN committee that monitors the Israeli-Palestinian political process, and the implementation of the road map.

Sharon's position on the road map is that it has not begun, since the Palestinians have not disarmed the armed organizations. Putin will be visiting Ramallah for meetings with the Palestinian Authority leadership, and to formally strike a deal to supply the PA with troop carriers for its newly reformed police and army forces. Israel is aware that Putin, who will be arriving from Cairo, is trying to upgrade Russia's position in the region.

Other issues touch on more bilateral matters, including the problem of anti-Semitism in Russia, an issue on which Putin has demonstrated sensitivity to Israeli-Jewish concerns.

There is also the issue of the "oligarchs," the wealthy Jewish tycoons who won their riches during the heyday of the breakup of the Soviet Union. Three billionaire oil executives, a publishing tycoon and a former Putin ally turned Kremlin critic have all taken Israeli citizenship in recent years as Russia sought their arrests, rankling officials in Moscow.

There are conflicting assessments about whether Putin will seek extradition of those oligarchs living in Israel, but Sharon has made clear he is against any such extradition. "I do not intend to turn anyone over," Sharon told Yedioth Ahronoth last week. "Since the days of my youth, I have been opposed to turning over Jews. I am saying this in the clearest manner possible."

Adding to the tensions, Putin's visit coincides with the verdict expected Wednesday in the Russian tax evasion and fraud trial of Jewish businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the onetime head of the Yukos oil giant.

The three oil executives living in Israel - Leonid Nevzlin, Mikhail Brudno and Vladimir Dubov - are former partners of Khodorkovsky, and all are wanted by Russia on fraud charges. The three men, all of whom appeared on the Forbes list of the world's billionaires in 2004, are now directors of Group Menatep, a holding company that owns 60 percent of what remains of the dismantled Yukos empire.

Also holding Israeli citizenship are Vladimir Gusinsky, a media magnate who fled Russia after he was charged with financial misdeeds in a probe widely seen as punishment for his television station's critical coverage of Putin, and Boris Berezovsky, a one-time Kremlin insider who was charged with fraud after a falling-out with Putin. Both men, however, spend most of their time in Europe.

As Putin is fond of pointing out, "The million Israeli citizens who speak Russian" create opportunities for cooperation between the two countries, ranging from a possible natural gas deal to counter-terrorist cooperation.

Putin and Katsav will issue a joint declaration and hold a joint news conference; the only encounter with the media Putin will face while here.

His whirlwind visit to Jerusalem is likely to disrupt traffic in the city, police warned Tuesday, promising to do what they can to ease the traffic as much as possible, even while maintaining high security for the visit.

The Beat Goes On - Cleveland DJ Home In Israel

By [Written by Shifra Paikin, this article originally appeared on the Jewish Agency Mag-Net website)

When Benyamin Bresky was working on radio shows in his native Cleveland, he was the technician for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir program as well as a Church program that followed. "I came from that to play here for Jewish people," said the 28-year-old new immigrant.

While attending the local public schools in Cleveland, Bresky was active in United Synagogue Youth, the youth movement of Conservative Judaism. After graduating from Cleveland State University, in 1999, with a major in communications, he worked at a variety of part-time jobs at local radio stations.

"At one of the stations," he recalls, "I once filled in on Christmas and I played all this Christian music. But I felt pretty dumb so I began playing Jewish music," he deadpans. "But I felt pretty dumb doing that too - who am I to be playing Jewish music on Christmas? No matter which way I went I could never fit in."

This feeling, coupled with a bit of wanderlust - "In some ways I felt like I needed to get away from the place where I was born and brought up in order to grow"- prompted a visit to the local Jewish Agency aliyah emissary, who told him about various programs in Israel for young adults. The Jewish Agency's Internship Program, which provides young adults from throughout the world with the opportunity obtain professional experience in Israel by serving as volunteer trainees in their fields, seemed the perfect framework for him. After receiving Bresky's resume from the emissary, the Internship Program matched him with, an independently owned and operated Internet station that broadcasts in Hebrew and English.

He arrived in Israel as a tourist in April 2004. He was housed in the Jewish Agency's Beit Canada in Jerusalem, one of 35 absorption centers throughout Israel that helps ease the transition for newcomers during their first months in Israel. This includes an intensive Hebrew language ulpan as well as a variety of programs to help them learn about Israel. "It's a nice place," said Bresky, who recently became an oleh. "I've met people from all over the world. There's always someone to talk to." He is currently rooming with Sasha, an immigrant from Russia: "He doesn't speak and English and I don't speak any Russian, so we have to converse in Hebrew."

Bresky's six-month internship consisted of doing various odd jobs and various administrative tasks. When his internship ended he was offered a permanent job at the station, and when there was an hour to fill, he was given his own show. "The Beat with Ben Bresky," a weekly hour-long music show in English, airs ever Sunday at 6 pm. "Each week I try to do something different," he says, "like Carlebach, or Ladino, or trance music. One week he hosted songstress Shuli Natan of Jerusalem of Gold fame. "The radio station treats me like family," he noted, adding, "At last I fit in."

"The Beat with Ben Bresky" can be heard on streaming audio or downloaded as an mp3 file from at

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