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4,500 Teachers to Lose Their Jobs


The Education Ministry plans to release the names of 4,500 teachers slated for dismissal. Ministry officials insist it is not too late to prevent most of the dismissals if union leaders agree to sit and discuss the relevant issues, adding the decision rests in the hands of union leaders. The background of this latest row is economic. The ministry's budget was recently slashed by hundreds of millions of shekels. The teachers to be fired can only be those who teach "unnecessary" disciplines such as agriculture, nutrition and home economics, carpentry, and the like, or who otherwise do not contribute sufficiently to the school.

Palestinian Authority Launches 'Law and Order' Campaign

By Robert Berger (VOA-Bethlehem)

The Palestinian Authority has launched a new "law-and-order" campaign to rein in supporters of Hamas. The plan is winning praise from ordinary Palestinians. PA leader Mahmoud Abbas is sending more police onto the streets in an attempt to curb what he calls "armed chaos" in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The new law-and-order campaign is aimed at stopping militants from parading through the streets with their weapons.

Gunmen seized control of the streets when the Palestinian uprising against Israel erupted 4.5 years ago. While the militants are widely regarded in the territory as heroes and freedom fighters, many Palestinians have grown disillusioned with the gang rule and lawlessness that govern their cities." We do not want to see anybody with guns really," said Yousef Awad, a businessman in Palestinian-ruled Bethlehem. "We have seen it, we disagree with it, (and) the Palestinian Authority now has to crack this."

Awad told VOA that any gunman who does not abide by the new regulations should face the consequences. "If he carries a gun without the law, or does not abide by the law, he should be arrested." The law and order campaign falls short of the demand by the internationally backed Roadmap peace plan that terrorist groups be disarmed. Palestinian officials say militants can keep their weapons, as long as they keep them out of sight.

The Islamic group, Hamas, described the new regulations as unacceptable, so a showdown could be looming between the terrorists and the Palestinian Authority. Abbas has tried to avoid that, preferring persuasion to confrontation. But he is under pressure from Israel and the international community to restore law and order and end terrorism.

Last week, Abbas delivered his toughest threat yet against militants, vowing to use an "iron fist" against anyone who violates the cease-fire. And Palestinian Interior Minister Nasser Youssef warned that, if dialogue with the militants fails, "the Palestinian Authority will impose control by force."

PA Media and Universities Promote Terrorism, Hatred, and Jihad


Despite Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas' well-polished image as a moderate, his administration has been presiding over an incessant campaign of incitement against Israel that spans the media and university centers.

Abbas' Fatah controlled press has been at the forefront of incitement against Israel. At the same time, PA universities, where tomorrow's PA leaders are getting their education, are becoming more radicalized and opened about recruiting suicide bombers directly from the student body.

The PA's state television has been accusing Israel of poisoning Palestinians with radiation. Gaza TV reported on Saturday that Israeli machines killed a 55-year-old Palestinian woman who apparently died of a heart attack after being searched with an American-made device.

That story was depicted in the print media with a cartoon that in western countries would be condemned as anti-Semitic propaganda: A hand with a Star of David on its sleeve holds up a red colored machine called "Rafah crossing", emitting waves that are called "death and illness." The cartoon appeared in a newspaper, Al-Hayat-Al-Jadeeda, a paper owned and controlled by the Fatah faction of the PLO, headed by Mahmoud Abbas.

Moreover, the official news agency of the PA claimed on Thursday that Israel deliberately killed "an aged woman" with an American made "radiation machine." The Palestinian Authority itself announced last Tuesday that it was closing the Rafah (Rafiah) crossing to protect Palestinians against "Israeli use of a radiation device for searching Palestinian travelers." Israeli security officials have said that the device is nothing more than an American-made machine that uses "holographic technology to screen passengers for weapons and explosives."

According to Michael Widlansky of IMRA (Independent Media Review Analysis), a think-tank that surveys the Arab press, Abbas is continuing a long-running PA campaign, led by Arafat and his wife Suha, to discredit Israel by claiming that Israel uses "radioactive weapons" against Palestinians, including "uranium artillery shells", "uranium bullets" and "poison gas."

Widlansky asserts that under Abbas, the Palestinian media have actually stepped up the use of incendiary mosque speeches broadcast on Palestinian radio and television where both Israel and American are regularly attacked as well as increased use of code words in Arabic such as "resistance operations" to describe attacks on Israelis.

Incitement against Israel is not the sole prerogative of the PA media, however. Abbas' administration has also done virtually nothing to stem an alarming rise in anti-Israel hatred spewing out of campuses in the PA administered areas of Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

Hamas, which intends to run candidates in the upcoming PA general election this summer, has won control of the student councils at Hebron University and the Polytechnic University of Hebron by significant margins. Both schools were closed several times by the Israeli military government when suicide bombers were recruited clandestinely by Islamic extremists on campus.

Now Hamas promotes terrorism openly on campus. A leaflet distributed by the Islamic Bloc, Hamas' student wing on the Hebron University campus, called for loyalty to the blood of the shahids "martyrs" (terrorists who were killed in an operation against Israel), claiming that becoming a terrorist would be an "honor" for students.

After 1,000 Years, Israel is Largest Jewish Center

By & Ha'aretz

Recent population surveys reveal that for the first time in 1,000 years, more Jews live in Israel than anywhere else in the world, including the United States. Israel's Jewish population is more than 5.5 million, surpassing the slightly more than 5.2 million in the U.S., according to official census statistics.

Although non-orthodox definitions of who is a Jew change the American Jewish population to be between 6 and 9 million, Israel's leading demographer, Prof. Sergio Della Pergola of Hebrew University, thinks that even those figures will be surpassed by Israel in several years.

If the number of American Jews continues to decline because of increasing intermarriage, Israel undisputedly will be the largest Jewish center in the world, even according to non-traditional definitions of who is a Jew. The Central Bureau of Statistics estimates that the population growth of Jews in Israel is slowly declining from 1.8 percent, but these projections do not take into account the possible phenomenon of massive immigration.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last year instructed the Jewish Agency to work on a program to encourage hundreds of thousands of American Jews to move to Israel in the next few years. Israel ceased being the center of world Jewry towards the 10th century, when Jews fled the murderous Crusades.

Sharon likes to quote a theory developed by his close friend, attorney Dov Weissglas, that had the Jews not been expelled by the Romans and suffered nearly 2,000 years of persecution, there would be between 500-800 million Jews living in the world today. But Della Pergola of Hebrew University calls this estimate "back of an envelope arithmetic," even though he admitted that he too indulges in this occasionally.

Della Pergola himself estimates that given the ideal hypothetical scenario, without anti-Semitism, persecution, and assimilation, there would be no more than 100-120 million Jews in the world today. This estimate is based on the assessment that at its height, on the eve of the great Jewish revolt against the Romans, the Jewish population totaled 2 percent of the ancient world's population.

"On the one hand, there's no doubt that expulsions, persecution and destruction have led to the number of Jews today being far lower than the growth potential," Della Pergola said. "On the other hand, you need to remember that a great many lovely people like the Jews disappeared completely over the course of history, so that the Jews need not feel disadvantaged."

The Jewish Agency's education department recently published a new study program that tries to provide answers to various questions concerning Jewish demography. The pamphlet contains estimates of the number of Jews who lived in the world during various historic periods, from the era of the Patriarchs to the present.

For example, the program determines that at the high point of Solomon's kingdom, around 1000 B.C.E., some two million Jews lived in the Land of Israel. On the eve of the destruction of the Second Temple, the number of Jews reached a peak of about 4.5 million - a record broken only in the 19th century. During the Middle Ages, the global Jewish population remained stable, at around one million. The all-time high, 16.5 million Jews, was recorded right before the Holocaust. In recent decades, the number of Jews has remained steady at around 13 million, with the demographic growth in Israel offset by the ongoing decrease in the number of Diaspora Jews.

Della Pergola, the program's scientific consultant, repeatedly emphasizes that the estimates for the ancient and Medieval periods are not scientifically substantiated and are merely intended to illustrate demographic trends in the Jewish people.

He collected the numeric data from known written sources, the credibility of which is in some cases in doubt, to say the least. One striking case concerns the 13th century B.C.E., for which the estimate of 600,000 refers to the biblical figure related in the account of the Exodus from Egypt, which many scholars say never took place. Della Pergola said that setting aside the question of its historic truth; the biblical text contains an internal statistical logic.

"The bible speaks of 70 men who went down to Egypt with Jacob and of 600,000 men who left it 430 years later," he says. "That estimate is certainly possible demographically, if you take as a given that the average life span was 40 years and the number of children per household was six."

A relatively large number of estimates have been published on the size of the Jewish population in the first century, in the period before the destruction of the second Temple. These estimates are based on written sources such as Flavius Josephus and Roman populace commanders.

Columbia University's Prof. Salo Baron, considered among the most important researchers of Judaism in that period, estimated the number of Jews in the world at that time at 8 million. More cautious researchers like Israel's Dr. Magen Broshi put it closer to 2 million.

Della Pergola averaged the various estimates to reach his estimate of 4.5 million. His main source for the Middle Ages was the diary of Binyamin of Tudela, who traveled throughout Europe and the Middle East in 1170. "Tudela's estimates are fairly credible regarding the places he himself visited. But when he relies on other sources, his estimates sound pretty implausible."

The demographic trends described by the program are less controversial than the numeric data. One of the interesting phenomena touched on is that the spread of Jews in the Middle Ages largely overlapped with the Arab conquests: From present-day Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula, the Jewish core moved to North Africa and Spain. Another direction for expansion was from the south of France northward into Germany and central Europe - the region that became known as Ashkenaz.

Another remarkable phenomena was the rise of Eastern Europe as the largest Jewish center from the 16th-20th centuries. In Tudela's time, there were very few Jews living in Eastern Europe. Della Pergola says Tudela himself notes the scant Jewish presence and observes that it was cold there. The Jews who reached Eastern Europe from Ashkenaz and from the Black Sea and the Balkans multiplied at an astonishing rate, mostly thanks to natural growth. Within a few centuries, Eastern Europe was home to two-thirds of all Jews.

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