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New Immigrants to be Given Vouchers For Professional Training


The Absorption Ministry has decided to allow new immigrants to choose to receive subsidized professional training in the general market in addition to the professional training courses currently offered through the government. The Ministry has invested 40 million shekels into the new initiative, which will grant vouchers to new immigrants that can be used in the free market and not just for selected Ministry of Labor training courses, as was the case until now. The ministry hopes the step will help new immigrants pursue their chosen professions once they move to Israel and not have to compromise their professional goals to live in the Jewish state.

Israel Wants to Build Railroad for Arabs Linking Gaza to Judea


If you thought the Oslo accords were dead, take another look: One of its oddities was the idea of providing safe passage between Gaza and Judea for PA Arabs. Should Ahmed take the A train to Gaza? One of the many provisions in the Oslo accords that were never implemented was an idea known as "safe passage". Safe Passage meant that Israel would provide the Arabs of the Palestinian Authority with an overland route through Israel's pre-1967 boundaries, allowing them to travel freely, with a minimum of restrictions, between the two territories.

The idea was fraught with major logistical problems, particularly the issue of how to prevent the Arabs from driving off the road and into the heart of Israel. The authors of the Oslo agreement were more worried then about car thieves and job seekers than the possibility of providing safe passage for suicide bombers. In any event, they believed that if something went wrong, the idea could be safely shelved and implemented at a later date.

The upsurge in suicide bombings that began shortly after the Oslo accords were signed and the subsequent Oslo war that took over 1000 Israeli lives seemed to put the idea of safe passage permanently on hold--until now. The PA reportedly has conditioned its cooperation on implementing the withdrawal and expulsion of Jews from Gaza and northern Samaria on implementing the safe passage provisions of the Oslo accords.

Israel and representatives of the Palestinian Authority on Tuesday announced an agreement to create a land link between Gaza and Judea and Samaria, in order to implement the safe passage concept. Under the agreement, Israeli security forces would start escorting convoys of Arab vehicles from Judea, Samaria, and Gaza along the regular routes linking the two areas. At a later stage, Israel has proposed replacing the use of its roads with a rail link that would connect Gaza with the Tarkumiyah checkpoint west of Hebron. Israeli officials have already approached the World Bank with a request to finance the line, which is expected to cost $175 million.

The World Bank, however, has suggested building a four-lane highway sunken into a five-meter wide trench. Israelis would be able to cross the highway via overpasses that would be built at various intervals over the trench. The estimated cost of this project, which effectively dissects Israel into two parts, is only $130 million. The World Bank also believes it would be easier to operate than a rail line.

Jewish Students Re-enact Tragic Exodus Ship Ride


Re-enacting the voyage of the Exodus, minus the harsh conditions on the embattled immigrants' ship, might be the ideal way to get American students to understand what Zionism is all about. Not many American students would have wanted to endure the harsh conditions that prevailed on the Exodus, the ship that became a symbol of illegal immigration to Israel before the state was established.

But for Jewish kids who want to get a feeling about what Zionism is all about, re-enacting the voyage of the Exodus might be a worthwhile way to spend a few days of a summer vacation in Israel. And so, last Sunday an updated, a vacation friendly version of the Exodus reached Haifa with 620 Jewish students on board. The voyage was a renewed project of the Jewish Agency to provide Zionist education and summer excitement for American and Canadian Jewish youth visiting Israel.

The original Exodus ship became a symbol of illegal immigration to Israel during the period after the Holocaust, prior to the end of British rule in May 1948. The boat carried 4515 Jewish immigrants, mostly Holocaust survivors, including 655 children, which set sail from France in July 1947. When the boat reached Haifa, the British took the passengers to a detention camp and then sent them back to France, where the passengers refused to disembark. They were eventually brought to Germany where the immigrants were again forced into detention camps. The immigrants were finally allowed into Israel after Independence was declared in May 1948.

Amir Yarchi, a spokesman for the Agency explained that his boat ride's itinerary is vastly different form the original voyage. The Agency's boat first sails out to Cyprus. On the way back to Israel, the students learn about the original Exodus voyage from persons who were on the ship in 1947 and who risked their lives to illegally enter Israel in defiance of British immigration restrictions. "When the boat docks in Haifa port," said Yarchi, "we go through a simulation" of what would have happened in 1947. "A young girl gets off the boat and a person dressed as a British officer stops her and prevents the passengers from reaching shore. He tells the passengers that they will be brought to a detention camp."

After Sunday's voyage, the students were taken to a camp at Atlit, but instead of being forcibly detained, they were treated to a meeting with Education Minister Limor Livnat. Yarchi says the Agency plans four or five such voyages each year. He described the journey as a very emotional experience for the students, especially as the boat approached the shores of Israel. He said the experience gives the students a feeling of making an effort to reach the land of Israel.

Yarchi said this year's trip was very special because it was the first time the Agency ran the project since the outbreak of the Oslo war in 2001. "As the security situation deteriorated, fewer and fewer students came here from the United States," said Yarchi. "But that has turned around recently. We hope to restore the number of voyages to the level they were at in the past, and bring 30,000 students to Israel in 2005." Last year the Agency hosted 23,000 Jewish youth from North America.

Yarchi should have no problem reaching his goals based on the success of last Sunday's voyage. "When we reached the shore at the end of the journey, everyone got off the boat with flags and became very emotional," he said. "They said it was an important experience for them, learning about Zionism in a way that simply could not be done in a classroom."

Ultra-Orthodox Man Detained at Gay Rally

By Ha'aretz

Patrol officers detained an ultra-Orthodox man for questioning Tuesday night after they found him wandering around with a knife in close proximity to a demonstration held by Jerusalem's homosexual community and its supporters. The demonstration was an expression of solidarity with the three marchers stabbed last Thursday at Jerusalem's gay pride parade. The slogan of the demonstration was "They tried to kill me because I am gay." The man claimed he was at the location in order to read the signs, with the knife being merely an instrument with which to peel fruit.

Approximately 350 demonstrators gathered Tuesday on King George Street in the capital across from the spot in which Yishai Schlisel, 30, stormed the parade. Demonstrators waved signs ("Jerusalem was destroyed by hatred" and "love thy enemies") and called for an end to homophobia, addressing Jerusalem's mayor Uri Lupolianski directly. The chair of the Jerusalem Open House and organizer of the event Noa Sattath said, "There is a direct connection between the incitement that originated with the mayor and the stabbing... I don't understand how the mayor sleeps at night."

At the Shabat Square in the capital, dozens of ultra-Orthodox threw stones at three buses, causing them heavy damage, in protest of the gay pride parade that took place in the city last week. Police forces that arrived at the scene rescued the buses and scattered the demonstrators. An officer was injured in the head lightly from the stones.

A man who was wrestled down by police last Thursday after stabbing three marchers at the Jerusalem gay parade with an seven-inch-long knife was charged with three counts of attempted murder in Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday. The man, Yishai Schlisel, an Orthodox Jew from Upper Modi'in, was quoted by state prosecutors as telling police officers who interrogated him that he "came to kill in the name of God because there cannot be such an abomination in this land." According to the indictment filed against Shlisel, the defendant carefully planned his actions, purchased the knife ahead of time, hid it in his waistcoat and then ambushed the marchers along the parade's route. As the marchers passed him by he ran between them, managing to stab three until police pinned him down to the ground. One of Schlisel's victims was seriously wounded while the other two were only lightly hurt.

State prosecutors argued during the extension of his remand that he posed a danger to society as a whole and to the homosexual community in particular. They quoted Schlisel as saying "Such a thing (as the gay pride parade) cannot happen in Israel, it's sacrilegious."

Museum Planned at Warsaw Ghetto Site

By Reuters

A new museum will open in 2008 in the heart of Warsaw's wartime ghetto to tell the story of Europe's largest Jewish community before the Nazis wiped it out, the project's director said on Monday. After a 10-year struggle for funding, Poland's government and Jewish groups agreed to build the $30 million museum in a square next to the Warsaw Ghetto memorial.

It will trace several centuries of Jewish history in Poland and pay homage to famous Polish-born Jews including director Roman Polanski, film producer Samuel Goldwyn and Israel's first prime minister, David Ben Gurion. The building, designed by little-known Finnish architects Ilmari Lahdelma and Rainer Mahlamaki, will have an austere blue-glass exterior encasing a red, cave-like structure meant to symbolize Moses' parting of the Red Sea.

"Many of the designs were spectacular from the outside, but we also wanted something that had a magical interior," said project director and historian Jerzy Halbersztadt. "This design is open, it draws people in."

Poland has made strenuous efforts to improve relations with Israel since the end of communism, aware that the post-war decades were sullied by a 1946 pogrom and an anti-Semitic campaign in 1968 that drove out many remaining Jews. Twelve years after Steven Spielberg's Holocaust film Schindler's List brought the southern city of Krakow worldwide fame, thousands of tourists come to Poland annually to visit the often well-preserved ruins of former Nazi German camps.

Poland's Jewish community numbered 3 million residents on the eve of World War II. It is estimated that up to 20,000 remain. Studies for the museum project say it should attract up to half a million visitors annually.

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