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Two Israelis, One Gunman Dead in Gaza Shooting

By VOA News

Palestinian gunmen have ambushed a vehicle near a Gaza Strip border crossing, killing two Israelis and wounding five others. Israeli troops returned fire and killed one gunman following the attack Saturday at the Kissufim border crossing in southern Gaza. Local security guards and soldiers killed both terrorists. Dov Kol, 58, and his wife Rachel, 53, were returning to their home in Jerusalem after visiting Rachel's sister's family in Ganei Tal in Gush Katif for the Sabbath. Three militant groups - Islamic Jihad, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and the Popular Resistance Committee - all claimed responsibility for the attack. The violence came hours after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, and praised security efforts ahead of Israel's planned withdrawal from Gaza.

Sharon Vows Tough Action Against Palestinian Militants

By Sonja Pace (VOA-Jerusalem)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has vowed "tough new measures" against Palestinian terrorists if they stage attacks during or after Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. At the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sharon told his ministers that Israel would not put up with continued Palestinian attacks.

Sharon said he made it clear to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during their talks, that Israel would react severely, with very tough measures if Palestinians launch attacks either during or after Israel withdraws from Gaza. He said his message to Rice was very clear on that point and left no room for doubt

Rice was in the region for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders and to ensure Israel's disengagement from Gaza, due to begin in mid August stays on track. She met with Sharon at his ranch in southern Israel on Friday. A senior Sharon aide would only say the talks had been "very friendly and frank."

At a news conference in Ramallah on Saturday, Rice praised the Palestinian leadership for its recent efforts to stop militants from launching attacks, but she said more needs to be done. She also made it clear that Israel cannot close off and isolate Palestinians living in Gaza after the withdrawal and she urged greater freedom of movement for Palestinians in the West Bank as well and said movement between the West Bank and Gaza was also vital.

90 Dead in Sharm El-Sheik Terrorist Attacks

By & VOA News

At least 90 people were killed and 200 injured, including one Israeli-Arab, in multiple Friday night terrorist attacks at the Sharm El-Sheikh resort area in Sinai. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility. The resort area near the Red Sea has been the site of several diplomatic meetings between Israel and various Arab countries, including the shaky February cease-fire accord with the Palestinian Authority.

More than 10,000 Israelis were in the Sinai Peninsula on Saturday, despite warnings from intelligence officials that the very high risk of terrorist attacks. More than 3,000 returned Saturday after the terrorist attacks, but another 1,000 crossed into Egypt from Israel despite the bombings. Two car bombs exploded at 1:15 a.m. and ripped through the Ghazala Gardens and Movenpick Hotels in Naama Bay, and a third bomb exploded at a coffee shop in Sharm el-Sheikh, 2.5 miles away, killing European and Egyptian tourists.

Several of the injured were in critical condition. The dead include tourists from England, Russia, the Netherlands and Arab countries. A website associated with Al-Qaeda declared that the attacks were carried out against "Crusaders, Zionists and the renegade Egyptian regime."

Egyptian security officers have conducted raids and detained dozens of potential suspects in Sharm al-Sheikh. After visiting the blast site, a resolute President Hosni Mubarak said the attacks would make Egypt more determined than ever to pursue terrorism and "dig it out by the roots."

With many tourists departing, and security officials streaming in, Sharm al-Sheikh is a different town than it was days ago. Video images show empty restaurants and deserted shops. One storeowner said, aside from the human tragedy, there will be a heavy financial price to pay, as the resort relies on tourism. "Life in Egypt now is difficult," he said. "I come here to work, to make good business. I cannot believe [what has happened]. This is a big, big problem." Another shop owner said flatly, "business is finished here."

Catch 22: U.S. Court Rejects Pollard Appeal


A U.S. Federal Appeals Court Friday turned down an appeal by Jonathan Pollard to reduce his life sentence. The judges ruled Pollard had waited too long to challenge the 1987 decision. Pollard was sentenced to life imprisonment for passing intelligence information to Israel when he worked in the Pentagon as a civilian Naval analyst.

Pollard's lawyer argued that they were denied access to secret documents on which the production based their case. The District of Columbia three-member court ruled as "nonsensical" Pollard's argument that he did not realize mistakes made by his lawyers during the original trial.

"Pollard knew the facts," Judge David Sentelle wrote in the decision. "What he now claims not to have known is the legal significance of these facts." Pollard's lawyer, Eliot Lauer, said that he would consider filing a request for a rehearing from the full Appeals Court, or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. "We hope that in time the American judicial system will give Jonathan Pollard his rightful day in court and that justice will be done," Lauer said.

Pollard, who will turn 51 next month, was arrested in November 1985 after unsuccessfully seeking refuge at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. He is serving his sentence at a federal penitentiary in Butner, N.C.

It's Official: Son of Chabad Movement's Founder Converted to Catholicism

By Ha'aretz

Documents have recently come to light proving that the youngest son of the founder of the Chabad movement, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, Russia, converted to Catholicism.

For 180 years, the conversion of Moshe Zalmanovitch (son of Zalman) has been difficult for Chabad Hassidim and the Hassidic world in general to accept. Now, it will be difficult to ignore. Rumors of the conversion of Moshe and conversions in other Hassidic families were rife in the 19th century, fueled by members of the Enlightenment who, in spite of their worldview, nevertheless excoriated such moves.

Chabad denied the rumors vehemently over the years, presenting alternative versions of the life of the rabbi's youngest son, a married father of four. But documents, copies of which are in Jerusalem, prove the rumors true. The original documents are located in the national historical archives in Minsk, the capital of Byelorussia.

Five years ago, Tel Aviv University historian Prof. David Assaf wrote an article about Moshe for the Hebrew periodical Tzion, surveying evidence proving and disproving the conversion. Assaf concluded that the facts were irrefutable: a conversion indeed had taken place. However, he expressed the hope that in the rich trove of archives in the former Soviet Union, undiscovered documents would shed more light on the subject.

Assaf's hopes were fulfilled. Following publication of his article, Hebrew University Prof. Shaul Stempfer searched the archives, and found two files of documents that had once belonged to the Catholic Church in the area of Mohilev in eastern Byelorussia. The documents, written in Russian, Polish and Latin, are devoted to Moshe's conversion. Emissaries of the Central Archives photographed the files for the History of the Jewish People at the Hebrew University, and archivist Benjamin Lukin allowed Ha'aretz to look at some of them.

One of the most important documents is a letter written by Moshe on July 1, 1820. It was addressed to a Polish priest named Siodlovsky, in the Polish city of Ulla, where Moshe lived after his marriage.

The 36-year-old Moshe wrote he had long sought to become Roman Catholic. He said the Jews had tried to prevent him from doing so by watching him constantly, beating him and threatening him. However, he wrote: "I have remained steadfast in my desire to take upon myself the true faith of Jesus Christ, to which the holy books and all the prophets testify."

The declaration was made before Christian witnesses, officers and clerks, whose names and occupations are noted in the document. They signed, certifying that the writer of the declaration was "of sound mind." Thus, Moshe son of Zalman became Leon Yoleivitch.

Of sound mind? Opinions are divided on that point, to put it mildly. Jewish sources, even those who deny the conversion, mainly agree that Moshe had suffered from mental problems since childhood. On the other hand, senior Catholic figures who examined Moshe after his conversion tended to affirm the act, claiming he had pretended to be insane for fear of the Jews.

Subsequently, the recently discovered documents reveal, even the priests realized that the new convert was mentally unstable, and sent him to the village of Lubavitch where his brother, the rabbinic leader Dov Baer, was living. Eventually, Moshe-Leon announced his intention to become Eastern Orthodox.

He was brought to St. Petersburg where he became an adviser to the Tzar, Alexander Nicolaevich Golitzin, whose vision was to convert the Jews. After his mental state deteriorated, he was sent to a clinic for nervous disorders in St. Petersburg, where he apparently died.

Assaf believes it was Moshe's mental state that led him to convert. Were there other motives, such as anger against his older brother, or pressure from a Christian friend? These and other questions are the subject of a book written by Assaf that will be published this year. In any case, the documents and testimony, old and new, shed fascinating light on the history of the Jewish people in Russia.

The Israeli Maccabiah Games - Never a Dull Moment

By (Commentary)

The 17th Maccabiah games (AKA. Jewish Olympics) concluded last week. In an event that happens every four years, more than 7,000 athletes from 55 countries participated in the events. The ceremonies were impressive, big, colorful and uniquely Israeli, with real world-class events with a reported 30,000 in attendance. Run loosely along Olympic guidelines, the 11-day event included athletics, swimming, football and tennis as well as lawn bowls, chess, bridge, netball and cricket.

Senior members of government, all sitting behind bulletproof glass, attended the opening ceremonies. Sharon in his address basically tried to encourage Aliyah (a permanent return to Israel) and took the opportunity to blatantly tell the athletes to basically stick around when the games are all done. There is traditionally a certain percentage that remains after these events.

And now for something completely "different", Shas Party (the main religious party) Chairman, Eli Yishai, attacked the 17th Maccabiah management for desecrating Shabbat by requiring personnel to work on Saturday to prepare for the dress rehearsal of the opening ceremony. He said their actions were a "disgrace" that crossed red lines. Yishai said a worker told him he and his friends had to start preparing for Saturday night's dress rehearsal before the end of Shabbat. The worker refused to reveal his identity out of fear they would lose their jobs. Funnily enough it seems that this employee would rather keep his Shabbat desecrating job then quit.

Maccabiah spokespeople responded by saying, "We would be happy to see Yishai among the Knesset Members and government ministers that will partake in this international event." In short telling Yishai to take a flying leap, you gotta love it.

Unfortunately, the next day after the opening ceremonies a suicide bomber drove into the center of Netanya, approximately 35 minutes from Tel Aviv, blowing up, killing four women and wounding 90 people. The blast took place outside a busy downtown shopping mall. An hour earlier, the Dutch soccer team attending the Maccabiah games left that same mall for soccer practice. The team stayed at a local Netanya hotel and after the blast several team members said they wanted to go home. Several forum posts on local news sites suggested the players try London.

Their team manager said, "Most of our players are in shock, and we do not know how they will deal with it. Most of them want to leave Israel as soon as possible, because they are not used to such a thing. I will try to convince them to stay for the games, but it is their individual decision."

And in all this, a truly great story, an Israeli Arab teenage girl from the town of Sakhnin became one of the first medallists in this year's Maccabiah Games with a victory in the women's 200-meter breast stroke in the Wingate Institute pool, causing a wave of pride in her father, family and community. Halaj Shahada, proud father of Asala, 17, said there would be celebrations in Sakhnin following her gold medal win. "The Maccabiah belongs not only to all the Jews, but also to all the Israelis, and I am a proud Israeli," Asala said.

Wish we had more of these stories. Israeli Olympics, never a dull moment.

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