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Refugees Outraged as Government Asks They Leave Hotels


The Disengagement Authority is pressuring 700 Gush Katif transferees to leave the hotels to which it moved them when the government destroyed their homes and communities last month. There remain less than two weeks until the Jewish holiday season begins, and it will bring with it another bit of topsy-turviness and change from routine. Most among those families are simply unready to move out. They are asking for a community housing solution to be found.

Bush Asks King Abdullah to Meet with Sharon, Abbas

By Paula Wolfson (VOA-White House)

President Bush is turning to Jordan's King Abdullah to help move the Middle East peace process forward following the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. During talks at the White House Thursday, the king agreed to launch a new round of diplomacy at Bush's request.

"One of the things I asked His Majesty to do is go to visit with Prime Minister Sharon and President Abbas to help in the peace process there and he has graciously agreed to go," said Bush.

During a brief session with reporters, Bush praised King Abdullah for taking a leadership role, saying Jordan's monarch has a vision to share a more peaceful world. "It will be very helpful to have your voice of reason there to talk to both leaders," he said.

Neither man provided a timetable for talks in the region or a specific agenda for discussions. Abdullah told the president that he appreciates U.S. efforts to bring an end to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and vowed to do all he can to help." I know that you want to find a solution that the Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace and harmony and hope if we can help in that respect that it is a great honor for us," he said

King Abdullah recently met with Prime Minister Sharon on the sidelines of a U.N. summit in New York. It was their first meeting in months, and a sign tensions between Israel and its Arab neighbors have eased a bit since the Gaza withdrawal.

Earlier, the king stressed that Muslims and Jews have more in common than their current bitter rivalry in the Middle East would suggest. His efforts to reach out to the Jewish community included a meeting in Washington, with 70 American rabbis. But in his first-ever meeting with American Jewish religious leaders, King Abdullah pointed out that these two peoples share strong connections. Among these, he said are a common ancestor, Abraham, and a belief in one god.

"Jews and Muslims are tied together by culture and history as well," he said. "For over a thousand years, both our peoples have contributed to the complex tapestry of Middle Eastern civilization. Throughout the Middle East, Jews and Muslims borrowed a great deal from each other in the areas of philosophy, science, mysticism and law."

The Jordanian monarch has spoken often of a moderate and traditional Islam, which values life and which he has advocated in the face of more fundamentalist and militant interpretations of the religion. Muslim extremists were behind the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. At the same time, though, the king pointed out that Jews face their own radicals, such as the man who assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.

"We face a common threat, extremist distortions of religion and the wanton acts of violence that derive therefrom," he reminded. "Such abominations have already divided us from without for far too long. We all too often fail to acknowledge that they also threaten to destroy us from within. This is not simply a matter of importance to Jews and Muslims. It is something that confronts and threatens the whole of humanity."

King Abdullah added that Muslims and Jews need to unite to defeat extremism. "The only antidote is that we work together in the spirit of mutual co-operation and respect to defeat this common enemy," he said. "We must move beyond the language of mere tolerance toward true acceptance."

In the Washington meeting, King Abdullah's words were met with warm applause and four standing ovations. One of the event coordinators, Rabbi Marc Gopin, of George Mason University, presented the Jordanian king with a special version of the Jewish holy book, the Torah. "Gratitude is the foundation of the most ancient Jewish prayers, from the book of Psalms to our ancient prayer book. I want to thank you, Your Majesty, for every act of courage, every visionary gesture, that you and your family have offered the world. We stand in appreciation of your family's vision, courage and friendship to all, even to adversaries," he said.

The Jewish religious leader specifically applauded King Abdullah for setting what he called a hopeful example for Jordanians and for other Muslims around the world. "I think the king is leading his people, and he is trying to set a direction that people can follow, in a very complicated world, in which there are very serious political conflicts, conflicts over territory, deep wounds of history," he said.

In his closing comments, the Jordanian monarch said he wants his message of reconciliation to have a wider audience than just the rabbis who attended the meeting. "It is my hope that we, as children of Abraham, can go forth from this gathering with a common mission, to work together towards peace, justice and reconciliation," said King Abdullah. "The point on the religious calendar at which we find ourselves can inspire us in this endeavor. This year marks an unusual concurrence of the High Holy Days on the Jewish calendar and Ramadan on the Islamic calendar, each of which begins next month."

He pointed out that these religiously significant periods would provide perfect opportunities, not only for self-examination, reflection, repentance and atonement, but also for forgiveness and renewal.

200 Bnei Menashe in India Convert to Judaism


For the first time, some 200 Bnei Menashe living in northeastern India formally converted back to Judaism this past week by a team of Israeli rabbis organized by the Jerusalem-based Shavei Israel. The Bnei Menashe claim descent from the tribe of Manasseh, one of the 10 tribes exiled from the Land of Israel by the Assyrian empire over 2,700 years ago. Some 7,000 of them reside primarily in the two Indian states of Mizoram and Manipur, along the border with Burma and Bangladesh.

Shavei Israel arranged for a team of six dayanim (rabbinical court judges) to travel to India in order to carry out the conversions with the approval of Israel's Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar. On March 30, Rabbi Amar issued an historic ruling in which he formally recognized the Bnei Menashe as "descendants of Israel" and agreed to restore them to the Jewish people. "It was an incredibly emotional and spiritual experience," said Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund, who accompanied the rabbis to India. "There were men and women, young and old, many of whom had been longing to return to the Jewish people for decades, and finally their dream has come true."

Each of the candidates for conversion was interviewed by a Beit Din (rabbinical court) consisting of three of the visiting rabbis, who sought to assess their level of Jewish knowledge and commitment. "The rabbis showed great sensitivity and understanding, and they were deeply impressed by the Bnei Menashe and their grasp of Jewish law and lore," said Freund.

A particularly poignant moment, he said, came when the Beit Din informed 83-year old Sara Haunhar that she had been accepted into the Jewish people. "She began to cry," Freund recalled, "and when one of the rabbis asked her if she was OK, Haunhar composed herself and told them: 'All of my life, I have feared that I would die before meriting to see God's Holy Land. But now that you have accepted me as a Jew, I am confident that I will soon be able to set foot on the land of my ancestors, the Land of Israel."

In recent years, over 800 Bnei Menashe have made aliyah thanks largely to Shavei Israel and other organizations, which reach out and assist "lost Jews" seeking to return to the Jewish people. But that came to a halt in 2003, when then-Israeli Interior Minister Avraham Poraz of the Shinui party decided to freeze their immigration. After Poraz' decision was announced, Freund turned to the Chief Rabbinate, and began lobbying to receive official rabbinical recognition of the Bnei Menashe as a means of circumventing the Interior Minister's decision.

The 200 Bnei Menashe converted last week all plan to move to Israel in the near future, and Freund believes that the remaining members of the community will eventually follow as well. Freund added, "This is the breakthrough we have been waiting for, and we will do everything we can to bring this lost tribe home to Zion. God is gathering in His people, just as the Prophets foretold, and I am grateful to be playing my small part in this process." Shavei Israel's work is in accordance with Jewish Law and under the ongoing supervision of the Chief Rabbinate of the State of Israel.

Sinking the Israeli Aircraft Carrier

By Emanuel A. Winston (Commentary)

Israel was once considered a virtual aircraft carrier in the Sands of the Middle East. It had great value to America, which is why the Arab world worked so hard to separate Israel from America. It is no secret that oil plays a dominant role in what America feels it must ask of the Jewish State. These requests a.k.a. demands further empower the Arabs, particularly the Terrorists embodied in the Muslim Palestinians. As the Palestinians gain power by acquiring territory, the Aircraft Carrier of Israel begins to shrink in direct proportion.

When Gaza/Gush Katif and the four North Samarian communities were abandoned, Sharon was suddenly a 'wunderkind' to the U.N. , the State Department and the E.U., all of whom disliked Sharon and probably still do. But, he performed as asked, despite the dangers of shrinking Israel's critical mass.

Although the World Media mentioned the breach in the Sinai-Gaza border after the 'Disengagement', it was quickly forgotten. Israeli Intelligence estimated that the weapons that flowed into Gaza would have taken a solid year of smuggling by tunnels. A mass transfer of high-grade weapons moved through the breach in a matter of days and into the hands of Hamas and other Terrorist groups. Israel's General Staff and Intelligence predicted this "transfer" before the evacuation of Gaza/Gush Katif.

Israel has played a remarkable role in supporting America both militarily and politically. Some may have forgotten that Gen. George Keegan, Head of America's Air Force Intelligence once stated that Israel was worth five CIA's based upon the Intelligence Israel provided her ally and benefactor, the United States.

When Saddam invaded Kuwait, it was Israel who provided on-ground Intelligence to the U.S. that proved invaluable. Gen. Dugan, who was in charge of operations during the First Gulf War, made the mistake of publicly thanking Israel for her assistance during an interview and was promptly fired. Israel raised an air umbrella for incoming U.S. Aircraft ferrying supplies, weapons and all the stuff that was needed for eventually attacking Saddam. It was Israel who put teams in the Iraqi desert to pick up any American airmen shot down. (We all know what happened to those captured by Iraqis.) Israel proved her value as an aircraft carrier that protected American interests.

But, Israel has allowed herself to be shrunk and, in doing so, has become a less valuable asset as an ally to be relied upon. Instead, the balance scales had Arab Muslim oil on one side and Israel's value as an ally and a democracy on the other. Guess which had greater value to the Arabists at State? Regrettably, there is certain shortsightedness in Washington, which will allow, even push, Israel into a diminished role. When the U.S. will need Israel, she will not have the capability to respond to the call.

Israel could have played a vital role both for herself and America. But, having been whittled down to a micro-state, she will barely be able to take care of herself and her people. Be assured that the "Whittlers" (those who whittled Israel down to an indefensible state) will not be able to come to the rescue when called upon to do so.

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