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Voting Ends in West Bank Municipal Elections

By VOA News

Thousands of Palestinians across the West Bank voted Thursday in the final phase of municipal elections. Initial estimates showed turnout was high in the first election since Israel's withdrawal from parts of the West Bank and all of the Gaza Strip. The ruling Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is facing stiff opposition from candidates of the militant group Hamas. Hamas has tried to portray Israel's withdrawal as a militant victory. The vote could set the tone for Palestinian parliamentary elections in January. Israel has said it will not help facilitate those elections if Hamas participates without first disarming. In a separate development, Abbas condemned the killing of three terrorists during an Israeli military raid Thursday in the West Bank. He called it an escalation that jeopardizes the peace process.

Three Palestinian Terrorists Killed in West Bank Clash with Israeli Troops

By VOA News &

Palestinian security officials said a clash between Israeli troops and Palestinian "militants" near the West Bank town of Jenin has left three militants dead. The officials identified the victims as a local leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and two members of Islamic Jihad. They said the fighting erupted when Israeli troops raided Jenin early Thursday morning.

Wednesday, Israel's military warned it may bombard the Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun, if necessary, to stop Palestinian rocket fire into Israel. The terrorists have been firing rockets from the area, despite earlier pledges to stop such attacks. President Bush is to meet with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas at the White House next month for talks on peace efforts.

The armed Arabs opened fire at Israeli soldiers, who in turn shot and killed them. Terrorists also opened fire at Israelis near Shechem and on the way to the community of Har Brachah Wednesday night; no one was hurt. Israeli forces arrested seven wanted terrorists in Shechem, Ramallah and Bethlehem, all members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Hundreds of other Arabs have been arrested or taken in for questioning over the past few days regarding their involvement in terror activities.

In Gaza, violence continues to be the order of the day. The current round began with a powerful blast during a Hamas victory parade last Friday that killed some 20 celebrants. Hamas blamed it on Israel and then proceeded to let loose a barrage of 40 Kassam rockets at Sderot and environs, wounding six people. The Israel Air Force responded with a series of bombing raids on various buildings and open areas in Gaza, causing no casualties. Hamas announced that it would stop the rocket attacks, but in fact merely toned them down. Several Kassams were fired this week, and Israel continued to respond with scattered bombing raids, including Wednesday night, and even artillery.

A Palestinian Authority report found that the celebration-explosion that started off the above events was caused by a Hamas rocket, and not Israel. The shrapnel found in the bodies of the dead was found to resemble that of Kassam rockets, which were apparently carried and displayed in a truck on which masked terrorists were showing off their wares. The PA has said it will now forbid weaponry from being displayed or carried during demonstrations, except for that carried by PA security forces.

IDF Chief Operations Officer Gen. Yisrael Ziv said that if the rocket attacks from Beit Hanoun in Gaza do not cease, "We will demilitarize the entire area. We won't allow any movement, and we will clean out all the rocket launchers."

Hamas terrorist forces, some of them in uniform, control several towns in the Gaza region, according to the Middle East Newsline. It quoted a Palestinian Authority official as saying, "Hamas is in control and all we can do is look on." Sources said Hamas forces control virtually all of the United Nations camps and that masked Hamas members also have taken over the border city of Rafiah. The reports contradict statements by the PA that its police forces are tightening control in Gaza and prohibiting people from carrying weapons.

And a recent Harris poll reveals that a plurality of Americans opposes destroying Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. Results of the survey show that 36 percent oppose further withdrawals, 24 percent are in favor and 35 percent are uncertain. In response to the question if the expulsion of Jewish residents from Gaza and northern Samaria was the "right thing to do," 41 percent agreed, 24 percent disagreed and 36 percent were not sure.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's senior strategic advisor, Eyal Arad, announced this week that the stalled diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority might demand additional unilateral steps on Israel's part. Arad explained that this might result in turning the unilateral disengagement into a new government policy, compelling Jerusalem to determine new borders, which may entail annexing Judea and Samaria as integral portions of Israel.

Jewish Agency to Recruit Soldiers as Emissaries Abroad


The Jewish Agency and the Defense Ministry plan to offer soldiers an alternative to the self-financed, self-directed journeys of self-discovery that often follow the completion of their army service: a chance to serve as emissaries to Jewish communities in the Diaspora. The agency said that it hopes to recruit hundreds of soldiers, who after their army discharge will work to persuade Jewish youth abroad to come to Israel for a semester or a year of academic studies in the "Masa" program.

Jewish Agency Chairman Ze'ev Bielski said that he hopes the discharged soldiers - who often travel after being released from the army - will choose to be sent abroad as emissaries through the Jewish Agency rather than venture off "into the unknown.. Rather than suffer a year in India or working alone in New York, they can receive a traveling program from us which is structured and organized," Bielski said, adding that the number of immigrants arriving in Israel this year is expected to climb to 27,000, up from 22,000 in 2004. This would be the first time since 1999 that number of new arrivals will be higher than the preceding 12-month period.

The Jewish Agency, which already sends emissaries to large Jewish communities in North America and elsewhere, hopes that this new program will help recruit more young Israeli emissaries to travel for a few months abroad to convince young Jewish students in the Diaspora to come to Israel to study for their "year abroad." The agency will finance the emissaries' stay abroad and provide them with pocket money.

Under the Masa program, the agency plans to bring up to 20,000 young Jews from abroad to Israel to study for a semester or a year. The cost of the program is estimated to reach $200 million a year, with $50 million coming from the agency and an additional $50 million from the government.

Israel Museum Displays Rare Vatican Manuscripts


The Vatican library has loaned the Israel Museum four illuminated Jewish manuscripts from the 13th and 15th centuries, which will be on exhibit to the public for the next four months. The manuscripts include a 15th-century manuscript of Maimonides' Mishne Torah, a 15th-century manuscript of Rabbi Jacob ben Asher's Arba'ah Turim, a 13th-century manuscript of the Bible, and a 13th-century book of Psalms.

The most famous of the manuscripts on loan is the copy of Maimonides' famous legal composition, the Mishne Torah. The manuscript is not complete and contains only the prolegomenon and the first five books of the 14-part composition, also known as Ha-Yad Ha-Hazaka (the Strong Hand). Each of the books has an illuminated frontispiece with illustration referring to the name of the section or its contents. The variations in style reveal the hand of more than one illuminator, and the museum curators say that it was probably produced in the studio of one of the leading Christian miniaturists in Italy of this period.

The second manuscript, of the Arba'ah Turim (Four Rows), is a well-known codex of Jewish Law composed by Rabbi Jacob ben Asher, which is divided into four parts, each dealing with a different aspect of the daily life of a devout Jew. Orah Hayim is concerned with prayer, the Sabbath and Holidays, Yoreh De'ah deals with dietary laws and laws of slaughtering, Even Ha-Ezer covers laws of marriage and divorce, and Hoshen Mishpat addresses the laws of finance and damages. Each section ("tur") opens with a magnificent illustration.

The 13th-century biblical manuscript is among the earliest to be found in Italy, and it survived almost in its entirety. The titles and final verses of each book are colorfully ornamented with floral and other motifs. The scribe and the vocalizer (nakdan) of the manuscript were members of the famous Anav family of Rome's ancient Jewish community, which produced a line of authors, poets and rabbis. The final item in the exhibit is a Psalter from the 13th century. The book has two other parts to it, which are in the Vatican's collection in Rome.

You Say Sunday, I Say Saturday


Play ball! So long as it's not Sunday morning.

Alderman Darrel Leftwich wants the city (White House, TN) to set new hours for White House parks so sporting events could only be held in the afternoon. Leftwich said he drove by the park one Sunday on his way to church and saw a soccer tournament.

"God, our Father intended the seventh day to be one of rest and worship," Leftwich said at a meeting. He asked the city manager to draft an ordinance that would restrict Sunday hours at town parks.

Alderman Farris Bibb Jr. disagreed: "With all due respect to Alderman Leftwich. the seventh day of the week is Saturday."

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