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Suicide Belt was Empty


The suicide belt carried by an Arab teenager Wednesday afternoon was without explosives, according to army spokesmen. Security officials estimate that terrorists intended to fill the suicide belt elsewhere. The youth was captured at the Hawara checkpoint near Shechem. Authorities said there was no advanced warning of a suicide bomber in the area and that soldiers discovered the empty belt following a routine check. A metal detector revealed there were explosive devices, but a later examination showed that they were empty.

Israel to Ask U.S. Jewish Communities to Fund its Foreign Aid Projects

By Ha'aretz

Israel is trying to persuade Jewish federations and communities in the United States to finance Israeli aid programs in foreign countries, Ha'aretz has learned. The first initiative of this sort was presented Tuesday at the United Jewish Communities (UJC) General Assembly meeting in Toronto. Some 3,600 Jews from North America, the former Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, Ethiopia and Israel registered for the three-day General Assembly (GA) of the United Jewish Communities. Israel's Consul General in New York, Arye Mekel, proposed to the UJC that it become an active partner in the Foreign Ministry's projects in developing and poor countries.

The Foreign Ministry's department for international cooperation has been operating since 1958 and is helping some 114 third-world countries with aid and technological knowledge. The department's programs consist of courses and training foreign residents in various professions.

However, due to cutbacks jeopardizing the department's work, the Foreign Ministry decided to appeal to the Jewish federations and communities in the United States to help finance the projects, such as stopping AIDS from spreading in Africa or helping victims of natural disasters.

Israel is offering the UJC involvement in setting the order of priorities for aid projects in Africa or Asia. In addition, every federation and community would be able to choose independently from a list of objectives and take active part in carrying out projects in a certain country or developing community.

Mekel told Ha'aretz that Israeli experts would be in charge of carrying out the projects on the ground and Israeli instructors would train the local personnel. However, the main idea is that funding some of the projects would create a partnership between American Jews and Israel.

Senior Jewish figures told Ha'aretz that they have received positive preliminary reactions to the Israeli initiative. "Although the Toronto GA focuses almost exclusively on local community needs, the very fact that the leaders of the UJC agreed to give time to present the Foreign Ministry's initiative is a positive sign," the leader of a Jewish organization in New York said.

Israeli Court OKs Lesbian Adoption


The Be'er Sheva Family Court ruled Tuesday that a lesbian woman could adopt her female partner's daughter. The biological mother gave birth to the child through a sperm donor and has since taken legal action in an effort to force the State to recognize both her and her partner as the child's parents.

Judge Pinhas Asulin based his decision on supportive testimonies describing the two women as a family in every way. He ruled that responsibility for the child should be placed equally on both parents, similarly to the way most families function. "They're a family without a doubt," he ruled.

The two women, both in their 30s, are raising a second child together, whose testimony was also heard by the court. The court legally recognized the women as a couple three years ago, thus setting a precedent for the first same-sex couple in Israel. The High Court of Justice set an additional precedent in January, ruling that a lesbian couple could adopt each other's children.

The couple's attorney Ziv Zimran told Ynet there is no doubt the two women and their children constitute a family. "The court's ruling has turned them into parents in every regard with equal responsibilities for the child's economic, familial and physical concern."

Tel Aviv: 'The Pink City'?


Tel Aviv is known throughout the world as "The White City" due to the many Bauhaus-style structures that adorn its streets, but the city may soon be called "The Pink City," as tourism industry heads are planning on transforming the city into the gay capital of the world, Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported. "Tel Aviv and gay people are a perfect fit," an Israel Hotel Association (IHA) official said.

The idea was born when IHA Director-General Eli Ziv visited London recently to participate in the 2005 World Travel Market exhibition. During the exhibition Ziv met with representatives of the gay-lesbian travel industry, and discovered an audience that would travel just about anywhere for a good party, even to the Middle East. "The gay community has amazing consumer power, and Tel Aviv has a lot to offer to this community," Ziv explained.

"We have the beach, sun, culture and nightclubs. To our knowledge, gays are capable of hopping on a plane and traveling to the other side of the world just to participate in parties and events that are related to the gay community."

The IHA in Tel Aviv, along with a local gay rights group, turned to European travel agents who focus on the gay community and requested they prepare vacation packages to Tel Aviv. "We are drafting plans to encourage gay tourism from Germany, England and Holland," Ziv added. "We plan on approaching travel agents who are aware of the gay community's needs, launch a special website for gays and advertise Tel Aviv in gay European websites as well.

Jerusalem is scheduled to host the 2006 World Pride Parade, but Ziv is already working to have it moved to Tel Aviv. "This event could mark the grand opening for homosexual events in the city," he said. "We need the boost."

Meanwhile, Tourism Ministry Director-General Eli Cohen said he would offer any financial assistance necessary to turn Tel Aviv into the gay capital of the world, and he is not alone: TUI, Europe's largest tourism conglomerate, has recently decided to offer charter flights to Tel Aviv. Israeli tourism officials said they believe the decision would facilitate the travel of thousands of gays to the country.

Today TUI offers a roundtrip ticket on a weekly charter flight to Israel for 150-200 euros (about $176-$234). "It will be helpful to our initiative if they increase the number of flights to Tel Aviv,' Ziv said.

"Now the occupancy rate on these flights already stands at more than 80 percent for the next few months. In February they plan to increase the number of flights to three a week. If this will indeed happen, we will see an airlift of gays to Tel Aviv," he said.

New Spielberg Film Archive Website


The Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive has announced the release of its new, updated English website. The Archive is one of the world's largest collections of Jewish documentary film footage, holding over 10,000 titles on film and video.

The vaults contain material shot in Israel before and after the establishment of the State in 1948, motion picture records of Jewish communities in the Diaspora before and after the Holocaust, and two special collections relating to the Holocaust.

In addition to its moving image holdings, the Archive maintains a documentation center containing print materials and still photographs relating to Jewish, Israeli and Yiddish film. More than 300 full films are available for free over the Internet.

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