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Finnish Jews Create Ice Menorah

By YnetNews.com

Some 350 people braved sub-freezing temperatures Monday next to a Helsinki ice skating rink to mark the second night of Chanukah. Those who gathered to celebrate included members of the local Jewish community and many guests. They attended a unique Chanukah party and candle lighting ceremony. The ceremony took place in view of a 5-foot ice menorah, sculpted by a local artist and featured in the middle of the skating rink.


Israeli Air Strikes Target Palestinian Terrorists' Lebanese Base

By Jim Teeple (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israeli aircraft Wednesday struck a base belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command, a small pro-Syrian Palestinian terrorist group based in Naameh, about five miles south of Beirut.

The strike followed a series of rocket attacks Tuesday night against the Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona and the nearby village of Shlomi. The area is a frequent target of rocket attacks from Lebanese territory.

A spokesman for the Palestinian group targeted in the strike denied his group's involvement in the rocket attacks. The Islamic militant group Hizbullah carries out most attacks against northern Israel, but a Hizbullah spokesman also denied involvement in the latest rocket attacks.

Israeli Army spokeswoman Avital Leibowich said the air strike is a message to Lebanese authorities. "We aim to send a message to the Lebanese government saying that any type of terror activity occurring from its soil should be taken as the Lebanese statehood responsibility. Lebanon today has unfortunately become a hub for terrorist organizations. This is a situation we cannot live with."

The Israeli air strike was the deepest in Lebanon since 2004. Lebovich said IDF officials are continuing to monitor the situation.


IDF Shells Northern Gaza as it Imposes Buffer Zone

By Ha'aretz

The Israel Defense Forces began shelling targets in the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday evening, as it moved to enforce a buffer zone to prevent rocket strikes on southern Israel.

Palestinian security sources said an IDF shell apparently aimed at a Palestinian rocket crew in the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday narrowly missed a car, whose occupants escaped unharmed.

Witnesses had earlier reported that a missile, fired from an Israeli aircraft, targeted the car. But the security sources said further investigation showed the target was in fact a rocket crew nearby, all of whose members were also unscathed. An IDF spokeswoman said there had been no air force activity over northern Gaza at the time.

Israel declared the area off-limits earlier on Wednesday, in what the army called a bid to stem cross-border rocket salvoes. Israeli artillery has since fired at least 12 shells in response to continued rocket launches.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas condemned the move, saying it was tantamount to re-occupying land Israel gave up in September when troops quit Gaza after 38 years of military occupation. "Israel has left the Gaza Strip and has no right to come back," Abbas told reporters in Gaza. "They should not make any pretext."

"We are definitely stepping up the level in our response," said IDF spokeswoman Maj. Avital Leibowich. "We can't allow the situation to carry on like this. We can't endanger the lives of our people."

"These military steps and warnings are meant to keep Palestinian rockets from raining down on Israeli communities, and to enable Israelis to sleep safely and soundly at night," David Baker, an official in the Prime Minister's Office, told Ha'aretz.

"Israel will not tolerate a situation where Palestinians fire rockets and terrorize Israeli civilians at will. We have the means and the determination to prevent these attacks and we are now employing these means," Baker added.

Earlier, the IDF launched the first stage of its plans for a no-go zone, with IAF aircraft dropping leaflets telling Gazans to clear the area by 6 p.m. The leaflets called on residents to leave the area where the former settlements of Nissanit, Elei Sinai and Dugit today lie in ruins. Gunners from Islamic Jihad and other groups have used the sites to launch rockets against southern Israel. The pamphlets warned that anyone spotted in the area after 6 p.m. would come under fire.

At the same time, IDF commanders handed Palestinian Authority security officials maps delineating the zones prohibited for Palestinian entry. This zone will be marked out by a fence, which runs one .6 mile south to the evacuated settlements. The new restrictions will remain in force until further notice, the IDF said.

The buffer zone is one of a series of measures adopted by the government to prevent Kassam fire to the area south of the city of Ashkelon. Palestinian terrorists, mainly from the Jihad, have fired dozens of salvos of Kassams since Israel withdrew its last soldiers from the Gaza Strip.

In recent weeks, the homemade rockets hit several strategic facilities in the south of the country, including an Ashkelon power plant. Earlier this week, three soldiers were lightly injured when a Kassam hit an army base north of the Gaza Strip.


Israel Immigration Marks First Jump Since Uprising

By Reuters

Immigration to Israel rose in 2005 for the first time since the start of a five-year-old Palestinian uprising, the Jewish Agency that encourages new immigrants said on Wednesday.

Immigration, "aliyah" in Hebrew, has long been a policy priority for Israeli governments that want to keep a big Jewish majority in a country where Arabs make up a fifth of the population and have a higher birth rate.

The numbers of Jews wanting to move to Israel plunged after the start of the Palestinian uprising brought bloodshed to the streets and helped drive the economy into recession.

But attacks in Israel had begun to decline even before a truce was agreed in February, while economic reforms had helped return the economy to strong growth. "We believe that the improvement in the security and economic situation will increase the feeling of security and ... aliyah will be on the rise in 2006 as well," said Zeev Bielski, chairman of the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency.

The agency welcomed a planeload of 220 U.S. and Canadians immigrants arriving at the Ben-Gurion International Airport on Wednesday. Israel Faxx editor Don Canaan's son, Golan, was among those Americans that arrived on the chartered flight.

About 23,000 people immigrated in 2005, up from a 15-year low of 21,000 in 2004 and compared to 61,000 in 2000. No figures for emigration were immediately available (see next story).

It is not only the situation in the Middle East that has made it harder to encourage immigration. Fewer Jews than before are fleeing persecution, war and poverty abroad. Groups trying to encourage immigration have turned to North America. The United States alone has more Jews than in Israel. Canada also has a large Jewish population.

"Most aliyah until now was people running away from something -- Russians from Communism, Ethiopians from hunger," said Tony Gelbart of the Nefesh B'Nefesh (Soul to Soul) group. "Aliyah from North America is by choice," he said.

Since its inception in 2001, Nefesh B'Nefesh, an organization dedicated to the revitalization of North American Aliyah, working closely with the Jewish Agency, has brought more than 7,000 new immigrants to Israel. Today's flight will bring this year's total to more than 3,100.

A total of 3,052 North Americans immigrated in 2005 -- the highest number since 1983. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stated goal is to bring 1 million North American immigrants over the next decade.

But it has been difficult to convince U.S. and Canadian Jews to leave high-paying jobs for Israel, which has far lower wages, higher taxes and an unemployment rate of close to 9 percent, despite some financial incentives.

"It might be easier financially to live in America but it's more difficult to live there as a fulfilled Jew," said Josh Coder, 31, an accountant from Indianapolis who arrived in Israel on Wednesday with his wife, Jackie, and three children. He decided to emigrate after losing his job.

Possibly in celebration of the rise in Aliyah, the Aliyah organization Kumah has released a short provocative film via the Internet. Viewable at www.AliyahRevolution.com, the animated film draws upon the allegory constructed by the popular Matrix trilogy, and calls upon the individual Jew living outside Israel to reach a heightened awareness of his/her role in Jewish destiny at this time.


Medical Red Tape May Force New Immigrant Family Back to U.S.

By Ha'aretz

The Glaizer family moved from New Jersey to Modi'in four months ago and is already familiar with Israeli bureaucracy. The parents, Jerry and Ilana, don't understand why they have to pay NIS 2,700 (about $580) a month for medication for one of their three children, who suffers from development problems, when they got it for free in the United States.

"They tell us this medication is not included in the health basket," said Jerry, 37, in good Hebrew. "We spoke with the Health Ministry and the HMO [health maintenance organization] many times, but they tell us all the time that the child doesn't meet the criterion."

It's only a short time since the family arrived, but Jerry sounds disappointed - and is even considering packing the family's bags, yet again.

"It's not fair," he said. "All the doctors we spoke to don't speak to us about my son's need for the medication, but about whether or not he meets a specific criterion. For us it's a second mortgage, to pay that much money every month. Meanwhile, we want to stay here, but if they don't help us and we only lose money because of aliyah [immigration], it won't be possible from our perspective to continue to be here. I have a place to go in the United States. I can go back to the job I had. I'll just need to buy a house there."

The family decided to immigrate to Israel because "we wanted to live in a Jewish environment," said Jerry. "Life in the United States was among the Christians. Not that that's so terrible, but it's not a Jewish lifestyle. It's primarily felt during the Jewish holiday periods. Most of the events at my workplace took place before Christian holidays."

The Glaizers have met other North American immigrants in their new neighborhood, which has made their absorption easier. "There's a good atmosphere, the children are content, and it's very nice for us to celebrate Shabbat and the holidays here," said Jerry. "Except for a few problems."



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