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Amazon Drops Link to Messianic Haggadah

By has pulled a link that guided customers who were interested in buying a traditional Haggadah to also buy a copy published by Christians who call themselves Messianic Jews. The Haggadah tells the story of the Jewish people's suffering in Egypt and the Exodus. The web site advertises the orthodox Haggadah Shel Pesach (Passover Haggadah) published by the Artscroll company, but had added a link for the Messianic Haggadah, which promotes Christian beliefs that are contrary to Judaism.

Israel Says It Will Not Tolerate a Nuclear Iran

By Jim Teeple (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel's acting prime minister, Ehud Olmert, on Tuesday warned that Israel would not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran. Olmert also said he hoped to get Israeli-Palestinian peace talks back on track after Palestinian and Israeli elections take place.

In his first news conference since taking the reins of power following Ariel Sharon's stroke and cerebral hemorrhage, Olmert said that Israel regards Iran's nuclear program as its top priority. Israel's acting prime minister said Israel cannot allow what he described as "countries with hostile intentions" to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

Olmert said Israel, European Union and U.S. negotiators are in direct contact with each other, and are trying to find a solution. He said he promises Israelis that weapons of mass destruction will not be in the hands of countries that can threaten the world.

A team of Israeli security experts traveled to Russia on Tuesday in a bid to secure Russian backing for referring Iran's nuclear program to the U.N. Security Council.

Israeli officials said Iran is their greatest security threat. They cited recent comments by Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that have called for Israel's destruction, as proof of the danger that Iran poses to the region.

Iranian officials said their nuclear program is intended only for peaceful energy production. Last week Iran resumed nuclear research at three sites, sparking the latest crisis over its nuclear program.

Britain, Germany and France have said they plan to call for an emergency board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency to discuss Iran's recent work on uranium enrichment.

Olmert also said that he hopes to resume talks with Palestinians after both Israelis and Palestinians go to the polls over the next few weeks. Olmert and the centrist Kadima Party he heads are heavily favored to win Israeli elections on March 28.

Palestinians go to the polls on January 25 to vote in legislative elections. Olmert said he believes that he and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, could start final status negotiations towards a peace settlement once Israelis and Palestinians emerge from the polls.

Olmert said however that a condition to begin such talks would be for the Palestinian Authority to disarm terrorists in the Palestinian territories, as stipulated by the U.S - backed "road-map peace plan."

Under that plan, which was supposed to result in the establishment of a Palestinian state last year, Israelis are to halt settlement activity in the West Bank, and Palestinians are to disarm militants and end attacks against Israelis.

Avian Flu Scare Over, Arab Jerusalemite Tests Negative


A Jerusalem Arab who raises chickens was tested for the deadly avian flu strain, but was found to merely have a regular flu Tuesday, allaying national fears that the infection had come to Israel.

The man was brought to Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital after he developed flu symptoms, and many of his chickens began dying. Though preliminary tests gave negative results, the Agriculture Ministry is still testing the chickens from the man's home, in the capital's Sur Bahir neighborhood.

A cure for avian flu has not yet been developed. As of now, the flu can only be transferred from birds to humans, and not from one person to another - though such a mutation is feared by world health organizations.

Seventy-nine people worldwide have died of the flu, the strain of which is called H5N1, in the past year. On Monday, Turkey reported its fourth human death from the avian flu. The deaths in Turkey, a favorite destination of Israeli Arabs, as well as Jewish tourists, were the first human victims reported outside eastern Asia since the flu became a threat.

Ex-Refuseniks, Others Slam Supreme Court for Pollard Ruling


Angry and bitter reactions continue to be heard, against the Supreme Court's rejection of Jonathan Pollard's plea to be recognized as a Prisoner of Zion. "The Supreme Court continues to stoop before the nations of the world, abandoning loyal Israeli citizens who are at the mercy of hostile foreign legal systems," said Knesset member Gila Finkelstein (National Religious Party). "I am ashamed to be under the cold and cruel judicial network of the [Israeli] Supreme Court, from which justice and compassion have long been missing."

Finkelstein, and other public figures with similar reactions, were referring to Monday's Supreme Court ruling turning down Pollard's request to be recognized by Israel as a Prisoner of Zion.

Pollard's lawyer Nitsana Darshan-Leitner explained that his request had enumerated all the tortures he has undergone in U.S. prison: "His treatment in jail has included electric whips, gas sprays, ice-cold showers, and often, no ability to communicate with the outside world."

Speaking with Arutz-7, she explained that recognition as a Prisoner of Zion would have put an end to the above: "The U.S. relates to him now merely as a regular criminal, and not even as a political prisoner. This leads to all the restrictions and hardships and tortures. But if he was a Prisoner of Zion, the Israeli government would be required to monitor his treatment and would have more legal responsibility to ensure his safety."

Pollard has maintained that in his case, the U.S. is acting as an "enemy" and not as a "friend of Israel." Backing this up, Darshan-Leitner noted that Pollard's life sentence - for passing information to Israel, classified by the US as a friendly nation - is unprecedented in its severity. Persons convicted of actions similar to, or even more serious than, Pollard's generally serve only 4-7 years in prison, while Pollard is currently in his 21st year of a life sentence.

Regarding the Court's determination that Pollard's activities were not Zionistic, many public figures ridiculed this. Former P-o-Z Yosef Mendlevitch, who spent 11 years in Soviet prison for trying to hijack a plane to Israel, said, "I thank God that Israel's Supreme Court didn't deal with my release from prison, otherwise I would likely still be rotting in prison even now. Pollard carried out a Zionist activity of the first degree, whereas the Supreme Court perpetrated an anti-Zionist act perpetuating one of the moral injustices casting a stain over the entire country."

Film Depicting Human Side of Suicide Bombers Wins Golden Globe

By Scott Shiloh

A movie presenting the human side of two Moslem suicide bombers with a mission to kill innocent Jews in Tel Aviv won a Golden Globe award Monday night for best foreign language film.

The film, Paradise Now, depicts 48 hours in the lives of two young terrorists recruited to kill innocent Jews in Tel Aviv by blowing themselves up for the glory of Islam.

Paradise Now portrays what terrorists have to endure to prepare for a bombing: getting military haircuts, eating a last meal, videotaping their last words, and strapping their bodies with explosives. The film also presents the terrorists' emotional anguish brought on in part by lingering doubts about the reward promised to martyrs in the afterlife.

The main characters blame Israel's presence in Judea and Samaria and Shechem, the area's largest city, for their motivation to carry out the attack. Daniel Pipes, a commentator on Middle East affairs, called the movie "propagandistic," saying it "whitewashes Palestinian suicide bombing."

A film critic for the New York Times said the movie "risks offending viewers in the same way that humanizing Hitler does."

Though partially funded by the Israeli taxpayer via the government subsidized Israel Film Fund, the movie bears little sympathy for the Israeli victims the characters intend to kill.

A reviewer for said, "Israelis are depersonalized and utterly demonized. For most of the film we see Israelis only as soldiers: ominous, hard-eyed, helmeted, armed or in tanks. The film betrays no understanding that there is more than one side to this tragic story."

Not all reviewers criticized the film's one-sidedness. Entertainment Weekly praised the movie for "the dignity bestowed on a pair of Palestinian suicide bombers."

Hatred of Israel is also a dominant theme in the movie. As the action progresses, one of the characters decides not to carry out the attack. The other character, however, decides he must blow up Jews. His cites the "occupation" and the need to overcome his shame for having a father who was executed by Arabs for cooperating with Israel.

Winning a Golden Globe award puts Paradise Now in an excellent position to win an Oscar for Best Foreign Film when the Academy Awards are given out in March.

Christians are Leaving the Middle East

By Zlatica Hoke (VOA-Washington, D.C.)

The region where Christianity was born is rapidly losing its Christian population due to low birth rates and emigration. Some analysts warn about the negative consequences for the region.

If exodus of Christians from Bethlehem continues in the next two or three decades, there may be no clergy left to conduct religious services in Jesus' birthplace

There are between 12- and 15-million Christians in the Middle East, almost half of them living in Egypt. The exact figures are hard to establish because of the lack of official records and continued migration. Lebanon, with slightly more than one million Christians, has the highest ratio: about 30 percent of its population is Christian. Most other Middle Eastern countries are less then 10 percent Christian.

Demographers say the Christian population has declined noticeably in most Middle Eastern countries since the beginning of the 20th century. Fred Strickert, professor of religion at Wartburg College in Iowa, says Christians became a minority in the Middle East after the spread of Islam during the 7th century, but they continued to play an important role, until the decline of the Ottoman Empire.

"In 1908, there was an internal revolution. They called it the Young Turks' revolt. A new group of people came into power and many of them were very biased against the Christians," said Strickert. "They were attempting to draft them into the army and things like that. There was a mass migration from all places in the Middle East - Lebanon, Syria, and Jerusalem - and, by then, many of the Christians, partly because of Christian missionaries, had benefited from schools and hospitals, and sought better conditions in the West for economics. And so, there was a large migration at the very beginning of the 20th century."

Strickert said emigration of Christians continued in the second half of the 20th century, due to armed conflicts, economic hardship or persecution. He said many Christians emigrated to the West, because it has been relatively easy for them. Most of them are educated, and, therefore, employable, and they have enjoyed support from Christians in the West. Low birth rates are another important cause of the Christian population decline in the region, said Strickert. For example, he said Lebanon was more than half Christian in the 1920s and 1930s. Today, Christians account for less than one third of its population.

"In 1930, census was taken in Lebanon, and on the basis of that census, the government was arranged to have a certain percent of Christians, Sunni Muslims, Shi'ite Muslims, etc. and Christians had a significant number there. The Shi'ite Muslims, who were basically in the southern part of Lebanon, grew at a very rapid rate, simply because they had very high birth rate, while the Christians were dropping slowly."

Strickert said there also appears to be a decline in Christian populations in Armenian Christian service in Baghdad - thousands of Christians have left Iraq since the first Gulf War.

A 2003 Israeli study shows that about 12.000 Christians fled historically Christian Palestinian towns, such as Bethlehem, Beit Sahour and Beit Jala, since the Palestinian uprising began in 2000. Some Palestinians blame the Israeli government's security measures, such as building a security barrier between parts of Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Israelis say the number of Christians in Israel has not declined. There has actually been a slight increase, bringing the total number of Christians close to 120,000. "In Israel they [the Christians] have a small percentage of increase, that is 1.4 percent of increase per year, which is about the same as that of the Jews in Israel," says Daphne Tsimhoni, a professor of modern Middle East History at Technion, Israel's Institute of Technology.

Leon Hadar, a Middle East analyst and author of the book, Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East, says attitudes toward Christians in Israel may be changing. "There is an interesting development, in which some of the Russian immigrants who came to Israel, probably around 300,000-500,000 are not Jewish, said Hadar. "They are Christians. And it is quite possible that, if that community - we are not talking about an Arab-Christian community, but an Israeli Hebrew-speaking community - becomes integrated into Israeli society, Israel will become less and less of an exclusive Jewish state, and will become more open to integrating Christians into Israeli society."

Some observers say Christians in the Middle East have fared better under secular governments. Jonathan Adelman, professor of political science at the University of Denver, said the rise of fundamentalist Islam is a concern.

"When they hear that Sharia law needs to be introduced, which basically means that Christians cannot testify in court as equals, that they are inferior - this is something that is very hard for any minority in the world, does not matter if they are Christians or not - very hard to understand or to accept in the 21st century, which is about tolerance and is about modernity. That's why we've had millions of them get up and flee to other parts of the world, where they don't feel threatened."

Adelman and other analysts say the world should pay attention to the exodus of Christians from the Middle East, because many of those leaving belong to the educated middle class, and tend to be more open to the western democratic ideals

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