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Pope Condemns anti-Semitism

By Reuters

Pope Benedict, speaking Wednesday after some Jewish groups complained that his recent speech at the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp was not strong enough, explicitly condemned anti-Semitism. On Sunday he asked Sunday where God was when 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, died at former Nazi death camp. "Our silence becomes in turn a plea for forgiveness and reconciliation, a plea to the living God never to let this happen again." Wednesday, he told thousands gathered in St. Peter's Square that "In the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, as in other similar ones, Hitler ordered the extermination of more than six million Jews. "Today's humanity must not forget Auschwitz and the other 'factories of death' where the Nazi regime tried to eliminate God in order to take his place. Humanity must not give in to the temptation of racial hatred, which is at the origin of the worst forms of anti-Semitism."

Rockets Hit Near Israeli Defense Minister's Home

By VOA News and

Sderot resident Nana Engel said Wednesday morning that she was outside her house and watering the garden during the 6 a.m. Kassam attack of several rockets, one of which was directly over her head.

"I ran behind the house where I thought it landed, but neighbors told me it hit a house. It is amazing no one was hurt." She said that Sderot residents are awaiting the arrival of Defense Minister Amir Peretz, whose house is on the street parallel to the site of today's attack. Two residents of an apartment complex nearby went into shock and were evacuated to a nearby hospital.

House owner Motka Ashkenazi said, "I was home alone when the Kassam landed. The whole house shook, and much damage was caused. My kids were not home because they spent the night in Tel Aviv, and my wife had left early for work. There are many natural gas canisters outside, and if one of them had exploded, Heaven forbid, the results would have been tragic."

Ashkenazi noted that had the rocket not hit a large concrete supportive beam, the thrust of the blast would have causing much more damage.

Peretz visited the Sderot scene and warned that continued rocket attacks on Israel would be disastrous for Palestinians. He told residents Israel would find a way to prevent the attacks. Islamic Jihad has claimed responsibility for Wednesday's rocket attacks.

Two other Kassams exploded in yards of residential homes, causing damage to the structures. One of them took a chuck off the roof of a house before landing in the yard below. A fourth Kassam landed in an open area in Sderot's neighboring Kibbutz Or HaNer.

Elsewhere Wednesday, Jewish settlers south of Nablus in the West Bank pelted an Israeli police patrol with stones. Reports said the police were surrounded and fired into the air before withdrawing. Some settler groups are angry at the Israeli government for its plan to evacuate 24 Jewish outposts on the West Bank. The government says they are illegal.

Iran: Europe Risks Emerging as 'Big Loser' of Iranian Nuclear Standoff

By VOA News &

Iran's official news agency has dubbed the latest American proposal for negotiations on Iran's nuclear program, "propaganda."

The Iranian statement said that Iran can only accept proposals that were in its national interest. The proposal to stop enriching uranium "is not included in those interests," the statement read.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Europe would emerge as the "big loser" of the Iranian nuclear standoff for siding with the United States.

In an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, Ahmadinejad said European countries risk losing influence in the Middle East and are ruining their reputation elsewhere in the world. He said European officials know Iran's nuclear activities are peaceful.

PA Cartoon: Child Urinating on Statue of Liberty


A Palestinian Authority child is depicted urinating on the Statue of Liberty in the May 25th issue of Al-Risala, a Hamas weekly newspaper, reported the Palestinian Media Watch.

In the cartoon, the Statue of Liberty is holding a book entitled "Democracy," but according to PMW, PA media has consistently targeted the Statue of Liberty in the past.

The Statue of Liberty is an internationally-recognized American symbol of freedom and democracy. Such ideas are an anathema to the PA; at a rally in March 2006, the newspaper Al-Hayat Al Jadida accused the West of "trying to penetrate Islamic youth with dubious things such as the ideas of democracy."

Hamas is by no means the only PA party blasting the United States using caricatures, however. Newspapers linked to PA President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party have printed many such venomous cartoons.

Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Al-Quds and Al-Ayam newspapers have all pictured the Statue of Liberty as a terrorist, an arsonist burning down the world, a prostitute, and a prisoner of U.S. security agencies, among others.

Pollard Demands that Peres Testify


A three-judge Supreme Court panel will decide "at a later date" whether to respond favorably to Jonathan Pollard's request to summon former Prime Minister Shimon Peres to testify about the case.

Pollard, convicted in the U.S. for passing information to Israel, insists that Peres returned the papers that Pollard passed on - but only after receiving a promise from U.S. officials that the papers would not be used as evidence against him.

However, in the event, Pollard was convicted in a plea-bargain agreement and was sentenced to life in prison - with the above documents serving as the main body of evidence against him. Pollard is now serving his 21st year in prison.

Peres served at the time as Israel's Prime Minister. The suit claims that Peres and then Secretary of State George Schultz struck the above deal.

June 6 Focuses Attention on `666'

By Phillips Stevens, Jr., Ph.D. (University of Buffalo

The number 666 -- the "number of the beast," according to the Book of Revelation -- conjures devilish images for many, so forecasts of evil, even doom, are rampant regarding dates or places where the number occurs, including next Tuesday, June 6, or 6-6-06.

Fears of 666, long believed to be the dreaded mark of Satan, are based on a "widespread misinterpretation" of the chapter in Revelation -- appropriately, chapter 13 -- in which the number is discussed, according to a University at Buffalo expert on the origins, nature and meaning of cults, superstitions and cultural identities.

Phillips Stevens, Jr., Ph.D., associate professor of anthropology, explains that "like most superstitions, the avoidance of the numbers 13 and 666 are examples of magical thinking.

"People everywhere believe that things associated with other things, through actual contact or just some similarity, have causal relationships, even over space and time. Things associated with good events or great people can bring good fortune; things associated with failure, disastrous events or evil people carry some of that negativity with them."

And, like many superstitions, the one regarding 666 is based on incorrect data: the "beast" referred to in the chapter is not Satan, but, in fact, several other entities.

"Revelation is a complex and confusing book, and is rarely read closely by lay people. Biblical scholars have pointed out that there are several 'beasts,' in Chapter 13 and elsewhere, and they all refer variously to Rome, Roman emperors and Roman cults of god- and emperor-worship," Stevens says.

"Revelation" author, John of Patmos, traditionally believed to be St. John the Apostle, was writing to other persecuted Christians in code, according to Stevens, so "many of the strange elements in 'Revelation' signify events, people or institutions familiar to first-century Christians.

"The mark of the beast, 666, signifies those in thrall to the emperor and thus opposed to Christianity, and is most probably the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew letters for Nero," Stevens says.

The First and Second Letters of John use the term "Antichrist" to denote lapsed Christians. Over subsequent centuries, the legend developed that the "end times" would be foreshadowed by the arrival of the Antichrist, an evil figure commissioned by Satan to prepare the world for his coming.

"Many perceived enemies of Christianity have been labeled the Antichrist, and Nero was one of the first," Stevens says, adding that there is an ever-growing, ever-changing list of persons considered the Antichrist that features "a long string of mostly historical figures -- Saladin was on the list, as was Hitler, and Saddam Hussein. The list varies according to who compiles it. Early Reformation-era Protestants had some popes on their list."

Chapter 13 in Revelation declares that the Antichrist was empowered by Satan, who is described as a dragon.

"So, although 'the beast' is not Satan, in Christian tradition 'the mark of the beast' was authorized by Satan," Stevens says. "And so, like that other Christian superstition, Friday the 13th -- from the Last Supper, where there were 13 people at the table, and the Crucifixion occurred the next day, a Friday -- 666 has become a strong taboo, avoided because of its negative association."

Generations have shunned the number to the point that it is erased or changed if and when it appears Stevens notes. Authorities have re-numbered various U.S. highways previously numbered 666, and the town of Bel Air, Calif., changed the 666 street number of the house that President Ronald Reagan purchased upon leaving Washington, D.C.

Beyond mere superstition, many others believe conspiracy theories that have cropped up regarding the number 666, Stevens adds.

"They believe the sinister number 666 is encoded in our nation's banking system, in our medical and governmental records, and in our very identity, in personal documents and in UPC bar codes -- this latter is evidence of the fulfillment of Revelation prophecy," he says.

No surprise, then, that someone has found a way to make money off all these fears: coming soon is a remake of the 1976 horror film, "The Omen," the story of a modern-day birth of an Antichrist figure in the form of an evil boy named Damien (the original starred Gregory Peck and Lee Remick). Producers have scheduled the movie's release date for -- when else? -- next Tuesday, June 6, 2006.

Perhaps tickets should be sold for $6.66?

The Apprentice: Vote for Lee and Win $30,000 for Yourself


Real estate tycoon Donald Trump is set to announce Monday the winner of NBC's reality show The Apprentice, and the entire Jewish community is keeping its fingers "crossed" for Lee Bienstock, the American-Jewish finalist, who also holds an Israeli ID.

Bienstock is to compete in the final episode against Sean Yazbeck, a 33-year-old recruitment consultant of Lebanese origin.

At age 22, Bienstock is the youngest contestant ever to reach The Apprentice finals. He graduated from Cornell University with honors, where he received a B.S. in policy analysis and management.

While attending Cornell, he served as a teaching assistant for courses in entrepreneurship and management. Later He worked for Merrill Lynch, as a researcher of emerging markets.

But young Bienstock is much more than a brilliant businessman; he is also a "mensch." For example, he worked at a day treatment program for the mentally ill, volunteered at soup kitchens and taught fourth grade children in an inner-city school.

For their final exam, Bienstock and Yazbeck have each been required to lead a team that had to manage all business, creative, and logistical aspects of an enormous charity event. While Bienstock has been put in charge of managing the Pontiac/Celebrity Hockey Game at Chelsea Piers for the Leary Firefighters Foundation, Sean has been assigned to run the Pontiac/Barenaked Ladies concert at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City to benefit the World Wildlife Fund.

"Lee grew up in the states, but his mother is an Israeli from the Jerusalem area," his Israeli cousin Yossi Levy said in an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth. "Lee's grandparents live in Raanana and he visits Israel every year. He also speaks fluent Hebrew."

Levy added that Bienstock refused to take part in episodes that were broadcast on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. "Everybody at The Apprentice production knows he's Jewish," he said. "It was problematic but they decided to keep him in. Trump himself phoned Lee's parents, now I hope that he will choose him. After all, it's Trump's call."

Want to help Lee win and possibly win $30,000 for yourself? Vote at NBC's web site

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