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Chief Rabbi: Recite Psalms for Soldier's Release


In the wake of the ongoing captivity of Cpl. Gilad Shalit in the Palestinian Authority, Rishon LeZion and Israeli Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar have published a call for the recitation of sections from the Book of Psalms, with the prayer that the merit of the psalmist, the biblical David, will be invoked for the sake of Shalit's release. The chapters the rabbi recommends be recited are Psalms 70, 13, 142 and 126.

IDF Begins Incursion into Gaza, IAF Destroys Strategic Bridge


The IDF began a military incursion into Gaza late Tuesday night. Israel Air Force combat planes fired two missiles and scored a direct hit on a strategic bridge in central Gaza, destroying it.

Government officials authorized a "limited operation" aimed against "terrorist infrastructures", according to The Associated Press, who quoted a government official who asked to remain anonymous. IAF helicopters and planes circled overhead as IDF troops faced off against PA terrorists in the Shakaiyeh neighborhood of Gaza City. Terrorists warned civilians to leave the area.

Israeli troops have been massing at the border with Gaza since Sunday, when three Palestinian Authority terrorist organizations tunneled their way under the security fence and attacked an IDF outpost at the Kerem Shalom border crossing. Two IDF soldiers were killed in Sunday's attack, four more were injured and 19-year-old Cpl. Gilad Shalit was captured by enemy forces.

Tuesday night's operation was given the green light by government officials after it became clear that all diplomatic efforts to secure Shalit's release had failed. Defense Minister Amir Peretz warned earlier in the day at a ceremony at Latrun that "The clock is ticking regarding the soldier's return. The IDF is prepared and willing to act."

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told reporters prior to Peretz's remarks that Israel needed to be focused on the goal of bringing the hostage home. "We are ready for a long and assertive operation. We will fight terror and we won't negotiate with the kidnappers," he told a meeting of the Knesset.

The IAF air strike on the bridge was carried out in order to prevent the terrorists from taking Shalit over the span leading out of Gaza and across the border into Egyptian territory. The ultimate goal of the operation is to rescue Shalit. Egyptian officials said their government has deployed 2,500 extra troops along the border in order to prevent Palestinian Authority Arab citizens from pouring into Egypt.

Diplomatic efforts to negotiate the safe return of the soldier to Israel continued despite the escalation. Government officials worked together with diplomatic personnel from the international community to continue efforts to persuade the terror groups to let Shalit go.

The three organizations involved in planning and executing the operation were the Hamas' military wing, the Popular Resistance Committees and the Army of Islam, a new splinter group. All three are linked to Hamas, which was elected in January in a landslide vote by the PA population to lead their new government.

The IDF does not have solid information regarding the whereabouts of Shalit, an IDF spokesperson said. However, military intelligence is operating based on an assumption regarding a likely area for his captors to have taken Shalit - southern Gaza.

Arab sources in the PA said Tuesday that they had kidnapped another Israeli. Eliyahu Asheri, 18, of Itamar. Asheri is a student at the pre-military yeshiva academy in N'vei Tzuf, in the western Binyamin area. He was last seen Sunday when he left a friend's home in Beitar Illit on his way north. He was to have joined his yeshiva colleagues on a trip to the Golan Heights, but the head of the academy said that the teenager never arrived.

The Popular Resistance Committees terrorist group announced late Monday night that it had kidnapped a "settler." A spokesman for the PRC confirmed to Ynet Tuesday that a settler had been kidnapped, but said he would not "give out information for free." Hamas spokesmen threatened even more kidnappings, until all Arab prisoners in Israeli prisons are released.

Hamas Agrees to Document Implicitly Recognizing Israel

By Robert Berger (VOA-Jerusalem)

Rival Palestinian factions have agreed on a document implicitly recognizing Israel. Israel rejected the plan, which has been at the center of a Palestinian power struggle.

The ruling Islamic terrorist group Hamas and the rival Fatah faction have agreed to a document calling for a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. That implies recognition of Israel within the pre-1967 borders.

Palestinian President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas pressured Hamas to accept the plan in a bid to end international sanctions that have crippled the Palestinian Authority and economy. The United States and Europe cut off hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Hamas-led government because of its refusal to renounce violence and recognize Israel.

However, the document does not explicitly recognize the Jewish state and it calls for continuing attacks against Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank. Therefore, Israel says it is a non-starter. Government spokesman Ra'anan Gissin said once Hamas gets the state it wants in the West Bank and Gaza, it would wait for the opportunity to continue its holy war against Israel.

"Hamas is not offering any peace with Israel; it's offering a stay of execution. In other words, 'we'll give you 10 or 15 years of peace and quiet and then we'll destroy you when we're strong.' This is not a deal for us," Gissin said.

Palestinian analyst Bassam Eid believes the Palestinian agreement will not accomplish anything. "If it already rejected by the Israelis, also rejected by the U.S., unfortunately it's not going to be so helpful for the Palestinians, and it's not going, of course, to open any kind of peace process between the Palestinian Authority and Israel."

Palestinian officials described the agreement as a breakthrough. But Israel said that the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier by Hamas murderers two days ago rendered the document meaningless.

Iran's Jews Learn to Live with Ahmadinejad

By The Guardian

Maurice Motamed has one of the loneliest jobs in the Middle East. When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made his controversial Holocaust statements, the sole Jewish member in Iran's 290-member Majlis (parliament) felt he had no option but to confront him.

"When our president spoke about the Holocaust, I considered it my duty as a Jew to speak about this issue," Motamed said in his office in central Tehran. "The biggest disaster in human history is based on tens of thousands of films and documents. I said these remarks are a big insult to the whole Jewish society in Iran and the whole world."

Ahmadinejad, president of an overwhelmingly Muslim nation, has not apologized. But Motamed said the president had since qualified his statement by insisting that he had not denied the Holocaust and he was not an anti-Semite.

Motamed represents Iran's 25,000-strong Jewish community, the largest such group in the Middle East outside Israel. Since 1906, Iran's constitution has guaranteed the Jewish community one seat in the Majlis. The Armenian, Assyrian and Zoroastrian minorities together hold another four seats.

Although he took on Ahmadinejad over the Holocaust, Motamed supports the president on other issues, including the stand-off with the US, Europe and Israel over the country's nuclear program. "I am an Iranian first and a Jew second," he said.

He acknowledged there were problems with being a Jew in Iran, as there were for the country's other minorities. But he said that Iran was relatively tolerant. "There is no pressure on the synagogues, no problems of desecration. I think the problem in Europe is worse than here. There is a lot of anti-Semitism in other countries."

Most of his family, including his mother, father and sisters, left after the 1979 revolution that brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power, as did 75,000 other Jews, heading mainly for Israel, the US and Europe. But Motamed, 61, an engineer, opted to remain. "I love my homeland."

Jews have been living in Iran in large numbers since Cyrus the Great freed them from slavery when he captured Babylon in 539 BCE. Members of the Jewish community in Iran today, for the most part, keep a low profile and many Iranians are unaware of their presence. Motamed said there were about 14,000 Jews in Tehran, which has 20 active synagogues; 6,000-7,000 in Shiraz; 2,000 in Estafan and small groups scattered throughout the rest of the country.

He confirmed Jews and other minorities were all excluded from "sensitive" senior posts in the military and judiciary. And the authorities refuse to allow Jewish schools to close on the Sabbath, a normal working day for the rest of Iran.

But Motamed said there had been improvements in other areas. Legislation was introduced three years ago overturning a judicial practice of awarding more compensation to the families of Muslim accident victims than to those of Jews. And when he complained in the chamber about a TV soap opera regularly portraying rabbis as evil, he said the speaker of the Majlis expressed support for him.

Nasser Hadian-Jazy, associate professor of political science at Tehran University and a childhood friend of the president, said Ahmadinejad was keen to put the Holocaust row behind him.

"I asked him, 'Are you anti-Jew?' He said, 'I am not.' I said, 'Why not go to a synagogue to express regret for what Iranians have done to Jews?'… He said, 'I have another idea, a better idea.'

"He will do something to show he is not anti-Jewish. I hope he will do it soon. He will make a gesture to the Jews in Iran and that has implications for Jews elsewhere. What he will say is very important and will remove the idea that he is (an) anti-Semite."

Saeed Jalili, Iran's deputy foreign minister and another close friend of Ahmadinejad, said the Jewish seat in the Majlis "tells you that we have no problems with Judaism" but he added that he had not heard of any planned gesture by Ahmadinejad. "The Jewish community in this country is very fairly treated… Of course, a symbolic gesture is good and well, but we think that what we do is more than symbolic."

Study: Ashkenazim Feel Superior to Sephardim


According to a study presented during a recent Van Leer Jerusalem Institute conference, Ashkenazim consider their culture superior to that of the Sephardim.

Additional studies on the matter indicate that people of Ashkenaz origin tend to refer to themselves as "Ashkenazim," while Sephardim usually define themselves as "Israelis."

The number of Sephardim who deny their origin is larger than the number of Ashkenazim who are reluctant to admit to their European descent, the studies revealed.

The studies' findings also show that over the past five years more and more Israelis of European descent have stressed their Ashkenaz origin as a dominant factor of their identity.

Prof. Yehuda Shenhav of the Van Leer Institute says the past five years have seen a revival of the Ashkenaz culture, and more people are searching for their Ashkenaz roots. Shenhav said the revival is also expressed in the establishment of a new Ashkenaz movement in Israel.

15% of Israeli Teens Surf Internet Porn Sites


Fifteen percent of Israeli teenagers admit that they frequently visit pornographic websites, a Haifa University research project investigating teenager's reasons for surfing the Internet revealed.

Dr. Gustavo Mesch of Haifa University's Sociology and Anthropology Department said that teenagers who surfed pornographic websites tend to be more verbally and physically violent to their classmates.

The poll questioned 987 teenagers, 12-18 years of age, by having them fill out a survey regarding their surfing habits and the frequency of their visits to different types of sites.

According to Mesch, teenagers surfing the Internet in search of pornography constitute a smaller percentage than teenagers surfing the Internet for other reasons. Sixty-four percent of teenagers, for example, stated that they searched the web to communicate with others online; 66.4% said that they used the Internet to find research information on different topics; 77.3% used it to listen to or download music; and 26% used it to develop their computer skills.

Mesch stated that the study's findings prove that the public hysteria surrounding the dangers of Internet use is not necessarily legitimate.

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