Israel in the News Nov/Dec 2001

Moslems may have damaged southern wall of Temple Mount
Engineers have found that sections of the southern wall of the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, are in “intermediate” danger of collapse, possibly due to the Moslem Wakf Authority’s significant construction work directly above, in the area called Solomon’s Stables.

To protect the site, a Republican congressman from Virginia has introduced a bill that will withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) if the excavation continues.

Israel’s Antiquities Authority conducted tests on the wall after sections surrounding the Temple Mount were clearly protruding.

The Wakf has been building and excavating illegally on the Mount for some time and pitching priceless Jewish artifacts, unearthed from underneath the Mount, into the trash. Amir Drori, head of the Antiquities Authority, said such unprecedented destruction has not been seen since the destruction of the Second Temple.

Calling the current activity “one of the most unprecedented attacks on religious heritage of our time,” U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor introduced legislation in July to withhold American aid from the PA “or its instrumentalities unless the [U.S.] President certifies that no excavation of the Temple Mount in Israel is being conducted.”

According to The Jerusalem Post, the United States has earmarked $125 million in PA-bound aid this year as part of a three-year, $400-million package appropriated by Congress in 2000, as well as an additional $75 million in indirect aid through the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The Post also reported that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon rejected a proposal to remove all heavy building tools, including a stone-cutting machine the Wakf used last year.

Israel gave the Wakf responsibility for the Temple Mount after the 1967 Six-Day War. The site housed Jewry’s first and second Temples and now houses Islam’s Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Wakf refuses to allow Jews to pray on the Mount.

In August the Israeli Supreme Court rejected another petition for Jewish people to visit the Temple Mount, Arutz7 reported. The court accepted the police position that granting permission would lead to “severe disturbances.” Justice Levine, however, said he is greatly troubled that the Mount is closed to Jews and fears it is the beginning of a “slippery slope” of capitulation to threats of violence, Arutz-7 reported. A

Kishon catastrophe may lead navy to train its men outside Israel
The Kishon River that God used to mire Sisera’s chariots in the mud in the days of Deborah and Barak has become such a cesspool that it is being blamed for the cancer of some 90 men from Israel’s elite Naval Commando Unit and may induce the navy to train outside Israel.

About 30 of the men have died. They were diagnosed with cancer after diving into the deadly, smelly Kishon, which receives sewage, pesticide runoff, toxic sludge, and industrial wastewater from some of the country’s biggest chemical plants. No fish have lived in the Kishon for at least 30 years.

The Jerusalem Post reported that local fishermen and naval divers are suing the Israeli government for compensation for cancers they say were caused by the toxic waste that flows freely there.

A government commission of inquiry, headed by former Supreme Court President Meir Shamgar, recently released the first chapter of its report in the ongoing investigation. It holds the Israeli navy responsible for the cleanliness of any waters into which it leads soldiers while they train.

The trouble apparently began in the 1940s under the British Mandate, when the British built the nearby seaport. “This has been Israel’s most heavily polluted area since the day the state was born, and the entire population of Haifa is affected,” the Post said.

Navy Commander Adm. Yedidya Ya’ari said he hopes to convince Shamgar to ease some of the restrictions on the navy or its operational abilities will be seriously hampered, at least temporarily. A possible solution would be to train the navy outside Israel’s territorial waters. Speaking to Israel Radio recently, Israel’s Defense Minister Benjamin BenEliezer said one possibility would be Turkey.

Israeli pilots are already training regularly in Turkish air space and using local air bases as part of an unofficial alliance between Ankara and Jerusalem. A

First Israeli astronaut to blast off in May
Ilan Roman will become Israel’s first astronaut when he blasts off in May 2002 on a U.S. space shuttle, U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Daniel S. Goldin has announced. Roman has trained extensively with NASA and has been assigned chief responsibility for eight payload projects, including an Israeli-conceived project on aerosols and dust, according to The Jerusalem Post. He also has been made deputy head for nine other projects. Roman’s backup is Yitzhak Mayo.

The Post reported that Roman’s mission had been postponed for about a year due to technical difficulties.

Goldin was in Israel in August and praised the Israel Space Agency for “some really world-class research.” A

Taxis to get devices that signal police in case of terrorists
Soon all taxi drivers in Israel will be able to alert police instantly if they suspect a passenger is a terrorist en route to committing a terrorist attack.

Minister of Transportation Ephraim Sneh has announced plans to outfit all of Israel’s approximately 15,000 licensed cabs with devices that will enable police to locate the vehicles immediately when signaled.

Sneh announced the plan after a Palestinian suicide bomber struck a café in Kiryat Motzkin, killing 20 Israelis. The bomber took a cab to the café. Although the taxi driver suspected the man was a suicide bomber, he was unable to alert the police.

The emergency button will send a tracing signal to police and security forces. The units cost $400 each plus an additional monthly maintenance fee of $3. A

Hezbollah builds town near village that’s half Israeli, half Lebanese
The terrorist organization Hezbollah is setting up a village on Israel’s northern border in Lebanon near a Muslim town that pleaded to be annexed to Israel following the Six-Day War in 1967.

Now Hezbollah’s yellow flag can be seen waving in the breeze near the tiny town of Ghajar, where residents are so upset they have arranged for a contractor to build a fence to surround the northern part of their village to prevent Hezbollah from penetrating it, Ha’aretz reported.

Lebanese citizens, the majority of whom appear to be Hezbollah activists, originally set up a tent at the site of the new village of Adisiya but now have started building permanent buildings, Ha’aretz said.

In 1982 Ghajar residents finally received blue identity cards saying they were Israelis. But after Israel withdrew from Lebanon more than a year ago, UN maps showed the border running right through the village.

Consequently, to comply with the UN, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) withdrew from the northern half of the town, erected an outpost in the heart of the village, and built a new fence around the southern, Israeli side, Ha’aretz reported. But the residents vehemently opposed the fence and said the situation made it easier for Hezbollah to penetrate the northern half of their tiny town. A

Immigration to Israel steady despite violence
Immigration to Israel from North America rose in July and August despite suicide bombings and violence that killed many Israelis and maimed hundreds more.

According to the Jewish Agency, 261 North Americans immigrated to Israel in July of this year compared to 258 in July 2000. During the first seven months of 2001, 881 immigrants came from North America, only 30 fewer than arrived during the same period last year.

From November 2000 through August, 41,224 new immigrants arrived. Of that number, 1,000 specifically chose to live in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza, the areas most plagued by Arab violence.

Akiva Werber, responsible for North American Aliyah on behalf of the Jewish Agency, said the new arrivals are “motivated by positive ideological considerations and strong attachment to Israel,” reported Arutz Sheva. A

Thousands participate in drive for freedom
THE JERUSALEM POST—Dozens of Israeli Arabs joined Jews recently in a motorcade demonstration from the North to Jerusalem to press world leaders to intensify efforts to secure the release of four Israelis being held by Hezbollah.

“This was not initiated by any official body, group or association but by ordinary people who felt they had to and wanted to do something to press for the release of the hostages,” said Gilboa Regional Council head Danny Atar, who was among the organizers.

He stressed that the Gilboa region was well known for the harmonious relations between Jews and Arabs, who compose 40 percent of the population in the region.

“These relations were put to the test during the riots last October [2000]. In the Gilboa region there were no disturbances and people continued their daily lives as usual,” said Atar.

The motorcade was composed of 16 full-trailer trucks plastered with huge photographs of the hostages and placards calling for their release, as well as five busloads of Jewish and Arab teenagers and more than 30 private cars. A

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