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Monday, Aug 10 '09, Av 20, 5769
Today`s Email Stories:
Carter to Return to Gaza
US Army vs. Anti-Semitism
Remains from King Hezekiah's Age
Putting Swine Flu in Perspective
Muslim Baby Boom Intifada
Jewish-Roots Arabs in Israel
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Coins to Commemorate Rabin
30 Years Later – a Bar Mitzvah
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1. IDF Attacks Smuggling Tunnel Following Mortar, Rocket Attacks
by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu IDF Bombs Smuggling Tunnel

The Israeli Air Force bombed a Gaza smuggling tunnel in the pre-dawn hours Monday, several months after the U.S. and Europe promised to prevent Hamas from smuggling weapons. The operation was carried out in retaliation for three mortar attacks and one rocket attack in the Western Negev on Sunday.

Two mortar rounds landed near an ambulance carrying Gaza Arabs to an Israeli hospital, a practice that Hamas often tries to prevent.

The targeted tunnel was located under the city of Rafiah, which straddles the border dividing Gaza and Egypt. Foreign media described the Israeli counterterrorist maneuver as being carried out by “warplanes.” No injuries were reported.

A sharp escalation in attacks on major Israeli cities last November and December led to the three-week Operation Cast Lead counterterrorist campaign. The Olmert government agreed to end the retaliation after the U.S. signed an agreement to place monitors and personnel to prevent smuggling of weapons through tunnels from Egypt to Gaza.

More than 200 rockets and mortars have been fired on Israel since the end of Cast Lead, military spokesmen said.

Military intelligence and Israeli security officials told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee this week that Hamas is using the tunnels to smuggle into Gaza improved Kassam rockets that can reach metropolitan Tel Aviv. Hamas reportedly has carried out at least two tests of the rockets, which were fired towards the Mediterranean Sea.

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2. Bible-Thumping Carter to Return to Gaza
by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu Carter to Return to Gaza

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter told a Baptist Convention he will return to Gaza this month "to try to let the world know what's happening to the people there." Carter previously has labeled as an “atrocity” Israel’s sanctions on Gaza in response to rocket fire on Israel.

In his Middle East tour two months ago, Carter spoke at Cairo University and accused Israel of “starving to death” Gaza residents. The former president said at a U.N. school graduation ceremony in Gaza City that "the citizens of Palestine are treated more like animals than like human beings."

The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) criticized media for repeating Carter's comments without any attributions to an Israeli response or reference to Hamas as a terrorist organization, which has attacked Israeli civilians with more than 10,000 mortar shells and rockets over the past several years.

While criticizing Israel, Carter said that Christians have succeeded in promoting values of “peace, justice, humility, service, compassion, forgiveness, love and the alleviation of suffering."

He will travel to Gaza before the end of August, as part of a delegation of “Elders” and will be accompanied by a panel of world leaders assembled by Nelson Mandela. The group also plans to visit Judea and Samaria, where Israel has built a separation fence to prevent suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks. Carter has adopted the anti-Israeli description of the barriers as the “Apartheid Wall,” and he published in 2007 the book “Palestine Peace Not Apartheid,” which roundly criticizes Israel for Arab violence.

During his last trip to Israel, he surprised followers during a visit to the Gush Etzion community of Neve Daniel by stating that he cannot envision Israel expelling its residents and turning over the town to the Palestinian Authority, as it demands.

However, Carter previously has angered the U.S. government by trying to warm relations with Hamas, which the American government has outlawed as an illegal terrorist organization.

"[ won't have more to say about this,” an American official said two months ago after being asked about reports that Carter will propose to U.S. President Barack Obama that the United States take Hamas off the list of illegal terrorist organizations.

The White House was livid with Carter, according to an experienced Middle East expert who was quoted on the website of the widely respected Foreign Policy magazine. "Just like with President Clinton, Carter is becoming a huge problem and a growing concern for Obama,” he said.

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3. US Army Turns Tables on Anti-Semitism, Offers Kosher Food, Rabbi
by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu US Army vs. Anti-Semitism

The U.S. Army has retaliated for an anti-Semitic attack on a Jewish soldier last year and now offers kosher food for Jews, who also have been given access to a rabbi-chaplain at the Fort Benning, Georgia training base.

Col. Scott Davis, head chaplain at the base, said that the improvements in religious observance for Jews is a direct result of the attack, in which 20-year-old Private Michael Handman suffered a concussion following a beating from other trainees. Several days before the attacks, Handman’s parents had complained to the army about religious discrimination against their son.

Handman had been ordered by a drill sergeant to remove his kippa while eating in the army dining hall, and another sergeant called him “Judean,” German for “Jew.”

“We took a close look at ourselves and saw where we could make some improvements,” Davis told the Associated Press. “I wouldn’t say we’re totally there yet. But I would say we’re definitely moving forward.”

The army also is giving classroom lessons to drill sergeants on religious tolerance. The Fort Banning base also is inaugurating religious services on the eve of the Sabbath and on Jewish holidays instead of sending the soldiers by bus to a nearby civilian synagogue. Jewish law forbids riding on the Sabbath or holidays, except in situations when life is threatened, such as in war.

The base, where 25,000 soldiers train every year, now offers a full-time Jewish rabbi-chaplain, as it used to have two years ago. Approximately 20 Jewish soldiers in every training period are at the base.

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4. Remains from Period of King Hezekiah Discovered
by Hillel Fendel Remains from King Hezekiah's Age

The most recent dramatic archaeological find in Israel is that of a luxurious administrative center from the period of King Hezekiah, over 2,700 years ago. The center was discovered in Kibbutz Ramat Rachel, just south of Jerusalem

Over 100 students and volunteers from Israel and abroad are taking part in the dig, which is a joint project of Tel Aviv University’s Archaeological Institute and Heidelberg University in Germany.

Among the volunteers and students are 35 Germans, 30 Americans, 20 Israelis, and others from Australia, Italy, Greece, Spain, England, and elsewhere. The volunteers are in Israel on a month-long program in which they also learn Jewish history, take part in Bible research, are treated to educational hikes in Jerusalem and around the country, and more.

Prominent among the findings unearthed at the site are a tremendous amount of imprinted pitcher handles. Researchers assume that jugs of oil and wine, as well as other agricultural produce, were amassed here as taxes to be given to foreign rulers.

The dig is supported by various private donors, as well as the Jewish National Fund, the National Tourism Company and Kibbutz Ramat Rachel.

The administrative center at what is now Ramat Rachel included a complex of palace buildings that was active from the reign of King Menashe through that of King Zedekiah, at the end of the First Temple period, and for at least 200 years after the return to Zion and through the Hellenistic period. During the Hasmonean period, however, the site was razed to the ground – and atop it was built a Jewish village, from which remain many ritual baths situated in private homes, caves used for raising pigeons, and more.

The Jewish village lasted until at least the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in the year 68, when the Romans took it over. A church was built there under the Byzantines, but the site was later to remain desolate for nearly 1,000 years – until the construction of Kibbutz Ramat Rachel by modern-day Zionist Jews.

The Israel Antiquities Authorities estimates that there are one million archaeological artifacts on display in Israel at present.

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5. Israeli Doctor: 'More Die from Routine Flu Than H1N1 Virus'
by Hana Levi Julian Putting Swine Flu in Perspective

Although the swine flu has become a global pandemic, infecting hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, an Israeli doctor says it’s time put it in perspective.

Dr. Yuval Rabinovich, medical director of the Leumit health clinic in Arad, told Israel National News Monday that the swine flu is relatively mild, as influenza viruses go. “More people die each year in Israel from routine influenza than have died from the H1N1 virus,” he said.

In fact, literally hundreds die in Israel each year from “regular” flu, Dr. Rabinovich said, but it is rarely reported. The Ministry of Health statistics on flu-related deaths are only available in tandem with deaths from pneumonia, a complication of the virus.

Dr. Rabinovich estimates that at least 20,000 people have been infected with the H1N1 virus since the first outbreak was detected in April. Although the Health Ministry has reported 2,000 cases of diagnosed H1N1 virus, he said, there really are at least ten times as many people out there who are infected, if not more.

“We’ve stopped testing for it,” he noted, “except in hospital situations. Any flu in Israel is swine flu at present. We don’t change the treatment.”

Dr. Rabinovich, who teaches History of Medicine at Ben Gurion University’s medical school, treats a variety of populations in Leumit’s clinics in southern Israel, including the Bedouin city of Rahat and the town of Kuseifa.

Another area of concern is the rapidity with which it has spread and the risk of mutation. “The flu mutates all the time,” Dr. Rabinovich pointed out. “A new vaccine is produced every year to contend with it.”  The main concern with swine flu, he said, is the fact that it affects primarily young people. “Those older than 40 probably ran into it a few decades ago,” he noted. “In this sense, it reminds us of the 1918 Spanish flu.”

Dr. Rabinovich hastened to add that the swine flu was not similar in any other way to the 1918 strain of influenza, which killed some 50,000 people worldwide. “I believe it ended World War I,” he says. “Certainly more American soldiers died of the flu in the winter of 1918 than were killed in fighting the war.”

At present, only five people have died of swine flu in Israel, and of those, only two were actually healthy, without any pre-existing chronic illnesses to complicate the medical picture.

Sixteen people are currently listed in critical condition and hospitalized in the Intensive Care Units in medical centers around the country.

“Every flu is a serious disease,” Rabinovich said. “But the swine flu is pretty mild.”

According to Dun and Bradstreet, economic damage. totaling billions of shekels to the Jewish State. could be much higher than the nation’s death toll. The financial rating agency estimated Monday that the spread of swine flu by year’s end could lead to a 4-5% drop in GDP, amounting to 28-35 billion shekels ($7-8.75 billion). The direct damage this coming winter alone is estimated to be some 3 million shekels ($750,000).  The entertainment, tourist and restaurant industry is expected to be hardest hit.

However, D&B also estimated there will be those who benefit as well – takeout companies, for example, and video rental agencies, as well as pharmaceutical firms that produce vaccines against the virus.

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6. Baby Boom Intifada: European Muslim Population Time Bomb
by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu Muslim Baby Boom Intifada

A high birth rate among Muslim immigrants to Europe will make followers of the religion a majority of the population in many European Union countries in less than 40 years, according to demographers.

Previous forecasts of population changes already have proven to be too low, and the baby boom already is changing the face of European society, where Muslims have made inroads to challenge the authority of secular law with Sharia regulations.

Europe’s Muslim population has more than doubled since 1980 and will double again in less than six years, according to the London Daily Telegraph. It noted that Arab names, such as Mohammed, dominate almost all of the seven most popular names of boys born in Brussels.

The high population numbers are the result of Europe’s open immigration policies that have attracted Muslims from poorer countries and whose birth rate is far higher than those of European non-Muslims. The mass influx has reversed the outflow of residents in EU countries, where previous estimates of a population loss of 16 million by 2050 have been replaced with forecasts of an increase of several million.

However, previous estimates have proven to be “nonsense,” the Telegraph reported, noting that an EU report reveals that its population has increased by nearly two million people every year since 2002.

The number of Muslims in Europe today is far above 15 million and may be as many as 25 million. In some cities, such as Birmingham England, whites are expected to be a minority in less than two decades, and Muslims may become a majority in France by 2050.

Long-term effects of the growing Muslim population may be felt in foreign relations, particularly with the United States, but immediate changes have been implemented in areas concerning Islamic law, known as Sharia.

Last year, the British government quietly allowed Muslim religion courts to rule on Muslim civil cases concerning divorces, financial disputes and domestic violence, creating fears that Muslims will establish a legal system parallel and with equal authority as the British legal system.

Muslim clerics responded that Jewish courts also are allowed to operate. Inayat Bunglawala, assistant secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said, “If the Jewish courts are allowed to flourish, so must the Sharia ones.”

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7. Arabs of Jewish Descent in Israel
by Hillel Fendel Jewish-Roots Arabs in Israel

Up to 85 percent of Arabs in greater Israel stem from Jewish ancestors, it is estimated. Some of them want to become fully Jewish, but most are scared to even talk about it.

“In our search for the lost Ten Tribes in India and Afghanistan, we seem to have forgotten to look for their descendants in our very own backyard.” So says the narrator in a new film about the efforts of a former hi-tech pioneer named Tzvi MiSinai to search out the Jewish roots of Israel's Arab enemies – and to inform them of their Judaic heritage.

[weJe Email readers please click here to see the video footage.

MiSinai has spent about a half-million shekels, he estimates, on these efforts. They include visiting dangerous places deep inside Palestinian Authority-controlled territory, hearing the stories of Arabs who remember observing Jewish customs, and distributing literature to Jews and Arabs alike.

One Arab says his father told him the secret of his family’s Jewishness on his deathbed, while another one, on the backdrop of a photo of the saintly Cabalistic sage Rabbi Abuchatzeira on his wall, says their roots have been known in his family for generations. Wrapping what apparently used to be kosher tefillin on his arm, he says, “My father used to do this, and he taught us to do it whenever someone was sick or in trouble.”

The Jews Who Didn't Leave

It is generally accepted that most Jews left the Land of Israel after the failed Bar Kokhba revolt in 135 CE. Yet many remained, and of these, many are still here, after having been forced to convert to Islam. “It turns out that a large part of the Arabs of the Land of Israel are actually descendants of forced converts to Islam over the years,” says Rabbi Dov Stein of the nascent Sanhedrin rabbinical council. “There are some studies that say that 85 percent of the Arabs in Israel are descended from Jews; others say there are fewer.”

Ben-Gurion Agrees

The claims are not new. Early Zionist leaders David Ben-Gurion and Yitzchak Ben-Tzvi wrote in a book 100 years ago: “If we investigate the origins of the Felahim, there is no doubt that much Jewish blood runs in their veins.” The authors implied that these Jews loved the Land so much that they were willing to give up their religion. The reference is probably to an edict in the year 1012 by Caliph el-Hakim, who ordered the non-Muslims to either convert or leave the Land of Israel. It is estimated that 90 percent of the Jews chose the former, though many continued to practice Judaism in secret. The decree was revoked 32 years later - apparently too late for about 75 percent of the converts.

Tzvi MiSinai continues to convince Arabs in Judea and Samaria that they are likely Jewish. The film shows him passing through the Gush Etzion checkpoint and distributing  pamphlets both to Israeli soldiers – “so that you’ll know who you’re checking here” – and to the Arabs waiting there – “so that you’ll know who the majority of you are.” Asked by an Arab if he is from the peace movement, MiSinai answers, “Yes, yes, peace, so that we can live together as one nation.”

The Sawarka Bedouin Jews

One place where MiSinai has apparently found very strong Jewish roots is in the Bedouin tribe known as the Sawarka. There are about 3-4,000 of them throughout the Sinai and the Negev, and they “are all Jewish,” says a tribal leader in perfect Hebrew. With his face camouflaged for the cameras, the Bedouin says, “They had no choice but to convert; this was centuries ago… I remember my mother and grandmother wouldn’t light fire on Sabbath, and they had a special mikveh…”

Others, in a Bedouin village east of Hebron, also remember burning a small piece of dough (reminiscent of the Biblical command to separate a small piece of dough when baking bread), lighting candles at graves, and tearing clothes and sitting shiva for seven days, and not three as is Muslim practice.

Even today, ritual circumcisions are carried out after the seventh day of birth.  Many homes in some of the Arab villages have doorpost indentations for a Mezuzah, with a scroll placed in some of them.

In another village just south of Hevron, Muhammed Amsalem – a descendant of Spanish Jews - told Aharon Granot of Mishpacha magazine that everyone in town knows he and his clan are Jews: “Our elders tell us that our forefathers came to this land during the [15th centur Spanish Inquisition, via Morocco. They settled in Ramle. Then the Mamluks forced them to convert to Islam, and they moved to the South Hevron area.”

Amsalem says they decided to reveal their Jewish roots after the 1967 Six Day War when they learned that a Jewish community had been reestablished in Hevron. “But the Jews saw we had no knowledge of their religious practices and refused to accept us… If the Jewish community would be willing to receive us today, we would join them with great enthusiasm.”

In the area of the South Hevron Hills, half of the Arabs are aware of the Jewish origins. They used to talk about it openly, though no longer. One man who recently publicized a silver Chanukah menorah that had been passed down to him from his father and previous generations was hung by terrorists by his feet for six weeks, leaving him with permanent injuries.

Genetic Studies Back Claims

At the Hadassah Medical School labs, Prof. Ariela Oppenheim of Hebrew University performed an international genetic study that backs up conclusions of Jewish-Arab genetic similarities. “We found that despite the dispersion of Jews around the world for 2,000 years, they essentially kept their Jewish continuity,” Oppenheim said. “In addition, we found that the Jewish population is surprisingly close, genetically, to the Arabs living here in Israel.”

She said that the study shows that both the Arabs of Israel and the Jews are descended from the Kurds of Aram in Babylon – the birthplace of the Patriarch Abraham. 

“It’s clear that we’re all from the same family,” Oppenheim concludes. “Most unfortunately, however, there are conflicts even within families, and sometimes brothers fight as well. I wish this is what will bring the Redemption, but I’m very sad to say that I don’t think so.”

Some Want to Return to Observant Judaism

South of Hevron, in Yatta, there is a large formerly-Jewish presence – and some even want to return to active Judaism. It is widely known there that half the residents are of the originally-Jewish Mahamra clan – a name that means “winemaker,” a trade that is forbidden according to Islam. “The people in these areas converted to Islam later in history,” MiSinai says, “and therefore more customs and knowledge and artifacts have been preserved.” These include Jewish stars over the entrances to homes, while in at least one house, the family has hidden a mezuzah and tefillin in creative hiding spots. One man pulled out a small Hebrew booklet of Psalms and Tanya with which he says he continues to secretly pray.

Miro Cohen, a Jew from Tekoa, in eastern Gush Etzion, is very friendly with the Arabs in a nearby village known as Kawazbe – a name that he and they agree is merely a corruption of Kuzeiba, the original name of the famous Bar Kokhba.

“These people are the descendants of Bar Kokhba,” Cohen declares. One Arab sitting with him can count his ancestors eight generations back, ending with a grandfather named Kawazbeh.  Another village elder says openly that his grandfather was  a Jew who converted to Islam. Some of the residents want to return to Judaism; they don’t call it converting, because they are “already Jewish.”  On the other hand, Arabs with the name Kawazbeh have been arrested for terrorist activity against Israel.

Other areas where Arabs of Jewish descent reside are Kfar Anzah in Samaria, Samoa in southern Judea, villages in the Tel Arad area, and more. Rabbi Stein says, “We know that up to about 200 years ago, the Galilee village of Sakhnin was a Jewish town, with an active synagogue. The Turks pressured them to convert to Islam, but the people there know that they are of Jewish origins.”

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