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Sunday, Jul. 08 ’12, Tammuz 18, 5772
1. ‘DELAYED’ FAST DAY BEGINS ‘THREE WEEKS OF MOURNING’
2. ABBAS ACCEPTS INVITATION TO VISIT IRAN 3. 36 YEARS LATER, ENTEBBE PILOT REVEALS PLANE BARELY TOOK OFF 4. UTJ CHAIRMAN LITZMAN SKIPS CABINET OVER DRAFT LAW 5. US DECLARES AFGHANISTAN MAJOR NON-NATO ALLY 6. NETANYAHU AND MOFAZ AGREE ON DRAFT LAW PROGRESS – FOR NOW 7. ARCHAEOLOGISTS UNCOVER GOLD TREASURE NEAR HERZLIYA 8. APPEAL TO COURT TO STOP TEMPLE MOUNT DESECRATION
1. ‘DELAYED’ FAST DAY BEGINS ‘THREE WEEKS OF MOURNING’
by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
The Fast of the 17th of Tammuz on Sunday marks the beginning of the three weeks of mourning over the siege on Jerusalem and destruction of the Holy Temples. The fast day was delayed one day because it is forbidden to fast on the Sabbath, except on Yom Kippur.
The three weeks end on the Ninth of Av, the day the First and Second Temples were destroyed. Some authorities date the destruction of the first Temple as 586 B.C.E, which is also the date on which Moses, having descended from Mount Sinai for the first time, saw the people celebrating the Golden Calf, broke the first set of Ten Commandments.
In addition, the priests of the First Temple era were forced on this day, a year before the Temple’s destruction, to stop offering the daily sacrifice due to the shortage of sheep.
The Talmud also teaches that the evil King Menasheh had an idol placed in the Temple’s Holy Sanctuary on Tammuz 17. Later, during Second Temple times, a Roman general placed an idol in the same place and publicly burned the Torah.
The fast begins before sunrise and ends after the evening prayers, around 8:10 p.m. in Israel, depending on one”s location.
During the next three weeks, it is prohibited to hold weddings, parties or have haircuts, listen to music or wear new clothes. Mourning customs are more stringent from the beginning of the month of Av, when shaving is also prohibited, as is the consumption of wine and meat, except on the Sabbath or at Brit Mila.
Torah sages teach that the purpose of maintaining customs of mourning is not to remember the hardships suffered in the past but, as the Maimonides (Rambam) explains, to “awaken [our] hearts and clear the paths to repentance.”
2. ABBAS ACCEPTS INVITATION TO VISIT IRAN by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said in Jordan Sunday he is accepting an invitation by Iran to visit the Islamic Republic for the Non-Aligned Summit in August. Iran is to suceed Egypt as the rotating president of the Non-Alligned Movement.
Egypt”s newly-elected Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi also is expected to attend as Cairo renew ties with Iran.
Iran”s deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian issued the invitation from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Jordan, where he met with Abbas.
Israel has a worried eye over the Iranian-Hizbullah-Syrian axis, which was even a stronger threat with the presence of Turkey until Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan”s recent turnabout against Syrian President Bashar Assad.
A visit by Abbas to Iran will not down well with the United States, but the Palestinian Authority already has discarded the Obama administration for opposing its moves to win United Nations recognition as a country without negotiating with Israel.
However, Abbas may be risking his support from his European Union benefactors by flirting with Iran, which finances and arms Hamas. De facto Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh visited Iran last February.
Iran is under increasing heavily sanctions for not cooperating with Western powers” insistence that he open nuclear sites for United Nations inspectors. Iran is assumed to be hiding development towards acquiring the capability to produce and deliver a nuclear weapon.
3. 36 YEARS LATER, ENTEBBE PILOT REVEALS PLANE BARELY TOOK OFF by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
Thirty-six years after the world”s most famous rescue mission, an Operation Entebbe pilot reveals his plane was so heavily loaded, it barely got off the ground.
Reservist Brig. Gen. Joshua Shani, the lead pilot of the four-plane Operation Entebbe, flew his C-130 Hercules cargo plane with the entire rescue force on board.
In an interview with the IDF, he revealed that the transport plane was loaded with the famous Mercedes vehicle that was a mock-up of Idi Amin”s car and designed to fool Ugandan soldiers into thinking the dictator himself had arrived at the airport where more than 100 Jewish hostages were being held.
The aircraft was also loaded with the entire lead assault team, a paratrooper force and Land Rovers.
Shani took off from Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, which at the time was under Israeli control, and he recalls the plane was so loaded that it “was one of the heaviest ever” in history.
At full throttle, the aircraft was barely moving at taxiing speed. “At the very end of the runway, I was probably two knots over the stall speed, and I had to lift off,” he revealed.
“I took off to the north, but had to turn south where our destination was. I couldn”t make the turn until I gained more speed. Just making that turn, I was struggling to keep control, but you know, airplanes have feelings, and all turned out well.”
The rest is history. Assault team commander Col. Yoni Netanyahu, brother of the Prime Minister, was killed, the only military casualty in the July 4, 1976 operation.
What is not known is that Shani”s parents immigrated to Israel after having escaped the Nazis and having lived as refugees in Siberia.
“My parents were lifelong Zionists and fluent in Hebrew, which they spoke to me as a baby,” he said. “They were thrilled to arrive in Israel and begin a new life, never again to be refugees.”
Ironically, Shani was not interested in becoming an air force pilot and almost refused to volunteer but reconsidered when his buddies also agreed to serve as pilots.
He learned how to fly the C-130 Hercules cargo plane in the United States, but when it came time to plan the Entebbe mission, he recalls that Air Force Major General Benny Peled asked him all kinds of questions abut the plane”s capabilities.
“Peled asked me if it was possible to fly to Entebbe, how long it would take and what it could carry. I left him with the impression that a rescue would be possible,” according to Shani.
He also revealed that the IDF prepared him for the rest – equipping him with a helmet, bullet-proof vest and “a large wad of cash” in case he needed it to escape Uganda.
After his safe return, he also returned the cash.
4. UTJ CHAIRMAN LITZMAN SKIPS CABINET OVER DRAFT LAW by Chana Ya’ar
United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party chairman Yaakov Litzman skipped the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday in protest over the universal draft law.
A spokesman for the party said that Litzman, who serves as Deputy Minister of Health, indeed deliberately absented himself as an act of protest. However, there was no further comment about the matter.
As part of the coalition agreement with UTJ, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu agreed to allow Litzman to serve as “deputy minister” and left the minister’s post empty. This allowed Litzman to avoid the appearance of becoming a minister in a State of Israel government, always avoided by the non-Zionist UTJ, while nevertheless endowing him with ministerial powers.
Sunday’s absence from the Cabinet meetng raises questions about a likely coalition crisis between Netanyahu and the hareidi religious parties.
The impending battle is brewing over the issue of the universal draft, a demand by protesters who insist the government stop exempting fulltime yeshiva students and religious women from IDF service.
Numerous secular Jews have found ways to avoid the draft, and Israeli Arab citizens are excused from service by law. IDF service is voluntary for Bedouin and Druze citizens, and currently there are limited voluntary programs in place for hareidi religious Jewish men as well.
At its meeting on Sunday, the Likud faction unanimously approved the Plesner Committee report, intended to create an alternative to the Tal Law.
Kadima MK Yochanan Plesner headed the committee that last week was dissolved by Netanyahu prior to issuing its recommendation that a universal draft include both Arabs and hareidi-religious Jews.
The Tal Law, also called the “Deferral of Military Service for Yeshiva Students Law,” was originally passed in 2002, as a temporary law to be renewed every five years. It allowed a continuation of IDF exemptions for yeshiva students, who at the age of 22, can choose between one year of civil service with a paying job, or an abbreviated 16-month tour of duty, with future service in reserves, as an alternative to continued yeshiva life.
This past February 21, the High Court of Justice ruled the Tal Law to be unconstitutional. Interior Minister and Shas party chairman Eli Yishai said he would “submit a Tal Law substitute” for second and third readings before the end of the Knesset summer session. Yishai vowed to oppose any form of sanctions against yeshiva students who choose not to be drafted.
5. US DECLARES AFGHANISTAN MAJOR NON-NATO ALLY by Rachel Hirshfeld
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Saturday that Afghanistan has been officially designated a “major non-NATO ally,” a status that allows for streamlined defense cooperation, including expedited purchasing ability of American equipment and easier export control regulations.
“We see this as a powerful symbol of our commitment to Afghanistan”s future,” Clinton said at a news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai during a brief stop in the Afghan capital on her way to Tokyo for a 70-nation conference on civilian aid to Afghanistan. “This is the kind of relationship we think will be especially beneficial as we do the transition and as we plan for the post-2014 presence.”
The designation, which was first announced in May, is now being fully implemented.
Other countries in the category include Israel, Pakistan, Japan, South Korea.
It is one more way that the Obama administration is seeking to reassure Karzai that the United States will not abandon Afghanistan after American and NATO troops withrdwarl from the country.
A U.S. diplomatic official said Saturday that donor nations have pledged $16 billion in development aid to the country over the next four years, despite concerns over the country”s rampant corruption.
Clinton said the U.S. has been working closely with Afghan authorities to eliminate fraud, mismanagement and abuse. She said the meeting in Tokyo would include accountability measures to ensure that money sent to Afghanistan benefits the Afghan people.
“This is an issue the government and the people of Afghanistan want action on, and we want to ensure they are successful,” Clinton said.
U.S. officials have yet to negotiate the exact number of troops that will remain in Afghanistan after combat operations are expected to conclude in 2014.
During the news conference, Clinton repeated the tenets of America’s “fight, talk, build” strategy for Afghanistan: defeat extremists, and win over Taliban militants and others willing to renounce violence and help in the long reconstruction of Afghanistan, the Associated Press reported.
“This is the kind of relationship that we think will be especially beneficial as we plan for the transition,” Clinton stated. “It will help the Afghan military expand its capacity and have a broader relationship with the United States.”
6. NETANYAHU AND MOFAZ AGREE ON DRAFT LAW PROGRESS – FOR NOW by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
The media-led campaign to blow up the coalition ran out of gas Sunday with the Likud”s adopting “in principle” a Kadima draft law proposal – with changes. The current Tal Law, which provides for army service as well as exemptions of young men learning Torah, expires at the end of the month after having been ruled unconstitutional by the High Court.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, head of the Likud, and Vice Premier Shaul Mofaz, leader of Kadima, “agreed on the establishment of a team to formulate the law on equality in sharing the burden and to submit its draft at the next Cabinet meeting,” they said in a statement on Sunday.
The team will comprise Mofaz, Kadima Knesset Member Yochanan Plesner, and Likud Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya”alon.
Plesner headed a committee that was on the verge of proposing a revolutionary change in the draft law to include virtually all Jews who previously were deferred from serving in the IDF in order to continue studying Torah.
The committee fell apart when representatives of several parties resigned over its conclusions, and Prime Minister Netanyahu officially dissolved the panel last week.
The ensuing political storm, fodder for the mainstream media”s anti-Netanyahu campaign, emboldened Mofaz to issue an ultimatum to Prime Minister Netanyahu, whom he called “irresponsible.” The Kadima leader clearly implied that he would pull his party out of the national unity coalition unless the Prime Minister agreed to adopt Plesner”s recommendations, which were announced at a news conference.
Dismal polls and the failure of the media to whip up a coalition crisis and enthusiasm for new elections quickly took the wind out of Mofaz’s sails.
The lack of trust in Mofaz – or for any other politician – was evident in Saturday night”s rally in favor of Plesner”s proposals. Mofaz was roundly booed when he addressed the crowd.
Plesner”s draft bill focuses on sanctions against hareidi-religious Jews who do not enlist but was less specific concerning Arabs. Likud MKs filled the gap by accepting Plesner”s proposals “in principle” but adding that the issue of Arabs must be addressed more directly.
It is likely that no one except politicians will be happy over a draft bill acceptable to both the Likud and Kadima as well as Yisrael Beytenu, which wants a simply universal draft for all citizens, without any window dressing. Likud MK Gila Gamliel wants a new draft to include mandatory conscription of all women.
The resulting draft law is not likely to please “sucker rally” protesters who want a no-compromise end to deferrments for hareidi-religious Jews, although little mention has been made of thousands of secular Jews, including artists and athletes, who are exempt or otherwise dodge the draft every year.
Prime Minister Netanyahu said Sunday revolutionary changes requiring the draft of all hareidi-religious Jews must be done slowly and gradually.
In addition, the Israel Defense Forces is not equipped to suddenly enlist tens of thousands of hareidi-religious Jews.
The army provides special conditions to absorb many sectors of Israeli society – women, former criminals, disabled, new immigrants and others, and respecting the religious customs of hareidi-religious Jews in large numbers would be difficult to carry out in one blow.
Despite the media talk of demanding national service of Jews who learn Torah day and night, the universal draft proposal will have to come up with a solution to the thorny problem of enabling Arabs to serve.
Religious parties want it to recognize that the Torah learning level of yeshivas in Israel must not be adversely affected, implying that there have to be exemptions.
As with hareidi-religious Jews, the IDF is not equipped to suddenly enlist tens of thousands of Arabs, regardless of whether for military or civilian service.
Many Arabs with Israeli citizenship serve in combat and support units, but a growing number of Bedouin and even some Druze are active in terrorist cells and have used their army service to work against the country.
7. ARCHAEOLOGISTS UNCOVER GOLD TREASURE NEAR HERZLIYA by Chana Ya’ar
One of the largest gold treasures ever to be discovered in Israel was uncovered last week at an archaeological dig near Herzliya.
The treasure, more than 100 gold pieces and weighing approximately 400 grams (nearly one pound), is estimated at a worth of more than $100,000.
The coins were found hidden in a partly broken pottery vessel at the Appollonia National Park, where archaeologists say the former Crusader town of Apollonia-Arsuf once thrived. The dig is being carried out under the joint auspices of Tel Aviv University and the Nature and Parks Authority.
Included among the items found were 108 gold coins, including 93 that weighed four grams each, and 15 that weighed 1 gram each. The gold was not new and clearly was part of someone’s family treasure or business investment. The coins were minted in Egypt approximately 250 years prior to their burial under the floor tiles of the 13th century CE fortress that has been under excavation for more than 30 years.
A large cache of arrowheads – hundreds, in fact – and other weaponry, including stones used in catapults, also was found. Archaeologists said the find indicated a fierce battle had taken place at the time the Mameluks seized the area from the Crusaders.
TAU Professor Oren Tal pointed out that the manner in which the treasure was hidden indicated its owner’s intention of returning to reclaim it. “I think the stash was deliberately buried in a partly broken vessel, which was filled with sand and buried under the floor tiles so if anyone were to discover it, he would simply believe it to be a broken pot, and ignore it.”
Appollonia National Park director Haggai Yoynana added that if one were to add the treasure to the findings of the weaponry, “it tells the story of a prolonged siege and a harsh battle.”
According to the website of the Biblical Archaeological Society, the clash has been identified as the Battle of Arsuf, between Saladin and Richard the Lionheart.
The Crusader fortress had been uncovered at the site some time ago, along with remains of a port city dating back to the time of the Phoenicians. Archaeologists have also found the remains of a Roman villa, a well-preserved market street from the Early Islamic period and a massive gate complex.
8. APPEAL TO COURT TO STOP TEMPLE MOUNT DESECRATION by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
An appeal has been filed with the High Court for the immediate suspension of Muslim work on the Foundation Stone, the holiest place on the Temple Mount, the holiest Jewish site in the world.
The Makor Rishon newspaper revealed last week that the Muslim Waqf, which has been given authority over the Temple Mount by the Israeli government, has violated all previous bonds of propriety and erected scaffolding on the Rock itself, known in Hebrew as the Even HaShtia (pronounced EH-ven HaShtee-AH).
The Waqf is carrying out renovations in the Dome of the Rock mosque, which was built over the Foundation Stone.
The Stone is considered the place where Adam, Noah and Abraham carried out their sacrifices, and it is the spot where the Jewish High Priest (Kohen Gadol) entered the Holy of Holies just once a year, on Yom Kippur.
The Temple Mount Faithful has appealed to the High Court to order a halt to the desecrations and what it has called the complete insensitivity to Jews.
The Islamic Waqf has desecrated “the heart of the heart of the Temple Mount and has damaged the sensitivities of the Jewish People,” the petition stated.
Quoting a poet, it added, “There are people with a heart of stone and there are stones with the heart of man.”
The petition also calls for the Chief Rabbinate to intervene to ensure there is no further desecration.