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JERUSALEM CITY Councilwoman Mina Fenton, who is actively engaged in promoting Jewish values and combating missionaries, has been busy over the last couple of weeks, trying to dissuade Jews from attending any of the Feast of Tabernacles events hosted by the International Christian Embassy. In a letter that she has circulated, Fenton says that the Rabbinical Council in the office of the Chief Rabbinate has banned any Jew from participation in the Feast of Tabernacles festivities taking place next week in the Jerusalem International Conference Center. This year's Feast of Tabernacles is being held within the framework of the 40th anniversary celebrations of the reunification of Jerusalem, a factor that Fenton finds ominous. The letter also comes out strongly against Messianic Jews. Earlier this year, Fenton conducted a strenuous campaign against the Gay Pride Parade.
Founded in 1980, the International Christian Embassy is believed to be the largest Christian Zionist organization in the world, representing believers from some 125 countries. It deliberately set up its headquarters in Jerusalem when the capital was almost bereft of foreign embassies, and for some years was one of three embassies in Jerusalem, the other two being Costa Rica and El Salvador which during the past year joined the rest of the diplomatic community on the Coastal Plain. The Christian Embassy continues to be headquartered in Jerusalem in an impressive old building that once served as the embassy of the Ivory Coast, which retains ownership of the premises.
IF SHAS spiritual leader and former Sephardi chief rabbi Ovadia Yosef gives you a slap on the cheek, it's not a sign of rebuke, but an indication that he likes you. Composer of liturgical songs, string instrumentalist and internationally acclaimed singer Moshe Habusha, has for some years been known as Yosef's cantor. When Yosef first sent emissaries to invite him to lead the prayers in his synagogue, Habusha was enormously flattered, albeit shy of the honor, and accepted only with the greatest reluctance. Nonetheless, he felt uncomfortable and told the rabbi that he regarded himself to be unworthy and did not want people to think that he had somehow inveigled himself into the rabbi's good graces. Yosef gave him a gentle slap on the cheek and said "You're okay."
YOM KIPPUR is one of the holy days on which Jews traditionally recite prayers for their deceased nearest and dearest. For many it is a painful experience to realize how many of their loved ones have passed on. In most synagogues, there is also a collective prayer for the martyrs of the Holocaust in addition to the individual prayers recited by congregants in memory of relatives who perished at the hands of the Nazis. Mindful of this, Elihu Ben-Onn who conducts a weekly radio program, The Israel Connection, broadcast in the predawn hours between Sunday and Monday, decided to devote a large segment of this week's program not only to Holocaust survivors, but to a remarkable project inspired by Tzvika Schwartzman of Afeka College. Schwartzman has been researching the backgrounds of Holocaust survivors who fell in the War of Independence. Of 572 war dead declared by the Defense Ministry to be the last remnants of their families, 275 were Holocaust survivors. As a result of Schwartzman's research in which he found relatives of two of the 275, Afeka, in conjunction with Ra'anana high schools, the education divisions of the Ra'anana Municipality, Yad Lezahava, Emuna, the Defense Ministry and the Education Ministry, launched a project documenting the stories of Ra'anana-based Holocaust survivors. The project, initiated two years ago, included an effort by high-school students to trace the families of the 275 Holocaust survivors who gave their lives in the war. Families of more than 50 of these soldiers have been located. Schwartzman, who appeared on Ben-Onn's program along with some of the people associated with the project, was extremely encouraged by the results.
Most high-school students are a lot more computer and Internet savvy than adults, he said, and thus make excellent researchers. Based on what has been achieved to date, Schwartzman wants to take the project a step further and to have high-schoolers from all over the country interview Holocaust survivors and create blogs to put these stories on the Internet. He is hopeful that high-school students abroad will also participate in this initiative and will contribute the stories of Holocaust survivors in their various communities. With so much eyewitness and survivor testimony readily available on the Internet, he said, no future Holocaust deniers will ever be believed. The fall of the Iron Curtain and the arrival of so many immigrants from the former Soviet Union has made it much easier to find relatives of fallen soldiers who had previously been presumed to be the last descendants of their forebears. For many of the relatives, who did not previously have a grave at which to weep nor knowledge of the actual fate of a sibling, cousin or uncle, the project has facilitated both discovery and closure.
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