MARATHON RECORD Kenyan Ezekiel Koech, 28, won the Tel Aviv Marathon on February 28, finishing the 42-kilometer (26.2-mile) race in a record-breaking time of 2:14:40. Kenyan athletes claimed all three top spots in the race. The marathon caused massive traffic jams in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area as 40,000 participants pounded the city’s pavements. Despite the comfortable weather, 85 runners required medical treatment during the race.NO-FREEZE DEMAND Some 21 Knesset members, including seven deputy ministers, sent a letter on February 20 to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressing their total opposition to a settlement freeze as part of a US-brokered peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.MERKEL VISITS German Chancellor Angela Merkel and almost all her ministers landed in Israel on February 24 for two days of joint cabinet consultations. Merkel indicated before her arrival that she would be lobbying during her visit on behalf of American-led efforts to broker a framework deal between Israelis and Palestinians by April.DEMOGRAPHIC CATASTROPHE Statistics from the recent Pew survey on American Jewry “demonstrate that the Jews of America are facing nothing less than a demographic catastrophe,” Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned on February 18. Addressing the annual Israel mission of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, Lieberman said Jewish education in the Diaspora was “the most pressing issue on the global Jewish agenda... more pressing than any other issue, including the Palestinian negotiations or the Iranian nuclear threat.”GAS DEAL The partners in the Tamar natural gas field off Israel’s Mediterranean coast have signed their first export deal to sell at least $500 million of gas over 15 years to two Jordanian companies, Noble Energy announced on February 19. Texas-based Noble owns 36 percent of the field. Under the deal, Tamar will supply 66 billion cubic feet of gas a year to Arab Potash and its unit, Jordan Bromine. In total, the Jordanians have agreed to buy some 1.8 billion cubic meters of natural gas.HEBRON CLASHES Israel Defense Forces soldiers and Palestinians clashed on February 21 in the West Bank city of Hebron during protests to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1994 attack in which settler Baruch Goldstein shot and killed 29 Muslim worshipers at the Tomb of the Patriarchs. The IDF said five Palestinians were wounded in the clashes.ANTI-DRAFT DEMO A massive, peaceful, ultra-Orthodox demonstration against the government’s proposed military draft law virtually closed off Jerusalem on March 2. Route 1 into the capital was closed to all traffic, with the exception of public transport, as some 350,000 protesters amassed near the entrance to the city.PRO-POLLARD RALLY Around 1,000 people, including several Knesset members and public figures, gathered outside the American Embassy in Tel Aviv, on February 23, to call for the release of jailed Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard. “Today, after nearly 30 years in prison, there’s no one who doesn’t know that Jonathan’s sentence is grossly disproportionate and absolutely unjust,” said Pollard’s wife, Esther. Pollard, a civilian intelligence analyst for the US Navy who handed over thousands of classified documents to Israel, has been serving a life sentence in a US prison since 1985.PRISON SHOOTOUT An American-Israeli convict was shot to death in an Israeli jail on February 23 after he got hold of a gun and opened fire on three prison guards, seriously wounding two and leaving the third moderately hurt. The prisoner, Samuel Sheinbein, 34, was serving a life sentence for a murder he and a friend committed in 1997, in the United States, when Sheinbein was 17. Sheinbein was shot and killed after barricading himself in the bathroom at the Rimonim Prison in Even Yehuda.PRIZE DOCTOR
Prof. Marta Weinstock- Rosin was named on February 27 as this year’s Israel Prize laureate for medicine. A professor emeritus at Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Pharmacology Department, Weinstock-Rosin, 79, has spent years studying drug treatments for degenerative diseases of the central nervous system. Her current focus is searching for drugs that improve brain function and memory in patients with such diseases.