Newsdesk February 10, 2006

Olmert Lays Out Plans

Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that the country would have to unilaterally withdraw from much of the West Bank. In the clearest indication of his plans since taking over as prime minister after Ariel Sharon went into a coma last month, Olmert told Israel’s Channel 2 on Tuesday that Israel should hold on to three major settlement blocs — Ariel, Gush Etzion and Ma’aleh Adumim — and to the Jordan Valley, while pulling out from other areas of the West Bank. About 185,000 of Israel’s 244,000 settlers live in those blocs, The Jerusalem Post reported, citing Peace Now.

Budget Sparks Fears

American Jewish social service agencies, still reeling from recent funding cuts, are bracing for another round with this week’s launch of the annual budget process.

President Bush outlined his $2.77 trillion budget Monday, which includes a $36 billion cut in Medicare over the next five years and a $13.6 billion reduction from Medicaid over the same period.

The domestic spending cuts could have a strong impact on Jewish social service programs.

Jewish homes for senior citizens and hospitals will be among those hardest hit. Jewish communal activists and lobbyists said there is some hope that, as in years past, Congress will avert many of the proposed cuts in programs.

Anglicans To Divest

The Anglican Church decided to divest from companies whose products are used by Israel in the West Bank. The vote this week by the General Synod of Britain’s top spiritual body came in response to an initiative by the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and was backed by the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. The resolution echoes those recently adopted by a few Protestant churches in the United States, and could affect international companies such as Caterpillar, which sells bulldozers to the Israeli military. Williams’s predecessor, George Carey, deplored the boycott, telling The Jerusalem Post that it “ignores the trauma of ordinary Jewish people” targeted by Palestinian terrorism.

Meanwhile, a Presbyterian committee in America investigating the church’s possible divestment from Israel said that it would not recommend divestment to the church’s General Assembly in June. The church’s Mission Responsibility Through Investment committee said that it needs more time before it makes its decision, Religion News Service reported.

Report: Skinheads Active

Racist skinhead activity in the United States is on the rise, according to a new report. The activity, including an increase in violent skinhead attacks, has been fueled in part by the Internet and in part by a growing hate-music industry, the Anti-Defamation League said. The ADL has launched an online racist skinhead project at to track the activity by state and region.

Torah Stolen in Phoenix

Phoenix synagogue Shirat-David had its Torah stolen in a burglary that occurred this week. The Torah was later recovered in a nearby parking lot.

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Newsdesk February 10, 2006

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