Newsdesk November 4, 2005

Teacher Shot at Shul

A teenager teaching children at a synagogue in Amarillo, Texas, was shot to death by a woman, who then killed herself.

Police said that Eloise Evans, 50, walked into a classroom in Temple B’nai Israel on Sunday morning and told two young children to leave. She drew a handgun and shot Zachary Weir, 15, multiple times and then turned the gun on herself. Police are uncertain as to Evans’s motive, but they have ruled out a hate crime. They said that Evans was acquainted with Weir’s father.

According to The Associated Press, Evans was estranged from her family in Kansas and was receiving counseling from a rabbi at the synagogue. She did not belong to the congregation.

Court Hears Religion Case

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments over whether to allow the importation of a hallucinogenic drug for religious purposes. The case, heard Tuesday, tested the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which sets a high standard for government to restrict religious practices.

Members of the O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao Do Vegetal religion sought to import a tea from Brazil that contains hallucinogens. The tea is consumed as part of a religious service. The act gives “every religious organization, the minority ones and the majority ones, the opportunity to go into court as an aggrieved person and make their claim,” said the group’s attorney, Nancy Hollander. The group is supported in the case by a wide range of Jewish organizations. The government claims that controlling illegal substances and adhering to international treaties are compelling reasons to prevent importation of the hallucinogen.

The act, which was passed with support from Jewish groups, says that if the government has to restrict religious practices, it must do so in the least restrictive manner possible. The case is being watched as a first sign of Chief Justice John Roberts’s opinion on the exercise of religion.

Pollard Date Debated

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons projects a 2015 release date for Jonathan Pollard, the former U.S. navy analyst convicted of spying for Israel.

The release date, posted on the bureau’s Web site, is the first indication that the United States plans to release Pollard, who was convicted in 1986 and is serving a life sentence in a North Carolina prison. American administrations have consistently rejected appeals to grant clemency for Pollard, whose supporters argue that he was subjected to a disproportionately harsh sentence.

Pollard’s wife, Esther, dismissed the report, saying that the release date is merely theoretical and that American authorities have ignored other guidelines when it comes to Pollard. However, Ha’aretz, the Israeli daily that first reported the release date, said that other convicted spies have their sentence listed simply as “life” with no release date.

Israeli Mystic Arrested

The head of Israel’s Kabbalah Centre, Shaul Youdkevitch, was arrested for allegedly extracting money from a dying woman.

Youdkevitch was arrested Sunday on suspicion of convincing a cancer patient that donating tens of thousands of dollars to his Tel Aviv center would aid in her recovery, Yediot Aharonot’s Ynet Web site reported.

The woman has since died. Youdkevitch was arrested after the late woman’s husband filed a complaint.

Fear Over Al Qaeda

During a speech Monday in Los Angeles to members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, President Bush’s national security advisor, Stephen Hadley, said that the government worried about an Al Qaeda attack on Israel.

“The final step of Al Qaeda’s strategy, Zawahiri says, is ‘the clash with Israel, because Israel was established to challenge any new Islamic entity,’” Hadley said Monday, referring to a recent missive from Osama bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

“Calls for violence against ‘Zionists’ are a persistent and pathetic staple of bin Laden’s rhetoric and action. We must not take this strategy lightly,” Hadley said.

Meanwhile, Israel said it uncovered an Al Qaeda cell among Palestinian security prisoners. Prisons Service sources said this week that nine jailed Hamas men are under investigation after secretly informing the leadership of the Islamic terrorist group in Gaza that they were defecting to bin Laden’s global network. According to the sources, two of the inmates had undergone training at Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan before being arrested by Israeli forces. It was not immediately clear what prison sentences the nine were serving. Hamas denies that any of its members had broken away to join Al Qaeda.

Islamic Group Sues

On Monday the Islamic Society of Boston broadened an existing suit against a local TV station and the Boston Herald to include terrorism expert Steve Emerson and The David Project, a group that earned headlines last year by alleging bias against Jewish and pro-Israel students at Columbia University. The suit alleges that the defendants sought to defame the Islamic Society to keep it from building a mosque. The Boston Globe quoted the David Project as describing the suit as “factually and legally frivolous.”

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Newsdesk November 4, 2005

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