Nation & World Briefs

More Gaza Aid Seen

The European Union offered to boost aid to the Palestinian Authority for rebuilding the Gaza Strip. E.U. official Benita Ferrero-Waldner said last week that the 25-nation bloc, already the Palestinians’ biggest foreign donor, would be willing to increase aid focusing on Gaza if other countries do the same. The European Union currently plans to give the Palestinian Authority some $335 million for 2005. Ferrero-Waldner called for the Palestinian Authority to seize the opportunity of Israel’s recent Gaza withdrawal to become less economically dependent on the Jewish state, and to reform its financial institutions.

Court Halts Army Tactic

Israel’s High Court of Justice banned an army practice of using Palestinian civilians to help locate terrorists. After three years of deliberations, the High Court on Thursday found in favor of petitions filed by human-rights groups against the “advance notice” tactic, whereby Israeli troops on counter-terrorist raids ask Palestinian bystanders to go to fugitives’ hideouts and persuade them to surrender. The three-justice panel disputed the army’s position that the practice is voluntary, and said it violates international law by endangering civilians. Some Israeli lawmakers denounced the ruling.

“The High Court is tying the army’s hands,” said Effi Eitam of the far-right National Union bloc.

Hungarian Leader: I’ll Protect Jews

In a Rosh Hashanah address in New York City, Hungary’s prime minister pledged to protect his nation’s Jews.

“In the middle of the last century, Hungarian leaders failed to protect their own citizens. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews lost their lives,” Ferenc Gyurcsany said at services last week at Park East Synagogue. “I personally, and my government and democratic Hungary, a member of NATO and the European Community with close ties to the United States, will make sure that the tragedy that was inflicted upon the Jewish people will never happen again.”

Rabbi Arthur Schneier, a Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor and the senior rabbi at the synagogue, had invited Gyurcsany to speak.

Fasting for Darfur

Two Jewish campus groups organized a national solidarity fast for Darfur. Participants in last week’s fast, sponsored by Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life and Students Taking Action Now: Darfur, refrained from luxuries such as coffee or movies and donated the money saved to aid refugees who have fled ethnic cleansing in the Darfur region of Sudan. In addition to 43 universities and colleges taking part, organizers said participants included comedian Bill Cosby, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, former National Security Adviser Anthony Lake, actress Bette Midler, basketball player Dikembe Mutombo and Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town Desmond Tutu.

Israeli Dance Troupe Founder Dies

Sara Levi-Tanai, founder of Israel’s Inbal dance troupe, died last week at 94. Founded in 1950, Inbal integrated Yemeni motifs into modern dance choreography. Levi-Tanai studied music and trained to be a kindergarten teacher. A descendant of Yemeni Jews, she was born in Jerusalem in 1911.

Australian Synagogue Gets Female Leader

The oldest synagogue in Sydney, Australia, appointed a woman as president for the first time in its 128-year history. Rosalind Fischl was elected unopposed, receiving a standing ovation and sustained applause following the announcement of her election to the post at the Great Synagogue. Synagogue rules were changed this year to allow a woman to assume the presidency of the synagogue, she said. Fischl will not address the congregation during services and will not be involved in issues of Jewish law; her vice president, Herman Eisenberg, will assume those responsibilities. The Great Synagogue is considered to be a strongly Orthodox community. Founded in 1878, it boasts a progressive policy in advancing the role of women within its community.

Reform Launches ‘Virtual’ Repentance

The Reform Jewish movement launched a “virtual repentance” for this Rosh Hashanah. The Skirball Center for Adult Jewish Learning invited Jews to virtually replicate Tashlich, the tradition of symbolically casting one’s sins away by tossing bread crumbs into water. A Web site notes the passage in Micah that commands the casting away of sins, and then allows a recipient to fill in a blank space with one’s sins. A cartoon figure then casts the “note” into a river.

More information is available at

Immigration to Israel Up

Increased immigration to Israel from France and North America were cited as the cause of a rise in aliyah last year. Since September 2004, 23,124 people immigrated to Israel, as opposed to 21,604 the year before, the first increase since 1999, the Jerusalem Post reported. Zeev Bielski, the chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, credited the increase to improved security and economics in Israel, as well as improved marketing by the agency.

Did God Tell Bush?

A Palestinian Authority official says President Bush told him God guides his Middle East policy. Nabil Shaath, the P.A. information minister, told the BBC in a documentary that Bush repeatedly cited the divinity in a 2003 meeting with Shaath and Mahmoud Abbas, then the P.A. prime minister.

“President Bush said to all of us: ‘I’m driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, “George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.” And I did,'” Shaath quoted Bush as saying, in an interview released last week by the BBC. “‘And then God would tell me, “George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq.” And I did. And now, again, I feel God’s words coming to me, “Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East.” And by God, I’m gonna do it.'”

The White House called the account groundless.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.