Nation & World Briefs

Paper: Israel, Vatican Close to Deal

Israel and the Vatican reportedly are close to an agreement on church properties in the Holy Land. The Times of London reported last week that the sides were readying the agreement in time for a visit by Israeli President Moshe Katsav to the Vatican next month. The Times reported that Israel will hand over control of the reputed room of Jesus’ last supper, in a building on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. In return, a historic synagogue in Toledo, Spain, which became a church after the Inquisition, will be returned to Jewish use, the newspaper said.

Groups Collect for Earthquake Relief

U.S. Jewish groups are collecting donations for victims of the earthquake that struck Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. At least 30,000 people died as a result of last week’s earthquake. Donations through the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee should be made payable to JDC: Pakistan Earthquake Relief and can be made to the group at Box 321, 847A Second Ave., New York, N.Y., 10017. Donations through the American Jewish World Service can be made by sending checks to the group at 45 W. 36 St., New York, N.Y. 10018, or online at

General Attacked at Western Wall

Worshippers at Jerusalem’s Western Wall attacked a top Israeli army official who helped carry out the recent Gaza withdrawal. Maj. Gen. Elazar Stern, head of the army’s manpower branch, was assaulted last week when he came in civilian dress to pray at the wall with his family. Worshippers surrounded Stern, yelling insults and trying to prevent him from reaching the wall. Police officers surrounded Stern as worshippers began throwing stones and other objects at him, Ha’aretz reported. Stern was not hurt. Police detained one suspect.

Bush Extends PLO Office

President Bush extended a waiver that allows the PLO office in Washington to remain open. Bush extended the waiver last week for six months, saying it was “important to the national security interests of the United States.” The Palestinian Liberation Organization is banned from operating in the United States under a 1987 anti-terrorism statute, but successive presidents have waived the provision since the early 1990s.

Colorado Inmate to Get Kosher Meals

A Jewish prisoner in Colorado, whose kosher meals were revoked for a year as punishment for a minor offense, had his rights restored this week. The move came after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on Timothy Sheline’s behalf Oct. 11. The lawsuit charged Department of Corrections officials in Colorado Springs with violating Sheline’s First Amendment rights, as well as federal statutes protecting prisoners’ religious practices, for taking away his kosher meals after a guard caught him pocketing two packages of butter and salad dressing from his food tray.

Analysts: Nuclear Iran Inevitable?

The West may have to live with a nuclear Iran, according to researchers affiliated with the Pentagon.

“The costs of rollback [of Iran’s nuclear weapons program] may be higher than the costs of deterring and containing a nuclear Iran,” said the report by Judith Yaphe and Col. Charles Lutes, fellows at the Institute for National Strategic Studies, a Pentagon policy analysis arm.

The study was released last week and reported in The New York Times. The study noted that Israel considers Iran “a clear and present danger” but warned that an Israeli or U.S. strike on Iran could reinforce the country’s ruling radical Islamists, and spark counterattacks.

Rome Mayor Leads Auschwitz Trip

Rome’s mayor escorted high school students on an educational trip to Auschwitz. It was the third straight year that Walter Veltroni led the trip. Several Italian Shoah survivors also took part and recounted their experiences. Veltroni told reporters that he hoped to make class trips to Auschwitz an official part of the curriculum for Rome high schools.

Interfaith Dialogue Earns Honor

The Vatican this week is honoring a member of the Polish Bishops Conference for dialogue with the Jews. Stefan Wilkanowicz, a member of the Bishops Conference and former editor-in-chief of the Polish monthly, Znak, will receive the Oswiecim Award for the Defense of Human Rights. Also honored will be Vaclav Maly, a Czech Catholic bishop and former anti-communist dissident. Pope Benedict XVI will present the awards personally. The award is given by the Oswiecim Center for Human Rights and was created by Pope John Paul II when he visited the former concentration camp at Auschwitz, known in Polish as Oswiecim, in 1979.

Bnei Menashe Converted

Israeli rabbis formally converted a community of Indians who say they are descended from Jews. Some 200 members of the Bnei Menashe underwent conversion last week under six rabbinical judges dispatched to India by the Shavei Israel organization. The conversions were performed with the approval of Israel’s chief Sephardi rabbi, Shlomo Amar. Last March, Amar recognized the Bnei Menashe, who claim descent from the lost Israelite tribe of Manasseh, as “descendants of Israel” and agreed to restore them to the Jewish people. According to Shavei Israel, more than 800 Bnei Menashe have immigrated to the Jewish state.

Moscow Gets Jewish School

A new Jewish educational complex was dedicated this month in Moscow. The 6,000-square-foot building will house a Jewish day school for 300 children and is believed to be the first Jewish school building constructed in Russia since the 1917 Russian Revolution. The multimillion-dollar complex is a project of the Federation of Jewish Communities, a Chabad-led group and Russia’s largest Jewish organization. The building is adjacent to the Marina Roscha JCC, the federation’s prime facility in Moscow. In addition to the Ohr Avner Chabad Day School, the building will house after-school programs for Moscow Jewish youth who aren’t enrolled in Jewish schools.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.