Obama’s First 100 Days Offer Cause for Concern


As Americans examine the first 100 days of the Obama administration, it is important to make a candid assessment of the president’s actions so far. These first months are widely considered an indicator of the policies the president will pursue in the years to come. So what have we seen in the first 100 days of this presidency?As Iran continues to work feverishly to acquire nuclear weapons, the United States continues to pursue its policy of “engagement.”

North Korea launched a long-range missile. The next day, the administration announced drastic cuts in missile defense funding, including a halt to further deployment of Alaska-based interceptors designed to counter missiles from North Korea.

Our president, in a handshake seen around the world, embraced Hugo Chavez while Venezuelan Jews face virulent, government-sponsored harassment.

We have seen the president reverse the Bush administration’s policy of boycotting the U.N. Human Rights Council, the body that organized the Durban II conference against racism and that continuously focuses on condemning Israel and turning a blind eye to the genocide in Darfur and other human-rights abuses.

The Obama administration chose Charles “Chas” Freeman to be chairman of the National Intelligence Council. Freeman is a long-standing apologist for the Saudi regime, a harsh and ideological critic of Israel, and a proud subscriber to the Walt/Mearsheimer “Israel Lobby” thesis. After a public outcry against Freeman taking such a sensitive security post, Freeman stepped down.

Many mainstream media outlets have reported on the growing “tension” between the Obama administration and the new Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Obama administration has asked Congress to relax sanctions against the terrorist group Hamas, so that if Hamas and Fatah ever come to share power in a Palestinian unity government, the United States can continue to send millions of dollars to the territories.

We have seen trillions and trillions of dollars allocated to bailouts and new government spending. The massive growth of government engendered by this spending, and the debt burden to our children and grandchildren, will haunt us for decades.

Our security agencies have been paralyzed by the double punch of released intelligence memos and vague threats to prosecute those who protected this country from harm in the previous administration.

Despite promises of “transparency” and “openness,” only one of the 11 bills signed by the president so far have been made available to the public for review before signing. (In fact, some of them weren’t actually reviewed by members of Congress before they were whisked up to the president’s desk.)

The president promised not to appoint lobbyists to his administration. He has appointed several, including former Raytheon lobbyist William Lynn to be deputy secretary of defense.

We have seen thousands of people across the country protest against the high taxes and unimaginable government spending proposed by this president. These “tea parties”—peaceful, truly grass-roots demonstrations of public opinion—were called “unhealthy” by senior White House adviser David Axelrod.

As Americans, we all want our president and our country to succeed in tough and challenging times. However, for those who care deeply about national security, the economy and other vital issues, these early days of the administration offer an opportunity to examine the president’s priorities and intentions that should not be missed.

While the president’s supporters will praise his actions in the first 100 days, many of the president’s actions have been cause for concern for American Jews. A balanced and honest review is in order.

Matt Brooks is the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

So Far, So Good With Obama Administration


The U.S. Jewish community has taken great comfort with the performance of President Obama in his first 100 days in office. He already has begun to develop a deep and substantive relationship with the community by, among other things, hosting the first presidential Passover seder, creating strong outreach and communications, and working on key domestic and international issues of interest to American Jews.

Impressively, in less than 3 1/2 months, the Obama administration has moved forward with progressive policies of interest to our community relating to the economy, Israel, the Middle East, reproductive rights, renewable energy and stem cell research.

In addition, the Jewish community has applauded the president for including in his administration individuals who have long-standing close relationships with us. These include David Axelrod, senior adviser to the president; Hillary Rodham Clinton, secretary of state; Rahm Emanuel, White House chief of staff; George Mitchell, Middle East special envoy; Peter Orszag, director of Office Management and Budget; Dennis Ross, senior adviser to the secretary of state; Kathleen Sebelius, secretary-designate of Health and Human Services; Lawrence Summers, director of the National Economic Council; and others. Several of them are members of our faith themselves.

The seder caused quite a buzz in our community. Not only was it the first presidential seder in our nation’s history, it has become symbolic of the intimate and deep relationship our president has with our community. (I must have received 50 photos of the seder from friends and family). More importantly, before the first matzah was cracked on the 77th day of Obama’s presidency, his administration already had engaged with the Jewish community on a frequent basis. This included many in-person meetings, conference calls and appointing leaders in the Jewish community to key advisory positions.

As a community, we are grateful that the president has spoken loudly against hate and intolerance. Last week, President Obama spoke at the Holocaust Days of Remembrance ceremony at the U.S. Capitol and called on Americans to “contemplate the obligations of the living” and fight against “those who insist the Holocaust never happened, who perpetrate every form of intolerance.”

Earlier this month, under his direction, the United States. boycotted the vehemently anti-Israel U.N. conference on racism known as Durban II.

As noted, the administration also should be commended for its efforts to communicate with and involve our community in major policy decisions. For example, the administration briefed Jewish leaders on regular high-level conference calls as the policy toward Durban II was formulated. Before then, the administration invited community leaders to participate in an hourlong conference call with Mitchell. The conversation was substantive, candid and meaningful. Those on the call were impressed both by Mitchell’s grasp of the issues and his attentiveness to the participants’ questions.

Being a leader in the Jewish community during the Obama administration means more than just being invited to Chanukah parties and events at the White House. In these first 100 days, the most senior members of his administration not only reached out to the Jewish community, they listened. Although Obama’s critics continue to search for ways to prove that he is anti-Israel, their message lacks substance and has little resonance within the wider Jewish community.

Obama’s foreign policy has immeasurably improved America’s image abroad. Both his foreign policy objectives and his domestic policy make Israel and the United States more secure. The president’s policies that move America toward renewable energy and off Middle East oil already have begun to be implemented. These policies and those whom Obama has appointed to serve in his administration subscribe to strategies that give the utmost importance to Israel’s peace and security.

On the domestic front, Obama has acted swiftly on critical issues and revised some of President George W. Bush’s damaging policies. On the economy, the president has shown bold leadership and smart policies to lead America’s economy out of this crisis that will create or save millions of American jobs, provide tax relief and invest in our long-term economic security. Obama also ensured that we will not fall behind other leading countries in an important area of research and development by lifting the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Exploring this burgeoning field will make sure that the United States is expanding the scientific frontier and providing Americans with the most advanced medical treatments.

As with stem cells, the president chose good policy over partisan politics when he struck down the infamous Global Gag rule that prohibited U.S. money from funding international family-planning clinics. These provided life-saving health services to women while providing counseling or referrals about abortion services. And finally, after many years of politicization at the FDA, Obama is putting science over blind ideology, including allowing Plan B, the morning-after pill, to be available without a prescription to women 17 and older.

We should not overstate the importance of Obama’s first 100 days; after all, there are more than 1,300 days left in the president’s first term. We are gratified, however, that the first 15 weeks of his presidency have made us proud and fulfilled his promise of much-needed change for our country.

Marc R. Stanley is chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council

Milken Dances Into Bid for Nationals


Jews can dance a mean hora, but when it comes to hip-hop, they aren’t known to hold their own — until now. The Milken Community High School Dance Team swept the open regional Dance Team Competition in Las Vegas and earned a bid to the 2004 National Dance Team Competition of the High School.

When the Milken team qualified to compete in just one category at last year’s nationals, they were the first private Jewish school to earn such an honor. By sweeping last month’s regionals in the hip-hop, lyrical, medium dance, jazz and officers categories, Milken enters this year’s nationals as one of the teams to beat.

“People don’t expect a bunch of Jewish girls to be good dancers,” said co-captain Tannis Mann.

With hard work, determination and talent, these Jewish dancers have defied expectations.

“When we started out five years ago, no one in the dance community had even heard of Milken. Now everyone knows Milken,” dance team coach and choreographer Ralinda Clayborn said.

Clayborn began teaching dance at Milken in 1999 and the team sprang from her desire to continue working with a core group of students.

“Milken had a dance squad, but the girls didn’t have a coach, and weren’t dancing at a competitive level,” Clayborn said. She approached the school’s athletic director and together they restructured the dance team.

Today, the Milken dancers take pride in their success, but also in their friendships.

“We are a close-knit group of Jewish teenage girls who share a love of dance,” 10th-grader Rachel Ward said. “We’re from different grades, and have different friends, but we bond during rehearsals and games and sleepovers. It’s great that we have so much fun, because we spend so much time together.”

The Milken dance season begins each May with weeklong dance team tryouts. Current squad members reaudition alongside approximately 40 hopefuls, all competing for the 11 highly coveted spots. Over the summer, the team members attend two in-school dance camps led by Clayborn, a weeklong dance camp held at UC Santa Barbara and spend the last two weeks of August rehearsing for eight hours a day.

During the school year, the girls practice Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2:30-6:30 p.m., perform at men’s and women’s basketball games, school open houses, town meetings and special events. The team, which dances to music ranging from Portishead to Missy Elliot to Outkast, has even performed at local bar mitzvahs. Team members must excel at academics as well as dance and maintain a 2.5 GPA.

“This is an amazing group of girls,” Clayborn said. “They are extremely tight-knit, talented and dedicated. And these girls can really dance.”

Last summer at UC Santa Barbara, the squad consistently won team dance and spirit competitions and, as a result, were asked to perform in this February’s NFL Pro Bowl half-time show in Hawaii.

As a sport, high school dance is highly competitive and pressure-filled.

“You can even feel the tension between dance teams from different schools at basketball games,” 11th-grader Mann said. “Nationals will be really intense, especially when some teams practice eight, not just seven, days a week,” she said, noting that the Milken team doesn’t practice on Shabbat.

The All-Star Nationals, to be held March 26-28 at the Anaheim Convention Center, will bring together more than 100 dance teams from schools across the country. Most of the competing schools are public, many are nonreligious private institutions, and a few are religious-affiliated private schools. Milken will be the only Jewish high school in competition.

“Camps and competitions give us a chance to be in the secular world,” said Warner, who will also compete at Nationals in the soloist category. “We get to spend time with girls who aren’t Jewish but love to dance as much as we do.”

“It’s a little intimidating, because we aren’t just representing Milken,” Mann said. “People look at us as representing all Jewish schools. But representing Jewish schools gives us a real sense of pride.”

For more information on the event, visit rclayborn@mchschool.org .

A Debut Teeming With Love and Lore


“An Hour in Paradise: Stories” by Joan Leegant (Norton, $23.95).

People imagine that, as a book critic, I read so much that there must be dozens of books I enjoy each year. But the truth is, books about which I am totally enthusiastic appear only every few years. Joan Leegant’s terrific first book of stories, “An Hour in Paradise,” is one of those books.

The fleeting nature of wondrous, sometimes miraculous, experiences is alluded to in Leegant’s title, derived from a Yiddish proverb, “Even an hour in Paradise is worthwhile.” In “The Tenth,” the first of 10 stories in this book, Leegant writes of a tiny old Boston shul’s “elusive search” for a 10th man to complete its minyan. Eighty-six-year-old Nathan Lefkowitz, charged with the search, “had been privy to a variety of techniques in his day, from strong-arm tactics laying the guilt on reticent Jews to the ultimate in discretion that it verged on code, so much so that it was sometimes impossible to know what religion was involved or even if it was religion at all.”

What distinguishes “The Tenth” is the strange and somewhat upsetting presence, then absence, of Lefkowitz’s latest find, conjoined twins by whom he is approached in a student apartment building. A flurry of halachic questions arise — do they count in a minyan as one or two? Pouring through texts, the rabbi realizes there are few simple answers to life’s queries, “That even compassion was a layered thing.”

Yet where else could the twins be as comfortable as among these aged men, “already moving toward the peripheries of life. What better place for such guests than among those for whom even the most extreme oddities hardly mattered anymore? Among them, they could be ordinary Jews … their strangeness lifted, removed.”

The appearance — and disappearance — of the twins is mirrored in Leegant’s haunting story, “The Lament of the Rabbi’s Daughters.” A rabbi and his wife have three daughters in the throes of major identity crises, involving both their love lives and their Jewishness, which two have all but abandoned. Miri, the fourth daughter, dead in a plane crash 15 years before, had “been petitioning ever since to be allowed to come back and try to make things right, to be the big sister she never was, help her sisters find some happiness.” She appears casually in the rabbi’s apartment where his daughter Shaindey lives, and a hasty, much-needed reunion of the four sisters is set into motion. By the time Miri, like the twins, disappears, her sisters have decided to take radical steps toward returning to their Jewishness and toward finding love.

During the course of Leegant’s tales, several lost souls are given a second chance at getting things right, at restoring a wholeness to their broken, sad lives. This is not to say things always work out perfectly. In “How to Comfort the Sick and Dying,” Reuven, a former small-time drug dealer, is sent by the rabbi who got him off the streets to visit a man dying in a hospital from AIDS. The story is punctuated by Reuven’s thoughts juxtaposed with snippets of Jewish wisdom, both italicized. For instance, while he dreads the visit, he recalls, “One who leaves the bedside of the dying is worse than a father who denies his own child bread … that one who visits the sick extends the boundaries of heaven.”

“Lucky in Love” is narrated by the daughter of Blanche, finally married to Solly Birnbaum, the love of her life who for 40 years was married to Blanche’s best friend. The daughter has flown to Sarasota, Fla., to see the happy couple, sensing, correctly, that Solly is not well. To her surprise, indeed consternation, Blanche informs her that Solly — and not her ex-husband — is her biological father. Adjusting to a “suddenly revised ancestry,” the daughter realizes how little she knew about her parents and stands in awe of their love. Less lucky in love is the heroine of “Henny’s Wedding,” who is unceremoniously dumped by her new spouse after three days, upon discovering she is pregnant by another man.

Other stories tell of attempts to correct what seem to be hopeless situations. In “Accounting,” a couple’s marriage has been plagued by their son’s failures and total untrustworthiness: “Cleaning up after Eliot had become for them not only an act of penitence but an attempt to correct the balance, an effort to ensure that the world did not suffer a net loss on account of their son.”

In “The Diviners of Desire: A Modern Fable,” a set of seemingly random connections unite a young woman in Jerusalem with the love she had sought through a matchmaker who had just given up on her case.

Leegant’s provocative and memorable stories, suffused with Jewish lore and wisdom, are not just terrific Jewish short stories that will doubtless be anthologized as such. It is Leegant’s characters who are unforgettable; the situations in which they find themselves are as mysterious and complicated as their own flaws and shortcomings, hopes and dreams.

Joan Leegant will be speaking, reading and signing books
on Tues., Dec. 2 at 7 PM at the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles, 6505
Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. The event is free. Please R.S.V.P, (323) 761-8648
or email info@jclla.org .


Susan Miron is a harpist. Her CD of Scarlatti sonatas was recently released by Centaur Records.

Accord Was to Ensure Jewish Majority


The Oslo agreement was the first agreement ever signed between the Israeli government and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), intended to put an end to the national struggle that is the heart of the larger Arab-Israeli conflict.

The Olso agreement was the natural continuation of the framework agreements signed at the 1978 Camp David summit between Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, which also provided the basis for the 1991 Madrid Conference.

But, the talks that I initiated in Oslo contained two unique elements: For the first time, the Palestinian partner was clearly identified as the PLO, and the idea was proposed to transfer to Palestinian control most of the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area, even before elections were held for the Palestinian Authority’s legislative council and leadership.

The Oslo process was intended to save the Zionist enterprise before Israel would control an area where the majority of residents would be Palestinian. Anyone who believes that Israel must be a Jewish and democratic state must support the establishment of a border between Israel and the Palestinian side — preferably by consent rather than by unilateral measures.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin understood this and gave his support to the Oslo process. He faced opposition from a right-wing camp that presented itself as nationalist but did not propose any solution that would guarantee a Jewish and democratic future for Israel.

The interim measures did not accomplish their goal — that is, a final peace agreement — because of efforts by elements on both sides.

On the Palestinian side, the extremist religious organizations understood that Israeli-Palestinian peace would be the end of the road for them, and they acted to undermine the process through violence. The more difficult the conditions became in the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, the more public support these organizations gained.

On the Israeli side, it was the right wing — in particular, extremist settlers — who did whatever they could to foil a final status settlement that would divide the Land of Israel.

Attempts to attribute the past three years of violence to the Oslo agreement are characteristic of people who did not believe in the agreement in the first place and who believe that any agreement with the enemy is a surrender that ultimately will engender more violence.

I am not saying that the Oslo agreement was free of flaws. But those flaws were not the result of an innocent belief that the five-year interim period would build such confidence and esteem between Israelis and Palestinians that it would be easy to reach a final status settlement.

In my opinion, there were two flaws in the Oslo Agreement and its implementation:

First, the fact that no reference was made to the freezing of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip — the Palestinians accepted Rabin’s personal commitment to halt the construction of new settlements — created an opening that a subsequent right-wing government used to build new settlements, though it clearly was not the original intent of the agreement.

Second, Israel did not give sufficient importance to incitement in the Palestinian media, thinking it was a trend that would pass when the final status agreement was signed. This incitement played a significant role in the Palestinians’ return to violence in 2000.

Both sides blame the other for the process’ failure, though the Palestinians’ choice of violence means they have the greater share of blame.

But our future does not lie in reciprocal blaming. If we want to secure the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, we must do it before there is a Palestinian majority under Israeli control.

If the Palestinians want a state with a secular and pragmatic leadership, they must do it before Hamas and Islamic Jihad conquer the hearts of the people.

We have no time. The only effective way to do this is to complete the Oslo process and reach the final status agreement as quickly as possible.


Yossi Bellin was minister of justice in Ehud Barak’s government and one of the architects of the Oslo agreement.

Rich in Love


When Susan Samueli met her future husband, Henry, at a dance
at Stephen S. Wise Temple in Los Angeles in 1979, she never could have
anticipated how different her life would be today.

That was 24 years and three children ago, before Samueli
became a household name in much of Southern California, as Henry co-founded
Broadcom, the leading provider in broadband high-speed communications
technology. It was way before Broadcom went public, and the Samuelis, with
Henry serving as chief technical officer, became multimillionaires nearly
overnight.

“It was sort of a shock to all of us,” said the 5-foot-10
Susan, dressed in a lightweight ivory sweater and pants as she sat in the family’s
foundation offices in Corona del Mar. “It was a rush because it came pretty
quickly, and we never expected it.”

Though much in Samueli’s life has changed — from “normal” in
Northridge to a mansion in Orange County with limousines and private planes —
her priorities have not. Her family, her Judaism and her career (she ran an
alternative health-care consulting practice until 1995) all guide her new life,
just as they did her old one.

As executive director of The Samueli Foundation, Samueli
oversees the distribution of the family’s philanthropic giving, which totals
$140 million to date. While the foundation seems to support diverse causes,
from health care to the arts and technology to Judaism, they are all causes and
interests important to the couple.

Being a mother, Samueli chooses philanthropic causes that
enhance the lives of young people, like Orangewood Children’s Foundation, which
provides services to families of abused and neglected children and offers a
supportive community for the children.

“I’m a mom and the thought of anyone abusing their children
is beyond anyone’s imagination,” said Samueli, who chairs a subgroup, 44 Women
for Children, which raises $100,000 a year for emancipated youth.

Samueli’s three daughters are her top priority. When the
family first moved to Orange County, Samueli quit her practice to raise the
kids, knowing that Henry would be working very long hours.

“She’s probably responsible for everything,” said Henry,
who, according to Forbes magazine, is in his late 40s. “Without her support, I
never could have achieved what I have done. It’s been a huge sacrifice on the
family, and she’s had to pick up the slack, and I’m very thankful to her for
doing that.”

Although her children are now older, Samueli continues to
make sure that she is home when they return from school, and she continues to
be very involved in their daily lives.

“I’m a typical Jewish mom, and it’s fun to spoil them and
buy them clothes. But I try to give them a sense of value in being a good
person … being honest and being nice.”

She often talks with her two oldest children, who grew up in
Northridge, about the drastic change that they have witnessed in the past eight
years.

“It’s a lot of responsibility to know that you have this
much and to know how to handle it properly. It’s not going to be easy for
them,” Susan said. “I sometimes feel a little bit sad for them, because when I
was dating, it never occurred to me to wonder if Henry was interested in me for
me or my money. Even when they have girlfriends, they have to decide if the
kids want them for the money or for themselves, and they really do have to
understand their friends.”

When her children were young and developed side effects to
traditional antibiotics, Samueli acquired an interest in alternative health
care. She pursued her interest in nutrition, homeopathy and Chinese herbs and
received a doctorate in nutrition from the American Holistic College of
Nutrition in 1993 and a diploma in homeopathy from the British Institute of
Homeopathy in 1994. This was in addition to her bachelor’s degree in
mathematics from UC Berkeley and 13 years at IBM as both a staff programmer and
a systems engineer.

Today, Samueli has relinquished her consulting responsibilities
but continues to contribute to the advancement of complementary medicine.
Through their foundation, the Samuelis endowed $5 million to create a center
for alternative medicine at the UC Irvine School of Medicine, which bears Susan
Samueli’s name. In 2001, the foundation also established the Samueli Institute,
which aims to apply the scientific rigor of traditional medicine to the field
of alternative medicine.

Samueli’s interest in health care is matched by her
husband’s passion for technology.

“But we have a common interest in Judaism,” Henry said.

Raised in the Valley, Susan Samueli was always immersed in
the activities of an active Jewish community.

“It was very different where I went to high school at Grant.
During the High Holidays, the campus was empty. Of course, everyone was
ditching who wasn’t Jewish, too,” Samueli said. But when the Samuelis moved to
Orange County, a community where there are an estimated 60,000 Jews, only 15
percent of whom are affiliated, she wanted to make sure that her children had
the same opportunities that she did.

The Samuelis maintain their Judaism at home, lighting
Shabbat candles and celebrating the Jewish holidays. Outside their home, the
couple is helping to build an Orange County Jewish community — literally.

In the spring of 2001, the Samuelis bought 20 acres of land
adjacent to the already existing Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School for $20
million. The site, overlooking the hills and valleys of much of Orange County
and directly opposite UC Irvine, will be the future site of the Samueli Campus.
The campus currently provides both elementary and high school education. The
second phase of the building project includes a full-service Jewish Community
Center with a fitness center, pool, theater and auditorium and facilities to
house the Jewish agencies of Orange County. Groundbreaking will begin when the
$20 million campaign goal is reached. (Approximately 80 percent of phase two
has been raised.)

The couple has also been instrumental in the construction of
two Orange County synagogues and recently funded a synagogue in a suburb of Tel
Aviv. They also give extensively to the Bureau of Jewish Education, Jewish
Family Services, the Jewish Federation of Orange County and Morasha Jewish Day
School.

Although much has changed for the Samuelis since they met at
a temple dance in 1979, their personal philosophy has not.

“Money should not change the person you are, your beliefs
and your values,” Henry said. “You have to maintain your value structure and
not let the money corrupt.” Â

Space Programs Thriving in Israel


The Israeli Post Office issued a stamp in December featuring the country’s first astronaut, who is scheduled to fly on NASA’s space shuttle in mid-January.

"Every time you are the first, it’s meaningful," said Col. Ilan Ramon. Israel will join an elite club of 30 nations that have sent at least one citizen into orbit aboard a U.S. shuttle or a Russian Soyuz capsule. The countries include Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Syria, Costa Rica, South Africa, Poland, Afghanistan and Cuba.

"It’s peculiar that it would have taken this long to fly an Israeli, given our strategic alliance with Israel," said John Pike of the Arlington, Va.-based research group, GlobalSecurity.org. "I mean, we flew a Saudi almost 20 years ago."

Prince Sultan Salman Abdul Aziz al-Saud, a member of the Saudi royal family, flew as a guest on the space shuttle in June 1985, ostensibly to oversee the release of a Saudi-owned communications satellite. After the Challenger accident six months later, NASA banned nonastronauts — and commercial satellites — from the shuttles.

Israel has had a thriving, if low-key, space program for two decades. The Israel Space Agency was established in 1983 to nurture and oversee industrial and scientific programs that would pave the way for an indigenous space program.

Israel concentrated its efforts on developing a small, expendable launcher, which was based on its Jericho 2 medium-range ballistic missile, and pioneering a series of small but powerful remote sensing satellites.

The Shavit, which means "comet" in Hebrew, is a 59-foot-long, three-stage, solid-fuel rocket designed to carry payloads weighing about 700 pounds into orbits roughly 300 miles above Earth. To avoid dropping spent rocket segments on neighboring countries, Israel launches its spacecraft against the planet’s easterly rotational spin from a coastal launch site south of Tel Aviv.

The Shavit has a mixed track record, with two of six flights failing to deliver their payloads into the proper orbit.

Israel Aircraft Industries, which manufactures and operates the Shavit program for the Israel Space Agency, has formed partnerships to market commercial versions of the Shavit booster. Efforts have been hampered, however, by a worldwide glut of launch vehicles and a shortage of satellites to orbit.

"Work is proceeding, but slowly," said Rick Kelley of Orlando-based Coleman Aerospace.

Israel has had more success parlaying its small satellite programs into commercial venues. Israel Aircraft Industries’ Ofeq spacecraft, a remote sensing eye-in-the-sky used by the country’s military agencies, has a civilian cousin called the Earth Resources Observation Satellite (EROS).

Images from EROS-A, which was launched in 2000, are marketed by Cyprus-based ImageSat International, a subsidiary of Israel Aircraft Industries and Elbit Systems’ Elop division.

A more powerful spacecraft, EROS-B, is scheduled for launch in 2004. Israel plans to increase the constellation to eight spacecraft.

Israel also has developed a low-cost communications satellite called the Afro-Mediterranean Orbital System (AMOS). Built by Israel Aircraft Industries in partnership with Alcatel Espace of France and Daimler-Benz Aerospace of Germany, the first AMOS spacecraft was carried into orbit by a European Ariane 4 rocket in 1996. AMOS 2 is scheduled for launch in 2003.

The 2,000-pound AMOS spacecraft is Israel’s most successful commercial space product so far. China selected the Israeli satellite over European designs for up to 10 spacecraft purchased by Hong Kong Satellite Technology Group, which is owned by the Chinese government.

China wants the satellites, in part, to support television broadcasts of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and plans to launch the satellites on its Long March expendable boosters.

Ramon’s presence in space, however, is intended to highlight Israel’s well-established science and environmental research programs, not its commercial and military uses of space.

"Israel has a lot to offer," said Ramon, who will spend much of his 16 days in orbit operating an experiment that tracks dust particles in the atmosphere, in an attempt to learn how aerosols affect global weather patterns and rainfall.

Ramon also will oversee several experiments designed by schoolchildren from Australia, China, Japan, Israel and the United States.

"Science is done for humankind, wherever they are," Ramon said. "It’s every scientist’s obligation to share his findings, and this goes for every experiment that we are going to do during this mission."