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Powerful ultra-Orthodox Israeli rabbi dies at 93

: By KAROUN DEMIRJIAN | Associated Press Writer - JERUSALEMMenachem Porush, a well-known Israeli rabbi and longtime leader of one of the most influential ultra-Orthodox parties in parliament, has died. He was 93.

Porush served for more than 30 years in Israel's parliament, acting twice as deputy labor minister. He was known for leading the minority ultra-Orthodox Jewish community's efforts to slow secularization in Israel, leading epic battles for legislation to enforce strict Jewish laws that sparked charges from critics of "religious coercion."

The Jerusalem-born Porush also founded several religious education centers for ultra-Orthodox children.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu eulogized Porush, who died Sunday, as "a dear, wise, and warm man" and one of Israel's "most dedicated public servants."

Thousands attended a funeral Monday for Porush, who retired from politics in 1994.

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Israel-Iran

Israel unveils new drone fleet that can reach Iran

: By TIA GOLDENBERG | Associated Press Writer - TEL NOF AIR FORCE BASE, IsraelIsrael's air force on Sunday introduced a fleet of huge pilotless planes that can remain in the air for a full day and could fly as far as the Persian Gulf, putting rival Iran within its range.

The Heron TP drones have a wingspan of 86 feet (26 meters), making them the size of Boeing 737 passenger jets and the largest unmanned aircraft in Israel's military. The planes can fly at least 20 consecutive hours and are primarily used for surveillance and carrying diverse payloads.

At the fleet's inauguration ceremony at a sprawling air base in central Israel, the drone dwarfed an F-15 fighter jet parked beside it. The unmanned plane resembles its predecessor, the Heron, but can fly higher, reaching an altitude of more than 40,000 feet (12,000 meters), and remain in the air longer.

"With the inauguration of the Heron TP, we are realizing the air force's dream," said Brig. Gen. Amikam Norkin, commander of the base that will operate the drones. "The Heron TP is a technological and operational breakthrough."

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Auschvitz-Israel

Jewish Cemetery Vandalized in Strasbourg France

by Avi Yellin | israelnationalnews.com :: Anti-Semitic Vandalism at a Strasbourg Jewish cemetery was discovered on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. According to the French Jewish umbrella group CRIF and the Jewish Community Protection Service, some 30 gravestones were vandalized, including 18 painted with swastikas and 13 overturned. The German phrase “Juden Raus” or “Jews out” was also written on one of the tombstones. Although the vandalism was discovered on Wednesday, police have not yet determined the time of the attack.

Laurent Schmoll, president of the approximately 1,000-member Jewish community in Strasbourg, told reporters that he believed the cemetery was defiled in connection with International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was being observed when the vandalism was discovered. “These are absolutely inscriptions from the Nazi period,” Schmoll said. “At the moment we celebrate the anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps, and I think there has to be a link.”

CRIF researcher Marc Knobel said it was too early to tell why the tombs were defiled, but that one reason could have been to “mark the day.”

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Auschwitz blueprints go on display in Israel

By ARON HELLER | Yahoo News :: JERUSALEM – The neat lines and red rectangular sketches look like any typical architectural design. But the handwritten initials H.H. — belonging to the infamous Nazi SS chief Heinrich Himmler — indicate what the drawings represent: wooden barracks, gas chambers and crematoria.

Just ahead of the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Israel's Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem is displaying the blueprints of the notorious Polish camp that has become a symbol of the Nazi genocide of European Jewry. It is the first time the plans will be on display for a wide audience.

Auschwitz was the largest of the Nazi camps where millions of Jews and other minorities were forced to work as slaves. Many died of starvation or exposure. Also, many Jews were herded on arrival into gas chambers, the bodies burned in crematoria and their ashes buried in pits. In all, about six million Jews were killed by the Nazis and their collaborators.

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Detained American journalist opts to leave Israel

JERUSALEM – An American journalist working for a Palestinian news agency voluntarily left Israel on Wednesday after being detained for a week and risking deportation, his lawyer said.

Castro Daoud said his client, Jared Malsin, chose to leave because "he could no longer endure the conditions of his detention."

Malsin'sfather is Jewish, according to a colleague. He was detained at Israel's international airport last week after arriving on a flight from Prague. He has been accused of lying about his reasons for wanting to enter Israel and repeatedly overstaying his visa on past visits.

Interior Ministry Spokeswoman Sabine Hadad said Malsin raised security suspicions during an initial investigation upon his arrival.

Israeli court issued but then delayed a deportation order against Malsin last week, saying it sought more information about the case. It was unclear when it would have been resolved, Daoud said.

Initially, Malsin appealed the deportation order, but retracted it, a court spokesman said. The spokesman confirmed Malsin left Israel voluntarily.

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Israeli police arrest 5 in West Bank mosque blaze

JERUSALEM – Israeli police said Monday they have arrested nine people at a radical Jewish settlement in connection with the torching last month of a West Bank mosque and other attacks on Palestinian property.

Five people arrested in the pre-dawn police raid were linked to the mosque blaze, while four others are suspected in connection with what police described as "severe damage" to other Palestinian property.

Police officials gave no further details and spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the case.

Authorities suspect the Dec. 11 mosque fire was set by Jewish extremists outraged by a government-ordered slowdown in West Bank settlement construction. Some extremists take out their anger on Palestinians in a practice known as "price tag."

The mosque attackers burned prayer carpets and a book stand with Muslim holy texts, and spray-painted Hebrew graffiti on the floor. A teen was briefly detained last month in connection with the blaze.

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Prehistoric building found in modern Israeli city

JERUSALEM - Israel's Antiquities Authority say the remains of a prehistoric building and ancient flint tools have been discovered in the modern city of Tel Aviv.

Archaeologist Ayelet Dayan says the find is "important and surprising" because it's the first evidence of life from that time in the area.

The three-room structure is believed to be about 8,000 years old and was built in the Neolithic period - when humans went from nomadic existence to permanent settlements. It is the earliest building ever found in Tel Aviv. The flint tools and hippopotamus bones found nearby date back 100,000 years.

Tel Aviv, Israel's financial and cultural center on the Mediterranean, was built on sand dunes 100 years ago. The ancient remains were uncovered during construction in the affluent Ramat Aviv neighborhood.

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Latest shot in hummus war: Israel doubles record

:: By MATTI FRIEDMAN | Associated Press Writer :: JERUSALEM - Israel has taken the upper hand in a new kind of Mideast conflict, one in which bullets are replaced by chickpeas.

Using a satellite dish on loan from a nearby broadcast station, cooks in an Arab town near Jerusalem whipped up more than four metric tons of hummus, the chickpea paste that is a staple - and a near-religious obsession - for many in the Middle East.

The cooks doubled the previous record for the world's biggest serving of hummus, set in October by cooks in Lebanon. That record broke an earlier Israeli record and briefly put Lebanon ahead.

Hundreds of jubilant Israelis, a mix of Arabs and Jews, gathered around the giant dish in the town of Abu Ghosh near Jerusalem on Friday, many of them dancing as a singer performed an Arabic love song to the beige chickpea paste.

Just after midday, an adjudicator sent from London by Guinness World Records, Jack Brockbank, confirmed that the Israeli chefs now held the record. He put the exact amount of hummus in the giant dish at 9,017 pounds (4,090 kilograms).

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Iran soccer official resigns over e-mail to Israel

TEHRAN, Iran - Iranian media reports say one of the country's sports officials has resigned after his e-mailed New Year's greetings to members of world soccer's governing body were mistakenly forwarded to Israel's soccer federation.

The reports by several newspapers said Sunday that Mohammad Mansour Azimzadeh Ardebili sent the e-mail through the sport's governing body, FIFA. It was supposed to go to all FIFA members except Israel, but was apparently forwarded to Israel's soccer federation, too.

Ardebili was a spokesman for Iran's soccer federation.

Since Iran's Islamic rulers came to power in 1979, the country has not recognized Israel. Iranian athletes avoid playing Israeli competitors in international matches.

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Israelis make pilgrimage to rabbi's tomb in Egypt

CAIRO - Hundreds of Israelis came to Egypt on Sunday for an annual pilgrimage to the tomb of a 19th-century Jewish holy man in Egypt's Nile Delta, airport officials said.

Last year, Egypt denied the pilgrims entry because the anniversary fell during Israel's offensive on Gaza and there were concerns about their security and public protests.

In past years, Egypt limited the number of pilgrims visiting the tomb of Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzeira near the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria. But Israeli newspapers reported that President Hosni Mubarak accepted a request from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he visited Egypt last week to allow unlimited numbers.

"There are more coming in the next few days, hundreds, probably thousands," said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

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