Conversion head fired
The head of the State Conversion Authority, Rabbi Haim Druckman, was fired by the Prime Minister’s Office last week. The refusal to renew Rabbi Druckman’s contract which expires at the end of June, took people by surprise and sparked a flurry of speculation regarding the motive. The Prime Minister’s Office said the rabbi’s age, 75, was the reason for his dismissal. Rabbi Druckman was hired in 2004. He criticized the Prime Minister’s Office. “Doing this now is foolish and malicious,” he told Army Radio. “And the way it was done was disrespectful as well. No one talked to me. I just got a letter delivered to me by a messenger.” Many observers believe the Prime Minister’s Office was bowing to haredi political pressure to oust him from his position. A controversy developed recently when the rabbinate annulled all the divorce decrees issued by the Conversion Institute, only to have the annulment set aside by the chief Sephardi rabbi. The Conversion Institute remains the subject of attack by the haredi establishment.
Terror attack foiled
Israeli soldiers foiled a major Palestinian bomb attack on a key Gaza Strip border crossing. A Palestinian recruited by Islamic Jihad and Fatah terrorists drove an explosives-laden truck toward the Erez border crossing last Thursday, but was shot at by troops before he could enter the compound. The resulting explosion was heard for miles around, but killed only the driver. An Israeli helicopter attacked a vehicle carrying two of the terrorist’s comrades away from the scene, but they escaped. The attack came as Egypt tries to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the Hamas administration in Gaza, said he was still studying the proposal.
Israel gives to China relief
The Israeli government is donating $1.5 million worth of equipment for earthquake relief in China. The first three tons of supplies arrived last week on a commercial El Al flight to Beijing. The supplies included sleeping bags, blankets and personal water purification units. A cargo plane carrying the remaining equipment, estimated between 70 and 90 tons, was to go directly to Chengdu. The Israeli government is making purchases based on a list of needed supplies from the Chinese government. “As longstanding friends of the Chinese people, we are committed to doing everything we can to help at this critical time,” Israel’s ambassador to China, Amos Nadai, said Thursday.
Ethiopians not well handled
A state audit faulted Israel’s handling of recent Ethiopian immigrants. The annual state controller’s report said 65 per cent of Ethiopian Jews who recently moved to Israel require the assistance of welfare agencies, but the state has not provided the personnel and facilities to cope properly with the demand. Some 25 per cent of Ethiopian immigrant youths use drugs and 75 per cent consume alcohol, the report said. Difficulties in assimilating recent Ethiopian arrivals have been highlighted in recent reports on schools that set up separate classes for the immigrants, citing “cultural differences.” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s government came out sharply against such segregation.