Mideast Report

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Caught between two groups of protesters, Ben & Jerry's officials now assert they aren't intentionally cutting off a Golan Heights water firm.

"The company is not boycotting products from the Golan Heights, nor would it join in such a boycott if one were organized," Avi Zenger said last week. Zenger is president of the American Company for Ice Cream Manufacturing, the Ben & Jerry's licensee in Israel.

The Israeli licensee bought "roughly $750 worth of water" from Mei Eden — a mineral water company based in the Golan Heights — for a sorbet promotion during the summer, he said. Zenger added he would consider buying from Mei Eden in the future.

Under a hail of protest from U.S.-based anti-settler groups, the company's Israeli franchise first announced that last month it had canceled a contract to purchase water from Mei Eden.

But after Jewish groups in the United States criticized Ben & Jerry's for endorsing a boycott of certain Israeli products, the company said that in fact it was not boycotting Mei Eden.

Sheinbein appeals extradition ruling

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Attorneys for Samuel Sheinbein appealed to the Israeli Supreme Court to block a ruling that would allow the extradition of the teenage murder suspect to stand trial in Maryland.

Sheinbein, who is charged with the September 1997 murder and dismembering of Alfredo Tello Jr., fled to Israel in an effort to avoid a trial in the United States. An Israeli court ruled last month that Sheinbein, who had never before claimed Israeli citizenship or lived in Israel, does not have close enough ties to the Jewish state to seek shelter under Israel's law preventing the extradition of its citizens.

Police are probing baby's decapitation

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Pathologists at the Forensic Medicine Institute at Abu Kabir were to perform an autopsy on the remains of a baby boy accidentally decapitated during his delivery last week at Safed's Rebecca Sieff Hospital.

The body was exhumed from its grave in the Bedouin village of Kamaneh by order of a Tiberias District Court judge, after receiving a complaint from the family.

Health Minister Yehoshua Matza last week appointed a committee to investigate the case after the police finish a separate probe.

The baby, who weighed nearly nine pounds, died after his head emerged from the birth canal with the help of a suction device. The baby's wide shoulders became stuck, and when the delivery team pulled hard on his head, it separated from his body.

The family initially refused an autopsy and quickly buried the remains.

Sieff Hospital director Dr. Oscar Embon said the delivery team in question was "very experienced." He said the pregnant woman, 36, and the mother of six, had arrived unannounced at the hospital while in labor.

"The delivery was going as it should, and the team saw no reason to perform a cesarean section before the tragedy occurred," he said.

Decapitation during a delivery "shouldn't happen, and we are extremely sorry about it," said Embon, adding that "reports in the medical literature of such an event are extremely rare."

The parents were told that the baby died in childbirth, Embon said, "but we didn't tell them he was decapitated, as they had enough anguish."

The father said that they were given the baby's body and told not to open up the sheets. "We did and saw that the doctors had amateurishly sewed the head to his body at the neck all around."

Cornerstone laid in Hebron area

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Despite Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's call for a time-out on unilateral action, Jewish residents of Hebron attended a cornerstone-laying ceremony on Wednesday of last week for building permanent structures in Tel Rumeida.

A secluded Jewish neighborhood located on a hill that overlooks the center of Hebron, Tel Rumeida is a two-acre site where seven families live in mobile homes.

At the ceremony, Transport Minister Shaul Yahalom said the National Religious Party would continue to support strengthening and building the city and called on the government to take a similar stand.

Yahalom said his party would not accept the government decision to replace only seven caravans with permanent structures, but that it would dedicate itself to ensuring the Jewish community would be able to build whatever was necessary.

"Since the murder of Rabbi Shlomo Ra'anan it is our responsibility and the government's to ensure that the community is strengthened," he said.

Ra'anan, a prominent Hebron-area rabbi, was stabbed to death by terrorists in his Tel Rumeida home in late August.