Soar into wild blue yonder with Israeli air force online

An introductory section offers an overview of the IAF's missions, a list of its leaders over the past half-century (including David Ivry, the current Israeli ambassador to Washington) and a tribute to IAF personnel who have died in past battles.

Another section includes descriptions of the variety of aircraft used by the IAF since its creation — from World War II-surplus P-51 Mustangs in the 1940s to the celebrated Phantom F-4s, called "Kurnas" (Hebrew for "Sledgehammer"), to today's insect-like F-15s.

A "flight log" provides much more detailed accounts of IAF missions, including never-before-published material — a good read for history buffs. Especially interesting: year-by-year accounts of the early IAF, the stuff of legend.

A "gallery" includes dozens of pictures of current and past IAF aircraft. Some of the pictures are dramatic, with great images of Israeli landmarks seen from the air. Getting there takes some mousing around, but it's worth the effort.

The site is available in English as well as Hebrew; once you make your choice, it remembers your preference for future visits.

The graphics here are great, the organization more than adequate — and there's enough information to lure you back for repeat visits. It's at

* * *

OK, we've written about it before, but the newly revamped Jewish Virtual Library — formerly Jsource — is so good it deserves another look.

And its reorganization is timely; this is just about the best place to go for ammunition when arguing about the crisis in the Middle East and Israel's role in it.

A "New This Month" section currently features a comprehensive analysis of the Mitchell report on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a lengthy look at the seemingly endless controversy over the USS Liberty.

Enter the library, and you get instant access to information on Jewish history, anti-Semitism, U.S.-Israel relations, the Holocaust and the like. In some areas, the information is astounding in its volume. Click on "Politics," then "Peace Process," and you get easy access to dozens of documents.

The perspective here is clearly pro-Israel, but the information is reasonably balanced and lacks the stridency of so many sites devoted to supporting the Jewish state — which is why the Jewish Virtual Library may be such a valuable resource to college students today.

Oh yes, the site is drop-dead gorgeous — great graphics, attractive menus and no distracting ads. Definitely worth bookmarking — and returning to regularly. It's at

* * *

B'nai B'rith may be the oldest Jewish organization, but it has an up-to-date look on the World Wide Web, thanks to a slick new home page.

Unfortunately, the overhauled site, while outstanding in its organization, is a little thin in content, but I hope that will change in the near future.

The revised B'nai B'rith site has a daunting task: to bring together the group's varied programs in a format that won't make visitors dizzy. Generally, the new site succeeds.

The opening page offers a feature from the group's International Jewish Monthly and a bunch of choices.

A "community action" section describes some of the group's core programs, including its prostate cancer awareness program and its Wildacres Institute of Judaism. Another section describes B'nai B'rith's extensive senior housing services, although the information here is little more than a brochure blurb.

Better is the section on the B'nai B'rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum. You can't actually tour exhibits online, but you can get an interesting glimpse of what real visitors to the museum see.

Eventually, there will be a section devoted to the museum's Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

A "critical issues" area includes information on several topics that interest B'nai B'rith's public-policy gurus and an extensive guide to visiting your own representatives in Congress. But the information about current public policy issues isn't particularly current.

A nice section on "family resources" helps you set up your very own family history Web site.

The site is nicely designed and a cinch to navigate; the screens are attractive and uncluttered, despite advertisements on the home page.

But content so far is a little thin. Bookmark the site and come back later; chances are, the B'nai B'rith Webmasters will have fleshed out what could be a very good site. You'll find it at

The writer is a Washington-based correspondent who has been writing about Jewish Web sites since the early 1990s. His columns alternate with those of Mark Mietkiewicz. Besser can be reached at [email protected]