Israels affairs now public via governments gateway

The U.S. government has a terrific portal site that makes it easy to locate government agencies on the Web — — and now Israel offers the same useful service.

The Israel Government Gateway provides an easy-to-use, comprehensive starting place for Web surfers interested in getting more information about the Jewish state and its government. The site provides quick access to most government agencies and to an array of public affairs documents. It's located at

Click on "foreign affairs and security," for example, and you'll get plugged in to an assortment of interesting Web sites: the home pages of the Foreign and Defense ministries and the Israel Defense Force and a site labeled "A Handbook to the Peace Process" — a pretty depressing place these days.

A section on health and the environment includes links to government offices in those areas and targeted information, including everything you could possibly want to know about health insurance in Israel.

A box in the upper right lets you scroll a list of the big ministries for extra-quick navigation. A "What's New" section provides recent official statements from the government, mostly on the intensifying conflict with the Palestinians.

Alas, the page doesn't always work properly. Click on the link for a government-wide phone directory, and your computer will churn for a while — and then give you one of those dreaded "object not found" messages.

Despite a few glitches, the gateway is a useful service for anyone interested in Israel and its current travails.

The entire page is available in Hebrew, as well; just go to

Speaking of Israeli government sites: If you're thinking about a trip, a great place to start is the Israeli Ministry of Tourism home page at

Here you'll find basic information on visas, money, dealing with border crossings and the like — and some tantalizing, photo-rich features about Israeli travel destinations.

Navigation is a breeze, and for a government site, this one is pretty unstuffy.

The IDF has a well-deserved reputation for toughness. If you want to take on some of that panache, check out Israel Military Products, an on-line catalog featuring surplus military equipment as well as memorabilia, videos and the like.

Want to go to go hiking with a really cool backpack? Consider an IDF combat bag, available here. "Ballistic protection vests," a featured item, may be just the thing for your dangerous neighborhood.

Not everybody's cup of tea, but if this stuff turns you on, this is the place:

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Sometimes, the fact that the Holocaust is really millions of individual tragedies is obscured by the history-book facts and figures.

Emil Mark's Holocaust Names Web site helps remind us of some of those stories.

The site represents Mark's effort to help survivors and their families get information about relatives whose fate is still unknown, and it provides even those not seeking relatives a particularly poignant view of the lingering pain of the Holocaust.

The opening page lays out the function of the site: "…today, after so many years, we are still looking for our people, our past with so many memories," Mark writes. If just one person locates a long-missing relative through the site, he says, the effort will be worthwhile.

There are a number of choices on the left side of the screen. Click on "Search names" to begin; that opens a list of names of the missing, plus information about the people seeking their whereabouts.

The appeals are pithy, and all the more moving because of the bad grammar and erratic spelling; these are real people, pursuing what must look like an almost hopeless quest.

A "pictures" section is even more heartrending: a collection of pre-war photos of ordinary-looking people, now among the countless loose ends of the Holocaust, but still very real in the minds of some.

The site is attractive and easy to navigate, but nobody will mistake this for the home page of an organization with lots of money and staff. This is an individual effort by a man with a big burden on his heart. Go to

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] 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]