Medical visits spark rumors that Arafat is ill

jerusalem (jps) | Four ambulances that were seen entering Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat’s compound in Ramallah on Monday afternoon triggered off rumors that he was seriously ill.

Arafat’s spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, dismissed reports that Arafat had been taken to a local hospital. He said Arafat suffered from exhaustion and was recovering.

But another senior official said Arafat’s health has rapidly deteriorated over the past two weeks. “I don’t think it’s the flu as some people say,” he said. “The president hasn’t been feeling well for some time and his health seems to be worsening.”

FBI funneled cash

to Hamas in 1998

jerusalem (jps) | The FBI funneled up to $5,000 to Hamas in 1998 to track how funds get to terrorist groups.

The agency used Arizona businessman Harry Ellen to get the money to the terrorist group in an attempt to see whether cash earmarked for charities was going to terrorists.

Ellen, a convert to Islam who later had a falling out with the FBI, said that as far as he could ascertain, the cash went to charitable groups.

The FBI confirmed the cash transfer. Israel was informed of the operation, which was curtailed without leading to any prosecutions.

Haredim cry fowl over chicken ritual

jerusalem (jps) | The crates of squawking chickens marking the advent of Yom Kippur in the haredi neighborhoods are becoming fewer, according to a national survey of Israel’s fervently religious Jews.

The custom of kapparot (atonement), which involves swinging a chicken around one’s head and symbolically transferring one’s sins onto it, and then donating the chicken to the poor, is ancient. But many people prefer to perform the ritual with money, and this practice is becoming increasingly widespread.

According to the survey, 49 percent of haredim are swinging money, as compared with 44 percent who are using chickens.

Says market researcher Eitan Dubkin, “Using chickens is cleaner.”

Israeli leftists act

as human shields

for Arafat

jerusalem (jps) | Some 30 Israeli members of Gush Shalom, a radical leftist group, arrived in Ramallah to act as “human shields” to protect Yasser Arafat.

One of the leaders of Gush Shalom, Uri Avnery, told reporters Saturday that their goal was “to protect Israel from the catastrophe that would occur if Arafat were to be exiled, or killed.”