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Israel’s Tamar gas field begins production
( Israeli officials are celebrating news that they hope will mean long-term energy independence for the Jewish state. The Tamar offshore gas field has started production after four years of exploration and drilling by Israel, Israel Hayom reported. Israel’s Energy and Water Resources Ministry confirmed on Saturday that natural gas “is now moving from the Tamar reservoir to a new naval production rig across from Ashdod.” Israel has invested $3.5 billion in the Tamar project in order to reduce its dependency on gas imports. “This is Israel’s energy independence day,” Energy and Water Resources Minister Silvan Shalom said. “It is truly a historic event—Israel has received energy freedom.”
The Tamar field, which was discovered in 2009 about 81 miles west of Haifa, reportedly has gas reserves of up to 8.4 trillion cubic feet. U.S.-based Noble Energy as well as Israeli firms—Delek, Isramco and Dor Alon—own the field. The Tamar field’s progress is also welcome news for Israel because Egypt canceled its gas supply agreement with the Jewish state in April 2012, citing that the agreement was undermining Egyptian interests. In August 2011, terrorists bombed the gas pipeline connecting Israel and Egypt.

Ancient Synagogue burns in Damascus
( The ancient Ancient Eliyahu HaHavi Synagogue in Damascus has reportedly gone up in flames while rebel forces and the Syrian government exchange blame over the incident. The rebels contend that the Syrian government burned the synagogue and stripped it of its content, while the government blamed the rebels for the arson, Israel Hayom reported. The government later released a video purportedly showing the rebels breaking into the synagogue. Tradition holds that the ancient synagogue is built on the site where the prophet Elijah hid himself in a cave to avoid arrest. It is considered one of Judaism’s holiest and most ancient synagogues. Once home to a vibrant Jewish community, Syria’s Jewish population has dwindled to around 100 people today.

Canada’s largest student group joins BDS movement
( Canada’s largest student union, the York Federation of Students (YFS) University, passed a resolution last week to join the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, the Canadian Jewish News reported. The student union, which represents more than 52,000 undergraduates at Toronto’s York University, overwhelmingly passed the motion after a hearing with Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA). YFS is the third student union at York to pass a BDS resolution. Jewish leaders on campus condemned the vote in a joint statement, saying it is “fundamentally racist, and a possible violation of the university’s anti-discrimination codes.” Pro-Israel supporters also questioned the vote’s validity, claiming that they were surprised that YFS allowed the vote to take place without checking the authenticity of the 5,000 signatures. “Those signatures have not been verified for authenticity or duplication,” Howard English, senior vice-president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, told the Canadian Jewish News.

Israeli autism researcher wins UNESCO fellowship
( Israeli scientist Dr. Osnat Penn — a postdoctoral researcher in computational biology at Tel Aviv University whose work examines the genetic origins of autism – has been awarded a 2013 UNESCO-L’Oréal International Fellowship for promising young female scientists, Israel Hayom reported. Penn, 32, and 14 other researchers worldwide were awarded the prestigious fellowships out of hundreds of candidates. The fellowships are given to female scientists “whose promising research projects have a potential impact on human well-being and the environment.” This is the third year in a row that an Israeli has received the fellowship, which comes with a $40,000 grant.
“Autism is known to have a hereditary component but scientists have had difficulty identifying the precise genetic causes. Computational biologist Osnat Penn plans to tackle this challenge by analyzing massive quantities of data obtained through genome sequencing,” the website for the international fellowship said. “Her research is designed to help enable prenatal screening and early diagnosis of autism in children and could one day contribute to creating treatments for the disorder.”

Extensive terror network uncovered near Bethlehem
( The Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), in cooperation with the Israel Defense Forces and Israel Police, broke up an extensive terror network in the village of Beit Fajjar near Bethlehem over the course of January and February, Israel Hayom reported.
The detained suspects were members of Tanzim, a terrorist group affiliated with the Fatah movement. The detainees allegedly took part in a series of shooting and firebomb attacks on the Migdal Oz community in the Gush Etzion area. No one was wounded in the attacks. During questioning, the suspects admitted to conducting the attacks and said they had planned to carry out additional shooting attacks in the Gush Etzion area, which were thwarted by their arrests. The suspects were found in possession of six improvised weapons and a fake explosive device.

Amnesty International speaks out for Egypt’s Christians
( Amid a rise in attacks on Christians, the human rights group Amnesty International has called on Egypt’s Islamist government to do more to protect its Coptic Christian community. “Coptic Christians across Egypt face discrimination in law and practice and have been victims of regular sectarian attacks while authorities systematically look the other way,” Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International, said in a statement. Since the Egyptian revolution in 2011, Christian leaders have complained of rampant discrimination and attacks against their community. Since becoming president, Mohamed Morsi, a member of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, has pledged to protect Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority, which comprises about 10 percent of the country’s 83 million. But Amnesty International claims the authorities’ response to the violence has been poor.

Report: IDF sets up field hospital near Golan border to treat Syrians
(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to Israel has reportedly set up a small field hospital near the Israel-Syria border with the aim of treating injured Syrians who arrive at the border seeking medical assistance, Channel 2 reported on Thursday. Israel, citing humanitarian concerns, has treated 11 Syrian civilians over the last four weeks. On Wednesday, Israeli army paramedics treated seven wounded Syrians near the border. Two of the men sustained critical head injuries and were taken to Israeli hospitals for emergency surgery; one of them died from his wounds. The report, quoting military sources, said that the field hospital—set up at an Israeli army post adjacent to the border—aims to treat the injured and immediately return them to Syria. Critical cases will still be referred to hospitals in northern Israel.

Israel, Turkey divided over restitution for Gaza flotilla raid
( Following Israel’s apology to Turkey over the May 2010 raid of the Mavi Marmara, the process of negotiating the restitution payments is underway.
Israel is reportedly willing to pay $100,000 to each family of the nine Turkish activists killed on board the Mavi Marmara, while Turkey is reportedly demanding $1 million for each family. The two countries agreed to establish a joint committee to deal with the restitution issue, according to Israel Hayom.
Israel prefers that the restitution payments be transferred via a humanitarian fund, rather than paid directly to the families. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told reporters in Ankara that he discussed the restitution payments with Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni as part of the restoration of ties between the two countries.

The rise of Rand Paul stirs Jewish concern
(By Maxine Dovere/ The foreign policy positions of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), which have already generated some concern in the Jewish community, might remain a topic of debate among Jews for another several years after poll results indicating that he will be a significant factor in the 2016 presidential race. Rand Paul—the son of 2012 presidential candidate U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX)—in mid-March won a presidential straw poll of 3,000 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) participants, edging U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) 25 percent to 23 percent. The younger Paul, like his father, has drawn some Jewish criticism due to his opposition to all foreign aid, including military aid to Israel.
Aaron Keyak, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, told JNS that Paul “represents a foreign policy perspective that, for friends of Israel and those who want to prevent and not contain Iran achieving nuclear weapons capability, is highly troubling. … He may be the only United States Senator to not have rejected containment as a policy.”
Paul, whose office did not return requests for comment from, says he opposes defense aid to Israel to foster the Jewish state’s independence from American influence. Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, who traveled with Paul to Israel in January, told there is “some change in his positions—although there are some with which we may not agree.” Hoenlein believes Paul has “elected a more nuanced position on aid regarding Israel as opposed to others he would like to cut off.” Paul, however, did specifically speak in Israel about “phasing out” aid to the Jewish state, Hoenlein noted. “Obviously we don’t agree regarding the importance of foreign aid, although allocating it wisely and effectively is something we have always advocated [at the Conference of Presidents].”
When Paul was running for Senate in 2010, Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) Executive Director Matthew Brooks said Paul is “outside the comfort level of a lot of people in the Jewish community, and in many ways outside of where the Republican Party is on many critical issues.”
The RJC did not invite Ron Paul to its candidates’ forum for the 2012 presidential election because he was “so far outside of the mainstream of the Republican party and this organization,” Brooks told the Washington Jewish Week in 2011, and the group could face a similar decision with Rand Paul if he remains a factor in the 2016 race.

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