Egged To Compensate Woman Forced To Sit In Back Of Bus

Israel’s largest bus company, Egged, was fined for forcing a woman to sit in the back of a bus, a small claims court ruled.

Egged was fined approximately $1,070 on Wednesday for gender discrimination and violating the High Court of Justice’s ruling opposing forced segregation of men and women in the public sphere, according to the Israel Hayom website.

In the suit, filed in July by the Israel Religious Action Center in Rishon Lezion Magistrate Court, the complainant said that a driver employed by Egged made her sit in the back while the bus was traveling to the haredi Orthodox area of Bnei Brak.

“I explained to the driver that the line was not a segregated line, but the driver dismissed my argument and said that only the rabbis can decide whether a bus is segregated or not. It was humiliating and insulting,” the complainant, who is Orthodox, said in court, Israel Hayom reported.

Egged issued a statement arguing that the driver was not representing the company’s views.

The bus company has been accused before of discrimination. In October, Egged was ordered to pay approximately $16,000 in compensation after driver Ben Yakar told a young female student that he “doesn’t let blacks ride on the bus.”

In񎧖, Miriam Shear, an American-Israeli woman, reportedly was beaten by a gang of haredi Orthodox when she refused to move to the back of the bus while traveling to the Wailing Wall.

Wednesday’s ruling came a week after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a closed-session question-and-answer session that she is concerned about the direction of Israel’s democracy, prompting Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar to accuse Clinton in a radio interview of having “no real knowledge of a Jewish woman’s modesty.”

“The Jewish people respect women and treat them like queens and princesses,” Amar said.

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Syrias Christians caught in the crossfire

The situation for Syria’s Christians is worsening amid anti-regime protests, Open Doors USA has warned.

Despite international outcry over the brutality of the crackdown on the uprising, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has ignored calls to step down.

In an interview with US TV channel ABC News this week, he denied issuing orders to kill his own people and questioned the credibility of the UN and its latest report putting the number of people killed since the outbreak of protests at 4,ዀ.

Open Doors said Christians in the country are afraid of what might happen to them in the future, especially if radical Muslims gain power.

The organisation’s President, Dr Carl Moeller, fears Christians may soon have to think about leaving Syria.

“Christians inside Syria are caught in the crossfire as they are in many other Middle Eastern countries,” he said.

“Until the protests started against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, the Christian community enjoyed some protection. Now they are afraid of the future. Will they have to flee their country like Iraqi Christians have done over the last several years? Please lift them up in your prayers.”

There are around 1.5 million Christians in Syria, including 100,000 Christian refugees who fled from Iraq because of violence and persecution there.

One Open Doors field worker, who cannot be named for security reasons, described a situation of increasing hardship for Syrians, with food levels down, fuel supplies running low, and daily electricity cuts.

The field worker reports that radical Muslims and criminals are “taking advantage” of the lawlessness.

“In the city of Homs, for example, the Sunni Muslims gained power on the streets when the government pulled out its troops for a few days.

“Some of the radical elements in this group have raided several churches. They robbed the churches of their most valuable things.”

Some Christians have already reported violent acts against them and fear they are a sign of more violence to come.

The field worker said that some radical Muslim taxi drivers have spoken of their intention to harm any woman using their taxi who is not veiled.

“These women, mostly less orthodox Muslims and Christians, are being kidnapped, raped or even killed,” said the field worker.

“Some months ago two Christian women were kidnapped. One managed to jump out of the driving car, but the other was taken. That woman remains missing. This didn’t happen in a remote area of the country but in the capital of Damascus. For women the situation is unsafe now. People still go on with their daily routine, but with more caution.”

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Consultation on gay marriage in Scotland due to close

Christian groups are urging people to respond to the Scottish Government’s public consultation on gay marriage before it closes at midnight tonight.

The consultation, which is inviting responses from beyond Scotland, is fielding views on redefining marriage to include same-sex unions.

The Scottish Government has already stated that it “tends towards the view” that marriage should be redefined to include same-sex unions.

The consultation also asks whether religious ceremonies for civil partnerships and registration on religious premises should be allowed.

However a final decision has not been reached and the Government has promised to take other views into consideration.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, of Christian Concern, said that the proposed changes to the law would have œhuge implications for freedom of belief.

“Individuals and churches are likely to be sued under equality legislation if they do not wish to participate, regardless of any conscience safeguards, which have never worked in the past,” she said.

“Many Christians have already lost their jobs because of the promotion of homosexual rights.”

Canon Chris Sugden, of Anglican Mainstream, said: “Please act now to defend marriage.”

The campaign to preserve the traditional definition of marriage is being spearheaded by Scotland for Marriage, which launched this week.

The campaign group has broad support from Christians, including CARE for Scotland, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, the Christian Institute and the Evangelical Alliance.

Online: www.scotlandformarriage.org

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New life at Christmas

“Life in Shivnagar is tough,” says Uma, who tells the story of her conversion in Tearfund’s new Nativity resource.

Shivnagar is a small village in Nepal. Many of its occupants, including Uma and her daughter Puspa, are formerly enslaved families who gained freedom when bonded labour was abolished in the country ten years ago, only to find themselves without the money or education to rise above poverty.

Three Christmases ago Uma was gravely ill and so debilitated by fever that she could hardly lift herself out of bed.

There were no medical facilities in the village and receiving treatment in the nearest centre in Tikapur would have been too expensive.

On any other occasion, Uma would have laid in her bed with little more than a hope that she might get better.

This Christmas was different however. Carol singers passed by her house and, having heard that Christians could heal people, Puspa begged her mother to let them in and pray for her.

Uma agreed, telling the carollers: “If this works, I will follow Jesus.”

Led by Pastor Madan, the carol singers from the nearby church came in and prayed over Uma’s sick body. When they left, she threw off her blanket. She had been healed.

It was a turning point in Uma’s life and she celebrated her first Christmas in the local church in Tikapur.

Tearfund is working with the church in Tikapur through its Nepal-based partner organisation, Sagoal.

Pastor Madan said: “Christmas reminds us of God’s love because he loved us first, and we must love our neighbour.”

Tearfund™s resource pack includes a three-minute DVD featuring Uma’s story, and a simple Nativity play suitable for children.

The resources are available online at: http://www.tearfund.org/en/resources/for_churches/pack_library/first_christmas_church_resource_2011/

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Christians and Occupy protesters debate ethical capitalism

A former investment banker, a tax evasion campaigner, a university professor and members of the Occupy London Stock Exchange got together this week to consider whether capitalism can ever be ethical.

The debate was hosted in central London by the Charities Parliament, an initiative of Faithworks, bringing representatives of different sectors of society together in dialogue on topical issues.

John Christensen, of the Tax Justice Network, slammed the “extraordinary lack of ethics” in the banking system and questioned why so little had been done to investigate the banking practices that triggered the recession in 2008.

“We haven’t had nearly enough bankers put into jail yet. Many were selling products they knew very well were toxic,” he said.

Mr Christensen said it would be impossible to tame capitalism without tackling tax havens, which he said had “polluted the entire banking system”, undermined revenue, and amounted to an â€attack on democracy and society”.

“We need more disclosure, more contributions to society. Tax is the way companies should contribute to society,” he said.

Tanya Paton, a member of Occupy London Stock Exchange since October 15, drew attention to the sense of frustration towards those in positions of power such as MPs and corporate AGM members.

“They have absolutely no connect whatsoever with the average person on the streets,” she said.

Ken Costa, former investment banker and practising Christian, argued that although there was “something seriously wrong” with the capitalist system there was equally “no reason to throw everything out”.

“We need regulation to set the limits and we need a change of heart,” he said.

He cautioned against the temptation for people on different sides of the debate to “caricature one, saying that such preconceptions would have to be “broken down if we are to have any serious discussâ.

Theologian and King’s College professor Luke Bretherton said there was a need for more love in the capitalist system and clear limits on what bankers and the state can and cannot do.

He proposed a redistribution of power similar to the German model which has work councils to allow voices further down the chain to be heard.

“We need to embed the state and capitalism in human relationships,” he said.

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Spike in divorces linked to recession

The number of couples divorcing jumped 4.9 per cent last year, its highest in nearly a decade.

There were 119,589 marital breakdowns in England and Wales in 2010, compared with 113,949 in 2009.

The figures from the Office of National Statistics reveal the highest annual increase in divorces in eight years.

The ONS suggested that the rise could be down to the financial strain on couples brought on by the recession in 20Ǩ and 2009.

It said: “The figures show that divorce rates continued their downward trend during 2008 and 2009 but increased in 2010.

“This could be consistent with the theory recession is associated with an increased risk of divorce – but with a delayed impact, perhaps reflecting a couple’s wait for an economic recovery to lift the value of their assets or the time lag between separation and obtaining a decree absolute.”

The last time there was a similar increase was in 2003 when divorces were at 153,065, up from 147,735 in the previous year.

The figures from the ONS also reveal that break-ups were highest among men and women in the 40-44 age bracket.

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Suspect In N.J. Vandalism Of Jewish Stores Reportedly Is Jewish

 

A New Brunswick, N.J., man who was charged in the vandalism of several Jewish-owned shops in nearby Highland Park reportedly is Jewish.

Richard M. Green, 52, was charged with numerous counts of bias intimidation and criminal mischief for allegedly smashing the windows of five Jewish-owned businesses. The vandalism took place at the end of November and Green was arrested Nov. 30.

According to the New Jersey Jewish News, Green’s face was familiar to owners of Jewish establishments and institutions. Green also has been identified by authorities as the person who allegedly accosted a kipah-wearing Rutgers University student in a Dunkin Donuts on Nov. 30. 

Andrew Getraer, the Rutgers Hillel’s executive director, said that Green was Jewish and “known to be mentally ill and has been treated for his mental illness,” the newspaper reported.

“We’ve met this individual,” Rabbi Yosef Carlebach, executive director of the Chabad House Lubavitch of Central and Southern New Jersey, told the New Jersey Jewish News. “We’ve had some recent experience with him. It’s really a very sad story of someone who appears to be mentally deranged. We communicated that to law enforcement. We left it to the police to do their work. We told anyone who called that we contacted law enforcement and have a handle on it.”

 

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GOP Hopefuls — Minus Ron Paul — Address Republican Jewish Coalition

Appearing with five fellow candidates at a Republican Jewish Coalition forum, Newt Gingrich called for “a dramatically rethought strategy for the Middle East.”

The GOP presidential hopefuls took the stage separately Wednesday, and each spoke for approximately half an hour at the 2012 RJC Republican Presidential Candidates Forum in Washington. Tackling a mix of foreign and domestic issues, speakers took turns blasting President Obama’s Middle East policies.

œThis one-sided continuing pressure that says it’s always Israel’s fault, no matter how bad the other side is, has to stop,” Gingrich said.

The former House of Representatives speaker, who is leading in the Republican polls, said the U.S. needed to prepare for a “long struggle with radical Islamists.”

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney also took aim at Obama’s handling of relations with Israel.

“He’s publicly proposed that Israel adopt indefensible borders. He’s insulted its prime minister. And he’s been timid and weak in the face of the existential threat of a nuclear Iran,” Romney said.

Speaking after Gingrich, Texas Gov. Rick Perry vowed that as president he would increase strategic defense aid to Israel. The RJC has criticized Perry via Twitter for saying that he would include Israel in his proposal to reassess all foreign aid allocations.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) spoke of her experience as a volunteer on a kibbutz after graduating from high school, saying that her “love for Israel and for the Jewish people deepened” as a result. She also said that she had connected with a donor who would pay for the relocation of the U.S. ambassador’s residence from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and ex-Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, both well behind in the polls, led off the forum in the morning.

Herman Cain had been scheduled to address the gathering before he suspended his presidential campaign.

One top Republican candidate, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), was not invited to the forum. The RJC’s executive director, Matthew Brooks, had cited what he described as Paul’s “misguided and extreme views” as the reason for Paul’s exclusion.

Paul has called for an end to all U.S. foreign aid, including to Israel, and has said that the U.S. should try to extend friendship to Iran.

In his address to the RJC, Gingrich made news by vowing to offer the job of secretary of state to John Bolton, a hawkish former ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush.

The Democratic National Committee released a statement by New York Rep. Nita Lowey, who represents a Westchester district, in reponse to Romney’s speech.

“Under the leadership of President Obama and Secretary Clinton, U.S.-Israel defense and intelligence cooperation is broader and deeper than ever before, and U.S. security assistance, which helps Israel maintain its qualitative military edge, is at its highest level,” sad Lowey.  ”The Administration’s bold leadership is critical to preventing a nuclear Iran and stemming anti-Semitism around the world …

“For Mitt Romney and other Republican presidential candidates to suggest otherwise is shameful.”

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Violence forces Samaritans Purse to withdraw from South Sudan refugee camp

Samaritan’s Purse has evacuated its staff from a refugee camp in northern South Sudan due to escalating violence in the region.

The decision by the Christian humanitarian agency comes a month after a bombing in the area.

South Sudan has been beset by outbreaks of ethnic violence since it gained independent in July, a situation further complicated by the presence of many armed groups and militias across the country.

Samaritan’s Purse staff are hoping to return to the location but only after violence subsides.

They are eyeing other locations for the refugees flowing in from the north and cooperating with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in supporting some 20,000 refugees from their temporary shelter in capital Juba.

Since early August, Samaritan’s Purse mission staff have been feeding and assisting refugees fleeing violence in the Nuban Mountains at a camp in the Yida region, about 12 miles from the Sudan border.

The mission has distributed hundreds of tons of food staples, with material support from the United Nations World Food Programme, and provided temporary shelter, medical care and other assistance to the growing number of refugees fleeing the ethnic conflict-resulting violence.

South Sudan has been torn by conflict for years. The small, land-locked country gained independence from North Sudan on July 9, becoming the 195th country in the world and the 55th country in Africa.

During over 20 years of conflict, violence, famine, and disease killed more thanł million people, forced an estimated 600,000 people to seek refuge in neighbouring countries, and displaced approximately four million others within Sudan, creating the world’s largest population of internally displaced people, according to the US State Department.

The Yida camp was bombed on November 10 and the organization suspected the Sudanese government of having a hand in the attack. The bombing sent an early but clear signal that the location is no longer safe.

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Billy Graham looking forward to Christmas with family after hospital stay

Evangelist Billy Graham returned to his home in Montreat, North Carolina, on Tuesday afternoon following a six-day stay at nearby Mission Hospital in Asheville.

Mr Graham was hospitalised at the end of November with pneumonia.

Pulmonologist Mark Hellrich, physician for the 93-year-old evangelist, said he had responded well to antibiotics.

The programme of physical therapy also advanced daily as Mr Graham demonstrated increased strength and mobility.

This recent hospital stay also gave Mr Graham’s personal doctors an opportunity to work with hospital colleagues to complete routine tests and studies that had already been scheduled.

Mr Graham expressed his gratitude to hospital staff and wellwishers.

“I am grateful for the many thoughts and prayers expressed by individuals across the country and around the world during my stay at Mission Hospital,” he said upon discharge.

“I also appreciated the wonderful treatment I received here from such caring doctors and nurses, and feel I have made some new friends. But I am especially looking forward to seeing my home decorated for Christmas and spending the holidays with members of my family.”

Mr Graham’s staff confirmed he will continue with physical therapy at home, with the goal of returning to normal activities in the coming weeks.

This includes resuming his next writing project, summarising the message he has proclaimed for more than 60 years, incorporating thoughts and discussions on that topic that occurred during his hospitalisation.

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