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Inside Israel and the Palestinian Territories

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Jewish Custom in the Time of Swine Flu


ISRAEL/In Israel, the death count for the H1N1, or swine flu, outbreak reached 7 yesterday, and for some citizens, fighting the virus has taken on some religious dimensions.

Israel’s leading paper, Yedioth Ahronoth, wrote an article about health concerns raised by Israel’s Ultra Orthodox media: kissing mezuzahs. A mezuzah is a tiny encasement holding a piece of parchment with a Jewish prayer enscribed on it. Mezuzahs are nailed to most doorways inside a Jewish home, and traditionally, Jews will touch the mezuzah and kiss their fingers when entering a house.¬† An ultra-orthodox journalist decided to ask seven doctors their opinion on whether this tradition could be dangerous in the Swine flu era.

According to Yedioth Ahronoth, “The doctors unanimously agreed that bacteria leave high levels of residue on such objects, but six of them refused to comment on mezuzot in particular, ‘so as not to get in trouble with the rabbis’.”

Only one doctor in the article affirmed that their could be a direct link between kissing a mezuzah and contracting the virus.

PA’s Latest Security Procedure: Hand Sanitizer


abbas-02Want to shake Mahmoud Abbas’s hand? Not so fast. Our correspondent Ali Sawafta was surprised by a change in protocol at a meeting with the Palestinian president:

“I went to the opening of the first public park in the West Bank. Standing in front of the tent where the opening festivities were being held and Abbas was to speak, was a guard carrying a bottle of hand sanitizer. Everyone who went in had to use some in order to get in the tent. No one was exempt from the procedure, whether they were ministers or businessmen.