Wednesday, December 29, 2004

US Christians fund bomb-detector for Israel buses



Bus and railway centers throughout Israel will be equipped with 86 metal-detector gates and six x-ray machines by February, Gideon Ezra, Israel’s minister of public security, announced yesterday.

His statement came at a ceremony that introduced the devices to the public and gave credit for their funding to the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, headed by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein.

The security devices are the second phase of Operation Safe Bus, an initiative begun with a $2 million contribution from The Fellowship (Keren L’Yedidut in Israel) in February 2004. The initial phase provided 1,000 hand-held metal detectors operated by security guards at bus stops and terminals.

The new security measures are Israel’s response to an increase in threats against the country’s public transportation systems. “Let us not delude ourselves,” Ezra said. Although the actual number of attacks has fallen because of intensified security, the construction of the security fence and the effectiveness of the hand-held security devices, “The number of warnings we receive rises every day.”

Rabbi Eckstein said he and his organization’s primarily Christian donors were “privileged to work alongside Israel’s public security officials, transportation officials and police to improve and ensure the security of the people of Israel.” He added that The Fellowship will examine the possibility of raising an additional $5 million for expansion of the transportation-security project. “As Israel’s terrorism experts identify advanced technological systems for the detection and neutralization of explosive devices, we will do everything we can to support their lifesaving efforts.”

Public buses are the primary means of transportation in Israel, with as many as 1.7 million riders each day, including children traveling to school. Nearly 200 Israelis have been killed and some 800 wounded in bus bombings since the beginning of the second intifada in September 2000.

The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews was founded in 1983 to promote understanding and cooperation between Jews and Christians and to build broad support for Israel and other shared concerns. Based in Chicago and Jerusalem, The Fellowship in recent years has contributed more than $100 million toward Jewish immigration, resettlement and social welfare projects in Israel, as well as funding food, housing and social service programs for Jews in the former Soviet Union and other areas of poverty and distress.