BUDAPEST (JTA) — Hungary has become the first former Communist country in Central Europe to send troops to serve in the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai Peninsula.
The force — created as a result of the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt — monitors the military aspects of the pact.
Hungary sent 41 troops to the Sinai. A farewell ceremony was held in Budapest before the soldiers left for Egypt earlier this month. Four female officers were part of the Hungarian contingent of the peacekeeping observer force.
The move by Hungary shows that it is ready to join NATO and fulfill other international duties, George Keleti, the Hungarian defense minister, said at the farewell ceremony.
Hungary will participate in the force for two years. After one year, a new group of soldiers will relieve the troops already there.
The international force includes troops from 10 nations, including the United States.
Australian Jews appeal to Rabin
SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — The umbrella body representing Australian Jewry has sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin expressing "profound concern" over what it called "blanket condemnations" by Israeli government leaders of Jewish settlers.
The letter, signed by council President Isi Leibler, also said, "Unfairly writing off all the settlers as extremists and fanatics could easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy, creating only further polarization and forcing the moderates amongst the settlers to the brink of despair."
Leibler, who also serves as co-chairman of the governing board of the World Jewish Congress, added, "These blanket condemnations go beyond the understandable and commendably vigorous urgency of the democratic debate in Israel."
The letter was sent after a meeting earlier this month of the council at which concern was expressed about the tone of the political debate in Israel.
Israel-British trade to reach $3 billion
LONDON (JTA) — Trade between Britain and Israel will reach $3 billion this year as the Jewish state becomes Britain's second biggest Mideast market, officials in London predicted recently.
Figures compiled by the Department of Trade and Industry show major growth in business with Jerusalem.
In February, British firms sold Israel goods worth $160 million, 20 percent more than last year's figure, which was also a record.
The amount of manufactured goods sold to Britain has jumped by 25 percent.
The rapid expansion of trade — up from $2.4 billion last year — has threatened even Saudi Arabia's standing as Britain's No. 1 market in the region.
As a sign of the changing times, several industrial giants — including British Aerospace, British Gas and GEC — may do business with Israel for the first time.
Jewish Agency boosts Ukranian emigration
LONDON (JTA) — The Jewish Agency is increasing efforts to bring Jews from Ukraine to Israel, the organization's head of operations said recently.
"Ukraine has the largest emigration potential for the whole of the former Soviet Union. With its 500,000 Jews, it is home to the fifth-largest Jewish population in the world," said Chaim Chesler, the head emissary in the former Soviet Union.
Chesler recently was in London as a guest of the Joint Israel Appeal, British Jewry's main fund-raising body for Israel.
"The hardships there are enormous. The monthly salary is about $20 to $30," Chesler said of life in Ukraine, adding, "We are now putting most of our efforts into getting the Jews out of there."
Chesler, who oversees more than 100 emissaries in 31 offices in the former Soviet Union, said that as far as Russian Jews were concerned, a "window of opportunity" existed for getting them out, especially in Moscow and St. Petersburg, where about half of Russia's Jews live.
"The economic situation is much much better than it was two or three years ago, when I had to bring food with me when I came from Israel," he said. "I think that if the economic improvements continue, Jews will prefer to stay there."
But he warned that if Jews decided to stay in Russia, the community might disappear. "In Russia the rate of assimilation is 95 percent," he said. "If they decide to stay, there will be no more Jews in the country."