News in Brief

U.S. Jewish federations pledge $5 million to help Israelis in conflict zone

The Jewish Federations of North America committed $5 million for an Israeli terrorism relief fund to help Israeli victims of the conflict with Hamas in Israel's south. The money from the federation umbrella organization will go toward trauma counseling, financial assistance, portable bomb shelters and transporting children in the conflict zone out of harm's way. The organization has set up a texting system to donate to the Fund for the Victims of Terror in Israel, and said that 100 percent of the money raised will go toward aid. The group is also working with its partner agencies in Israel, including the Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Israel Trauma Coalition and World ORT to assist Israelis in the line of fire. The $5 million includes $1 million from Chicago's Jewish United Fund. (JTA )

Celebs sign petition calling for cease-fire

A number of prominent cultural figures have signed a petition calling for a cease-fire and talks with Hamas. The signatories include writer Yoram Kaniuk, playwright Yehoshua Sobol, filmmaker Doron Tsabari, designer Ron Arad, and artist Sigalit Landau, among others. The manifesto, entitled "Let the Words Win," quotes Albert Einstein, who is reputed to have said: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results." The signatories also write: "Our hearts are with you, residents of the south who are doomed to live for years in fear of death. The right and duty of the government is to protect you - but its way is not the right way... We have already assassinated terrorists, and embarked on military campaigns ...and nothing has changed... We call for a long-term cease-fire, and for talks ...because the residents of the south like the residents of Gaza deserve to look up at the sky in hope and not in fear." (Maya Sela )

Israelis glued to TV broadcasts of operation

News broadcasts on all three of Israel's television stations recorded near-record ratings over the weekend, as regular programs were put on hold in in favor of round-the-clock reports on Operation Pillar of Defense. On Saturday night, for example, Channel 1, Channel 2 and Channel 10 reported combined viewing figures of 48 percent. While the figures are not final - they do not include, for example, non-Jewish households - they suggest that a large proportion of the public has been glued to their television sets during the past few days. According to the figures, Channel 10 garnered 10.9 percent rating for its main news broadcast, while Channel 2 was watched by 32 percent. Channel 1's main news broadcast on Saturday night enjoyed viewing figures of 5.5 percent. (Gili Izikovich)