Mideast Report

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau performed more than 100 marriages a year and regularly collected fees ranging from $500 to $2,000 per couple, the Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported Wednesday.

The paper said Lau often was paid cash, in an envelope on the night of the event.

The Religious Affairs Ministry bars rabbis from charging for conducting weddings because Israelis already pay a fee to their local religious council.

According to the report, Lau sometimes opened the envelope, counted the bills and, referring to his personal driver, asked, "What about him?"

But Lau denied he ever charged to perform marriages. When told that some 30 couples had recorded statements claiming otherwise, Lau said he took donations as gratuities.

NASA will aid IDF in probing collision

JERUSALEM (JTA) — NASA scientists are set to use a "supercomputer" to simulate February's collision of two military helicopters in northern Israel.

The panel investigating the crash, in which 73 soldiers and crew were killed, had turned to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for help in determining its cause, Israeli media reported.

The two helicopters were taking troops to positions in southern Lebanon.

Two Israel Defense Force representatives have already flown to NASA laboratories in California, and will return with the results of the test, the Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported.

Young Israelis prefer reading to partying

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Young adults in Israel would rather curl up with a good book than dance the night away.

According to a survey conducted by an American insurance company that wanted to familiarize itself with the Israeli market, most Israeli young adults would prefer to visit friends or read a book over hanging out in a nightclub or bungee jumping.

American International Group, which will soon begin operations in conjunction with the Israeli Orek group, polled 109 Israeli young men and women aged 18-24.

The poll showed that they like to spend their time in what were described as "solid" activities.

Fully 69 percent said meeting with friends at home was their primary social activity.