Mideast Report

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A nationwide strike involving some 700,000 workers shut down Israel's airports and banks Wednesday.

The strike, which ground Israel's economy to a near halt, also affected the nation's rail services, hospitals, government offices and state-owned industries.

Ben-Gurion Airport was closed, and Israel's national airline, El Al, rescheduled departing flights in order to avoid grounding passengers.

The strike was called by the Histadrut labor federation to protest privatization plans and unresolved wage and pension disputes.

Netanyahu's hairdresser found dead in murder-suicide

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Top fashion model Anat Elimelech and her boyfriend, hairdresser David Afuta, were found dead in their Jerusalem apartment Tuesday, in an apparent murder-suicide that has police stymied over who pulled the trigger.

Afuta had been cutting the hair of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, until two weeks ago, when he stopped servicing them.

Police found Afuta, 32, on the living room floor with two bullet wounds in his chest. Elimelech, 23, also had a gunshot wound in her chest, and a gun was found close to her body.

Friends said the two, who had been together for five years, had lately been having trouble, with Elimelech wanting to leave Afuta.

Women may now pilot planes for Israel's national airline

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel's national airline has decided to bring female pilots under its wings.

Responding to court complaints filed against it, El Al this week dropped its requirement that its pilots come out of Israel's air force, which until recently excluded women.

The complaints were brought by Orit Katzir, a pilot with 10 years flying experience who was rejected by El Al as a candidate because she had not served in Israel's air force.

El Al said in a statement this week that its next pilot training course, in March, would be open to all interested candidates with pilot licenses, including those who had not been trained in the air force.