Mideast Report

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Supermodel Claudia Schiffer canceled her planned appearance this week at the opening of the Oasis Casino, on the outskirts of Jericho.

According to her spokeswoman, the cancellation was "due to an unexpected extension of a prior contractual obligation."

Ilan Pilo, the casino's spokesman, said he did not believe she canceled because of the increased tension in the territories following Israel's slaying of Hamas terrorists Adel and Imad Awadallah last week.

"I don't believe this was for security reasons, because she knew what the situation was like here beforehand," Pilo said.

Mayor chickens out on secular wedding

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A politician who has pledged to make religious freedom a centerpiece of his campaign for prime minister has backed out of a promise to perform a secular wedding ceremony.

Tel Aviv Mayor Roni Milo had told Galit Lisser, 27, and Nir Assulin, 29, that he would marry them at an "alternative weddings fair" on Thursday of last week in Tel Aviv.

Milo called a press conference and invited the young couple for a rehearsal before the cameras on the day before.

But when the couple showed up at his office, Milo told them he had changed his mind based on advice from Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein who told him that "marriages and divorces of Jews in Israel will be performed according to the rule of Torah."

Disappointed, the couple turned to noted civil rights leader and former Knesset member Shulamit Aloni to perform the wedding instead. The "alternative weddings fair" was organized by a group known as Hemdat as a protest against religious coercion.

Civil marriages performed in Israel are not recognized as valid by the state.

Majority of gas pumps pollute Israel's water

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Eighty-eight percent of Israel's gas stations do not meet the standards on groundwater pollution prevention and are in some cases already polluting the groundwater.

Environment Minister Raphael Eitan presented the report earlier this month at a meeting of the ministry's water and rivers division.

The report is based on the inspection of 97 gas stations throughout the country. Of those, 12 met most of the standards, 26 met some standards, and 59 did not meet most.

Of the 500 public gas stations in the country and the 1,000 internal gas stations on kibbutzim, moshavim and factories, hardly any meet the new standards that went into effect at the end of last year. Those standards require a special drainage system and the removal of petroleum waste in sealed containers.

Soil polluted by fuel is a serious source of groundwater pollution, both directly through seepage and also through the runoff of rainwater.

Gas stations, particularly older ones, are a threat to groundwater supplies, the report stated. In one case, the ground under a gas station in Binyamina was found to have an 18.4-inch layer of fuel floating on the groundwater.

Since Oslo, 279 killed in Palestinian attacks

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Palestinian militants have killed 279 Israelis since the Oslo Accords were signed five years ago at a White House ceremony, the Israeli government announced this week.

By comparison, Palestinian militants killed 254 Israelis during the five-year period prior to the signing of the accords on Sept. 13, 1993.

All Israeli babies to get hepatitis vaccinations

JERUSALEM (JPS) — Next year, Israel will probably become the first country in the world to vaccinate all babies against both hepatitis A and hepatitis B, the Health Ministry has announced.

Family health centers started inoculating newborns with hepatitis B vaccine in 1992.

The Israel Pediatricians Association and the Israel Family Doctors Association have also launched a joint campaign to encourage the general public to get vaccinated against hepatitis A and B.

Both types of hepatitis can cause serious complications.

Hepatitis A is endemic in certain sectors of the population, especially large, lower-income families such as Arabs and fervently religious Jews. The virus is transmitted via infected water or food and by contact with feces; thus the disease is commonly found in day-care centers.

Hepatitis B, a much more serious disease, can result in chronic liver disease or liver cancer decades after infection. Over 120,000 Israelis are hepatitis B carriers. They can pass it on to others by blood contact, sexual relations, and even long-term non-sexual contact in a family, such as the sharing of toothbrushes.