Mideast Report

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel's Bank Hapoalim suspended an Arab teller who refused to stand at attention when sirens marked Memorial Day last week, according to Army Radio.

Customers noticed that the teller continued working as the sirens wailed, and notified the bank manager, who told the employee to leave immediately. Bank officials said he was not obligated to stand at attention during the siren, but at least should have left his post.

Arab legislator seeks to strip Peres of Nobel

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli Arab legislator is seeking support among members of the European Union's Parliament to have the Nobel Prize Committee strip Foreign Minister Shimon Peres of his Nobel peace prize, according to the Israeli daily Ha'aretz.

Mohammed Barakah said several E.U. legislators supported the idea because they believe Peres, as a member of the Sharon government, is engaging in war crimes against the Palestinian people.

Population of Israel reaches 6.2 million

JERUSALEM (JTA) — There are 5.2 million Jews living in Israel, out of a total population of 6.2 million, according to the nation's Central Bureau of Statistics.

Since the creation of the Jewish state in 1948, 4.5 million babies were born in Israel and 1.2 million people died, the bureau said.

Families of hostages seek support online

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The families of four Israelis kidnapped last October and held by Hezbollah in Lebanon are trying to get 1 million people around the world to sign an Internet petition to help free them.

The petition, which also seeks the freedom of four Israeli MIAs missing for years, can be found at http://www.mia.org.il/petition

19,312 have died since birth of Jewish state

JERUSALEM (JTA) –Since Israel's creation in 1948, 19,312 Israeli soldiers have died defending their country, according to statistics released for the Jewish state's observance of Memorial Day.

At a ceremony at Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem on April 25, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he was all too familiar with the burial ground. "My friends, the soldiers under my command and my commanding officers are buried here," he said.

Police question Barak on campaign funding

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli police questioned former Prime Minister Ehud Barak for six hours on Monday as part of a criminal investigation of his 1999 election campaign fund-raising.

Prosecutors allege that Barak's Labor Party set up non-profit groups that took in foreign contributions and illegally funneled them to Barak's campaign coffers.

Barak responded to all the investigators' questions, but would not talk to reporters.