Shorts: mideast

Can you hear me now?

jerusalem (jta) | A symbol of ancient Jewish resilience has caved to Jordanian cell phone control.

Israelis, rarely separated from their cell phones, have learned that cell phone calls from atop Masada, where Jews committed a mass suicide rather than suffer a Roman conquest in 73 C.E., are under Jordanian cellular control.

The message, “Welcome to Jordan,” flashes onto cell phone screens from atop the great symbol of Zionism, according to a report Friday, Jan. 16, in the daily Ha’aretz.

Paratroopers traditionally graduate from training atop Masada, vowing that the ancient fort “shall not fall again.”

The ministry regards it as an economic issue, and is unwilling to act, the paper said.

Israelis have better lungs, but get fatter

jerusalem (jta) | Israelis are smoking less, but getting fatter.

Those are some of the results of a recent survey by Israel’s Health Ministry.

Obesity among both men and women rose to 13 percent, up from 8 percent for men and 12 percent of women in 1998. The average weight of Israeli men rose from 164 lbs. to 171 lbs., and women’s average weight increased from 139 lbs. to 145 lbs.

But only 24 percent said they smoked, down from 29 percent in 1998. The poll surveyed 3,500 Israeli adults.

Fence may get name change

jerusalem (jta) | Israel is considering renaming its security fence to improve its image.

Israeli officials say they are considering calling the security fence a “Terror Preventive Fence,” as part of a public relations campaign, the Jerusalem Post reported.

The consideration comes as Israel prepares to defend the fence next month at the International Court of Justice. No final decision has been made on the name change. The Israeli government is also considering changing the boundaries of the fence to fend off international criticism.

Mistaken identity leads to tragedy

jerusalem (jta) | Israeli soldiers reportedly mistook a Palestinian woman for a suicide bomber and shot her.

Witnesses said the woman, a deaf farmer in her late 30s, climbed over Israel’s West Bank security barrier to reach her fields and did not hear soldiers’ orders to halt. She was hospitalized in critical condition.

The army did not immediately comment on the Monday, Jan. 19 shooting, which came amid intelligence warnings of an impending terrorist attack in central Israel. The warnings were later lifted.

Israeli minister may go to Pakistan

jerusalem (jta) | An Israeli Cabinet member said he plans a landmark trip to Pakistan.

Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz told Israel Radio on Tuesday, Jan. 20 that he had received an invitation to visit Pakistan in March, announcing what would be a breakthrough given the Islamic state’s longstanding hostility to Israel.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman in Islamabad denied that Katz had received a formal invitation, saying he may be part of a U.N. agricultural delegation scheduled to visit Pakistan.