Shorts: mideast

Birthright funding boosts programming

jerusalem (jta) | A new matching }grant will allow Birthright Israel to more than double enrollment for its summer programs.

The free trip to Israel for young adults who never have been on a peer tour to the Jewish state notified its trip providers Sunday, Feb. 15, that it had secured funding for more than 8,200 spots for its summer programs.

Due to funding problems, Birthright had planned to accept only 3,500 people, all but 500 of whom would come from North America.

The Avi Chai Foundation announced it would provide birthright with a “challenge grant” of $7 million, which they expect will be matched by philanthropists.

Arafat: Jewish past?

jerusalem (jta) | Yasser Arafat may be related to Jews, according to a PLO official’s new book.

A new book, “Yasser Arafat and the Zionist Solution for the Palestine Crisis” is claiming that the Palestinian leader’s father was born in the Moroccan village of Al-Kidwa and had family links to the large Jewish population there.

The author, Razi Hussein, is the PLO’s legal and political secretary in Damascus.

There was no immediate reaction from Arafat, who always has claimed to be a scion of the noted al-Husseini clan of Jerusalem.

No more Saddam, no more gas masks

jerusalem (jta) | Israelis are losing their gas masks.

The call to return the masks, originally distributed before the 1991 Gulf War, came after an Israeli commission concluded that Israel no longer faces the risk of chemical or biological attacks in the wake of Saddam Hussein’s downfall in Iraq.

The move is expected to save Israel roughly $70 million annually.