Shorts: Mideast

Israelis abandoning the Western Wall?

jerusalem (jta) | The rabbi of Jerusalem’s Western Wall said most Israeli youth never visit Judaism’s holiest prayer site.

“Eighty percent of Israeli soldiers have never visited the Western Wall,” Shmuel Rabinowitz told Yediot Achronot in an interview published Monday, July 26, the eve of Tisha B’Av. The holiday marks the destruction of both Holy Temples.

Military service is mandatory for Israeli Jews at age 18, though many fervently religious youths opt out of the draft in favor of religious studies.

“It is unacceptable that an entire generation has grown up without ever coming close to the spiritual font of Judaism,” Rabinowitz said.

According to the daily, a charity known as the Western Wall Heritage Foundation seeks to pay for every family in Israel to hold at least one bar or bat mitzvah at the site.

Iraq: No relations with Israel

jerusalem (jta) | Iraq’s interim president said his country would not normalize relations with Israel before a comprehensive Middle East peace settlement.

Ayad Allawi made the comments Monday at a news conference in Beirut with Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The U.S.-backed Allawi also denied reports in the Arab media that Israeli spies were operating in Iraq.

Court rules Vanunu must stay put

jerusalem (jta) | Nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu lost a last-ditch appeal to leave Israel.

The High Court of Justice on Monday, July 26, upheld a government order confining Vanunu to Israel based on defense establishment fears that he intends to spill more secrets about his past work at the Dimona nuclear reactor.

Vanunu had petitioned the court, calling the one-year travel ban, in place since he ended an 18-year jail term in April, a breach of his civil rights.

Nablus checkpoint shooting probed

jerusalem (jta) | An Israeli soldier is under investigation for shooting a Palestinian at a checkpoint.

The army said Monday, July 26, that the soldier faces charges for willfully wounding the Palestinian student outside Nablus.

Witnesses said the soldier beat the Palestinian Sunday, July 25, during an argument. After the Palestinian called him a liar, the soldier grabbed a rifle and shot him in the arm, witnesses said.