Shorts: Mideast

Iraqi official fired for visiting Israel

jerusalem (jta) | The Iraqi National Congress fired one of its most senior members for visiting Israel.

During an emergency meeting, the leadership of the former exile group decided to fire Mithal al-Alusi, spokesman Haidar Al-Mousawi said.

Al-Alusi’s visit to a terrorism conference angered his colleagues, who said they only knew about the trip from the media.

Ha’aretz had quoted al-Alusi as saying that many elements in Iraq are interested in diplomatic ties with Israel.

“His statements, which were carried by the media, do not represent the Iraqi National Congress’ point of view,” a statement from the group said.

Israeli population nears 7 million

jerusalem (jta) | Israel’s population grew by 1.6 percent last year.

The country’s population stands at 6.8 million, according to Central Bureau of Statistic census figures released Monday, Sept. 13, ahead of Rosh Hashanah.

Of that number, 5.5 million Israelis are Jews, and the remainder Arabs, whether Muslim, Christian or Druze.

The 1.6 percent population growth over the past year is a dip from the previous year’s growth rate of 1.8 percent.

Of 22,000 new immigrants to Israel, half were from the former Soviet Union, 15 percent from Ethiopia and 9 percent from France.

Worldwide, there are 13 million Jews. According to Jewish Agency figures, 5.6 million are living in North America, 1.2 million in Europe, 413,000 in the former Soviet Union, 401,000 in South America, 84,000 in Africa, 107,000 in Australia and New Zealand, and 19,000 in Asia.

Remembering 9/11 in Jerusalem

jerusalem (jta) | Some 1,200 people rallied for world peace in Jerusalem on the third anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Participants from 41 countries descended on the capital’s Independence Park on Saturday, Sept. 11, to remember the victims of the attacks, in which terrorists piloted airplanes into New York’s Twin Towers, the Pentagon in Washington and an empty field in Pennsylvania.

The rally, during which white doves were released, was sponsored by the International Federation for World Peace, and included Muslim, Christian and Jewish religious leaders.

Israel launches tourism drive

jerusalem (jta) | Israel’s Tourism Ministry kicked off its 2004 “pledge to visit Israel” campaign.

Coinciding with the High Holy Days, synagogues will send pledge cards to their members asking them to “Save the date” and make time to visit Israel in the coming year.

The campaign is a continuation of the “Israel. I Care. And I’m Going” pledge drive launched in 2003. Some 1,246 synagogues across North America participated last year, and 220,991 American Jews visited Israel in 2003, more than in any year in the country’s history, according to Israel’s Ministry of Tourism.

The ministry has set of goal of bringing 1.4 million Jewish tourists to Israel from around the world in 2004.

Israeli school invites Russian terror survivors

jerusalem (jta) | Child survivors of the deadly terrorist attack at a Russian school were invited to spend two weeks at a school in Israel.

The ORT Yad Lvovich high school in the Israeli seaside town of Netanya invited 20 survivors of the Beslan attack to visit the school, the World ORT organization said.

The Russian government is considering the invitation. Of 1,200 students in the Israeli school, 400 are from the former Soviet Union, and there are 35 Russian-speaking faculty.

Israeli objectors released

jerusalem (jta) | Five Israeli conscientious objectors were released from prison Wednesday, Sept. 15, after having their sentences reduced.

The five — Haggai Matar, Matan Kaminer, Noam Bahat, Shimri Tzameret and Adam Maor — had served some two years in military and civilian prisons, including 10 months in an army camp.

“We were in prison for almost two years because our moral belief prohibits us from being part of an army occupying another people and destroying Israeli society, and we come to Yom Kippur with a clean heart,” Tzameret said on the eve of his release.

More names for Yad Vashem

jerusalem (jta) | Yad Vashem received tens of thousands of new names of Holocaust victims to add to its database.

Yad Vashem received a disk this week containing 68,000 names of victims killed at Auschwitz, almost two-thirds of them Jewish, from the Memorial and Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Another disk, containing names and other personal information of more than 25,000 Jews who were deported from Belgium to extermination camps, was presented to Yad Vashem by the Jewish Museum of Deportation and Remembrance in Mechelen, Belgium.