Shorts: Mideast

Bumper sticker stirs concern

jerusalem (jta) | Far-right Israeli activists have put out a bumper sticker threatening Ariel Sharon’s life.

Police sources said this week the distributors of the sticker, reading “Sharon: Lily Awaits You,” could be probed for incitement to murder. The slogan refers to Sharon’s wife, Lily, who died in 2000. According to media reports, at least 5,000 of the stickers were issued by the outlawed far-right group Kach.

Security has been beefed up around Sharon in recent months out of concern he could be assassinated in a bid to defeat his plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank.

U.S. aliyah within ‘Green Line’

jerusalem (jta) | Only three percent of North American immigrants to Israel in recent years have settled in the West Bank or Gaza Strip, a new report says.

The figures were released by Nefesh B’Nefesh, a three-year-old private group that helps coordinate U.S. aliyah along with the Jewish Agency for Israel.

According to Danny Oberman, the group’s director of immigrant absorption, “80 percent of our olim settle in Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh or Modi’in,” Ha’aretz reported. The immigrants do not consider small settlements, because “people go where they feel comfortable, and people don’t feel comfortable there,” he said.

Smoke and the seminary

jerusalem (jta) | Four American yeshiva students are suspected of dealing drugs in Israel.

The suspects were arrested in a Jerusalem sting operation this week and all four confessed to the charges, police said.

The Jerusalem Post said the arrests followed the death of a 19-year-old American yeshiva student in Jerusalem from an apparent drug overdose. More arrests are expected.

Iraq vote won’t draw Israelis

jerusalem (jta) | Few Israelis of Iraqi descent will vote in Iraq’s upcoming election, officials said.

Under regulations for the Jan. 30 poll, any Iraqi expatriate or foreigner born to an Iraqi father can take part, making at least 130,000 Israelis eligible.

But despite the toppling of Saddam Hussein, Iraq has yet to recognize the Jewish state, meaning that the nearest place where an Israeli could cast an absentee ballot would be Jordan.

The Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center, Israel’s main group for Iraqi expatriates, said this week that turnout for the vote would be negligible due to the logistical problems. But many among some 45,000 Jews of Iraqi descent living in the diaspora had expressed an interest in voting from their home countries.

Shrine still shunned

jerusalem (jta) | Leading Israeli rabbis reissued a ban on Jews visiting Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

The ruling this week upholds an edict, put out after Israel recaptured Judaism’s holiest site in the 1967 Six-Day War, that Jews should consider the mount off limits to avoid accidental desecration.

Scholars are unsure of the location of the Holy of Holies, an area of the ancient temples where only the high priest could visit, on today’s Temple Mount, also the site of two major Muslim shrines.

In recent years, right-wing religious Jewish groups have put growing pressure on the government to lift limitations on non-Muslim prayer on the mount. The new edict was signed by Israel’s two chief rabbis and by other leading sages.

Port of call

jerusalem (jta) | The U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet docked in Haifa for the first time in more than four years.

Some 400 seamen are on shore leave in the northern Israeli port city this week, bringing an estimated $500,000 to local businesses.

The Navy halted its Mediterranean fleet’s visits to Haifa after the October 2000 terrorist attack on the USS Cole in the Persian Gulf, but last year Mayor Yona Yahav persuaded it to reverse the decision.

Rabin assassin to be punished

jerusalem (jta) | The assassin of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin will be punished for having physical contact in his cell with the woman he says he has married, a prison spokeswoman said last week.

The woman, Larisa Trimbobler, kissed Yigal Amir on the cheek during a visit Thursday, Prison Service spokeswoman Orit Stelser said.

Amir returned the kiss and the two started hugging and fondling each other before a prison warden intervened, Stelser said.

Amir, who is serving a life sentence for shooting Rabin at a peace rally in 1995, could lose his visitation rights or be isolated for violating prison rules, according to Stelser.

The couple, both Orthodox Jews, insist they were married secretly over the phone by a rabbi last year. But rabbis and the Prison Service dispute the claim, saying the wedding was not valid according to Jewish law because Amir was not joined by two witnesses.