Shorts: Mideast

Olmert speaks of Bush ‘bond’

jerusalem (jta) | Ehud Olmert said he enjoys a “very strong emotional bond” with President Bush.

“I’ve spoken to him maybe three times since I became prime minister,” the Israeli prime minister-elect told Time magazine. “There is a very strong emotional bond between the two of us, every time we speak we both feel it deeply. I know how he feels and he knows how I feel.”

Olmert said the rapport began on a visit Bush made to Jerusalem while Olmert was the city’s mayor. He also credited Bush with changing the Middle East for the better, and called him a “natural partner” for fighting terrorism.

Sharon declared ‘incapacitated’

jerusalem (jta) | Israel formally brought the comatose Ariel Sharon’s political career to a close this week.

Top government ministers convened Tuesday, April 11 to implement a constitutional law in which Sharon, who suffered a crippling stroke last January and is not expected to recover, would be designated “permanently incapacitated.”

Sharon, 78, is in intensive care at Hadassah Hospital but doctors may eventually move him to a long-term coma treatment center.

Israelis, Palestinians to meet in Morocco

jerusalem (jta) | Israeli and Palestinian public figures will hold informal peace negotiations next month in Morocco.

Senior Labor Party lawmaker Ami Ayalon will lead Israel’s delegation to the talks in Casablanca, scheduled to begin in the first week of May.

He faces a delegation led by former Palestinian Authority Cabinet minister Yasser Abed Rabbo, one of the architects of the informal “Geneva Accord” peace proposal. The talks, which will be hosted by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, aim to establish a dialogue on prospects for coexistence in the absence of formal ties between Israel and the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.

More Israelis seek Passover aid

jerusalem (jps) | The number of people who requested food aid for Passover is up 28 percent from last year, according to statistics published last week by the charity organization Latet.

The results of the survey found that one third of all Israelis will find it financially difficult to get through Passover and 10 percent of the general population will not be able to hold a seder at all.

Orthodox ‘sex commandos’ hack porn sites

jerusalem (ynetnews) | A group of Orthodox hackers, shocked by the obscenity of some porn sites, has launched an Internet campaign in a bid to cause such sites to crash.

The hackers, already named at some Internet forums the “ultra-orthodox sex commando,” or the “ultra-orthodox electronic underground,” have focused their efforts on Hebrew sites.

The hackers erased the explicit content of one very popular Israeli porn site. The Orthodox Web site “Shofar” was hacked into several days ago, perhaps in retaliation.

The religious content was replaced with anti-censorship and anti-religious items.

‘Date rape drugs’ on rise in Israel

jerusalem (jps) | Date rape drugs are a national problem in Israel and nightclubs are partly to blame, according to the Israel Association of Rape Crisis Centers.

The accusation came after police last week discovered 13 bottles of alcohol contaminated with the date rape drug GHB in the possession of Tel Aviv nightclub owner Pinhas Haim.

Over the past year, the National Center for Treatment of Sexual Assault has seen more than 20 cases that were likely caused by date rape drugs.

Slain astronaut’s son becoming pilot

jerusalem (jta) | The eldest son of late Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon is following in his footsteps.

Asaf Ramon passed the qualifying tests for the Israeli Air Force and last week began training as a combat pilot, Yediot Achronot reported.

The newspaper quoted Ramon as saying he wanted to emulate the career of his late father, who served as an F-16 pilot before being selected to become Israel’s first astronaut, aboard the space shuttle Columbia.

Hebrew University leads in citations

jerusalem (jta) | The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is the leading Israeli institution in terms of papers published by its faculty.

According to the ISI Web of Knowledge database, which ranked universities all over the world in terms of academic publications, students and staff from Hebrew University were cited some 243,000 times over the past 11 years.

That puts the Hebrew University at the top of Israeli institutions and 109th in the international ranking.