Shorts: Mideast

Sex scandal on Israeli air base

jerusalem (jta) | The Israel Air Force this week was rocked by allegations of serial statutory rape at one of its bases.

Police lifted a gag order Sunday, April 30 on a year-long investigation into allegations that as many as 30 airmen at a base in southern Israel had sex with a local girl when she was 13 and 14.

According to media reports, the suspects told police investigators that the girl, whose father serves on the base, claimed she was 16 — the age of consent in Israel. The teen told investigators that the sex was consensual.

Report: More Jews in Israel than U.S.

jerusalem (jps) | For the first time since the first century, there are more Jews in Israel than in any other country, according to one of Israel’s top demographers.

Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics announced this week that the country’s population stands at 7.03 million, of which 5.64 million are Jews. A population survey taken in 2001 found that there were around 5.3 million Jews in the United States.

Israel remembers the fallen

jerusalem (jta) | Israel remembered its 22,123 fallen soldiers and terrorism victims this week.

The Jewish state came to a standstill Monday, May 1 as sirens ushered in Yom HaZikaron, Memorial Day, a 24-hour annual mourning period that is followed by the jubilation of Yom HaAtzmaut, Independence Day.

“I promise you, and every soldier and warrior, and their families, that I will do everything in my power to strengthen the security of the state of Israel and put it on the path to peace,” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in an address at Mount Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem.

Olmert, Haniyeh make Time list

jerusalem (jta) | The Israeli and Palestinian Authority prime ministers were among Time magazine’s 100 most influential people.

Ehud Olmert and Ismail Haniyeh were included in “The People Who Shape the World” section of the latest Time.

But the accompanying personality profiles were dramatically different in tone. Contributor Zev Chafets described Olmert as “probably the best politician” to occupy the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem.

By contrast, Haniyeh, the most senior Hamas politician, was given a circumspect write-up by veteran U.S. diplomat Dennis Ross. “Nowhere in his statements is there a place for peace with Israel,” Ross wrote.