Shorts: mideast

Yad Vashem gets U.N. status

Israel’s national Holocaust museum was accredited as a non-governmental organization by the United Nations.

The accreditation will permit the museum to participate in U.N. deliberations and enhance collaboration on issues of Holocaust remembrance. Yad Vashem has already partnered with the United Nations on educational initiatives, including the building of a Web site as part of last year’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

In October, the museum is slated to conduct a forum for U.N. staffers from Europe and Asia. — jta

Israel locates 1948 fallen

Israel identified the remains of five soldiers lost during the 1948 War of Independence.

Military officials announced Monday, Aug. 13 that five bodies recovered from the site of a battle against Arab forces near Holon in April 1948 had been identified by advanced genetic testing carried out in the United States.

According to official data, 109 of the thousands of Israeli service personnel who fell during six decades of warfare have not been located and identified. Ten others are listed as missing in action.— jta

Cyprus may help Israel in shmitta

Cyprus may provide Israel with agricultural produce during the upcoming shmitta year.

The Ministry of Agriculture in Nicosia announced Monday, Aug. 13 that it was in talks with Israel on supplying vegetables to offset the 12 month ritual hiatus in farming in the Jewish state that begins in September. Cyprus provided alternative produce to Israel during the last shmitta year, 2000.

Israel had also looked to Palestinian farmers in the Gaza Strip to provide vegetables during the 12-month fallow period, but that plan was scrapped by the Hamas takeover of the territory in June. Shmitta, ordained in Leviticus, takes place every seven years. Agricultural experts believe it helps boost harvests. — jta

Report: General boycotting war film

Israel’s top general reportedly is boycotting a locally made war film because some of its cast did not serve in the military.

“Beaufort,” a critically acclaimed drama about the evacuation of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon in 2000, has been a box office success, but Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi is not among its fans.

According to Yediot Achronot, the chief of staff has refused to see the film in protest because several of its soldier characters are played by Israeli actors who evaded mandatory military service. Ashkenazi is a career infantryman who spent several long stints fighting in Lebanon. Military officials had no comment on the report, which comes amid increased public scrutiny following the Lebanon war about who serves in uniform. — jta

Professor apologizes for outburst

An Israeli professor apologized for cursing troops who evicted settlers from disputed West Bank properties.

Hillel Weiss, a professor of Jewish studies at Bar-Ilan University, was in Hebron during last week’s eviction of two squatter families and appeared on national media calling for the death of a senior army commander involved in the operation.

The remarks drew an outcry from Israeli top brass and politicians, prompting police to investigate whether Weiss had incited to violence. On Monday, Aug. 13 he announced that he had sent a letter of apology to the military chief of staff and said he never intended for his invective to be taken personally.

“I said that I was ashamed of my curses, that this was a terrible lapse,” Weiss said. — jta

Israel Cabinet approves budget

Israel’s Cabinet approved its 2008 budget.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert won approval for the $73 billion budget — the biggest in Israel’s history — on Sunday, Aug. 12 by a vote of 21-5.

The budget must now be ratified by the Knesset, but a vote there is not expected until late this year or early 2008.

Israel plans to significantly boost spending on defense. Cutbacks on domestic needs, including road safety and law enforcement, drew criticism from Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz and Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter. — jta