Shorts: Mideast

Religion means more than being an Israeli

Jewish identity takes precedence over being an Israeli citizen for most people in the Jewish homeland, a poll found.

According to the survey in the Israeli newspaper Hayom, 65 percent of Israeli Jews identified primarily as Jews and only then as Israelis, whereas 14 percent said the reverse. Nine percent said they don’t know in which order they identify.

Asked whether they want Israel to be more Jewish or more democratic, 47 percent said the former and 43 percent the latter, with the rest undecided.

The poll also revealed Israelis would not want to live elsewhere. Asked to rate their “personal mood” on an ascending scale of 1 to 10, the average number given was 7, but the “national mood” was a more gloomy 5.8. — jta

Chinese manufacturer skews Israeli flag

Thousands of Israeli flags being flown ahead of Independence Day have a design flaw — an apparent mistake by a Chinese manufacturer.

An Israeli bank distributed more than 1 million free flags this week, but the flag has the Star of David between the two blue lines slanted, resting on two points, rather than standing straight as required by protocol.

A government official said the design flaw likely originated with the Chinese firm that produced the flags at a discount. — jta

Ethiopian rabbi joins Knesset

For the first time, a fervently Orthodox rabbi of Ethiopian descent has joined the Knesset. Rabbi Mazor Bayana was sworn in this week as a new Shas Party lawmaker.

He replaces Rabbi Shlomo Benizri, who was forced to step down after being convicted of bribery. Bayana is the third Ethiopian Jew to serve in the Israeli parliament. — jta

Sharansky allegedly rejects U.N. job

Natan Sharansky reportedly rejected overtures to serve as Israeli ambassador to the United Nations.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni recently contacted Sharansky to suggest he succeed Dan Gillerman, Israel’s outgoing U.N. ambassador, but he turned her down, the Israeli daily Yediot Achronot reported.

According to the newspaper, Sharansky, a former Soviet refusenik and Israeli Cabinet minister who quit politics in 2005 to protest the Gaza Strip withdrawal plan, was expected to reject any offer to serve in the Olmert government. — jta

Israeli billionaires on ‘Rich List’

Five Israeli billionaires have made the London Sunday Times “Rich List.” The annual list names the 2,000 richest people in Britain and Ireland. It also includes British citizens and those with ties to the country or assets in it.

At No. 2, where he was a year ago, was Roman Abramovich, the Russian and Jewish owner of the Chelsea soccer team, with $23 billion. Abramovich’s ex-wife, Irina, made the list at No. 516 with the $305.8 million from her divorce settlement.

Sammy Ofer and his son Eyal, who lives in London, are No. 15 on the list with their $6.59 billion fortune made in shipping. Real estate businessman and philanthropist Lev Leviev, the chairman of Africa-Israel, was No. 21 with $4.93 billion. Leviev moved to London earlier this year.

Poju Zabludowicz, a property entrepreneur, was No. 31 with $3.95 billion. And 39th place went to diamond king Benny Steinmetz, who lives in Israel but owns a British residence, with $3.55 billion. — jta