Sunday, March 23, 2003     Adar2 19, 5763                 Israel Time: 02:04 (GMT+2)

U.K. lets Jewish soldiers in Gulf erase religion from dog-tags

By Sharon Sadeh, Haaretz Correspondent

LONDON - The British Army has allowed its Jewish soldiers involved in the war in Iraq to erase mention of their religion on their dog-tags, fearing they would be executed if they were captured. There are some 15 Jewish soldiers among the 45,000 British fighters currently in action in the U.S.-led campaign. The British Ministry of Defense made the decision following concerns expressed by Jewish community leaders in Britain. The ministry added that kosher rations had been provided to those Jewish soldiers who requested them. During the 1991 Gulf War, the Iraqis would beat and parade prisoners in front of the television cameras, and the British military fears that Jewish prisoners would come in for a worse fate. The British dog-tags list the soldier's name, rank, identity number and religion, with the latter intended to facilitate proper burial in the event that the body of the soldier cannot be brought home. On Friday, Britain's chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, published a special prayer for the safety of the soldiers in Iraq. The prayer was to be recited in all synagogues over the Sabbath.