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CHELM-ON-THE-MED©, February 2010 - Column 2


   One bright morning in April 2006 in the wake of a minor fender-bender, Ilan Levi'im discovered he'd been driving without a valid driver's license for four years. It seems that sometime in the past, someone, somewhere in the IDF had written on a medical form that the reservist suffered from epilepsy. The information was eventually passed on to the motor vehicles bureau. Levi'im further discovered that back in 2002, the army had automatically lowered his fitness profile from 97 (fit for duty in the field) to 24 (unfit for service), adding insult to injury by giving the combat solider a medical discharge without notice - literally and figuratively - which suddenly explained why the strapping moshavnik hadn't received a call-up for reserve duty in years...
   Proving he was fit as a fiddle was easier said than done.
   Levi'im found himself sandwiched between transportation authorities who demanded extensive and expensive neurological testing to prove he was not epileptic, and his health management organization which said he was not epileptic and refused to cover uncalled-for testing. If that wasn't enough, it took the army three years to reopen then close his case of epilepsy, enabling the hail and hearty but hapless victim of a bureaucratic blunder to reclaim his driving license.
   Now Levi'im is suing the IDF for NIS 600,000 ($150,000) - not only for gross negligence and driving him from pillar to post, but also for being so damned pokey.


   Returning from a visit to Israel at the invitation of Israel's ambassador to Thailand, Thai food connoisseur Mak Dang demonstrated a popular Israeli dish to a delegation of 30 colleagues. But only after a few ‘adjustments' to the hot spice level to cater to the Thai palate.
   Did he make humous? No, Dang delicately ducked the ‘war' with the Arab world over who ‘owns' humous. The winner was... shakshouka, a spice-laden North African dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, peppers and onions, brought to Israel by Tunisian Jews. Shakshouka - stuffed in a pita - is not designed for the squeamish or the cholesterol-conscious: the most authentic is made with a zillion small egg yolks ‘harvested' from played-out laying hens sent to the slaughterhouse.
   As for salat hatzilim* Dang remarked: "Israelis are obsessed with eggplants. Their eggplant salad looks terrible, but its taste is heavenly."

* Indeed, eggplant ‘salads' (e.g. spreads) are only surpassed by finely chopped Israeli salad in the frequency with which they turn up as part of any Israeli meal.


   It's not in the Guinness Book of Records, but it should be: the largest ark on earth. Not Noah's ark in the Bible - the ark where Torah scrolls are housed in the synagogue.
   This ark is in the Belz Hassidic dynasty's 5,000-seat Jerusalem synagogue. According to master carpenter Abraham Fried from Kiryat Gat, it's the largest commission he has ever received as an artisan of synagogue furnishings.
   Fried considers it "the height of his career" in all respects, and says that putting it together was equal to "constructing the Eiffel Tower." Putting up the mind-boggling monumental 18-metric-ton structure that can hold 60 Torah scrolls was accompanied by the presence of a Talmudic student in prayer, in the hope that the edifice wouldn't come tumbling down onto his head before it was safely secured in place.
   Just how high is high?
   The carving-covered Holy Arch is almost Gothic in magnitude... at least by Jewish standards: it stands 12 meters high - equivalent to the height of a four-storey building.
* For a photo, go to:


   Police in Montana received a specially trained German Shepherd from Israel named Mikey for counter-terrorism duty. Law enforcement officials in Montana only had to pay the dog's plane ticket from Israel - not shell out $20,000 as demanded for such a canine in the USA - and the dog was theirs. The only problem with the marked-down merchandise was that the ‘new emigrant' only understood Hebrew commands. But who looks a gift dog in the mouth? So, his American handler, John Poskat, simply equipped himself with prompt cards of transliterated Hebrew commands. But the gift dog refused to budge.
   Only the assistance of a local Chabad rabbi who helped Poskat improve his heavy American accent established lines of communication between the new partners, giving the non-Jewish handler good enough pronunciation so that Mikey could understand his master - including mastering a guttural chet in ‘Chapess!' (‘Search!').



   It's getting harder and harder to be a bird. In fact, birds really don't have the sharp vision they're cracked up to have. They smash headfirst into mirror-like windows on skyscrapers and fly straight into wind turbines. But a solution does exist for one of the latest perils: transparent acoustic barriers along highways. Putting up decals with silhouettes of birds of prey make the birds take a detour; but the devil is in the details.
   Route 431 near Ramle was strewn with dead birds despite the presence of a host of 40 square cm silhouettes. What had gone haywire? Investigation revealed that the contractor - guided by his sense for aesthetics - had whimsically plastering the life-saving images haphazardly along the route, which looked cool. But statistics (hit and miss, one assumes) demonstrate that silhouettes of birds of prey have to be smack-dab in the middle of the see-through panels to be effective.
   The contractor promised to add more birds.


* Copyright© 2010 by Daniella Ashkenazy. All rights reserved worldwide. For limited usage, see FAQs. All stories are completely rewritten by Daniella Ashkenazy from news items gleaned from Yediot Aharonot, unless another news source is stated.