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CHELM-ON-THE-MED©, July 2010 - Column 1


   Abed Tzi'ad (84) knows Hebrew, Yiddish and English - not just his native Arabic - a skill that comes with the job: the 84-year-old Muslim from the Arab village Abu-Tor on the outskirts of Jerusalem holds the keys to the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives. It's a position he inherited from his father in 1938, and he plans to pass it on to his grandson.
   The caretaker knows by heart the names and yohrzeits* of each of his ‘clients' according to the Hebrew calendar. Yet Tziad admits: he gives extra TLC to the grave of Henrietta Szold - who personally requested that when she died Tzi'ad should plant rosemary on her grave - which he did. Twice. Once when the founder of the Hadassah Women's Organization died in 1943, then again in 1967* when he took charge of the cemetery again, after the Six Day War.
   Surely one of the oddest job perks on record, Tzi'ad has traveled abroad three times - all-expenses-paid by living kin of some of his charges - once as a house guest in Berlin, twice as a house guest in New York.

* Yiddish for the annual commemoration of the dead marked by going to the cemetery to say a Kaddish prayer.

* Between 1949 and 1967* Tzi'ad found himself out of a job, when the Mount of Olives fell into Jordanian hands.



   How small can the small print be?
   The issue was the subject of no small number of meetings at the Ministry of Industry, Trade & Labor, after the Knesset passed a farsighted bill in January 2010 setting a minimum for the benefit of sight-challenged seniors who can't always read the small print even if they have the time. Not only that: the law that covers any printed matter designed for consumers - advertisements, billing statements or standard contracts - stipulates that the small print has to be at least 30 percent the size of the big, eye-catching come-ons... But legislators left one small, rather crucial detail in the law to the Minister of Industry, Trade & Labor: setting the minimum size of the small print on such printed matter.
No longer in the air, the answer is: 2 mm.



   Are school security guards faceless functionaries from temp agencies? Perhaps some are, but surely not D., whose winning smile was a permanent fixture at the gate to the Horwitz High School in Carmiel... until one day the guard suddenly stopped smiling. The change of mood didn't go unnoticed, but for weeks D. remained mum... until he was summoned to the principal's office...
   There, under ‘interrogation' D. finally explained: his father was terminally ill and was now on his death bed, and the new immigrant and father-of-four didn't have the financial means to fly home to say his goodbyes.
   Within minutes the student council organized a spontaneous campaign among the student body, and within a few short hours collected the 5,800 NIS ($1,526) needed (together with the faculty and a few parents who ‘made up the difference'). The next morning the kids handed the anguished but astonished security guard a pre-paid round-trip ticket home


   His friends said he didn't have a chance of a snowball in hell against an international giant. But Yaakov Zo'eeli persevered. The 24-year-old student, working as a receptionist at a gym chain, refused to take sitting down the fact that the upscale Holmes Place Health & Fitness Clubs refused to allow him to sit down on the job. Big or not, the employer was clearly courting trouble: ** in 2007, the Knesset laid down the law, passing a bill dubbed "the checkout cashier's law" requiring employers to provide chairs for workers who can perform their jobs perfectly well sitting down.
   The bench that heard the chair case clobbered the fitness club, awarding the Bezalel art student 100,000 NIS ($26,315) in compensation and ordering Holmes Place to pay the plaintiff's 10,000 NIS ($2,631) court costs - as an example to others.
   The ruling of the regional labor court reveals that the employer must have truly been ‘looking for trouble,' having added insult to injury by placing a backless broken bar stool behind the service counter but forbidden the receptionist from actually trying to sit on it.

* perseverance in Yiddish - literally ‘sitting power'

** Other chains complied; this was the first case to reach the courts.


   In order to drive aging cars off the road, not only are owners ‘penalized' - forced to re-license any vehicle over 20 years old twice a year. The government is now sugar-coating its drive with a bonanza: a 3,000 NIS ($790) bounty - cash-on-the-barrel - to anyone who ‘turns in' a duly-licensed vehicle that is at least two decades old, by bringing the jalopy to one of the two metal-recycling plants in Israel. The only hitch: the vehicle has to get there under its own steam. No pushing. No tow trucks. The government isn't paying for cars already off the road...
   There was a ‘glitch' in putting the plan into operation, however: 5,000 members of the Vintage Car Owners Association were deeply offended when they also received invitations to trash some 30,000 lovingly restored and specially licensed three-decade-old priceless vehicles - as if their babies were pieces of junk.


* 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.