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


   The silent prayers of residents of Judea and Samaria were answered by the Palestinian Authority enforcing environmental noise limits during the month of Ramadan. The PA set a ceiling on the decibels muezzin may employ when calling the faithful to prayers from minarets - a holy duty that had been accompanied by PA systems turned up full-volume - even at 4:30 am. The Palestinian ordinance also cuts stereophonic wrap-around-sound, limiting calls to Friday prayers to one mosque per village or township, year-round.
   Another irritant? Arab open-air weddings that run into the wee hours of the morning with music going full-blast. Such music resounds across hills and vales not only in Judea and Samaria but also in the ‘pastoral' Galilee. At one point, after appeals to ‘keep it down' fell (not surprisingly) on deaf ears, unsettled residents of Kfar Vradim - an upscale township in the Western Galilee - decided to give the neighboring Arab township Tarshiha a taste of its own medicine: an all-night-stand of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Mozart's Requiem and Puccini's opera Tosca - at full volume.


   Israeli-made mezuzot* generally range in price from NIS 150-600 ($39-160) for a kosher handwritten parchment scroll and a case. But there are mezuzahs and there are mezuzahs...
   Just before the Jewish New Year, the largest mezuzah in the world was attached to the proverbial ‘portal to Israel' - Ben-Gurion Airport.
   The airport mezuzah broke the previous world record - a 2004-vintage mezuzah cited in the 2009 edition of Guinness World Records, written on a 94cm (3'1") x 76 cm (2'6") parchment. The letters of the traditional 22-line inscription from Deuteronomy in the new record-breaking scroll are 2 cm high and scribed on a 101 cm x 101 cm sheet of parchment. The scroll took three years to complete, not the two hours it takes a Hebrew scribe or sofer STAM to write a ‘regular' mezuzah scroll.
   Will other scribes pick up the challenge?
   In recent years there have been a number of contenders for the coveted title.

* A case attached to the doorposts of Jewish households containing a passage from Deuteronomy on a parchment scroll as prescribed in the Torah (al mezuzot beitecha) - a symbol that also serves as a talisman and signifies a Jewish home.



   Turns out that the widespread belief that ‘you can't drown in the Dead Sea' is an old wives' tale.
   One out of every five drownings or near-drownings in Israel is in the Dead Sea. In late August, Magen David Adom* announced that 117 persons were pulled ashore by lifeguards at one or another of Israel's four seas - 13 from the Sea of Galilee and the Red Sea, and 21 from the Dead Sea (and the rest along the Med). Luckily, only 23 out of the 117 victims died.
   One of the reasons for the high incidence of near-drownings in the Dead Sea is the belief you don't have to know how to swim to float in the Dead Sea, say paramedics. Non-swimmers blissfully float on their backs until they suddenly find themselves in over their heads - literally and figuratively. Trying to return to shore, non-swimmers turn over on their stomachs... and immediately begin to sink.
   Swallowing large amounts of Dead Sea water doesn't help, add rescue personnel. It can complicate matters, sparking an erratic heart beat and even heart failure.

* Israel's Red Cross


   Israeli society enters a period of semi-paralysis during the month-long fall High Holiday season. There are only seven possible workdays between days off for holidays and the Sabbath (September 8-October 3) prompting countless Jewish businesses to simply close ‘til after Sukkot. But Jews are not alone...
   Muslims are still ‘recovering' from the month of Ramadan that this year literally dovetailed with Rosh Hashanah. The Palestinian Authority declared all days during the month-long holiday - that ran from August 11 to September 10 - half-day workdays, including school days.
   According to the Calcalist economic daily, a full quarter of all advertising budgets in the Arab world is spent during Ramadan - a month-long fress* when family expenditure on food doubles. And despite the dawn-to-dusk Ramadan fast, a full month of nonstop holiday dishes invariably leaves its mark on waistlines. It doesn't help that after breaking the fast, most Muslims instantly turn into couch potatoes, spending the night watching one of the 600 Arabic stations, all airing special programs for Ramadan, especially popular series, soap operas and movies.

* Yiddish for eating like... er, a pig.


   Looking for suitable ways to celebrate the kibbutz movement's 100th anniversary?
   The Government plans to mark the milestone with a facelift for the 1911-vintage Kinneret Cemetery overlooking the Sea of Galilee. The site attracts 200,000 visitors a year - a reflection of the rise in grave-hopping tours to historic graveyards that have become a popular Israeli pastime - some marked by impromptu hootenannies, guitar in hand*.
   Soon, graveside tape recordings will greet visitors and spring to life at the touch of a button to tell the life stories of some of the most illustrious residents of the Kinneret Cemetery, which include founding fathers of Labor Zionism such as Berl Katznelson and cultural icons, from poetess Rachel to songstress Naomi Shemer**.

* For more on this fad, see Daniella Ashkenazy's feature in The Jerusalem Post magazine at

** Rachel Bluwstein (1890-1931) and Naomi Shemer (1930-2004)


* 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.