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


   With the 2010-11 school year finally ‘back to normal' after the Jewish holidays, pupils face some changes in the way they study the Bible. Viewed as a history book, not just a holy text, the Bible is an integral part of school curriculums in Israel in both regular (‘secular') and religious track schools. Among the changes instituted to grapple with poor showings (a national average score of 75) on matriculation exams in Bible Studies, the Ministry of Education banned workbooks in grades 7-12 after educators discovered that the plethora of enrichment material available was leading many students to coast along on the equivalent of Cliff NotesTM written in modern Hebrew, without so much as cracking open a genuine copy of the Bible in biblical Hebrew or reading classical commentary.



   Only recently* Chelm-on-the-Med wrote that there was a limit to the ways Israelis like their humous after chick pea milk failed to make the grade. So we thought... Until an upscale Tel Aviv Port eatery decided to take trendy exotic ice cream flavors to their outer limits: anyone for sabra (prickly pear)-flavored or watermelon-with-salty-white cheese-flavored sherbet? How about sesame (techina)-flavored ice cream dotted with sugar-coated whole chick peas (humous)? Oh yes, and there is also vanilla ice cream topped with olive oil and zatar (crushed hyssop leaves) as well. The establishment even has charoset**-flavored ice cream during Passover...
   How are the new tongue-in-cheek flavors selling?
   The chic ice cream parlor didn't say.

* July 2010, Column 2
** Charoset: a combination of mashed apples, crushed nuts, cinnamon and wine, symbolizing the mortar used when the Israelites were slaves in Egypt.


   Born to kvetch????
   Not Israeli Jews, despite signs to the contrary.
   A 2005-2009 Gallup opinion poll published in Forbes found Israelis are among the ‘happiest people in the world' - ranking eighth (along with Australia, Canada, and Switzerland) among 155 nations when asked to say how happy they were. Based on a 10-point scale comprised of a battery of questions including whether they got enough rest yesterday, whether they felt intellectually challenged and whether they felt respected, 62 percent of all Israelis ranked as "thriving"; only 3 percent were "suffering" - ahead of the United States (ranking 14), Great Britain (17) and Germany (33).



   While Verdi's Nabucco performed facing Masada on the Dead Sea last summer was a once-in-a-lifetime event, Israeli opera venues are becoming "curiouser and curiouser."
   The Israeli Opera sent fully costumed soloists to serenade passengers on the Beersheba-Tel-Aviv commuter train with selections from the Israeli Opera's operatic adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. The strange promo, staged just prior to opening night of the new 70-minute children's opera with music and libretto by David Sebba, was actually in perfect tempo with Israel's quirky but poky rapid transit system that offers lectures and speed networking* on-the-run: the White Rabbit in waistcoat tooled down the aisle of the train - which as usual, was some 10 minutes behind schedule leaving the station - as tenor Nimrod Greenbaum belted out one of the high notes of the opera: "I'm late. I'm late. I'm late for an important date" (in Hebrew) as passengers grinned in recognition.

* See "Never a Dull Moment" - December 2009, Column 2, at


   After a GRAD rocket fired from Sinai at Eilat landed squarely in the lap of a Jordanian taxi driver just outside the posh Intercontinental Hotel in Aqaba killing the cabbie almost on the spot, a consternated Jordanian security official complained to an Israeli journalist who arrived at the scene soon after: "Someone needs to teach the Egyptians to hit the target. Someone has to sit them down with a map and show them - here, this is Eilat. And here, this is Aqaba!"


   'Preparing soldiers for civilian life' goes beyond pre-demobilization remedial reading or preparation for college boards. The IDF also offers another perk: a four-month elective conversion courses on army time, designed for personnel* who are considering formally converting to Judaism.
   One aspect of the program (that was inaugurated in 1991) has always been ‘outsourced': britot (circumcisions) that are part of becoming a Jew. Why? There simply has never been a mohel (ritual circumciser) of draft age to handle that side of the conversion process... until Asher Waldman showed up.
   Waldman who attended his first circumcision at close range at the age of seven - not counting his own, began hands-on training at 16 under his father's watchful eye and was licensed by the government to solo at the age of 20. Today, he not only performs the ceremonial part of the surgical procedure that is executed by a hospital surgical team, Waldman also calms nervous personnel prior to the operation, orchestrates a celebration with family, instructs soldiers in post-op care... and although he is not an army doctor, his post carries special authorization to grant 14 days of gimmelim - army slang for medical leave to each of his discharges.

* New immigrants raised Jewish by their families - mostly from Russia, who don't meet Orthodox criteria of ‘Who is a Jew' and want to formally convert.


* 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.