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Every diplomatic mission on the face of the earth is equipped with a huge set of dishes stamped with their state emblem used at official functions. However, due to kashrut requirements, Israeli missions must have two sets of dishes – one milk and one meat, a sizable investment. Over the years, however, the service for guests at the Israel embassy in Japan lost its luster, marred by small chips and little cracks. So Ambassador Nissim Ben Shitrit asked for replacements. Budget-conscious bureaucrats in Jerusalem dragged their feet. Diplomatic cables went back and forth between Tokyo and Jerusalem for months on end until Mother Nature took its course.

The diplomatic tug-of-war ended when the embassy was dealt an unexpected trump card: tremors from the massive mid-March earthquake smashed umpteen pieces of the disputed service to smithereens. Bowls tottered off the shelf; teapots and saucers crashed to the tiled floor.

Although thoroughly shaken by events, Ben Shitrit was hardly broken up over the opportune loss.


Luna Shulakir (21) has made her mark – paving the way for other women in the workplace to follow their dreams.

What does she do?

She’s a garbage collector.

The occupation that until now has been an all-male domain until a shortage of municipal garbage collectors led the director of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality’s sanitation department to offer Shulakir a job. While Shulakir now drives a garbage truck, her love affair behind the wheel was launched when the IDF offered the Jaffa-born inductee a shot at “driving a truck” during her military service. She and six other women candidates were picturing a pick-up truck or maximum a van, but it turned out the army had other plans. Two years driving a Mack made maneuvering a 15-ton garbage truck a walk in the park. Another recent female vet from her army unit recently joined Shulakir. No wonder. As a garbage collector she makes a higher salary than her career officer husband does posted at an IDF transportation depot.


With summer upon us, trendy Tel Aviv cafés have added a new specialty item to the menu: dog food.

“Doggy Bags” – this one actually for the dog – were dreamed up by the non-profit Let Animals Live and Eukanuba, an upscale American dog food producer. The menu item provides a light meal and beverage for 14 NIS ($3.50) along with the owner’s 14 NIS double-espresso. Proceeds from the 100 gram bags of premium dog chow and matching wide-mouthed paper cups for food and water will go to support the animal rescue organization.


When Arieh Keller – who heads the Israel Nature and Parks Authority unit designed to combat illegal commerce in animals – got a tip-off that someone was offering a dozen baby crocodiles for sale, he sprung into action. Police detectives called in to assist locating the reptiles ‘somewhere in the Tel Aviv region’ found seven 60 cm-long crocs stashed in a warehouse. Where? In the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, of all places.

Keller was relieved to confiscate the year-old Nile crocodiles, found in a disintegrating cardboard box, just in the nick of time before they got away. “Crocodiles have a very developed sense of smell and are attracted to water,” he explained.

Keller wasn’t worried they’d escape and find their way to the nearby Yarkon River that runs almost parallel to Bnei Brak. Or enter the sewage system. Oh no. Keller’s first concern was that one of the crocs would get out and find its way to one of the numerous mikvahs or ritual baths that dot Bnei Brak!


Are you a graphic artist? For the first time in its history, the Bank of Israel is conducting an open competition for the design of Israel’s new bank notes.

The bills will carry the images of four pillars of Hebrew culture – two women and two men. Instead of deceased politicians,* they are iconizing dead poets: Rachel Bluwstein (20 shekels) Shaul Tchernichovsky (50 shekels) Leah Goldberg (100 shekels) and Natan Alterman (200 shekels).**

Kiss goodbye the term New Israeli Shekel (NIS) as well. The term is being phased out. With foreign exchange reserves at an all-time high of $77.4 billion dollars and inflation low, new bills issued over the next three years will again be valued in Israeli Shekels (IL).

* See the controversy of “poets or politicians” in Chelm-on-the-Med© Online’s October 2010 column.

** For decorator ideas, view vintage bank notes and current ones here.


Is there anyone who has visited Jerusalem who hasn’t encountered the camel that waits patiently for tourists just outside the Old City’s Dung Gate and poses for pictures on the promenade above the Mount of Olives?

Well, one day the camel (whose name is Kojak) vanished into thin air. Overzealous municipal workers, it turned out, had “arrested” the camel, taking him into custody, warning the animal was not just a tourist trap but a danger to public.

Not only was the beast missing a valid rabies shot, said city hall, officials claimed that because the owners, Nassar and Ali Abu Alwa, offered rides along the Old City walls the camel needed third-party insurance like any vehicle.

The religious student’s organization Youth for Jerusalem mounted a campaign to intervene on behalf of the Jerusalem icon, but so far they have been unable to find an insurance company willing to issue a third-party policy to a Libyan camel.