The Chelm Project is a pro bono endeavor. Your donation is greatly appreciated. Your support helps balance overly conflict-driven news that warps perceptions of Israel.

Donate in Shekels


Donate in Dollars

Subscribe to our list

Email Format

Join us!

Are you a publisher or literary agent?

Click HERE

Savor Classic Oldies from 1987-2007
Click HERE

Share this post

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google BookmarksSubmit to TwitterSubmit to LinkedIn



On subways everywhere commuters enter cars and mentally withdraw to isolate themselves from the crowd by crawling into a book, plugging in their iPods or sinking into a zombie-like state. Not in Israel. 

            In the Jewish state, passengers form ad hoc communities on their commutes – including a synagogue on wheels and free lectures organized by fellow commuters. What’s next?

            Israel Railways is turning commuter carriages into virtual chat rooms for the gregarious.

A new smartphone application called Facebook Personal Track allows commuters to enter their time and itinerary and see if anyone they know on Facebook – or want to know – will be on the same train.

Surfers can also play a ‘wild card’ to hitch up with perfect strangers with similar needs and interests by defining what kind of travel companions they seek: someone to talk to  in order to pass the time; a ride to or from the train station; a prospective new business contact, or a promising marriage partner. The program links up suitable individuals with identical travel plans, based on their Facebook profiles.




Everyone knows how food stamps and Medicare for the underprivileged work. But how about a program to provide welfare recipients with another essential, at least in Israel: a new air conditioner.

            An ‘out with the old, in with the new’ campaign designed to reduce electricity demands is offering families that receive welfare payments from the National Insurance Institute a 40-percent reduction on the cost of a new energy-efficient air conditioner* on condition their aging, crappy, energy-guzzling model will be scrapped. The top-of-the-line air conditioners come with removal of the old and installation of the new included. The Ministry of Energy and Water Resources – which is also lightening the burden by phasing-out candescent light bulbs nationwide, underwriting two-thirds of the cost of new energy-efficient bulbs for the public-at-large – expects that some 10,000 low income families eligible for the AC swap will opt in.


* A windfall in winter as well – Israeli air conditioners ‘invert’ to provide cheap heat. A similar program that swapped 25,000 refrigerators among welfare recipients is expected to save such low-income families 1000 NIS (about $300) a year in electric bills.




Mordechay Lewy has a strange field of interest. Over the past 25 years, the Israeli Ambassador to the Holy See has become a scholar of tattooing, and even organized the first academic conference ever*, devoted to the history of tattoos, which was held in December 2011.


Where else: in the Vatican, at Vatican University.

What’s the tie?

            Lewy says tattooing wasn’t introduced to Europe by James Cook when the explorer returned from Haiti in 1771 as previously thought. Christian pilgrims brought back the practice 200 years earlier (in the 16th century) from… the Holy Land.

The first record of a Western pilgrim who returned home with a ‘souvenir tattoo’ testifying to his travels dates back to 1556 and such tattoos quickly became a badge of honor for the bearers.

The tattoos were the handiwork of Franciscan monks in Jerusalem, who served as tour guides for pilgrims. But instead of selling olivewood camels, picture postcards or T-shirts saying “I Jerusalem,” the monks sold these ‘wearable souvenirs’ (that didn’t fade with time) as a sideline. The tattoos portrayed religious motifs such as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Crucifixion or visions of Jesus ascending to heaven. Some with iconic images of the Holy City such as the Temple Mount or the Western Wall boasted the word ‘Jerusalem’… in Hebrew (ירושלים).


* Tattoo conventions of tattoo artists (not tattoo historians) are commonplace.




That’s what it took – the cat’s meow – to get a Tiberius citizen out of jail, at least for one fleeting moment. Taken into custody after a violent exchange with a neighbor, the suspect appealed to the arraigning judge to release him from detention – pleading that his pet cat was at home all alone and would die without him.

The soft-hearted justice of the peace in a Nazareth courtroom ruled the suspect would have to remain in custody in the Tiberius lockup, but recommended that the cops escort the detainee home first to release the trapped but innocent cat.




Remember the story about Russian day trippers who vacation in Egypt taking day trips to the Holy Land, adding insult to injury to the Israeli hospitality industry by ‘brown bagging’ it with food prepared by their Cairo or Taba hotels?

 Well the Jordanians, rather than grin and bear it, are fighting back – not against the Russians but against some 100,000 Israelis tourists who cross the border at Eilat to tour Petra.*

Jordanian border control officials are now “prohibiting the entrance of packed cooked food into Jordanian territory” supposedly due to “security and safety considerations” mumbling that the food hasn’t undergone Jordanian inspection and might constitute a health hazard. Apparently Israeli day trippers who insist on taking a picnic lunch will have to stick to raw carrots and celery sticks.


* Up until recently, the entrance fee to the Red Rock Canyon (HaSela HaAdom in Hebrew) was 120 NIS (20 dinar), but the Jordanians have also decided to bag tourist dollars by jacking up the price of tickets to 430 NIS (80 dinar).