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CHELM-ON-THE-MED©, SEPTEMBER 2012 COLUMN 2
BE HAPPY, DON'T WORRY
How is Israel faring as Jews mark the beginning of a New Year?
Forget about a nuclear Iran, a European monetary crisis, spiraling petrol prices and the fact that 52 percent of all households in Israel found themselves facing an overdraft at one time or another during the past year. Eighty-eight and a half percent of the adult population in Israeli is satisfied with life, and 55 percent is optimistic.
But is optimism justified???
Sever Plotzker, Yediot Aharonot's chief economic editor says indeed Israelis have good reason to be optimistic: Approaching a population of eight million, the Jewish state is no longer a tiny country. It's the same size as Switzerland and Austria, and demographically has surpassed most western European countries – including Denmark, Finland, Norway and Ireland.*
No less encouraging, the gap in birth rates between Jews and Arabs is converging.
The Bank of Israel announced that Israel's dollar reserves in mid-2012 stood at 75.119 billion dollars. Need some point of reference? In mid-1985 Maariv reported that Israel's foreign currency balance dropped below the red line to 2 billion dollars – barely enough to cover two months of imports.
If that's not reason enough for optimism, the past year the number of Jews making aliyah to Israel from North America surpassed the number of Israelis leaving for North America (Yediot, Globes, Maariv)
* In factEurope is stagnating with a birthrate lower than that necessary for zero population growth – prompting a group of Danish kindergartens (whose sustainability is in jeopardy with 1.76 children per family in Holland) to hold an 'evening tea party' at the kindergarten – kids only' in the hopes the carefree evening will jack up births nine months from now.
SOLDIERS IN SANDALS
In 2010 female soldiers in the IDF were prohibited from donning sandals in the summer. Why? Male soldiers serving in rear units registered complaints of gender bias with the Soldiers' Ombudsman (yes, there is such a function).
In August 2012 the brass reconsidered. While previously any old flat black sandal met specifications – such latitude led to a host of inappropriate and bizarre choices. So now female soldiers have the option to purchase one-style-fits-all regulation sandals out-of-pocket: a serviceable and sensible Biblical sandal (sandal tanachi). The ever-popular style is a facsimile of a genuine 2,000 year-old sandal from Biblical times found in an archeological dig.
What about the gender bias charge, and the argument that "everyone wants to wear sandals"? The quartermaster remained mum. (Maariv, Yediot, IDF Spokesperson)
In 2011 a million Israelis borrowed books from public libraries, a 50 percent increase since 2005,* but any librarian will tell you, one of the challenges of the profession is diminishing returns, coaxing/reminding lenders to return their library books, as well.
A public library in Kfar Saba dreamed up an out-of-the-box strategy to encourage readers to return overdue library books – launching a "Literary Pardon" Campaign – a period during with the library would forgo late fines for those who came up with an outrageous excuse of why they hadn't returned their library books. Among the winners
-- "The book was so captivating I couldn’t give it up."
-- "I used the book to raise the height of my computer (screen) and forgot."'
WASTE WATER PLAN
This past summer the Tel Aviv Municipality found itself in the eye of a storm (or a tempest in a teacup if you ask the mayor). City Hall was accused of operating a wasteful one-of-a-kind desalinization scheme, every night pouring untold cubic meters of sweet water into the sea – at least so charged the Hebrew press after being tipped off by a ticked-off passing pedestrian.*
Not so retorted city officials: The culprits are tens of thousands of visitors to the mile-long Charles Clore Promenade between Jaffa and Tel-Aviv – populated at night by low-income families from Jaffa who come to the park at night to cool off and repeatedly turn the park's sprinklers to 'irrigate the Med' so they can sit or sleep on the grass.
* A Dachaf survey found 57 percent of all Jewish Israelis, worry about Israel's shrinking water reserves and have reduced their personal water consumption.
A resident of Tirat Hacarmel requested and was granted a license to operate an ice cream truck, but instead of plying the neighborhoods selling popsicles to kids, the concessionaire bought a semi-trailer which he converted into a gigantic refreshment stand on wheels, complete with a protruding patio. Transferring the ice cream van license plates to the mammoth vehicle, he then parked the semi-trailer on the edge of Tirat Hacarmel's pristine public beachfront ….either thinking no one would notice the difference or optimistically assuring himself – if there's a wheel, there's a way. Suffice it to say, authorities have set about dislodging the cheeky entrepreneur.
Israelis aren't just consumed with making the biggest plate of humous in the world* – bigger than Lebanon's.
For those who remember the September 2010 story about the world's biggest mezuzah – a 1.01 meter-long mezuzah placed at the entrance to Ben-Gurion Airport just before Rosh Hashana 5771 (2010): Not anymore. Israel Gotleib, the official Western Wall scribe of holy texts, has taken up the challenge affixing a 40 kilogram 1.4 meter-long bronze mezuzah at the entrance to the Western Wall plaza just before Rosh Hashana 5773 (2012).
Will the feat be challenged? Anything's possible.
* See April 2010 "Upcoming Spring Offensive"