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Tochnit Mit’ar (Municipal Plan) is probably one of the weirdest cantorial pieces every composed.*

       The lyrics are the opening bars… er, passages of Jerusalem’s Municipal Master Plan which was penned by engineers of the Holy City’s Municipal Planning Commission and set to music by composer Tali Keren. The composition – an ode to the special blend of old and new that personifies the City of Peace as home to the three great monotheist faiths and a rich mosaic of ethnicities, with a preamble that pledges to preserve Jerusalem’s special character – debuted at a recital at City Hall.


* The work is the product of a visionary program composed by Mayor Nir Barkat dubbed ‘Municipal Artist’ that invited Jerusalem’s artists and artisans to visit the municipality’s various departments for revelation and inspiration.




Most compulsive hoarder types limit the stuff they pick up at garage sales and auctions to whatever they can pack into their houses, store in the garage and the basement and stash in their back yards. But there is always room for innovation…

       At a close-out auction, an Israeli homeowner picked up 20 irresistible played-out vehicles for a song. Driving the fleet home to Modi’in, he then hogged all available parking spaces on residential David Elazar Street, driving his neighbors to tears for over a year.* Fellow street residents flooded City Hall with complaints, arguing that the aging vehicles were an eyesore, besides leaving them with no place to park. Alas, finding a way to get the cars off the street was, it would seem, not exactly a walk in the park: apparently there’s nothing in the law books that limits the number of cars a resident might reasonably park on a public street.


* Twelve months down the road, the municipality moved in to remove the fleet – many sitting on flat tires – by ticketing each car as “a safety hazard” with a threat to tow the vehicle away at the owner’s expense if they weren’t removed.




Most women agree that no pain beats labor pains, but an Israeli woman about to give birth at the Bnei Zion Hospital in Haifa begs to differ.

       Soon after checking into the maternity ward as expected – ‘with her belly between her teeth’* as we say in Hebrew – the new arrival, in the throes of labor, told attending staff through gritted teeth: ‘‘I have a bitch of a toothache that’s far worst than my contractions, and there’s no way I’m going to deliver a baby in this state.’ When painkillers failed to mitigate the odd complication, obstetricians summoned the head of the hospital’s dental clinic.

       Between contractions, Dr. Naomi Charni performed an emergency root canal. Delivered from her agonies, the expectant mother was rushed back to a labor room where, smiling with relief, without so much as a grimace, she delivered a bouncing baby boy.


* Kirsah bein sheineha




The hadar ochel – or communal dining hall – has more or less disappeared from the landscape of most privatized kibbutzim (or been farmed out to a concessionaire). But fear not. Foodies Assie, Haim and Ofer Vardi have collected and preserved recipes that typified kibbutzim in their heyday.

       Some of the recipes the three cooked up, readers may not want to replicate – the kind that set in motion my kibbutz-born husband’s lifelong war with meatballs (which in the 1950s were seasoned with every conceivable leftover, in conjunction with remarkable quantities of stale bread). Such free-ranging ‘hamburger helper’ was apparently a close relative to Kibbutz Na’an’s hamburger patties* and a spin-off of Kibbutz Tel-Katzir’s famous ‘string soup’ included in the volume – Hadarochel. The book itself is laced with vintage photos and folklore about the hadar ochel experience. For example, there is the one about an unnamed kibbutz that was forced to have the metal shop design a lock against night raiders on their cholent pot – used to cook the irresistible, slow-cooking Sabbath stew of meat, beans and potatoes prepared Friday afternoon and left to cook overnight, designated to be served mid-day on Saturday.


* The Vardi trio reveals that at Kibbutz Na’an, the ratio was half a kilo of bread and half a kilo of onions for every kilo of hamburger – held together with three eggs, then deep-fried. Decades later, when the cooks wanted to reduce the bread, the kibbutzniks complained about the taste…




How many cops* does it take to apprehend one slimy, and indeed slippery, 23-year-old, two-bit drug dealer?

       In the southern environs of Acco, special agents from the Police Force’s regional reconnaissance unit asked a local hood to get off his motor scooter for a friendly chat. The suspect, however, chose to show the cops a clean set of wheels instead. Heading straight for the beach, the driver jettisoned his scooter at the water’s edge and swam straight out into the Med… fully clothed, figuring the agents wouldn’t follow suit for such a small fish. A group of local detectives, however, had already joined the chase; grabbing a bunch of kayaks from the nearby Naval Officers Academy, the officers frantically paddled after the athletic escapee, who was ultimately fished out of the Med by a police patrol boat whose crew dispatched the plucky but unlucky fugitive to a holding cell to dry out before being interrogated.


* The number of cops in Israel is the lowest per capita in the Western world: 27,000 for a population of almost 8 million.