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When Israel was socked by a rare nor'easter – artic air marked by plummeting temperatures and record precipitation* (capped by unprecedented snow clearly viewable even from space* that even blanketed Cairo and the pyramids for the first time in 110 years) emergency response crews were overwhelmed by the sheer scope of blocked roads and power outages.           

            The most helpful advice Prime Minister Natanyahu and President Shimon Peres could dispense via the media was that Israelis cuddle together for the duration: Citizens in neighborhoods and villages suffering power outages were asked to check up on their neighbors – particularly unaccompanied seniors who might slowly freeze to death without even calling for help.

            The clarion call prompted a group of Hebrew University students to cook up a storm, then join elderly Jerusalemites desperate for company for the duration, not just for the hot plates of soup they brought. And speaking of company, among countless acts of kindness – big and small during the crisis, in Modi’in residents fetched stranded motorists on route 443 to the capital, inviting perfect strangers to spend the entire Sabbath with them – feeding and clothing scores of marooned travelers.  

            The whiteout was a windfall for the operators of the pricy Hermon ski slopes and sledding run, who opened for business in mid-December – more than two weeks ahead of schedule, while Jerusalem motorists continue at the time of this writing to ‘enjoy’ figure skating on icy roads for free…

            No fatalities of people freezing to death have been reported as this column goes to press, although it will no doubt take days for Jerusalemites and others in high places to completely thaw out. (Yediot, Israel Hayom, Maariv, Haaretz)

* In many places, the storm dumped half the average annual precipitation within the short space of a few days. 



Employers around the world offer a creative list of perks for their employees but Israeli public servants now enjoy a truly unprecedented perk if they are single, divorced or widowed: a matchmaking service for government employees.

            Israel’s civil service is staging what are vetted as “laid-back and discrete social gatherings” on Thursday evenings and Friday mornings when government offices are closed, designed to bring together unattached employees “with the same status level and pay slips” – not a bad idea considering few can live on the single income of the average low-salaried government clerk.



Forget about the garbled Hebrew from Cairo a la the 1967 Six Day War saying “the Arabs are advancing “on all the bras” (chaziyot) instead of “on all fronts” (chazitot)…

            Today, thousands of Egyptians speak fluent Hebrew, including the latest slang picked up from the Internet (video clips, movies, Israeli radio and television) – with or without formal instruction. The extent of the phenomenon surfaced after some fluent Hebrew-speakers began stringing for Israeli television stations, reporting live on dramatic events in Egypt. 

            Some end up in Egyptian intelligence or as tour guides, but many are simply curious about ‘the neighbors’ - captivated by Mizrachi* pop singers such as Sarit Hadad, but at least one told Yediot that he wanted to read Amos Oz in the original. In fact, some Hebrew-speaking Egyptians work in technical support for Microsoft and Dell call centers in Egypt…fielding calls from Israel, not just from the Arab world – quipping that ‘no one has a clue that we’re in Cairo...”         

 * Jews originating in Arab countries.



Raising children is an expensive business but the parents of an eight year-old sabra* discovered the cost of raising their son has special challenges.  Junior figured out the password on his parents’ iphone and ran up a 2,000 NIS ($555) bill downloading games and other apps.  Apple took mercy and agreed to drop the charges. 

            They changed the password but the kid figured out the new one – this time running up a whopping 17,000 NIS  ($4,722) charge, which Apple politely but firmly refused to adjust. In the meantime, the two have balked at acting on the only option left according to a credit card representative: Fight the charge by registering a fraud charge against their own son…

 * native-born Israeli



When a French consulate car returned to Israel from Jordan it was reeking of tobacco, but it wasn’t tobacco smoke that personnel at Allenby Bridge smelled...

            Actually, they smelled a rat. 

            Obtaining a special ‘go ahead’ from the French consulate to waive diplomatic immunity, Israel customs officials opened the trunk of the diplomatic vehicle to find half a metric ton of tobacco…along with 152 kilograms of solid gold bars and 799 smart phones, to boot.  Before the driver knew what had hit him, cross Israeli officials undiplomatically hauled the enterprising diplomat’s carcass straight from the Allenby Bridge Crossing to Ben-Gurion Airport where they put the Frenchman on the first plane for Paris without so much as a peep from the equally-piqued French.



Fed up with olive wood camels, Armenian pottery, and Roman glass earrings? Looking for a really unique gift for a special lady? 

            On the edges of the Old City in Jerusalem, in a quarter that archaeologists say was inhabited by the well-to-do in antiquity, excavators came across a treasure lode of necklaces, bracelets, and earrings of unusual beauty and complexity dating back to Second Temple times. In a nearby drainage ditch near the Western Wall, a button-sized earring inscribed with the Aramaic inscription in Hebrew letters “pure for God” - believed to stamp offerings brought to the Temple that had to be authenticated as ‘pure’ – was unearthed.

            Those excavating the City of David decided to produce and sell facsimiles of the two extraordinary finds – a costume jewelry collection labeled ‘Pure for God’ whose items retail for between 110-500 NIS ($31 to $143) – designs that reflect the style of ancient jewelry…but with a modern twist, bearing an exact replica of the Second Temple inscription found on the earring at the site. (Yediot, City of David



            Free electricity,* not just survivor pensions of Israel Electric Company pensioners can be passed on to an employee’s spouse for the remainder of their lives.

            A deceased employee’s common law wife demanded the ‘plum’ as an inheritance along with the retiree’s pension based on the deceased’s Last Will and Testament. Furthermore, she added, her spouse had initiated divorce proceedings which had not been consummated because his ‘ex’ purposefully dragged her feet, even sending her sick husband an SMS saying ‘she soon hoped to be his widow, God willing”…

            Despite the evidence, the bench awarded the estranged wife both his pension and his perks, claiming the judge’s hands were tied because that was the Letter of the Law - enough to surely give her poor husband a heart attack if he wasn’t dead already.  

 * The perk for past and present employees – for life, was instituted when pioneering employees lived in tents or shacks next to the tiny Nahariyim hydroelectric plant in 1932, lit by a 25 watt naked bulb, but is now worth a small fortune in an age of juice-guzzling appliances in every room.