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NOTE TO READERS: Ten months ago The Chelm Project began publishing weekly columns dubbed Backpage News from the Front (as was the case during the 2012 and 2014 Gaza wars). I said I would continue to write these weekly columns ‘for the duration’ but never dreamed I would still be publishing weekly columns 10 months later…


Here we are in mid-July 2016. The 156 stabbings, 96 shootings and 46 incidents of ramming of vehicles into crowds and one vehicle bombing in Israel were met with a yawn in the western world as long as Jihadist perpetrators were targeting Israeli Jews. Now, stabbings, shootings and vehicle rammings are occurring with increasing frequency and greater lethalness in the western world, which is far less prepared to deal with Islamic terrorism – psychologically and tactically. As a result, Israel has become a minor front in a wider war of global proportions. Ironically, Israel is one of the safest places in the gathering storm…


While we Israelis will continue to combat terrorists – nothing new in this country that has been dealing with Palestinian violence against civilians since 1921 – the Chelm Project is returning to its regular twice-a-month format. A less cramped schedule will free up time needed to review the material collected over the past eight years and apply the best gems, augmented with more subtext, in a book already in process…to be called A Rollicking Romp through the Wildest and Wackiest News Stores ‘Hiding’ in the Hebrew Press and What They Tell Us about Israeli Society and How It Ticks.


Daniella Ashkenazy








How did Natanyahu’s state visit to Africa go? 

            Hummmm. On one hand, marking the 40th anniversary of Operation Entebbe - a patching-up of relations with Uganda ‘orchestrated’ by one of Idi Amin’s 43 children – was crowned by seven African heads of state coming to meet Israel’s prime minister – signaling new relations with the Dark Continent.*

            On the other hand, pomp and ceremony got off to a ‘rough’ start when Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni delivered a bizarre welcoming speech not only peppered by repeated references to the “bond between Uganda and Palestine”.  In a rambling rewrite of history, Museveni cited a series of “bondage [sic.] events”** linking Africa and Israel, including “Baby Jesus hidden in Egypt from Herod” whom the president called a “bad gentleman or something like that…”  Was he confusing Jesus with the story of Moses hidden in the bulrushes from Pharaoh?

            At least the Ugandan head of state’s heart was in the right place when he named British Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour (author of the 1917 Balfour Declaration) as the author of the 1903 Uganda Plan - not Theodor Herzl. “Fortunately…the idea talking about Uganda as the home of the Jews” was rejected, concluded Museveni, “otherwise, we would be fighting you now!”

            Members of the IDF in the audience, and even Natanyahu (who managed to remain diplomatically straight-faced throughout the weird speech) burst into laughter… (Yediot, The Marker, Jtv)’’


* The visit to Uganda was followed by stops in Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia. 


** Having shown his mastery of the history of the region, Yoweri Museveni closed

 his historic recap saying he’d be glad to mediate between Israelis and Palestinians, if asked …



Arian Sulimani from moshav Ofer was surprised to receive a weird letter in December 2015 from National Insurance (Israel’s social security system) that she would no longer receive a child allowance for her daughter Agam because the 11 year-old was abroad…

            What had set the gears of the bureaucracy in motion?

            When the Sulimanis returned from a short vacation in Crete the previous summer, due to a technical glitch, Agam’s ‘return’ to Israel failed to register on Border Control computers…whose data of the comings ‘n goings of Israeli nationals is automatically forwarded to National Insurance…

            What followed was a Via Dolorosa of red tape and a strange application of habeas corpus that starting with lost forms, followed by demands that her mother bring the evidence in – in person. Twice: once with her daughter’s stamped passport, once with the passport and her daughter in tow. But before the two could make the second trip, a letter arrived informing Arian that the time limit had lapsed since she filled-in the second application...and she would have to start over again. The last straw was notification in the closing passage of the letter informing Arian that in any case, too much time had passed since August 2015 for withholdings to be reinstated!

            Amag’s mother did what any sane individual would do:  She called the newspapers….enough leverage for National Insurance to ‘return’ her daughter to Israel…and cough up the missing money. (Yediot) Photo credit:  red tape - Australian Parliament website




Chelm-on-the-Med has reported time and again how the IDF fits service postings to the soldier, not vise-versa – but the Israeli military seems to be bending over backward to avoid being accused of gender bias, breaking highly-motivated women who volunteer for battle units, in the process. 

            Colonel (res.) Raz Sagi revealed in an interview on Galei Tzahal - the army radio station - that at any given moment 50 percent of the women who have volunteered to serve in the mixed-gender Karakal infantry brigade and 75 percent (!) of the women serving in artillery field units are not ‘battle fit’ due to medical problems they’ve developed – suffering from a host of ailments from fatigue/stress fractures of the metatarsal bone in their feet to herniated disks in their spinal columns, some disabled for life.   


            While the weight of a 155 mm howitzer shell remains 95 pounds (43 kilograms), over the past 13 years physical stamina bars have been lowered four times to make women eligible* for such field positions. (Galei Tzahal) Photo credit:  IDF Spokesperson


* Ignoring Raz’s warning that in real wartime situations, “the enemy won’t give such field units discounts,” Dr. Orit Kamir – a ‘damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead’ gender scholar – berated Galei Tzahal for airing the health ramifications of built-in gender differences in upper body mass, charging “training should be set according to those who are entitled to participate in them”…




Neema is coming to the rescue of overseas migrant workers in Israel, employed primarily in agriculture (from Thailand). construction (mostly from Romania and China) and eldercare (mainly from the Philippines).

            The startup -  sparked by Barak Ben-Ezer’s chance conversation with his grandmother’s caregiver Margie Cristobal from the Phillippines - offers a unique credit card deal that circumvents guest workers being charged hefty service charges in sending money to family back home.

            The dual credit card system that the young successful hi-tech entrepreneur dreamed up, operates in a partnership with Mastercard.  There are two cards – a regular credit card for the worker in Israel, a debit card for the card-holder’s family half way around the world. Guest workers can automatically top up their family’s matching debit card for any amount at any time, using Neema’s special smartphone app. The cost? A nominal $10 monthly service charge - regardless of the sum ‘transferred’ or the number of ‘deposits’ made.

            But the real gem-of-a-story is the following tidbit: Barak Ben-Ezer and his co-founder Asi Sivan – surefire candidates for an Honorable Menschen in the annual Chelm Awards - gave Margie Cristobal stock options** in the new company in gratitude for her free assistance in fleshing out and testing the concept with focus groups she helped organize and mobilizing their first clients . (Kav LeMoshav, Channel 10 tv) Photo credit: Tai worker in moshav Tzofar, Gilad Livni


* Electronic Funds Transfer (think Western Union)


** A Cinderella ending? When will Neema go public is anyone’s guess, but take into account that the global market for such a service is incredible: In 2015, there are 250 million migrant works in the world who send $560 B annually to family back home.




An Aegean Airlines flight from Cyprus to Israel was delayed when one of the maintenance crew found packaging for a toy made in Israel marked in English – ‘Booba’ – Hebrew for doll.


            Fearing the writing was a variation of ‘boomba’ - Greek for bomb - the employee hit the panic button and departure to Tel Aviv of the Aegean flight was delayed while security official scoured the plane. (