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CHELM-ON-THE-MED©, AUGUST 2017 COLUMN 1

 

NO HIGH FIVE?

The Nature Preservation Society in Israel is charging that a proposed line of 45 180-meter wind turbines on the Golan is liable to decimate the endangered griffon vulture (nesher) population on the Golan Heights in a matter of years as effectively as simply dropping the remaining birds into a food blender.

      An environmental impact survey* found the 150 megawatt wind farm’s consequence for 500 million migratory birds that pass through Israel spring and fall would be marginal**, however, the Nature Preservation Society’s chief scientist Dr. Yehoshua Sh’kedi warned: The impact bird-for-bird is micro, not macro!

      Five Golan griffon vultures and seven white scavenger vulture (rachamim) would be killed annually*** in collisions along the line of gigantic rotating blades…while there are only 20 griffon vultures left on the wind-swept Golan Height (19, if one counts the nesher with an Israeli research transmitter who landed on the roof of a Syrian hunter last Wednesday who promptly shot the suspicious visitor with a shotgun). (Yediot) Photo credit: a small existing Israeli wind farm (Wind power in Golan Heights) Wikipedia – CC / the nesherproudly displayed on Syrian social media as an espionage agent…

 

* Clearance on environmental impact grounds is only one of many stepping stones on the road to actualization of the project…which includes not only the birds’ welfare but also (according to a 2013 article in Haaretz) “concerns that the turbines would disturb wind flow in the area and endanger military aircraft”…

 

** The ‘positive’ environmental impact study reflects the fact that most migrating birds stick to the coastal plain to take advantage of ample food and water (including kibbutz fish ponds…), or make a beeline down the hot Jordan Valley rift to take advantage of the additional energy-saving lift. 

 

*** The entrepreneurs behind the project insist the probability of a fatal encounter with a wind turbine by griffon vultures is one fatality a decade.

 

MEETING THEIR MATCH

Young ultra-Orthodox (haredi) men who rather than taking an automatic deferral to remain Torah scholars, choose to join the army can opt for special ‘cloistered’ units that accommodate to their needs** but some needs remain beyond what the Israeli army can provide.

      Because these boys have chosen to leave Talmudic academies to do national service, they have a hard time finding marriage partners in their community… The IDF has created a host of very weird job posts** in the past, but the Israeli military stopped short of creating a matchmaking specialist post along side the unit’s standard Welfare NCO.

      So, the Nachal Haredi non-profit (that assists soldiers in the ultra-Orthodox Netzach Yehuda NACHAL battalion) stepped forward to hire a matchmaker. She’s already found marriage partners for dozens of such men…with women who are also considered ‘tainted merchandise’ within their insular community: haredi girls who have gone to study at secular universities and baalei tshuva (women raised secular, who have adopted a haredi lifestyle). (Yediot) Photo credit: Haredi Nachal vets Facebook page

 

* all-male infantry units with all-male instructors, glatt kosher food, time off to study, and other alterations to accommodate military life to their strict religious lifestyle.   

 

** including, in the past, an ‘IDF magician’ (charged with amusing new draftees at the intake center) and an ‘ORGANizer’ (a young man with a medical exemption after donating a kidney to a sibling, who volunteered for military service…and spent three years encouraging draftees to sign organ donor cards during their induction process). 

 

RAHAT’S TWIN TOWERS

There is good news and bad news when it comes to ‘modernizing Rahat’ with plans to build two ten-storey apartment buildings.

      The good news is the two buildings will be the first high rises in the Bedouin city and the first homes built as rental flats. Currently the townscape is dominated by villas built by the occupants on half-dunam plots  – that is, single family dwellings to three to four-story multi-generational family compounds.

      The entire town-turned-city (p. 62,415) is subdivided into 33 neighborhoods – all but one segregated by clan, separated from one another by a wadi….

      While it’s true that occupants won’t be living as an extended family in the new high-rises - a revolutionary step in itself, on the other hand, picking tenants for the new buildings will still have to be based on tribal and clan loyalties*, clarified Rahat’s mayor Talal al-Krenawi. (Calcalist) Photo credit:  Wikipedia- Rahat

 

* According to an academic study, existing feuds between tribes/clans can spill over into the schoolyard during recess, and scraps in the school playground mushroom into feuds that embroil entire tribes.

 

PAMPERING A LA THE IAF
The wives of top air force staff (pilots and a handful of senior ground crew personnel) who live on IDF air force bases were hopping mad after the IAF commander-in-chief announced kindergarten teacher assistants who work on the bases - civilian-employees-of-the-IDF who make salaries well above going market rates - would be laid off and replaced.

     ( There’s a small army of 7,400 civilian on the Ministry of Defense payroll whose numbers are being cut back as an economy move - mainly tank-carrier drivers and quartermasters.)  

      While the measure to cut the kindergarten assistants was temporarily shelved by the director-general of the Ministry of Defense, what’s interesting is that families living on Israeli air bases used to enjoy* even free babysitting services at the Ministry of Defense’s expense… (Yediot) Photo credit: Teddy Bear - Eigene Aufnahme Wikipedia CC

 

* in addition to cheap lodging, free daycare and summer camps, and use of the base swimming pool to mention only some of the other special air force base amenities that are not available at large permanent bases of ‘The Greens’ in the ‘outback’ (HaYerukim in Hebrew slang, that is, green-uniformed ground forces’ personnel).

 

HIDDEN TREASURES

Levi Eshkol who served as Israel’s third prime minister (and minister of finance) died in 1969. His wife Miriam Eshkol (who was much younger) died in November 2016 at age 87; her Filipino eldercare aid handed over the keys to a non-descript basement storeroom in the Levi’s residence to the director of Yad Levi Eshkol  located several blocks away, asking that the memorial foundation check out whether the freezer in the basement was working OK.       

      It turned out the room - which only Miriam Eshkol (and her caretaker) knew about - was filled to the brim with mementoes of Eshkol’s public service.

      Yad Levi Eshkol has finally finished cataloging the treasure trove. It includes not only dozens of photo albums and boxes of documentary footage, trinkets and small souvenirs (honorary plaques and the like) and shelves and shelves of mementos and gifts - large and small.* The most unforgettable finding was a Samsonite™ suitcase with shirts, a v-neck sweater, underwear, pjs and Eshkol’s favorite well-worn slippers which Miriam Eshkol had packed for a trip abroad which her husband never took. Levi Eshkol was felled at age 73 by a massive heart attack on the eve of the prime minister’s departure.

      His wife never unpacked his suitcase. (Yediot) Photo credit: Yediot – Alex Kolomoisky

 

 

* Eshkol served in a period before legislation was passed by the Knesset stipulating that gifts to senior public servants must be handed over to the Israel State Archive.  Among the larger mementos was Eshkol’s personal sidearm from his days as a senior Haganah leader and a brand-new Kalashnikov (that came boxed with a small vodka flask) given to Eshkol by Moshe Dayan as a Six Day War memento; an ivory elephant’s tusk received from Idi Amin during a state visit to Uganda; and a leopard skin ‘rug’ received from another visiting African dignitary.