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CHELM-ON-THE-MED©, November 2008 - Column 1


    Politicians being politicians, in the closing week before November 11 municipal elections, mayoral candidates were making the rounds spreading promises and embracing anyone or anything that could give them the critical edge.
    Tel-Aviv's Alfa-type ruling mayor Ron Huldai was perfectly game to embrace a giant inflated facsimile of a lame and balding duck* on the roof of City Hall and proclaim the bird an honorary citizen of the Big Orange if it could garner a few more supporters at the polls. But Huldai wasn't the only show on the road.
    Undoubtedly Tirat Hacarmel's incumbent mayor Arieh Farjun took the cake with the strangest campaign vote-getter of all - one that could occur only in Israel: Being a mohel* - not just the presiding mayor, Farjun promised, if reelected, he would continue to conduct circumcisions for free for members of his constituency - a campaign promise that Farjun had faithfully fulfilled during his previous term in office - often cutting short other mayoral duties to perform several circumcisions a week, at times several a day.


* an almost iconic anti-hero figure, the ‘trademark' of the late Israeli political cartoonist Dudu Geva who died suddenly in 2005 at age 54 of heart failure.

* a ritual circumciser


    Police officers reviewing footage on security cameras at a bank in the sleepy southern development town of Kiryat Gat were left scratching their heads and open- mouthed with dismay. They had no problem identifying the unmasked individual who was crazy enough to hold up the branch at gunpoint without covering his face, then turned tail and fled after the teller handed him a measly 5,000 NIS ($1,040) in cash. Caught on film in plain view was a colleague on the force who, in fact, was an outstanding officer in the Border Patrol with 130 combat personnel under his command...
    Taken into custody and unable to explain his bizarre behavior, not surprisingly, the mystified officer's lawyer pleaded temporary insanity. The plea was upheld by a psychiatric examination, leading the judge to accept that the suspect surely must have been momentarily out of his skull, and drop charges. Case closed, the clearly overstressed-officer was left to look for a less nerve-racking job.



    A 58 year-old woman in Rechovot sought to make ends meet by doing some odd jobs parallel to her disability pension - posting her abilities and availability about town. Rather than applauding the initiative, City Hall slapped the hopeful job-seeker with 34 separate citations for illegally posted ads totaling 22,000 NIS (almost $5,800).
    Fortunately, the hapless offender lucked out before injustice could be done. Crusading public defenders came to the rescue, first dragging the municipality over the carpet for lack of ‘reasonability', then over the coals, ‘reminding' city hall that the Israel Supreme Court had already ruled that the maximum fine for such a ‘crime' was 150 NIS (less than $40) - sending a clear message that if heartless clerks didn't stop browbeating the poor lady, there indeed would be hell to pay.



    The Israel Supreme Court has sat as a ‘high court of justice' on some weird cases - many the upshot of former chief justice Aharon Barak's firm belief that ‘everything in life can be adjudicated' - even a religious issues such as the propriety of belly dancers in kosher wedding halls*. Therefore it's not all that surprising that the bench has been asked to rule on the life and death issue of the fate of a lone eucalyptus tree in Afula.
    Six months after building contractors received permission from all relevant authorities - including the Jewish National Fund**, to cut down the old tree, the JNF changed its mind because the eucalyptus was "old and comely".
    Fair or not, withdrawal of the license left the tree firmly in place and the building contractors fit to be tied. The latter petitioned the high court to weigh the proportionality - another enshrined principle in ‘high court' cases - whether the fair tree's right to life preceded the unfair arbitrary shady treatment they'd received at the hands of authorities.

* High court cases in Israel leave the door open for rank-and-file citizen to petition the court directly for redress when they believe a public body is out of line. In the late 1980S in a case about the propriety of a bellydancer in a kosher wedding hall.

** A green NGO that plants trees



    Back in the late 1980s when Israel faced an extended period of drought, anything-but-romantic general-turned-politician Rafael (‘Raful') Eitan called on all couples in Israel to shower together to save water.
    Now with global warming worsening dwindling precipitation, all sorts of drastic steps to save water are being thrown out in into the public arena. In a recent cabinet brainstorming session, the Water Authority weighed banning irrigation of public gardens and the Government discussed cutting red tape to energize establishment of a planned desalinization plant in Ashdod.
And the Ministry of Environmental Protection?
    Thinking out-of-the-box, or to be more precise - off-the-wall, Minister of Environmental Protection Gideon Ezra - the former deputy-head of the GSS security arm called for limiting the shower time of prisoners in Israeli prisons, charging: "We have to examine whether the prisoners, because they don't have anything to do, don't shower all the time and waste water...We have to make sure the Domestic Security Ministry will limit inmates water [supply]."



    What is the probability of a near miss, in which pilot Tal Nir walked away unscathed from a totaled spray plane that crashed in the fields of kibbutz Nir Oz in the winter of 2008? About the same probability of Israeli singer Ofra Chaza* and her pilot walking away unscathed from a light aircraft that in the middle of the night had made an ‘unscheduled instrument landing' in one piece, in a field at the foot of Mount Ofra near Hebron in the spring of 1987, when the pilots instruments showed he was well in the air when actually he was approaching ground zero.

* who nevertheless died relatively young, in 2000 of AIDS, at age 43.

* Copyright© 2008 by Daniella Ashkenazy. All rights reserved worldwide. For limited usage, see FAQs. All stories are completely rewritten by Daniella Ashkenazy from news items gleaned from Yediot Aharonot, unless another news source is stated.


* Copyright© 2008 by Daniella Ashkenazy. All rights reserved worldwide. For limited usage, see FAQs. All stories are completely rewritten by Daniella Ashkenazy from news items gleaned from Yediot Aharonot, unless another news source is stated.