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


    Umpteen spot surveys of pedestrian-in-the-street have left respondents in a hot spot as to the origins of street names. Not only scratching their heads at [Eliezer] Zamenhoff Street - named in honor of the Jewish inventor of Esperanto, respondents were even stumped by luminaries like Ben-Yehuda - the father of modern Hebrew. A bill before the Knesset seeks to educate the public by requiring all municipalities to add small explanatory notes to every street sign in their jurisdiction.
     This, however, won't help visitors to the bustling town of Pardes Hana between Tel Aviv and Haifa, where somehow two streets were given the same named: Rechov Hadekelim or Palm Trees Street. As a result Pardes Hana resident Uri Fine of Rechov Hadekalim 81 found himself in a fine fix - kept on the double in a serious muddle when in addition to retrieving wayward cooking gas canisters delivered to the ‘wrong Palm' Fine found himself facing a string of unfriendly visitors pounding on his front door, from detectives to re-possessors and debt collectors.



    A newly-inducted woman soldier from Ashkelon found herself almost barefoot in the dark after the IDF Quartermaster was unable to cough up a size 43 woman's shoe. Private Hodiya Bukovza was told to stick to sandals ‘til the army could order custom-made footwear for the new recruit.
    Four months later Bukovza complained that her specially-stitched custom-made boots had failed to materialize. Apparently assuming there is nothing more comfortable than an old shoe, the army offered Bukovza a pair of men's combat boots that unfortunately had been worn-in by a previous unidentified owner probably now trekking through South America. Drawing the line at such hand-me-downs, Private Bukovza defiantly stuck to her guns and her sandals, but her mom fired off a complaint to the district command charging the rigors of military service had been taken a step too far. The commander retorted that Hodiya "was a big girl" and "she could come complain to him directly"...which she did, only to be told upon returning to base that she faced a reprimand for ‘detouring the chain of command'.



How is patriotism translated into reality in Israel?
    Studies show in normal nations the sight of flying colors evokes aggressiveness - be it Old Glory for Americans or the Union Jack for Englishmen. What about Israel's ‘Jewish Star and Stripes'?
    A study at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem that embedded unconcealed and subliminal flag-like imagery in a public opinion poll about the Israeli-Arab conflict found Israeli respondents moderate their responses and move towards the political center at the sight of an Israeli flag. The control group, asked the same questions without any ‘flag waving', were more extreme in their responses.
     The same week the British Economist in conjunction with the University of Sidney engaged in a bit of unabashed Israel-bashing, ranking Israel the "third-most militant country in the world" out of 121 nations...after Sudan and Iraq. Another sign of Israeli militancy? The Ministry of Agriculture disclosed that the chicken-sized Pincher (‘the mouse that yapped') was the most popular pedigreed breed among Israelis.



Rest easy -- apron strings come with no strings attached!
    A Haifa University study of three hundred 23 to 27 year-olds shows young adults who remain closely tied to their parents are more successful in a string of domains from daily autonomy to personal relationships with spouses and economic independence than children who distanced themselves from their folks. The latter waste too much time and energy opposing their parents' expectations, which is not the same as emotional independence, claims Haifa University researcher Dr. Irit Yanir.



    Not all young demobilized Israelis soldiers trekking across Asia after two to three years in the army only want to spend their time lazing around Israeli-style guest houses that serve houmous and finely diced Israeli salad, taking side trips that have nothing to do with seeing the sights. In fact, at least a thousand young vets jumped at the opportunity for a bit more national service - this time on behalf of India.
    The mission? All were applying for 200-300 volunteer positions in a new program to improve Israel's image abroad called Tarmeela'ei Shalom or Peace Backpackers. The participants will spend three weeks of their time in India working with disabled children, renovating homes for the elderly and doing other good works in the worst slums in New Deli in return for free room-and-board and a $620 bonus at the end of their tour of duty. The program is being underwritten by Israeli businessperson Nochi Dunkner...and the General Health Services - the largest health-provider in Israel (which clearly has a long-term vested interest in keeping Israeli young people in line and off the hash.)



    In an interesting aberration of the rules of musical chairs, four out of the five Members of Knesset from the Meretz Party all announced their candidacy for the chair of their party making the party's internal elections - among the party's 15,000 registered voters - look less like a contest to take the helm and more like a scramble to command the rudder of a rowboat with one sailor at the ores.


* 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.