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


    MK Rabbi Michael Melchior is out to banish maternity leave - not entitlement to 14 weeks of time-off with pay guaranteed under law to all female employees (or their spouses). Melchior only wants to strike the Hebrew term chufshat leidah -- literally a ‘vacation' after giving birth - from the law books.
    The move was sparked by sleep-deprived harried working mothers returning to the job after three-and-a-half months in a zombie-like state of round-the-clock semi-servitude who complained the Hebrew term leaves the impression they've been on holiday and were returning to work refreshed with fully charged batteries. After all, argue the new moms, husbands going off the job and on to active duty as reservists are not perceived as ‘on leave'. The parliamentarian called upon the public-at-large to send him suggestions by e-mail that could "change public perceptions". 
Perhaps AWOL - Absent-WithOut-Leave would be appropriate.


* He'adrut lelo Chufsha in Hebrew.


    According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, since the 1980s the average lifespan of Israelis has risen by six years to 78.5 years in 2006 for males - 5th place in the world (which is quite remarkable considering close to a third of all Israeli males are reported to be smokers.)
    Leading the longevity pack - even surpassing the Australians, the Swedes, the Swiss and the Japanese who jointly hold first place - is a 120 year-old Arab-Israeli who may be the oldest man in the world if one accepts his documents issued by the Ottoman Turks. A model for others? Well...yes and no. ‘Shin' (whose full name was not disclosed and whose face was airbrushed over) was hospitalized in the psychiatric institution Neve Shalva on the edge of Pardes Hana 80 years ago and has been there ever since. For years, the facility has been looking for living relatives, but has come up empty-handed.



    Out to do battle with dangerous drivers on the road, a bill was placed before the Knesset that if passed would require drivers with more than two serious moving violations within five years to hang yellow-and-black warning plaques on the front and back of their vehicles for a two year period like a metal yellow jacket, warning "DANGEROUS DRIVER".
    The sign is identical to signs saying "NEW DRIVER" attached by suction cup to the rear window, required by law when an inexperienced recently-licensed motorists is behind the wheel.



    Once there was an Israel Postal Service aerogramme with the motto ‘Israel - Miracle on the Med' blazoned across the bottom. But what are the chances $200,000 dollar 65 carat diamonds would miraculously showed up again like a dirty penny? Maybe one in a million.
    The two diamond rings which had been stashed in a small envelope for safekeeping, fell out of the trouser pocket of Sam Ofer while walking from his hotel to the Diamond Exchange in Ramat Gan to sell the stones. Ringing the Diamond Exchange's customs manager to report the loss, the frantic 54-year old American-Israeli diamond dealer was told: "This is your lucky day."
    A passing taxi driver from the Haifa suburb, Yossi Levi, had picked the envelope off the sidewalk next to the curb when he got out of his cab to pick up a cup of coffee before heading home to Kiryat Ata. Without thinking twice, he called to report the find to the Diamond Exchange. A day later the cabbie - a father with seven children to feed - still had no second thoughts, gently refusing to take a $7,000 gratuity Ofer handed him in a slightly larger envelope. A genuine gem, Levi only agreed to take a modest 3,000 NIS ($750) tip for his troubles.



    Yediot columnist and celebrated novelist Meir Shalev, exposed a ‘first' that had nothing to do with his paper scooping rival newspapers. It lay in Yediot's much-lauded project marking Israel's 60th Independence Year by publishing a series of 24 classic books every Jewish household should have - from the Bible, the Mishne and the Zohar to Shalom Aleichem and Haim Nachman Bialik, at 35 NIS a book - half the price of a T-shirt.
    The opening volume - the Bible came under the fire of the novelist's pen for a novel twist of fate: The Good Book didn't open with the usual Breishit bara Elokim ("And in the Beginning God created...") wrote Shalev, but rather with an "All rights reserved", followed by the usual warning one could not copy, store or reproduce the content...
    Shalev said the only other instance he knew of where a publisher tried to claim a copyright to the Bible was a copy published by none other than the Israel Defense Forces.



    More than a decade and a half after Jews began pouring out of the Soviet Union in 1990 at the rate of 10,000 a month, a lethargic Russian Bear has woken up to the brain drain caused by the departure of one million of its most educated and productive citizens.
    President Vladimir Putin now seeks to lure the lost sheep back into the fold. The Russian Embassy opened a Russian Cultural Center" in the heart of Tel-Aviv offering a $5,000 absorption package back home - provided expatriates renounce their foreign citizenship.
    The odds of success? Only 40,000 Russians immigrants - less than .04 percent of Russian aliyah - have resettled in the former USSR during the past 15 years...without giving up their Israeli citizenship.


* 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.