GETTING HIS GOAT
Passing judgment in surely one of the strangest divorce arrangements on the legal books, a Rabbinical Court in Safed ruled that a divorcee's former spouse would receive one pregnant goat a year for the next 35 years. Why 35? The groom has agreed in their marriage contract that if the marriage failed he would give his wife 70 pregnant goats as compensation for "lost time" - a rather strange logic considering both had taken the plunge late in life, at age 35 - objectively speaking, without much to lose.
Six years after tying the knot, the marriage was on the rocks and hubby wanted ‘out'. However, pregnant goats by then were running 1,500 NIS (about $380) a head, making it hard for the luckless husbandman to honor his word without totally loosing his own hide. The rabbis sought a compromise, ruling that the groom could still have his get* if he would pay his estranged wife half the value of the goats ‘up front,' and the rest in 35 equal payments - "a goat per annum" - raising the question ‘who in the end really got who's goat'.
*get = divorce papers
HAIRY EXPERIENCE, ODD COUPLE
A lot of apartments in the heart of Tel-Aviv as well as other urban communities lack screens. Thus, one balmy evening as a Nahariya matron sat in front of her TV set watching the popular evening news, she found herself in the arms of a hairy and somewhat horny intruder: a runaway chimpanzee. While scientific research shows homo sapiens can have some rather odd sex fantasies, the lady in question insisted - "Never in my wildest dreams did I dream of being kissed by an ape."
Jumping through the window, the cheeky but lonely naked ape gave the lady a bear hug and a wet smack on the lips. In the ensuing brawl, the frightened chimp simply clung for dear life to the frantic woman, tearing her bra. The lady's daughter threw household furnishings at the chimp hoping to separate the no-doubt-by-then equally scared pair.
The chimp was placed under quarantine for observation.
SQUATTER'S RIGHTS A LA ISRAEL
Naming parks, squares and even individual park benches after donors is a common phenomenon everywhere, but in 2006, partially-unidentified ‘bench markers' began attaching little engraved plaques to benches along Rothschild Boulevard in Tel-Aviv - declaring "Amnon's Bench' or ‘Hilah's and El'ad's Bench' without paying for the benches. City officials, left scratching their heads at this strange graffiti, didn't say whether they would stake out benches to nab Hilah and El'ad actually occupying their self-secured sitting spot.
May celebrants in Jerusalem wedding halls feed their faces on festive fare while feasting their eyes on a flash of flesh? That strange question was placed before the Israeli Supreme Court sitting as a high court of justice in the 1980s. The plaintiff, belly dancer Elana Raskin represented by civil rights activists, claims her income bottomed out, the outcome of threats by rabbinical kashrut supervisors to revoke kosher food licenses from halls that permitted her to perform.
The orthodox supervisors said they can't close their eyes to such goings-on and keep an eye on the kitchen, the tables, and the tableware at the same time.
"Any act whose purpose is erotic, doesn't go with kashrut," responded the Rabbinate's attorney entering a motion to compromise: He suggested giving the lady more than a fair shake, but keep her anatomy under wraps. In the future, belly dancers could appear in kosher halls, but only in modest dress. With no notion to cramp his client's style with excess apparel, Ms. Raskin's lawyer tabled dress codes declaring rabbis have jurisdiction over what's on the table, not what's on the floor.
OUT OF POT LUCK
Grass is already approved for terminally ill AIDS and cancer patients, but could getting high give countless traumatized soldiers a lease on life, providing nightmare-free nights?
We'll never know.
The IDF Medical Corp intended in 2006 to conduct a medical trial using a liquid form of the active ingredient in hashish and marihuana - THC - on 15 Yom Kippur War vets who suffer from post-traumatic battle syndrome. Unfortunately, the trial was left high and dry, then shelved by the brass when local pharmacies refused to take responsibility for storing the liquid drops participants were supposed to place under their tongues twice a day. Pharmacy owners had their own nightmares that news might leak out by word-of-mouth, inviting a break-in.
SPEAK OF A SMALL WORLD
The wheels of justice don't always turn slowly in places like Ashkelon (pop. 120,000) - at least not when all the law of probabilities are broken,
Cops hauled a suspected hit-and-run driver into an Ashkelon courtroom. The police admitted to the judge that they still had little evidence against the detainee they suspected had caused the death of a pedestrian, then fled the scene, since they had not yet tracked down any witness to the accident.
At this point, the principle of habius corpus took on a strange twist of fate. Lo and behold the judge stood up and told the astonished police officers that ‘her brother had told her he had witnessed just such an accident.' After ruling that the suspect be kept in custody for another five days, the judge climbed down from the bench and stepped forward to give a sworn deposition to the officers...and her brother's telephone number, one suspects.
POWER TO THE PEOPLE
Taking their Sabbath observance to extremes, in some ultra-Orthodox circles families started purchasing ‘Shabbat generators' to match their Sabbath hot plates and automatic light timers. Why? The argument goes that if there are Jews breaking the Sabbath as they staff command & control centers at the country's power stations on weekends and holidays, observant consumers drawing power from the national power gird on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays are, in essence, accomplices to a sin.
But after a number of over-zealous residents of ultra-Orthodox communities almost electrocuted themselves attempting to jerry-rig their generators, the Powers-That-Be stepped in to avert anyone becoming fodder for The Darwin Reports.
Following a meeting with the Minister of Infrastructure Benyamin (‘Fuad') Ben-Eliezer, the Israel Electric Company offered a safe self-empowerment scheme: The Electric Company would establish a ‘Sabbath-observant' substation in the ultra-Orthodox community of Modi'in Elite - a ‘farm' of huge generators which would cut power from the national power grid on the eve of Jewish holidays and the Sabbath, and provide ‘separate' automated ‘kosher electricity' instead - if members of the ultra-Orthodox community would foot the $8-10 M bill.
If the pilot project succeeded, other ultra-Orthodox communities would be next in line.
LUF(T) GESHEFT AND THE IDF
The Israeli army uses conscripts for a host of strange roles*, yet perhaps the strangest military classification in the IDF belongs to Chezi Dean (22). During three years of conscript service between 2000-2003, Dean served as a ‘military magician' at the IDF's main induction center.
"Every evening I put on a magic show for inductees designed to raise their morale. I would do tricks with a military twist - guessing ID numbers and making battle rations of luf (a bastardization of canned meat loaf) disappear."
* including posting infantry and paratroop officers on temporary assignment, to serve in remedial education programs as role models for mainstreaming marginal youth back into society
Rabbi Dov Kaplan faced a unique challenge to his spiritual leadership when in 2001 the bedroom community of Caesarea got too big for a single synagogue. It was decided to build another synagogue on the other side of town, within walking distance of newer neighborhoods. Scratching his head how to negotiate the distance between his split flock on the Sabbath - a distance Kaplan would be hard-put to close even walking at breakneck speed, the rabbi came up with an innovation solution. While driving on the Sabbath is forbidden, the Almighty never said anything about rollerblades (which require no spark of ignition.) Even before work on the new synagogue broke ground, the local spiritual leader could be seen rolling out his solution for a test run, tooling from one end of town to the other on his new kosher set of wheels.
Everyone knows about garage sales, but some unnamed Israeli fly-by-night entrepreneurs began turning a quick profit by turning public garages into gold mines in the heat of the night.
For a brief period in the early 1990s, an Israeli version of the urban block party was all the fashion: Groups of young people cashed-in on deserted underground parking lots in empty office buildings in the wee hours of the night - setting up one-night-stand standing-room-only drive-in discos. In a country where everyone knows everyone else's business, a make-shift neighborhood discotheque could attract up to fifteen hundred participants. Working 10 to 4...4 in the morning that is, moonlighting organizers charged entrance fees at the gate: Invited friends got a discount. Party-crashers paid full-price - including parking.
AM YISRAEL CHAI!*
A plea to be a party to a death in Israel is not necessarily an invitation to a murder. It may be a mitzvah.
In the late 1980s, the listening audience to an early-morning radio program on the Voice of Israel were asked to partake in an ad-hoc funeral party. The unusual request heard only by those not dead-to-the-world at such an un-Godly hour, came from a kindly neighbor of the deceased, who had died without any surviving kin. Seventy mourners showed up, coming from as far away as Gedara - thirty kilometers to the south, and Natanya - thirty kilometers to the north.
* The People of Israel Lives!
Kadima has the distinction of being the first political party in history of democratic politics that is honestly and truly a party of ‘all Chiefs and no Indians.'
March 2006 General Elections attracted 690,901 votes (22 percent of the voters) in a campaign based almost exclusively on heavy doses of media spin and paid activists who cheered and put up posters, like extras in a movie script. Yet once the elections were over, only 13,000 Israelis actually joined the party.
The result? Virtually no activity at the grass roots, prompting Kadima to keep tabs of how its parliamentarians and ministers measure up based on virtual exposure: a monthly report of how often their names were mentioned in cyberspace.
NEW KIND OF PAPARAZZI
The Kefar Saba Municipality called upon residents to take pictures of illegally parked cars and send stills or digital images to city hall. The evidence would be examined, verified and offenders issued a parking ticket.
‘One doesn't have to wear the hat of a meter maid or police officer to get a ticket written," explained a city official - then squashed the ticket scheme by adding that such Good Samaritans would be summoned, hauled into court to testify under oath, should the driver decided to contest the ticket thus ensuring there would be no ‘takers.'
VOICE IN THE DARK
The Rechovot Municipality decided to plant a pair of video cameras attached to a set of very loud speakers in two public parks that had repeatedly fallen victim to vandals. Wireless technology linked the surveillance equipment to the local police station, thus allowing the nighttime duty officer to scare the wits out of potential troublemakers before they could kick the daylights out of their first trash can.
The Booming-Voice-Out-of-Nowhere making it clear that a squad car would be on the way if those already caught on camera didn't behave.
HOW DO YOU LIKE YOUR FALAFEL?
A Haifa resident who came to visit a friend in the Tiberius lockup where one of his buddies was cooling his heels waiting arraignment on a drug charge, found himself facing a 2½ -year jail sentence within weeks.
In the spirit of the Middle East, the visitor had not come empty handed. He arrived at the lockup accompanied by a friend and bearing four pitas filled with fragrant fresh-fried falafel. Alas, the officer at the entrance insisted on ‘inspecting their balls' before letting the twosome in. Lo and behold, the popular street fare in the hands of the innocent-looking visitors turned out to be garnished with more than the traditional trimmings of fine-diced salad, tchina spread and relish. It was also laced with 45 grams of heroin stashed inside hollowed-out balls of falafel - leaving the bearer of gifts in a genuine pickle.
When a typical August heat wave sent even unbridled outsy-doorsy Tel Aviv residents diving for the comfort of air conditioned spaces, one open air cafe sought to attract café goers with pool tables...placing children's wading pools under tables on the sidewalk so clientele could soak their tired dogs over ice coffee, while a new dog-friendly establishment named Coffee-Coffee* offered bowls of water to thirsty canines and doggy treats compliments of the chef, along with the cappuccino.
* a lame attempt by colloquial Hebrew to designate ‘the real thing' in an age of unadulterated hype, by simply repeating a word twice -such as gever-gever (a he-man), isha-isha (a real woman) or arucha-arucha (a real meal).
GET UP AND GO? OH, NO!
After a refreshing nights sleep, one is in no condition to operate a motor vehicle. At least not in the first 15 to 30 minutes after waking up.
This is only one finding by an Israeli academic from Bar-Ilan University revealed in an paper on driving safety presented at an annual convention of the Phoenix Insurance Company in 2006. Dr. Ephriam Grossman reported that up to a half hour after awakening our responses are still lethargic. In terms of peak performance, ideally people should not get behind the wheel for two hours - whether one has just had a full nights sleep or a lot less.
Grossman's finding show time can take it toll - in reverse. Subjects whose reaction time was measured were more bushed after a 20-minute snooze than after a 4-minute catnap. The best strategy if you're falling asleep at the wheel: Stop. Drink a cup of coffee. Go to sleep for 15 minutes until the caffeine kicks. Then, hit the road.
In 2006, MK Gideon Ezra was reported to be investigating the possibility of enlisting the citizenry in the loosing battle against illegal dumping of construction debris.
The Minister of Environmental Protection would allow whistle-blowers to pocket the 5,000 NIS ($1,111) and up fine, instead of the authorities.
BLAME SADDAM HUSSEIN
Scud missiles can do untold damage. A 40 year-old contractor found his marriage shot, after his life caved in an Iraqi missile attack during the 1991 Gulf War. The unfortunate fellow's house was not directly damaged; however, the shock of a nearby explosion hit home - knocking a nondescript jewelry box off a shelf exposing some very revealing photographs of his wife in the arms of a stranger. If the shock was not enough to kill him, his wife's poorly-placed and un-padlocked Pandora's Box also contained a pack of love letters. His house and his life intact, but his ego shattered and his marriage in ruins, rather than picking up the pieces, the devastated husband filed for divorce.
SPECIAL EDUCATION A LA ISRAEL
Flooded by 200 requests to open up new tuition-based parent-organized and Not-for-Profit- schools just as the 2006/7 school year opened, Minister of Education Professor Yuli Tamir said she intended to seek legislation that would outlaw any more public-private schools in Israel.
At the time, out of 1,800 elementary schools in Israel, 530 already provide ‘special education' under a "recognized but unofficial school" category which trades off partial state funding for partial state supervision...and the liberty to make up 25 percent of the curriculum.
The result has been not only conventional performing art and science magnet schools. Wedged between public schooling and home schooling, Israel already has networks of non-Zionist ultra-Orthodox schools, schools devoted to inculcating democratic values, defending environmental quality, preserving the Russian language, and even a few that champion anthroposophy - an esoteric 19th century German occult philosophy that believes that correct training and personal discipline allows one to experience the spiritual world, including the belief that infants do indeed see angels and children sense otherworldly presences until about the age of seven.
* Copyright© 1987-2007 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.