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CHELM-ON-THE-MED©, May 2009 - Column 2


    When a head of state visits another country, or receives a foreign leader, it's customary to exchange gifts. These Gifts of State are often fashioned by leading artists and craftsmen, and Israeli gifts have often been quite special: The Lyndon B. Johnson Library alone boasts no less than five ancient glass bottles, one terra cotta oil lamp, a mirror, a gold ring and pair of earrings and a 1st Century bronze strigilis - an artfully-crafted L-shaped gadget that works like a rubber-tipped windshield scraper, used by Greeks and Romans in their gymnasiums and baths to scrape their bodies clean and dry.
    The ‘gem' crafted by Israel's eldest statesman was indeed out-of-the-box in every sense. But it left Israelis scratching their heads wondering what President Shimon Peres was thinking as he fiddled with the idea of presenting the Pope with sovereignty over five holy sites in Israel during the pontiff's five-day trip to the Holy Land - including the Room of the Last Supper in Jerusalem.
    As faith would have it, in the end Benedict XVI came away with a nano-copy of the Bible in Hebrew, written on a silicon chip the size of a single grain of sand.
    What have others given the Pope? In 2007, George W. Bush gave the Pope a carved wooden walking stick engraved with... the Protestant version of the Ten Commandments. And Lyndon B. Johnson? Apparently aware of the Vatican's affection for statuary, LBJ was purported to have given Pope Paul VI a statuette of Lyndon B. Johnson.



    "I tried on clothes - including a skirt. And if put to the test, even people who knew me wouldn't have recognized me," claimed a 29-year-old man with flowing hair hauled in for questioning by police attired in a dress, tights and boots.
    Maybe not friends, but the glamorous imposter was caught red-handed at Bar-Ilan University by perfect strangers - trying to score with his girlfriend by sitting for her university entrance exams, after racking up 650 points on his own psychometrics.
    Turned in by test monitors, it turned out that a pair of large dark sunglasses - most probably donned to hide the head-turner's bushy eyebrows - were a dead giveaway. Soft-hearted police released the chagrinned pair without pressing charges, saying - "They're a normative couple who just went too far with their fantasies."



    Israel's newly-appointed deputy health minister, Yaakov Litzman, hadn't a clue of what he was setting in motion when he ‘koshered' Swine Flu by re-naming it "Mexican flu" in a televised status report on Channel 2.
     The remark not only sparked a diplomatic incident with the Mexican ambassador who rejected any notions of dodging ‘the P Word' by piggybacking at his country's expense. In Israel's highly-charged political culture, the ambassador was hardly alone: Within hours of the televised update, the ultra-secular Hebrew daily Haaretz published a feverish op-ed that not only charged the ultra-Orthodox deputy minister had "humiliated Israel" in the eyes of the world after the foreign press had a field day with the tidbit. The paper actually claimed in all seriousness that the "attempt [at] rebranding of swine flu" was but another sign of "the danger of Israel's lack of separation of synagogue and state"...


    Forget about soldiers being ‘interchangeable units' where fitness for service will be blocked by flat feet or nearsightedness. The IDF adjusts service postings to the aptitude, abilities and aspirations of its personnel. So not only do outstanding musicians or athletes have time off to practice and not only are asthmatic draftees assigned desk jobs. In one landmark case several years ago, a soldier who was afraid of the dark was assigned to a post that doesn't require nighttime guard duty ...but only after his mother snuck into boot camp to accompany him on patrol, fading into the night at the crack of dawn.
    Gradually those deemed ‘fit to wear the uniform' - albeit as volunteers, not draftees - have come to include deaf or blind youth. Stretching ordinances even farther, now AKIM*, the Ministry of Welfare and the IDF Manpower Branch have set up a special program that allows five highly-motivated 24-to-28-year-old young adults with Down Syndrome to volunteer for a full year in uniform after they completed a pilot program of special training, with flying colors.

* The Association for the Rehabilitation of the Mentally Handicapped


    In an attempt to cut backlog in the courts, Minister of Justice Professor Yaakov Ne'eman did a quick time-and-motion study, taking Israel's judges to court suggesting that the wheels of justice would turn a wee bit faster if judges in the lower courts would do their homework: Not only should they take pains to write their decision immediately after returning to their chambers instead of procrastinating and letting the paperwork pile up, but judges should also refrain from writing long-winded decisions and keep ‘um "focused and brief".
    A senior member of the bench who preferred to remain in the shadows for obvious reasons revealed that in recent years the ‘industry standard' in Israeli courts had become ‘to write as if everyone was on the Supreme Court'.


* Copyright© 2009 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.