The Chelm Project is a pro bono endeavor. Your donation is greatly appreciated. Your support helps balance overly conflict-driven news that warps perceptions of Israel.

Donate in Shekels


Donate in Dollars

Subscribe to our list

Email Format

Join us!

Are you a publisher or literary agent?

Click HERE

Savor Classic Oldies from 1987-2007
Click HERE

Share this post

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google BookmarksSubmit to TwitterSubmit to LinkedIn

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


    When Igor Vitzok set out for a quick early morning swim in the Med he planned to swim parallel to shore, as usual, yet the mercurial currents in the sea had other plans. Within no time he found himself 9 kilometers out to sea without a life jacket.
   "Every once in a while a big boat went by, I hoped someone would spot me but that didn't happen," recalled Vitzok, by then sure he was a goner.
   Help came in an unusual form hours later: An Israeli Dolphin-class submarine named Liviathan (Whale) picked up the sound of Vitzok splashing about in the middle of nowhere. An officer in command said he'd "heard strange noises" which he first thought were an unfamiliar boat horn, but then he realized what he was hearing was a person in the water. Ordering the crew to cut the engines, the sub quickly zeroed in on the stranded and totally-tuckered-out swimmer several hundred meters away, hauling him in to safety.



    Considering the avalanche of coverage Israel receives in the foreign press it's impressive just how little the average westerner knows about the country.
    Israel has a ‘two-Jews three-Opinions' political culture with 86 registered political parties on the Ministry of Justice's Party Register, 34 of which ran in February 2009 parliamentary elections - 12 of which gained seats in the Knesset - three of them Arab parties, leading to a six-party coalition government with 30 ministers. Yet, a recent poll by Midgam Research & Consulting in conjunction with El-Al found that almost a third of the Germans, Spanish and English and 20 percent of Americans polled thought Israel is headed by a dictator and 28 percent of the Germans thought Arabs are forbidden to vote.


   Itai Arazi, from Moshav Misgav, was fed up with thieves taking off with bales of hay still in the field. Once they were gone, finding the fodder was as good as looking for a needle in a haystack, until Arazi came up with an ingenious scheme: Fight fire with fire.
   The farmer called in Ituran - a company that buries tiny GPS tracking devices in expensive cars and uses feedback to pinpoint the location of stolen vehicles to return them to their owners. The company rose to the challenge and planted half a dozen of the transmitters in bales still in the field - devices that were as easy to detect as...a needle in a haystack.
   Indeed, within days the bales were gone overnight, but immediately showed up on Ituran's tracking system inside an innocent-looking used ocean-going container parked in a citrus grove on the edge of Jaffa.
The Border Police were sent in to bale-out the beleaguered farmer.



   Israeli cable/satellite channel franchisers are required by law to translate a certain percentage of their broadcasts - from high-brow to low-brow - into sign language.
   What prompted the regular signer to go through the ceiling and walk out the door in the middle of a taping session for the ‘sign window' of a talk show? An overdose of off-color humor was the trigger.
   "It's quite problematic to translate this kind of humor into sign language," she said without elaborating, but it doesn't take a lot of imagination to figure out why Tamar Davidovich patently refused to go through the motions. Sign language might vary from country to country so one sign language is unintelligible to another, but some gestures and body language are universal and need no translation.



   A Habadnik with a good sense of humor and no small measure of aplomb quipped at the height of the 2006 Second Lebanon War that the best Israeli response to Hizbollah rockets was to throw the Good Book at ‘um, coining a bumper sticker -Tehilim neged Tilim (‘Psalms Counter Missiles'). But the IDF - where the top brass were once called on to decide whether religious officers were permitted to open official correspondence by writing B'ezrat haShem* at the top - declined to leave the fate of the highly-observant to Heavenly Intervention.
   In preparation for a nation-wide civil defense drill to test the soundness of the siren system held on June 2nd, the IDF decided to produce 120,000 audio CDs with civil defense directives in Yiddish for the ultra-ultra** Orthodox communities.
   But how exactly does one translate authoritative-sounding guidelines in cryptic Hebrew into authentic colloquial Yiddish without sounding like a 1920s vintage vaudeville comedy?
   What emerged in the end was a mélange of Hebrew terms such as azaka (warning siren) and merchav mugan (secure space) mixed with street Yiddish slang such as bombus (for rockets...or any other ordnance falling from the Heavens) and massiches (masks). The upshot of the exercise was instructions like this: In a faal vaasa min shist bombus, loift snell tzum merchav mugan (In the event of the firing of missiles, run quickly to a secure space). (Israel HaYom)

* ‘with the help of the Almighty' in Hebrew. The answer was ‘no'.
** who don't use vernacular Hebrew out of deference to the Holy Tongue.



   A group of soft-hearted Jewish cops in the town of Sderot took the Israel Police Force's mission statement "to enforce the law in the spirit of the fundamental values of the State of Israel" beyond the line of duty, organizing a minyan* of Israel's Finest to attend the funeral of a 76-year-old Russian immigrant and to say Kaddish* for the deceased who died of heart failure without any surviving kin save an unbalanced son who didn't speak at all.
   "We decided to be her family for a few hours and ensure she'd be brought to rest in a dignified manner," said the station chief. The devoted cops didn't stop with a Kaddish and a short eulogy either. Upon returning to work they put out an all-points bulletin seeking contributions from the public to erect a nice tombstone.

* prayer quorum
* the prayer for the dead


* 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.