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CHELM-ON-THE-MED©, July 2009 - Column 1


   There are endless souvenirs containing rocks, earth, sand...and even "Air from the Holy Land" packaged in empty sardine tins one can pick up. But when an unnamed American tourist returned to New York he did so lugging the ultimate souvenir of his trip to the Holy Land, having bagged*, no more, no less...a 21 kilogram (46 lb.) slab of stone snatched from the top of an ancient column in an archeological site at the foot of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
   The truly momentous and rather mammoth 1,200-year-old memento was supposed to serve as a constant reminder of the special experience of ‘praying for Jerusalem', but turned into a constant reminder of his sin, weighing heavier and heavier on his conscience as the years went by.
   Now 12 years later, the former tourist confessed to his priest.
   Did he absolve the penitent of his sin to lift his spirits and call it a day? No way. The priest took it on as a holy mission to unburden his parishioner by returning the bizarre souvenir to the Holy City, air freighting the marble slab to Israel in a special wooden box. Turned over to the Israel Antiquities Authority, inside the box was an e-mail message from the parish priest interceding on behalf of the sheepish member of his flock, beseeching Israeli authorities to "forgive him his transgressions", together with a note from the guilt-ridden tourist. (Israel Post)

* How he got through airport security checks remains a mystery.



   The Israel Beteinu* Party launched a unique legislative competition, inviting university students to dream up and submit recommendations for legislation missed by Israel's lawmakers. The Party promised that the suggestion that best fit the bill would be turned into an honest-to-goodness bill.
   The winner was a proposal that club and pub owners who installed blood alcohol content testers at the exit compliments of the house would be exempt from local property taxes. Suffice it to say, local authorities were far from thrilled with the proposal. When the bill was finally submitted to the Knesset it had already undergone a major amendment - requiring club and pub owners to install coin-operated blood alcohol content testers as a provisional for receipt of a business license.
The Party plans to expand its power-to-the-people competition to allow high school students to participate in the parliamentary process.
* Israel - Our Home, in Hebrew



   It was with the best of intents that unidentified individuals at the Jerusalem Rabbinate set about writing a humorous marriage manual which they handed out to new grooms. Designed to send a message that husbands should respect and pamper their wives and help with the domestic chores, the manual not only ordered grooms to buy their wives flowers every Friday for the Sabbath; at some point the fledgling copywriters deciding to compare married life to a fish... ending up with a genuine kettle of fish.
   The manual not only insisted that a new groom must compliment his wife at least five times a day. It clarified to the groom that one should do this..."even if you have to lie" because a woman who doesn't receive a steady stream of daily compliments from hubby will be "like a fish out of water"... If that wasn't enough, another passage offered a word of wisdom regarding the in-laws that put the authors in a heap of trouble by warning that "it's too dangerous to live too close to one's mother-in-law". The convenience of such close quarters came with a price not only to building couplehood, said the manual: "Even the tastiest fish begins to stink after a while."
   A red-faced Rabbinate announced the manual was ‘an unauthorized private initiative' and its publication was under investigation.


   What ever happened to Jewish doctors? Back in 1990, Russian physicians and musicians began flooding the country in such record numbers that Israel had more doctors per capita than anywhere else on the face of the planet. But speak of feast or famine! Today with doctors retiring in record numbers, there's a growing shortage of physicians in the Jewish state, and....
   Now, suddenly everyone's a lawyer.*
   Since 1990 the number of attorneys in Israel has quadrupled from 10,697 in 1990 to 40,469 in 2009**- meaning Israel has a lawyer for every 183 citizens. In Tel Aviv there's even one lawyer for every 35 residents.

* probably sparked by the overabundance of Jewish doctors.

** By contrast, the Japanese have only 15,000 lawyers among a population of 130 million people.


   Closing the books on Hebrew Book Week held annually in late June, figures show, come Internet or economic turndown, the People of the Book remain insatiable readers. Israelis flocked to stock up on sharply-discounted books at book fairs that attracted some 120 publishers and close to a million visitors who purchased some 2.5 million books during this week-long literary orgy.
   In fact, the stats show Israelis not only devour prose of every kind. Israel is a poetry superpower, according to poet Agi Mishol. In the United States, with a population of 250 million people, a well-known contemporary poet who sells a thousand copies of his or her book considers it a success, she says. In Israel, with a population of 7.4 million* - one of her books of Hebrew poetry (she has 13 such books to her name) sold 10,000 copies.

* including over a million Russian-speakers and just under 1.5 million Arabic-speakers


* 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.