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

Clean Slate

   Yom Kippur in Israel is marked by all sorts of gestures of atonement besides swinging a chicken over one's head. Take the Ramat Gan Safari, for instance.
   The zoo received a slew of letters with cash and checks from repentant visitors seeking to come clean for a little sin of omission...or sin of admission, as the case may be: Sometimes gatekeepers miscalculated the exact entrance fee when counting kids packed into the back of a station wagon or SUV - an undertaking that could be as tough as calculating jellybeans in a jar. Seems not all drivers corrected the cashier.
   One clearly overwrought sinner added an appeal to the missing 7 NIS ($1.75) entrance fee he'd mailed-in. Would Safari authorities please phone him and "let him know that the remittance had arrived at its destination" so he could breathe a sigh of relief? Others called requesting to pay-up the difference by credit card.

A Very Special Kibbutz

   President Shimon Peres recently laid the cornerstone for the first Arab kibbutz ever. The Arab kibbutzniks will pool their incomes from branches such as vegetables and cheese-making, and work at a nearby wooden toy factory, and will take their meals at a communal dining hall, say the initiators.
   The new settlement in the Western Galilee near Carmiel, named Elfanara (The Beacon, in Arabic), is a ‘little twin' of Kishurit - an established Jewish collective founded 12 years ago. What makes both villages special is their members are all adults with special needs* - taking the principle ‘each according to his abilities, each according to his needs' to new heights.
* Solving an acute problem - the deepest fears of some elderly parents with offspring with special needs: Who will take care of my adult child when I'm gone?

Holy Rollers

   Five years ago a group of some 50 passengers who regularly ride the rails from Beersheva to Tel-Aviv organized an ad hoc minyan* to say their morning prayers together, creating a virtual synagogue on wheels in the second coach from the front of the first commuter train of the day.
   The only hitch was Mondays and Thursdays: Jewish tradition stipulates that public prayer on these days be accompanied by reading from the Torah. But the group had no Torah scroll.
   A Natanya resident who heard of their plight stepped in to donate a full-size Torah scroll he owned, putting the partially-derailed minyan fully on track. When the commuters are at work in the Big Orange on Mondays and Thursdays, the Tel-Aviv train stationmaster holds the Torah scroll for them, until their return.

* a prayer quorum of ten, the minimum for public/group prayer under Jewish Law.

Drowned Out

   Theatre patrons watching the closing scene of the Israeli play Alma and Ruth at the Beit Lessin Repertory Theatre were treated to an unforgettable finale not in the script. So were the cast for that matter.
   Minutes before curtains, a series of mysterious-but-unmistakably-loud ‘pops' resounded above the audience's heads, then the automatic sprinkler system in the 900-seat hall kicked-in - bringing down the house. Drenched patrons in the orchestra scurried for the exits and thunderstruck actors scampered off stage. Dashing lead actress Yonah Elian later told reporters that only once in her 30 year-career had she been upstaged by an unexpected event - when a terrorist attack took place right outside the hall where she was performing.
   But come hell or high water, the show must go on...albeit, not the same night. Miraculously, the theatre's resourceful managers managed to dry-out the thoroughly-soaked and soggy hall* in time for the next performance, the following night!

* For live video footage of the deluge, go to

Mixed Blessings

   Up until recently hoteliers Mitch and Suzy Pilcer billed their four-tzimmer B&B in moshav Tzipori as a "quiet and private retreat" in the Lower Galilee. The closest tourist attraction was the Tzipori National Park down the road - where venerated 1st Century rabbi Yehuda Hanassi, head of the Sanhedrin, had had put the final touches on Jewish Oral Law (the Mishnah). Or so the Pilcers though.
   That was before Mitch, digging foundations to add a few more tzimmers, came across a small stone door in the bedrock that turned out to be a Jewish burial vault. But it wasn't just any old Jewish burial vault. This one bore the name in Aramaic of a well-known and very well-connected rabbi: Yehoshua Ben Levi, whose son married the daughter of Yehuda Hanassi himself.
   Pilcer says he always felt he lived a charmed life, but didn't know under whose sign or star. Mystery solved. But will the Pilcers find peace of mind with their extraordinary fine - situated as it is, 40 meters (about 120 feet) from their very own front door? A popular pastime in some religious circles is ‘Jewish grave- hopping tours' - busloads who visit out-of-the-way burial sites of saintly or scholarly luminaries.


An Ounce of Prevention

   In light of the 25-day mouthwatering parade of irresistible holiday fare that lurks between the eve of the Jewish New Year, and the end of Sukkot (which falls on October 10th this year), is it any wonder that in a desperate attempt to keep the pounds at bay, the Israeli consumer market registered a 35 percent rise in the sale of bathroom scales as the High Holidays drew neigh?



* 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.