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


   During the January 2009 Cast Lead campaign, an IDF infantry unit in Rafiah found itself saddled with a pair of honest-to-goodness lions, abandoned in a Gaza zoo.*
   Now struggling to replenish his stock, zoo manager Machmud Bargouti ran into a snag. Rafiah smugglers were demanding an arm and a leg - $15,000 - to trundle a zebra across the border with Egypt through their tunnels. The zookeeper turned to a cheaper but priceless solution.
   The zoo bought a pair of donkeys and hired a painter. Bargouti ordered the artisan to spray-paint the black animals white. The donkeys were then covered from head-to-tail in zebra-like strips of masking tape, re-dyed black and the tape peeled off.
   While young visitors failed to notice the telltale long ears, when Ramat Gan mayor Tzvi Bar heard the story, he promised to donate a pair of real zebras from his city's Safari Park.

* For the full story, see When the IDF left Gaza, the lions were alive and well, but one died several months later.


   The Knesset is besieged by its own parliamentarians - each eager to leave his or her mark as a lawmaker...or at least make the morning headlines by suggesting some outlandish bill. In the 11th Knesset, 721 private member's bills were submitted to the House, of which only 74 became law. By the 14th Knesset there were 4,200, of which 194 became law.
   The highest scorer* so far in the 15th Knesset is MK Zvulun Orlev who submitted no less than 140 private bills in five months. One of the classic gems submitted by the parliamentarian from the Jewish Home* party called on the House to crack down on apartment dwellers. All flat owners would be required to install window guards or bars that would prevent children from falling out of flats with an occupant under the age of 14
   Orlev somehow totally missing the root of the problem: 99 percent of Israeli windows, regardless of location, have no screens at all.

** HaByit HaYehudi, in Hebrew.



   When 72 year-old Yonatan Carmeli found a 9,375 NIS ($2,344) August-September water bill in his mailbox, at first he thought it must be a joke. Then, he fired off a letter to Minister of Finance Yuval Steinetz blaming ‘heartless bureaucrats'.
   Another hapless citizen caught up in a nightmarish bureaucratic error?
   Not this time.
   Turns out the recipient- who works for an oil exploration outfit - got socked with a 6,640 NIS ($1,660) penalty fine for going way way over strict household water quotas in draught-stricken Israel while blissfully watering his expansive garden where not only is the grass greener than his neighbors, one suspects. The avid but clearly overextended gardener's private piece of paradise in Pardes Hana includes no less than 50 water-gorging fruit trees.


   The Dead Sea is billed as a place where swimmers can't sink. That may be true while in the water - but not necessarily along the receding shoreline. The rapid drop in sea level - 65 feet in 80 years - creates subsurface holes in the salt rock where ground water replaces seawater, dissolving the salt. Such spots can collapse without warning, ‘swallowing' anyone or anything directly above. Although sinkholes are sporadic and statistically rare, such ‘incidents' include not only a passing hiker, but even a seasoned geologist who according to AP spent 14 hours in a 30-foot-deep sinkhole on the shoreline in 2004, writing his will on a postcard...
   But what if the potential victim is a bridge?
   The Israel Roads Commission is taking no chances. Two hundred special sunken motion sensors monitor the status of the ground under the pylons of a new, recently-opened bridge spanning Nachal Arugot near Ein Gedi. At the first sign of erratic movement, the bridge can be closed and the sinkhole filled with sand or concrete, like a gigantic tooth cavity.



   According to a volunteer group called Tikun Olam*, there's no better place to begin making the world a better place than by growing premium grass in the back yard. Forget about Scotts' Turf Builder®.
   The grass in question is a particularly potent strain of medicinal marijuana which the NGO grows at an undisclosed rural location ‘somewhere in the north of Israel'. The pot is distributing free to patients with serious medical issues - from strung-out battle-triggered insomniacs to amputees and cancer patients who are licensed to receive 8 to 15 grams of cannabis a week, if traditional treatments fail to alleviate their pain.
   Four NGOs now** grow marijuana with the blessings of the Ministry of Health. But Tikun Olam claims its organic strain is not only 24 percent psychoactive ingredients - compared to four percent THC in street pot; it's infused with lots of TLC: Each and every potted plant is named after deceased clients or the volunteer who planted it, and the potters say they play very cool background music, mixed with psalms - around the clock.

* "repairing the world" - a concept planted early in rabbinic Judaism, that in contemporary Jewish circles has a marked mystic-kabbalistic or progressive-reformist bent to it.
** Tikun Olam was the first to receive a growers' license - established 2½ years ago, in the spring of 2007.


* 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.