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CHELM-ON-THE-MED©, January 2010 - Column 1


   A young Arab couple enters a posh Herzliya Pituah restaurant, carrying a huge talking parrot in a cage. They sit down at an outside table facing the Med, take the Jaco parrot out, place the bird on the man's shoulder and prepare to order...
   It sounds like the opening of a joke - right?
   Wrong, this is ‘anything goes' Israel, and this is a true story.
   Others merely shrugged off the odd couple's bizarre behavior... until another diner entered the scene.
   The new patron was a hungry cat looking for a handout. But spying ‘lunch' on the man's shoulder, the cat lunged - knocking the parrot off its perch and onto the grass, without so much as a squawk. Grabbing the stunned bird in its jaws, the cat took off at a dead run, skittering under a low sofa. Dropping their menus, the equally shocked couple jumped out of their seats and began running about the restaurant waving their arms and yelling hysterically in Arabic - a sight that was enough to scare the pants off other diners and staff who instinctively scattered, fearing a terrorist attack. Of course, once the source of the commotion became apparent, life quickly returned to normal - except for the bird's.
   In the uproar, the Jaco and the cat had disappeared into thin air, leaving nary a trace - not even a feather.



   The Minister of Environmental Protection set out to cut paper consumption in the courts by requiring that briefs be printed on both sides of a sheet of paper.* Alas, even this small step on behalf of the planet is far more complicated than one could imagine - almost requiring an Act of Parliament.
   The tree-friendly minister had to appeal to the Minister of Justice because such a changeover was impossible without amending standing procedures. Currently, Ordinance 68 of Israel's Civil Law Proceedings Directives - the ‘bible' of how the courts operate - stipulates that briefs submitted to the courts in civil cases must be printed on one side of an A-4 sheet - a directive that dates back to 1984 - the typewriter era.
   How much paperwork is involved? Time will tell.

* For a no-less effective paper-saving move besides the briefs is keeping unruly rulings in the lower courts brief. See Chelm-on-the-Med's May 2009 Column 2, at (



   Special gestures to help new immigrants adjust take all sorts of forms - from lending a gifted musician a concert violin to inviting singles to Passover seders. But the request sent to the municipal engineering department by a group of 200 Parisians who, over the past two years, had settled in Hadera - a small* city in the Sharon, the size of a European town - was truly extraordinary. The group petitioned the municipality saying if there was one thing that could boost their morale and hasten their adjustment, it would be building their own Eiffel Tower... right there in Hadera.
Tall order?
   Luckily the Parisians only wanted a scaled-down model. The mayor is looking for a suitable spot. The Parisians, for their part, promised to raise donations to cover construction costs.

* Paris's population is 2.2 million, and 11 million in the metropolitan area; Hadera's is 77,000. Hadera is 45 kilometers from the nearest ‘genuine' city by European standards (e.g. Tel Aviv and Haifa).



   Attempts by the Ministry of Labor to arm members of the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community with marketable skills is going beyond things like computer programming for haredi women. Even beyond Talmudic scholars working part-time as swimming instructors and water therapists.
   With the blessings of their rabbis, 24 Talmudic scholars are enrolled in a course to become personal trainers that will enable the graduates to spend half the day in mental gymnastics wrestling with rabbinical texts in their yeshivas, and the other half serving as instructors in special glatt kosher* gyms.
   No less earth-shaking, the course brings together members of rival streams within the haredi community (Hassidim and ‘Lithuanian' Mitnagdim*) ranging from a 30-year-old Mirrer yeshiva student and father of two , to a 26-year-old Breslov Hassid and father of four. The latter hopes to work with ultra-Orthodox children with ADHD.

* Kosher is the Hebrew word for fitness, as well; glatt kosher is a ‘higher level' of kashrut practiced by the ultra-Orthodox.

** Mitnagdim (‘Opponents'), a stream of Orthodoxy that fiercely opposes Hassidism



   It resounded like a take-off on the 1950's fortune cookie joke, "Help! I'm a Prisoner in a Chinese Bakery!" - except the baker in this case was a 31-year-old housewife safely ensconced in her own home.
   Pulling out several sheets of baking paper from the pantry planning to make rolls, the lady of the house was all but blown away by what she saw: a message scribbled in pencil in Hebrew on one of the baking sheets saying: "Help! We're inmates at Neve Tirtza.* We're employed packaging baking paper. Bon Appetite to YOU..." - that asked the ‘recipient' of the paper to call the papers... which she did.
   Were the senders being mistreated... or merely bored to tears?
   Officials insisted the message was a prank.

* The correctional institution for women

* Copyright© 2010 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.