April 2016 Column 2

GLEANED FROM ISRAEL’S HEBREW MEDIA

April 6 – April 13, 2016

ABOUT THIS COLUMN: “Backpage News from the Front” is a series of weekly special reports ‘for the duration’ of  the Jihadi Wave of 2015/6 (for lack of a better name) that combines the regular odd and only-in-Israel Chelm-like-but-true news stories ‘hiding’ in the Hebrew media that are normally reported by this author twice-monthly in columns entitled “Chelm-on-the-Med Online” — antics that Israelis continue to do even in the worst of times, and piquant aspects of heightened conflict — from the galling, to the touching, to the downright bizarre.

IN BAD TASTE

Never a dull day when it comes to blood libels.

When the Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted Iraqi Jews’ traditional recipe for T’beet — a slow-cooking Sabbath stew — on the Ministry’s Facebook page in Arabic which has a million followers in the Arab world, the recipe garnered 200,000 hits and 2,500 likes across the Middle East and North Africa.

Alarmed that ‘kitchen diplomacy’ might build bonds, worked-up Palestinians charged the Israeli Iraqi Sabbath stew was, in fact, seasoned with the blood of little Palestinian children as a hidden ingredient*… (Israel HaYom)

* Most blood libels in the past have charged Jews laced their matzah with the blood of little Christian children…but it wasn’t Passover yet.

UNIQUE GLASS CEILING

There is a saying — “Bankers are like everyone else — only richer”…but everything is relative. In another six months senior execs in Israel’s financial institutions will be allowed to make only 35 times what the lowest-paid bank employee makes or 44 times that lowly employee’s net earnings… In practice, the  newly-minted law will limit the annual salaries of such executives – in banks and insurance companies – to 2.5 M NIS ($657,894)* instead of the 5-8 M a year they rake in today…

The populist bill passed with 56 MKs in favor and not one parliamentarian voting against the measure – although 64 MKs chose to vote with their feet…

So no one will make more than 2.5 M a year??? Well…not exactly. The law only singles out financial institutions…and rumor has it that the bankers are weighing taking their case to the Supreme Court. (Israel HaYom, Yediot)

* Of course there’s a Catch-22:  The law stipulates that banks are free to pay more, but for every shekel over the limit, they will have to pay two shekels in corporate taxes to the government…or raise the salaries of all bank employees to maintain the ratio…

LIFE-SAVING STEP

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs serving in loco parentis hit a new height when a citizen in Israel called the Situations Room in Jerusalem to say his uncle in Atlanta, Georgia had texted his family in Israel on his cell phone ”I’m dying!” saying he was in a Motel 6 in an Atlanta, Georgia  suburb…

The Israeli consul in Atlanta Ron Bromer was immediately pressed into action by Jerusalem  Realizing the motel chain had several branches in the suburb and with no time to spare, the consul repeatedly called the uncle’s number until, the stricken Israeli downed with a stroke managed in a genuine stroke of luck to answer his phone and told the diplomat where he was, enabling Bromer to call an ambulance. Doctors said swift intervention had saved the patient’s life. (Yediot)

BOLD AS BRASS

Over the years, Negev Bedouin metal scavengers have turned armored corps exercises at the Tze’alim Training Base into a three ring circus — not only stealing in the dead of night pieces of targets (played-out tanks and armored personnel carriers scattered about the huge base)…but even walking off with the metal ‘DANGER: Free Fire Zone’ warning signs (forcing the army to put up wooden ones)…

In recent years the gangs have had the chutzpa to enter the base in broad daylight mounted on ATVs, to weave in and out among maneuvering tank formations and artillery units in military drills using live fire* to pick up tank shell casings before soldiers can collect them at the end of the exercise, for recycling.  Such capers often lead to huge exercises being scrapped due to safety regulations…and jeopardy to the scavengers’ lives.**

Finally the courts are fighting back. Suliman Abu Karoun (41) was forced to pay 50,000 NIS ($13,158) in damages to the state in a civilian Magistrate’s Court to cover part of the cost of the IDF scrapping a huge military exercise to engage in a game of ‘hide and seek’ to catch Karoun – estimated to actually have run somewhere in the vicinity of 200,000-300,000 NIS. (Ynet, Israel HaYom)

* Don’t miss this incredible footage from Channel 2 TV, from 2012.

** In a recent court case, a Bedouin injured by a tank shell has the double-chutzpa to sue the State of Israel for bodily injuries sustained in the course of stealing metal in the midst of just such a live exercise. The bench not only threw him out on his ear; the judge slapped the petitioner with 35,000 NIS ($9,200) in court costs. (Israel HaYom)

BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE

Undoubtedly, the most amazing way that Israeli society embraces marginal populations is played out in the army where standards of ‘fit to wear the uniform’* extend to the deaf and the blind, not just people with flat feet.

But ‘fit’ can take all sorts of shapes and forms, including an online jewelry designer Belletto Jewelry that chose three vivacious young women between their late twenties and early thirties for a special campaign debuting Belletto’s costume jewelry under the banner – Prettiest in the World.

What makes the campaign ‘special’? All three models were born with Down Syndrome. (Yediot) Photo credit: Bellato – Maayan Walt, 29 Petach Tikva                                                .

*  as volunteers, not draftees — even making room for those with Down’Syndrome to volunteer to serve in the army in uniform in a special framework.

ALSO ‘PEOPLE OF THE BOOK…

Most Chelm stories about Israelis special relationship with books have focused on the recent fad for placing lending libraries in unconventional places – most recently, at points along the Israel Trail.* But there is the flipside of the People of the Book…so it seems: A reviewer of hole-in-the-wall ‘local restaurants’ found himself sick-to-his-stomach even before he ordered his mediocre 230 gram burger.

Entering a local eatery in Kiryat Gat — whose namesake is one of the five Philistine cities in the Bible — the food critic discovered the establishment’s décor consisted of an entire wall wallpapered in pages ripped out of the Encyclopedia HaIvrit…** The two local philistines who own the hamburger joint were very proud of their handiwork and thought the concept was very groovy. (Yediot Darom)

* Over 10,000 books were donated in March for the railway system’s lending libraries. Now, at the height of spring cleaning, Israel Railways is offering to send a railroad representative in person to pick up books from home, from anyone contributing 20 books or more. (Yediot)

** The Encyclopedia HaIvrit — called the Encyclopedia Hebraica in English — was a cornerstone of Zionist endeavor and the revival of Hebrew: an iconic 32-volume comprehensive encyclopedia in the Hebrew language that combines general knowledge on the level of the Encyclopedia Britannica intertwined with Jewish and Israeli content on an encyclopedic scale. Embarked on in 1944 with subject matter written by some of the finest minds in the Jewish world, it took over three decades to complete.  The last volume was released in 1980…a year before the Britannica — first published in 1768, was digitized (totally going out of print in 2012).

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