February 4 – February 10, 2016

GLEANED FROM ISRAEL’S HEBREW MEDIA

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. 

EVEN THE SCORES…A LA ISRAEL

MK Haim Yalin (Yesh Atid* party) told the Home Front Command in an urgent letter that the nationwide air raid siren drill that civil defense authorities had scheduled for 15 February could have a negative impact on the scores of young people scheduled to take their ‘college boards’ – Israel’s Psychometric Exams – set for the same date. The siren could negatively impact on their power of concentration and rattle the nerves of those sitting for the exam, he warned:  “For many citizens, a test siren (i.e. a monotone siren) is no different from a real siren (a rising and falling tone**) and triggers flashbacks to traumatic events in the past,” Yelin wrote.

The Ministry of Education said they were studying the issue.

The Ministry of Defense had no immediate comments, but defense officials have been sensitive in the past: In the summer of 2015, sirens were not sounded adjacent to the Gaza Strip after residents, whose nerves had been frayed by Protective Edge the previous summer, asked to be excluded from the annual drill. (Israel HaYom)

*  Yair Lapid’s party – literally, ‘there’s a future’

** Think that is bad???  Check out the creepy sounding tornado warnings employed by the city of Chicago on June 15th last year that sound like a dying whale, purported by some to frighten off all but the strongest of tornadoes HERE. Could it send terrorists on the prowl fleeing for their lives???

NURSING TREES BACK TO HEALTH

Remember the piece about requiring designers and contractors to provide shade in unbuilt areas (“Shady Business”)?

The new regulation that went into effect in 2016 requires either planting trees or constructing artificial shade.  Ah yes, trees.  Plant them yes, but can they prosper?

Even if it is unlawful in Israel to cut down a mature tree (see Chelm’s 2012 story “Strange Homicide Squad”) – it turns out that urban trees live on borrowed time.  Over the past two to three decades street trees planted in Tel Aviv (and elsewhere) have died after 10 to 15 years and don’t reach maturity, apparently due to lack of enough room for their roots to expand*…blocked by subterranean infrastructure at every turn, revealed landscape architect Shachar Zur.

The solution? The Tel Aviv Municipality plans to give existing trees in distress a lease on life – adding ‘living space’ by adding well aerated soil around the trees – retroactively, so they can continue to develop. In other places, this has been done by installing ‘floating sidewalks’ built on a web of open plastic boxes filled with unpacked soil. (Calcalist)

* According to Zur, in Toronto the trees only last five years!

TIME OUT

Co-eds at Bar Ilan University are demanding that all the universities in Israel arrange special re-testing dates for exams for pregnant students who go into labor at such an inopportune time — just as male students who go into reserves during exams are entitled to a special re-testing date.

The extra date is in addition to two exam dates every student is entitled to in Israel as a matter of course — to allow university students to re-take an exam they failed or want to improve their scores on, even if they didn’t miss class.  (Israel HaYom)

NOW HEAR THIS

Israel is renowned for its ulpanim – special language schools where newcomers master Hebrew, often attended by new olim at government expense. But what if the newcomer is deaf?  While objectively, one would think sign language should be a ‘universal’ tongue, it isn’t…so even deaf immigrants need to ‘learn the language’…

In a symbolic act, the Israeli parliament officially ‘adopted’ – albeit momentarily –  a newly-inaugurated online signing dictionary where users can key in words in Hebrew, English, Arabic or Russian and receive a five-second video with a translation into ISL or Israeli (i.e. Hebrew) Sign Language. The program has 3,000 short five-second videos with essential words.

In trying out the system, the parliamentarians tried their hands as signing, choosing words that ranged from ‘MK’ and ‘democracy’ to ‘humous’…

* There is also a signing dictionary for mastery of ISL called Sela solely in Hebrew.

HAPPY TRAILS TO YOU

Need more evidence that Jews are ‘the People of the Book’?

Besides bookmobiles in reverse – bookshelves in bus shelters and on beaches (already reported by Chelm in 2011 and 2013)  lending libraries that work on an honor system* are being extended to 15 public camping grounds along Shvil Israel (the Israel National Trail) that runs the length of the country – 940 km – from Dan to Eilat,  stocked with titles ranging  from fiction to poetry and philosophy.

Too old, too flabby or too harried to trek?

The entire length of the Israel National Trail is now accessible by PC for those who can’t walk it, documented step-by-step with a 360 degree Google Street camera mounted on a knapsack – a project that took three months to complete. (Israel HaYom).

* where readers can pick up a book at one spot and return it at another stop when they’re through.

CORNERED!

The Burial Society (Chevra Kadisha, in Hebrew) in Ofakim found a unique solution to the problem of finding a grave in the town’s municipal cemetery that covers 50 dunum (12.5 acres) and contains 4,000 graves: Posting street signs (and lamp posts) along the paths between sections of the cemetery.

And who are the 15 lucky individuals honored by a street named after them in the local cemetery?

Former members of the Chever Kadisha, what else.  (Israel HaYom)

* The Director-General of the Religion Ministry who was present at the dedication wants to extend the scheme to all cemeteries in Israel.

DISTURBING EVIDENCE

When did humankind begin sowing ‘domesticated’ grains?

Up until now conventional wisdom held 12,000 years ago.  But new archaeological evidence from a dig on the shore of the Sea of Galilee at Ohalo at a 23,000 year-old hunter-gatherers’ sedentary camp, pushes the date back by another 11,000 years.*

The findings are based on something called proto weeds. Nobody knows why weeds originated, but they are defined as plants that disrupt or alter the functioning and composition of natural ecosystems and “human-altered environments”; proto-weeds are “the first wild plants that entered and thrived in disturbed (human-affected) habitats” – in short, the precursors to today’s thriving zillion dollar herbicide industry.

The new date, published in PLOS ONE is based on three findings by Israeli archaeologists Professor Ehud Weiss and Dr.Ainit Snir using innovative “archeobiological” techniques. At the same site at Ohalo they found three smoking guns: Not only were hand scythes found among the flint tools at the camp (used to harvest wild grains, as well). There was a marked presence of domesticated wheat and barley seeds that has genetic differences from wild grains and an unusual concentration of proto-weeds suggesting the hunter-gatherers at the site experimented with sowing grain.

The earlier date — 12,000 years — is based on ground-breaking finds from Karacadag mountain region of southeastern Turkey.  Now broken asunder, Turks have another reason to despise Israel – for stealing their thunder. (Israel HaYom)

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