Backpage News from the Front

March 2016 Column 4


March 17 – March 23, 2016

by Daniella Ashkenazy

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.



A number of public-spirited design students from the Holon Technology Institute – among the 1.3 million Israelis who participated in Good Deed Day on March 15th* – chose to help a group of special needs children with cerebral palsy celebrate Purim in a way that would turn their mobility aids into an advantageous extension of their Purim costumes: wheelchairs transformed into Cinderella’s carriage, a pilot’s cockpit and a DJ station. For example, an out-of-the-box add-on allowed the boisterous six year-old Superman in the photo – Brian Teityevsky – to use his walker to “leap over buildings in a single bound.” (Yediot)

* an annual event marked in 70 countries


An Israeli traveler – industrial designer Hedva Param from Kfar Saba – caught at Zaventem airport waiting to board her flight from Brussels back to Tel-Aviv, demonstrated superb quick-wittedness and resourcefulness. Realizing the flight wouldn’t take off, she exited the airport, walked to the nearest village on foot, and paid a local taxi driver 400 Euro ($447.48) to take her directly to Amsterdam airport 202 km. away – arriving in time to catch an alternative flight back to Israel. (Yediot)



When the INS Rahav left the Keil shipworks in Germany on its maiden voyage home, Israel’s fifth Dolphin 2-class submarine had to go through an access canal to reach the open sea.

As a precaution, Israel arranged with German officials for two Mossad agents to ‘accompany’ the sub along the channel…from the bank, but their car got bogged down in the mud immediately after the pair entering a fenced-in restricted area hugging the canal.

The mayor of a nearby town sent the volunteer fire department…that had to call-in a forklift to assist…then a local farmer with a tractor who finally extricated the pair’s Ford Focus from the mire.

But the mayor’s feathers had been ruffed in the process by (a) a cock and bull cover story the two initially told a local witness to their embarrassing predicament as to ‘what they were doing there’ (b) not receiving notification from the federal government about the two pistol-packing foreigners in his jurisdiction…

While the ‘diplomatic incident’ occurred in mid-December 2015, the mayor’s nose apparently remained out of joint by the double slight: The Israeli Embassy in Berlin just received a 1,263.01 Euro ($1423.16) bill from town hall for off-Roadside Assistance… (Yediot) 


The maxim that ‘everyone deserves their day in court’ took a strange turn after the Israel Police Force realized new-fangled speed cameras on the highways were ‘too efficient’…leading to a huge backload in traffic court: Over 250,000 drivers were caught on camera exceeding the speed limit and 226,00 citations were issued, but due to a severe shortage of traffic judges, only 26,400 cases were actually docketed and the drivers summoned to appear in court.

The State Ombudsman’s Report revealed how the cops adopted a ‘creative’ way to narrow the gulf: They simply calibrated 30 percent of the speed cameras in the country to only document vehicles going more than twice the speed limit – including cameras set to kick into action at 250 kilometers (155 miles) an hour… (Calcalist)


Eminent domain? You know, the right of the state to appropriate private property for public use or raze substandard housing to build new slums under the banner of ‘urban renewal’?

Well, not in Givatyim!

True, blueprints to raze-and-rebuild what’s dubbed “the Histadrut compound” in the Tel-Aviv suburb were already approved more than a year ago at the regional planning council level (the place where ‘objections’ are normally heard), but now Givatyim’s mayor has backtracked.  Mayor Ron Kunik declared a referendum among the 900 flat owners in the swatch of 1950s-vintage ‘railroad apartment houses’ (shikunei rekevet, not to be confused with Lower East Side ‘railroad flats’*) to determine whether the residents support plans to raze their homes and build 3,000 high-rise apartments (where each former owner will receive a new flat). (Yediot) 

* In the 1950s – railroad buildings with modest 70 and 85-sqare meter two-bedroom apartments with a normal floor plan were the standard, quite different from Lower East Side ‘railroad flats’ where one room lead into another and into another.


Time took its toll, and Rachel Magda-Feldmir from moshav Mavki’im in the Negev slowly found herself with fewer and fewer cronies for a good old hand at Rummikub – the Israeli-designed card game based on plastic Scrabble-like cubes.

So what did the 91 year-old Holocaust survivor do? Settle for Solitaire?

Not on your life!

She played a wild card…placing a ‘want ad’ in the newspapers stating: “Interested in playing Rummy at my house. Seek players to join me”…and aced a flood of potential participants of all ages, even without mentioning tea and cookies…(Israel HaYom) 


Whom has the Ministry of Tourism chosen as presenters for the Israeli booth at the world’s biggest international tourism convention held annually in Berlin?

Last year it was two chefs making shakshuka – a cholesterol-flaunting skillet of a zillion eggs pouched in a piquant tomato sauce.

This year the come-on is beer made from…humous (what else!), and Tel Aviv’s leading drag queen – Arie Oshri – billed to advertise the annual June Gay Pride parade in Tel Aviv.

The rationale? There has been a steep drop in tourism from Russia due to the collapse of the ruble, and according to a tourism expert, gay tourism is more stable than family tourism…unfazed by security concerns and economic conditions. (Yediot)


* ‘go in good health’ in Yiddish



An exasperated young Israeli farmer named Meidan – disappointed by low tomato prices in March (which plummeted to levels below haulage costs after the government allowed import of winter tomatoes from abroad to push down the CoL – invited the public to come pick their own tomatoes through March 24th – free of cost rather than let his 20 to 50 ton yield rot on the vines.

Free of cost? Well…not exactly – certainly not at the cost of Israeli petrol (5.75 NIS/liter or 21.l85 NIS/$5.60 a gallon): The field in question is in moshav Idan…in the Arava, an hour and 45 minutes and 155 km. from Eilat and 2.5  hours and 209 km. from the Big Orange. (Israel HaYom)







About the Author
Daniella Ashkenazy is a bilingual Israeli journalist and the founder and CEO of Chelm-on-the-Med Online, a news outlet in English of zany news from Israel culled from the Hebrew press, designed to transform preconceptions about Israel – one chuckle at a time