Backpage News from the Front

May 2016 Column 2


May 5 – May 11, 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.


The increase in marriages between Ashkenazi Jews and Mizrachi Jews in Israel has its upsides and its downsides. Yes, it’s a sign that after 68 years of independence, the cultural melting pot is working (hooray). However, as Israeli Jews homogenize, ‘inter-ethnic marriage’* is not only creating more mocha-tinted children who are less susceptible to skin cancer than children of purely Ashkenazi stock (a medical tidbit reported by Gleanings in the Israel Scene monthly, a 1986-1992 forerunner to Chelm-on-the-Med).

Today, mixed gene pools are creating a growing problem in cancer treatment of another kind: Finding a donor for bone marrow transplants for people with leukemia, lymphoma and so forth, is getting harder and harder as gene pools get mixed up. Among older Israelis, doctors are able to find an exact bone marrow match in 85 percent of the cases (found among historically insular Jewish ethnic groupings) while among Israeli children an exact match is found only in 65 percent of the cases…and dropping. (Israel HaYom)

* In 1957-1961, only 14 percent of the couples were a marriage of mixed Ashkenazi and Sfardi partners, since the 1990s scope has risen to 28 percent.

** Israel’s Jewish Bone Marrow Donor Registry has 796,420 samples (371,142 of the potential donors IDF recruits  who routinely volunteer to register in the course of their induction process.) In fact, Israel – where only 1.2 million of the 400 million Arabs in the world reside – houses the only Arab Bone Marrow Donor Registry in the world….


We all know about the headache, spending hours going from store to store looking for a quirky T-shirt with Hebrew writing or something ‘Israeli’ to bring your American brother-in-law – an ardent Zionist – as a symbolic gift…

Well, the Piece of History design shop has neat minimalistic iconic T-shirts of Israeli leaders – two tuffs of hair on a bald plate (Ben-Gurion), a signature beard (Herzl) and an eye patch (Dayan).

The site also offers figurines dubbed “Zion’s Action Figures” for the mantel – celebrating four great historical leaders of short stature (the figurines are three inches high) – Menachem Begin, Ben-Gurion, Moshe Dayan…and Golda Meir who for reasons, known only to the creator, is decked out in pumps instead of her ‘signature’ frumpy black lace-up shoes – regulation dress for women in the army for decades (up to the 1990s) – called in Hebrew ‘naalei Golda’ (Golda shoes)… (Israel HaYom)


For another rendition of Golda Meir (with the right shoes…and her ever-present cigarette) see the work of Gilat Orkin, who recently sculpted ‘prominent Israelis’ – from politicians to pop stars, all out of – you’re not going to believe this…      Pita!

In fact Orkin calls herself a “pita artist”*…

The collage collection is being debuted in Holon to mark Israel’s 68th Independence Day.

What led to the new ‘medium’? It’s not a take-off on HanHanoch Pevin’s iconic use of food, cast-off objects and ‘good junk’ as sculptural elements to caricaturize famous people; it’s a spinoff of the ‘mother of invention’ – necessity: convincing her 1st grader to stop bringing home her lunch for school, untouched – by providing whimsical sandwiches shaped like teddy bears or shish kabob and making ‘portrait plates’ for dinner. (Yediot)

* Gilat Orkin is also an accomplished chocolatier…while moonlighting in hi-tech. Or vice-versa.


Only-in-Israel could a street be named after Ruth, just plain Rechov Ruth.

Ruth who? The biblical Ruth,* of course!

And only-in-Israel could the bio brief of a biblical figure on the street sign become a source of contention: Jerusalemite Tamar Weiss demanded that the ‘Names Committee’ in city hall change the gender-skewed description on the street sign that makes Ruth* merely an appendage to her husband Boaz: “The wife of Boaz, King David’s great-grandfather.”

The municipality has changed the sign to read: “Heroine of the Book of Ruth, King David’s great-grandmother.” (Yediot)

* the unforgettable Moabite convert to the people of Israel (“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”)


Ziv Livni enjoys rummaging through the ‘flotsam and jetsam of other people’s lives in the Jaffa Flea Market but nothing in his past experience prepared the sapper from the Police’s bomb disposal unit for the emotion-loaded contents of the velvet box he opened in one of the stalls, containing the tag and rank and memorial certificate of 21 year-old Corporal David Brooks z”l — a tank gunner who fell 43 years ago during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

“My heart skipped a beat and I told myself that I can’t leave it there like that.” He purchased the box from the flea market merchant for 50 NIS+ and went home to write a Facebook post, asking  – Does anyone know David Brook’s mother, brother or sister, his wife or his son which Levni found listed on the Fallen Soldiers website?

Overnight the post generated 2,600 ‘shares’ and within 24 hours the soldier’s brother Yossi contacted Livni. The box is now in the possession of David Brook’s son Shai (43) who was only a few months old when his father was killed in action. Shai Brooks remembered his grandmother* once showed him the velvet box when he was a small kid. (Yediot)

* Corporal David Brook’s mother, Luna Brooks z”l passed away two years ago, and apparently the box – which she kept until her death – was mistakenly disposed of by a third party when her room in an eldercare facility was vacated.


In a March 2016 survey profiling Jewish Israeli 11th and 12th graders, 85 percent said they “loved Israel.” When asked – what makes their homeland so attractive to them…forget about a generation gap between parents and children: Sixty-three percent of the kids said the best thing about Israel is the strong sense of “family”, and 75 percent even replied that they ‘value’ or ‘value greatly’ their school teachers.


Two decades ago, the IDF Education Corps’ entertainment troupe sang “We’re the children [i.e. ‘war babies’] of the winter of 1973”, written in 1994…whining “You promised us a dove. You promised us an olive leaf…You said promises should be kept” as if peace was an entitlement.

What about today’s youth…born about the time ‘Children of Winter ’73’ was debuted?

‘Graduates’ of the grim harvest of the Oslo Process and the ‘fruit’ of the Disengagement, 78 percent of today’s high school juniors and seniors said they take an interest in current events… and 82 percent said matter-of-factly that they saw no chance of peace with the Palestinians. They’re in for the long term: 55 percent do volunteer work regularly, 88 percent plan to go into the army, and 89 percent see their future in Israel. (Yediot)

* “It was the best of times, and the worst of times.”

** 1,400 fatalities since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 and during the 2000-2004 Terror War, and another 203 fatalities since the 2005 Disengagement, including the current Jihadi wave.


Do you want to learn Hebrew painlessly?

Check out the little gem Hilarious Hebrew, written by two Israeli expats with a daft sense of humor who live in Brighton, England .  The pair developed a unique one-on-one form of bilingual punning: For months Yael Breuer and her friend Eyal Shavit played a ‘one-upmanship’ game coining sentences that could aid Hebrew learners remember new words by inserting how they sound in Hebrew, within zany sentences in English.  The two texted their gems back and forth in lieu of playing Words with Friends via smartphone…such as “I accidentally stuck a fork in Ma’s leg” – the Hebrew word for fork being mazleg.

They finally turned the collection into a book, accompanied by funny and indeed unforgettable illustrations – mazleg being enhanced with a cartoon of a seated lady yelling in pain, her arms flailing the air with a fork impaled in her leg – the perfect pickup for students struggling to learn Hebrew. Or as a coffee table conversation piece. Or a bathroom book, for that matter. (word maven Ruvik Rosenthal’s blog)








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