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CHELM-ON-THE-MED©, March 2010 - Column 2


   The fact that most Israeli windows don't have screens almost took its toll once again - in fact, twice in the course of an afternoon. In both cases, the potential fatalities were saved by landing on a motor vehicle, perhaps the only case where a car has been struck by a jumping ‘jaywalker' dropping out of the blue.
   The first incident took place at noon when a moon-struck 26-year-old woman flung herself out of a second-story window after a spat with her 27-year-old no-longer-Significant Other, after her partner said she wanted to break up. Rather than landing with a splat on the sidewalk like less-athletic jumpers invariably do, she landed on the hood of a passing taxi, which broke her fall.
   Less than four hours later, in another neighborhood, a five-year-old fell out of a fourth-story window and was saved, in the nick of time, by landing on the hood of yet another car - one that had just pulled up under his window to pick up a package.
   The cabbie's insurance company refused to pay the claim for damages inflicted to the car, claiming it was a case of force majeure (‘an act of God') The second car belonged to the mayor of Bnei Brak - no doubt a leased vehicle that could be returned and replaced with no questions asked.


   Some leaders of the ultra-Orthodox (haredi) community fear the Internet can ‘subvert' their flock's virtuous life style... probably rightly so.
   There are a handful of super-kosher websites with managed content and a few special Internet server-providers that limit access to approved sites. One such server unceremoniously closes unapproved websites within 90 seconds flat, requiring curious surfers to become virtual sprinters.
   In any case, such stop-gap measures are apparently a losing battle. Recently published data from the Israel Bureau of Statistics reveals that 55 percent of all adults in the haredi community already have some form of access to Internet... Moreover, Mea Shearim is situated just off the Information Highway: cheek-to-jowl (or belly to belly) with the heart of Jerusalem which is chock-full of uncensored wireless connections.


   Many firms bolster their public image by performing services to the community, but home furnishings giant Ikea has chosen a truly unique form of public service in Israel: joining forces with Israel's police force.
   Ikea's second store in Israel - which just opened its doors on March 9 - has jury-rigged the new Rishon Letzion branch control room computers to interface with the Police list of stolen cars. Ikea security cameras can spot and report any hot car entering their parking lot.
   Another Israeli first at Ikea: the fare offered at the new branch will include felafel, not just hotdogs and Swedish meatballs.


   Although one can hardly find hide nor hair of fur fashions in Israel - whether the result of climate or convictions, Israel is about to legislate one of the strictest animal rights laws on the face of the planet that will outlaw import of any and all animal fur - except the hides of domestic animals used for meat. The only exception: animal tails.
   The animal tails are used in making shtreimels - round hats that look like a hairy chocolate layer cake ‘iced' with fur, worn on the Sabbath and special occasions by married men in ultra-Orthodox Hassidic circles.
   The identity of the previous owner, the stitching and the color of the fur indicate from which particular Hassidic circle the current wearer belongs. Actually, even today, most shtreimels in Israel (in contrast to Williamsburg in Brooklyn) are made of synthetic fur because the real McCoy costs a small fortune, capable of giving the father-of-the-bride - who traditionally buys a shtreimel for his intended son-in-law - a genuine tanning.


   Are apartments in the Big Orange expanding or contracting in size? Both, it seems.
   As the prices of apartments continue to spiral - untouched by any real estate meltdown elsewhere - countless modest old two-bedroom flats, bought as investments or inherited from deceased parents, have been furtively carved up into three tiny studios flats to increase overall rents. Such designer pads for swinging singles can run as small as 20* sq. meters with a sleeping gallery hung above a ‘living area.' In a mad dash to prevent the Big Orange from being turned into one huge warren, City Hall recently began slapping landlords with heavy fines for breaking building codes and demanding such pads be "returned to their previous state."
   Now the city faces a reverse trend, as well: well-padded Baby Boomers who are cashing in their large villas in posh northern suburbs to buy two adjoining flats to create 200-600** sq. meter duplexes or spacious ‘ramblers in the air' that occupy a full floor. Some are in old Bauhaus buildings; others are in new residential skyscrapers. In one case, a new high-rise that towers over Israel's ‘Greenwich Village' (the Neve Tzedek neighborhood) boasts a ‘collapsible building plan' and sports some mega-apartments comprised of no fewer than five flats in the original building plan.

* 215 sq. feet
** 2,153-6,459 sq. feet


* 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.