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


   Did metal scavengers cart off the 400-kilogram (880 lb.) cast bell that had been hanging in Beit Lehem Haglilit's historic bell tower for over 100 years? It would seem so*; but some slightly batty residents of the Jezreel Valley community are convinced that the culprits behind the heist are a group of frail old German geezers in Australia...
   Beit Lehem Haglilit was originally founded (1908) by a group of apocalyptic German Templars** who founded five settlements in the Holy Land in the late 18th - early 19th century. The bell was a gift from the city of Stuttgart to the German settlers, who were interned as enemy aliens by the British in 1941. In 1948, in the wake of the Holocaust, any remaining German settlers were shipped off to Australia.
   What set off the alarm bells was the fact that several years ago, some of the aging offspring of the original German settlers wrote the Beit Lehem Haglilit community's elders requesting their bell back. They wanted to display it in their seniors' facility in Australia, and offered residents of the Galilee township a ‘replacement bell,' but to no avail - leaving the question ‘for whom the bell tolls' veiled in mystery.

* Indeed, the high price of scrap metal has led to some strange capers - perhaps the weirdest - an unsuccessful attempt several years ago to pinch a complete Y-shaped high-voltage powerline pylon in the Negev (before it was connected to the power grid), leaving the tower bent in half, like some oversized vintage ErectorTM set with a few loose screws.

** Including Jerusalem's and Haifa's German Colony, Sarona in the heart of Tel Aviv, and Wilhelma near Ben-Gurion Airport.


   Despite the perceived popularity of mineral water, a survey found 74 percent of all Israelis drink tap water. The poll also found that 67 percent of the public think the Sea of Galilee is Israel's primary water source. In fact, it provides only 20 percent of Israel's water. Sixty-five percent is pumped from ground water, and 15 percent comes from desalinization (which is rising).


   Speaking of unorthodox behavior...
   A 34-year-old man who held up a gas station in Ashkelon at knifepoint was quickly collared thanks to security camera footage. What was unusual about the holdup and the capture was that the unmasked assailant duly kissed the mezuzah on the door*, perhaps out of habit, before demanding the contents of the cash register (NIS 1,000 in cash**) from the attendant on duty, then he fled on foot - perhaps because it was Friday night...
   The only story that tops this one is the tale of another wacky Ashkelonian who, about a decade ago, was apprehended breaking into... a police van. Caught red-handed with the ignition wires in his hot little hands, the suspect gave police a rather unorthodox psalm and dance - claiming he had "entered the vehicle late Friday night in order to read psalms."
Are the two men one-and-the-same? Lord knows.

* A custom among religiously observant Jews

** $263 and change.


   In the 1930s, the influx of German-Jewish doctors and the surpluses it created, led to jokes that if a motorist on Allenby Road in Tel Aviv stuck out his arm to make a left turn, a German doctor jumped forward to take his pulse.
   In the early 1990s, an avalanche of Russian-trained Jewish physicians doubled the size of the Israeli medical community, leaving Israel with more doctors per capita than any other country in the world save the USSR. But many of the newcomers were older physicians, and today Israel faces a growing shortage of doctors.
   Can physicians from North America fill the bill?
   Perhaps - at least according to Nefesh b'Nefesh, a North American NGO that is paving the way with financial and organizational assistance for young American-trained doctors to immigrate to Israel; Two-hundred-and-fifty have already signed up to immigrate in 2010. One of the candidates is Dr. Yael Bargenoff, who just finished her specialization as a general practitioner. Bargenoff plans to become an IDF physician - "to contribute to the country" and "as part of becoming a true Israeli" But she doesn't deny that demographics and biology play a part: "I want to meet an Israeli guy, get married and raise kids in Israel," added the NYU grad.


   Jonathan, an injured vulture, was too disabled to be released back into the wild. For two decades he has been living in the Chai Bar Wildlife Preserve on Mount Carmel.
   Eight years ago, staff ‘matched' 12-year-old Jonathan with 40-year-old Haifa and placed the pair in a cage with several other couples. (Vultures usually pair off for life.) When Haifa began laying eggs at her advanced age like Sara in the Bible, staff had a good laugh. But little did they know...
   Two years ago Haifa died of old age and Jonathan was moved to a cage of male vultures - where staff had installed monitoring equipment that gave a 24/7 bird's eye view of the cage. What the camera revealed in camera looked titillating at first glance: David was mating with Jonathan! While such attractions are not unknown among wildlife, Jonathan wasn't gay at all: ‘He' was subsequently caught on camera laying an egg!
   Backtracking two decades, staff realized the injured immature vulture must have been mislabeled male on arrival, and Haifa's ‘miraculous egg laying' year-after-year was most probably Jonathan's doing.
   Just who was bedding lady Jonathan for six years? (After all, vultures are supposed to be virtuously faithful.) That remains a mystery.


* 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.