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


Are you a former kibbutz volunteer?

Guess what! You made history and 'your' kibbutz is looking for you (ContentNet)... you and another 350,000 former volunteers who came to Israel in the 1970s onward in the wake of the Six Day War*.

Swede-meets-Sabra was a fateful transformational encounter and kibbutzim have never been the same. And not just because of the image - hazy memories, whether fact, inflated or fantasized, of booze, hash and free-wheeling sex.

The stats show there were 50,000 from England, 40,000 from South Africa, 25,000 from Sweden 20,000 from Denmark and 15,000 from Germany. North Americans? They didn't say, but Israel's embassies in Europe are planning a gala reunion in 2011 of former volunteers both in Israel proper and in their respective countries as a core event of the Kibbutz Centennial. Luminaries who once picked melons or served soup include Simon Le Bon from Duran Duran, comedian Jerry Seinfeld and the president of Austria, Heinz Fischer.

The organizers hope gray-haired former volunteers who come to latch-up with old friends, or at least recall a seminal experience of their youth, will go back home Goodwill Ambassadors for Israel... and even send their kids and grandkids to work on a kibbutz - if they can find one that still accepts volunteers...

In the meantime, former volunteers can rendezvous in cyberspace with those they met in Israel on two** websites: Kibbutz Reloaded and Lost Amigos.


* Yours truly was one of the first five volunteers who left the States on May 29, 1967 to ''help out on a kibbutz' - an initiative set in motion by the cultural attaché at the Israeli consulate in Philadelphia, Beno Tzur, z"l.


** Many individual kibbutzim also have websites with a volunteer webpage in English.



Everyone agrees: Real estate in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area is overpriced. For over a decade people have been saying the bubble has to break... but to no avail. Prices in the Dan Region have continued to spiral.

Now, one of Israel's leading assessors, Levi Yitzhak, says he's found the real villain behind skyrocketing apartment prices and it's not speculative investments in real estate*.

Over the past 15 years, the number of couples separating and divorcing has doubled**, says Yitzhak - branding the demand for two separate-but-equal apartments "a hunchback on the real estate market." Couples splitting ways causes a 30 percent increase in demand for large apartments that are only partially utilized under joint custody arrangements for the kids that's common in Israel, while every apartment sold by ex-spouses creates a demand for two flats instead of one.


* Until now people have blamed limited new construction due to a shortage of land and bureaucratic gridlock, and the influx of young people flocking to the Big Orange from the periphery, making rental properties a popular investment for people who already own their own home.


** In 2008, the ratio of marriages and divorces was 50:13, compared to 32:6 in 1991. Israel Bureau of Statistics data show that sooner or later a third of all marriages end on the rocks.



Israel is a major flyway for migrating birds, which range from tiny songbirds to storks. Kibbutzim have tried everything to keep an estimated 70,000 great white pelicans from lunching at their fish ponds on their way from the Danube to Sudan. Some employ a Sound 'n Light Show of noise cannons, projector lights, exploding rifle cartridges and other nerve-racking but harmless scare tactics. Others spread nets and ropes to interfere with the birds' takeoff trajectory and landing approach. The government has even intervened - trying to entice the pelicans to leave pricy trout alone and eat cheap non-commercial fish at special pelican r&r feeding stations in the Hula. Occasionally, pelicans have even been shot at by desperate farmers who've simply gone ballistic; after all, a single pelican (weighing up to 20 pounds ''empty') requires at least a kilogram of fish per day. Just do the math...

Now, there's a cheaper solution on the horizon - a full-size motorized lifelike plastic crocodile, a natural predator with a predilection for pelican meat. So far, pelicans have taken flight at first sight of the toothy reptile. Better to miss lunch than to become lunch.



Plenty of mid-career writers teach at the university level, but the position offered Israel's most illustrious novelist Amos Oz is not in creative writing. It's about being a compassionate person.

Oz is one of five authors and one vocalist who will deliver talks in a course devoted to "Medicine and Literature" at Tel Aviv University's Sackler School of Medicine. The dean is convinced exposure to culture, aesthetics and compassion through literature can help cure the ills of modern medicine. Oz, for his part, will dissect the medical world through the lens of the human saga he depicted in his epic autobiographical work, A Tale of Love and Darkness, which includes the riveting, still-festering wound of his clinically depressed mother's suicide when the 72-year-old author was 12.



You think the two teenage simpletons who started the massive Carmel Forest fire by simply dumping a glowing coal from a water pipe on the tinder-dry forest floor in a clearing in the woods were pretty dumb? Not as dumb as a very green nature-lover who was participating in a Rainbow Festival on the parched Golan Heights about six weeks prior to the Carmel fire.

The event was designed to allow participants to commune with nature, when sure enough - nature called. Seeking a secluded spot in the wild, the participant pulled down her pants with a sigh of relief, but when she was finished, not wanting to litter the landscape with a few sheets of TP Heaven Forbid, the lady in question decided to burn the piece of toilet paper she had used - accidentally sparking a range fire that wiped out 13,000 dunam (more than 3,000 acres) of natural forage before it could be fully extinguished, thirty hours later.