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The Israeli parliament is facing a baby boom.  No less than nine children were born to Knesset members during the current session of the house, and a tenth is on the way – leading Israel's parliament to open a nursery for MKs.

Observers say it's because the age of Israeli lawmakers is dropping, yet eight of the offspring so far belong to Right-wing parliamentarians (the Likud, Shas, Israel Beiteinu and Ichud Leumi parties).  Only one of the three pregnant women in the Knesset – MK Dr. Einat Wilf – a political scientist, hails from Ehud Barak's Independence Party (a splinter party of Labor Party defectors). The trend, however, is reminiscent of an age-old political joke* – that "when one hears an ambulance siren, it's either a new Likudnik coming into the world or an old Laborite leaving this earth."

* borne-out (or perhaps born-out) by voter preference surveys and actual voting at the polls.


Better late than never: 

The Israel Tax Authority finally updated the amount that the independently employed can put down on their tax returns as expenditures after wining and dining a business associate. It took a High Court of Justice order from the Israel Supreme Court to get pokey pencil-pushers to make the change for breakfast, lunch and dinner out with a client, that hadn't been adjusted since...1985. Up until now the income tax people recognized a maximum ceiling of 1 (one!) NIS for breakfast – less than 27 cents, 4 NIS for lunch – just over a dollar, and 2 NIS – 53 cents for dinner on duly-submitted restaurant receipts.

The government clerks raised the ceiling to 12 NIS, 46 NIS and 23 NIS - respectively.* It's a push in the right direction, but the 12 NIS ceiling will normally barely pay for a small cup of Turkish coffee** and 23 NIS will at most buy a tuna sandwich at a run-of-the-mill Israeli café.  

* $3,18, $12,20, $6.10

** see this 'classic' Elite Turkish coffee ad for another chuckle.


Remember the March 2010 story "Mistaken Identity" about MK Carmel Shamah who complained everyone and his brother thinks he's Druze?  The junior MK from the Likud declared not only was he a Jew.  He was a cohen – a descendent of the priestly class.

Alas, recently, when Shamah asked the Ministry of Interior to change his name in the Population Registry to Shamah HaCohen, the Ministry demanded he bring a signed statement from his synagogue that he's indeed a cohen


In 2011 a law came into effect that forbids the use of leave blowers in residential neighborhoods.  Now it is the call of the muezzin that's in the crosshairs: A citizens' petition was circulated, seeking to outlaw the use of amplifiers on minarets that call Muslims to prayer five times a day  – from the crack of dawn to dusk.  Now the Knesset is deliberating the issue.

Several years ago Baruch Marzel decided to lay down the law – without legislation. The Jewish resident of Hebron began playing Shlomo Carlibach's Hasidic music on the hour and around the clock as a measured response.... reciprocity that worked wonders after requests to 'pipe it down' fell on deaf ears.  Last year, a similar caper at Kfar Vradim using Beethoven's 5th got the message across to a neighboring Arab village that habitually held very noisy wedding bashes lasting until 3 am. (Yediot Aharonot, Arutz 7 and The Telegraph - UK)    

** Often amplified at over 120 to 130 decibels – equivalent to a jet plane at a distance of 100 feet, muezzin calls elsewhere create a cacophony of overlap echoes that led Cairo authorities to synchronize the call to prayer across the city's 4,500 mosques and the Palestinian Authority to put a cap on the entire exercise, limiting calls to prayer to one muezzin per village (and in 2010 reached an agreement with Israeli authorities to turn down the volume at night).


Remember the August 2011 story of the injured pelican with a GPS tracker glued to its back?  Well a distant relative didn't fair quite so well.  One of six birds tagged in Israel more than a year earlier was found dead in the water after being entrapped in a fishing net in eastern Sudan, on the shores of the Blue Nile.

Alas, Israel doesn't have diplomatic relations with Sudan and wild stories about Israel using wildlife for aerial espionage* are rampant in the Muslim world. Consequently an international network of environmentalist had to quietly retrieve the GPS device from the local fisherman and return it to Israel so bird-watchers could piece together the migration patterns of the pelicans.  Over the course of a year, the GPS device underwent a meandering migration of its own – passed from hand-to-hand, from city-to-city until it landed in Khartoum where the device was being dispatched to Germany (and from there to Israel).

Information retrieved from four other GPS carrier pelicans that didn't survive has already let pelicans off the hook:  Feeding them corn in the Hula Valley Nature Reserve during the migration season in October and November doesn't persuade pelicans to scratch their yearly migration southward to Sudan and winter** in Israel in kibbutz fish ponds, as angry Israeli farmers charge. From the looks of it, it's clearly the fish who are at fault, not the pelicans. (Yediot Aharonot and Maariv)

* Incredible?  Saudi Arabian officials actually 'arrested' a wounded Griffon vulture that violated Saudi airspace wearing a transmitter and  leg bracelet etched with the words “Tel Aviv University, assuming the bird worked for the Mossad and in the late 1970s and early 1980s Sudanese authorities detained an Egyptian vulture and a white pelican on similar "evidence' that they were Zionist spies.

** a single pelican will eat 1.5 kilogram of fish a day – and if you don't believe it – watch the video!.