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Shanah Tovah A Good New Year






Anyone who shadows halachic question websites knows that rabbis field a host of quirky questions…like how to kasher your keyboard for Passover. Well, here’s one for the records which the Chief Rabbinate of Israel recently grappled with in preparation for 5775* - a sabbatical or shmitah year that comes once-every-seven-year when the fields are supposed to be left fallow.** 

            A religiously-observant IDF veteran asked the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem whether he could continue to use medicinal marijuana for PTSS. No sweat said most of the rabbis; it’s medicinal, not food.  

            What about recreational grass grown in Israel? “That’s like asking whether one is permitted to drive 300 km. an hour on the Sabbath,” retorted the rabbis unanimously.  

* The Jewish New Year 5775, which will be ushered in next week - on Wednesday September 24th 2014.

** Jewish Israeli farmers get around this with all sorts of halachic tricks from greenhouse culture and hydroponics that don’t touch the ground (including potted cannabis, actually) to ‘selling’ their fields to a non-Jew for the duration – like leavening on Passover, but many ultra-orthodox inhabitants limit their intake to fruits and vegetables to those grown outside the Land of Israel – demand that’s a bonanza for farmers in Cyprus…and Jordan.



J Date beware!  Minister for Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Naftali
Bennett announced his Ministry planned to launch a ‘Jewish facebook’ in 2015 where Jews and Jewish communities around the world can meet and interact. Perhaps he can call it www.uh-sheina-punim*.org. The Minister from the Jewish Home party dreams that the platform will become one big global think tank of yiddisher kops** where people with ideas can meet like-minded individuals – two Jews, three opinions not withstanding.

*   a pretty face, in Yiddish

** Jewish brains


  When I find myself in trouble… An Israeli startup has developed a smart phone application - a special social network that allows members of the group to ‘send out an SOS’ by SMS to up to 40 people within a two-kilometer radius to come to the rescue when a group member finds themselves in trouble – be it receiving immediate emergency medical care, locating a lost child, or helping a stranded bicycle rider with a problem.


●  The Jewish Mother complex is alive and well. Despite the halo of ‘instant fame and fortune’ a la The Voice and reality shows and despite outrageous salaries for CEOs of hedge funds and the like, a survey conducted by Israel’s Ministry of Science shows the most prestigious jobs in Israel remain: 1. becoming a doctor.  2. becoming a scientist 3. becoming an engineer. Bankers ranked 13 and show business personalities ranked 15. 


Zero Sum. When the Haifa Symphony Orchestra conducted an eight-week American tour of 35 cities in 16 states to raise money to help support the orchestra, a number of music patrons in Beverly Hills didn’t just buy tickets to the event; they pressed into the hand of the conductor signed ‘open checks’ as donations, leaving it to the Symphony to fill in the sum… (The head of the municipality’s Haifa Foundation was deeply touched but  returned the checks untouched to the donors, asking the generous ‘angels’ to fill in a sum themselves.) 


●  Grad Alley a la Israel: Professor Zeev Tzachor, former dean of the Sapir Academic College in Sderot, recalled in an op-ed in Yediot that once-upon-a-time when the College held ceremonies for its first graduating class, he asked the IDF to refrain from initiating any incursions into Gaza in the days leading up to the festive gathering that might escalate into a barrage of Palestinian rocket-fire from the Palestinians against the Western Negev.


Generational gaps. How connected are Israeli kids with their parents?  Very connected.  A survey of 11, 13 and 15 year-olds in 36 nations found that 94 percent of Israeli youth say they’ve talked to their parents about things that trouble them, compared to just above 84 percent in Germany and the UK, and 78.3 percent in the USA. 


Unique Ecological Threat. The Dead Sea has one of the highest salt concentrations of bodies of water worldwide – 31 percent salt compared to three percent in the world’s oceans – so the following item sounds like the reverse of emptying the ocean with a teaspoon: The Dead Sea Works is complaining that treated sewage water from the spiraling number of hotels  lining the shoreline is diluting the Dead Sea!

            The potash-magnesium conglomerate asked the Tamar Regional Council to dump treated sweet sewage water somewhere else, far from the place where the Dead Sea Works intake facilities are located. 


Railroaded! The CEO of Israel Railways proudly announced that 94 percent of the time the trains run on time.This followed decades of ‘adventure commuterism’ when delays were often sparked by wildcat strikes bylocomotive engineers who stopped commuter trains in the middle of nowhere for an hour to show how displeased they were with a new labor contract, although in at least one case a train left in time, but stopped just outside the station, then slowly backed up to the platform to let off a girl soldier who had fallen fast asleep and missed her stop.



Does Israel hold a world record in lost passports per capita in the world?

            The number of wayward passports – stolen, lost, misplaced, or damaged-compromised is “impressive,” say government officials: 24,000 Israeli passports reported missing in 2013 alone, including many that were reported ‘ruined in the washing machine*.”
            The record holder is an unidentified man in his sixties who applied no less than eight times for a replacement passport in recent years.

* There’s are two lines on the government form to explain (“detail as much as possible”) where and under what circumstances the holder’s passport was “lost” “stolen” or “damaged”



If one needs proof of the mosaic quality of Israeli society, 43 year-old attorney-at-law Hamam Hleihel incorporates dozens of identities and cultures all rolled up in one life: He is an Israeli Muslim born in a Arab village in the heart of the Galilee whose first wife was a Greek woman who converted to Islam, but now he is married to a divorced Christian immigrant from the former Soviet Union, raised a small stepson who proudly served in the IDF and for the past 14 years his has lived with his wife and his two teenage daughters in an Arab house in the Jewish capital of Mysticism Tzfat where he heads a large successful law firm that specializes in family law for Druze, Muslims, Christians and Jews.  


            If that’s not enough, Hleihel is a renowned expert in Jewish family law and mostly serves as a fiercely ‘pro-feminist’ voice representing Jewish women in rabbinical courts.