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The National Association for the Habilitation of the Intellectually Disabled (AKIM) composed a pamphlet entitle A Pamphlet to the Voter in Simple Language* for developmentally-challenged voters. The booklet explained what ‘voting’ means, how the electoral process works, what the parliament does, how one votes in Israel, but also…and here’s the tough one, who was running and what they stand for.

            Even run-of-the-mill voters could have benefited from consulting the pamphlet before heading for the polls on March 17th and Israel-watchers might finally be able to get a handle on Israel’s unique political system if someone would volunteer to translate the pamphlet into English…

            There were 23 parties on Tuesday’s ballot – including a pro-pot party, an anti-porno party, a pro-affordable rent party, a disestablishmentarianism party, and a pirates’ party that wanted to replace parliamentary representation with a direct (‘town hall’) democracy with 8 million prime ministers, instead of an unwieldy coalition cabinet with up to 26 ministers.**  

* click on the blue hyperlink to view the pdf file.  Israel is the only country in the world that has adopted (at AKIM’s urging) a special ‘accessibility’ icon for the intellectually disabled (above) which appears on the pamphlet. And speaking of accessibility, in early January 2015, the sight-impaired petitioned the Election Commissioner arguing there was no reason they should be forced to compromise the secrecy of their ballot by taking a sighted person into the voting booth, demanding party names and symbols appear in Brail, as well.   

** the largest cabinet in Israel’s history was Yitzhak Shamir’s.



The township of Givat Shmuel decided to give school kids a unique hands-on lesson in civics, setting up ballot boxes for children next to polling stations* where the youngsters could cast ballots to decide what attraction would be installed in a newly-planned playground in town – a carousel, a  climbing gym, a balance bar, a suspension bridge, or a rope hammock.  There was even a white slip where the junior voters could write-in another piece of equipment as their candidate in the new park.

* The Ramat Gan Safari also held mock elections on March 17th for the most fitting leader of the Safari, based on personality traits; the seven candidates were Yossi the elephant, Saul a giant lizard, Denise the giraffe, Mushon the great ape, two young rhinos, a wild ass, and a pair of gay penguins who came in first. Yossi the elephant was the runner up.  



The IDF came under fire when the names of the recipients of special medals and commendations for outstanding conduct during the Protective Edge campaign were announced last month. 

            While all the male recipients received medals or letters of commendation for ‘heroism under fire’ or ‘bravery in action,’ three female electronic surveillance personnel* were commended for “not getting befuddled’** when they spotted a group of Hamas terrorists disguised as IDF soldiers emerging from a tunnel right next to a kibbutz and a squad of Hamas frogmen landing on the Nitzanim beach north of Gaza.

            Suffice it to say, all hell broke loose, and the brass apologized to the girls, and changed the wording of their letters of commendation.

* a female doctor was commended for her performance under fire, treating wounded soldiers during a mortar attack from Gaza on a staging area for Israeli troops in the Western Negev.  

** lo eebdu et haeshtoenote



When a dead body was found in mid-November 2013 on an isolated beach near Asdod plugged with bullets police had grounds to suspect the victim’s first cousin was behind the murder. They hauled him into the station but without clear-cut evidence to tie the suspect to the murder, authorities were forced to set the suspect free… until recently.

            Two years after the murder, police located a box with the telltale ‘heat.’  Not only did the pistol’s ballistics matched the bullets in the body; the assailant - who apparently never heard of DNA testing - had wrapped the murder weapon in one of his socks, enough for the police to sock him with the murder charge.



Rosa Yerushalmi died after 50 years at the side of her husband Alex. The two Holocaust survivors had worked day-In day-out in their tiny shoe repair shop in Mazkeret Batya – a moshava on the outskirts of Rechovot, after immigrating to Israel from the Ukraine in 1974.

            When Segev Afriat, the head of the Holocaust survivor welfare NGO Shorashim shel Nitina (‘Roots of Giving of Oneself’) which had assisted the Yerushalmis during Rosa’s illness, found Alex bereft and beside himself with grief 30 minutes before the funeral, he posted a note on Facebook asking anyone in the vicinity to help fill in a minyan.

            Two hundred strangers appeared out of nowhere for the funeral. During the seven days of mourning, a follow-up post filled the house with perfect strangers who came from as far away as Haifa, to embrace the widower - offering a sympathetic ear, bringing home-cooked food and helping to put the house in order.

            Nofer (25) who took off work early to make a shiva call, explained her motivations: “I don’t know him or her personally. The Facebook post simply touched my heart…that an elderly man whose wife was all his life should be sitting shiva alone. I didn’t want this to happen to him.”

* The People of Israel live!



Kipot srugot (Religious Zionists with ‘knitted skullcaps’) among unmarried religious couples have adopted a ‘don’t ask-don’t tell’ policy with their parents regarding maintenance of standing norms of no physical contact whatsoever between the sexes – even holding hands until marriage.  So claims 26 year-old Noam from Raanana, a religiously-observant single. .

             Rabbi Dr. Ariel Picard, an educational director at the Shalom Hartman Institute argues that this undercurrent of more lenient standards of conduct are not an ideological shift that should set off alarm bells among religious leaders because taking liberties with rigid taboos stems from penetration of a bourgeois outlook that has always pursued ‘a comfortable life.’ Yehoshua Greenberg, author of the novel Kim’at Kalah (Almost a Bride) believes the rising age of marriage among young adults in religiously-observant families – well into their twenties that sorely challenge sex drives is the underlying force behind ‘discounts’ in maintaining distance.



Eliezer Ben-Yehuda devoted his life to revitalizing the Hebrew language – composing new words where none existed, including a Hebrew word for hairbrush (mivreshet). Even today modern Hebrew is very dynamic. Words are added all the time – whether it’s slang sneaking into the vernacular such as chnun (a wimp or a nerd) or official products of the Hebrew Language Academy such as kruchit* for @ (which Israelis had dubbed a ‘strudel’ with the introduction of email). 

            So how close is modern Hebrew to ancient sources, and how much has it strayed from ancient Jewish texts?

            At a recent gathering – the Prime Minister’s Conference on the Hebrew Language – the head of the Hebrew Language Academy Professor Moshe Bar-Asher snapped back at post-Zionist naysayers who argued “Israelis speak ‘Israeli’ – not Hebrew” branding their claims “myth, not science.”

            “If you take any text, from a cookbook or from a contemporary author, and you check the vocabulary, you will discover that in every one of them, 60 to 80 percent of the words can be found in the Sidur (Jewish prayer book), the Tanach (Bible) or the Mishna (part of the Talmud).”

* strudel the central European rolled pastry filled with apples.