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As usual, newspapers on the eve of Israel’s 67th independence (23 April this year) were filled with articles and profiles about ‘the state of the nation’ – including a feature inYediot about the on-the ‘double lives’ of three young international models - Adda Zmora, Nibar Madar and Nicola Ward - who chose not to dodge the draft.*

            How arduous are things for them? 

            Forget about ‘where are the yachts?’ al la Goldie Hawn in Private Benjamin: “Áfter a photo shoot in the Alps in a bathing suit in freezing cold minus 20 degrees C in the midst of a terrible storm, with icicles on your back, you go to boot camp and it’s no big deal for you,” explained 19 year-old Adda Zmora. “Modeling is like an unending boot camp. All the time you have to do things on time, you have no place to express your views, you shut your mouth and do what you’re told to do. That’s the backdrop when I came to the army.” (Yediot)

* Just like gifted athletes and musicians, the gals enjoy special service conditions (suitable posting, permission to ‘moonlight’ when they are off-duty, extra leave including travel abroad) that allow them to keep their careers going while doing their military service.  



Chelm has reported a number of times how the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs acts as in loco parentis for Israelis who find themselves in trouble – real or imagined* - in foreign lands. But in the case of the Napal earthquake, Israel truly went the extra mile: A caring government not only leased helicopters from neighboring Asian countries and chartered El-Al airplanes to rescue thousands of stranded post-army backpackers. First on the list to be plucked out of harm’s way were more than three dozen gay couples** and their fragile offspring – many of them  preemie twins, who had been gestated by surrogate mothers in Nepal. The couples were caught by the earthquake while completing the lab work and paperwork proving they were the fathers of the newborns, in order to leave Nepal and enter Israel with their bundles of joy.

The Israeli and Nepal governments agreed to chuck regulations, allowing Israel to extend in loco parentis to include unborn Israeli nationals – also whisking a group of surrogate mothers heavy with child to Israel where they can carry to term and deliver the babies in an Israeli hospital, before returning to their own children and their own lives - mission accomplished.   


Yediot summed up the event with a political cartoon of a line of stork-like El-Al plane approaching Ben-Gurion Airport, each bearing a baby in a sling, asking the tower permission to land... (Yediot)  

 * See for instance, the July 2009 piece on Loco Parents  and the September 2010 tidbit Copying Israel’s Diplomatic Corps (how the single-child Chinese want a similar policy!).

** single-gender couples don’t quality for surrogate womb arrangements under current Israeli law.



Not only building contractors place round-the-clock guards at building sites prior to the Lag B’Omer holiday to fend off marauding children scouring neighborhoods to collect wood for giant bonfires. In the week leading up to the holiday, the kids are equally in a frenzy…fearing other kids will abscond with their kindling or steal the spot they’ve marked out in an empty lot, stretch of beach, or open field.

            This year the Raanana municipality sought to reduce tensions by allowing groups of kids (from this or that school class or youth movement) to fill out a form to ‘reserve’ a particular spot…but not on an exclusive basis:  City elders also aspired to reduce the number of bonfires (and air pollution) by concentrating different gangs of kids around the same bonfire. 

            Elsewhere, Yosef Weizmann, the rabbi of the Psagot neighbourhood in Jerusalem, imposed strict ground rules in his ‘jurisdiction’ how rival groups of kids can mark their flammable treasures as ‘taken’ (a circle of stones) until the find can be carted off. The zealous rabbi even stooped to mediate a clash between 4th graders ignited by a disputed log. (Yediot)



 Countless public institutions  - schools, libraries, museums - host literary events where writers read from their works or lecture about the author’s life or the art of writing.

            Sound’s great, right? But there was one bug in the ointment.

            Most such gatherings are underwritten by the Ministry of Education Culture and Sport, but it turns out everyone is compensated for their time and services - everyone but the guests of honor, orphaned under the assumption that the exposure was ‘just payment’… 

            Poet Tal Nitzan explained: “At every event at Beit Bialik* everyone gets paid from the soundman to the watchman, not to mention the musicians and actors….everybody except those whom the events hinged on them: The poets.”

            Now writers and poets have banded together, demanding a fee schedule be set up for public appearances. (Israel HaYom)

* The home of national laureate poet Haim Nachman Bialik – decorated with signature 1920s vintage Bezalel Art Academy tiles - today a museum.



When veteran actor Yossi Graber (81) lost his sight, he was sure it spelled curtains for his career, but directors and fellow actors at Tel Aviv’s municipal theatre, the Cameri Reparatory Theatre, said the show he had been rehearsing for – Kulam Rotzim L’Chiyot (‘Everyone Wants to Live’…a play by Hanoch Levin about an elderly couple and the Angel of Death) must go on. 

            For two months, the leading lady, 90-year old Dvora Kedar simply gave Graber a hand – literally and figuratively as the two moved about a very dynamic set in the comic-but-macabre play, leaving the audience none the wiser. (Yediot) 

* Subsequently, special surgery at Beilinson Hospital restored partial sight in one eye, but directors and cast promised Graber that even if he would be stone blind, they would find him roles. Cameri CEO Noam Semel just renewed Graber’s contract for another three years.     



In January 2015, Chelm-on-the-Med announced the Chelm Award for Diversity – which went to an amazing Arab Israeli (see the 6th Annual Chelm Awards for details).

            A sure contender for next year’s Diversity Award is Blanca Haib – who was born Catholic in Chile, grew up in Australia where she met her husband, an Israeli Bedouin Muslim. The couple returned to Israel where she was formally registered as a Muslim but in fact never left Christianity, although she raised her ten kids as Muslims - two of whom are combat soldiers who put their lives on the line for the Jewish state (one critically wounded during Protective Edge in the summer of 2014).     

            She has no problem with this mosaic of Christian, Islamic and Judaic elements in her life, believing all religions are basically the same. (Yediot)   



When Safari staff found porcupine dropping outside the cage of Dorit the porcupine, they thought either maintenance crews were chucking the droppings beyond the barrier - counter to directives, or Dorit had found a way to get out of her habitat for a stroll when nobody was looking.  A security camera mounted on the spot solved the mystery

            Dorit had a suitor: a wild male porcupine from the posh Ramat Chen neighborbhood who had fallen head-over-quills in love with Dorit and was loitering about outside the female porcupine’s cage almost every night, showing off his quills to impress her (watch the video clip for a recap). Staff haven’t decided whether to allow the love-struck suitor to consummate his unrequited love affair…still debating how they could go about it. (Yediot, Safari)

* Dorit was raised by the Safari after she was found next to the body of her mother who had been run over by a car; she has none of the street smarts to survive into the wilds of Ramat Chen.