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CHELM-ON-THE-MED©, January 2008 - Column 1


     Politicians will used all sorts of ploys as attention-getters from making wild statements to introducing weird bills that make headlines but never make the law books. But surely one of the most original stunts in the history of politics belongs to Israel's Ministry of Interior Meir Sheetrit who hypnotizing a rooster.
     While visiting Kiryat Motzkin's tiny zoo - apparently the closest thing to an ‘attraction' in the bland lackluster bedroom suburb north of Haifa - the Minister asked his hosts if they could tame a chicken. "Affirmative," replied the operators, but clarified it would take a month of training.
     "A month?!" retorted Sheetrit seizing the moment and the bird. The minister lifted the rooster, whispered something in its ear, then began making ‘abracadabra circular motions' with his hands like one would bless the Friday night candles: The rooster slowly closed its eyes, leaving his hosts and his entire entourage for that matter wide-eyed but mesmerized as well. Sheetrit then placed the now frozen chicken on its back without so much as a squawk of protest, leaving it looking like an oversized zapped cockroach. But before departing, Sheetrit broke the spell - not by snapping his fingers. He gently pressed the rooster's stomach like a ‘start' button, and the bird sprung to life.



    At least ten thousand Israelis residing abroad are expected to return permanently to Israel during the county's 60th Independence Year in 2008. Among the hottest departure points are not only hi-tech hot spots in the USA, but also...Switzerland. Announcement of incentives for returning Israelis precipitated an avalanche of 300 requests for guidance from Israeli expats pining to exchange the calm, cool polite and frightfully predictable tranquility of Geneva for the invigorating, life-embracing uncertainty of living on the knife-edge of the Middle East.



    It's an entrenched practice in Israel for next-of-kin to post B4-size black bordered ‘mourning notices' outside the home, business and favorite haunts of the deceased and next-of-kin announcing the passing of a loved one, when the funeral will be and where the family is sitting shiva - a custom dating back to the time most Israelis didn't have phones, not to mention cell phones, pagers and e-mail.
    The custom indeed served as a sure-fire attention-getter for an angry young man who posted a mourning notice of his death outside his mom's place of work stating "With sorry and grief we announce the sudden death of our dear son and brother so-and-so, The funeral will take place today at 2 PM." Stopped dead in her tracks, her heart racing, the mother frantically dialed her son's cell phone and getting no answer, called the cops. A quick-witted policewoman ‘got his number' - literally and figuratively, locating the woman's poster boy casually and calmly window shopping in a mall. Policeman dispatched to make sure the notice was not a declaration of intent or an unveiled threat from the underworld found her still-alive but very livid 34 year-old offspring (who was still living at home) fit to be tied but in no mood to hang himself all. The macabre message had been sparked by mom not inviting junior to her 60th birthday party so he reckoned he might as well be dead.



    A new governmental Internet site - the Israel Geospacial Information Portal ( launched in January 2008 enables Israeli home-seekers not only to check whether the real estate they are considering buying is free of debts and whether the unrestricted view of the Med will give rise to a monstrous skyscraper. Aware of what really counts, the website has a ruler that enables potential buyers not only to measure the distance to the nearest ATM or hospital or school - but also the nearest café.
    Most important, surfers can not only check out the average income in the neighborhood...but also whether the apartment next door has a neighbor at all: That is, whether a cellular antenna is hidden in the adjoining living room - a tempting $2,000 tenant-free source of revenue for property owners, but a bone of contention if not a causes belli in the eyes of most Israelis who view the antennas antennas as a cancer, fearing they might carry ‘transmittable' diseases.



    Even dummies know you don't pour grease down the drain unless you want to pay for your folly with a pricy visit from the neighborhood plumber. So its hard to fathom what employees at a dog food plant in Acre were thinking when they dumped 200 metric tons of fat down the drain instead of into the cooking vats, rendering 55 M. NIS ($13.7 M) in damages to a new sewage treatment plant inaugurated three weeks earlier. Another memorable caper of lesser magnitude took place two decades ago when unidentified culprits chucked one metric ton of industrial chocolate down a manhole in Bnei Brak... Why? To this day, nobody knows.


* Copyright© 2008 by Daniella Ashkenazy. All rights reserved worldwide. For limited usage, see FAQs. All stories are completely rewritten by Daniella Ashkenazy from news items gleaned from Yediot Aharonot, unless another news source is stated.