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CHELM-ON-THE-MED©, February 2009 - Column 1


     The employee at a sweets shop who stumbled upon the proprietor's secretly-cached safe had the perfect plan - as easy as taking candy from a baby: He stole into the establishment on a Saturday with a set of duplicated keys and yanked the safe out of the wall. Beating a hasty retreat to a deserted stretch of beach, it looked like a perfect getaway if one discounted the shop's security camera that revealed a shadowy figure with a very familiar shape and gait.
    Questioned the next day, the suspect admitted he'd taken the safe, but claimed he'd chucked the 40 cm. x 40 cm. steel box into a pool of overflowed sewage near the Herzliya beach thinking the sludge would wipe away all traces of his fingerprints, after failing to crack the safe open with a sledge hammer. No one knows, not even the cops, whether the safe is still safe and sound somewhere at the bottom of the icky 30-square meter mire or whether it was nimbly carried away by an unobserved observer - now richer by an estimated 4,000 NIS* in cash and a pile of useless un-deposited checks. Police who dredged the bottom came up empty-handed.

* just under $1000


    Two brothers demonstrated how the law of probably can get bent out of shape under the impact of Israel's ‘familial' work culture where the lines between employer-employee, client-vendor and work life-private life are vague, at best.
     R., a 31 year-old independent contractor of intercoms and alarm systems ran into someone who, out of the blue, told him he was the spitting image of his boss - same face, same walk. Far from leaving it at that, in typical Israeli form, the perfect stranger pressed his boss's telephone number into the contractor's hand, insisting the two meet - come hell or high water - because ‘they had to be brothers'...whatever the circumstances.
No, the resemblance wasn't the fruit of an extramarital affair.
    Twenty five years ago at age four, R. had been put up for adoption, as had his seven siblings, but it took R. two months to actually call. Following a face-to-face reunion R. remarked: "The meeting wasn't simple. I grew up as an only child in an Ashkenazi household, and suddenly I went back to being the Moroccan kid. For me, it was closure."
     Finding his 34 year-old brother wasn't the only surprise in store. Catching up on their respective lives, R. discovered he'd recently installed a distress alarm in the room of their own institutionalized mother. Now the two brothers are tracking down their other five siblings who scattered to the four winds - with plans for a family reunion.



    Graphic novels have morphed of late into a literary mutation: the SMS novel. Written in a string of exchanges crammed into a ‘literary corset' penned in SMS slang and limited to the length of an SMS template, the SMS novel has captivated the Japanese. Could the People of the Book be far behind?
    Meet the first Hebrew SMS novel in print -136 pages (hardcopy one presumes) with the novel title... SMS Novel.
    While Israelis break all records for cell phone use, the aspiring author - Gur Tirosh takes cell phone use to new heights: The hot and heavy he-said she-said boy-meet-girl Adi-meets-Ben digital ping pong match* climaxing in a first in-the-flesh date came to the author while managing his office and his personal life as content manger for a cell phone company website, using no less than 15 cell phones simultaneously, mostly for text messaging.
Leaving the artistic merits aside, SMS has come full circle: Voice messaging and SMS were Israeli innovation.

* a downgrade from the classic flick You've Got Mail



     Amit Diament, a 37-year old Israeli who had been living in Thailand for three years and was coming home with his heavily pregnant wife before she ‘laid the egg', hatched an out-of-the-box scheme to quickly feather their new nest.
     The caper that subsequently cost him three months in the clinker and a heavy fine*? Trying to smuggle-in 21 tree pythons (and an equal number of rare turtles and salamanders and other snakes) which the reptile-lover sent by parcel post to Israel...sowed into the pockets of sundry wearing apparel. Before sealing the package, Diament sprinkled fake plastic snakes and one stuffed shark head on top of the clothes as a red herring, figuring the harmless rubber facsimiles would put the postal inspector behind the package x-ray machine off guard when the package was opened, making any check a quick open-and-close case.
    Hardly hoodwinked, the postal clerk who did lift the lid didn't even have to blink twice to notice the difference between the decoys and a real McCoy that peaked out of a pocket and wiggled its forked tongue at her.
That one. Then another one. And then another...

* Diament, incidentally, was convicted not only for smuggling but also under a 1950s vintage cruelty to wildlife ordinance.


2¢ OPINIONS, FOR 50¢ *

     Israel is awash in start-ups -second only to the USA in absolute numbers (e.g. not per capita) in the number of high-tech start-ups at work at any given time. Many are sophisticated breakthrough communications solutions, but what does one do when one needs to know urgently, this very minute, how many calories there are in Sushi, when ants sleep or when the Ministry of Interior in Haifa opens? By synergizing SMS technology and Google with a bit of TriviaTM thrown in, two young Israeli entrepreneurs, Natan Bleichfeld and Daniel Lazari, announced they will field any question in the world in any field - even ‘How can I flirt better?' and ‘Is there a God?' - text-messaged to their number (1234, what else) for the price of two NIS a shot, and will send back an SMS answer within minutes.
By the way, ants don't sleep.

* 2 NIS, at 3.8 NIS = dollar


* Copyright© 2009 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.