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


    No wonder they call it the Ministry of Foreign Affairs...
    Every year Israel's foreign office receives tens of letters from men in Arab countries who want assistance finding an Israeli spouse. Many cite that they'd heard Israeli Jewish women were ‘pretty and smart'. The Ministry is convinced that the letters are no hoax since the senders with the hots for an Israeli wife - including e-mail queries from Yemen, Egypt and Iraq -give their full names, addresses and telephone numbers. 

     Nevertheless, perceptions of ‘what women want' are a shade curious, to say the least: One hopeful from the Gulf States looking for a Jewish bride stated that he was an avid car collector. A Saudi who wrote he'd heard that Israeli women are very smart and pretty, stressed "I'm willing to pay a bride price in camels, in herd animals or even money." Another letter - also a Saudi - was from a collector of another genre who admitted to having four wives already, but assured Israeli diplomats - "I promise you, she'll fit in nicely with my other women."



    Pulled over for a routine documents check, an Israeli motorist found herself socked with a 250 NIS ($62.50) fine for an unbelted passenger in the back seat
    There would be nothing strange about the story except that the easy rider in question was a full-size Saint Bernard.
    "When the cop asked me why the dog wasn't wearing a seat belt, I thought he was pulling my leg," she said. Not the case of one over-zealous...or awfully nearsighted law officer, it turns out that there has been a rash of reports of late from drivers pulled over on similar charges - some served a summons, other let off with a warning. Both cases are rather strange considering there's no law on the books in Israel* requiring dogs to wear a seat belt, although the writing was apparently on the wall: A rehab facility for traffic victims on all-fours told the papers that there has been a 30 percent increase in pets involved in traffic accidents the past year hospitalized in their facilities. So perhaps the cops were right: A 90 kilogram** Saint Bernard flying through the windshield might not be a joking matter.

* Believe it or not, Germany and Italy have such laws.
** 200-pound



    For years, beginning in 2005, periodic whiffs of something strange undefined sickly-sweet smell drifted over Manhattan leaving more than one normally hardnosed New Yorker worried that the Big Apple was under biological attack. The odor that had an eerie resemblance to maple syrup sparked countless calls to emergency lines but nobody - not the police nor the municipality nor the Environmental Protection Agency could find the source.
     Only after special sniffing equipment was thrown on the case was the ‘culprit' collared: an American subsidiary of an Israeli food flavoring & extract company across the Hudson in New Jersey that processes charuvim or carob seed pods.
    NYC's mayor Michael Bloomberg called a special press conference to tell New Yorkers that they could breath easy, at least as far as their health is concerned. The source had finally been tracked down and whether pleasant-smelling or not, it was harmless. Now the only mystery left to be solved is why carob pods in New Jersey smell like maple syrup instead of chocolate* like one would expect.

* carob pods are a natural substitute for cocoa power.


    Some 4,000 Israeli non-profits that provide food to the needy have begun to feel the pinch themselves as regular contributions dry up due to the world economic crisis. The situation left L'tet (To Give) - one of the biggest aid organizations that every year distributes food packages with Passover basics - with a near-empty kitty. Yet within days, Bank Hapoalim stepped in with a 1.5 M NIS emergency donation* to fill the NGO's larder, at least until late spring.
But kindness comes in all forms and giving in all sizes.
    When a strapping re-possessor knocked on the door of a needy family in the western Galilee, he found the family so strapped they couldn't even afford the makings for mishlochei manot - small gift baskets of goodies children and families traditionally exchange at Purim. What did he do? The kindhearted collector took one look around and rather than walking off with the half-empty frig, scribbled on the sequestration form ‘Nothing to Repossess', opened his heart and his wallet and handed the head of the household a 100 NIS bill and walked straight out the door.

* in addition to 40 M in regular contributions in 2008 to charitable causes



    Yoni Sharir founded a lucrative albeit unique niche business several kilometers south of Sdeh Boker in the middle of nowhere...well, nowhere unless you're a camel or a camel-driver. The former Jewish nature warden makes a living by selling fully-trained camels to Negev Bedouin who no longer want to waste their time and break their backs breaking-in a new camel.
     The ‘camel whisperer' as he's sometimes dubbed, won his stripes and his reputation by breaking the wild streak of undomesticated camels with kindness, rather than whipping them into shape. A fully-cooperative adult camel* who has no beef bearing a burden - goods or rider, who will get down on its knees without so much as a groan of protest and get up again on command, and will willingly stay in line in a caravan rather than taking off into the wild blue yonder at a dead run, given the chance - fetches between 5,000 and 8,000 NIS ($1,250-$2,000) + VAT.

* For do-it-yourselfers, a younger untamed camel off his camel lot runs 1,500-3,000 NIS ($375-$750).


* 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.