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


    Hebrew baby names among super-secular Israelis? Everyone knows that Avraham or Yitzhak or Yaakov are definitely uncool. Even highly-competitive me-generation names such as Lihee (She's Mine), Gilee (My Joy) and Oshri (My Delight) and linguistically-universal cosmopolitan names like Din (Judgment pronounced Dean) and Li (Mine pronounced Lee) have a too-familiar ring.
    The latest rage in individuality? Among today's toddlers one can find Oneg (Pleasure - dreamed up by a new mother who took 19 years to get pregnant), Tevel (World - bestowed by a couple who thought the world of each other and used this term of endearment jointly for each other prior to starting a family) and Petel (Raspberry - given by a mother whose maiden name was Mitz - Hebrew for juice).
    But the three that definitely take the cake for flakiness are Yael, Bar and Zohar - triplets named by a new mother who's an avid admirer of Israeli super-model Yael Bar-Zohar.


    When the Ministry of Education discovered that only half of the country's 5th graders eat breakfast compared to 90 percent in Holland, the Ministry's health superintendent put out a call to all schools to introduce an 8:30 breakfast break.
    The same week, 60 kindergarteners and elementary school kids from New Jersey whose families are moving to Israel got a crash course from Nefesh b'Nefesh* on the quirks of Israeli school culture, including how to open single-serving square plastic bags of Shoko (chocolate milk in Hebrew) - by tearing off a tiny corner with one's teeth (and spitting out the ‘point' before gently squeezing the bag while sucking up the contents through the hole).

* Nefesh b'Nefesh (Soul by Soul) is a North American NGO that helps Jewish families with plane tickets and other assistance in actualizing their plans to immigrate to Israel.


    For years, residents of a North Tel Aviv apartment building found themselves paying a huge water bills that were ten even a hundred times those of similar dwellings. Nobody could find the source of the problem. The municipality shrugged its shoulders. Only in 2004 a new gardener stumbled on an underground connection leading from the apartment house adjacent municipal park.
    When the municipality continued to shrug off the charge even after the condominium's water usage plummeted, residents sued the city for NIS 350,000 ($87,500) in water damage.


    Up ‘til now gender-neutral ‘gender studies' have, in practice, been 99 percent women's studies. Breaking with that tradition, Bar-Ilan University has inaugurated one of the world's first master's and doctoral program in gender studies to research men as men - not men in the context of understand women, nor men as some kind of lopsided reflection of all homeo sapiens embodied in the term ‘mankind'.
    The program hopes to demystify maleness and masculinity for its own sake, unraveling - among other puzzles- why most men are embarrassed to hug in public or why a guy (OK, maybe an Israeli one) in an act of male bonding will tell a buddy he's ‘a real SOB'.


    In one of the oddest cases of industrial espionage on the books, an elite hairdresser dragged an equally prominent competitor into court by his scalp charging the latter had stolen his intellectual property.
    What was the creation on which the court was expected to hand down a decision? A new line of hairspray? A cure for baldness? A signature hair dryer?
    None of the above. The exclusive work was a fancy hairdo...which the overworked-up hairdresser claimed his former shampoo and blow-dry assistant had run off with, delivering his ‘baby' to the other hair salon.
    Waxing poetic, the hairdresser's Tel Aviv lawyer gave a blow-by-blow description of the immeasurable blow to his client's lifework, not to mention his ego: "We're talking about a creative person who over the years contemplated, designed, developed and created a special hairstyle, a work of art created with tremendous effort and monumental investment in order to devise and create a unique art his alone."


    When police pulled over a car zigzagging down the highway to Petach Tikva at 5:30 A.M., it turned out the driver not only had three times the amount of alcohol permitted when operating a motor vehicle under his belt. He was also hugging his companion- who was no longer in the front passenger seat - in the middle of an activity normally performed in the back seat at that time of night.
    The cops pulled the driver's license for 30 days on grounds that he endangered other motorists; the driver argued (to no avail) that he was only zigzagging because his lady friend had blocked his field of vision. It remains to be seen whether the libido-driven driver will be socked with an unbelted passenger summons, as well as ‘driving under the influence'.


    Israel's fresh vegetables are unsurpassed anywhere, partially explaining why Israelis have one of the highest consumption rates of vegetables per capita in the world - 185 kilogram (407 lbs.) annually, 40 percent consumed as fresh salad.
    But is there a run on Israeli saladTM in the air?*
    According to the Ministry of Agriculture there are no less than 10,000 cases annually of Israeli ‘Innocents Abroad' caught returning home with live plant matter that has to be confiscated and destroyed upon arrival. Among 22 metric tons of contraband seized annually are not only a host of herbs, fruit and veggies that are far from exotic - including eggplant, potatoes and even watermelon. As incredible as it might sound, there are even tomatoes and cucumbers among such ‘imported' spoils - a bizarre phenomenon that goes beyond bringing coals to Newcastle.

* Almost an Israeli trademark: finely diced fresh tomatoes and cucumbers.


* 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.