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CHELM-ON-THE-MED©, July 2009 - Column 2



   It's summer. And in a Jewish state, the diplomatic service serves as an extension of Jewish mother syndrome: Israeli parents know they can always count on fatherly and motherly consuls to step in as unofficial in loco parentis when their offspring - trekking through the Andes or traipsing around Asia - are in distress. But some parents this summer have run into trouble knowing what constitutes trouble worth troubling an Israeli consul.
   One overanxious Jewish mother recently called the Ministry of Foreign Affair's Situation Room* to report that her son was in the hospital on the Turkish Antalya Peninsula and needed urgent assistance. What was the problem exactly? Had there been an earthquake? Had he been arrested? Kidnapped? Involved in a life-threatening road accident that required immediate air evacuation? No, the kid had an ingrown toenail.
   Many calls are from worried parents who seek assistance pinpointing the whereabouts of their young adult children who failed to call home at agreed intervals - fearing the worst. Thus, it was not unusual that a distraught Israeli mom called to report a missing daughter who had failed to call home after embarking on a trip to Thailand.

   What was strange was that the flighty daughter was still in the air...

* a round-the-clock service designed to respond quickly to the needs of individual Israelis in distress, not a sudden diplomatic crisis.



   There is something strange about the Desert Rhubarb - a flowering plant native to the Negev Plateau. While most desert plants have small leaves to conserve moisture-loss in such an arid region, this savvy sabra* has gigantic one-meter-long leaves that belonged in a rain forest, that totally mystified scholars.
   Researchers associated with Haifa University-Oranim Teacher's Seminary biology curriculum unit finally closed the book on the puzzle: The large rippled leaves with a slippery surface that look like miniature mountains ‘extend out' to catch precipitation far from the plant. Then, just like drip irrigation, the leaves channel rainfall or dew in close to the root housing via miniature built-in "wadis" between these ‘hills'. As a result, the Desert Rhubarb increases the amount of water it receives from the 75 mm that falls in the Negev Plateau (very arid) to 420 mm of annual precipitation one finds 150 km. farther north.

* native to Israel



   Israel has a 15.5 percent Added Value Tax (VAT) on almost everything but vegetables. On July 1st VAT was hiked to 16.5 percent but there is always room for innovation when it comes to new taxes.
   Accordingly, the Tax Authority is weighing a special tax on...light bulbs. But not all light bulbs: Only heat-emitting power-guzzling inefficient regular incandescent light bulbs, not state-of-the-art ugly and clumsy-looking Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs that save 20 percent in energy consumption. And not all regular light bulbs are subject to the tariff. Only those over 75 watts.
   The new tax would close the gap between the cost of cheap and expensive bulbs, making the expensive CFL ones more attractive, said tax officials. Officials claimed the objective was solely to contribute to power conservation, not generate revenue. Of course, repealing customs on ‘green' light bulbs or merely making CFL light bulbs VAT-exempt would have the same effect...


   According to a Hebrew saying - harbeh ne'chasim, harbeh da'agot (the more assets, the more worries), but a wealthy 46-year-old religiously-observant businessman faced a genuinely unique problem with one of his growing assets: How to render a sophisticated and queenly million-dollar yacht ‘Sabbath-observant' when at berth, so he could enjoy weekends on his yacht with his family?
   The solution - concocted by the yacht importer and a research institute that finds technological solutions to halachic* impasses - was a jerry-rigged ‘Sabbath navigation' system that keeps every system aboard in an all-systems-go state, without human intervention. Thus each and every essential function on the yacht - from bilge pumps to toilets - was anchored to a series of devices* that kick in intermittingly according to a preset course.
   The world's first Sabbath-observant yacht works on the same principle as a ‘Sabbath clock' - a simple timing device installed in observant households. Activated before sundown on Fridays, the instrument turns the lights and the hot water boiler on and off automatically as calibrated, over the course of the Sabbath.

* according to Jewish Law


   Farmers hope to combat rustling of livestock with the ultimate weapon: a DNA bank of all livestock that cannot only trace and return stolen livestock such as a prize bull taken from moshav Chazon in the Galilee, whose original ear tag had been removed to conceal its source.
   Until now once a steer was reduced to hamburger there was no way of knowing whether the meat was purchased on the hoof or purloined, but diners beware! The bank already has 18,000 DNA specimens from Israeli dairy farms and...the new system allows investigators to trace the origins of stolen livestock right down to a well-aged T-bone steak already on a restaurant patron's plate.


* 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.