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


   Chaled Su'aad (42) from Wadi Tzalmon in the Galilee serves full-time as a career soldier in the IDF. He didn't make the papers for heroism in the line of duty; what got the Bedouin in the headlines was his sideline, raising goats. Out of the blue, Su'aad's 18-month-old billy goat - beard and all - began producing milk. Three cups a day.
   Examining the remarkable goat - who turned out to came equipped with a set of udders and a pair of balls - Dr. Eli Ferjun remarked that in 32 years as a veterinarian he'd never seen anything like it. Maybe not, but according to Bedouin lore, a woman who has difficulty getting pregnant should drink a glass of billy goat milk, said Su'aad. This might sound akin to the Yiddish saying that something will happen ‘when hair sprouts on the palm of your hand', but all things considered - including folk medicine, Su'ad's miraculous gender-challenged goat might be incredibly rare, but who knows: Maybe it's not the first of its kind.



   Israel won't turn into a desert due to dwindling water reserves, although gardens - public and private - are suffering, being subject to strict irrigation quotas. Elders in Safed, the capital of the Upper Galilee and center of Jewish mysticism, found a marvelous untapped water source right under their feet: pumping up and pooling gray water* from the city's 14 mikvot** and using the ‘proceeds' to irrigate the city's gardens rather than letting such precious liquid assets go down the drain.
   Not an entirely new revelation, back in 2002 the Ministry of Environmental Protection estimated that if every mikva in Israel did the same, Israel could save three million cubic meters of water annually.

* water from sinks and showers and the like, not toilets

** mikvah, Jewish ritual bath



   When Ilan and Tami Segal bought a house in Bat Shlomo, a 120 year-old moshav just off one of the main arteries to the Galilee, they dreamed of opening a low-brow art gallery that Tami described as designed "for those for whom art is not their territorial waters". For example, the current group show is devoted to...horses.
   Low-brow popularity, however, came with a price - a stampede, in fact. Their ‘baby' (boasting a tiny and once-tranquil coffee shop) turned into a kindergarten, if not a three-ring circus, prompting the pair to take an extraordinary step for people in the hospitality trade. Ageism in reverse. The proprietors imposed a Never-on-Saturday age limit at the gate - limiting visitors to those with children age 13-and-up.



   Undoubtedly the most productive member of the Knesset is lawgiver MK Estarina Michaeli who just gave birth to her 8th child. With a brood ranging in age from 12 down to 18 months, she is not only an outstanding working mother. The MK from the Israel-Is-Our-Home* party is the first Israeli legislator to deliver a baby while sitting in the House.
* Israel Beitenu, in Hebrew

** backside in Yiddish



   A major leg on the 150-kilometer long Trans-Israel Turnpike (Highway 6) was completed and opened in late July, ten months earlier than promised...but two years later than originally planned.
   Why? Holding actions by a strange coalition of radical special interest groups that could happen only in Israel. Highway engineers found themselves sandwiched between highly-secular environmentalists who argued the road was an artificial and lethal barrier to area wildlife, and ultra-ultra religious activists who opposed the highway for passing over a site they believed held ancient Jewish graves.
   The compromises* that paved the way for the highway involved two unique win-win solutions: The first (for the Tree Huggers), called for a 150-meter-long car tunnel that preserves ‘ecological continuity' for deer and other critters, large and small. The second (for haredi fringes), shifted the road's path a full five meters to the side and engineered a ‘ventilation system' for any venerated kin that might be lurking under the road.
   How much did the compromise cost? The cost of the new 17.5 kilometer-long (10.9 miles) sector was 800 M NIS ($2 M) - 18 M sunk into the land bridge for wildlife that the environmentalists could live with, 80 M sunk into a solution** for the dead that the religious activists could live with.

* There are many creative win-win and live-and-let-live solutions at the municipal or national level - particularly in the religious realm that never make the press.

** a shallow hollow concrete box-like affair with protruding ventilation pipes to the sides to ‘allow the vapors of the dead' to escape



   Diamonds may be a good investment, but a closer look at the stats make the gems lose some of their sparkle. Israel exports a whopping $10 B worth of cut diamonds ...which would be impressive if it wasn't for the fact that this comes after importing $9 B of rough diamonds, making the diamond cutting and polishing industry sound like a complex exercise in churning water. The net $1 B that the diamond industry contributes to the economy constitutes a mere 0.5 percent of Israel's GDP*. In the first five months of 2009, diamond imports dropped 70 percent due to the world economic crisis, leaving the distinct impression that diamonds may not be forever after all.

* 185 B in 2008, largely high-tech driven.



* 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.