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Stories from Chelm

Why Chelm? 


    Passing judgment in surely one of the strangest divorce arrangements on the legal books, a Rabbinical Court in Safed ruled that a divorcee's former spouse would receive one pregnant goat a year for the next 35 years. Why 35? The groom has agreed in their marriage contract that if the marriage failed he would give his wife 70 pregnant goats as compensation for "lost time" - a rather strange logic considering both had taken the plunge late in life, at age 35 - objectively speaking, without much to lose.
    Six years after the two tied the knot, the marriage was on the rocks and hubby wanted ‘out'. However, pregnant goats by then were running 1,500
NIS (about $380) a head, making it hard for the luckless husbandman to honor his word without totally losing his own hide. The rabbis sought a compromise, ruling that the groom could still have his get* if he would pay his estranged wife half the value of the goats ‘up front,' and the rest in 35 equal payments - "a goat per annum" - raising the question ‘who in the end really got whose goat'. 

*get = divorce papers



   Politicians will used all sorts of ploys as attention-getters from making wild statements to introducing weird bills that make headlines but never make the law books.  But surely one of the most original stunts in the history of politics belongs to Israel’s Ministry of Interior Meir Sheetrit for hypnotizing a rooster.

   While visiting Kiryat Motzkin’s tiny zoo – apparently the closest thing to an ‘attraction’ in the bland lackluster bedroom suburb north of Haifa – the Minister asked his hosts if they could tame a chicken. “Affirmative,” replied the operators, but clarified it would take a month of training.

   “A month?!” retorted Sheetrit seizing the moment and the bird.  The minister lifted the rooster, whispered something in its ear, then began making ‘abracadabra circular motions’ with his hands like one would bless the Friday night candles: The rooster slowly closed its eyes, leaving his hosts and his entire entourage for that matter wide-eyed but mesmerized as well. Sheetrit then placed the now frozen chicken on its back without so much as a squawk of protest, leaving it looking like an oversized zapped cockroach.  But before departing, Sheetrit broke the spell – not by snapping his fingers.  He gently pressed the rooster’s stomach like a ‘start’ button, and the bird sprang to life.  



Parents maintain close ties with their kids in uniform, but undoubtedly the strangest case of the mighty bond between parents and sons- and daughters-in-uniform belongs to an IDF conscript who was deathly afraid of the dark.  It also testified to the lengths the absence of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ military can go in Israel. 

            For over a month, whenever the young man drew guard duty, his mom secretly joined him patrolling the base perimeter – departing at dawn before ‘discovered’.  This went on until her son’s request for a transfer to another unit* where he would not have to draw guard duty was being processed by military authorities. 


* Hardly out of line, in the IDF, military service is often adapted to the abilities… and disabilities of individual soldiers, going more than the extra mile not only to accommodate draftees with asthma or flat feet,  but also a long list of special needs.