Bintel Blog

Offbeat Israel: The National Sperm Count in Crisis

By Nathan Jeffay

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Israeli sperm is declining in quality. Fast.

Research at Jerusalem’s Hadassah University Hospital found that the sperm-cell concentration among sperm donated in Israel declined by 40% between 2004 and 2008.

In the last decade, the concentration of sperm among donors has declined from 106 million cells per cubic centimeter on average to an average of 67 million per cubic centimeter. Sperm have also become less mobile, the researchers found.

They were not clear on the cause of the change, but research published in other countries has suggested that chemicals in the environment, especially in drinking water, have an effect.

Hadassah’s findings have caused a stir in Knesest, where Kadima lawmaker is calling for an immediate meeting to discuss the infertility rate of Israeli men.


“Using toilets without payment,” declares the sign on the bathrooms in the Old City of Jerusalem.

What this enigmatic sign means is one of the great mysteries of Jerusalem, along with where the menorah from the Temple went and where exactly the Holy of Holies is (except if you read the Hebrew, it’s saying you can answer a call of nature free-of-charge).

It’s not just in the Old City of Jerusalem. Wherever English is written in Israel, there are amusing errors. Every restaurant menu has it blooper and every city has its badly transliterated street signs. Even the English-language press honors the national tradition. Some months ago Haaretz’s English edition printed the following apology:

A mistake appeared in the interview with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, published yesterday in Haaretz. The minister intended to say that Israel would “hit Iran” before it obtains a nuclear bomb, and not “eat Iran.” The transcript of the interview, which was conducted in English, was approved by the minister’s aides before publication. Haaretz regrets the misunderstanding

The Northern Israeli town of Kiryat Motzkin has decided that the use of awkward English has gotten so out of hand that street signs must be replaced.

In this particular locale, there is, according to one sign, a Menachem Begin Street and, according to another, a Minaahem Begin Street. The late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson is called Schnoarson, and Chaim Weizmann is Weizmamm or Veizman. The municipality is starting to take down the signs and put up correctly written ones in their plaice.


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