It is common knowledge that all 18-year-old Israeli males serve in the Israel Defense Forces for three years, and all females for two years. Only that common knowledge is wrong.
Israel’s Channel 2 News reports that in an interview with Israel Defense magazine, the IDF’s top human resources commander, Brigadier General Amir Rogovsky, said that the majority of Israeli youth are not being drafted into the army, and that just as many are not joining as are joining. The numbers are expected to decline even more, so that by 2020 only 46% of Israeli 18-year-olds will be putting on a uniform for the first time that year. All this is translating into a big human resources crisis for the IDF.
The 50% statistic for this year’s draft includes Israeli Arabs, who constitute 20% of the population and who almost never serve in the IDF. Among the Jewish population, the draft statistic is 67% (75% of men and 60% of women). The Druze population has the highest percentage of youth serving in the army, at 80% (men only).
Somehow, it’s not surprising that Jews, who are known to answer a question with a question, may have invented the question mark.
Reuters reports that manuscript specialist Chip Coakley of Cambridge University was studying biblical manuscripts at the British Museum in London when he determined that the “zagwa elaya” (two dots resembling a the modern colon punctuation mark), which is found in biblical manuscripts dating to the fifth century B.C.E. written in Syriac, function as a question mark.
He claims that up until now grammarians had been mistaken about the mysterious marking and thought that it denoted sarcasm or reproof. He realized that the zagwa elaya, which appears at the beginning of a declarative sentence, is the first example of a grammatical punctuation mark denoting questioning. Earlier languages, such as Hebrew, used particles instead.
The term “Glatt kosher” doesn’t just refer to meat anymore. It’s now for social networking, too — at a website that is specifically designed to avoid the meat market aspects of the online world. Ynet reports that there is now a Facebook-type site, aimed at the gender-segregated Haredi population, called FaceGlat.
If you are a guy who trolls social networking sites to get a glimpse of some hot babes, or a woman searching for a nice guy to date, then FaceGlat will not be to your taste. Women and men may only sign up for separate sections of the site, and cannot access accounts of anyone of the other gender. It’s a tsnius (modesty) thing.
The brainchild of 25-year-old Yaakov Swisa of Kfar Chabad in Israel, FaceGlat packs loads of filters to block specific words or types of comments, and to prevent men from sneaking into the women’s section or women from peaking over the virtual mechitzah. The site is still in a start-up phase, and Swisa has said that its setup may need to be tweaked “if the website in its current format leads to ‘negative activity,’ as defined by Swisa, or attracts people who don’t even own a Facebook account at the moment,” according to Ynet.
New York’s weekend of marriage equality launched with a joyous Jewish twist. Mayor Michael Bloomberg last night officiated at the wedding of two Semitic members of his staff at a Gracie Mansion ceremony.
Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jonathan Mintz and Criminal Justice Coordinator John Feinblatt tied the knot after being together for 14 years, according to CBS2. Their daughters Maeve, 8, and Georgia, 6, were witnesses and ring bearers.
Mintz and Feinblatt “exchanged rings, broke glasses in the Jewish tradition and had ‘eco-friendly’ confetti thrown at them, the report said. Even though they’re a long-time committed couple with kids, they said the ceremony seemed to change things. “Things are different. Everybody’s gathering around and telling you they love you and your family is getting to say things they were never able to say before because we could never do this before,” Mintz told CBS2’s Marcia Kramer.
The Israeli team at the 42nd International Physics Olympiad returned home from Bangkok, Thailand with some serious bling around their necks. Each of the team’s five members came home with a prize. The teenagers won five medals – two gold, two silver and one bronze – ranking Israel 13th in the world, four places higher than last year.
Delegations from 84 countries attended the competition this past week, which included a theoretical examination and a practical examination. In May, the Physics Olympiad for Asia was hosted at Tel Aviv University and involved 120 youth from 16 different countries. At that competition, the Israelis won a gold, a silver and two bronze medals.
The Israeli team was greeted upon their return by Education Minister Gideon Saar at Ben-Gurion International Airport. The gold medalists are Gal Dor from Petah Tikvah and Asaf Rosen from Modiin. Gur Peri from Mazkeret Batya and Ben Feinstein from Modiin received silver medals, and Aviv Frenkel from Netanya is the bronze medalist.
The most prominent Palestinian imprisoned by Israel, Marwan Barghouti, is now serving two weeks in solitary confinement for having been caught with a mobile phone in his cell. Israel’s Channel 2 News reports that the phone was discovered during a search by prison personnel in response to tips that contraband had been smuggled to security detainees in the Hadarim prison.
The discovery of the phone took place just one day after Barghouti (once Yasser Arafat’s right-hand man, founder of the Tanzim-Fatah militia and a main leader the Second Intifada) made a public call for Palestinians worldwide to stage mass demonstrations in September, when the Palestinian Authority is expected to unilaterally seek recognition for a Palestinian State at the U.N.
“The victory in the upcoming campaign in September, which we view as a major milestone in our nation’s struggle, requires the greatest public demonstration in our homeland, the Arab countries, Muslim countries, and the world’s capitals,” Barghouti said. He urged Palestinians to not see this as an initiative of only Abu Mazen, the P.L.O. or the Palestinian Authority, but of the entire Palestinian people worldwide.
The Israeli left is none too happy about the fact that broadcaster Glenn Beck is planning a huge rally for Jerusalem in August. But it seems that it’s not only the left that has become concerned about the marriage of convenience between the controversial American conservative and Israelis — it’s also some on the Israeli right.
Moshe Feiglin is the leader of the Manhigut Yehudit (“Jewish Leadership”) faction within the ruling Likud party, which tries to move Likud further to the right. He’s a force to be reckoned with — in the leadership race ahead of the last general election, Benjamin Netanyahu, now Prime Minister then party leader, fought hard to stop him from posing a challenge. “The problem is that the most loyal Jewish public is giving him its support without thoroughly checking his message,” Feiglin argued in a recent op-ed. “They are unwittingly abetting a very gentle and heartwarming type of modern crusade.”
Guys named Ari were everywhere (relatively speaking) at Tuesday night’s premiere party for the new season of “Entourage,” which took place at New York City’s American Museum of Natural History.
Jeremy Piven, who plays hard-driving Hollywood agent Ari Gold, was in attendance. So was Ari Emanuel, the real-life Tinseltown dealmaker on whom the character is based.
But there a third Ari — a mystery Ari, if you will — also living it up at the party. He was hanging out, in fact, with “Entourage” executive producer Mark Wahlberg, who also invited a number of childhood friends.
The Shmooze hasn’t yet figured out the connection between the third Ari — Rabbi Ari Shapiro is his full name — and “Entourage.” But given his first name, we imagine he fit right in.
Good news for the Jews: Unlike Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Bernie Madoff before them, the most recent scandal-plagued bold-faced names are not members of the tribe.
You may have heard something of a little scandal involving phone hacking on the part of the defunct British tabloid News of the World. Well, the bright side to it all is that despite her Semitic-sounding name, curly hair and criminal wrongdoing, the recently arrested former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks is NOT Jewish.
One of the many challenges that faces the Israel Defense Forces is the fact that its conscripts are essentially kids. A few weeks before getting their uniforms they are sitting in classrooms and being told by their moms not to stay out too late. The army finds itself in loco parentis.
A heartbreaking example of how this arrangement can go wrong is revealed in today’s Israeli press. According to reports, a young female conscript felt that she’d been abused by her commander. She then deserted and developed eating patterns associated with anorexia. Her father realized that because she’s a soldier, her only source of medical care would be through the army — and so he turned to the military police. Unfortunately, the police didn’t take the call as a cry for help, but rather as an aid in the search for a wanted person. The former soldier was arrested and imprisoned her for two weeks, which are up today.
According to Ynet, “Her parents were appalled to discover her painfully emaciated when they arrived for a hearing at the Jaffa Military Court.” The same article quotes her father saying: “She was so thin that sitting on the bench actually hurt her. She had to wear sweat pants underneath her uniform.”
“Narrow-minded” isn’t how Etgar Keret normally comes across. But his new project in Warsaw actually has the Israeli author and filmmaker limiting his boundaries.
According to the Toronto Star, Keret will become the occupant of the “world’s skinniest house”—a four-story, five-foot-wide modernist structure to be completed by winter.
Located in an alleyway between a 1960s office tower and an apartment building, the home “includes two livable floors, complete with a bedroom, living room, bathroom and kitchen. It will be furnished with a kitchen table, bed, bookshelf and a ladder to connect the two floors,” according to the report.
Don’t expect any onstage meltdowns or messy arrests from this Winehouse.
Amy’s father Mitch, a former sales consultant who became a London cabbie late in life, is releasing an album of “lovely but forgotten jazz and swing hits,” according to the New York Times.
Winehouse pére tells the Times he “taught Amy to sing when she was a baby… And when her first album came out, and she was doing shows, she would get me onstage to do a couple of songs, and it’s always great fun.” The album, he says, was Amy’s idea. “‘You know what, Dad? You have to make an album.’ I said, ‘Are you crazy?’ And she said, ‘No, you have a great voice, this is terrific,’” he told the Times. After Amy Winehouse’s well-publicized flameouts, father and daughter put the project “on the back burner. Then she got better, and we decided to give it a go.”
Hopefully the concert will be more exciting.
Paul Simon stayed studiously boring during a press conference in Tel Aviv today, shortly after arriving in Israel for a concert tomorrow night in Ramat Gan. The 69-year-old musician claimed never to drink, smoke or party — or even to consume dairy products — in order to preserve his voice. He denied rumors of a feud with Bob Dylan (allegedly over a collaboration that never happened), and offered flattering remarks about the most benign topic imaginable — the local weather.
In 1940, a 23-year-old graphic designer named Alexander Steinweiss proposed that Columbia Records change its presentation and packaging of 78 RPM record albums. His idea: To use original artwork — drawings and paintings — on the front of the albums. This new approach meant a dramatic departure from gold or silver imprints of “just the nomenclature in a serif or gothic font on the black, brown or beige heavy books,” according to audiophile site Soundfountain.
While Steinweiss passed away this week at the age of 94, his influence remains powerful, even in the age of digital music. “When you look at your music collection today on your iPod, you are looking at Alex Steinweiss’s big idea,” design guru Paula Scher told The New York Times, which reported Steinweiss’ death today.
Jewish tourists lucky enough to be in Europe in early September should keep an eye out for special events at synagogues and other Jewish sites across the continent. September 4 will serve as this year’s European Day of Jewish Culture, and will feature a variety of tours, commemorations and other activities in countries across the continent.
Cities ranging from Oslo and Paris to Krakow and Sarajevo will take part in the event, also known as Jewish Heritage Day, which started in 1997 in Alsace, France. Last year’s edition involved 880 events in 263 cities.
François Moyse, vice president of the B’nai B’rith Europe Commission on Jewish Heritage, told the Chicago Tribune, “The heritage day is a unique occasion to discover places that have played a major role both in terms of Jewish and local history, enabling visitors to learn about Jewish traditions and culture by visiting historic places that are usually not accessible.”
She’s been having trouble making up her mind, but Gwyneth Paltrow now says she wants to raise her children Jewish.
The “Shakespeare in Love” Oscar winner made the comments to guests at a London event organized by Community Security Trust, a Jewish charity. She says she was inspired to make the decision after appearing on “Who Do You Think You Are?,” a reality TV show in which celebrities explore their family backgrounds. In the episode devoted to Paltrow’s lineage, the actress learned about the Eastern European rabbis from whom her father, producer Bruce Paltrow, descended. (The “Country Strong” star’s mother, Blythe Danner, is Christian.)
Hindus, Christians, and Jews are finally banding together behind a common cause. Unfortunately for Muslims in Toronto, the cause is them.
An interfaith coalition — whose less peaceable elements include the Jewish Defense League and Canada’s right-wing Christian Heritage Party — is sounding the alarm over lunchtime Muslim prayer sessions at a Toronto public school, the Toronto Sun reports.
“Enough’s enough, we draw the line here,” G.J. Rancourt of Christian Heritage said at a Monday press conference at Toronto’s Zionist center. “Our holiest celebration is Christmas and we can no longer celebrate it in public schools…Why would (Muslims) impose your values on the rest of us when we’re accommodating?” Security guards were at the ready for Islamic protesters at the center but no one showed up, the Sun reported today.
Shimon Peres has won so many prizes that he’s ready to start giving his own.
Israel’s president has announced the creation of the President’s Award, a new honor intended to serve as the Israeli equivalent of a British knighthood, the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom and the French Legion of Honor. The prize is for individuals and organizations who’ve made “exceptional contributions to the state of Israel or humanity,” as Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot described it last week.
She won a prize for piano composition in 1997, at the tender age of five. She won a coveted spot in a book called The World of Women in Classical Music. And last week — at 19 — she passed away.
Yes, Ketzel accomplished more than many felines her age. As the New York Times reports today, Ketzel — Yiddish for “cat” — gained fame after inadvertently “composing” a short piece by walking across her owner’s piano keyboard.
Ketzel’s person happened to be the late Morris Moshe Cotel, who had retired as chairman of the composition department at Peabody Conservatory in 2000 and became a rabbi, according to the Times.
A sickly, wheelchair-bound nonagenarian who sat in court Monday covered in a blanket and hooked up to an IV was acquitted of Holocaust-era crimes. The scene sounds familiar, but it wasn’t John Demjanjuk on trial again.
In this latest attempt to bring World War II criminals to justice, 97-year-old former Hungarian police captain Sandor Kepiro was tried in a Budapest court and found not-guilty of having taken part in the murder of more than 1,000 Jewish and Serbian civilians in the Novi Sad massacre in northern Serbia in January 1942.
Kepiro, who maintained his innocence throughout, was exonerated on the basis of his defense team’s success in discrediting the witnesses’ accounts of what took place almost 70 years ago. The prosecutors claimed that Kepiro had ordered the round-up and murder of civilians, most of whom were Jews.