The Shmooze

Israel’s Tourism Ministry Courts Martha Stewart

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

They’ve arranged visits by Chilean miners and “House” stars, and now the busy bees at Israel’s tourism ministry have their eyes on Martha Stewart and Oprah.

As part of a new push to bring celebrity visitors to Israel, the ministry has created a special “hospitality unit” to woo famous foreigners, Yediot Aharonot reported recently. The Israeli newspaper says the unit now has its sights set on the two daytime TV stars, and is working hard to secure a visit by Oprah, who theoretically might film the trip for OWN, her struggling new cable network.

The prospects might be better, at least in the short term, with Stewart. The tourism ministry was apparently tipped off that the TV host has been invited to visit friends in Israel next month, and has reached out in hopes that she might film episodes of her show during the trip.

“Negotiations with Stewart are taking place behind the scenes,” Yediot reports, playfully envisioning scenes of Stewart cooking on Masada, or sharing interior-design tips in front of the Western Wall.

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Female IDF Soldiers Suffer More Stress Fractures

By Renee Ghert-Zand

A study of women soldiers in Israel has found that for the IDF to attract more women to combat roles, it is going to have to make changes to more than just the design of military gear.

The IDF thought that it had eliminated the problem of women soldiers getting stress fractures by designing a new, lighter vest with narrower straps especially for them. But just a couple of weeks after the introduction of these new vests, a study on the integration of women into combat units has been released, showing that women soldiers suffer disproportionately higher numbers of stress fractures from the physical exertions required of combat soldiers.

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Israeli Court Allows Egg Extraction From Dead Teen

By Renee Ghert-Zand

For the first time in Israel, a court has ruled that the eggs of a deceased woman may be extracted and saved. The decision by the Kfar Sava Family Court this past Sunday was in relation to the case of the late Chen Aida Ayish, a 17-year-old from the Sharon region, who died of severe injuries sustained in a car crash. She was declared brain dead last Wednesday.

Ayish’s family agreed to have her organs harvested for transplant, and requested from the court that the eggs be extracted from her ovaries at the same time. The eggs were frozen, and the court has issued no further decision as to their possible future use.

The family had initially requested that the eggs be fertilized with sperm taken from another dead body, but the court rejected that request. Ayish’s parents have made no specific statement as to why they wanted their daughter’s eggs extracted, but it can be inferred that they may be hoping to produce a grandchild from them at some point.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Israel, Fertility, Chen Aida Ayish, Artificial Insemination, Kfar Sava Family Court, Organ Donation

Roseanne Barr: Israel's Next Prime Minister?

By Nathan Burstein

Forget the usual slate of Israeli politicians - the country’s next prime minister could be Roseanne Barr.

Wikimedia Commons

So says the comedian, who announced her unlikely candidacy on yesterday’s “Tonight Show.” After announcing that she would also seek the American presidency, the former “Roseanne” star added the Israeli premiership as a “two-fer.”

“I’ve got to solve all the world’s problems,” she told Jay Leno.

To cheers from the audience, the former TV star outlined her U.S. agenda, which includes eliminating taxes and legalizing marijuana.

Barr, on the show to promote her new Lifetime reality series, didn’t elaborate on her plans for the Middle East. That’s probably a smart move for her candidacy, since the comedian, who has a Jewish background, has treated the issue with something less than nuance in the past. In December 2008, shortly after the start of Israel’s Gaza war, she declared that the country “is a NAZI state” on her blog.

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Important-to-Know Nose News

By Nathan Burstein

You’d think a Jewish scientist would avoid making racial generalizations about noses, but that hasn’t stopped an Israeli professor from doing just that.

Wikimedia Commons
Barbra Streisand’s famous nose with character

Abraham Tamir, a chemical engineering professor at Ben-Gurion University, has published the results of his study of nearly 1,800 noses, based on both photos of living people and works of art. (Although Tamir’s primary work focuses on other topics, he teaches a class on the relationship between science and art.)

Tamir’s proboscis probe proves (supposedly) the existence of 14 types of Caucasian noses, which include the turned-up or “celestial” nose, the Roman and the hawk varieties. MSNBC’s “Body Odd” blog notes the prevalance of “the fleshy nose, which is large and prominent,” in Israel. (In some households The Shmooze can think of, this is referred to affectionately as a “nose with character.”)

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Nose, Israel, Nathan Burstein, Ben-Gurion University, Abraham Tamir

Ultra-Orthodox Israeli City Opens First Internet Café

By Penina Kessler

It seems even the Haredi world has conceded to the necessity of the Internet – but don’t expect them to crash servers posting on FaceGlat or uploading wedding videos anytime soon.

ISTOCK

The ultra-Orthodox city of Modiin Illit is getting its very first Internet café after receiving rabbinical approval, Ynet News reports. The venture, called Gilad Net, represents the latest foray of the ultra-Orthodox into the World Wide Web, which has previously been decreed an “abomination” by some Rabbis.

What’s being served at Gilad Net represents only the most “kosher” of the Internet - Rabbinic approval for the venture was dependant on the installation of content-control filters on the café’s computers. Only certain websites, such as Gmail, Ikea, and the pages of government ministries are available for perusal. However, this limited access is more than enough for Gilad Net’s client base, owner Yehuda Weisfish told Ynet. He insists his business is intended for “people who don’t want to bring a computer into their home and don’t need Internet on a daily basis… people who need the Web to access emails, bank accounts, HMOs and government ministries.” Which means that those who want to read the Shmooze will have to go elsewhere.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Panina Kessler, Modiin Illit, Israel, Internet, Haredi

Israel's 'Tent City' Protesters Compared to Biblical Spies

By Nathan Jeffay

After almost three weeks of non-stop media attention the protesters camped out in Tel Aviv’s “tent city” have been called many things, good and bad. But likening them to the Biblical spies is a new one.

In this interview firebrand grandmother Daniella Weiss, leader of radical settlers, appears to present the protesters as the modern version of the ten spies who famously gave the Children of Israel a negative report about the Land of Israel. The protesters’ negativity echoes the negativity of the spies, she claims. They “are lamenting, people are complaining, people see all the bad sides of life instead of seeing the prosperity of the Land of Israel.”

Amazingly, in her analysis the country’s political leadership against which the protesters are demonstrating is also a modern incarnation of the spies. “Today we have a beautiful land,” she said. “Everything is prosperous, we have a good economy and all the reasons in the world to be satisfied. Yet the leaders want to cut the land in two and this influences many people.” Weiss was referring to fact that some government ministers are in favor of a two-state solution.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Nathan Jeffay, Israel, Daniella Weiss, Tent City

Israeli Entrepreneurs Flock To South Sudan

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Wikimedia Commons

Israelis are known to be impatient, and when it comes to how fast they are moving to establish business relations with the new country of South Sudan, the stereotype is holding true.

Israeli companies seeking contracts in industries such as agriculture, security, medicine and infrastructure are being welcomed by the leadership of the world’s newest nation. Under-the-radar support given to the Christian South Sudanese rebels by Israel in recent years is helping to smooth the way to the quick establishment of economic ties. South Sudanese rebel leader John Garang was even treated for an eye injury in an Israeli hospital.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tamir Gal, South Sudan, Rafi Dayan, John Garang, Israel, Business

Israeli Gangster Gunned Down at Gas Station

By Michael Kaminer

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, the old saying goes. But it meant tragic consequences for an Israeli gangster. Crime boss Francois Abutbul, whose casino-owner father was murdered in 2002, was himself gunned down Sunday at a central Israeli gas station, Haaretz reports.

Abutbul, known as “Francois the Great,” was released from prison last December after serving about half of a 22-month sentence for domestic violence, JTA reports. The “scion of an Israeli crime family” was shot by two men who approached his car on a motorcycle and then sped away.

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Giant Israeli Pumpkins Fertilized With Qassam Rockets?

By Nathan Jeffay

Wikimedia Commons

One common interpretation of the symbolic significance of the egg on the Seder plate at Passover is that it represents the paradox of the Jews. Suffering at the hands of oppressors, from ancient Egyptians onward, made us stronger. Likewise, eggs are one of the few foods that get harder when boiled.

There’s nothing new there — but could violence from our enemies also somehow help our crops?

Farmers in Southern Israel say they have never seen pumpkins so enormous as those grown in a field twice hit by rockets from Gaza. The Mines family of Kfar Maimon have grown two supersize pumpkins, one weighing 140 pounds and another weighing 100 pounds.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Qassam, Pumpkins, Passover, Israel, Gaza, Farming

Israeli Parents Launch ‘Stroller March’ To Protest High Cost of Raising Children

By Renee Ghert-Zand

iStockphoto

Boy, oh boy — and girl, oh girl — things happen fast in Israel.

Just the other week, The Marker ran a big story on the comparatively high cost of raising children in Israel, as compared to other countries. Everything from diapers to strollers to baby clothes and toys seem to cost more in Israel.

Now, The Marker reports that, in response to concrete information supplied the public by that article, parents are rising up in protest. With their hunch about the economic burden of parenting confirmed, they are planning to join the many other protesters (young people angry about the cost of housing, striking doctors, and others) clogging the streets of Israel this week.

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Israeli Teenagers are Winners at the International Physics Olympiad

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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.

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Too Young for the Army? Israeli Soldier Deserts, Develops Anorexia

By Nathan Jeffay

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.”

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Paul Simon Holds World’s Dullest Press Conference

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images
Paul Simon receives a shofar after the press conference in Tel Aviv.

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.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tel Aviv, Gilad Shalit, Paul Simon, Israel

Hockey Fans: Check Out This Play!

By Aaron Yellin

The Israeli National Ice Hockey team scored 26 goals in its rout of Greece at the International Ice Hockey Federation Division III championships this April, but only one of them was perhaps the goal of the year. Israel went on to win the tournament, but the most memorable part of their run was this play, courtesy of 19-year-old Eliezer Sherbatov. His gem was hidden for the last three months, until it was finally uploaded to YouTube last week, and has been viewed nearly 50,000 times since then. Enjoy!

Watch Sherbatov’s Brilliant Goal:

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Young Israelis Camp Out for Housing Reform

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Israelis traditionally fill their city squares during warm summer nights. This week, young Israelis in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other cities are doing just that — but they’re not going home at the end of the night.

Israel’s “cottage cheese revolution,” having spurred a number of economic protests, has now led to a young people’s revolt against the high cost of housing. The National Students Union has joined with other young citizens’ groups and individuals in a mass camp-out demonstration on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard begun by a young woman named Daphni Leef.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Real Estate, Protest, Jerusalem, Israel, Tel Aviv

All-Night Cultural Events Across Israel — Not Just in Tel Aviv

By Nathan Jeffay

The gap between the center and the “periphery” — a term that is increasingly used to refer to pretty much everywhere in Israel except Tel Aviv and its surroundings — is growing, at least economically. But happily, the cultural divide may be starting to narrow.

Two weeks ago, Tel Aviv didn’t sleep — it held its “White Night” of nocturnal events. Today, four other cities will prove that they, too, know how to pull an all-nighter and will benefit from 2.4 million ($685,000) of Culture Ministry funding to get the party started.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tiberius, Tel Aviv, Netanya, Israel, Ashdod, White Night Beer Sheva

Israeli Rabbi Wants To Bring Polygamy Back

By Ben Sales

One thousand years ago, German Jewish sage Rabbeinu Gershom forbade polygamy in the Jewish community. Now, a rabbi in Israel wants to reinstate the practice.

Rabbi Yehezkel Sopher, who heads the organization Complete Jewish Family, placed an advertisement in a popular pamphlet handed out at synagogue calling for the return of plural marriage, according to the Jerusalem Post. The ad quoted the influential Sephardic Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who wrote in a treatise on Jewish law that non-Ashkenazim should not follow the decree of Rabbeinu Gershom, who was Ashkenazi.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yehezkel Sopher, Rabbeinu Gershom, Polygamy, Ovadia Yosef, Israel

Glenn Beck Pledges Support in Address to Israeli Parliament

By Nathan Burstein

He and Fox News have gone their separate ways, but Glenn Beck still has fans in Israel’s parliament.

The former TV host addressed the Knesset’s Committee on Immigration and Diaspora Affairs today, telling legislators that American media coverage of the Middle East is biased, and that the Arab-Israeli standoff boils down to an existential clash of civilizations. “In America, the media is skewed on Israel,” Beck told his hosts. “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict … is about the destruction of Israel and the end of the western way of life. Period.”

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Domestic or Imported? Israeli Supermarkets Locked in Diaper Duel

By Renee Ghert-Zand

iStokphoto

At first it was about what went in one end, and now it’s about what comes out the other. Israel’s cottage cheese revolution has turned into a diaper war.

With Israeli consumers up in arms over the high price of food and basic necessities, the country’s Finance and Industry and Trade and Labor ministries are pointing fingers at the overly centralized production of animal feed, and at hidden costs of agreements between supermarkets and vendors that end up being passed on to consumers. There is also grumbling about the fact that Israelis pay more for some imported food items, like breakfast cereal, than do consumers for the same products in other Western countries.

But the biggest fuss lately surrounding all this sticker shock has been over disposable baby diapers. Just as supermarket chains recently waged a no-holds-barred price war over cottage cheese to keep shoppers coming in the doors, so are they now taking off their gloves in the fight to attract that captive audience made up of parents of children yet to be potty trained.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Mega Supermarkets, Kimberly-Clark, Israel, Diapers, Huggies, Cottage Cheese, Turkey




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