Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Israel under the radar

JERUSALEM (JTA)—Here are some stories out of Israel that you may have missed:

Record-setting Shabbat table?

The central Israeli city of Bnei Brak set what is believed to be the world’s longest Shabbat table.

At 197 feet long, the table set with china plates, crystal goblets and silver candlesticks, as well as traditional Shabbat foods, comfortably seats more than 300, Ynet reported.

The municipality, in conjunction with the Bnei Brak-based Coca-Cola Co. and the haredi Orthodox advertising agency Meimad, set the table in an attempt to set a Guinness record.

The table is also gunning for the world record for the best-set table.

Prom plea

Tone down your proms.

That was the request to Israeli high school seniors from the nation’s education minister, Shai Piron, writing on his Facebook page.

“Think about the way you celebrate graduation. Maybe I’m conservative, but I don’t really like the word ‘ball.’ I don’t like the great expense that puts students who are hard-up in an awkward position,” Piron wrote.

Piron suggested on Facebook that the seniors replace the prom with a charity or social action project.

The Knesset’s Education, Culture and Sport Committee, the National Parents’ Association and the Education Ministry met two weeks ago and called for an end to the excesses sometimes associated with the year-end proms.

Prom is a reasonably recent phenomenon in Israel. The big dance found its way into the country along with American television dramas about young people in the mid-1990s, according to Allison Kaplan Sommers, writing in Haaretz.

Israeli proms are organized by the students and not sponsored by the schools.

Like their American counterparts, the Israelis purchase expensive clothing and rent limousines—and perhaps imbibe a little more than they should.

Soldiers, not locusts

A crop-dusting plane spreading pesticide on swarms of locusts accidentally sprayed a battalion of Israeli soldiers in southern Israel.

The planes spread out during May to attack armies of juvenile locusts that had hatched from eggs laid by a swarm of locusts invading Israel from Egypt right before Passover.

One crop-duster veered off course, spraying a paratrooper brigade operating near the border with the Gaza Strip, the Times of Israel reported.

The soldiers were treated at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheva.

Israeli moms’ place in the world—25th

Israel was ranked as the 25th best country—the top 20 percent—to be a mother.

The Mothers’ Index of the 2013 State of the World’s Mothers prepared by the Save the Children charity ranked 176 countries. The United States was 30th on the list.

The countries were assessed based on maternal health, children’s well-being, women’s educational status, women’s economic status and women’s political status.

The lifetime risk of maternal death in Israel is one in 5,100 mothers, compared with one in 16 in bottom-ranked Somalia. Mothers in Israel have an average of 15.7 years of schooling and a gross income of $28,930.

Scanning for kashrut

Now all you need in Tel Aviv to determine the standard of kashrut at a restaurant is a smartphone.

The Tel Aviv Rabbinate has started issuing kashrut certificates with quick response bar codes, enabling diners to scan the code to receive kashrut information about the establishment.

One can find the level of kashrut, ranging from regular to mehadrin, as well as the phone number of the kashrut supervisor.

A Kosher Checker app, or Bodek Kashrut, also is available for download.

Meanwhile, consumers without a smartphone can call a 24-hour line, provide the bar code number of the kashrut certificate and acquire the same information.

The bar codes are designed to prevent restaurants from offering fake or expired kashrut certificates.

Keep the ‘cafe hafuch’ (that’s a latte) coming

Another smartphone app will have appeal for Tel Avivians with an insatiable desire for coffee.

A new loyalty program called CUPSTelAviv allows consumers to pay an all-you-can-drink fee per month or a smaller fee for one cup of coffee per day. An app locates the coffee shops and kiosks participating in the program; servers put a code into the app on the smartphone.

A half hour after ordering, coffee fiends can order a refill—or go to another shop sooner for a second cup.

Most of the 40 participating cafes are independent, neighborhood coffee shops. The program started last September with nine locations.

The $45 fee may be worth it, considering a cup of the Israeli favorite cafe hafuch—the equivalent of a latte—is about $4 a cup.

CUPSTelAviv CEO Alon Ezer told the Times of Israel that he is ready to expand beyond Tel Aviv.

Mr. Toad of the Golan

Students from an elementary school in the Golan Heights returned a rare toad to the wild after finding it in a stream near their school.

The Eastern Spadefoot toad, an endangered species, was discovered near the Avital elementary school at Kibbutz Marom Golan.

“Finding the toad made the children happy. They took pictures of it and returned it to the stream, hoping it would help bring about the next generation of its kind,” Yael Sela, head of the education and public relations department at the Kinneret River Authority, told Haaretz.

The toad is native to the Galilee, the Golan Heights and the Mediterranean coast.  Tadpoles of the same endangered species were found last year near Kibbutz Gaash along central Israel’s coastline.

Flying menagerie to Turkey

Israel and Turkey may be arguing over reparations payments for the Mavi Marmara, but they are in harmony on animals.

Last month, 45 animals and their Israeli handlers from the Safari Zoological Center in Ramat Gan flew Turkish Airlines to Istanbul, passed through Customs and took a truck to the İzmir Metropolitan Municipality Natural Life Park as part of an exchange program, the Turkish Hurriyet Daily reported.

The animals—nyalas, koatis, marmosets, fruit bats and sacred ibis—are the first of their kinds at the Turkish park. The exchange had a price tag of more than $500,000.

Israel sent an elephant named Winner to Izmir in 2008, and Winner sired the first elephant born in Turkey in 2011.

Jerusalem cable cars on the way

The Jerusalem Municipality has proposed a plan to build a cable car system to connect the Western Wall with other areas of Jerusalem.

The two-line system would connect the Old City’s Dung Gate with the Mount of Olives and with the Khan Theater.

According to the plan, the system will be able to transport up to 6,000 passengers per hour for the four-minute trip.

The system reportedly would work in conjunction with the light rail system.

“Beyond being a transportation solution, a cable car will be an innovative and unique tourist attraction and offer breathtaking views of the city,” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said in a statement. “It will also strengthen and increase the number of tourists arriving in Jerusalem.”

Absolut-ly Tel Aviv

Israel’s city that doesn’t sleep, Tel Aviv, will be enshrined in a special edition Absolut vodka bottle.

The bottle is being released as part of the Absolut Blank series designed by Pilpeled, or the artist Nir Peled, Ynet reported.  It is dedicated to the ficus-tree streets of Tel Aviv, and the design is inspired by the nightlife of Nordau, Rothschild and Chen boulevards.

A limited edition of 150,000 bottles will be released.


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