Archive for January, 2012

New take on the elephant and the Jewish question

January 20, 2012


In the days when lots of elephants roamed the Middle East, it didn’t take much skill to bring home dinner. But when the elephants became scarce, about 400,000 years ago, hunters had to become swifter (and longer-limbed) and develop social and technological skills to bag smaller and more elusive game. Thus the stage was set for the disappearance of Homo erectus and the emergence of Modern humans.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University offer this explanation for the recent discovery of Modern humans’ teeth in Qesem Cave, near Tel Aviv. These humans preceded by 200,000 years Homo sapiens in Africa, where the elephants disappeared 150,000 later than they did in the Middle East.

Prof. Avi Gopher, Dr. Ran Barkai and their co-researchers challenge previous assumptions about ancient human diet and the circumstances that lead to biological and cultural changes in human evolution.

If you wonder how archaeologists and anthropologists know these things, consider that they are true garbage-ologists. They painstakingly classify and count the animal bones in prehistoric garbage pits.

We are what we eat.


Forget Iran. Forget planned terror attacks in Thailand. The real threat to Jewish Israelis is ice cream. According to a recent news item on Ynet, senior Chief Rabbinate officials say Häagen-Dazs ice cream should be pulled from supermarkets because it is made with “pagan” milk (milk produced without Jewish supervision) and therefore not kosher.

According to the officials, by selling the disputed ice cream two supermarket chains are in violation of the rabbinate-granted certificates attesting that all the products they sell are kosher. General Mills Israel, which markets Häagen-Dazs in Israel, insists the ice cream is indeed strictly kosher.

The SuperSol chain has reportedly pulled Häagen-Dazs products from its freezers.

If Häagen-Dazs goes, what next?


A Bank of Israel commemorative coin featuring Jonah “in the belly of the fish” has won the Coin of the Year award in the annual competition by Krause Publications, a US publisher of books and periodicals devoted, inter alia, to hobbies and numismatics.

The silver coin was chosen from among 95 finalists from around the world. In the first round, it won in the most artistic coin category, and in the second round it was chosen as the coin of the year from among the winning coins in ten categories.

It is the sixteenth commemorative coin in the Bank of Israel’s Biblical Art series. The designers are Gideon Keich and Aharon Shevo. The competition organizers reportedly said that the design’s “simplicity speaks volumes and invokes a little bit of wonder.”

Text copyright 2012 by Esther Hecht. No part of the text may be used without written permission of the author.

Bambi, Amazing Jews, and Amazing Christians

January 4, 2012

Bambi’s author was a Hungarian-born Zionist
The author of the classic Bambi, which appeared in 1923 and which Walt Disney turned into an animated film in 1942, was known as Felix Salten. But his real name was Siegmund Salzmann. Like the Zionist visionary Theodor Herzl, he was born in Budapest and moved to Vienna, where he became a writer and a journalist, writing for the Neue Freie Presse, the same paper Herzl wrote for.

These interesting facts turned up in an interview in today’s Ha’aretz literary section with our neighbor Michael Dak, whose new Hebrew translation of Bambi has just come out. The book was translated into Hebrew in 1941 and again in 1977. But Hebrew has changed so rapidly that those translations, like others of their time, sound dreadfully archaic and are virtually unintelligible to today’s children.

According to Dak, in 1925 Salten wrote a travel diary of his visit to Palestine in which he commented, “As a Jew I would be embarrassed to the depths of my soul if I did not help and contribute to the best of my ability to the building of Palestine.”

Hitler banned Salten’s books in 1936, according to Wikipedia. In 1938, Salten escaped Nazi-occupied Austria to Zurich, where he lived until his death in 1945. For more information about Salten see (in German) Felix Salten: Der unbekannte Bekannte (Felix Salten: The Unknown Known Person).

Israel’s Christians have lowest fertility, highest employment rate
Christians in Israel, who number 154,500, making up just 2% of the population, stand out for their high employment rate, academic excellence, and small families, according to statistics from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, published recently by Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Of these Christians, 80.4% are Arabs and the remainder are mainly Christians who immigrated with Jewish family members (mostly from the Former Soviet Union). These numbers do not include the quarter million labor migrants, most of whom are Christian, or the thousands of asylum seekers.

One of the most striking facts is the longstanding success of Israel’s Christians in earning a matriculation certificate (one of the requirements for admission to a university). In the 2010 school year, 63% of the Christian 12th-grade students earned a matriculation certificate compared with 46% of the Muslims, 55% of the Druse, and 58% of the Jews. Among Christian students working for a bachelors degree, 11.4% were studying law. Medicine is another popular field.

Christian men marry later than other Israelis and Christian families have fewer children. In 2011, a Christian woman was expected to bear 2.1 during her lifetime. In comparison, a Muslim woman was expected to bear 3.8 children, a Jewish woman 3.0 children, and a Druse woman 2.5 children.

In 2010, Christian men had a higher rate of participation in the civilian workforce than Jewish men (64.2% as compared with 62.4%), and the percentage of unemployment for both men and women was lower than that of Jews.

Text copyright 2012 by Esther Hecht. No part of the text may be used without written permission of the author.