Thursday, July 12, 2012

And you shall do my statues and keep my judgements and do them and you shall dwell in the Land in safety.
Leviticus 25:18 ויקרא כה:יח

Politics, everyone knows, is a dirty game. And it seems to be especially dirty in the Holyland.
I have no statistics for the number of politicians who have landed in jail or on what charge, but a few years ago there was one party who ran on the slogan “we’re the only party never to have had a member go to jail” – or something like that.

Less well known than its dirty politicians, however, is that Israel, like in other areas, is a trendsetter in the law. The Knesset has passed some laws that could have global implications.

In March of this year, the “Underweight Model Law” went into effect. Basically, the law says that fashion models must show a medical report, not less than three months old, at every shoot s/he has, to determine that the model is not medically underweight. If s/he is, s/he has to pass up the shoot. In addition, if the pictures have been digitally altered in any way, the publication must print a notice to that effect. The aim of the law is to combat the spread of eating disorders among teens; approximately 2% of all Israeli girls between 14-18 suffer from such disorders as anorexia and bulimia, similar to other developed countries. This type of law is the first of its kind in the world, and legislators are hoping that girls will stop idealizing the extreme thinness shown in digitally doctored photos or malnourished models, and make more healthy choices themselves.

Another law that has just taken effect is an anti-smoking law. While it has been illegal to smoke in enclosed public places or places of work since the early 80s, yesterday it became illegal to smoke in outdoor public places such as bus stops and train platforms, doorways, and outdoor restaurants and cafes. Violators will be fined NIS 1000, and places of business that don’t enforce the law can be fined up to NIS 5000. According to the Knesset, people have the right to non-smoking environments outdoors as well!


It is also illegal to raise a Rottweiler dog in your home. After a three-year-old girl was killed by a privately owned Rottweiler in 2011, privately owning this particular breed of dog became illegal. 

One cannot raise pigs in Israel either. The law actually states that one cannot raise a pig on Israeli soil. This has led some pig farmers to build raised platforms for their pigs, thereby getting round this particular legalism. Not raising pigs here is really not that big a deal, as by both Jewish and Muslim law, pigs aren’t ‘kosher’. There isn’t a huge demand for them (though there is some). 

Did you know that in Israel, a man with the surname of Cohen cannot marry a divorced woman? This is because the ‘kohanim’ – priests in English, but have nothing to do with Catholic priests – are forbidden by Jewish law to marry a divorcee. (Actually Catholic priest are also forbidden to marry a divorced woman – but this is probably a coincidence.) A man with the name of Cohen is assumed to be of priestly ancestry.

A law was proposed last year banning parents from giving their kids ‘weird’ names. Apparently the Ministry of the Interior would be able to refuse to register a child’s name if deemed too weird.  "Giving a hurtful and insulting name to a minor, or names of curses or negative figures, could make him an object of mockery in the eyes of his peers and damage his self-image and self-confidence," reasoned the MK who was responsible for this law. I guess the Israeli couple who called their baby daughter ‘Like’ (presumably they were Facebook addicts – or just weird themselves) did so before this law was discussed. Or maybe they are the reason this law is being discussed…. Sweden, Norway, Portugal and Peru have laws of this nature also, so, in fact, this particular law isn’t so cutting edge.

What brings all this up is that today the “Popcorn Law” was passed. This essential law states that movie theatres (and other public places of entertainment such as stadiums) must allow people to bring food in from the outside if the establishment sells food. If the establishment does not sell food they are allowed to ban food from outside. This critical bill was brought about because of the exorbitant cost of popcorn at movie theatres – about $5.00 a box. Seeing as it costs about 75 cents for a half kilo bag of unpopped popcorn, that kind of markup does seem to be a bit high.

It’s comforting to know that we have lawmakers who really are looking out for our welfare. While some dirty politicking is bound to occur as it does in every democracy, (ever see West Wing?) really, our Members of Knesset’s hearts are in the right place. I can go to sleep tonight, knowing that nobody will be bringing their bears to the beach. It’s against the law.  
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