Burgers, fries and marijuana (& Knesset members join the fun)

June 09, 2012

* Israel’s new ambassador to Norway is a Druze and his deputy is a Christian Arab
* Israeli scientists invent “cannabis without the high”
* Knesset members and religious Jewish participants join one of world’s biggest gay pride parades

* In contrast, in the Palestinian Authority a Palestinian homosexual was forced to stand in sewage up to his neck, his head covered by a sack filled with feces; police stripped him naked and forced him to sit on a bottle of Coca Cola


This dispatch contains a number of “human interest” stories, mainly concerning Israel.

(You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please also press “Like” on that page.)


Above: The 2012 Tel Aviv Gay pride march attracted a record number of gay and non-gay participants



1. Mystery UFO that had the Middle East on edge was in fact a Russian ballistic missile
2. Israeli hamburger restaurant busted for serving a side order of marijuana
3. Israeli scientists invent “cannabis without the high”
4. Jerusalem’s “Korean quarter”
5. Meanwhile in Tel Aviv…
6. Knesset members join pride parade
7. More Israeli Arab and Druze diplomats

[All notes below by Tom Gross]


The glowing light seen over the skies of the Middle East on Thursday evening – which many Arab newspapers and some Israeli websites reported was a UFO – in fact resulted from a failed intercontinental ballistic missile test by the Russian military.

On Thursday and Friday, according to news reports, thousands of Arabs (and hundreds of Israelis) called police hotlines in various countries to report seeing an unidentified flying object in the skies above.

But yesterday the Russian news agency Novosti quoted the Defense Ministry in Moscow saying that a missile was test-fired from the Astrakhan region in central Russia, and the trail of light could be seen across Armenia, Turkey, Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and other countries in the region.

Israeli Astronomical Association Chairman Dr. Yigal Pat-El told the Israeli paper Yediot Ahronot that “It most likely spun out of control and its remnants and the fuel was what people saw. It reached a height of 200-300 kilometers and that’s why it was seen from so many locations.”

Similar reports of alleged UFO sightings were made in 2009 by people in Norway, following a failed Russian missile test in the area.



Police raided the “Burgers fast food restaurant” in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya last week after diners tipped off Israel’s drug enforcement unit that the restaurant was serving a little something extra with their hamburgers.

Israel’s Yediot Ahronot newspaper reported that when customers wanted more than the standard lunch, they ordered the “100-shekel burger” and received a side order of marijuana or hashish in a sealed plastic bag concealed in their French fries.

If a customer wanted a larger quantity of hash, he or she could order the 200- or 300-shekel burger, according to the police indictment.

Although the restaurant is situated down the street from police headquarters, officers said that the sale of drugs had gone on for many months before they found out about it.

The owner and three employees have been indicted for dealing in drugs, and the restaurant ordered closed for a three month period, according to Israeli press reports.



Agence France Presse, citing Israel’s Ma’ariv newspaper, reports that Israeli scientists have cultivated a cannabis plant that doesn’t get people stoned, in a development that may help those who need to smoke marijuana for medical purposes.

The new cannabis looks, smells and tastes the same, but does not induce the feelings of a “high” normally associated with smoking marijuana that are brought on by the substance THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol.

“It has the same scent, shape and taste as the original plant, but the numbing sensation that users are accustomed to has disappeared,” said Tzahi Klein, head of development at Tikkun Olam, the firm that developed the plant.

According to Ma’ariv, Tikkun Olam sought to neutralise the effect of the THC and to increase the effect of another substance called CBD, or cannabidiol, which has been shown to help diabetics and to ease various psychiatric disorders.

Ma’ariv reported that “not only does it leave users stone-cold sober, it also doesn’t induce the munchies, the hunger pangs that the drug’s smokers generally suffer.”

According to figures published this year by the Sheba Medical Centre and the Israel Cancer Association, medical marijuana has been approved for use by about 6,000 Israelis suffering from various illnesses.



The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) reports as follows:

“It’s become a mainstay of Saturday nights on the Ben Yehuda Street pedestrian mall in Jerusalem. Between the crowds of Israeli revelers and American teens at the frozen-yogurt shops, a group of Koreans singing hymns vies for attention.

“It’s one of the most public signs of Israel’s small but growing community of South Koreans, many of whom come to the Holy Land because they are Christians. Not far from Ben Yehuda, there is a Korean restaurant on nearby Shamai Street and five small Korean churches.

“‘Israel reflects the truth of the Tanach,’ Yung Doo, a Korean man in his late 30s who moved to Israel two years ago with his family to pursue a graduate degree in Bible studies, said, using the Hebrew word for Bible. ‘This is the land of David and Saul.’”

“While official estimates are hard to come by, South Korea’s ambassador to Israel, Ilsoo Kim, estimates that there are about 800 Koreans in about 300 families living in Israel. The number, he said, has been growing in recent years. They mainly reside around the French Hill and Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhoods in the Jerusalem area.”


Among other recent dispatches concerning South Korea, please see:

* How China is quietly building links with Israel (& Bolstering Israel-South Korean ties)



An estimated 100,000 people marched in a gay pride extravaganza in Tel Aviv on Friday. They included thousands of heterosexuals (including myself) who joined their gay friends to join in the fun.

The city’s mayor’s office said it was by far the largest pride parade ever, and included a sharp increase in the number of foreign tourists who had come to Israel for the event.

Various other city-sponsored gay events have been continuing all week in Tel Aviv. A French tourist, Eric Christiansen, told Yediot Ahronot that the parades were “a wonderful sight and I hope it will be broadcast all over the world to show how much freedom and pluralism Israel has to offer.”

Tel Aviv has become both a Mediterranean and international destination of choice for gay tourists. (Once gays set a fashion agenda, others often follow some years later.)

The contrast with neighboring Arab countries could not be greater. It’s the only place in the Middle East where gays are free to walk hand-in-hand and kiss in public.

Several Arab states have laws applying the death penalty to homosexuals. Iran hangs gays from cranes in public squares. Saudi Arabia has beheaded them. And in the Palestinian Authority a few years ago, The New Republic reported that in Tulkarem a Palestinian homosexual was forced to stand in sewage up to his neck, his head covered by a sack filled with feces, and then he was thrown into a cell infested with insects and lice. During the interrogation, police stripped him naked and forced him to sit on a bottle of Coca Cola.



In contrast, in Tel Aviv on Friday, religious Jewish participants also took part in the events -- some of the marchers wore yarmulkes and carried the rainbow flag with a Star of David affixed to the center, and there was also a specific organized vehicle with religious Jews, sponsored by Google Israel. There were also “Gay Likud” supporters’ banners. In general, it was a very joyous event with people on balconies all the way through the parade route joining in the celebration, including families and young children waving.

Knesset members from several parties of both right and left, including openly Gay parliamentarian MK Nitzan Horowitz, joined in the festivities.

It is difficult to think of another country where such a high proportion of heterosexual politicians join a gay pride parade in solidarity with gay rights.

Tel Aviv and Toronto are the only two cities in the world where the authorities budget for Gay Pride week and help officially sponsors events, according to news reports. Even some crosswalks are painted in rainbow stripes for the occasion by Tel Aviv.

Tel Aviv, known for its relaxed, party atmosphere, was recently voted the world’s best gay travel destination by the world’s leading gay website, and is also increasingly coming to the attention of a wider traveling public. Lonely Planet guide books named Tel Aviv as one of the world’s “top ten overall cities in 2011.” And Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper recently named Tel Aviv “one of the world’s most creative cities,” the others being London, Sydney, Stockholm and Shanghai.


Among other recent dispatches dealing with gay matters:

* Tel Aviv voted world’s best gay city

* Omar Sharif Jr. comes out -- twice: “I’m gay and I’m Jewish”

* Brave Iranians publically display gay flags

* Leading Iranian ayatollah says gays are “worse than dogs and pigs”

* Portuguese gay activist: Why I no longer hate Israel



Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman last week appointed Druze professor Naim Araidi as Israel’s next ambassador to Norway and Christian-Arab George Deek as his deputy.

Araidi, 62, is a professor of Hebrew Literature. He wrote his doctorate on the poetry of Uri Zvi Grinberg, teaches at Haifa and Bar-Ilan universities, serves as the dean at the Arab Academic College for Education, and is a member of the Sapir Prize board. In 2008, he won the Israeli Prime Minister’s Award for Hebrew Literature.

Araidi was originally going to serve as ambassador in New Zealand, but has now been assigned to Norway.

Deek, who has been appointed as his deputy, is an Israeli-Arab diplomat born in Jaffa, who has recently ended a posting as Israeli deputy ambassador in Nigeria. Revital Ben-Naim, an Israeli Jew, will work under them as Israel’s consul in Norway.

Maybe this will put a stop to the endless round of fictitious stories about “apartheid Israel” in the Norwegian media. Norway has long been one of the most anti-Israel countries in Europe. (Some commentators, such as Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who is a subscriber to this email list and was disinvited from speaking in Norway recently, have noted that a fair amount of anti-Semitism has entered Norwegian discourse about Israel too.)

Among past dispatches on Norway, please see:

* Norway: Olmert as “Nazi commander in Schindler’s list”

* Norway – Moves to arrest Ariel Sharon for “war crimes”

* Norway school bans Star of David

Ambassador-designate Araidi told Yediot Ahronot: “It will be a great honor for me to represent Israel and show Norwegians that there is co-existence in Israel that can only exist in a true democracy.”

Several Arabs and Druze are working at various Israeli embassies. Among Druze ambassadors for Israel are Walid Mansour, who was posted to Vietnam and Reda Mansour who served in Ecuador.

[All notes above by Tom Gross]

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.