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Israel is in the grips of mermaid fever after numerous sightings of the mythical sea creature off its coast.
One town council is taking the reports so seriously it is offering a $1 million reward to anyone who can prove the existence of a mermaid in its waters.
Kiryat Yam municipality, near Haifa, says it has been told of dozens of sightings in the past few months.
"Many people are telling us they are sure they've seen a mermaid and they are all independent of each other," council spokesman Natti Zilberman told Sky News.
The nautical nymph is only seen in the evening at sunset, according to media reports, drawing crowds of people with cameras hoping for a glimpse.
"People say it is half girl, half fish, jumping like a dolphin. It does all kinds of tricks then disappears," Zilberman said.
Asked whether a dolphin or large fish could be a more rational explanation, he insisted: "They say it is a female figure, it looks like a young girl."
The council denied its offer of a reward was a publicity stunt, but said it hoped to nurture the mermaid as something which could bring in more tourists.
Capturing a mermaid is not necessary, a verifiable photograph will do, Zilberman said.
By contrast, for water creatures, Leviticus and Deuteronomy both give the general rule that anything residing in the waters (which Leviticus specifies as being the seas and rivers) is ritually clean if it has both fins and scales, in contrast to anything residing in the waters with neither fins nor scales, which Leviticus calls filthy
With regard to land beasts (Hebrew:Behemoth), Deuteronomy and Leviticus both state that anything which chews the cud and has a cloven hoof would be ritually clean, but those animals which only chew the cud or only have cloven hooves would be unclean.
In the town of Kirvat Yam, Israel, where dozens of people have reported mermaid sightings, a $1.2m (£609,000) reward is on the line for anyone who can prove by photo or capture that mermaids do exist.
“Many people are telling us they are sure they’ve seen a mermaid and they are all independent of each other,” Kirvat Yam town council spokesman Natti Zilberman said.
Many of the sightings have taken place at sunset, attracting crowds of tourists and locals alike, hoping to snap a picture of the mythological creature.
“People say it is half girl, half fish, jumping like a dolphin. It does all kinds of tricks, then disappears,” Zilberman said.
The town council, which is offering the reward, insists that the mermaid mania is not just a marketing ploy to attract tourists, though it does hope tourists will come out to try their luck at the $1 million prize. “I believe,” Zilberman said, “if there really is a mermaid, then so many people and tourists will come to Kiryat Yam, a lot more money will be made than $1 million.”
Since 2001, it was discovered that Shayetet 13 veterans had high occurrence of cancer, probably due to training in the polluted Kishon River and Haifa Bay. A commission for investigating the matter didn't find statistical evidences that the diving in the Kishon caused the cancer. However, Minister of Defence, Shaul Mofaz, decided to compensate the divers' families in spite of the commission findings.
A 2002 study found the ability of 3 hours' exposure to Kishon River water to induce DNA damage in rainbow trout liver cells to be on average threefold that of unpolluted water. Notably the lower Kishon had a markedly elevated genotoxic potential.
A 2000 analysis of the river water revealed
“ ... chlorinated compounds in discharges from the refineries, the municipal sewage treatment plant and from the Haifa Chemicals fertilizer production plant. Heavy metals were present in the discharges from the Carmel Olefins and Haifa Chemicals plants. The upper river system may also be mixed with genotoxic materials from domestic waste and agricultural runoff that contain pesticides and fertilizers. Potent genotoxins usually found in domestic wastes also include N-nitroso compounds and aromatic amines, which are known to be present in human sanitary outflows as well as genotoxic PAHs found in municipal discharges.
Genotoxicity describes a deleterious action on a cell's genetic material affecting its integrity. Genotoxic substances are known to be potentially mutagenic or carcinogenic, specifically those capable of causing genetic mutation and of contributing to the development of tumors. This includes both certain chemical compounds and certain types of radiation.
In the Mediterranean Sea, 19 species of cetaceans can be encountered; 8 of them are considered common (Fin whale Balaenoptera physalus, Sperm whale Physeter macrocephalus, Striped dolphin Stenella coeruleoalba, Risso's dolphin Grampus griseus, long finned Pilot whale Globicephala melas, Bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus, Common dolphin Delphinus delphis, Cuvier's beaked whale Ziphius cavirostris),
4 are occasional (Minke whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata, Killer whale Orcinus orca, False killer whale Pseudorca crassidens, Rough toothed dolphin Steno bredanesis),
and 6 accidental, alien to the Mediterranean, but occasionally sighted in the last 120 years (among them the Humpback whale Megaptera novaeangliae); moreover, we have to consider the presence of a small population of Harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena in the Black Sea.
The Mediterranean Monk Seal (Monachus monachus) is the only pinniped to be found within the Mediterranean Sea. It is now very rare and listed as an endangered species.