Wednesday 16 December 2009

The Times newspaper UK reports on reward for mermaid capture

December 15, 2009

Million-dollar reward helps mermaid lure tourists to Kiryat Yam

It is one of the uglier towns on Israel’s coast: boxes of Soviet-style housing projects jostle close to the shore and tankers plough the shipping lanes, heading for more important destinations to the south. However, Kiryat Yam, a development town full of Russian and Ethiopian immigrants, has been galvanised by a claim that neither the busy port of Haifa to the south nor the walled crusader city of Acre to the north can match: according to the mayor, it has its own mermaid. Tourists are stopping here to try to summon the elusive creature by blowing on a ram’s horn, a Jewish relic, and investors have expressed an interest in developing the almost deserted beachfront. Shmuel Sisso, the town’s mayor, has whipped up excitement by offering a $1 million (£615,000) reward for anyone who provides proof of the siren’s existence. Oleg Borisov, 56, a market-stall holder, believes that he was the first to have contact with the creature a couple of years ago while he and his dog were having a night swim. “I was in up to my head when I felt something moving in the water,” said Mr Borisov, who moved here from Ukraine 20 years ago. “All of a sudden I felt as if somebody was spreading my legs and going right between them. My dog started barking and there was a loud splash on the water. I screamed and fled — I was stuttering I was so scared.” He has never returned to the water at night. When Mr Sisso built a promenade along the shore this year, and people started reporting strange sightings in the surf, Mr Borisov made the connection. “For sure it was a mermaid,” he said, adding that he believes she must have a message to deliver. “There will come a time when she will appear,” he said. “The Messiah is coming soon, too, in 2012.” On the jetty, alongside a small fibreglass statuette of a mermaid sprayed with gold paint, Mordechai, 57, a native of Kiryat Yam, prepared for his daily swim. He dismissed the story as nonsense. “I’ve been swimming here every day for 50 years and I didn’t see her,” he said. He conceded, however, that there was mention of sirens in the G’mara, a Jewish holy text. “If you believe in God, you believe anything can be created. And I believe in God.” In his office, Mr Sisso grinned at all the attention that his mermaid has attracted. He said that at least two witnesses claimed to have seen the creature, and he produced two snapshots from a British amateur photographer showing a yellow discoloration in the surf at sunset. Vince Palmer, from East Sussex, said in an accompanying letter that the pictures proved the mermaid’s existence — and he enclosed, helpfully, a self-addressed envelope for the $1 million cheque. “Before this picture she performed many tricks but I’m afraid I missed these with my camera,” he wrote. The mayor’s reward offer has sparked the threat of international legal action from an American group called the Mermaid Medical Association. They wrote to Mr Sisso, telling him that they were “shocked about your decision to pay a reward of one million dollars to those who will hunt the mermaid. “Therefore if you don’t declare in a period of ten days that you withdraw from your decision we intend to approach the International Court of Justice and to ask for its interference,” said the group’s director, Jeff Lerman.Mr Sisso was not intimidated. Nor has he been forced so far to come up with the reward money: he is too busy dreaming up mermaid-themed costume parades and more hotels to worry about such trivialities.

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