Mermaid fever leads to lawsuit (UPDATED)
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Mermaid fever leads to lawsuit (UPDATED)

This is one of those stories where it’s hard to figure out which party is more outrageous — the Israeli municipality offering a $1 million prize for proof of the existence of mermaids, or the New York-based organization threatening a lawsuit over damage to "the legendary mermaid legacy."

YNet reports:

An American organization claiming to defend the rights of mermaids is threatening to appeal to the International Court of Justice in The Hague against the Israeli city of Kiryat Yam, after its municipality offered a $1 million prize to whoever could provide proof for the existence of a mermaid off the northern city’s shores.

A letter received by the municipality over the weekend states that the organization, presenting itself as the Mermaid Medical Association in Brooklyn, New York, was shocked to hear about the prize offered by the city.

This offer, the organization said, "badly and outrageously damages the legendary mermaid legacy."

In the letter, the organization informed the municipality that it had 10 days to take back its announcement on the prize, or else the organization would approach the International Court of Justice in Holland and demand that it intervene.

This story struck me as so insane I started googling, and lo and behold, mermaid fever has consumed Israel for weeks! Somehow, this escaped our attention. I can’t imagine how. But consider it fixed.

Sky News reports:

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 $1m (£609,000) 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.

UPDATE: So, two caveats. First, JTA did not ignore the mermaid story, as our fearless Israel correspondent has pointed out to me. Second, some are justifiably expressing skepticism about this story (unfortunately pointing out that the whole thing "smells fishy"), which in retrospect seems obvious. However, the fact that Kiryat Yam is offering the prize isn’t in dispute (I don’t think), only the threat of litigation. It’s the latter development that turned an absurd (and true) story in an outrageous (and possibly false) one. Either way, from now on I’m keeping my eyes peeled.