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Did You Know?

Israel engineers are behind the development of the largest communications router in the world, launched by Cisco.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Israeli Women Soldiers Taught The Art Of Camouflage

BEERSHEVA, ISRAEL - In this photo distributed by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), a woman soldier is coated in mud as her infantry instructors' course learns about camouflage during the field craft week of their training May 19, 2005 at an army base near Beersheva in Israel's southern desert. It takes the IDF more than 2 months to teach these 18-year-old female recruits the basic arts of warfare before they assigned to pass on their newly-acquired skills to the army's male and female draftees.

Documentary on Tel Aviv school, 'Strangers No More,' wins Oscar

The movie tells the tale of the children from 48 different countries who attend the Bialik-Rogozin School, many of whom have escaped genocide, war and hunger to arrive in Israel.

The documentary film, Strangers No More, about a Tel Aviv elementary school, won an Oscar on Monday for Best Documentary Short Subject.

Strangers No More tells the tale of children from 48 different countries who attend the Bialik-Rogozin School in south Tel Aviv. Many of the students have escaped genocide, war and hunger to arrive in Israel at a school where "no child is a stranger."

The documentary focuses on a number of students as they acclimatize to their new lives and attempt to put the hardships and horrors of the past behind them.

According to the film's official site, "Together, the bond between teacher and student, and amongst the students themselves, enables them to create new lives in this exceptional community."

The film was directed and produced by Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon, whose Simon and Goodman Picture Company has received four Oscar nominations and three Emmy awards.

Natalie Portman wins Oscar for best actress

Israeli-American wins for role in "Black Swan"; "Strangers No More" on South TA school also nabs award; "King's Speech" wins best film.

Natalie Portman won the best actress Academy Award on Sunday for her role as an unhinged ballerina in Black Swan.

The 29-year-old Israeli-American was considered the strong favorite for the award, having dominated the various awards shows leading up to the Oscars.

Portman trained five hours a day for six months to prepare for Black Swan, a project she and director Darren Aronofsky first discussed about nine years ago. When they started shooting the film in 2009, it had not secured any financing.

Her character, desperately insecure and possibly still a virgin, contends with professional jealousies and rivalries as she secures the dual lead roles in "Swan Lake."

The film was a commercial and critical hit, with worldwide ticket sales of more than $200 million. As a bonus, Portman last year announced she was pregnant and would marry the baby's father, a dancer she met on the "Black Swan" set. She previously received an Oscar nomination in 2005, for her supporting role in "Closer."

Portman's rivals were four-time nominee Annette Bening for The Kids Are All Right, previous Oscar winner Nicole Kidman for Rabbit Hole, Jennifer Lawrence for Winter's Bone, and Michelle Williams for Blue Valentine.

Israel was also given the spot light for a brief moment when directors Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon won the Oscar for their film Strangers No More in the category for Documentary Short Subject.

The 40-minute American film about South Tel Aviv's diverse Bialik-Rogozin School focuses on the sagas of three foreign, non-Jewish pupils – Esther from South Africa, Mohamed from Darfur and Johannes from Eritrea. The film shows how the school has taken kids from all backgrounds, with the most tragic histories, and given them a new life in a humane environment where race, religion and nationality don’t matter.

The King's Speech took home the top Academy Award, for best picture, giving the British royals drama a total of four Oscars at Sunday's ceremony.

The acclaimed film about the efforts of the future King George VI to overcome a crippling stammer went into the event with a leading 12 nominations. It won such key awards as best actor for its star, Colin Firth.

The best picture award was accepted by its producers, Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin.

The following is a compete list of winners at the 83rd annual Academy Awards in Hollywood on Sunday:

- Best picture - The King's Speech

- Best director - The King's Speech (Tom Hooper)

- Best actor - Colin Firth (The King's Speech)

- Best actress - Natalie Portman (Black Swan)

- Supporting actor - Christian Bale (The Fighter)

- Supporting actress - Melissa Leo (The Fighter)

- Original screenplay - The King's Speech (David Seidler)

- Adapted screenplay - The Social Network (Aaron Sorkin)

- Foreign language film - In a Better World (Denmark)

- Animated feature - Toy Story 3

- Original song - We Belong Together from Toy Story 3 (Randy Newman)

- Original score - The Social Network (Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross)

- Film editing - The Social Network (Angus Wall, Kirk Baxter)

- Cinematography - Inception (Wally Pfister)

- Sound Mixing - Inception (Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo, Ed Novick)

- Sound editing - Inception (Richard King)

- Visual effects - Inception (Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley, Peter Bebb)

- Art direction - Alice in Wonderland (Robert Stromberg, Karen O'Hara)

- Costume design - Alice in Wonderland (Colleen Atwood)

- Makeup - The Wolfman (Rick Baker, Dave Elsey)

- Documentary feature - Inside Job

- Documentary short subject - Strangers No More

- Live action short film - God of Love

- Animated short film - The Lost Thing

The Israeli Opera - Always On The Move

The Israeli Opera - Always On The Move

Heb. U. Prof. Wistrich Awarded for Anti-Semitism Study

Prof. Robert Wistrich of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has been awarded the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ for his lifelong contributions to the study of anti-Semitism.

The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism (SICSA) at Hebrew U announced today that Wistrich, the Center’s director, is to receive the award from the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism (JSA). At the same time, JSA named his magnum opus A Lethal Obsession the “Best Book of 2010” on anti-Semitism.

A Lethal Obsession, an encyclopedic work spanning over 2,000 years of world history, provides a definitive look at the various streams of anti-Semitism through the ages, and explores the connections between the resurgence of global anti-Semitism and contemporary social and political issues.

“Because of his commitment to investigating anti-Semitism and fighting it in all its emerging forms, the JSA is proud to acknowledge Prof. Wistrich as the leading scholar in the field and present him with this Lifetime Achievement Award,” the publication’s editors, Steven K. Baum, Neal E. Rosenberg, Lesley Klaff and Steven L. Jacobs, said in a written statement.

“We are appreciative of Prof. Wistrich’s scholarly efforts in the ongoing struggle against anti-Semitism and believe such acknowledgment is long overdue.”

Prof. Wistrich holds the Neuberger chair for Modern European History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and is the author and editor of 24 books, several of which have won international awards. These include Socialism and the Jews, The Jews of Vienna in the Age of Franz Joseph (winner of the Austrian State Prize for Danubian History and Antisemitism), and The Longest Hatred (recipient of the H.H. Wingate Prize for non-fiction in the U.K.).

“His numerous books and articles and invaluable contributions to landmark film projects set the standard for other scholars and have paved the way for graduate students to continue his work in the study of anti-Semitism,” the statement concludes.

For an INN interview with Prof. Wistrich, click here.

Peres works around the clock despite a tired delegation

Iran's dispatch of two navy ships to the Mediterranean Sea should serve as a warning to Europe about the nuclear proliferation risk posed by Tehran, Israeli President Shimon Peres said on Wednesday.

"This is a cheap provocation by Iran. The passage of the ships does not in itself present a threat on our region, but the real threat, clear as a warning light, is to Europe and the entire world," Peres said in a speech during a visit to Spain.

Meanwhile the president's delegation marvels at his stamina. On Wednesday he delivered a speech before 300 government ministers and newspaper editors, met with the Spanish Opposition leader and later was the recipient of the key to the city of Madrid award at the king's palace. In the evening the president delivered a speech in the presence of the Spanish President and Prime Minister and business leaders.

The Search is On: Name that Plane!

The IDF announces that it is seeking the help of the public in finding – not a missing person, but a name for its newest plane.

The IDF has recently purchased 20 F-35 fifth-generation stealth fighter jets from United States manufacturer Lockheed-Martin. Though delivery to Israel of the world’s most advanced attack aircraft is expected to begin only in 2015, the IDF is already looking for a Hebrew name for it.

At first, Israel Air Force planes were named after birds of prey, such as Baz (falcon), Ayit (eagle), and Netz (Hawk). It later became fashionable to give names such as Sufah (storm), Barak (lightning), and Ra'am (thunder). The Hercules cargo plane took on the name of the legendary Greek’s real-life Jewish counterpart, Samson.

The F-35 – priced at half-a-billon dollars each – is expected to be the last aircraft to be piloted by human beings; unmanned drones are now taking over the field.

Negotiations for Israel’s purchase of the F-35 took several years, involving issues of Israel’s part in its manufacture, the integration of Israeli technologies, and price.

Hebrew names for the plane can be proposed at the IAF’s website, or by emailing to .

The F-35’s vital stats:

* Length – 15.4 meters
* Wingspan – 10.6 meters
* Height – 5.3 meters
* Weight – 12 tons
* Capacity – 14.8 tons
* Max. speed – Mach 1.8
* Range (not including external fuel tanks) – 1,667 kilometers
* Armed with automatic 25mm (one inch) artillery, four air-to-air rockets, and external additions

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mini-me visits Israel

Verne Troyer -- the American actor who played Mini-Me in the film franchise -- arrived in Israel Sunday for a photo shoot.

The pint-sized (2 ft 8 inches) personality arrived in Israel to take part in a photo shoot on behalf of TNT Kids -- the popular clothing line owned by local fashion giant Honigman -- with almost 60 stores around the country.

"A lot of my fan base is made up of kids, so I thought it would be cool to come and promote the line. I'll be wearing some of the clothes, too, " said the 42-year-old Troyer Tuesday from his Los Angeles home before he set out for the Holy Land.

Troyer who may be small in size due to cartilage-hair hypoplasia dwarfism is certainly huge in face recognition. Besides his high profile Mini-me roles the Michigan native has appeared in scores of films including Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone and the Love Guru.

Israeli gas reserves could serves as EU backup

Natural gas from offshore deposits in Israel could serve as a backup source of energy for the European community, Greek Deputy Minister for the Environment and Climate Change Ioannis Maniatis said in Israel. He arrived in Tel Aviv to prepare for Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou’s March visit, during which energy issues are expected to top the agenda, Platts reported. Greek officials in January started talks with Israeli officials about transporting gas from the offshore Leviathan field to European markets. The Noble Energy Company announced last month that the Leviathan gas field, which is located offshore near the city of Haifa in north Israel, holds an estimated 450 billion cubic meters of natural gas, positioning the country as a natural gas exporter. Lebanon, however, holds that Leviathan extends into its territory and Hezbollah warned Israel to keep away from the gas reserves.

The Houston-based Noble Energy Company, drilling for Israel's Delek fuel company, announced that it had discovered a huge deposit of natural gas at Leviathan gas field under the Mediterranean Sea near Haifa.

Estimated to contain 16 trillion cubic feet of gas the Leviathan field is believed to be the largest deepwater gas discovery in a decade.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stated that this is a day of great optimism for the upcoming year.

Lack of natural resources has been Israel's Achilles' heel Because of worries about antagonizing current relationships with Arab partners. Now Israel could become an exporter of energy, also having enough reserves to supply Israel's gas needs for 100 years.

Grammy award singer donates to Israel

Grammy award-winning singer Macy Gray ended her Tel Aviv concert Saturday night with a special gesture of goodwill to her Israeli fans, donating a $25,000 first response motorcycle to the charity organization "United Hatzalah".

The motorcycle includes a life-support system and state-of-the-art first aid equipment, and was presented by Gray to three volunteers from the organization who joined her on stage at the end of the concert.

When presenting the motorcycle, Gray said it was meant "to save the lives of Jews, Christians, and Muslims" in Israel, without any differentiation of religion.
Gray made the decision to pay her third visit to Israel after she was pressured to join artistic boycotts against the country. Gray decided to leave the issue up to her fans, and asked them to comment on a Facebook page on whether or not she should perform in Israel.

Arab World Embraces Israeli’s YouTube Spoof of Qaddafi Rant

A satirical YouTube clip mocking Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s megalomania is fast becoming a popular token of the Libya uprising across Middle East. And in an added affront to Colonel Qaddafi, it was created by an Israeli living in Tel Aviv.

Noy Alooshe, 31, an Israeli journalist, musician and Internet buff, said he saw Colonel Qaddafi’s televised speech last Tuesday in which the Libyan leader vowed to hunt down protesters “inch by inch, house by house, home by home, alleyway by alleyway,” and immediately identified it as a “classic hit.”

“He was dressed strangely, and he raised his arms” like at a trance party, Mr. Alooshe said in a telephone interview on Sunday. Then there were Colonel Qaddafi’s words with their natural beat.

Mr. Alooshe spent a few hours at the computer, using Auto-Tune pitch corrector technology to set the speech to the music of “Hey Baby,” a 2010 electro hip-hop song by American rapper Pitbull, featuring another artist, T-Pain. He titled it “Zenga-Zenga,” echoing Col. Qaddafi’s repetition of the word zanqa, Arabic for alleyway.

By the early hours of Wednesday morning Mr. Alooshe had uploaded the remix to YouTube, and began promoting it on Twitter and Facebook, sending the link to the pages of young Arab revolutionaries. By Sunday, the original clip had more than 400,000 hits and had gone viral.

Mr. Alooshe, who at first did not identify himself on the clip as an Israeli, started receiving enthusiastic messages from all around the Arab world. Surfers soon discovered that he was a Jewish Israeli from his Facebook profile — Mr. Alooshe plays in a band called Hovevey Zion, or the Lovers of Zion — and some of the accolades turned to curses. A few also found the video distasteful.

But the reactions have largely been positive, including a personal message Mr. Alooshe said he received from someone he assumed to be a Libyan saying that if and when the Qaddafi regime falls, the liberated Libyans would dance to Zenga-Zenga.

The original clip features mirror images of a scantily clad woman dancing along to Colonel Qaddafi’s rant. Mr. Alooshe said he got many requests from surfers who asked him to provide a version without the dancer so that they could show it to their parents, which he did. (

Mr. Alooshe speaks no Arabic though his grandparents came from Tunisia. He said he uses Google Translate every few hours to check messages and remove any offensive remarks.

Israelis have been watching the events in Libya unfold with the same rapt attention as they have to the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, with news of the bloodshed dominating the front pages of the major newspapers this weekend.

In the past, Colonel Qaddafi has proposed that Palestinian refugees should return en masse by ship to Israel’s shores, and that Israel and the Palestinian territories should be combined into one state called Isratine.

Mr. Alooshe said he was a little worried that if the Libyan leader survived, he could send one of his sons after him. But he said it was “also very exciting to be making waves in the Arab world as an Israeli.”

As one surfer wrote in an Arabic talkback early Sunday, “What’s the problem if he’s an Israeli? The video is still funny.” He signed off with the international cyber-laugh, “Hahaha.”

Israeli sitcom airs on Fox

Male midlife crisis is apparently a cross-cultural phenomenon. The television comedy "Traffic Light" an Israeli import, is enjoying critical acclaim on the eve of its February 8 debut on the Fox network. Sitcom humor just may be able to cross the Israel-U.S. divide.

The show centers around three 30-something buddies, each of whom is at a very different stage of life when it comes to relationships with women. One has just moved in with his girlfriend, another is married with a toddler, and the third is a swinging bachelor who can't commit to one girl but who has a very meaningful relationship with his dog. The comedy has enjoyed two successful seasons in Israel and its creator and star Adir Miller recently won an International Emmy award for best comedy.

Poll Results: What is Israel's primary threat right now?

What is Israel's primary threat right now?

Lebanon under new Hizbullah-led government: 0%

Iran's nuclear program: 18%

Potential Islamist takeover in Egypt: 18%

Delegitimization of the Jewish State in the world: 64%

- which shows how important sites such as these are - forward to family and friends

Stalled peace talks leading to armed conflict with Palestinians: 9%

Please vote in the NEW poll: What will be the outcome of unrest in Libya?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Bill Maher on Israel

IDF Boosts Integration for Ethiopian-Israeli Soldiers

A new study has found that the IDF's Amir course for soldiers from the Ethiopian community is successful in boosting recruits' motivation, self-esteem, and confidence under pressure.

Israelis from Ethiopia have served in the IDF since the 1980s, and are known for their high rates of enlistment and patriotism. Previous courses aimed at improving service for the Ethiopian community showed some success; however, ten years ago studies showed that despite the IDF's outreach efforts, most Ethiopian-Israeli soldiers served as cooks, drivers, and in similar non-combat positions.

Using the success of the Ethipian soldiers who did make it into combat units as a guide, and fearing that the studies showed the IDF was not successfully utilizing Ethiopian-born soldiers' potential, commanders decided to form a new course, called Amir, to boost motivation and help soldiers move into “high-quality” positions in the IDF, such as elite units or service as officers.

The course is a definite success, the latest study showed. More than 40% of the soldiers who completed Amir training went on to serve in “high-quality” roles, while the same was true of 23.3% of soldiers in a control group.

The soldiers who took part in Amir also gave a higher assessment of their own abilities, and rated their self-esteem an average 4.22 on a scale from 1 to 6, while the average control group rating was 3.28. In addition, they reported higher levels of confidence in their own abilities to perform well and withstand pressure.

It is hoped that more and more Ethiopian parents will be seen at the ceremonies where soldiers who have finished special unit combat training are given their well-earned beret, whose color represents the unit in which they serve, after successfully trekking what is known in the IDF as "the beret hike" (masa kumta)

Israeli Wine #1 Dalton Viognier presents a web series devoted to the best of Israeli Wines.

Coffee, beer and scientific brains

Weizmann Institute of Science offers lecturers at cafes.

A year after the Hebrew University sent a scientist to give free lectures on Albert Einstein to railway passengers to bring science to the public, the Weizmann Institute of Science is going to do the same on brain science, but in cafes and a restaurant in Rehovot and Ness Ziona To mark International Brain Week, scientists and research students from the institute’s neurobiology department will lecture as their audiences enjoy coffee or a beer.

Ido Davidescu will speak on Sunday, March 13, at 7 p.m. at the Ma restaurant in Rehovot on “What Happens in the Brain When We Watch Films” (call 057- 944-2863 for a reservation). On the same day at the same hour, Uri Nili will speak on “The Emotional Brain” at Cafe Cafe near the Cultural Center of Ness Ziona (order tickets from

Ya’ara Yeshurun will speak on “Odor, Memory and What’s Between” on Monday, March 14, at 7 p.m. at Cafe Shikma in Rehovot (call (08) 946-7486 for tickets).

On Tuesday, March 15, there will be two lectures in Rehovot. Uri Livneh will speak at the Etz Tut Cafe on “Sometimes We Remember that Things Happen Around Us, and Sometimes Not.” (Call (08) 947-3850).

Avi Mendelson will speak at 7.30 p.m. at Cafe Smadar at the Davidson Institute for Scientific Education on “The Remembering Mind: Between Reality and Fiction (call (08) 937-8420).

Israeli Music mix - Hits of 2010

Gogol Bordello is back, with a bang

The gypsy punk band’s music is loud and energized, with concerts that are a feast for the eyes.

Next week the wildest party in town is back in the form of a three-date berth (February 28-March 2) at Tel Aviv’s Barby club of New York-based gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello.

The wild bunch from the Big Apple’s Lower East Side last performed here in 2009, and the band’s Israeli guitarist Oren Kaplan says he can’t wait to hit the bandstand here again. “We had an amazing gig there last time. There was this really special energy about the place, and the audience was fantastic. For the last year and a half all the guys in the band have been saying, ‘Let’s go back to Israel. When are we going back?’ Now we’re coming back.”

Gogol Bordello started life in the late 1990s and released its first album, Voi-La Intruder, in 1999, which was produced by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds drummer Jim Sclavunos. The frontman and sole songwriter of the band is the irrepressible Ukraine-born Eugene Hütz and, besides Kaplan, the gang includes an Ethiopian-born bassist, a Latin American percussionist and a Scottish-born dancer of Chinese descent, as well as some Americans.

Kaplan says that the rich cultural baggage adds much to the band’s output. “Sure, we all bring different things to the music, all our colors, even though Eugene writes all the music and the lyrics. But we all help with the arrangements, and we all express our personalities and everything else we have in the shows. Anyway, living in New York is like being in a great big kibbutz or cultural melting pot. You don’t see many American-born people there, except maybe in Manhattan,” he laughs.

The guitarist has been a resident of New York since 1996 and says he and the other members of the band feel at home there. “We love other cultures, learning about them and learning about their music, and you get so much of that in New York.”

The Gogol Bordello gang also get plenty of opportunities to pick up other musical offerings on their travels around the world. Their on the road work has included gigs at such prestigious venues as The Whitney Museum in New York, The Tate Modern in London and the Venice Biennale in Italy.

Kaplan has been with Gogol Bordello for 10 years, following a stint with indie rock band Firewater.

He met Hütz when Gogol Bordello performed at the Lower East Side club where Kaplan worked as the sound man. “They were the best thing I’d ever heard at the club,” he recalls. Hütz and Kaplan both lived in the neighborhood and soon became fast friends. One day Hütz asked Kaplan to join the band, and that was that.

The guitarist says the band has evolved a lot since the early days. “I think we’re all better musicians now.

I certainly am, and I am self-taught.”

Mind you, Kaplan says that if he could go back, he might have taken the time to study music formally. “I have learned a lot playing with Eugene and the others. Maybe I’d have better technique if I’d gone to music school, I don’t know. When new wave came along, it gave you freedom. It was, like, anyone can play music, you only need to know a couple of notes. But I have been studying flamenco music for the last three years. That’s really hard, but it’s so rich. Elizabeth [the dancer] is also studying flamenco dance, so that sort of fits in nicely.”

Gogol Bordello is one of those acts for which “seeing is believing” is an apt epithet. Their music is loud and volcanically energized, and their concerts are a feast for the eyes.

Even so, Kaplan says the shows have also developed over the years. “In the early days it was more about the fun and theatrical side, but the music is more important now. But it’s still a lot of fun.”

So if you’re in the mood to shake a leg or two, and probably everything else, get yourself down to Barby next week and let it all hang out.

For tickets: Tel. *8965 or

Friday, February 25, 2011

Chilean Miners - We Kept our Faith Like the Jews

Chilean Miners - We Kept our Faith Like the Jews

Whitney Houston calls Israel 'home'

June 01, 2003

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon greets Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown at the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem last week. Pop singer Whitney Houston, who Rolling Stone magazine dubbed "one of the greatest voices of the 20th century," spent last week on a high-profile tour of Jewish and Christian holy sites in Israel with her daughter and husband, singer Bobby Brown.

Houston spent the week touring every corner of the country, including a visit with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Jerusalem. Sharon welcomed the singer to his home, saying: "You are most welcome here. This is your first visit here, we believe the first of many to come."

Standing on Sharon's patio, clad in a festive red-and-white ethnic ensemble, Houston told Sharon that "I've never felt like this in any other country. I feel at home, I feel wonderful."

Houston said that she had come to Israel both for a "spiritual retreat" and to gather inspiration for a Christmas album she plans on recording soon. Her husband, Brown told reporters in Israel that the couple would return to the country in September, in order to film a program for the HBO cable network to be aired on Christmas eve. In addition to meeting with Sharon, Brown met with Tourism Minister Benny Elon.

The main purpose of the couples' trip was to visit to the Hebrew Israelite community, known as the Black Hebrews in the southern town of Dimona. The community of 2,000 African-Americans, whose members have converted to Judaism, has lived in Dimona since the early 1970s. They are controversial because of their practice of polygamy, and Israel has hesitated to give them permanent resident status. Nonetheless, over the decades, many community members have integrated into Israeli society, and their musical performances are particularly popular.

Houston was greeted by the community upon her arrival in Eilat, where she began her trip. She then headed north to Dimona itself to see where they live. According to the community's spokespeople, Ben Ami Carter, the leader of the community, proposed the idea of hosting the singer Whitney Houston in the Negev.

Houston's mother, the veteran soul singer, Cissy Houston, as well as Whitney's godmother, Aretha Franklin, are friends of community member Asiel Ben Yisrael from his earlier days in Chicago. Ben Yisrael has been working on this visit for over two years and met in the United States with mutual friends of his and the singer's family.

About a month ago, Houston's personal manager came to Israel and stayed with Hebrew Israelites in Dimona. She remained in the south for two weeks and felt that "Israel is a safe place" and recommended that Whitney and her family visit.

"You have to understand, black-skinned people always dream of visiting the Holy Land," says Yeda'a Bat Yisrael told the newspaper Ha'aretz. "We're Jews and she's Christian, but the holiness of Israel is common to different religions. Whitney came to Israel on a journey of spiritual purification and to visit the holy sites and we're glad that she's coming with her children. It's important they see the places they've read about over the years."

Bat Yisrael said that she hoped the Houston visit would encourage other Americans to visit Israel as well.
"She is loving it," reported Patricia Houston, the singer's spokeswoman and sister-in-law. "She is a spiritual woman and wanted to come here and touch the land."

Before leaving the country, Houston told reporters that she was going to build a house in Dimona, as she planned on visiting Israel frequently in the future. Meeting with Dimona Mayor Gabi Laloush, Houston said they would go back to the U.S. and encourage Americans to visit Israel.

Houston's career peaked in the 1990's when she produced hit after hit and starred in the successful movie, The Bodyguard. She has sold more than 120 albums over the course of her career. But recently, her name has become associated with controversy in recent years, with stories of physical abuse, other violent incidents involving Brown, who has been arrested repeatedly and stories of drug use, fueled by cancelled high-profile appearances and rumors of ill health when she made public appearances looking dangerously thin. Last year in a television interview, she admitted to drug use, but insisted that she was never addicted.

In the meantime, her singing career is far from over. Her last album, Just Whitney, which came out in November 2002, has sold 11 million copies.

The Daniel Rowing Centre

The Daniel Amichai Centre for Rowing and Nautical Studies is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city of Tel-Aviv Jaffa. The Centre was designed as an upturned boat, with its mast facing the Yarkon River.

The building is 1,600 square metres, built on two levels. The design of the building creates an informal, refreshing and relaxed atmosphere.

The Centre is situated on the northern bank of the Yarkon River and serves as a catalyst for urban development of the entire Yarkon Park's western area.

Conservation of the last open area in Tel-Aviv will improve the environment and increase the awareness of its importance.

The Daniel Rowing Centre

Conductor Zubin Mehta returns to Seattle — this time with Israeli orchestra

Zubin Mehta says the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra "has been my musical family for 50 years."

An interview with Zubin Mehta, who will conduct the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra on Feb. 26, 2011.

Zubin Mehta's most recent memory of Seattle includes conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the Seattle Center Opera House (now McCaw Hall), followed by some serious downtime.

"I went to Milton Katims' house and played pingpong," says Mehta by phone from Tel Aviv. Katims was the Seattle Symphony Orchestra's music director from 1954 to 1976.

Recalling the performance, Mehta adds, "I thought the Opera House was a very good hall."

Chances are Mumbai, India-born Mehta, one of the world's best-known orchestral and operatic conductors, will equally appreciate Benaroya Hall when he returns to the city on Saturday, this time with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO).

The IPO is on an eight-city tour of the United States, celebrating two significant anniversaries. The ensemble, originally known as the Palestine Orchestra at its inception in 1936, turns 75 this year. Mehta's own association with the organization goes back 50 years, to a night in 1961 when, at age 25, he filled in for ailing conductor Eugene Ormandy.

That rescue led to a long-term relationship including Mehta's appointments as IPO's music adviser in 1969 and music director in 1977. During his five decades there, Mehta also served as music director of the L.A. Phil (1962-1978), the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (1960-1967) and the New York Philharmonic (1978-1991).

Of all these roles, Mehta clearly finds his responsibilities toward IPO among the most special and unique in his life.

"The orchestra has been my musical family for 50 years," he says. "I'm very attached. This is a hand-picked orchestra that has always been engaged."

Founded by Polish violinist Bronislaw Huberman, the IPO was intended to inspire a new nation by uniting "the desire of [Israel] for an orchestra with the desire of the Jewish musicians for a country."

Huberman gathered first-chair, European musicians who had lost their jobs under the Nazis, a kind of "orchestra of soloists." Musicians play a major part in running the IPO to this day.

"We're not supported by a rich government," says Mehta, "We have to cut corners continuously. The musicians don't give themselves raises every few years. To get close to breaking even, we do seven concerts a week, six when we tour. I don't deal with a board of governors. I sit with three members of the orchestra and a general manager to shape our destiny. The musicians are driven by dedication, not just earning a living. They are carriers of a positive message for their country, including during times of crisis."

Saturday's program includes Beethoven's popular "Leonore" Overture No. 3, Webern's "Passacaglia" and Six Pieces for Orchestra, and Mahler's epic Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp minor.

"My tastes are Viennese," Mehta says, "so I love this program, and it suits the orchestra."

Speaking of another long tenure as a music director, Mehta marvels at Gerard Schwarz's 26 years with Seattle Symphony Orchestra. He also perks up at the mention of Ludovic Morlot as Schwarz's successor.

"Oh! He was recently invited to conduct the Israel Philharmonic for a second time," Mehta says. "It was a good success before. The orchestra likes him."

Rothschild Boulevard - Tel Aviv's Living Architecture Museum

Tel Aviv's first boulevard and one of its oldest streets, is know for being lined with historic Bauhaus buildings, designed by Jewish architects who came from Germany in the early 1930s. Independence Hall, also on Rothschild, is the historic building where Ben Gurion declared the founding of the State of Israel, on May 14, 1948. Today Rothschild carries its history lightly, having become a stylish hangout for Tel Aviv's young crowd, as well as a place where the wel-heeled can live in sophisticated restored Bauhaus homes.

Russia, Israel eye joint development of communication satellites

Russia and Israel have set up a joint group that would focus on the development of communications satellites, local media reported Friday.

"We will consider the options of making several communication satellites and the joint development of a remote sensing satellite," said Anatoly Perminov, head of Russia's Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos).

Perminov said, however, that the signing of a space cooperation agreement with Israel will be put off "for some time."

"We have permission from the government to sign it but presently the Israeli side suggests postponing it. We have no objections," he said.

Earlier, local reports said that the Israeli Space Agency and Roscosmos might sign a framework agreement on March 27. It was expected to be similar to Israel's agreements with the European Space Agency and NASA.

Russia and Israel has been cooperating extensively in development of high-technological hardware, and Russia has purchased Israeli-made unmanned drones for its security services.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

President Peres Meets Real-Madrid Soccer Stars

President Peres Meets Real-Madrid Soccer Stars

Creating advantage for the disadvantaged

Beersheba-based Shamoon College of Engineering’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center gives periphery students the proper tools.

What makes an entrepreneur? Is it the idea? The dream? The desire to create? While all of that might be innate, some of what shapes an entrepreneur are circumstance and natural advantage.

A Tel Aviv area-based entrepreneur has more access to money and contacts than a southernbased one. Moreover, those who grew up in the South don’t always have the educational advantages of those who grew up in the center.

Shamoon College of Engineering is looking to level the playing field a little bit. SCE already caters to the more disadvantaged residents of the South and the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center (EIC) was the next step in giving them more tools to succeed, its director Dr. Miri Yemini, 30, told The Jerusalem Post in her office at the college’s Beersheba campus.

“More than 70 percent of the students here are from Ashdod and south. Twelve percent are non- Jewish minorities, 43% are immigrants and 28% are women (the national average is 21%). We believe the psychometric and matriculation exams are biased, so we allow applicants to be accepted not on the basis of those tests. After their first year, we reevaluate if they can continue their studies,” she said.

When she arrived at the college two and a half years ago, she started to think about what sort of competitive advantage she could give the students.

“They come from the South, there’s little access to higher education and they can’t move to the center because they’re generally older with children and families. The answer was entrepreneurship,” Yemini said.

“Entrepreneurship for marginalized populations enables them to break through the glass ceiling, to decide on their own futures.”

Even an engineering education is no longer enough of an advantage, according to Yemini.

“You need to be able to multitask in this global world. The human capital that knows how to solve equations is not enough and hasn’t been enough for a while,” she contended.

It seems that others are convinced that Yemini knows what she’s talking about. EIC has received funding from the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry for its program. Even more gratifying for Yemini and EIC, the ministry has decided to recreate the program exactly as is in the North.

EIC has also received international recognition.

Last year, it won a 1 million euro grant from the European Union’s Tempus Project and the lead role in coordinating an international study project with four other colleges here and academic institutions in Cyprus, Poland, Italy, England and Germany.

Thanks to video conferencing and an insistence that courses be taught in English, SCE students learn parallel curricula together with their European counterparts. Apple, SIT, the Council for Higher Education and the Young Entrepreneurs Association also have a role in developing the curricula and carrying it out.

The program offers tools to budding entrepreneurs but is also useful in any business environment, Yemini said.

“We teach out-of-the-box thinking [as] engineers are generally very square. We also teach teamwork, since all of the work is done in multidisciplinary teams. And we teach them to get their message across effectively both in Hebrew and in English,” she said.

HISHAM ALHALIM, 22, a software engineering student at SCE and a graduate of EIC’s program, said there were no other courses like it at SCE.

“Nowhere else are we taught business or entrepreneurship,” he said. Alhalim is working at a software company doing programming, but said that the program gave him some good ideas for the future. “I need to gain some experience first [before thinking about establishing my own start-up],” he said.

Yemini outlined the ideal end result of the program.

“The utopian dream is for our graduates to create a start-up here in the South and then hire other graduates of SCE,” she said.

To enable that, in addition to the course work, EIC facilitates contacts with industry leaders from the center of the country. The leaders come down to teach courses, for conferences and networking events.

“Entrepreneurship is about knowledge, contacts and capital,” Amir Raveh, who sold a hi-tech startup in 2003 and then founded MG Equity investment house after seven successful years in London, said by phone.

Raveh teaches at EIC and also provides mentors to the students through his nonprofit Building a Future to encourage entrepreneurship in the periphery. He was a natural fit for the program and when Yemini reached out to him, he gladly joined up.

Raveh taught two days a week at the EIC this past semester. He also helped organize a conference a few months ago that brought 100 veteran entrepreneurs to network with the students.

“We brought 100 innovators, investors, factory owners in the South, and members of my organization for a panel and mingling.

There are even two student entrepreneurs who are in negotiations for funding as a result of the conference,” he said.

The idea is to create a real connection between experienced businesspeople and the periphery, he added.

“The innovators come to a conference and you can see the sparkle in the students’ eyes. Maybe it’s as simple as giving them the self-confidence to push forward,” he said.

Alhalim agreed that the courses and program were a valuable addition.

“They were interesting and gave you a point of view and global outlook. Giving courses in the Negev is also important because the industry is not like in the center of the country,” he said.

Alhalim was given the opportunity to represent the country at an international conference in Cyprus. He and Yemini traveled to the conference on integrating educational systems across Europe to enable students to study anywhere on the continent.

They talked about the mix of Jewish, Arab and Russian populations and the difficulties when Hebrew is not your mother tongue, Alhalim said.

During EIC’s program, students are broken down into teams and have to create a product. They need to create a business plan, protect their intellectual property and carry out other tasks. In addition, all of the projects have to have some sort of environmental aspect to teach them that part of the value of their education is to give back to the community.

As part of the program, the students have to teach about entrepreneurship to local high school students.

In that way, the current generation of students is beginning to train the next generation. The Beersheba Municipality funds that aspect of the program in recognition of its value.

“What we’re trying to get across is entrepreneurship and innovation as tools for social change,” Yemini said.

For Yemini and EIC, it’s not just about making money, but about creating products that assist society and becoming engineers who work to make the world a better place.

Four Elite Chefs Cook up Peace in Jerusalem

"Taste of Peace" is a unique master chef's team based in Jerusalem, consisting of a Jewish, Arab Christian, Arab Muslim, and Armenian chef. They recently won several Gold Medals in the "Olympics of Cooking", the Villeroy and Boch Culinary World Cup, in Luxembourg. Here they cook a lavish meal together in a Jerusalem home.

Don't test Israel, Netanyahu warns Gaza militants

Israel on Thursday warned militants in the Gaza Strip not to "test" the Jewish state, as fighter jets pounded targets across the coastal enclave after a Palestinian rocket attack.

Slamming into a house, it was the first rocket to strike Israel's city of Beersheva since the devastating 2008-2009 Gaza war, significantly raising tensions along the enclave's border.

"I don't suggest anyone test the determination of the state of Israel," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

"We are determined to defend our citizens and will not accept anyone bombing our people and our civilians."

Netanyahu's firm warning came after 24 hours of tit-for-tat violence along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Early Thursday, Israeli jets raided sites across the coastal strip.

Netanyahu said he had ordered the military "to respond with force and they did that immediately on a wide scale."

The military said it targeted several Hamas camps throughout Gaza and a "terrorist squad in the northern Gaza Strip, in the same location where rockets were fired towards the Israeli city of Beersheva."

Later, war planes bombed several other sites across the coastal strip, which the military called "hubs of terror."

On Thursday night, the army said warplanes hit "terrorist targets" in southern and "direct hits were confirmed."

Local rescues services said two people had been wounded in a strike on Rafah, on the Egyptian border.

That would make five Israeli strikes reported by the Palestinians, including three in Gaza City and one in the southern town of Khan Yunis.

There were no reports of casualties in Beersheva, where television footage showed a crater gouged out of a street next to a badly damaged home.

Visiting the city later, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said the attack on Beersheva was an attempt to "extend" what he called a "permanent conflict" underway on the Gaza border.

Residents of the town said they escaped harm after warning sirens sent them running for the bomb shelters before the rocket struck.

Emergency services raised the alert level in southern Israel and braced for further attacks.

Beersheva, known as the capital of the Negev Desert, is home to about 200,000 people and is 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the Gaza Strip.

The city's deputy major Heftsi Zohar called on the Israeli government and military to "do whatever it takes" to prevent the city from being attacked.

The rocket was fired after clashes along the Gaza border on Wednesday, in which one Islamic Jihad militant was killed and 10 people wounded.

The group said its members were hit as they fired two mortar shells at Israeli tanks operating inside the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli military said an explosive device detonated near a regular patrol along the Gaza border and a mortar shell fired.

"The force spotted several terrorists and opened fire on them, identifying a hit," a spokeswoman said, accusing militants of placing 12 bombs along the border fence in the past two months.

The Ezzedine al-Qassem Brigades, the armed wing of Gaza's ruling Hamas movement, said it participated in attacks against the military, and Israel said it held Hamas "solely responsible" for the flare-up of violence.

Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan rejected the accusation, blaming the "Zionist enemy" for "this escalation and the targeting of our people."

Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom described the attack on Beersheva as "a very grave act carried out by the agents of Iran, Hamas."

Israel carried out a massive 22-day offensive in Gaza from December 2008 to January 2009 to stop rocket fire from the coastal enclave.

The offensive killed 1,400 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians, and 13 Israelis, 10 of them soldiers.

Israeli and Polish Prime Ministers Meet

Israeli and Polish Prime Ministers Meet

Israel's 'Save a Child's Heart' Builds Bridges

Nine-year-old Esther had congestive heart failure and had been given only a few months to live until a unique Israeli organization stepped in to save her.

The little girl from Africa joined the 2,500 Christian, Muslim and other children helped by the Save a Child's Heart organization.

Life-Saving Heart Surgery

A group of young children danced in their village looking happy, healthy and active. But just weeks ago, each one of them was facing death. They each needed open heart surgery and they got it through Save a Child's Heart in Israel.

"The idea behind Save a Child's Heart is to provide life-saving heart surgery for children from developing countries," said Simon Fisher, the organization's executive director.

That was the case with Esther, a Christian from the Massai tribe in Tanzania. Rheumatic fever damaged her heart and she couldn't get the necessary help in her own country. She became the 2,500th patient of the Save a Child's Heart organization.

"Her heart was huge, so she was very limited in very simple tasks. Even simple walking it was difficult for her," Dr. Lior Sasson recalled.

Sister Angelika is in charge of the children's home where Esther lives. She heard about the program from a program volunteer who just happened to be riding the same bus from Kenya to Tanzania.

Angelika contacted the organization and learned a team was heading to Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro two days later.

One of the physicians on the team, Dr. Godwin Goedfrey, is Tanzanian.

"Actually for me, it looks like a miracle," he said.

The team met Esther and saw she needed to have her surgery. Two months later, she was in Israel.

Dr. Sasson operated for several hours reconstructing the valve in Esther's heart.

"Now she can live normal life. She has to take preventive medicine so that her valve will not be affected," Dr. Sasson explained.

Building Bridges

Fisher says more than 50 percent of the children who have been treated by the organization are Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

"We believe that Save a Child's Heart is a very positive message, which it sends out from the Middle East, from Israel about people working together from different nationalities and different religions for the best of our children," Fisher said.

Part of the program's goal is to train doctors from developing countries like Dr. Goedgrey who will work in Israel for five years.

"This training will be one of its kind for my country. So hopefully when I go back I will actually start the open heart surgery also for the young children," Dr. Goedfrey told CBN News.

Before and after surgery the children live in a house, usually with a parent or caregiver.

House mother Laura Kasis says the change in the children is amazing.

"You see the children going home healthy. You see children sometimes who can barely walk practically running to the gate and to the minibus to go to the airport. They're smiling and they're looking forward to going home and you know that they have a future," she said.

Less than two weeks after her surgery, Esther was dancing and with her newfound friends and sang a song she sings at home.

"I've got peace like a river. I've got peace like a river. I've got peace like a river in my soul," she sang.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

What If You Could Show The World The Israel That You Know

What If You Could Show The World The Israel That You Know

Mass-Producing the Tomato Tree

Researchers in the Ramat Negev Research and Development Institute hope to bring the “tomato tree” to the mass market. They are currently conducting an experiment that could make the tree easier to grow commercially in Israel.

The tomato tree bears fruits which resemble tomatoes, although they are not true tomatoes. It is native to the Andes mountains in South America. Its fruits are currently very popular in New Zealand and in many countries in South America.

Researcher Shabtai Cohen explained that the “tree tomato” has a sweet flavor, somewhat like that of a Guava fruit. It is rich in vitamins A and C, and can be eaten raw or used in recipes that call for tomato.

The “tomato tree” could prove a good crop for Israeli farmers for two reasons, Ramat Negev scientists said. For one, it requires relatively little manpower to grow; for another, its popularity abroad could make it a lucrative investment.

The current experiments are aimed to find the best way to grow the trees commercially in Israel, and to determine whether the tree could be successfully watered using salt water, thus reducing costs and saving water, which is in short supply due to a years-long drought.

Researchers believe farmers will be able to grow from 100 to 200 tomato trees per dunam, and that each tree will produce an average of 60 kilograms of fruit.

The latest findings regarding the tomato tree – along with many other advancements in agriculture – will be presented at the 21st Agro Expo in Tel Aviv, which is to be held on March 2 and 3. This year's expo will focus in part on the world food crisis, and on ways in which new technologies can be used to improve the situation.

Video: Arrow 2 missile defense successfully tested

Missile defense system tested off California coast, destroys simulated Iranian missile; Barak calls development a milestone.

Raw Footage: Israeli Arrow 2 Missile Test Off California

Israel conducted a successful test of the Arrow 2 ballistic missile defense system off the coast of California early on Tuesday morning, when it destroyed a target simulating an Iranian ballistic missile.

It was the 18th test of the Arrow, and the second in which the modified Arrow 2 was tested in its entirety, along with the Green Pine radar manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries.

The test was conducted jointly by the IAF, the Defense Ministry’s Homa Missile Defense Agency and the US Missile Defense Agency. The Arrow is a project developed in cooperation by the IAI and Boeing.

The Arrow interceptor was launched at around 10:30 p.m. Pacific Standard Time from a US Navy base along the California coast and intercepted a missile fired from a nearby navy vessel. Defense officials said the “enemy” missile impersonated a “future threat that Israel could one day face in the region.”

Defense officials lauded the successful launch as another indication of Israel’s defense capabilities in the face of Iran’s continued quest for a nuclear weapon. They said that the Arrow system could protect Israel from all of the missiles in Iran’s arsenal.

The Green Pine Radar – an integral part of the Arrow missile defense system – detected the enemy missile and, after identifying it, related the information to the Arrow battery, which launched the missile interceptor.

Arieh Herzog, head of the Homa Missile Defense Agency, said the Arrow system worked as designed and completely destroyed the target.

The interceptor used in the test incorporated new software that will now be installed in all of the Arrow interceptors currently in IAF use.

“This test is important for Israel as it prepares to counter the ballistic missile threat in the region,” Herzog said. “This test proves the success of the system after it underwent new upgrades.”

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the test was an important milestone in the Israel’s development of missile defense systems. Last week, the IAF successfully tested the Iron Dome counter-rocket defense system ahead of its planned deployment in southern Israel.

The US Missile Defense Agency released a statement saying that the success provided confidence in Israel’s operational capabilities to defeat the developing ballistic missile threat.

Israel and the US are also jointly moving forward with the development of Arrow 3, which will be called Reshef (Flash) in Hebrew. The first flyout test of the Arrow 3 is scheduled for later this year and the system is expected to become operational in 2015.

IAF to Test Arrow 3 Early Next Year - IAI/IAF Arrow 3 Simulation

An interception test will likely take place in 2012

The Israel Air Force will hold its first test of the Arrow 3, under development by Israel Aerospace Industries, in early 2011, officials said on Wednesday.

Jointly developed by IAI and Boeing in the US, the Arrow 3 will serve as Israel's top-tier missile defense system, adding another layer of defense to that provided by the Arrow 2, which is already operational and deployed throughout Israel.

The initial test of the Arrow 3 will not include the interception of a mock enemy missile. An interception test will likely take place in 2012.

"The Arrow system can effectively counter all of the missile threats that exist in the region," said Inbal Kreiss, the Arrow 3 project manager at IAI.

Kreiss, who spoke at the New Tech conference in Airport City on Wednesday, said that IAI was also modifying the existing Arrow missile launcher to accommodate the slightly smaller Arrow 3 interceptor. This will allow the launcher to also fire American-made SM3 missiles, which are currently used by the US Navy on its Aegis missile defense ships.

Meanwhile Wednesday, defense officials said that the $205 million in funding authorized by the US Congress for Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system -- developed to intercept short-range rockets -- would enable the defense establishment to purchase an additional six batteries that could be deployed along the Gaza border.
Rafael has already manufactured two batteries that were delivered to the IAF, which is planning a final conclusive test of the Iron Dome in the coming weeks, following which it will be declared operational.

Officials said that the system could, in a future conflict, be deployed just south of Tel Aviv and along the Mediterranean coast to defend the city against Hamas long-range missiles, such as the Iranian Fajr 5, which it is believed to have obtained since Operation Cast Lead last year.

Shimon Peres Speaks in Spain

Peres Talks About Iran and Peace Process in Madrid Forum

Peres Talks About Iran and Peace Process in Madrid Forum

Peres Speaks with Jewish Community in Madrid

Peres Speaks with Jewish Community in Madrid

Israel to allow 300 Palestinians in Libya into the PA

PM says entry permits were given out of humanitarian considerations; request was made by PA President Abbas.

Israel will allow 300 Palestinians living in Libya whose lives are endangered into the Palestinian Authority, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Wednesday.

Netanyahu made the announcement at a reception for visiting Polish Prime Minster Donald Tusk, who arrived Wednesday along with eight of his cabinet ministers for the first annual Israeli-Polish joint government meeting.

The decision to permit entry of the Palestinians living in Libya was made out of humanitarian considerations, Netanyahu said. The request to allow them into the PA, he said, came from PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

The announcement came following a meeting of the security cabinet earlier in the day, during which the situation in Libya – and its likely impact on other countries in the region -- as well as the sailing through the Suez Canal of two Iranian warships, were discussed.

According to information reportedly given to the ministers, the ships docked in Syria, and were not transporting arms and ammunition. The overall purpose of the sailing through the Canal, the ministers were told, was to examine the world's reaction.

The upheaval in the region, which Netanyahu in a speech to the Knesset Wednesday characterized as an "earthquake" from Afghanistan to the Maghreb, will be a focus of Netanyahu's talks with his Polish counterpart.

The Israeli-Polish joint government meeting comes fast on the heels of a similar meeting in Jerusalem last month with the German cabinet. Israel has similar arrangement with Italy, and will initiate this year a joint government meeting with Greece as well.

Diplomatic sources said that these types of government-to-government meetings are the best answer to those who are trying to isolate Israel diplomatically. The sources said that these meetings give an enormous push to bilateral relationships, because when the ministers meet in this setting they are able to cut through bureaucracy and give a huge push to various projects.

Each visiting Polish minister will meet privately with his or her Israeli counterpart, followed by a joint cabinet sessions. The Polish defense, foreign, education, culture, health, environment and intelligence services ministers were among those accompanying Tusk .

Poland, according to diplomatic sources, is considered among Israel's best friends in Europe, with Warsaw often advocating on Israel's behalf inside the EU institutions and voting alongside it – when given the freedom to do so by the EU – at the UN and in other international bodies.

For instance, in the UN General Assembly vote on the Goldstone Commission report in November 2009, Poland was one of only seven EU countries – and 18 overall -- that voted with Israel against adopting the report. The other EU countries were the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands and Slovakia.

Three months later, Poland abstained on a follow-up vote, as did each of the seven other EU countries that voted for Israel in the first vote, plus Romania..

In addition to close diplomatic ties, some 27,000 Israeli high schoolers visit Poland each year and go to Auschwitz as part of their Holocaust studies curriculum. Ways of bringing Israeli youth into contact with Polish youth on these trips, and through other exchange programs, will be discussed Wednesday by the countries' education and culture ministers.

CITYbites: Scala |

It should come as no surprise that one of the most exclusive of Jerusalem hotels, the David Citadel, also hosts Scala, one of the most prestigious Jerusalem restaurants, which serves up a sophisticated, contemporary mix of flavors.

Paris-trained chef de cuisine Oren Yerushalmi, who also has several years of work in top New York restaurants under his belt, brings formidable expertise to bear on the menu, infusing the mostly continental cuisine with distinctive Israeli and Middle Eastern flavors.

For all the information you'll need to plan the perfect Jerusalem vacation, surf to

Orthodox Response to an Un-Orthodox Sport

Imagine the conversation between a Rabbi and his son. Says the Rabbi, “son, when you grow up I want you to honour the traditions of this family and become a well respected Rabbi”. Answers the son, “but daddy, I don’t want to become a Rabbi. I want to become a World Champion boxer!” The response from the Rabbi would probably be something like, “’Let the goyim be the fighters, the murderers — we are the scholars.” The scenario may seem fictitious, but this was the response Rabbi Isidore Rasofsky gave to his son Dov-Ber Rasofsky (a.k.a Barney Ross) when attempting to dissuade him from pursuing a career in professional boxing, and persuade him to keep his mind focused on Talmud learning. Unfortunately for the Rabbi his words failed to work and Ross subsequently became one of the most successful Jewish boxers of the 1920’s and 1930’s. His strength in the ring made him an iconic figure amongst American Jews. They viewed Ross as someone who had the potential to fight back against the rise of the Nazi party and the anti-Semitic behavior which was rampant during that period.

Now image a Rabbi, who is a member of a Chasidic sect, and is also a professional boxer. Step into the ring Yuri Foreman. Originally born in Belarus to a secular Jewish family, Foreman is currently in the process of taking Semicha. His family made aliyah when Foreman was aged nine and subsequently moved to America, where Foreman was able to grow religiously and develop his boxing. He follows the Chabad movement and has previously entered the ring to the sound of the Lubavitcher rebbe signing a Chassidic melody! Outside the ring, Foreman’s toughest fight remains attempting to defend himself against questions relating to the apparent contradiction between being an orthodox Rabbi and pursuing a career in professional boxing. The responsibility of the Rabbi is to ensure he is role model to his community and this is achieved by demonstrating moral and ethical behaviour within the public sphere. If Foreman decides to continue boxing once he has gained semicha, he risks jeopardising his rabbinical authority. Foreman’s next fight is scheduled for March 12 and will be against Pawel Wolak.

Foreman is not the only contemporary professional boxer to adhere to orthodox Judaism. Born in Ukraine to a secular Jewish family, Dimitry Salita, like Foreman, is an immigrant to America. His family made the decision to leave Ukraine as they became increasingly concerned for their safety with the rise of anti-Semitic abuse. Indeed, as a child, Salita used violence as a means to protect himself against Ukrainian Jew hatred. Upon moving to America, Salita continued to suffer from bullying because he was an immigrant and his family was very poor. Once again, he used his fists to fight back and was regularly involved in fights. He subsequently joined his first boxing gym at the age of 13 and used the opportunity as a means to escape from poverty. After the death of his mother, Salita became more involved in Judaism with help from the local Chabad community. Salita came to prominence within the British media in December 2009 during the build up to his WBA light welterweight fight against Amir Khan, who is ironically an orthodox Muslim. The press focused their reporting on Salita’s Jewish identity and some of the customs and laws he observes. Unfortunately for Salita, the fight didn’t go as planned and he was knocked out after just 76 seconds. In the post fight analysis, questions arose relating to Salita’s future in the sport. However, Salita has had a successful return to the ring; winning his past two fights, and is now considering arranging his next fight in Israel.

Although orthodox Jewish boxers are novel, Jews are no strangers to the boxing ring. For example, in England, Daniel Mendoza was one of the most prominent and successful prize fighters (prize fighting was an early form of boxing) of the 19th century. He was among the first Jewish people to meet British royalty when he met King George III, and this helped to elevate the social position of Jewish people within British society. During the 1920’s and 1930’s, Jewish immigrant boxers were common in America as they attempted to use boxing to escape their impoverished status within society. In London’s East End, Jewish boxers also featured prominently during the 1920’s and, as in America, boxing was a seen as way out of social deprivation. One of the most prominent boxers during this period was Jack ‘Kid’ Berg. His trademark was to enter the boxing ring wearing Tefilin in a ploy to get the crowd on his side!

In an age when many Jews would rather distance themselves from Judaism, the bravery and commitment shown by Foreman and Salita to adhere to their faith deserves a high level of credit and respect. Indeed both Boxers testified that being religious and having faith has helped develop their boxing careers. The main responsibly for both men is to continue to represent orthodox Judaism in a positive light. This has the potential to educate secular Jews about the importance of maintaining a proud Jewish identity in today’s society.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Arabs, gays and an MTV VJ to fight apartheid analogy

Group of young Israelis, chosen by Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs to go on a speaking tour of the US.

As Israeli Apartheid Week nears, the government on Monday unveiled its latest initiative aimed at debunking the analogy made by Palestinian supporters between the Jewish state and minority rule in South Africa.

At a reception at the Knesset, the Public Diplomacy Ministry presented a diverse group of about 20 volunteer speakers consisting of Arabs, gay rights activists, Ethiopian Jews and a former MTV presenter who will tour campuses in North America later this month highlighting Israeli society’s pluralism.

Yuli Edelstein (Likud), the minister of public diplomacy and Diaspora affairs, said the aim was not to defend the government’s policies per se, but rather to demonstrate the country’s democratic and egalitarian values.

“If it turns into political debate don’t feel obliged to represent the government,” Edelstein told the group. “The people who organize Apartheid Week aren’t pro- Likud or pro-Labor. Their problem is the existence of Israel. If there is this or that discussion and someone asks about Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, feel free to express your opinion even if you voted Meretz. If it comes from your kishkes [gut] you’ll show a lot more integrity.”

Israeli Apartheid Week is an annual series of lectures and rallies held in late February or early March in which Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and its Arab citizens is equated with South Africa’s treatment of non-whites under Apartheid. Since it began in 2005, the movement has grown significantly and now takes places in dozens of campuses around the world.

The government hopes that during their talks set to take place in Washington, New York, Boston, Toronto and Vancouver, the participants will help counter claims that Israel is inherently discriminatory, by talking about their personal experiences.

Adam Asad, a Druse from the Galilee, acknowledged that inequality between Jews and Arabs in Israel exists but said he believed such disparities can be overcome within the framework of Israeli society.

“In any case, there are no laws that stipulate [discrimination],” said the 19-year-old, who is the youngest members of the delegation. “I feel I can address the issues at hand and correct injustices that exist.”

Rinan Khoury, a Christian from Nazareth, said she wasn’t afraid of confronting Arabs during the tour who might call her a traitor.

“It’s to be expected,” she said. “I have relatives who left, but we decided to stay here and work for our rights. We want to solve this issue, and that’s why I took part in national service.”

Khoury added: “Inequality is everywhere, but not discrimination.”

Becky Griffin is a former MTV presenter and by far the most recognizable member of the group. The daughter of an Israeli mother of Yemenite descent and a Catholic American father who converted to Judaism, she said she volunteered to dispel the notion that Israelis were intolerant of minorities.

“Israel has its problems like anywhere else, but it’s a place where communication does exist,” Griffin said.

Critics have said out that the initiative ignores the divides along ethnic and religious lines within Israel between Jews and non-Jews, Ashkenazim and Sephardim, and the religiously observant and secular.

Comedians Shay and Dror on their daily radio talk show, for instance, poked fun at the initiative by comparing it to an Israeli entry to the Eurovision Song Contest, an annual music competition whose participants are notorious for pulling PR stunts aimed at winning over the audience.

“We should send a gay, an Arab and Becky Griffin to the Eurovision to represent us,” they said in jest.

Griffin shrugged off the criticism on Monday, saying the speakers represented a genuine effort to shine a light on the heterogeneous nature of Israeli society.

“It’s obvious they’ll look for the yellow journalism angle,” she said of the media.

A representative of the Public Diplomacy Ministry said the group wasn’t supposed to represent a perfect cross-section of society, but rather give voice to aspects of it that aren’t usually seen or head abroad.

Edelstein said the group’s aim was to promote sophisticated thinking. “If people emerge from the talks thinking that the situation here is much more complicated than they thought, then that would be a success,” he said.