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Did You Know?

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

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Some of the Items Transferred into Gaza from Israel on a Daily Basis

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The video shows a sampling of some of the goods transferred on a daily basis to the Gaza Strip from Israel. This was not filmed on a particular noteworthy day, as many luxury items are often included among the goods transferred.

Included among the items shown in the video are hot tubs, LCD televisions, luxury cars, and frost-free refrigerators. Also transferred that day (not shown in the video) were mannequins and jewelery.

The still photos of Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai Tucson vehicles being transferred in the Gaza Strip are from an earlier date.

Israel (through COGAT and the Ministry of Defense) coordinates the daily transfer of roughly 250 to 280 truckloads into Gaza (equivalent to approximately 6,000 of tons of goods and materials)—via the Kerem Shalom land crossing. The goods are ordered in advance by Palestinian Authority officials, who have yet to maximize the crossing's truckload capacity.

The world's most gay-friendly places

What better way to celebrate Gay and Lesbian Pride Month than to pay tribute to places where monumental strides in gay rights have taken place. Online travel advisers CheapFlights ( offer its top gay-friendly destinations.


Some of the first-recorded mentions of same-sex relationships, unions and marriages trace back to ancient Greece. Though relationships between two men were eventually banned thousands of years later, Greece is back on track. In 2011, more than 10,000 activists marched at the annual Athens Gay Pride parade.

Los Angeles

One of the first national gay rights organizations, the Mattachine Society, was founded in Los Angeles by Harry Hay in 1950 to help improve the civil rights of homosexuals. Today the city still brims with art and culture nurtured by its active gay community.

New York City

The Stonewall Riots in New York's Greenwich Village incited the first gay rights movement in the U.S. in 1969.

When police raided a local gay bar that summer, activists fought back. To honour the one-year anniversary of the riot activists walked from downtown to Central Park in the country's first gay pride march.

San Francisco

For decades, members of the gay community have flocked to San Francisco . It was Harvey Milk in the 1970s who encouraged a generation of men and women to mobilize and fight for civil rights and changes in legislation. The first openly gay man elected to office in California, Milk was a beacon for a younger generation and a martyr for homosexuals nationwide after his assassination in 1978 .


Canada is by far the gay-friendliest country in all of the Americas . But equality didn't come easily. The 1981 bathhouse raid in Toronto enraged so many people that thousands took to the streets to protest the injustice.

The city has come a long way since; it was recently picked to host WorldPride, an international celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights, in 2014.


The Supreme Court of the 50th state to join the union made a big case for same-sex marriage in Baehr v. Lewin when it ruled that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples is unconstitutional. The islands are home to a diverse gay community, and hosts thousands of gay travellers each year.

Tel Aviv

A known leader in LGBT rights in the Middle East, Israel is way ahead of the curve when it comes to adoption, marriage and military equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-identified people.

It's no wonder Out Magazine designated Tel Aviv the gay capital of the Middle East.


The first country to legalize gay marriage in 2001, the Netherlands was voted the largest supporter of same-sex marriage in 2006 by the European Union and is a premier destination for LGBT travellers.

Israel makes device to monitor troops' health

Israeli defence scientists have designed a tiny device that can be attached to the ear and which could monitor the health status of an army personnel during training.

The device designed by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) would alert commanders to any life-threatening distress, Xinhua reported citing the Ma'ariv daily.

The 'physiological sensor' developed by the Life Beam firm, can be attached to the ear. It simultaneously monitors critical physiological parameters, including blood pressure, breathing and heart rate, while the soldier is engaged in rigorous activity.

The sensor can instantly recognise 'life-threatening changes' leading to heat stroke or dehydration, and thus help in enabling early evacuation and treatment.

Life Beam was founded by two former Israeli Air Force pilots who served together and came up with the idea during their service.

'We saw incidents in which people died or nearly died, and began thinking of ways to prevent them,' one of the unnamed founders was quoted as saying.

While training-related fatalities are a rare occurrence in the IDF, which routinely operates in extreme weather conditions, a handful of soldiers, mostly young trainees, have died over the past decade during desert exercises.

'The sensor would enable early detection when a soldier gets into trouble. You can halt the exercise and dispatch a medical team to assist him,' a senior IDF Medical Corps officer said.

The IDF said it was planning to develop a 'civilian version' that would save lives of infants, the elderly, athletes and patients with chronic illnesses.

Israel to restore section of Dead Sea shore

Tourists take a shower after bathing in the Dead Sea resort of Ein Bokeq May 20, 2010. Israel wants to harvest salt from the bottom of the Dead Sea in hopes of protecting its southern shore, but a $2 billion price tag has pitted the government against one of the country's largest companies.

Israel wants to harvest salt from the bottom of the Dead Sea in hopes of protecting its southern shore, but a $2 billion price tag has pitted the government against one of the country's largest companies.

The project, set to commence in the coming weeks, will prevent a small part of the Dead Sea that has been rising in recent years from invading a group of hotels built to the southwest.

Israel's Tourism Ministry said the job should be funded mostly by Dead Sea Works, a unit of Israel Chemicals, the second largest company on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, whose mineral extraction has in part caused the shift in coastline.

The company told Reuters in a statement on Thursday it has "consented to take part in the funding of the proposed harvesting solution," but says the state is ultimately responsible and should bear the brunt of the costs, which it says are much lower than the government estimate.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, vowing his government will "save the Dead Sea," decided this week that salt harvesting was the best solution. He has formed a committee that within 18 days must decide who will ultimately fund it.

"We will try to reach a solution through discussion with Dead Sea Works, but if not, we will act in all ways at our disposal, including taking legal actions," Netanyahu said during a tour of the area, according to an official statement.

The project will not, however, tackle the bigger problem of poor water management that has caused the Dead Sea, a favorite spot for tourists who enjoy floating in its densely salted waters, to shrink by a third in the past 50 years.

The ailing sea, located at the earth's lowest point, has alarmed environmentalists worldwide. The three governments with coastal access -- Israel, Jordan, and the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority -- have joined forces to try to rescue it.

With shorelines receding at an overall rate of a meter (3.3 feet) each year, the Dead Sea today is actually made up of two lakes -- the larger basin to the north, and a smaller one to the south, which the Israeli plan targets.

The southern basin is in fact a series of artificial evaporation pools where Dead Sea Works produces potash. The company is the world's sixth largest producer of potash, a main ingredient of fertilizer.

The hotels sit on the edge of the largest pool, which is 80 square kilometers (31 square miles) in size.

As a result of the evaporation, salt sediment in that pool sinks, causing the sea level in that specific area to rise 20 centimeters (8 inches) annually and encroach on the hotels.

By continually harvesting that salt, the water level should remain steady, said Jiwchar Ganor, a professor of geological and environmental sciences at Israel's Ben Gurion University.

"Studies show this option is the most durable," he said.

Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov, who together with the minister of environmental protection has championed the cause, insists that most of the money must come from Dead Sea Works, declaring: "The one who pollutes is also the one who will pay."

But Dead Sea Works vice president of infrastructure, Noam Goldstein, said the harvesting of 16 million cubic meters (565 million cubic feet) of salt was mostly the state's burden.

"It's been checked by two different state comptrollers and by the Supreme Court. So there is no doubt here. The one who needs to provide for most of the costs is the state," Goldstein told Channel 10 television.

One government official with knowledge of the deliberations said Israel Chemicals will likely end up covering at least half the expenses.

Bereaved Father Endorses Jewish Music, Commemorates Murdered Son

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Businessman Defuses Anti-Israel Protest in London

It's not just IDF officers and Israeli government officials who are targets of anti-Israel mobs when they speak in London. Israeli businesspeople are now apparently also on the firing line.

Earlier this week, an anti-Israel mob stormed a show in London, where Israeli real estate officials were promoting investments in Israel. But they met their match when a quick-thinking businessman defused the situation.

The event, which had been advertised in local media, took place at a Marriott hotel in London, where several Israeli representatives made presentations. Anti-Israel activists apparently read about it and arrived at the event carrying PLO flags and signs condemning Israel. The mob tried to storm the meeting, but was kept back by guards.

Shlomo Grofman, head of Israel's Faire Fund (First American Israeli Real Estate Fund) real estate investment firm, decided to go outside and conduct a dialogue with the group. Speaking to an Israeli business reporter, Grofman said that he didn't fear for his safety when he confronted the group.

“I believe that discussion is the best way to deal with situations like this, so I engaged them in dialogue. They presented their usual arguments, and I countered with my point of view.” Grofman said that after about a half hour, the group decided to end the demonstration, and left the site peacefully.

Grofman said that he felt good about his contribution to Israeli hasbara [public diplomacy -- Ed]. “Perhaps they should include real estate folks as part of the groups that travel around presenting Israel's point of view, and not just have us speak about property investment opportunities,” he said.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

It's all downhill from here

A mountain biker riding the snow-free slopes of Mount Hermon.

As winters warm up, Golan ski resort doubles as bike park

For mountain biker Shai Lahat, it took three downhill trips yesterday to take the edge off the thrill of hurtling down the slopes of Mount Hermon.

"It's super-fun, there are good trails and some sweet jumps. There's no other place like it in Israel," Lahat said after riding at Bike Park, a biking site at the Hermon Ski Resort on the Golan Heights mountain that opened yesterday.

Lahat, the technical coach for Teamisgav, a riding group with 200 members, envisions an expansion of the offerings, with additional trails for different types of bicycling that would attract riders coming from abroad.

The site already has three bicycle trails: a relatively easy one, for learning how to mountain bike and practicing technique; and two 4.5-kilometer downhill trails that go from the top to the bottom of the ski site and include jumps and other features.

"The main idea is to take advantage of the infrastructure, the unique topography, the weather and the accessibility of Hermon Ski Resort for bicycling," said Guy Zisser of PeakBike, the company that operates the park.

Bikers use the ski chairlifts to take them, and their wheels, to the top of the trail. An all-day lift ticket costs NIS 135.

"Several conditions are needed for a bike park, and in addition to suitable topography and accessibility, the chairlift is an important component," Zisser said.

According to PeakBike, there are an estimated 200,000 active mountain bikers in Israel.

But Zisser said it was "impossible to guess how many will come." For now, he's settling for the 10 biking "addicts" who showed up yesterday after hearing about the site's opening.

The general manager of the ski resort, Menachem Baruch, said he had been searching for a partner with a suitable background for years before joining forces with PeakBike.

"We realized a long time ago that we needed to bring mountain biking into the site as a complementary product, and we found the people who could do it," he said.

But though Baruch called the biking "complementary," it could well turn into the ski resort's main activity if the winters continue to be as mild as in the last two years. The resort was open to skiers for only seven days this winter and 15 days the previous one.

"It's sad," said Baruch, though he insisted "the winter activity is still central to Hermon."

The warmer winters may be bad for skiing at Hermon, but Zisser sees the silver lining in the disappearing clouds.

"Considering that Israel's weather allows for mountain biking for seven months out of the year, compared to just a few months abroad, our project is expected to form a complementary activity to the winter and in this way will contribute to increasing tourism in the area in the spring, summer and fall," said Zisser. "The Hermon will operate for a longer period of time as a bike park than as a ski area."

Zisser said there are similar bike parks in Europe, the United States and Canada.

"Soon the site will be associated not only with skiing but also with biking," said Lahat. "The word is already out on the opening, and riders are excited."

Aerial Footage of Israel

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The best aerial footage of Israel: from the Old City of Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, from the Negev mountains to the city of Acre and the ruins of Caesarea.

UJA Campaign 2012 Launch w/ Jason Alexander

Click To View Video for tix. Known and loved by all as George Costanza on Seinfeld from 1989 to 1998, the irrepressible Alexander is excited to share his unique, unforgettable comedic talents and insights with all of you!

United Jewish Appeal invites you and your family to celebrate the launch of UJA Campaign 2012 with a night of laughter, entertainment and a show that’s definitely about something!

Jason Alexander

Known and loved by all as George Costanza on Seinfeld from 1989 to 1998, the irrepressible Alexander is excited to share his unique, unforgettable comedic talents and insights with all of you!

Find out why Jason is looking forward to coming to Toronto

Tuesday, August 23 | 7:30pm
Toronto's Sony Centre
1 Front Street East, Toronto
Purchase your tickets online now - $125, $85, $50 and $35 seats available
or contact Elena Livertovksy | 416.635.2883 x5329

For a change to win FREE tickets to this event, check out:
*Please keep in mind that this event is rated PG and UJA cannot control all content of Jason Alexander's program

Gaza Receives Thousands of Tons in Goods and Materials

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Despite the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) ensures the daily transfer of nearly 6,000 tons of goods and roughly 260 truckloads via Kerem Shalom, an Israel-Gaza land crossing.

Lawfully enforcing the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip allows the Israeli Navy to halt rocket and missile attacks into Israel by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip.

Lynch survivor: I saw murder in their eyes

Nachshon and his saviors

Nir Nachshon, who was nearly lynched after accidentally entering Palestinian village, recalls moments of horror. Village's muchtar visits Nachson's home, says 'I ask for your forgiveness, invite you to return or visit'

Nir Nachshon, the moving company employee who was extricated from a lynch after mistakenly entering the east Jerusalem village of Issawiya Sunday night, is still trying to digest the harrowing experience.

Speaking to Ynet from his hospital bed he said that "they started throwing rocks and cement blocks right into the car. I realized I was going to die and I started thinking this isn't the way I want to die."

Nachshon, 28, was on his way home to Ma'aleh Adumim from the Mount Scopus Medical Center but a GPS device mistake meant that he ended up in the Palestinian village. He was evacuated to the Ein Kerem Medical Center after sustaining light head injuries.

The realization that he was in hostile territory, he said, came "just as I made the turn, I figured out that I made a mistake, but I didn't realize how big the issue was. This is Jerusalem. This is home."

"Immediately when I made the turn a 12-year-old boy started screaming 'Jew, Jew'. Each time he called out dozens more people arrived." That is when they started throwing rocks and cement blocks into the car.

Nachshon recalled how during the lynch he searched among his assailants for "children or young people, I tried to look them in the eyes and find an ounce of humanity in them but all I could see was murder in heir eyes. I felt my life would be over at any minute."

'It was a miracle'

Nir then described how his life was saved: "Someone came out of nowhere and tried to rescue me from the people; there was screaming but he managed to get me to his house. I was still scared, I didn't feel safe, and the people in the house said they needed to get me out of the village or they would also come under attack.

"I was scared to go out but three of the young guys inside the house said they were with me and would protect me no matter what." The rescuers were one of the village's muhtar's and his sons. "I owe these people my life," Nachshon added "I hope I'll get to meet them again soon and thank them in person."

Nachshon's saviors took him outside to a police patrol car waiting outside the village. Meanwhile Border Guard forces were rushed to the scene as well as Magen David Adom units, which took the victim to the hospital. Police forces canvassed the area but no detainees have been reported.

In addition to the physical trauma Nachshon received from being beaten by clubs, rocks and wooden planks, he has to contend with the emotional trauma. "I'm still trying to digest everything that happened, all I know is that this was a miracle, I got my life back and first and foremost, I thank God for the gift."

'Extremists are everywhere'

Shortly after being released from the hospital, Nachshon received a visit from the village Muchtar, Darwish Darwish.

"I condemn this act, I ask for your forgiveness and invite you to return to the village," said Darwish. "I am sure that if we weren’t there, someone else would have come to your rescue," he said.

Darwish wished Nachshon a quick recovery and expressed hope that "he won't keep a grudge," noting that "extremists are everywhere."

The muchtar told Nachshon that "two months ago an Arab man was attacked by Jews in Jerusalem. I hope you will save the lives of Arabs just like we saved yours."

Nachshon thanked Darwish and said, "I am staying out of politics, but I know I owe you my life. I don’t know what would have happened if you weren’t there."

At the end of the meeting, Darwish reiterated his disapproval of the event, but stressed that "our village is neglected and our residents don’t receive their basic rights. Our kids walk around in the streets and are only used to experiencing raids," he said.

The IDF's Really Special Unit of Volunteers

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Texas Governor urges action against Israel protesters

Texas Governor Rick Perry urged the U.S. Attorney-General to take action Wednesday against Americans who plan to take part in a pro-Palestinian protest by sailing to the Gaza Strip to challenge an Israeli naval blockade.

Mr. Perry wrote that he had information that American citizens were aboard two U.S.-flagged ships that plan to challenge the blockade on the Gaza Strip. He urged U.S. Attorney-General Eric Holder to take legal steps to stop them from taking part, or to prosecute them if they make the attempt.

“The state of Israel is a friend and critical ally of the United States, and the only stable democracy in an increasingly unstable and hostile region,” wrote Mr. Perry , a vocal supporter of Israel who is considering a run for president in 2012. “These initiatives to breach Israel's maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip is an unacceptable provocation.”

Under federal law, anyone who “prepares a means for, or furnishes the money for, or takes part in, any military or naval expedition” against a friendly country can be fined or jailed for three years. Mr. Perry also suggested that Mr. Holder prosecute the protesters for providing materials or assistance to a terrorist organization.

Israel has enforced a Gaza border blockade since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized the territory in 2007. Last year, an Israeli raid on a similar flotilla killed nine activists on a Turkish vessel. Each side blamed the other for the violence.

Pro-Palestinian activists operating from Greece were preparing Wednesday to launch what are reported to be 10 ships carrying medical and construction supplies for Gaza some time this week. Israeli Information Minister Yuli Edelstein called on organizers to deliver their cargo via an Israeli port, but the protesters rejected that option Wednesday.

Greece is the flotilla's base of operations, but activists won't disclose the exact location of the ships because of security concerns.

In his letter, Mr. Perry identified two of the ships as the Audacity of Hope and the the Challenger II, both of which he said were registered in Delaware. Mr. Perry also wrote that the ships will depend on U.S.-based Inmarsat for communications and navigation, suggesting that the organization could be held responsible for the protesters' actions.

“I write to encourage you to aggressively pursue all available legal remedies to enjoin and prevent these illegal actions, and to prosecute any who may elect to engage in them in spite of your pre-emptive efforts,” Mr. Perry wrote.

There was no immediate response from the Department of Justice. The State Department has warned Americans against participating in such a flotilla.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ezra Levant with Sea Hitler Cap'n Ehab

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Why doesn't the Cap'n sail to his native Egypt to free the Copts?

‘MK’ Glenn Beck to Address Knesset

Glenn Beck, who is planning a "Restore Courage" rally in Jerusalem this summer, will also tell the Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee his thoughts about fighting the anti-Zionist campaign to make Israel seem illegitimate.

Knesset Member Danny Danon, chairman of the committee, explained that Beck’s talents can help Israel counter the “delegitimization” campaign.

Beck, a devout Christian, is a vociferous supporter of Israel and is also regarded as having evangelical motives. He is leaving Fox News following a drop in his ratings, possibly a reaction to conspiracy theories and extreme statements against U.S. President Barack Obama, whom he has called a “socialist.”

His emotional outpouring for Israel also has been accompanied by remarks against left-wing Jews which some found offensive. Last November, Beck broadcast a two-part series that included accusations that left-wing Jewish billionaire George Soros, a supporter of J Street and President Obama, had helped round up Jews for the Nazis and had reaped financial gains by being behind the fall of several governments.

He also compared Reform Jewish leaders who supported Soros with Muslim clerics, a remark for which he apologized.

Although he will not host a regular program on Fox News, his production company is working with Fox on projects for television.

The planned rally later this month follows by one year a wildly successful “Restore Honor” rally in Washington. Announcing the Jerusalem rally on his television show earlier this year, Beck said, “It is time for us to courageously stand with Israel."

Beck acknowledged that organizing security and logistics for the August event would be challenging. “The very gates of hell will open up against us,” he said on his program.

Referring to international diplomatic efforts to handle the Arab world’s anti-Israel views and actions and Western diplomatic efforts too, Beck said, “The only power broker, the only seat of government that can and will solve this problem with or without us is G-d. It is time to return inside the walls that surround Jerusalem and stand with people of all faiths, all around the world.”

Earlier in the year, Beck visited the Temple Mount and said, “The Temple Mount almost pulsated. I could feel it.”

A Diplomatic Taste of Hebrew

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Many would argue that Hebrew is a difficult language, almost impossible to learn. Last Thursday, Ulpan Or and the Ambassadors' Club of Israel have decided to put this myth to rest and invited diplomats for an intensive "Hebrew taster" experience.

Smartphone app helps you find friends in a crowd

Newly developed eShadow software furthers online social networking by enabling smartphones' wireless communication to find other users in the area.

Can a smartphone app enable meaningful, face-to-face conversation?

Engineers are trying to find out, with software that helps people locate their friends in a crowd – and make new friends who share similar interests.

The software, called eShadow, made its debut at the IEEE International Conference on Distributed Computing Systems (ICDCS) last Thursday in Minneapolis.

It uses nearby wireless networks and smartphones’ wireless communication technologies to alert users that a friend who also uses the software is in the area – and gives directions to that friend’s location.

Dong Xuan, associate professor of computer science and engineering at Ohio State University, hopes that his research group’s software will also build bridges between strangers who share personal or professional interests.

At a business meeting such as ICDCS, for example, the software could remind a user of a forgotten acquaintance’s name, or help him or her make new professional contacts in the same area of research.

Since it enables face-to-face meetings, eShadow is a complement to online social networks such as Facebook, which excel at connecting people who are far apart, Xuan said.

“Today, online social networking has advanced dramatically, but our ability to meet people face-to-face hasn’t gotten any easier,” he said. “We want eShadow to close social gaps and connect people in meaningful ways, while keeping the technology non-intrusive and protecting privacy.”

The name eShadow comes from the idea that users input their interests into the software, and their smartphone broadcasts those interests to certain other users of the software – but only within 50 yards of the phone. So as users move, the broadcast follows them around like a shadow.

As to users’ safety, Xuan feels that, at least for some situations, meeting someone in person is safer than meeting them online.

“Online, people can steal others’ identity, or lie easily without detection. It’s much harder to pull off a masquerade in person,” he said.

Plus, users only share information which they want to share, and can observe potential friends at a distance before deciding whether to introduce themselves. Young people, Xuan pointed out, are especially comfortable with putting personal information online, and could readily adapt to using the software.

That said, people can be selective about who they wish to receive their eShadow signals. Users can select individuals from their phone’s contact list, and specifically de-select people as well.

“Say I’m from Ohio State, and someone else is from the University of Michigan, so I don’t want to talk to them. I just tell the software to ignore anyone who says they’re from Michigan,” Xuan laughed.

The researchers’ biggest challenges concerned efficient use of wireless communication, explained doctoral student Jin Teng. He and his colleagues wrote algorithms that let smartphones send and receive eShadow signals quickly, but without overwhelming a network.

In outdoor tests on the Ohio State campus, they measured how fast the software could detect users who were 20, 30, and 50 yards apart. They tested different numbers of users, from two to seven.

In all cases, the software was able to connect people within about half a minute – an average of 25 seconds for two users, and 35 seconds for seven.

Xuan noted that eShadow’s algorithms could be useful beyond socializing. Soldiers could use something akin to eShadow to locate each other on the battlefield.

Presently, the software works best when people move infrequently. Xuan and his research group are enhancing it to better accommodate motion. They are also extending it from Windows Mobile to support multiple smartphone platforms such as Android, and exploring opportunities for publicly releasing the software in the near future.

Other engineers on Xuan’s team include Xiaole Bai, an assistant professor of computer and information science at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, and Boying Zhang, Xinfeng Li, and Adam C. Champion, all doctoral students at Ohio State.

This research was funded by Xuan’s National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER award, an NSF Computer and Network Systems grant, and an Army Research Office grant.

Givot Olam: Our Main Pride - Shabbat Observance

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Netanyahu Invites You to Ask Him Questions on YouTube

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu asks people around the world – especially Arabs – to send him questions, which he will answer on YouTube.

“I would like to hear what you have to say, and I would like to hear what I have to say n response Talk to you soon.” he stated on his YouTube website.

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This is the second time the Prime Minister has used the popular video site for direct dialogue. He said that more than one million viewed the first session. Questions are sent via YouTube, and his office said they can be on any topic, including peace talks, democracy in the Arab world, and even the Gaza flotilla.

“He is particularly interested in broadening the direct dialogue with people from the Arab world and would welcome questions from the countries undergoing what has been termed ‘the Arab Spring,” according to officials.

They added, “To date, the Prime Minister's office has received dozens of questions from Arab web users. Most respondents expressed support for peace with Israel and are interested in understanding its positions regarding ‘the Arab Spring’ and the future of negotiations with the Palestinians.

Prime Minister Netanyahu will answer questions from video clips on his YouTube site in the coming weeks. Following is a link to the site, including the Prime Minister's invitation to send questions, with Arabic subtitles:

IDF’s Cyber-Commander Prepares Internet Assault

"Computers and keyboards are the weapons, Facebook and Twitter are the battlefields. It is there that we fight, each and every day." The fighting words come from First Lieutenant Sasha Dratwa, 25, who heads IDF’s elite “new media” unit. Dratwa, who replaced Lt. Aliza Landes, ws interviewed by Jonatan Urich in the IDF’s website.

Dratwa was born in Belgium and immigrated to Israel at the age of 18 after completing high school. He served in the Nahal Brigade and in a technological unit. After his discharge, Dratwa studied interactive communications at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya. During Operation Cast Lead, Dratwa found himself running the first civilian war room in Israel's history, conducting a real-time public relations campaign to disseminate justifications for the IDF's activities.

Dratwa explained that new media work in the IDF is based on the understanding of tools that bypass the traditional media, with high-quality and available content, and openness to web surfers from around the world, including the existence of a genuine, honest dialogue with them.

"The tools are infinite," Dratwa told the IDF Website. "The question is not whether we should be there but how we should be there. I came to the IDF Spokesperson's Unit mainly to make noise. I want the world to see the reality of the IDF, through channels on which it is not used to getting that. We are going to surprise visitors from around the world who will be able to browse their personal computer and see an IDF that is different from what they view on their television screens in their family room."

Dratwa came in with a long list of precise tasks that he wants to adopt and implement immediately.

"We need to use tablets and smart phones in order to immediately reach the general public," Dratwa said. "We don't have time for a long chain of approvals, we have to strike while the iron is hot - to be determined, fast and focused."

Dratwa said that he intends to show, already in the coming months, the IDF's face "as the world has never seen it before." As part of this, he is already promoting new media work in French and Arabic, along with strengthening and improving work in English. And what next? Twitter in Arabic and the massive entry of the IDF into new media work in fluent Hebrew – because the Israeli population apparently also needs to be strengthened.

Dratwa is not alone and these ideas don't only remain on paper. He heads a group of troops consisting mostly of soldiers doing their regular service, who come from all over the world with a rich professional background in the internet and new media. "Every one of my soldiers understands the meaning of thhe work, the range of opportunities facing us and the importance of demonstrating our justness," Dratwa said. "We are fighting in the field of delegitimization, which is no less significant than armored or artillery battles."

"Justifying the IDF's activities and Israel's public relations efforts are significant challenges that are at the top of the IDF's priorities," Dratwa said. "We are receiving a significant investment of means and resources, as well as personnel, but also mainly the determination and dedication of the soldiers.”

Monday, June 27, 2011

Israeli WWII veterans to be honored by Britain

Zvi Avidror. Helped organize the ceremony

British Ministry of Defense to award 32 disabled IDF veterans with medal on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II for their service in British army during World War II

Thirty-two members of the Disabled IDF Veterans Association, who were injured during World War II, will be awarded the British Ministry of Defense medal on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II for their contribution to the war against the Nazis.

The IDF veterans who served in the British army will be honored 65 years after WWII. They will be receiving the Queen's medal by British Ambassador to Israel Tom Phillips during a special ceremony to be held on Thursday in Tel Aviv.

Some of the soldiers' stories will be related during the ceremony, including that of Moshe Dotan, 92, who fell captive in 1941 while serving in the Jewish Brigade. Dotan spent four years in labor camps as well as in the Nazi death camp Auschwitz before being liberated priot to the end of the war.

Bezalel Gilboa, 88, will also be receiving a medal for his service as a recruit instructor in the Jewish Brigade's Italian battalion. He was seriously injured after stepping on a dud.

Despite the injury, Gilboa went on to serve as a captain during the War of Independence. Only after being discharged from the IDF did he tell his commanders that his leg had been cut off as a result of the WWII injury.

Zvi Avidror, 85, chairman of the British Royal Navy veterans organization in Israel, who had previously received the token via mail, helped organize the event. He served in the Royal Air Force during World War II and later joined the IAF.

"I served in the British Navy and was badly injured during WWII. I realized that anyone who served during the war is entitled to receive the medal and decided to initiate the bestowal for all the soldiers."

He noted he was particularly excited at the prospect of seeing many of his fellow soldiers after 60 odd years.,7340,L-3906130,00.html

Spielberg's new project - a reality tv show set in Jerusalem

Show to document doctors at Shaare Zedek hospital, set to be directed by Everybody Loves Raymond creator.

World-renowned American director Steven Spielberg plans to produce a reality television series set at Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek Medical Center, the Israeli financial newspaper Globes reported this week.

Dreamworks Studios, in which Spielberg is a partner, will produce the show, and according to the report, it will be directed by the Emmy Award winning producer Phil Rosenthal, who created and produced the popular television sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond.

"Spielberg asked me to consider doing television in Israel. I proposed making a docudrama about Shaare Zedek hospital, to which my family and I have made donations for decades," Rosenthal told Globes. "He loved the idea of a crowded hospital whose patients are secular Jews, haredim, Arabs, and some of whose doctors are Americans. We'll get the show on the road very soon."

The Jerusalem Post reported that Rosenthal was in Israel this week to check out Shaare Zedek and hold discussions with the Israeli producers of the show, which is scheduled to air on the Sundance Channel in 2011.

Spielberg has collaborated with Israelis several times in the past, particularly in his films Schindler's List in 1993, about German businessman Oskar Schindler who saved Jewish families during the Holocaust, and Munich in 2005, about the PLO massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games, and the subsequent killing of the terrorists by the Mossad. Many Israeli actors participated in both films.

Spielberg is also a sponsor of the Holocaust Survivor Project, which documents survivors' testimonies.

Netanyahu tours Dead Sea to find solution for water levels

PM evaluates impact of flooding problem that could threaten hotels; Environmental groups praise PM’s support for harvesting 20 million tons of sea salt.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu toured the Dead Sea region on Monday morning in order to evaluate first-hand the impact of the flooding problem that could potentially threaten the hotels and infrastructure in the southern section, as a continuation of discussions he has held over the past few weeks, his office announced in the afternoon.

The flooding would be caused by a rising water level of about 200 millimeters per year in the southern Pool #5, as the Dead Sea Works company has been perpetually pumping in water in order to maintain operational efficiency as it harvests minerals from its evaporation ponds, Prof. Alon Tal of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research had explained to The Jerusalem Post in mid-May.

At the end of that month – and after the publication of a report co-authored by Tal – the Tourism and Environmental Protection Ministries had announced that they would recommend harvesting the 20 million tons of salt in the southern sea as the solution to the dangerously high water levels there.

In response, Netanyahu organized a team, chaired by Finance Ministry Budget Director Udi Nisan and Accountant General Michal Abadi, to review different methods of financing this preferred solution within the next 21 days, the Prime Minister’s Office said.

“The Government has come to save the Dead Sea and it is also obligated to save its tourism industry and scenic beauty as well,” Netanyahu said in a statement following the tour.

“Previous governments talked about this but my government is doing something.

We will try to reach a solution through dialogue with the Dead Sea Works, but if not, we will act with all the means – including legal – at our disposal.”

Joining Netanyahu on the Dead Sea tour were Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, Interior Minister Eli Yishai and Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman.

The Prime Minister said that he hoped it would be possible to begin work on the salt extraction within a few weeks, in an effort “to save this global natural resource,” according to his media adviser. Netanyahu had originally been presented with three alternative solutions – harvesting the salt, creating a lagoon for the hotels or relocated the businesses to another region.

Environmental groups praised Netanyahu’s visit to the Dead Sea as well as his probable support for the salt harvesting solution but expressed some additional requests to the prime minister.

“The Dead Sea harvest is only a partial solution to the environmental damage caused by the Dead Sea Works plants,” said Amit Bracha, executive director of the Israel Union for Environmental Defense (Adam Teva v’Din) in a statement.

Bracha emphasized that the Dead Sea Works company must bear the brunt of the costs and the harvest must not harm the nearby Tze’elim Stream, and also stressed that private companies also must be prohibited from establishing an additional evaporation pond – Pool #6 – in the northern Dead Sea.

The Society for the Protection of Nature called the salt harvesting option “the only possibility that will allow for a balance” among Dead Sea Works operations, hotels and nature, while cross border environmental organization Friends of the Earth Middle East also lauded the prime minister’s support.

“This is the only solution that is sustainable and that will preserve the hotels in the long run. Now it rests upon the Treasury to stand against the false campaign of Dead Sea Works and not give in to the pressure of the property owners, who are trying to evade responsibility for the damage they caused,” said Gidon Bromberg, Israel director of the group, in a statement.

“Therefore, and according to the ‘polluter pays’ principle, it is necessary to charge the full cost of the salt harvest to the plants.”

During his tour, the prime minister also encouraged Israelis to vote for the Dead Sea in the finals of the New 7 Wonders of Nature Competition, which concludes in November 2011 and pits the sea against 27 other sites across the world, his office said in a second statement.

In addition to logging on to, voters can cast their ballots by sending an SMS to 224 with the words “Dead Sea” in Hebrew, English or Arabic, according to the statement.

ZAKA Emergency Exercise - 500 Casualties

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Q&A: Why United Church activists are targeting Israel

The United Church of Canada has had a tense relationship with Canadian Jews since 2009, when a small minority of church members called for a widespread boycott of Israeli institutions. Their resolution was never voted on. But this week, the Holy Land Awareness and Action Task Group, a Toronto-based social justice group within the United Church, called for a boycott of six companies that do business in Israel. Five of the companies, the task group says, either use exploited Palestinian labour, exploit land in the occupied territories, or support the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The sixth company, Indigo Books & Music Inc., is accused of a less obvious affront. National Post religion reporter Charles Lewis spoke to Rev. Brian McIntosh, a Toronto pastor and a spokesman for the group, about his call for a boycott:

Q Your task force has 15 members and you say that the boycott expresses the will of the 60 congregations in your church region. How do you know it reflects the views of those 7,000 members in those congregations?

A A corporation doesn’t have all its policies approved by all their shareholders, do they? We did not go to every single individual and every single congregation, but we’re a body of the United Church that has the authority to make these decisions and we did that.

Q Has the national church ­endorsed what you’re doing?

A The national church has not endorsed this campaign, but it hasn’t unendorsed it either.

Q What other countries are you targetting for boycotts?

A We’re active in a whole bunch of issues.

Q But what other boycotts have you called for?

A Oh, boycotts. Well, not necessarily boycotts at this point. But this is a long entrenched problem and boycotts have been called for against Israel by civil society in many other countries.

Q But I am wondering what other boycotts your group has called for or been involved with.

A We have participated in other boycott campaigns. In South Africa we participated during the era of apartheid.

Q That was a while ago. What oppressive regimes have you called for boycotts against since then? There are many oppressive regimes in Africa and the Middle East. Or what about communist China?

A No, we have not.

Q So why a boycott of Israel?

A Number one, because Israel purports to be a democracy. Number two, they are in violation of international law and even the UN has tried to call Israel to account. So what is left for people who want to see international law enforced? Libya just happened and the U.S. jumped to take on the presumed responsibility to protect civilians; they jumped in with all kinds of force. But they won’t do that against Israel ever because Israel purports to be a democracy.

Q You say five of the companies extract minerals from occupied land or exploit labour or is a supporter of the IDF. Does Indigo make books in Israel?

A Chapters Indigo owners [Heather] Reisman and [Gerald] Schwartz founded the HESEG foundation, which provides scholarships and other support to “lone soldiers” who have been in the Israeli military. [Lone soldiers are Jews who leave their home countries to join the Israeli army. They have no family in Israel, but often want to stay once their military service is done.]

Q Why would you boycott the company then? This is not the company doing this, but a couple as private citizens.

A I don’t know what to say to you. It’s not a purely private interest. They use the profits from their ownership from this huge company. They are supporting the occupation. This was the only way we could bring the light of day to how the profits of this company support this foundation.

Q Are you concerned that people think you’re fixated on Israel?

A This is not our only effort. We do anti-poverty work, we’ve lobbied about aboriginal rights and environmental issues.

Q But to be clear, you don’t target other countries.

A No.

In her own words, CEO Heather Reisman responds to calls for a boycott of her book chain, Indigo Books & Music Inc.:

“First of all, under no circumstance has any dollar of profit from Indigo ever gone into any of our private philanthropy. Indigo has nothing to do with it. But there’s a much more important point. This group, and others, try to imply that our program [the HESEG foundation] is designed to bring mercenary people to fight in the Israel Defense Forces against the Palestinians. And every line of that idea is incorrect. Every year a number of young people decide to emigrate to Israel. If they are of a certain age there is conscription. We have nothing to do with that. Anyone who applies for a scholarship had long ago made their decision to go to Israel before they ever heard of HESEG. They deliberately imply that HESEG in one way or another creates the incentive for foreign people to go to Israel and fight. That is completely specious in every way.”

United Church Meeting to boycott Israel

Click To View Video gets reaction from Rabbi Reuven Bulka, Co-President of The Canadian Jewish Congress on a series of motions calling for a boycott of Israel that were deemed anti-Semitic by Canadian Jewish organizations in Kelowna.

No to national boycott of Israel?

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The Commission votes no to a call for a national economic boycott of Israel but encourages all levels of the church to study ways to end the occupation of the disputed Palestinian territories.

Infantry Insignia

A sword and an olive branch. In one hand strength, in the other peace. The Israeli Army offers both to our enemies - some have accepted the second (Jordan, Egypt), with great results, and others have accepted the first, to their detriment (Lebanon, Syria, Hamas). The beret badge of every Israeli infantryman reminds him of his mission: to fight if necessary, to lay down arms when possible.

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Here Comes Another Lost Tribe!

Thousands of kilometers to the east, in the furthest reaches of northeastern India, a long-lost community continues to nourish its age-old dream of returning to its ancient homeland, the land of Israel.

The Bnei Menashe, or “sons of Manasseh,” are descendants of one of the 10 lost tribes of Israel, which were exiled by the Assyrian empire more than 27 centuries ago. The community, which numbers 7,232 people, resides primarily in the Indian states of Mizoram and Manipur, along the border with Burma and Bangladesh.

Despite generations of wandering, the Bnei Menashe never forgot who they were, where they had come from, or where they aspired to return.

Three times a day, every day, they turn in silent prayer toward Jerusalem, pleading with the Creator to put an end to their long exile and bring them home to Zion.

That dream is now poised, at last, to become a reality.

This past Monday, an extraordinary meeting of the Ministerial Committee on Immigration and Absorption took place in the Prime Minister’s Office. At the top of the agenda was the issue of the Bnei Menashe.

AS CHAIRMAN of Shavei Israel, an organization that has been assisting the community for over a decade, I had lobbied intensively for much of the past year for the committee to address the issue.

Testifying before the assembled ministers and bureaucrats, I spoke of the 1,700 Bnei Menashe who have already made aliya, and of the success they have had in integrating into Israeli society.

Approximately 96 percent of Bnei Menashe immigrants are employed, supporting themselves and their families and contributing to the state and its economy. A mere 4% – less than half the national average – are reliant on social welfare to make ends meet.

Nearly all young Bnei Menashe men are drafted into the army, with a majority serving in combat units. Some 50 Bnei Menashe are currently in uniform, and recently the first Bnei Menashe officer was commissioned.

I pointed out that a growing number of Bnei Menashe youth are pursuing higher education at Israeli colleges and universities in fields ranging from computer science to social work, and that several have also received rabbinical ordination after years of study in yeshiva.

And rest assured, I told the ministers, the Bnei Menashe are our lost brethren. In March 2005, Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar recognized them as Zera Yisrael, or the “seed of Israel,” and said they should be brought to the Jewish state.

He also ruled that because they were cut off from their people for millennia, the Bnei Menashe are required to undergo conversion to remove any doubt about their personal status. All those who have made aliya have already gone through this process.

Put simply, I said, the Bnei Menashe are a blessing to the Jewish people and to the State of Israel, and they strengthen us no less than we do them.

Nonetheless, the government of Ehud Olmert inexplicably froze their aliya in 2007, dividing families and stifling the flow of this talented and highly motivated immigration.

So I turned to the members of the committee and made a simple yet forceful plea: It is time for Israel to let the remaining Bnei Menashe come home.

And then a miracle took place. After deliberating the matter, the ministerial committee, headed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, formally decided to draft a government resolution and bring it to the cabinet for approval no later than the end of July.

The resolution will permit all the remaining Bnei Menashe in India to make aliya, and will finally bring an end to their years of waiting and uncertainty.

Both the foreign minister and Absorption Minister Sofa Landver said they were behind the measure.

This means we are just one month away from an historic turning point, one that will restore 7,232 precious souls to the Jewish people.

But there are obstacles that may still stand in the way.

The Treasury is likely to object, not wanting to spend a shekel more than it deems necessary. And then there are the naysayers and post-Zionists who have lost sight of Israel’s mission to serve as the homeland for all Jews.

We cannot allow them to prevail.

There is simply no good reason for this aliya to be stymied. The Bnei Menashe are part of the extended Jewish family. They are committed Zionists who observe the Torah and its commandments, and who are reaching out across the centuries to reconnect with our people. We need to extend a welcoming hand back, and bring them to Jerusalem.

I urge all people of faith and goodwill, Jew and Christian alike, to pray for this undertaking to succeed. Write the premier, contact MKs, and tell them in no uncertain terms: Bring the lost tribe of Bnei Menashe home now! This past Monday, as I listened to the committee approve its decision, I truly felt as if I was standing on the banks of the Red Sea, watching the waters begin to part.

Soon enough, I am sure, the Bnei Menashe will cross the sea, reuniting with the Land and people of Israel after a remarkable journey.

Just as the prophets foretold, Manasseh’s children are at last coming back. And all one can say is: Thank God.

Bnei Menashe of India return to Zion

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After 27 centuries of exile, 230 members of a lost tribe of Israel recently returned home to the Jewish state.

India's Bnei Menashe - A Lost Tribe of Israel

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Members of a Lost Tribe of Israel living in northeastern India have been waiting for years to return home to Zion. This moving video tells their story.

A Lost Tribe of Israel at the Kotel in Jerusalem

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Recent Bnei Menashe immigrants to Israel from India visit the Western Wall for the first time.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Patchwork Quilting in Israel

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The Patchwork Planet: Quilting in Israel

Keeping the flame of quilting burning in Israel is no easy task but it is undertaken with enthusiasm and imagination by the small community of quilters there. Quilters in Israel live in isolation from such institutions as quilt shops, large national shows like those at Houston and Paducah, and even the availability of such staples as plain cotton fabric.

As Israeli quilters Debbie Markowitz and Rachel Roggel demonstrate, though, these "deprivations" simply induce them to dig deeper into their own creativity to make quilting in their country not only a popular craft but an international presence.

"There are about 250-300 members in the 'Israel Quilters Association'(IQA)," says Debbie, who lives in Jerusalem. "But I know for a fact that there are many more quilters out there who are not members."

The Israel Quilters Association has no actual headquarters, though most of its board members live in the Tel Aviv area. The organization forms the center of gravity for the quilting community in Israel and has many local chapters. "Throughout the year we meet in small local groups," Debbie says. "My Jerusalem group has about 15 members who meet in different homes twice a month, once in the morning and once in the evening.

"Once a year there is a National meeting with a lecture and an update on what is going on. Once or twice a year there is a weekend retreat type thing with lectures and a show- and-tell. In the summer there is a 3-day workshop vacation with show-and-tell and a few vendors come to sell things. Twice a year we have a countrywide 'English speakers' meeting. This is usually attended by about 30 women from the various Anglo-Saxon countries." Local meetings are often also attended by non-members of the guild, including the wives of diplomats from various countries or from large corporations, and even by some Arab women.

The IQA also links its members through the publication of newsletters in both Hebrew and English. These publications contain news of member activities, shows, and other items of interest. The most recent English-language version had a few articles in it on the internet, but Debbie says few quilters in Israel have e-mail or other internet access.

Rachel provides more detail on computer and internet use there, and on her own and others' efforts to increase it: "Computer use in Israel is widespread and the Internet [enjoys] high momentum but very few Israeli and European quilters belong to on-line quilting groups. In order to encourage them to join, Lis Faurholt (editor of the Danish Quilters' Magazine) and I decided to publish an article about the advantages of the Internet for quilters. We then asked Marina Salume from the USA to contribute to this effort and she gladly agreed. It was already published in the first English edition of the Israeli magazine. It will be published in the Europe guilds' magazines." Rachel is an active member of Quiltnet and of NOTRAD, a small, by-invitation-only internet maillist.

As for the tradition of quilting in Israel, it is not unlike that in other countries, where it is nourished in local communities. "Quilting in Israel is considered to be a craft form - not art," says Rachel Roggel, who herself belies this characterization as she creates and shows art quilts in the international community. "Since we don't have a heritage of quilting, it's not as appreciated/exhibited as in the U.S. Most quilters learn to quilt in community centers. The quilts created are mostly with traditional design."

Debbie sees the situation slightly differently: "Every type of quilt is done here -- traditional, contemporary, art quilts, landscapes, etc. There are no quilt books published here so all our info and ideas come from books from English speaking countries. The furthest that anyone ever ventures away from regular quilting fabric is I've seen occasionally someone will make a wallhanging or garment and stick in scraps of Bedouin embroidery or something like that."

If there are not large numbers of quilters in Israel, Israelis seem to appreciate quilts when they get an opportunity to view them. "The Jerusalem quilters had a show at the Jerusalem Theater in 1994," Rachel points out. It had 40,000 visitors and "Good Morning Israel," a television program, had a 5-minute segment on "Quilting in Israel" for the first time. Filmed at Rachel Roggel's house, the exposure increased the size of the Israeli Guild by 30%.

Despite this clear appeal to the public, there are no regular national shows in Israel. This leads those quilters serious about showing their work to international shows in Europe and elsewhere, a direction in which Rachel has moved to gain exposure for her work.

In an area of the world as culturally diverse as the middle east, one would expect cross-cultural influences to affect the flavor of local quilting. Rachel says such influences do exist and are being encouraged by some quilters: "Linda Bar-On (the Israeli chairman) works using middle eastern technique, colors and symbols which she develops and innovates. She takes traditional local customs as a starting point.

"I use thousands of buttons in my quilts as Arabs and Bedouins use in their customs."

As for the hardships of living so far from the quilting "mainstream," both women seem to take them in stride. Debbie describes one solution to the fabric problem: " You asked about any difficulties!! There is one big main one. The small availability of quilting fabrics and supplies. There is a store is Rechovot that is a hobby store and they have a selection of quilting fabrics and supplies, but nothing like the typical quilting store in the US. I get most of my stuff from catalogues and trips abroad."

Rachel suggests another approach: "I use sweatshirt *knit* from clothing factories (no wonder I wrote a book about recycling ;-)) This is the only material available in (cold) Jerusalem. Though it's a stretchy material, I like working with it since it doesn't wrinkle -- when not heavily quilted, nor will it fray and the most important thing for me is that it holds buttons very nicely.

"I think one should work with what is available in her country. This way we can enrich the quilting world."

Looking through the eyes of these two Israeli quilters it is clear that they are doing their part, each in her own way, to enrich both Israeli quilting and quilting worldwide.

Please visit The Patchwork Planet: Quilting in Israel for more information:

Bar-Ilan's Oren Harman candidate for top US book prizes

Pulitzer-nominated biography of evolutionary theorist George Price makes ‘Los Angeles Times’ short list for best science book.

Oren Harman, chair of Bar-Ilan University’s science, technology and society graduate program, has been named a finalist for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His biography of American evolutionary theorist George Price, The Price of Altruism: George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness, made the newspaper’s short list for the best science and technology book of 2010.

Harman’s book, published by W.W. Norton and Co., was previously chosen by The New York Times as one of the 100 notable books of 2010. In addition, W.W. Norton nominated The Price of Altruism for a Pulitzer Prize.

Harman first came across Price’s name over a decade ago while reading a book about evolutionary theory.

“It was in the context of some short, off-hand comment in a book that said Price wrote an equation that helped to solve the mystery of the evolution of altruism, and then he killed himself for reasons that had to do with that equation,” Harman recalled. “That seemed like a movie.”

At the time, Harman’s doctoral studies distracted him from finding out more about Price and his work.

Then, five years ago, he was writing a review of a book on the biology of altruism for The New Republic and during the course of his research, he read a biography of Price in the now-defunct academic magazine Lingua Franca.

The author, James Schwartz, put Harman in touch with Price’s two daughters. Harman was the first person outside of the family to be given access to Price’s archive, which included thousands of letters and scientific papers.

“I began to piece together this story by telling the larger tale of attempts to crack the mystery of altruism going back to [Charles] Darwin,” he said.

“I realized I could tell that tale through the personal history of this particular man, who played an important role and killed himself for reasons that help us understand the mystery of altruism itself.”

Price was originally a chemist and writer who became a cancer researcher.

He then worked for IBM doing computer and transister research. After suffering a mental breakdown, he left the US for Britain and became determined to solve the mystery of altruism.

“The biological definition of altruism is any action in nature by an organism which confers a fitness benefit on another while incurring the fitness cost, so by definition altruism is something that reduces one’s fitness, and evolution is supposed to be the survival of the fittest,” said Harman, 38.

“Darwin framed it as the single greatest challenge to his theory of evolution by natural selection.”

Price created what became known as the Price Equation, a mathematical treatment of natural selection which takes into account altruism and other traits.

Afterward, he began to think about the various coincidences and turns of events in his life, and went from being an atheist to an Evangelical Christian.

“He realized the existence of God by mathematical coincidence,” said Harman.

“He became an Evangelical Christian who then decided that the meaning of his equation was that the natural process of evolution could only create a second-hand kindness, so what looked like altruism was actually selfishness.”

This was a terrible realization for a committed Christian, so he decided that he would transcend self-interest and “beat out his own miraculous equation by proving that we can actually be truly selfless as opposed to doing good things for selfish reasons,” said Harman.

In the early 1970s, Price began seeking out homeless people on the streets of London and invited them to live in his home. Eventually, he gave away all his money and possessions and became homeless himself.

Price committed suicide on January 6, 1975, at age 52.

“What happened with George was he was unable to explain to himself what his deep motivations were for embarking on this program of radical altruism and whether those motivations were truly selfless, and science couldn’t tell him,” said Harman.

During the research for the book, Harman discovered that Price, who also studied Bible codes, had a Jewish father. His father was born to Jewish immigrants from Russia, and changed his name in an attempt to start a new life.

Price had assumed his father, who died when he was four, was a Christian or a Freemason, but shortly after he converted to Christianity he found an old letter his father had written to a cousin, which proved his father was Jewish.

“Almost the day after he became a Christian, he discovered that he was in fact Jewish as well,” said Harman.

“All of his attempts to try to find codes in the New and Old Testaments were colored by this knowledge that he was both a Jew and a Christian.”

Harman thinks of Price as “a real-life Forrest Gump – he was at the center of scientific and technological revolutions of the 20th century and then just disappeared.”

A Hebrew edition of The Price of Altruism will be published later this year.

Pulitzer Prize winners and finalists will be announced on April 18 at Columbia University in New York City.

The winners of the Los Angeles Times prizes will be revealed at a ceremony at the newspaper’s headquarters on April 29, which Harman will attend.

Israeli fashion goes electric at Gan Hahashmal

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Hebrew U Presents: Sensor Subtitution for the Blind

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Hebrew U device uses sonar to help the blind navigate

The "virtual cane" incorporates several sensors that estimate the distance between the user and the object it is pointed at.

The blind and visually impaired could be able to toss away their white canes or at least “see” better with them, thanks to a “virtual cane” developed by Hebrew University of Jerusalem researchers and patented by Yissum, the university’s research and development company.

The device was unveiled at a HU press conference at the Jerusalem International Convention Center on Tuesday, just before the Israeli Presidential Conference opened there.

Dr. Amir Amedi of HU’s Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada and of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences and colleagues unveiled the inexpensive device, which emits a focused beam at objects around the user and transmits the visual information to to him via a gentle vibration similar to the quivering of a cellphone.

The technology transfer company in Jerusalem is now looking for strategic partners for further development.

Amedi estimated that the lightweight device, which reporters quickly learned to use to get through a dark maze blindfolded, would eventually cost about $100.

The highly intuitive electronic device, the size of a cellphone, incorporates several sensors that estimate the distance between the user and the object it is pointed at. This enables the blind person to assess the height and distance of various objects, reconstruct an accurate image of the surroundings and navigate safely. The “virtual cane” is easy to carry and accurate and can function for up to 12 hours between charges.

Amedi said the blind user functions like a dolphin or bat, with sonar-type signals reacting to surroundings.

Unlike a white stick that can give the blind input from only a meter away, the device can function at a much shorter distance and up to some 10 meters in all directions. The young researcher said the device can also distinguish between smiling and sad faces and can be used for research on how the brain flexibly changes upon receiving input and on brain reorganization in the blind.

There is a potential market of some 200 million visually impaired people around the world; 40 million of them are legally blind; all of them have difficulties in orientation and navigation, even with an ordinary stick. One of the main challenges facing blind people is the ability to assess the height of various obstacles as well as to identify far away objects in their surroundings. So far, until the journalists tried it, about a dozen people successfully navigated the maze, and after a very short practice period managed to completely avoid walls and obstacles without bumping their heads.

Yissum CEO Yaacov Michlin said that the promising invention “can endow visually impaired people with the freedom to freely navigate in their surroundings without unintentionally bumping into or touching other people, and thus has the potential to significantly enhance their quality of life.”

HU, for the second year a partner of Beit Hanassi in organizing the Israeli Presidential Conference, filled a hall near the entrance with displays and demonstrations of developments of its researchers. Carmi Gillon, the university’s vice president for external relations, said that 40 percent of all academic research in the country is done at HU; Yissum has made the university the 15th in the world in R&D.

Dr. Yonatan Elkind of HU’s Smith Institute for Plant Sciences and Genetics in Agriculture, presented bell peppers suited to growing in the Arava in all seasons. The sweet pepper market has ballooned in Europe, with 60% of all agricultural land in the Arava devoted to the vegetable and yields very high.

The team are developing green peppers that remain green for a long time instead of turning red, and others that have special tastes and colors – even a brown one whose taste reminds people of chocolate. Others will have more vitamins and minerals than the conventional strains.

Agricultural doctoral student Oron Gar, who works with Prof. Dani Zamir, presented export roses that have restored a lovely scent instead of the scentless blossoms now sold commercially.

This was achieved from breeding that will also add new colors and forms of roses.