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Did You Know?

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

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Israeli navigator Waze beats out Dropbox and Flipboard for 2012 app prize


Last year was a breakthrough year for Waze, which benefited from Apple’s map mishaps on the iOS-6 mobile operating system.

Waze, the Israeli-developed free mobile navigation app, won the Mobile World Congress Judges’ Choice award this week for best overall mobile application, beating out major players like the file-hosting service Dropbox, the personalized news magazine Flipboard and the electronic payment service Square.
“This is a huge win for our community — thanks Wazers, for making us number 1!” the company said on its Facebook page.
The award was presented Tuesday in Barcelona, where the conference is being held through Thursday.
Last year was a breakthrough year for Waze, which benefited from Apple’s map mishaps on the iOS-6 mobile operating system. Responding to complaints about the flaws in the map application, Apple CEO Tim Cook recommended Waze as an alternative. Quite a lot of people took his advice, with Waze reporting that 36 million drivers used the app in 2012 to help them drive nearly 10 billion kilometers.
Apple offered to buy the Israeli startup, but Waze declined the offer, the technology blog TechCrunch reported in January.
Waze’s GPS system synthesizes traffic patterns and road information reported by users to make its navigation recommendations. Waze said drivers shared 90 million traffic and road reports through the application last year, which is available in 110 countries.
Waze was founded in 2008 by Uri Levine, Ehud Shabtai and Amir Shinar and is led by CEO Noam Bardin.

SodaStream: Building Bridges

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First-ever Ethiopian Miss Israel crowned

Yityish Aynaw

Yityish Aynaw, 21, from Netanya, was named Miss Israel 2013 Wednesday night.

Aeinao is the first Ethiopian woman to win Israel’s national beauty pageant.

Israeli-Palestinian team studies local water

Water Management

BGU prof. Alon Tal leads group of scholars testing the area’s water supply for endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

A group of Israeli and Palestinian environmental scholars have started on a joint effort to test the area’s water supply for potentially health-altering endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
At their head is Prof. Alon Tal of Ben-Gurion University’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research at Sde Boker. He is also co-chairman of the Green Movement and ran for Knesset on Tzipi Livni’s ticket.
While people – and even their farm animals – continue to consume more and more medicines and chemicals, the effect of these substances once they have passed through the body and into the country’s water system are unknown, Tal explained. No one in Israel, or the Palestinian Authority, is currently looking for the presence of these chemicals or their effects “in a systematic way,” he added.
“Now we are on the hunt for the smoking gun,” Tal told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. “It is my hypothesis that Israel’s enthusiasm for water reuse has grave implications.”
Tal has received a three-year, $560,000- grant from the USAID’s Middle East Regional Cooperation (MERC) Program to conduct the project. Many of his own students from Sde Boker will conduct the lion’s share of the laboratory testing in Health Ministry labs.
In the Palestinian contingent is water engineer Nader al-Khateeb, who also serves as Palestinian director of Friends of the Earth Middle East; Dr. Alfred Abed Rabbo, an assistant professor at Bethlehem University’s Water and Soil Research Unit; Dr. Shai Armon; and a group of Palestinian students, Tal explained.
As the presence of testicular cancer increases among the population’s males and average menstruation age drops among females, Tal stressed that it is crucial to get to the root of the conundrum. While one might say that hormone levels are changing due to consumption of hormone-laden beef, Israelis in general do not consume an enormous amount of beef, he explained.
One of the main areas where 11 Sde Boker students have already begun sampling is the Yarkon River, which has never experienced such a thorough monitoring, according to Tal. The team will also be testing the sewage treatment originating from Yeruham Lake, he said. Within the bounds of the PA, in addition to assessing stream water, the group will be testing the waters at the authority’s only secondary sewage treatment plant – in Al-Bira – and those at the two deteriorating sewage treatment plants in Nablus and Tulkarem.
“I think this is going to take to the next level what we know about streams,” Tal said.
After the sampling occurs, the team members employ Health Ministry laboratories to screen them through gas chromatographs, he explained. The first initial results will begin to emerge within a few months. Each sample costs about $1,000 to perform and assess, and the group has already conducted 56 samples.
The researchers are checking the water content at an extremely detailed level, in trace amounts of parts per billion, Tal explained.
“What we don’t know are the synergistic effects – when you have a suite of, say, 20 chemicals that work in concert,” he said.
Tal was particularly appreciative of the strong group of students working with him, most of who he said are women – both on the Israeli and the Palestinian side.
“I have had over 40 master’s students over past several years, but I cannot remember a group that is collectively as assiduous as this group,” he said.
Expressing gratitude to the American government for providing the funds, Tal stressed how important it is for Israel to take the lead on this type of research.
“I really believe that this is the cutting edge in environmental health research,” he said. “Because Israel is the world leader in waste-water reuse by so much, we have a responsibility to monitor this in terms of human health.”

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Israeli art scene honored in Rome


Twenty-four Israeli artists star in new exhibition in Italian capital which has received medal of honor from President Giorgio Napolitano

Twenty-four renowned Israeli artists are the stars of an exhibition opened recently in Rome under the title, “Israel Now: Reinventing the Future.”
Curator Micol Di Veroli, who has been following trends in the Israeli art scene in recent years, sought to bring together artists of different and diverse styles, conveying a clear Israeli message: Freedom and liberty in the different fields of art.
The exhibition, presented at the MACRO Testaccio Museum in Rome, focuses less on paintings and more on video art. Artist Michal Rovner sends the viewer through an alleged eyepiece of a microscope to focus on human movement simulating scientific inquisitiveness in bright red.
Tamar Harpaz, who was present at the festive opening, generated a lot of interest with her ability to create a manipulation among those viewing her work through a fixed and moving image.
Nahum Tevet presents “Islands,” a more colorful work compared to his previous creations.
Shay Frisch, who lives in Rome, transfers energy through electrical adaptors connected to each other. Frisch, by the way, is the first Israeli artist with his own exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome.
The list of artists is joined by Adi Nes, who is admired by the Italian audience, with a series of pictures of soldiers, as well as Gal Weinstein, Yael Bartana, Shai Kremer and many others.
The exhibition is being sponsored by many organizations and has received a medal of honor from Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.
Israeli Ambassador to Italy Naor Gilon noted at the exhibition’s inauguration ceremony that “contemporary Israeli art is thriving in the West as innovative and interesting art.
“Museums and galleries in Israel are allowing our artists to reach out to museums across the world, and they are seeing fruit to their labor thanks to tourists’ great interest in Israel’s cultural centers.
“The current exhibition is a great taste of a wide variety of artists representing the different layers of the Israeli society,” the ambassador added.
The exhibition, which has won praise in the local press as well, runs until March 17.

Support the exhibit at:

Belgrade bloggers enamored with Israel

Feeling at home at Carmel Market (Archive Photo: Dudu Azulay)
Feeling at home at Carmel Market (Archive Photo: Dudu Azulay)

Six young, influential Serbians make their way to Jewish State to find ‘wonderful people, outstanding food, and soldiers with big guns and huge smiles’

“If we could, we would stay in Tel Aviv forever. The people are wonderful, the food is outstanding, the views are splendid, the soldiers walk around with big guns and huge smiles and they are much nicer than our civil servants.”
This is the impression Israel made on bloggers from Belgrade, Serbia who returned to their country enamored with the Jewish state.
The six skillful and curious bloggers who write on an array of topics were brought to Israel on a joint Foreign Ministry-Tourism Ministry venture.
They spent time in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, Masada, Akko and the Galilee. Upon their return to Serbia they wrote that they are “completely in love with Israel.”
Throughout their visit they tweeted and posted messages on their blogs on their Israel experience. Orosh Igniacivic, who runs an online tourism group tweeted: “The moment the plane flew over Tel Aviv, we felt as if we were landing in New Belgrade. We felt as if we are wandering around our own home. We met wonderful people, the food was outstanding and the views, splendid.”
Another blogger, Milan Maglov, mainly active on Facebook (with 115,000 friends) wrote on his page: “How unfortunate that only few Serbians know what Israel can offer. I feel that I am on a dreamlike expedition. Serbia, brace yourself for a boom of great stories and pictures!! Our Israelization begins now.”
Another blogger named Milan Kamponeski, who writes under the pen name “Amitz”, wrote in his blog read by 100,000 monthly readers: “I felt at home in Tel Aviv. At the Carmel Market I asked for 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of candy and the seller pushed a whole kilo (2.2 pounds) on me. I felt like I was in Belgrade.
“Israel is a land of contrasts. Soldiers who look like mere teenagers wandering around with big guns and huge smiles and they are much nicer than our civil servants.”
Israel’s Ambassador to Serbia Yossi Levy hosted the bloggers upon their return to Serbia. “It is good to hear such warm words from the mouths of such a happy, colorful and young group of Serbians, all of whom are not Jewish and who never visited Israel before. We didn’t hear one bad word, not even about the airport security checks,” said Levy
“Israel, as it is perceived through tweets and Facebook pages, is a beautiful, young, open, friendly, safe and fun country. There is no doubt that over the next few weeks, thousands of young Serbians will discover Israel from a new and especially pleasant perspective.”
According to him, “this is the most effective and best way to circumvent stereotypes and to demonstrate to young, dynamic European audiences what the real Israel is.”

Israel's "Master Chef" - Kosher Opens New Horizons & Challenges

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Purim Street Party - Israel

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Purim is here!!! Check out the crazy, fun street party in Tel Aviv!

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Made in China, blessed in Israel

At its height, the Kaifeng community numbered as many as 5,000 Jews. Today, about 1,000 Chinese can trace their roots to them.

Seven descendants of Kaifeng Jews, an ancient community from China’s Henan Province, have come to Israel to reclaim their Judaism, embracing the circumcision, ritual baths and kosher eating that it requires.

Just when it seemed that he was about to sail through the Orthodox conversion oral exams with flying colors, Yage Wong found himself stumped.
“What blessing do we make on an eggroll?” a member of the rabbinical court asked the 27-year-old, who hails from a town near China’s Yellow River.
“What is an eggroll?” asked the perplexed young man, who today goes by the name Yaakov.
The rabbi headed toward the computer on his desk, googled the word “eggroll,” and showed a picture of the tasty Asian appetizer to the aspiring convert.
“We don’t eat that where I come from,” said Yaakov. “It must be a Western food.”
Yaakov dreams of becoming the first rabbi to lead the Kaifeng Jewish community, a small Jewish community in China’s Henan province, in more than 200 years. This week, he got one step closer to that goal. After immersing himself in the Hod Hasharon town mikveh, a ritual bath, and affirming his acceptance of the mitzvot, he was officially pronounced a Jew.
Yaakov was not alone. Five of his peers, all in their 20s, also participated in the conversion rituals, becoming the first group of men from this remote Jewish community to be accepted back into the fold after hundreds of years.
“It is the closing of a historical circle,” said Michael Freund, the director of Shavei Israel, a non-profit organization that reaches out to members of lost Jewish communities around the world, among them the Kaifeng Jews, and helps reconnect them with their roots.
Yaakov and his friends are members of a small group of descendants of the Kaifeng Jews, who in recent years have expressed interest in exploring their religious roots and becoming full-fledged Jews. They were preceded in 2007 by a group of four Kaifeng women, who completed the conversion process in Israel.
“My grandparents always told us that we were descendants of the Jews,” said Yaakov, as he prepared to enter the mikveh. “We didn’t eat pork in our house, and we didn’t eat the blood from animals. I decided that I wanted to know more.”
The Jewish community of Kaifeng was formed roughly 1,000 years ago, when a group of Jewish merchants, presumably from Persia, settled in this region of China adjacent to the silk route. The Jews lived among themselves in a segregated community for hundreds of years before they began assimilating and intermarrying with local Chinese.
At its height, the community numbered as many as 5,000 Jews. Today, about 1,000 Chinese can trace their roots to them. Only a small fraction of that number, however, are active participants in the recently revived community.
In October 2009, Shavei Israel received permission from the Ministry of Interior to bring seven Kaifeng men to Israel so that they could explore the possibilities of conversion and aliyah. (The seventh member of the group was able to complete the conversion process several weeks ago, since unlike the others, he was already circumcised and therefore did not need to wait the extra time to recuperate.)
The Israeli rabbinate typically refrains from converting individuals who are not eligible for citizenship under the Law of Return – in other words, individuals who do not have at least one Jewish grandparent. Indeed, a request by another young member of the Kaifeng community, Wang Jiaxin , who arrived in Israel at about the same time as the current group, was rejected by the rabbinate.
Jiaxin subsequently underwent a Conservative conversion in the United States and then applied for Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return. Two months ago, his request was denied by the Ministry of Interior. The Ministry of Interior did not respond to a question about why his application had been rejected.
Last summer, however, a special exemptions committee did approve the conversion requests submitted by Yaakov, Shai, Yonatan, Moshe, Tzuri, Gideon and Hoshea – as they are known today – who have been studying for the past several years at Givat Hamivtar, a yeshiva in the Gush Etzion settlement of Efrat. Two months ago, they all passed their oral examinations at the rabbinical court, and six of them were subsequently circumcised.
And now, at long last, the big moment has arrived.
In typical Yeshiva-boy style, the young Chinese all have the tassels of their four-cornered tzitzit hanging out of their shirts as they enter the small building that houses the mikveh. An employee of the Hod Hasharon Religious Council hands them nail clippers and instructs them to clip both their fingernails and toenails. One by one, they are guided by three rabbinical judges to the ritual bath that lies behind a closed door. After they affirm their commitment to observe all the mitzvot, they are greeted with big hugs and cries of “mazal tov!” from their friends and teachers, who have come from the yeshiva to share this big day with them.
“I feel as if I have been reborn,” said 25-year-old Yonatan, formerly Xue Fei, who has just rushed out to call his friends in Efrat to inform them that he is now officially a member of the tribe.
Now that they have completed their studies, Yonatan and his friends plan to move to Jerusalem before joining the Israeli army. Yonatan, who practiced dentistry in china, says he then wants to become certified as an Israeli dentist. Tzuri wants to become a Jewish ritual slaughterer, and then perhaps open an authentic Chinese restaurant in Jerusalem.
Waiting for them on a small picnic table outside the mikveh are shots of whiskey in plastic cups. They raise their glasses in unison, but don’t drink a sip until Tzuri recites the appropriate blessing, and Freund makes the following promise: “Our next job is to find you all nice Jewish woman.”

65@65: Fact… Israel and Canada


Outside of North America, Israel was the first country to sign a free trade agreement with Canada. The Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement is a cornerstone of the bilateral relations between the countries.

For the full list of 65@65 facts click here