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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Aliyah Stories From JTA

(Image Credit: Young Judaea, via

Here are two stories featured on the Jewish Telegraphic Agency regarding Aliyah, or Israeli's returning to their homeland.

The first deals with one actually committing aliyah with the second story highlighting someone encouraging more Jews to do so.

(Jewish Telegraphic Agency) Living in Israel had been my dream, but for so many years it wasn't even a consideration. In my practical, secular Jewish family, education was the No. 1 priority. [...]

The Israel dream persisted, however, and I visited an Israeli emissary in my area. We began exploring my options. I wanted an authentic Israeli experience and considered making aliyah immediately, but I didn't want to be a burden on my relatives living in Israel.

Here is the second story...

(Jewish Telegraphic Agency) Meeting and living with Jews my age from Israel, the United States and England for nearly a year not only allowed me to expose them more to Israel, it changed my opinions, my perceptions and my life decisions. It also reinforced the ties between Israel and the Diaspora.

The program's purpose is not to introduce these young people to my country. Rather it's to make clear that this is also their country.

Throughout the year, my main goal was to make them stop feeling like tourists and begin to feel at home. I wanted them to see beyond the Kotel, Masada and the Kinneret, to take them to the restaurants I like, to teach them the up-to-date slang, to share my opinions about Israel and politics with them, to bring them home to meet my family and my friends.

Both of these stories help reinforce the difference between Israel and many nations around the world. While most countries usually only display interest in their citizens abroad when they are in danger, Israel seems to be dedicated on bringing back all of their people to the holy land.

Although not everyone will be willing to return to the promise land (as I know some Jews who love living in America) I think all of them should at least visit Israel, as it would give them a cultural taste of who they are in the world.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Jews And Arabs Make Flag Out Of Corkscrews

(Image: The flag of 64,000 corkscrews on Akko's City Hal, Credit: Vadim Daniel, via Ynet)

I have been meaning to post this story for a while, but here is some more great news of Israeli's and Arabs working together--an item you may not see on CNN.

(Ynet News) In honor of Independence Day, Akko's municipal youth council initiated a project which will bring the city's Arab and Jewish communities together. After long months of planning and preparation, a huge flag – made of 64,000 corks – now hangs on the walls of City Hall. [...]

"The best part was to see the cooperation between Jews Arabs, youths and elderly, secular and religious from all over the city. We had five-year old children and 90-year old adults tie the corks together," he said.

The corkscrews were originally blue, although the youth had to paint many of them white in order to create the Israeli flag. After creating the flag, they took out ten corkscrews in honor of the ten missing Israeli soldiers from the second Lebanon war.

As soon as the soldiers are found, the corkscrews will be added to the flag again.

Israeli Forest Named After Australian Prime Minister

(Image Credit: CNN)

(Hat Tip: Israellycool)

How cool is this! Australian Prime minister John Howard will have an Israeli forest named after him (to his honor) for standing with Israel through thick and thin.

( PRIME Minister John Howard will be honoured with a Jewish National Fund (JNF) forest in his name at a gala dinner in Melbourne next month.

To be named the John Howard Negev Forest, the forest will be located in Israel's Negev region, the focus of the JNF's Negev Now campaign.

Howard is expected to personally accept the honour at the fundraiser for JNF's Victorian branch at Crown Palladium on May 20, which will also feature Lebanese-born Middle East commentator Brigitte Gabriel.

JNF Victorian president Tom Borsky praised the Howard Government for its "genuine commitment and friendship towards the Jewish community".

John Howard has been one of the few western nations whose leadership has demonstrated a genuine friendliness towards the Jewish people, and it is good to see his name honored upon Israeli land.

As far as I can tell, most nations honor a person by naming a street or building after them, and even going as far as building a statue to their honor. Not Israel. They'll name a piece of the ecosystem after your name, which (in my opinion) definitely beats dead stone engraved to your image.

Update (5/1): It looks like something similar is being done for Coretta Scott King.

Radio Station Broadcasting Peace

(Image: Palestinian Aziz Abu Sarah, left, and Israeli Sharon Mishiker, hosts of Radio All For Peace's 'New Direction' show. Credit: Sharon Mishiker, via JTA)

Palestinian Aziz Abu Sarah and Israeli Sharon Mishiker host a show called New Direction on Radio All For Peace, a radio station whose goal is to help bring dialogue between the Israeli's and Palestinians.

The show has been interviewing the surviving families of the conflict on both sides, in an effort to at least get both Jews and Arabs to understand the common pain that they both share.

(Jewish Telegraphic Agency) "There are many differences between Palestinians and Israelis, the war isn't over and the killings haven't ended -- but the pain of bereavement that exists on both sides is an equal pain," Mishiker and Abu Sarah said on the air Monday morning, in alternating Hebrew and Arabic, as they introduced the Memorial Day marathon. [...]

"Each side, the Palestinian side and the Israeli side, tends to recognize its own pain and ignore the other's pain," said Shimon Malka, the station's Israeli co-director. "Through this day of programming, Radio All For Peace's message is clear: No one is alone. Pain is not exclusive."

This station has interviewed an impressive list of individuals, helping those who have lost loved ones forgive those who may have been responsible in their deaths. They also help family members grieve for the lost, enabling both sides to recognize each other's pain and perhaps seek out a normal relationship between both groups of people.

You can find more about Radio All for Peace over here, and for those who desire to tune it they have a radio section for online listeners as well.

The Israeli Good Life (Another View)

Here is an interesting article from Yosef Lapid from the Jerusalem Post regarding the realities of life in Israel compared to what is seen on television.

(Jerusalem Post) In order to describe the situation in Israel as it enters its 60th year we need a number of Greek words: dichotomy, schizophrenia, paranoia. From reading the newspapers, listening to the radio and watching television, I understand that everything here is falling apart, that Israel is the failure of the Zionist vision, that our government is corrupt, the army is rusty, the education system is in shambles and our health system is ill.

But when I go out into the street I encounter an entirely different country. I see that people are well-dressed, children are chattering away on their mobile phones, homes are being renovated. I see new cars, half the population traveling on holidays, some to the north and others to the more distant north. I see that the caf s are filled to overflowing, the nightclubs are humming, art is flourishing, the beach is teaming.

Life is good here.

I remember when I first visited Israel how shocked I was at how--safe and modern the Jewish state was. Before visiting the Holy Land, my perception of Israel was pretty much shaped by CNN, NBC and the general media.

I expected to see a land heavily influenced by the worries of war, death and everything that makes one frown in life. Instead I met happy, healthy, hyper (at least everyone who was not eighty years old) people, celebrating life to the fullest and engaging me to join the fun.

Since then those memories have permeated my mind regarding Israel, and it made me sad that most of the world only saw what looked good in front of the camera. There is so much more to Israeli life than what will fit on a TV screen, and hopefully more of the west (particularly America) will become familiar with that side, as they are missing out on some of the best aspects regarding Israel.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Words Of Advice For Those Seeking Aliyah has an awesome article for those of you (whether Jewish or Gentile) seeking to make Aliyah to Israel. There are ten tips total, but here are a listing of the first three:

  1. Keep an Open Mind
    Elad Gefen, 27, who works in film and journalism and currently lives in Tel Aviv, highlights open-mindedness and lack of expectations as the number one ingredient for Aliyah success. He cautions against regarding the move to Israel as a "cure-all" or as a "flip of the switch" which will automatically change a person's life. "You've got to work at it," he says.

  2. Keep the Kids Happy
    [...] "We figured if our children are happy, we'll be happy and our aliyah will be successful," points out Yehuda Saar. He was right. After touring schools and neighborhoods, the Saars decided to settle down in Ra'anana, where their children are thriving. Yehuda works as a commodities trader and is enthusiastic about his family's relocation to Israel.

  3. Keep the Connection Alive
    One of the most difficult challenges new immigrants encounter is the loneliness of leaving loved ones behind. Keeping up with family and friends is critical for a successful aliyah. Too much loneliness and homesickness are definite success-busters, and it's important to make the effort. Immigrants would do well to consider getting an all-you-can-talk phone line which can be used to make international calls for a set fee each month.

Reading these tips made me realize just how expensive (and difficult) life can be while moving towards Israel. I know of a few bloggers who have made the move (like this one) and their stories of transition are an eye opener, if not humorous to say the least.

Be sure to check out the other seven tips, as the first three here are merely the frosting on the cake regarding this issue.

Microsoft Looking For A Few Good Israelis

Software king giant Microsoft is on the prowl again for some tech savvy engineers after acquiring an Israeli start-up not too long ago.

(Globes Online) The company has opened its second development center in Israel, a year after appointing corporate VP Moshe Lichtman to run it and acquiring 3 Israeli start-ups. [...]

The company will begin intensive recruitment of 150 employees, mostly software developers, for the center next week, and plans to complete hiring within a few months. Microsoft Israel confirmed that the company would shortly begin recruitment.

It seems like Microsoft is attempting to position itself as the dominant internet company in the region, in order to thwart Google's attempts at carving out Israeli talent for itself.

Either way, this spells good news for the Israeli economy, although I wonder when Yahoo! is going to enter into the fray?

Happy Birthday Israel! (59 And Going)

Today (or rather tonight) is Israel's 59th birthday, and although it is often a solemn holiday, it is good to see Israel last another year on planet earth.

(Jewish Exponent) For much of the world, the name Israel is synonymous with conflict. But even though the nation must continue to fend off terrorism and fight for its rights, the true face of the Jewish state can be found in the hustle and bustle of ordinary people going about their lives. At work and at play, Israel remains a country of contrasts and stark beauty.

Another reason that Israel has to celebrate is the fact that its population has surpassed 7 million, with the largest increase coming naturally. (I think Ynet means via children instead of Aliyah).

Congrats Israel for enjoying another year of existence! I am looking forward to the next 50 million years. ;-)

(Image Credit: Jewish Exponent)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Could Israel Cure Parkinson's Disease?

Update: I have just received word from Holly Barkhymer (from the The Michael J. Fox Foundation) who has informed me that the article in Israel 21st Century has a serious error in it (regarding Karen Leeds as the development officer at the Fox Foundation) and therefore this article has been removed.

I am trying to verify whether or not The Michael J. Fox Foundation did award grants to Cell Cure and Proneuron (both Israeli companies) in order to maintain the accuracy of this site.

~Darnell Clayton

Israel Becoming A Popular Place For Marriages?

It looks like more and more Jews from the Diaspora are choosing their eternal homeland as the place to tie the knot rather than more exotic destinations in their countries of origin.

(Jewish Telegraphic Agency) In recent years an increasing number of Jewish couples from abroad looking for an alternative to a formal wedding at home or a more typical remote destination in the Caribbean or Tuscany have decided on Israel as the place to break the glass and officially start their lives together.

"We are very casual and would not have had a black-tie wedding," said Gena Bresgi, 23, of New York City, who was married last year in a large glass hall amid the lush gardens of a kibbutz. "Our wedding had a nice feel, very relaxed. There was not that high pressure."

It was her husband's first visit to Israel, and together the two families toured the country. Close friends and relatives who came used the wedding as part of an Israeli vacation, too.

The cool thing about this is that many Israeli's claim that the weddings in Israel are cheaper than say in Europe and America. They are also less formal than their western counterparts (which may help relieve some stress) which is something that surprised me very much.

Hopefully the Israeli government can convince some of these people to stay (or commit Aliyah at a future date) as this would be a great opportunity to show case what Israel is all about.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Merlin Communications Takes On Google Ads

I have never heard of Merlin Communications before but it seems that an Israeli firm is hoping to take on the Google Goliath when it comes to text advertisements, at least in Israel.

( via Globes Online) Merlin Communications CEO Yoni Sapir said, This is a breakthrough in a world dominated solely by Google. Google Israel has two substantial contracts with Tapuz People Ltd. (TASE:TPUZ) and Netex (Net Express) Ltd. (TASE:NTX), and our contract is bigger than both of them combined.

He added, The agreement with Ynet, Israel's leading portal of its kind, positions Merlin alongside Google Israel in terms of traffic to its pay ads. Merlin's system has tremendous traffic, and there are many advertisers who tell us that the number of leads they create through us is larger than through Google Israel.

Ironically it seems as if this field is quickly heating up, as Quigo has previously announced their intentions to challenge the search engine king.

Google had previously begun serving up Hebrew ads throughout its network, and has recently purchased DoubleClick (which will probably cement their rule in this arena as DoubleClick has a lot of clients).

Nonetheless it's good to see some real competition in the Israeli market, as this will benefit everyone around (at least webmasters that is).

Note: I wonder when Google's Israeli competitors will open the field to smaller sites like me?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom Ha' Shoa)

(Hat Tip:

Although I try to focus mainly on the positive aspects about Israel (and there is some good news at the end of this post), one must never forget about the horrible tragedy around seventy years ago.

Today (or rather yesterday) is a time where life in Israel comes to a complete stop--literally--and all remember the six million who fell victim because of one mad man's nightmare.

Warning: Some images may not be suitable for children or work.

May God forgive us for allowing this tragedy to occur.


On a more (semi) positive note, it appears that no Jews were injured after the Virginia Tech shootings that took place today.

(Ynet) Israeli embassy in the US has been following the goings on at the Virginia Tech University, following a shooting rampage on campus that killed 33 people, including the shooter.

As soon as the embassy was informed of the attack, it started to locate all of the Israeli students and lecturers in the university and has reported that they are all safe and sound. (Yitzhak Benhorin – Washington)

Thank God! God bless everyone, and more good news about Israel will be posted tomorrow.

Update: Unfortunately, one Israeli professor was killed in VA Tech. Israel Today has the story. :-(

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Can You Handle The JIB Awards?

(Hat Tip: Life in Israel)

It looks like nominations for the JIB Awards are launching tomorrow. For those of you who do not know, the JIB Awards (or Jewish and Israeli Blog Awards) is:

(JIB Awards) the J-blogosphere's informal annual award contest. The aim of the contest is to direct new readers towards Jewish, Israeli, and pro-Israel blogs. The JIBs begin with nominations, then a semifinal and final round. Good-natured rivalry and campaigning are associated with this event.

I'm planning on nominating myself, although if you would like to support IsraPundit, then that would be great as well.

They have located several sponsors thus far, although if anyone would like to help out with the event (via money or volunteering) you can contact the committee over here.

(Image Credit: Compassionate Expression)

Google Invests In Israeli-Chinese Browser

(Hat Tip: Globes Online)

It looks like Google is tapping the shoulders of an Israeli-Chinese browser in order to gain some much needed exposure (as Baidu is kicking their butt) in the China market.

(TechCrunch) Multiple sources are confirming that the Chinese/Israeli startup behind the Maxthon Browser has sold a minority stake to Google. The total investment size is rumored to be around $1 million. We are also hearing that this investment is part of a "much larger strategic deal" between the two companies.

Maxthon has had over 80 million downloads of its browser, and over half of its users are in China. Maxthon-originated searches may account for up to 25% of total Baidu traffic, according to one source.

From what I hear Maxthon is a cross between IE7 and Firefox, with more of the former than the latter mixed in. Either way, it has caught Google's attention, whose focus seems to be geared on over throwing Baidu with Google China.

Is it me, or does Google seem a little too obsessed on dominating the world?

Israeli's Love To Have Babies!

This must have something to do with the be fruitful commandment, either that or Jewish women really enjoy the whole procreation process (with the help of their lovers of course!).

(Ynet News) An Israeli woman has 3 children on average, making Israel more fertile than all European countries.

Fertility data submitted by the Health Ministry to the World Health Organization showed that for every 1000 Israelis 24 babies are born each year.

The European yearly average is 10 babies for every 1000 citizens. [...]

Israel also faired well on life expectancy which was found to be 80 years. The European average is 79.

With the average European population decreasing, and Israel increasing (and living longer), perhaps in two centuries the Jews will outnumber their European friends. Heh!

(Image Credit: Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County)

Friday, April 06, 2007

Video: Ping Pong For Peace?

Here is a video that is a modern day parable of what is happening in the region of Israel (except that it is rated "G" for the general audience).

It's not as funny as this video (which I am about to order soon) but you will probably enjoy this nonetheless.

Only if...

A Spoon Full Of Bacteria Makes The Oil Spills Go Away?

(Hat Tip:

Image: A local fisherman standing ankle deep in oil. Credit, GreenPeace.

As every earth caring person knows, oil spills are not good for the planet. Not only do they destroy the environment, but they can harmful to businesses as well.

Cleaning up the spills can be even more exspensive, which led one Israeli scientist to engineer a little creature to take care one of humanities major messes.

(Israel 21st Century) Previous mechanical methods the company used of sifting the dirty oil through sand, proved to be difficult, expensive and not entirely 'clean'. Prompted by a visit from Israel's Ministry of Environmental Protection, Levi started looking for new solutions. He was introduced to BioPetroClean, which took a sample of the EAPC's oil contaminated water back to the lab and the boardroom. [...]

To convince EAPC, BioPetroClean built a two by two meter cement tank near its oil storage facilities in Ashkelon. Inside it, the company added the bacteria, suspended in a liquid medium, to hundreds of gallons of contaminated water. Within a few days, the murky water came out of the tank crystal clear.

What makes this technique even better is the fact that the bacteria are about eight times cheaper than their mechanical "friends," making it not only affordable but also a better alternative.

But this technology also has uses outside of oil spills. These bacteria could also be mixed with public water facilities, as people (sadly) dump more oil via kitchen facets into the ocean than the big broken oil ships that make the news.

Update: Forgot to mention the corporate website! You can find more info over at

Dinner Raises Millions For IDF

The Friends of the Israel Defense Forces hosted a fund raising dinner in which $18 million was raised on behalf of soldiers defending Israel.

(Jerusalem Post) Leading the contributions this year was Israeli-American media mogul Haim Saban who pledged $3.2m. Guests at the event included Executive Vice President of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Malcolm Hoenlein, AIPAC President Howard Friedman, President and CEO of Israel Bonds Yehoshua Matza, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel, renowned Israeli performer Dudu Fisher, and American businessman Donald Trump who contributed $250,000. Israel's Consul General in New York Arye Mekel as well as Israel's defense attache to the US Major General Dan Harel were among representatives of the Israeli government at the affair.

You can find more information on who gave what over here. It seems as if this dinner was a great way to kick off the year, as the Friends of IDF were able to raise $46 million in 2006.

With a third of that amount already raised thus far (and it only being April) lets hope the group shatters their record and raises close to $50 million for these brave individuals defending the Jewish state.

Food For Brains?

No, its not one of those "will make you smarter if you eat three times of day" type of pills (those do not work to my knowledge).

Rather it's a drug geared towards improving your memory--and they have the science to back it up.

(Israel 21st Century) A natural functional food ingredient that improves brain functions in both children and adults, Lipogen contains phosphatidylserine (PS), a nutrient found in fish, green leafy vegetables, soybeans and rice, which goes to the brain and regulates metabolic processes such as neuronal signaling. Studies have associated the nutrient to improvements in memory and mood, and specifically linked it to delaying symptoms of early-onset Alzheimer's.

"PS is a naturally occurring material within the membranes of the cells in the brain. Generally the brain produces the required amount of the material, but age as well as the stress of modern life slows down its production," explained David Rutenberg, the founder and CEO of the Galilee-based company Lipogen which developed and produces the product.

This drug sounds very interesting, although I'll personally hold off using it, unless I am in need of passing a major examine.

Joking aside, I could see this drug by Lipogen being very useful for Alzheimer's patients, as it may help slow down (or hopefully stop) the affects of this fairly common disease.

Corporate Blessing Reaps A Blessing

There is a scripture in the torah in which God says to Abraham (and his decendants):

"And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." (Genesis 12:3)

It seems that The Baran Group is learning that first hand as they are doing their part by investing in the Jewish community, which is having a delightful side affect on their stock.

(Jewish Telegraphic Agency) Things would be worse at the crowded center, however, if not for the Baran Group, a Negev-based engineering company that runs a number of employee volunteer programs with underprivileged communities throughout Israel.

"We have been working with them for five years," Aiaso said. "It's difficult for me to see Almaya without Baran. Without them we could only just manage, but not do all the things we do. For example, they help us deal with the municipality, easing the bureaucratic process. If I need something, I turn to Baran." [...]

Scop insists that the $295,000 Baran invested in community projects last year sparked a 5 percent jump in the value of its stock.

What makes The Baron Group's contribution unique is their approach to helping out a community. Instead of merely throwing money at the problem (which is fairly irresponsible in my opinion) they work with the community to help shape its future culture.

They in essence share the burden giving the people a sense of accomplishment (which helps the project live on long after the company's checks stop flowing). This also seems to be good for stock holders, as they seem to show appreciation for businesses concerned about a society beyond their bottom line.

Moody: Israel's Economy In A Good Mood

The investment sector continues to hold its own in the Kosher state, as Moody has taken a positive outlook regarding the future of Israel.

(Globes Online) Moody's Vice President Kristin Lindow said, "The Israeli economy is in the midst of a prolonged upturn that was only briefly affected by last year's war with Hizbullah, the militant Islamic movement based in Lebanon. Growth has averaged 5% for the last three years, yet the current account surplus actually widened further each year and inflation was nonexistent in 2006."

Hopefully I'll be able to find some more good news regarding Israel's economy, as news like this counters the thought that conflict zones are bad places to invest. Israel (according to Moody) seems to have a bright future ahead of it, which is an indicator on the underlining strength of the nation.