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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tibetan's Learn From Israeli Green Thumbs

(Image: Tsering Dolma working in the Arava farming settlement, Credit: Israel 21st Century)

Farmers originally from the nation of Tibet are getting a chance to learn from some of the world's greatest minds in the agricultural field in Tel Aviv.

Although exiled in India (do to political situations), these farmers hope to share the knowledge they learn back at home, and improve life from their corner of the planet.

(Israel 21st Century) Dolma is part of a group of 50 Tibetans who have come to Israel for a year to learn agricultural techniques from Israeli farmers. At the end of their tenure, they'll return to their homes-in-exile in India and pass along the information to fellow Tibetan community members. [...]

"Israel is a known leader in agriculture and agriculture technology. Even countries that don't have diplomatic ties with Israel send envoys to learn from our farmers. So this group is a natural extension of what Israel does well," TIFTP spokesperson Ran Natanzon told ISRAEL21c.

Israel has already trained 300 Tibetans, who believe that the agriculture industry will be critical towards their nation's survival once Tibet is liberated.

Note: This program would not have been possible if it were not for the efforts of The Israeli Friends of the Tibetan People and Israel's Forum for International Humanitarian Aid.

Israel To Buy West Bank Gas

It looks like a British company has discovered some gas off the coast of the Gaza strip.

Although nothing has yet been finalized yet, BG Group is in the process of getting agreements between both Israel and the PA as this find could not only help ease Israel's energy strain, but help bring the West Bank out of its current poverty.

(Globes Online) BG Group (NYSE: BRG; LSE: BG) is poised to sign a $4 billion 15-year contract deal to supply Palestinian gas to Israel from a discovery off the Gaza coastline, London daily "The Times" reported yesterday.

"The Times" added that the contract "will provide 10% of Israel’s annual energy requirement, and the Palestinians would receive total royalties of $1 billion. The Gaza field, it said, "holds one trillion cubic feet of gas, the equivalent of 150 million barrels of oil, equivalent to a large North Sea field."

Of course, the current situation in the region has to "tone down" a bit, but this discovery may convince both sides to cool their jets enough to work out an economic deal.

Jewish Invention Could Save American Truckers Gas

With gases in America reaching an all time high (or at least according to those buying gas at $3 per gallon), this smart invention may help trucking agencies reduce the amount of gas they use while delivering goodies across the US.

(Israel National News) Israeli researchers at Tel Aviv University have developed a device which is likely to save the U.S. trucking industry some $400 million per year. The drag reduction device, an actuator, was exhibited at the "World's Best Technologies Showcase" in Texas.

Through the combined action of suction and pulsed blowing of airflow, the device reduces drag in a controlled manner when it is attached to the back of the truck or trailer.

It's great for them to have this device for truckers in the states, although I wonder if they would consider inventing something similar for the average car? Hmm...

Camera d'Or Prize Awarded To Israeli Film

A film by Shira Geffen and Etgar Keret has won an award for best debut feature.

(Ynet News) "Meduzot," the young authors' first film, is based on a script written by Geffen and directed by her and her husband, author Etgar Keret, and tells the story of three women in Tel Aviv. [...]

The movie's producer, Amir Harel, told Ynet he was thrilled by the news. "The award is an extremely important accomplishment. The financial award (of about $200,000) will help us with the distribution and is an incentive to create another film. There's no doubt this has been a very good year for Israeli cinema."

I was unable to locate a video preview of the film, although the reviews of the film are quite impressive. If I find a video preview online (or at least a place where one can order the film) I'll post an update over here.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Holocaust Hero Saved 2500 Jewish Children

(Image: Irena Sendler being awarded with the Order of Smile in Poland, Credit: AP via Jerusalem Post)

During one of the greatest tragedies of history, a brave polish woman decided to risk death and torture in order to save as many Jewish kids as possible.

Despite her heroism many decades ago, it seems as if the world (not to mention the many survivors) are now seeking to contact this woman who has affected so many lives.

(Jerusalem Post) The pilgrims keep coming, seeking out the fragile 97-year-old woman in black in her tiny nursing home room filled with pictures and flowers.

The attention tires Irena Sendler sometimes. She never sought credit for smuggling 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto anyway. Not for risking execution to save other people's children, or holding out under torture by the Nazis, or enduring decades as a nonperson under the communist regime that followed. [...]

"I'm very tired - it's too much for me," Sendler said recently of the incessant visits, during a brief meeting with an Associated Press reporter. And giving a little laugh, she added a bit sadly: "I feel my age."

This woman did a lot of work insuring that these kids survived! She not only smuggled the children under the noses of the Nazi's, but gave them fake names in order to help them evade detection.

She also made sure that the children's real names remained with them, so that they would never lose their Jewish identity. One of the children (who is now an adult herself) calls this woman "my Polish mother" and Sendler has even been nominated for a Nobel Peace prize by her country.

Although I could go on about this womans courage, the Jerusalem Post has written an excellent article highlighting how she smuggled the children away from danger, as well as what happened when the Nazi's caught her.

So stop reading this blog, and read the rest of her story.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Biofuel Through Fungus Power?

(Image: Dr. Amir Sharon, Credit: Israel 21st Century)

Sometimes touted as an alternative energy source to fossil fuels, biofuels have the potential to not only seriously reduce the amount of oil consumed worldwide, but pollution as well.

Unfortunately in order to do this, our species would have to convert edible food into fuel, since the non-edible parts (such as corn stalk) are much harder to convert into biofuel.

Since our fuel demands vastly outstrip our food demands, governments would probably be unlikely to consider biofuel as a serious solution. That is until an Israeli scientist discovered a little secret using nature's most useful creatures.

(Israel 21st Century) Israeli researcher Dr. Amir Sharon of Tel Aviv University is on the trail. Sharon has discovered a transgenic fungus strong enough to convert even the most resilient plant parts into bioethanol, a chemical used for biofuel. Strengthened with an anti-death gene, this fungus is resistant to harsh conditions such as heat and toxic substances - both of which are released while converting plant biomass into ethanol. As a result, the production of ethanol using this transgenic fungus could be much more efficient than with conventional fungi.

If Israel is able to perfect this, they may not only help resolve their energy dependence woes but America's as well, as both nations are seeking ways to "go green" ASAP.

Note: It seems to me that Israel may become the very first "energy independent" nation as they are already exploring ways to turn shale and asphalt into oil and radioactive waste into useful energy.

Update: Added image credit near the top.

Video: A New Way To Educate Palestinian Kids

(Hat Tip: One Jerusalem)

It looks like an Israeli soldier found an interesting way to instruct Palestinian kids on what it means to be...well...Israeli.

Note: I thought I'd never see the day that life imitated art. If only...

IBM Israel Taking Care Of Business

Despite the hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of software applications out there for businesses, sometimes its hard to find one program that fits your needs.

Although larger (or more affluent) companies can simply contract or employ an IT developer to create an application from scratch, most small businesses do not have that luxury, forcing them to simply use something "off the shelf."

Unless of course they have heard about what IBM Israel is doing, that is.

(Israel 21st Century) They've just announced their Development Engagement Service (DevEngage), a free Web application development tool with a simple user-interface to allow people without technical skills in small businesses and other organizations to create applications that solve daily tasks. [...]

"This new application development tool will let users with no software development expertise skill create online forms with ease that complete routine tasks," said Gal Shachor, project lead for this technology at the IBM Research Lab in Haifa. "IBM wants to ensure that users at small and medium-sized businesses are able to capitalize on modern Web 2.0 technologies in a simple, user-friendly way."

This technology is simple, yet elegant, and best of all it may ultimately prove to be very useful for everyone ranging from corporate secretaries to entrepreneurs needing to sort info from the daily grind.

Users can preview the web application over at alphaWorks Services, although they will need to register an account with IBM in order to give it a demo test.

Video: Jerry Seinfeld To Visit Israel

(Hat Tip: What War Zone??)

One of the greatest comedians of television prime time has decided to take a small detour in the Holy Land in order to promote an upcoming film.

(Ynet News) Jerry Seinfeld is scheduled to visit Israel in November to promote the new animated film, "Bee Movie." [...]

The movie tells the story of a male bee (dubbed by Jerry Seinfeld) who graduated college and is disgruntled by the fact that his only option is to manufacture honey. The bee hangs out in New York City where he befriends a flower salesgirl.

No word on whether Jerry Seinfeld will perform or not, but either way his visit will sure make many Israeli Seinfeld fans happy.

For those wondering what the film looks like, here is a preview of the flick below.

More details over at

India See's Israel As A "Preferred Ally"

Although there seems to be some "squawking" amongst the Indian left, the government of India has reaffirmed that the ties between the Asian sub-continent and Israel will remain strong--at least militarily.

(The Economic Times) The Left may be seeking the downgrading of New Delhi's ties with Tel Aviv, but Israel continues to be India's preferred destination for accessing arms and weapons systems. Defence minister A K Antony told the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday that that over $5-billion worth of defence purchases were made from Israel between 2002 and 2007. [...]

The decision to strengthen ties with Israel is a clear rejection of the Left's demand for ending military cooperation with Tel Aviv. As Israel plays a key role in the conclusion of over 200 agreements for agricultural development in crucial areas like drip irrigation, greenhouse technology and horticulture in India, the UPA government considers it as a valuable ally.

Although the main reason India is seeking to maintain these ties is because of military interests, their eyes seem to be focusing attention on Israel's "greener side."

Known for hosting well over a billion residents, India can ill-afford to sideline a friend like Israel, especially one who seeks to benefit the world's largest democracy.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Israel Spending Over A Billion Dollars To Woo Jews To Jerusalem

(Image Credit: RomKri of Jerusalem Shots)

Despite the fact that many Jews are proud that Jerusalem is once again in Jewish hands (as the capital of their nation), many Israeli citizens for some strange reason are reluctant to relocate within the capital.

The government, unsatisfied with the current status of "Jerusalem immigration" has decided to spend approximately $1.45 billion in order to see more Jews live within what many regard as the holiest spot on earth.

(Israel National News) Jewish areas of Jerusalem are expected to receive extra attention with the allocation of some $1.45 billion toward development aimed at improving the capital’s Jewish demographics.

Media reports quoted Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as saying the government would approve NIS 5.75 billion to upgrade the city's infrastructure while strengthening its Jewish majority.

Although I have heard of many Jews desiring to keep Jerusalem 100 percent in Jewish hands, I have seen various conversations online where a few of them would decline actually living in the Holy City.

If anybody who is Israeli is reading this, I would be curious as to why so many Jews are avoiding living in their capital city, and whether or not the incentives would attract them towards reconsidering?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

BusinessWeek Getting Kosher

One of the worlds most influential business magazines has decided to make it easier for Israeli's to keep up to date with the latest corporate news happening around the globe.

(Globes Online) Hirsch Media is going to publish a Hebrew-language "Businessweek". Sources inform "Globes" that the company and the publisher of "Businessweek" recently signed an agreement for this purpose. Hirsch Media confirmed the report

The first issue of "Businessweek Israel" will be published in September. Sources said that "Businessweek Israel" will be published every two weeks and sold by both subscription and at newsstands.

This is probably a smart move for BusinessWeek, as Israel is quickly rising as an attractive place to work, with companies like Google, AOL, Microsoft and Intel actively recruiting the best minds (or buying them) in an attempt to stay on step ahead of the competition.

According to Globes, the Hebrew version of the magazine will be launching in September, although no specific date has been mentioned.

Note: I wonder if the magazine will either be a translation of what BusinessWeek publishes in English, or a spin off with an Israeli twist?

Israel Becoming A Competitive Place To Work?

Despite the regional events, it looks like Israel has climbed three notches in the overall most competitive places to work on planet Earth. The US (of course) is number one, but Israel has moved up to the 21st spot.

(Globes Online) Israel's economy has climbed three places to 21st place in the World Competitiveness Yearbook rankings, published by the International Institute for Management Development (IMD), which is based in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The survey, which was published today, ranks 55 countries according 323 economic criteria, and is based on data collated from business entities worldwide. Israel is ranked in 20th place for economic strength, unchanged from last year. However, it has climbed 20 places, from 45th to 25th in the ratings for international investment.

Globes has more details regarding this, with exact specifics for those of you who enjoy the "nitty gritty details," but this goes to show that Israel continues to display not only a strong economy in the present, but a healthy outlook towards the future as well.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Jerusalem Mayor Parades In New York

(Image: New York Mayor Bloomberg and Jerusalem Mayor Lupolianski, Credit: AP via Jerusalem Post)

At an American Israel parade Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski found himself among tens of thousands of supporters who came out to celebrate Israel's founding in 1948. And right beside him step by step was none other than Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York city.

(Jerusalem Post) Thousands of Israel supporters marched up Fifth Avenue on Sunday in the Salute to Israel Parade commemorating the 1948 founding of the Jewish state.

Marchers sang "Hava Nagila," and waved the Star of David flag; many carried colorful paper torches indicating that Israel is the Biblical "light unto the nations." [...]

"I love the spirit," said Noa Brandes, 13. "It's like a big family, everyone who loves Israel."

Parade organizers said there were more than 100,000 marchers. Hundreds of spectators wearing "I (heart) Israel" buttons and stickers lined the parade route between 56th and 79th streets.

The only depressing thing about this parade was the very fact that I wasn't there to attend! (better luck next year I hope)

Israel's popularity in America seems to be as strong as ever, with no signs of going away anytime soon. From what I hear from my Israeli friends, the feeling is very mutual, one of the reasons I love living in this country.

Hopefully we will see more parades like these across the country, and for many years to come.

Perspective: Tourist Views Israel In All Her Glory

You will have to read the entire article to understand the author's perception of Israel (which she admits is hard to describe) but her encounter with the Jewish state is very similar to the one I had (except my view of Israel before visiting was a lot more horrific).

(NY The dry and dusty image I had of Israel is totally wrong. In early spring, before Passover, the country is green and glorious. Wildflowers bloom on Mount Tabor and even in the Negev desert.

And the simplistic vision I had of a completely Jewish Israel? Another error. Yes, Israel is a Jewish state - but it is also 16 percent Muslim, and its language, its savory food, the city populations are all scrambled up like falafel, with spicy sprinklings of Druze, Christian, Ba'Hai, ancient Egyptian, Crusader, Phoenician, Turk, Persian, Roman, Greek, Syrian, British and who knows what else floating in the breeze.

Marco Polo slept here. So did Mark Twain. So did King David, Saladin, Salome, Jesus and Napoleon.

Israel (at least to me) reminds me of an international smorgsboard that blends the far east with the distant west, not to mention a pound (or two) of the local middle east flavor in between.

There is more to Israel than meets the eye, and one can only really appreciate (or at least begin to understand) the country by either visiting the nation for at least a month or better yet, actually live there for a year.

Although the writer did describe Israel as a nation that is constantly alert (which would be accurate) she does do a great job of describing some of the interesting (and perhaps humorous) scenes one might see while visiting the "old city" in Jerusalem.

Kosher Corporations In Vietnam?

(Image Credit: Clinton Foundation)

I knew that Israel has corporate influence in the east, but I never suspected that their influence extended well into Vietnam.

(Israel National News) With Agriculture Minister Shalom Simchon on his way to Vietnam for an official visit, it has been reported that no fewer than 200 Israeli companies are doing business in Vietnam - including 40 that began this year. So says Export Institute Director Yechiel Asiyah. [...]

Israel's exports to Vietnam have grown by 3% since last year, and now total $36.6 million. Israel's chief exports to Vietnam are mineral and mining products ($9.8 million), telecommunications ($9.7 million, a growth of 35%), and chemicals ($6.6 million).

Although Vietnam is not known for having an exactly "pleasant history" (or even a "pleasant present"), it is good to see them reaching out towards other nations in order to improve themselves--technologically wise at least.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Azerbaijan Strengthens Ties With Israel

(Image: Map of Azerbaijan, Credit:

For those of you who do not know, Azerbaijan is located right above Iran and just below Russia (note: they must "love" their neighbors).

Anyways it seems that this nation (which by the way is composed mostly of Shia Muslims) is seeking to do something that most nations of similar faith are shying away from--courting Israel.

(Jerusalem Post) The strategic significance for Israel of this relationship is perhaps hard to exaggerate. Besides being a majority Muslim state - over two-thirds of Azeris are Shi'ites - Azerbaijan is located in the "energy corridor" leading from Central Asia and the Caspian to the West. It is the starting point of the newly opened Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, the world second-longest, which brings Caspian oil to the Turkish Mediterranean city of Ceyhan, and it is an air corridor for the West into Afghanistan and - in theory, at least - Iran. [...]

Most crucially, however, Israel's geographic position offers Azerbaijan the key to reaching Eastern oil markets. Israel's Ashkelon-Eilat pipeline may give Azerbaijan the southern oil port it needs to compete with Iranian exports. With discussions well underway on an underwater pipeline linking Ceyhan and Ashkelon, a resulting 2,500-kilometer-long Baku-Eilat pipeline would bring Azeri oil to the immense and growing South Asian and Chinese markets.

I am not too sure how they will convince the Iranians to go along, but such a pipeline (if constructed) would encourage the nations in the region to cooperate to a degree and thus help at least establish some dialogue between Israel and her regional neighbors.

No word yet as to when construction will commence, but hopefully this idea will catch the China's eye as it would help bring another party to the table, especially one from the east.

Foreigners Interested In Israeli Real Estate?

(Image: Yoo building project in Tel Aviv, Credit: Brian Hendler, via

The interesting item about this article is not about the buildings (or even who is investing in them) but the fact that the city of Tel Aviv has drastically changed so much since the 1980's.

So much in fact that one New Yorker had this to say about the improvements.

(Jewish Telegraphic Agency) "The first time I was here was in 1983, and Tel Aviv has gone through a huge transformation from then to now," said Howard Glatzer, who runs a real estate fund that invests in New York City properties. "As a Jew from New York who is very accustomed to seeing high-rises everywhere, I think it's fantastic, it shows the vitality of Israel, and that's great." [...]

In 2002, foreign buyers invested $192 million in Israeli real estate. Just four years later the number had soared to $1.43 billion, according to the Bank of Israel.

Although many of the people investing in Israel are Israeli's themselves, the fact that wealthy individuals are risking a large portion of their capital in Israeli real estate speaks volumes about the nation.

Even Donald Trump seems to be investing in Israeli property, and there is speculation that he may construct a building there as well.

I've been scouting out Israeli property myself, and although the prices are a little expensive, the view of the land seems to be incredible (and well worth the cost).

Singapore Excited To Trade With Israel

Singapore it seems is really looking forward to establishing greater economic ties with the Israeli state.

(Channel News Asia) IE Singapore's first trade mission to Israel has been fruitful with potential for several deals to be struck.

The business delegation comprising some 12 Singapore companies held some 40 meetings with Israeli counterparts on day one of the four-day event.

Israel is home to many high technology companies, and there is hope that some of their innovations could be transferred to Singapore to test-bed new products.

Like Japan, Israel is quickly establishing itself as the tech envy of the world. With major companies such as Microsoft, AOL, Intel and Google courting the Jewish state, it comes to no surprise that other nations are taking notice (and lining up to gain influence inside Israel).

Note: Is it me, or is Israel's influence increasing in the east faster than it is in the west?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Walla! Takes On Google Ads

First Quigo takes on the Google Goliath, then Merlin throws its hat into the ring, and now Walla! has decided to assist in the triple team lineup against the search engine king.

Can Google survive?

(Globes Online) Walla Communications Ltd. (TASE: WALA) has launched its new pay-per-click advertising service AdVantage. The launch came after numerous delays and postponements. The system resembles the pay-per-click system used by Google Inc. (Nasdaq:GOOG). Walla! will charge a minimum of NIS 0.05 per click.

Advertisers choose keywords for their ad campaigns and set the price they will pay per click. The system calculates this figure, together with additional data, such as content suitability, and past performance, to determine which advertisements to display and in which order. An advertiser can monitor keyword and ad performance at every stage via a management interface and portal control.

Although long overdue, Walla! is probably trying to get its act together after being dethroned as the number one Israeli site by Google Israel. With Google recently becoming a bit more Kosher, Walla! may have a fight on its hands as it seeks to regain itself as the top portal in Israeli cyberspace.

It will be interesting to see over the next few months which company will come on top, and how Google reacts to this (increasingly) crowded field. In my opinion though, unless Walla! (and similar) companies begin to allow smaller sites to display their advertising, they may only wind up in second place at best against the internet behemoth known as Google.

Orthodox Jews From Diaspora Joining IDF

(Image: IDF members of a Nahal Haredi unit in prayer. Credit: IDF, via

Outside of Israel, Orthodox Jews are often viewed as what the average Israeli citizens looks like (a common misconception that frustrates some of my Jewish friends).

Ironically, although all Israeli's are required to enlist in the military service, Orthodox Jews (to my knowledge) are exempt for spiritual reasons. Now it seems as if one Israeli from the Diaspora is trying to change all of this by encouraging spiritual Jews to enlist.

(Jewish Telegraphic Agency) Taylor, 20, is a volunteer from Los Angeles serving in an infantry battalion of Torah-observant and predominantly fervently Orthodox soldiers. His unit, Nahal Haredi, plans to launch an advertising campaign this summer in major Jewish newspapers in the United States and Britain seeking more foreign recruits.

Taylor is among the more than 14,000 American Jews from across the religious spectrum serving in the Jewish state's military. According to Israeli government statistics, 4,419 are on active duty and 9,831 are in the reserves.

"I love the fact that I can fully live out my Jewish values while at the same time protecting Israel," Taylor says.

This is a good sign, and hopefully Taylor's campaign will encourage not only more Jews from the Diaspora to join the IDF, but Orthodox Jews living within Israel to enlist as well.

Currently the military unit is composed of men only (as to my knowledge Orthodox men do not enjoy their women getting shot at). Composure aside, units like these seem to be highly motivated, with many of them committing Aliyah.

You can find out more info regarding these Orthodox units at

Poll: Most Israeli Arabs Support Jewish State

(Hat Tip: Stand for Israel)

It seems that according to the Haaretz, most Israeli Arabs support having Israel refer to itself as a Jewish state--so long as there are protections for minorities (which is a given in Israel).

(Haaretz) A vast majority of Israeli Arabs would support a constitution that maintained Israel's status as a Jewish and democratic state while guaranteeing equal rights for minorities, according to a poll whose results were published on Sunday.

Among the 507 people who participated in the poll, some 75 percent said they would agree with such a definition while 23 percent said they would oppose it.

The Israel Democracy Institute (IDI), a non-partisan research institute who commissioned the poll, said the results were proof that a constitution that maintained Israel's status as a Jewish and democratic state could win the support of the Israeli Arab public.

I am not too surprised by this poll, as any minority group living in a foreign nation would not mind a constitution reflecting the culture of the majority so long as they are guaranteed protection.

In Israel, non-Jews can vote, buy and sell property and even hold office (which to my knowledge can not be said of her neighbors). It should come to no surprise to find Arabs enjoying their status in Israel. Now if only we can convince their neighbors of the same thing...

Reuters Buys Out Clear Forest? Huh?

Reuters Group, which owns the Reuters News service seems to have purchased and Israeli startup called Clear Forest.

(Globes Online) Reuters Group plc (LSE: RTR; Nasdaq:PTRSY) has acquired Israeli text analysis technology developer ClearForest Ltd. for about $30 million. The companies are due to announce the deal today, before trading begins on Nasdaq. [...]

ClearForest's unstructured data management software creates usable data for decision-making. The company's solution marks the key points in a text, such as persons, companies, or events, and turns them into a structured text that is easier to analyze for research and business intelligence purposes by a company.

Clear Forest has a press release about this over here, and they seem to be really excited about joining the Reuters family.