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Monday, March 31, 2008

Video: Israeli Girl Enlightens World About Israel

Hat Tip:

It looks as if yet another video highlighting Israel has appeared, except this time it features a little girl and some interesting facts about Israel.

Whoever made this video has done an excellent job portraying what the holy land is all about without the heavy reliance of music in the background.

Note: Perhaps the Israeli government should find a way to highlight and/or create more of these video's, as it may be cheaper to advertise them via Google than on television.

Should Skype Be Worried About Israel's Spikko?

It looks like another company may be positioning itself to dethrone the VoIP King, Skype. But unlike Jajah which hooks into one's email account, Spikko seeks to challenge eBay's chat program by presenting an alternative "business model."

(Globes Online) Spikko Ltd., a start-up that has been operating in stealth mode for three years, claims that it has found a way to offer free telephone calls and make a profit at it. The company's technology offers VoIP telephony services gratis for members. The only way to join the service is by invitation from an existing member. The service currently has 50,000 members. [...]

Spikko CEO Shay Gilboa: "Each user receives a local telephone number and an initial grant. For each incoming call, he receives credit to make an outgoing call by either landline or mobile. Each call goes to a computer, and will soon also go to a mobile telephone. The calls go to the devices' data channel, which means that the average payment (for airtime) will be no more than NIS 0.05 per minute, which will be collected by the cellular operator."

It will be interesting to see Skype reaction to this (that is if they actually consider them to be a serious threat). Currently Skype offers users various rates that range from two cents a minute to a quarter (and even more!).

Despite the high rates to other countries, Skype still seems to be cheaper in Israel than Spikko, although if the latter can keep its prices at a nickel a minuete (regardless of which country you call) we may see this author switch least when calling friends in India. ;-)

China To Flood Israel With Tourists?

It looks as if Israel's previous tourism deal may be starting to pay off for as the rising Eastern power is opening its gates even more to encourage its own citizens to visit the holy land.

(Jerusalem Post) The Tourism Ministry is seeking for tour guides in the Chinese language in preparation for the arrival of 15,000 tourists to Israel in 2008. Chinese tourists will visit Israel following the signature on an agreement with the Chinese government that allows organized tour groups of visitors from China to travel Israel. [...]

"The tourism ministry works to adapt the Israeli product to the needs and the preferences of the Asian tourist in general and the Chinese tourist in particular, in order to boost the tourist potential to Israel from South-East Asia," said Shaul Tzemach, director-general of the Tourism Ministry.

With Kosher food invading the upcoming Beijing Olympics (which Israel is helping China secure), this should come to no surprise to those familiar with the Jewish state.

Israel and China both enjoy a strong economic relationship with each other, and this tourism deal may help revamp China's view of Israel (if it is not favorable there already).

Want More Kosher News? Subscribe To Kosher Highlights!

Ever since launching IsraGood, I have been fortunate enough to come across many interesting articles highlighting very impressive (and quite often unparalleled) technologies, medicines and yes, even sports regarding Israel.

Unfortunately there is not enough time to highlight all of them, something I attempted to do over on IsraPundit. While it makes me smile that more news agencies in Israel are reporting on some of the worlds best kept secrets, the sheer number of them has gone beyond what I can blog about here.

That is why I am launching Kosher Highlights, which you can view by visiting the homepage of

Basically whenever I come across an interesting article, I will highlight it there for everyone to see, which should be much easier than simply posting about it here.

You can subscribe to Kosher Highlights in your favorite feed reader (feed link over here), or via email (although you may want to seriously consider the former as Kosher Highlights will be updated very frequently).

Monday, March 24, 2008

Mytopia: Israeli Innovation For Social Network Gamers

One neat phenomenom about social networks is that they give users the ability to communicate and "poke" friends, even from long distances. While many of them have games on them, very few allow users from once social network to play the same game against a player from another.

Fortunately it seems as if an Israeli company called Mytopia hopes to change all of that--real soon.

(TechCrunch) There is a new casual gaming network in town that's got some serious cross-platform chops. Don't be fooled by the cutesy graphics. Today, Mytopia is simultaneously launching across Facebook, Bebo, MySpace (currently pending approval) and its own Website with eight games (Chess, Backgammon, Sudoku, Dominoes, Bingo, Spades, Hearts, Video Poker). On Monday, it will release the same games across the major Web and desktop widgets: iGoogle Gadgets, Apple Dashboard Widgets, Yahoo Widgets and Windows Vista Toolbar Widgets.

Here's the thing: the games work across all of these platforms. You can be on Facebook playing cards with one friend on MySpace and another on Bebo. And you can control what people on each network see about you. For instance, you can present your real profile to your friends on Facebook, and a different Mytopia avatar to everyone else. These are the sort of apps that could one day break Facebook's, or any social network's, hold on its members.

As the popularity of this game spreads, it will not be all that surprising to see Mytopia spread to other social networks with a more international flavor (such as Hi5 and orkut).

Note: Hopefully Mytopia can find a way to add this program to the iPhone, as many users (this author included) would be dying to play chess against friends on Facebook during the lunch break).

Video: Can Israel Win The Dessert Dish Olympics?

While Israel is attempting to win the gold in the upcoming Olympics in China, there is another international sport where a Jewish contestant is not only seeking to dominate the arena, but also fill up a few bellies as well.

(Israel 21st Century) This year, Asher Toubkin, Israel's premiere chocolate sculptor, is confident that his team has a shot at taking first place at the Open de desserts de France (French Dessert Open) International Dessert Awards at the Paris Expo in the Porte de Versailles on March 30. [...]

The competition is indeed high-pressure. In just under five hours (including a half-hour allotted to clean-up), each team must create from scratch and present to judges: a showpiece exclusively made of sugar, a showpiece exclusively made of chocolate, and 10 identical desserts made from a combination of chocolate and fruit (one for each judge to taste, plus one for display), all around a particular theme. Pieces are judged based on the methodologies employed by the chefs, cleanliness, creativity, artistic presentation, attention to detail, time, and of course, taste.

Hopefully Toubkin is able to pull off a victory in France, as it could help yet another country to acquire a taste of Israeli treats (the previous ones being Japan and Australia).

Since When Did The Shin Bet Start Blogging?

(Hat tip: Blog Herald)

It looks as if one of Israel's security agencies has started not one blog, but four!

Despite their secrecy, Israel's Shin Bet, (which is like the FBI in America) is starting to open up on cyberspace.

( Shin Bet agents are routinely involved in surveillance, interrogation and armed operations against Palestinian militants inside Israel and the occupied territories. The bloggers have technical office jobs.

Still, they guard their anonymity, using only silhouetted portraits of themselves.

One, called H, says she is a quality assurance engineer and took the job as it allows her to spend more time with her family. "There are things that I can't even tell my husband in detail," she writes. "At a family event someone asked where I work and had trouble taking a hint."

Unfortunately, unless Hebrew is your mother tongue (or secondary, something I am attempting to achieve), the site may be of little value to you.

The authors blog anonymously under Hebrew letters, and you can visit the "agent" blogs by clicking the links below.

While no one expects the Mossad to start blogging, it is good to see the Israeli government joining the "rest of us" in cyberspace. Hopefully more departments will open up in the future, as it is a great way to promote themselves to the public (not to mention over seas).

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Pimp Your iPhone With IsraGood!

For those of you fortunate enough to have an iPhone, you will be glad to hear that IsraGood is now iPhone friendly!

For those wondering, the mobile site is powered by MoFuse which for about 16 monthly shekels (or $3 USD) is converting all of IsraGood into a format that's kosher for the iPhone.

In order to visit it, users can simply point their iPhone towards and you can enjoy (and comment) on the site with ease.

For those of you preferring the non-Apple edition, you can direct your phone over at

Monday, March 17, 2008

Israeli Tech: Microsoft Assimilates Kidaro

After previously snapping up Secured Dimensions and YaData, Microsoft's continues its holiday shopping with its latest purchase of Kidaro, a company located in the holy land.

(Globes Online) Microsoft Corp. has announced its intended acquisition of Israeli start-up company Kidaro, a provider of desktop virtualization solutions for enterprises. The announcement does not mention the acquisition price, but sources in Israel's high-tech industry estimate it at between $90 million and $100 million. "Globes" reported the impending acquiistion announcement yesterday. [...]

Microsoft's announcement said, "In combining Kidaro’s virtualization technology with its suite of desktop management tools, known as the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack for Software Assurance, Microsoft will enable IT professionals to optimize their desktop infrastructure by providing management capabilities for Virtual PCs, streamlining deployments and easing application compatibility issues."

Microsoft has made a steady habit of shopping for the best of Israeli minds in an attempt to thwart Google (who has secured its dominance upon Silicon Valley).

The software giant sees Israel as a means to dethrone Google, who has ironically been making various assaults against Microsoft's "bread and butter" by purchasing iRows.

It will be interesting to see in a decade which company comes out on top, but regardless of the results Israeli's (along with their American friends) are going to enjoy reaping the rewards of this mega tech war.

France Going Ga Ga Over Israel?

(Hat Tip: Solomonia)

Ironically it seems that a nation once regarded by many to be Israel's "distant buddy" is now embracing their Jewish friend with open arms.

(Associated Press) His embrace of Israeli President Shimon Peres spoke of more than personal chemistry: Nicolas Sarkozy wants to rebuild France's frayed ties with Israel, notably by echoing its tough stance against Iran. [...]

And during a pomp-filled dinner Monday, Sarkozy lost no opportunity to assure Peres of his friendship, saying France will always work to ensure Israel's survival.

"Not from time to time, Mr. President — always," said Sarkozy. "And those who call in a scandalous, scandalous way for the destruction of Israel will always find France in front of them to block their route."

This recent embrace of Israel by the French may surprise many people, who may not realize that France has already expressed support for the missing IDF soldiers, not to mention finding ways of easing trade between the two nations.

Hopefully this trend will spread throughout the rest of Europe, as they have much to gain from aligning themselves with the Jewish state (hint: energy, cough, energy).

Apple Gets A "New Soul" (Yael Naim)

(Hat Tip:

While Apple has yet to make an impact on the Israeli market, their latest commercial has propelled an unknown Jewish into "super stardom."

(Jerusalem Post) Naim's English-language single, "New Soul," has been the surprise hit of early 2008, the biggest in a decade for an local artist overseas. (You'd have to go back to 1998, and Dana International's "Diva," to find a comparable Israeli hit in Europe; the song is simply the biggest ever by an Israeli solo artist in the US.) A piano-driven number that's equal parts bounce and introspection, "New Soul" has compiled a list of "firsts" that continues to grow. The first song by an Israeli to hit No. 1 on the iTunes singles chart, "New Soul" was also the first to crack the Billboard Top 10, where it remained for two weeks after earning the magazine's "Hotshot" designation at its debut. [...]

And the single's success goes beyond pop charts and the Internet. Thanks to its use in a ubiquitous ad campaign for Apple's newest laptop, "New Soul" has become the rare song recognized even if listeners aren't sure where they've heard it, even if they don't know a thing about the person providing the voice.

Note: The original apple commercial can be found over here, although readers who want to enjoy Yael Naim's song in its entirety can watch it below.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Tourists Just Keep Lovin' On Israel (January Stats)

(Hat Tip: Israel Times)

The Jewish state continues on its previous trend, with the first month of January reporting record levels of tourists visiting the holy land.

(Ha'aretz) The year 2008 may have started with blues in the capital market, but hotels are applauding. Incoming tourism broke all records, with 182,000 tourists visiting Israel in January, up 57% from the year before, when 116,000 arrived.

The previous record had been January 2000, when nearly 170,000 tourists came to Israel. Tourism industry sources estimate that for the year, about 1.9 million people will visit the country.

Whether one cites falafels, religious pilgrimages or the thirst for Mediterranean beaches, Israel is still drawing foreigners to visit its tiny Jewish state. Hopefully this trend continues, as Israel would love to show the world a side of itself very few get to encounter (outside their television sets that is).

What Will John McCain Find In Israel?

After finally securing the Republican nomination, it looks as if "the Maverick" will be taking a tour of the holy land fairly soon.

(Ynet News) Republican presidential candidate John McCain will arrive in Israel on March 18 as part of a delegation of senators visiting the region.

The schedule for the trip has not been released yet, but it is expected to be a brief, one-day visit during which McCain will meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

According to US sources, the trip is aimed at boosting support for McCain among Jewish voters in the US.

Despite being a minority in America, all three remaining candidates are heavily courting Jewish voters. Barack Obama is also pursuing after Jewish voters, speaking favorably towards them while Hillary Clinton seems to have Jewish roots in her blood.

Editor's note: At least on paper camera, all three candidates seem to be pro-Israel, although what this author wants to know is when are they going to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem?

Update (4/1): It looks as if images of John McCain's visit are surfacing on the web.

(Image: Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman with Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak at Sderot Police Station's Qassam Collection. Credit: The Israel Project)

You can find more images over at The Israel Project (Hat Tip: IsraelPolitik)

A Colorful Way To Detect Cancer

(Image Credit: Zetiq, via Israel 21st Century)

Despite the fact that this disease is probably fairly well known to the western world, detecting this deadly disease is still a cumbersome process to most scientists and doctors.

Fortunately it seems as if Zetiq Technologies, an Israeli company, has not only developed a way to alert doctors whether or not cancer cells exist in a tissue sample, but created a "colorful chart" easy enough for a child to understand.

(Israel 21st Century) In conventional diagnostics, a large cell population will often contain only a very small number of malignant cells. Using traditional diagnostic techniques these cells are often undetected because they are so scarce in number, or because the distinction between the cells and the background is so minor.

Using CellDetect, the difference is clear. "It's like moving from a black and white TV to color," says Ami Eyal, the CEO of parent company Bio-Light Life Science Investments. "We bring a visualization tool into the field that will revolutionize the way people do diagnosis based on looking at cells. You can't miss the cells, they are red."

Another advantage over traditional tests and biopsies, says Elkeles, is the fact that the test can be used to detect a wide range of different cancers - no other diagnostic tool can do this he asserts - and in addition it can be used for drug development. "This has great clinical and business value," he tells ISRAEL21c.

This innovative device could help doctors accurately test thousands of patients without the worry of running into false positives (or at least significantly reducing the number).

Note: Zetiq Technologies, which is a subsidiary of Bio-Light has more information about the device kits over here.

Israel To Olympians: Win The Gold, Get 500,000 Shekels

(Image: Shahar Zubari, an Israeli contestant in the 2008 Olympics, Credit:

It looks like Israeli athletes competing in Beijing's 2008 Olympics will have another reason for winning the gold medal--money.

(Globes Online) The Israel Olympic Committee will award gold medalists at the Beijing Olympic Games $140,000 each (NIS 500,000). A silver medalist will get $70,000, and bronze medalist will get about $47,000. The amounts are double prizes handed out at the 2004 Athens Games, when gold medalist Gal Friedman was NIS 240,000 for winning Israel's first Olympic gold.

The Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport will also award bonuses to Olympic medal winners, although the amount has not yet been determined.

This is a great incentive, especially for Shahar Zubari who is representing Israel in the male windsurfing tournament (in place of 2004's Gold winner, Gal Fridman).

Note: Hopefully Micky Cobrin can win the gold for Israel as well, as Fridman must feel awfully lonely as Israel's only gold medalist winner.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Israel: Another Giant Leap For Hydrogen Powered Cars

(Image Credit: Jerusalem Post)

Despite the fact that another Jewish mind is pursuing hydrogen powered vehicles, it looks as if some Israeli innovation could bring about these energy wonders much sooner than we think.

(Israel 21st Century) Most hydrogen vehicles on the road use a liquid form of the material, which requires a super strong and super heavy storage tank. Liquid hydrogen is unstable and needs to be insulated from the excess shocks of bumps and potholes that are a part of everyday driving, so the tanks themselves are large and heavy, and hold at most 20 liters of fuel - enough for barely 250 kilometers of driving. [...]

The difference? C.En's tank uses hydrogen gas, collected from the environment (i.e. not produced from fossil fuels) and enclosed in a thin but leak proof glass container. The best part: You'll be able to buy your "gas" at automotive or discount stores, fueling up every 600 kilometers or so.

"We can build a 60-liter tank that can travel up to 600 km. and weighs no more than 50 kg.," Stern said, unlike tanks currently used for liquid hydrogen that weigh hundreds of kilos.["]

Stern's latest breakthrough has caused so much concern in the oil industry that according to the article they allegedly offered him $50 million to shelve the product.

Fortunately for us, Stern chose the higher path, and if successful his invention would allow consumers to simply store extra "hydrogen batteries" in their car trunks, popping them in only when they run out of fuel.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Kosher Science: Using Seaweed To Power Everything?

One word sums up the current financial crunch afflicting our lovely but rowdy planet: oil.

It powers our cars, planes and keeps the lights on at night. With most of it concentrated it the hands of a prominent few, the price of oil will probably accelerate into the near future.

Fortunately for us, Israeli scientists are working on some new technology that may allow our societies to run on seaweed--not to mention a few other items.

(Ha'aretz) What if it turned out that corn and cane sugar fuels, considered substitutes for more polluting fuel, were also the cause of serious environmental damage? We would then search for greener substitutes: seaweed, animal fat and other fruits and vegetables containing oil. Over the past year, Israeli researchers have accelerated attempts to develop various types of "green" fuel, and research groups are hard at work developing technology that will become part of a global oil substitute trend. At Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), they are working on a new diesel fuel based on plant and animal fat. Several researchers are trying to develop the technology to produce oil from seaweed, which would then serve as a basis for fuel. [...]

"We are using fat that remains as surplus from meat processing, and a wide variety of oils from plants," says Prof. Moti Hershkowitz of BGU. "What is unique about our product is that as opposed to other biological fuels, which at present cannot be placed directly into the engine and have to be mixed with other components, we have developed a diesel fuel that can be used directly in the vehicles."

While diesel power (via seaweed, etc.) looks to be within reach, only time will tell whether or not other vehicles will be apart of the energy blessing.

Israel is currently pursuing ways of drawing energy from fungus, radioactive waste and even cow manure.

While some may wonder why such a tiny (yet innovative) nation would pursue so many different routes to keep its cities lit up at night, it may have to do with the fact that it is better to create your own energy, than to rely upon the grace of others.

Israeli Greenhouses To Help India Grow More Food

(Image: Inside a Rizkalla Brothers Greenhouse, Credit: Rizkalla Brothers Limited)

If growing food is good, growing even more is definitely better.

While farmers in India have helped their nation grow the necessary items to "fill the tummy," it looks as if an Israeli company may give them an extra boost using greenhouses.

(Fresh Plaza) Rizkalla Brothers Limited, an Israel-based greenhouse manufacturer, is planning to form joint ventures with domestic strategic partners to bring its complete range of greenhouse solutions to the Indian market. The $40-million (approximately Rs 160 crore) family-run company is in talks with three business associates in the country, including one in Hyderabad, and expects to form joint ventures with them soon, Helmi Abu Much, president of Rizkalla Brothers, told Business Standard.

"Though greenhouse cultivation is still at a nascent stage in India, we expect this to grow by leaps and bounds, considering the increasing awareness among the farming community on the productive advantages through this technology", Much said, adding that the total area under greenhouse cultivation globally was estimated to be around 50,000 hectare, of which India accounted for only 200 hectare. Greenhouse cultivation offers 10 times higher productivity than in open-air cultivation.

Israel's green thumb seems to be touching the globe as they have previously aided Tibet and Nigeria, not to mention receiving some rare praise from the United Nations.

Hopefully Rizkalla Brothers Limited can give India a boost in food production, as well as spread their expertise to other regions of the planet less fortunate enough to raise their own crop.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Video: Israel To Seek Out Wind Power

If you had to decide between polluting your skies or being powered by them, which option would you choose?

While oil (and gas) are still major players as far as energy goes, Israel is placing a huge stake in wind power in order to help them become energy independent.

(Israel 21st Century) Long and elegant, wind turbines are expected to become a new fixture of the Israeli skyline. As part of its bid to decrease greenhouse gases and search for new and renewable energy sources, Israel plans for five percent of its national energy needs to be supplied by the wind, by 2012. [...]

With financing of some $100 million expected to come from Afcon Industries, part of Shmeltzer's Shlomo Group, Israel's leading car rental, leasing and services company and a holding company for diverse industrial outfits, the parties are currently negotiating with local regulators in order to install two new wind farms in Israel - one in the Arava Desert in the south of Israel, and one in the north. It is estimated that 150 megawatts of energy will be produced by the new venture.

Despite the fact that Israel is already pursuing ways of extracting energy from nuclear waste, olive pits and cow manure (not to mention traditional solar energy as well), using wind turbines may prove to be an effective way to diversify its energy needs.

While green energy has a long way to go before it can replace its more "pollutant friends," Israel seems to be exploring all options which may together help free the tiny Jewish state from dependence upon foreign oil.

Israel: A Weight Loss Wonder Drug To Help The Obese?

In our day and age of super sized meals and busy schedules, one often wonders how kids (and adults) can lose weight safely without taking up too much time at the gym.

While experts agree that dieting and exercise are probably the best ways to lose weight, for some that may not be enough to lose those pounds, especially if you have to schedule in sleep!

Fortunately it seems as if an Israeli company has come up with a unique and (thus far) safe way to help people lose weight by killing their appetite for the foods causing them to gain it in the first place.

(Israel 21st Century) In response to this dilemma, Israeli researcher Dr. Nir Barak has developed what could be a weight-loss wonder drug. Working with drug company Obecure, Barak has developed a new formulation called Histalean which is based on betahistine, an approved drug marketed worldwide for the treatment of vertigo. Betahistine has been available to health authorities for over 30 years and is therefore already FDA-approved.

Histalean has been found to quell the desire to consume fatty foods, particularly in women under the age of 50. The pill works by activating chemical agents that reduce appetite.

By killing off the appetite, Barak may enable some people to regain control over their eating habits and hopefully drop a few pounds in the process.

Even though a "cure all" for obesity is probably decades away (at least medically wise), this drug may help those who just simply have a hard time resisting the double whopper at their favorite fast food restaurant.

(Image Credit: Burger King's Double Whopper, via Japan Today)

Israeli's Ship Medical Supplies To Kenya

With the riots still raging throughout certain sections of Kenya, Israel has shipped tons of medical equipment to help out those who are suffering.

(Israel National News) Foreign Ministry officials reported Monday that Israel had sent a planeload of aid to Kenya. The aid package includes three tons of medical equipment. Kenyan hospitals have faced shortages due to the large number of people wounded in recent riots.

Hopefully Kenya's leaders will be able to find a way to end the violence that has torn apart this once peaceful country. Until then Israel would probably be willing to send more medical supplies to the nation as needed, in an attempt to help Kenya's hospitals cope with those affected by the strife.