Monday, November 25, 2013

Israel's Bell Curve Spread: Between Populism and Elitism


If you follow the economic and lifestyle stories on Israel's main media outlets, you get a mix of split personality opinions. I say "opinions" because some media stories are not really objective reporting as much as opinion of one expert or another. Sometimes the media outlets are simply a propaganda channel to one politician or another. Which seems to be just fine in the eyes of most Israelis. Lately, besides Bibi's harping about the Americans not taking the Iranians seriously enough (with the supposedly "just around the corner nuclear bomb making drill") most politicians, from proper ministers all the way to Ron Huldai (Tel Aviv's mayor), is the wide economic gaps everywhere. It seems like the Israeli economy is one big Swiss cheese of a system. The mix of socially based and merit driven realities clash each other. Then there is the old school cronyism in friction with simple family centered oligarchy. Some going back a century (Teva pharmaceutical) some just a few decades (Tshuva family / oil and gas). Then there is the continuous scratching between organized labor and private management. This goes on in the private sector as well as in public service (physicians, nurses, school teachers).

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Monday, September 30, 2013

Middle Class Consumerism: Strong and Steady

Doughnuts sold as the latest fad from the US at a local bakery

If you take a stroll through a mall or visit a new apartment construction sales office, Israel feels more like America in the 1970s or Spain in 2000. For that matter probably Moscow or Beijing or even Rio De Janeiro of the last decade: strong economic growth and growing consumer spending driven by new credit policies. In Israel, large mortgages were unheard of fifteen years ago. Today, a couple with steady income record can get 50% montage without too much trouble. The banks have flooded the market with so much cash, housing prices have been on the rise regardless of supply and lately regardless of geographic location inside Israel. Even apartments if remote towns are rising in prices while supply is plentiful. Builders simply "up-sell" by loading up large apartments with high end finishes. The same goes for consumer products. There are more luxury malls and luxury shops everywhere. Just recently the luxury Italian car companies Maserati and Ferrari hung up their brand symbols on a central Tel Aviv building (just across from the central train station). If you want Rolex, go down to the new luxury building on Ibn Gvirol, a street considered tired and rundown just five years ago. The push by the market is not limited to luxury items. In the middle areas, there are even more signs of strong growth and credit use.

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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Remembering After the War: The Children of the Winter of 73


"We are the children of the winter of 73 ...

"You promised a dove, an olive branch, 

"You promised peace, at home, you promised spring, blooms  "

This controversial song is raising old memories and complaints about the balance between hope and reality. When the two clash, like during and after the Yom Kippur war, idealism about peace and promises to children, seem like something cruel or at least out of touch with reality. Then there are the voices who claim to never believe the naive view of "peace next year" propaganda songs (especially from IDF musical groups). Regardless of your views or beliefs, the wars in Israel, hard and painful, Israeli military bands perform incredibly nice, to the point of "too nice" (syrupy sweet some would describe them) for a band that suppose to motivate troops to the front. Here in Israel you will not find anything close to a Russian army chorus belting out propaganda songs a-la-World War II. You will also not find the European or American brass bands leading a long march of well heeded marching units. So what is this Israeli style army bands suppose to do?

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

40 Years To Yom Kippur War

Israeli newspapers and TV/radio stations are running stories about the Yom Kippur war (1973). A war that was not popular and to some became a slap in the face and the first real loss for the state. More frightening, the war that saw the IDF losing soldiers and territory. To the Israeli public, in all the years, neither the military nor the government ever explained and analyzed the war. Once the government in charge was voted out, everybody wanted to make the war go away and move forward to better times.

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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Israel's People & Technology: PRISM in Israel


Graphical representation of Israel's electronic snooping story: People & Tech
Israel's technology site "People and Technology" reports on security expert's' opinion of Israeli's privacy in the electronic world as exposed as in the US. After the public exposure of the PRISM system in the US by Edward Snowden, technologists from around the world are wondering how much of their information is in their government's data banks. Or even more disturbing: how much information is in the NSA, CIA, or other American security agency's from "my own" e-mail and internal data? In Israel it goes without saying that the state and its security organizations snoop on potential security risk suspects. Israel is not only under physical attacks, virtual electronic attacks are also a daily part of life here.

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Monday, September 2, 2013

Israel Aerospace Industries Launches Amos 4 Communication Satellite

Israel Aerospace Industries Amos 4 Communication Satellite - Sept. 2013
Today (Sept. 1, 2013) Israel Aerospace Industries launched Amos 4, the most advanced communication satellite deployed to date. The 4.2 ton satellite will give Israel a unique position as a communication supplier in Europe, Asia and Africa. Amos 4 will give Sapcecom, the operating company, capability to supply the Israeli government as well as private and governmental customers high bandwidth communication for TV, telecom and Internet services. In addition to traditional broadcast capability, traditional communication services into rual areas. Israel, is one of the leading service providers racing to give governments in Asia and Africa the ability to connect rural areas without the expense of large terrestrial wired and radio based networks.  
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Friday, August 23, 2013

Should You Kill, Break Your Creed, or Start A War To Save A Life

Syrian gas attack reported by French newspaper Le Monde, August 22, 2013
Israelis are yacking and quacking about the killing all around us. In Syria the killing is beyond belief, yet there is very little action and even less criticism of other countries' silence. The Americans (in the form of president Obama) are criticized for not making good on their promise to act. Some countries are calling for support of rebels in the form of "No Fly Zone". This is what tipped the balance in Libya. Yet no real action from the Americans or the UN. In Israel the leadership is calling for careful and distant treatment of war activities in neighboring countries. Israel is still fearful of long term commitment like the eighteen years spent in Lebanon. Then the second Lebanon war which started out on basis of one cross border incursion. At this point in time, the Israeli street, especially here in Tel Aviv, does not have the appetite for another war.


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