Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Obama, McCain, Work, and Tel Aviv talk...

Tourist advertisement for Turkey

The Jewish holidays are officially over. It's back to work in Tel Aviv. If you are not familiar with the holidays in Israel welcome to about 4 weeks of half days, days off, and a great deal of people going on vacation to Turkey. Why Turkey? It's NOT Israel so they are going 'abroad', it's affordable, and for the most part it's as undeveloped as the Israeli desert.

So we are back to work and the media is filled with the American elections. In the past, Israelis were interested in the American political news almost as much as Israeli politics. But for some reason this is not the case. First of all, the Palestinian fighting is at an all time low. This makes the issue with the American politicians almost disappear. Regardless how you look at it, the security issues are what was driving Israeli-American politics for over 60 years. The media has a great deal of influence in Israel and therefore dictate what people talk about. It also dictates what the Israeli political system does about the Palestinian situation. So the newspapers and TV are showing McCain and Obama on late night entertainment shows. But what they say about the financial crisis on Wall Street is not that interesting to Israelis. There is a simple explanation, most Israelis do not believe that a new president can do much about the economic situation either in the US or globally. Why? Israeli's don't believe in any government's ability to influence the economy. Also, Israel has been dependent on American businesses for so long it is hard to imagine hard times on Wall Street and how it will influence our jobs.

A roman amphitheater in Turkey, a tourist picture

The first priority of the day is the economy. The US is still going to play a big part in the Israeli economy. But it seems like the global giants may be replaced by smaller companies. The cooperation between small American companies and the Israeli worker has been the main form of cooperation before the 1990's. Even Intel which built it's first factory here 30 years ago was not the electronics giant that it is today. But the same goes to other electronic companies: Kulicke & Soffa, Vishay, KLA - Tencor, Flextronics, and the list goes on. The global business giants like AIG, Citicorp, and Merill Lynch came to Tel Aviv and wowed some people. These are big players with lots of resources and a great deal of ambition. But the smaller American companies which come to Tel Aviv for the raw people talent are the ones which succeed and thrive. Maybe now it's time to get back to what Tel Avivians are good at: creatively building products and services for the world to be wowed - RIGHT BACK.

Well, this is the story of Obama and McCain in Tel Aviv. Not much of a story. I think that this is a sign of Tel Aviv maturing. Like every impressionable young person we went to the big city, saw the bright lights, got intoxicated by the big talk, than realized that 'going back home' and doing what we know how to do best is what works. With the economy and the temperament of Tel Aviv the departures of a the giant global's' logos on big buildings will be a small change. People are going to continue their creative hard work to the next employer that appreciates them. If the employer lasts a little longer and sticks around, they will become a part of the Israeli / Tel Avivian landscape. If not, they will just be a faded memory, and in Tel Aviv, that 'ain't bad' either. Read More...

Sam-D-man on Livni and religious politics

Tzipi Livni is working double shifts as foreign minister and the next Prime Minister, putting together a coalition of unlikely characters

Tzipi Livni the hopefully next prime minister of Israel, not withstanding the childish efforts by the ultra-orthodox to stick their heads with black hats in the sand and ignore her, is the great hope of our great country. Ultra-orthodox newspapers do not publish her picture (editor: women are rarely photographed and displayed in the ultra-orthodox publications) and refuse to print her full name.

This young woman (50) who easily moves among the shakers and bakers of the world, understands more about what makes this country tick and makes the world go around. The days of saying 'NO, NO, NO' to our neighbours and the Palestinians and 'YES, YES, YES' to the orthodox right wing and the west bank settlers and today's zealots are over. These right wing zealots ruined the country 2,000 years ago and they are hell bent to do it again.

Tzipi Livni with support of the Israeli public's common sense is about to put an end to this self destructive behavior. We have two (2) roads to take, one is to figure out how to create a two state solution. The other is the one state for two people with full democratic rights to all the people.

Now we know the zealots and the orthodox will say 'NO, NO, NO'. If we don't solve this problem equitably we will be faced with the worst of all problems. We will have to rule the West Bank and Gaza in an apartheid type system. The world will not sit back and let us get away with this. Sanctions and boycotts will follow and ruin our thriving economy, the growing tourism, and our secular Jewish way of life.

If the right wing zealots and ultra-orthodox can't live with it, I would suggest that they find another country. Many in these groups are Americans, they can go home. This country must be saved, so either love it or leave it. The time has come when we can no longer pander to these selfish groups. Our country can thrive with them or without them.

Tzipi, take control and move us into the 21st century. With your leadership you will lead us to an empire that will last 1,000 years - and not in a diaspora!

                Good Luck TZIPI!
                      sam-D-man ~ in Tel Aviv

editor: sam-D is commenting on the long negotiations between Livni and Ishai the leader of the orthodox political party Shas. With the departure of Olmert and the building of a new coalition, Ishai wants an increase in the social subsidies to large families (mostly orthodox religious). There is also a flare-up of renegade settlements in the west bank. These are right wing groups that seem to be operating independently.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Last minute going out before Yom Kippur

The image of a soldier praying is indelibly etched in the Israeli mind

Tel Aviv is getting ready for the biggest day in the year. The city is not particularly religious but Yom Kippur is a big event here. This is the one day that everything shuts down. The streets are so quiet that kids with their bikes take over and make roads a biking highway like nowhere else. For the adults it is the last night, a last chance, to go out and enjoy a meal in a restaurant or a cup of coffee with friends. I had dinner at the Italian restaurant Amore Mio (100 Iben Gvirol, 03-52-44-404, site:HE). The restaurant was filled from 9:00 PM when we arrived to about 11:00, so I would call it an early night in this part of town.

The section of Ibn Gvirol between Shaul Ha'melech and Arlozorov is packed with cafes and restaurants. Most nights there is more foot traffic here than most city streets during the day. Last night was busy but not wild, everyone seemed like they were thinking of something distant, maybe even something sad or serious. To secular Jews Yom Kippur has not just a religious meaning but a spiritual one. Maybe secular Jews don't wear black hats and wool suits but that does not mean beliefs in our traditions are not important. The tradition of "cleansing your soul" and "asking for forgiveness" once a year is one of the most unique ideas in Judaism. It seems like in the modern world we live in, this is still an appealing practice. Judaism does not demand personal belief or even public practice, actually rabbis emphasize inner belief and personal spirituality more than the external trappings of looking and acting. Judaism gives us a framework of beliefs, values, and practices. In modern Israel, where Judaism is a state religion, all holidays and vacations are dictated by tradition. Government education and food (kosher) policies are based on tradition and Jewish law. Rabbis are employed by the government and synagogues are built with state money. This makes the average secular Israeli much more knowledgeable and observant than the average christian American and probably British and French (where state religion is also practiced).

Amore Mio on Iben Gvirol [from]

Yom Kippur is the most personal and spiritual Jewish holiday. The practice of fasting for a day makes it clearly a religious holiday. The whole country stops, closes down, and becomes a calm oasis for a day. Even if you do not have a reflective personality the quiet will get you. No matter how much noise you make a home with music, TV, and electric appliances, the quiet seeps in from the outside. This is specially noticeable in Tel Aviv. The city that never sleeps, small sister to New York and London, goes quiet, really quiet.

The approach of Yom Kippur was clearly in the air and people gave off the feeling of deep thoughts. Yom Kippur is the day of reflecting and coming to terms with the terrible things we have done, but it takes time to prepare. What are exactly "terrible acts?". These of us who practice religion on a daily basis tend to think more about what is right and wrong mostly reminded by the daily prayers and readings. From the sources in the Torah all the way to today's Rabbis the discussion of wrong and right, specially among people and their daily interactions, is a topic read and discussed over and over. But us secular Jews are more attuned to the western thinking of appropriate social behaviour and the legal basis which fence us at the very extremes of behaviour. This leaves a great deal of ground, specially in how we behave with people. From street conversations to intimate pillow talks we can humiliate, put down, debase, attack... just with a small comment. Most times we don't even know how our words hurt another.

Sometimes you can hear people asking each other quietly if they think something they said was hurtful or critical. What would their friend have said? Can they ask someone at work what they felt when they were told something? Finally if their friends have any new resolutions that can help them too? Some confess quietly of last year's wrongs and hope that their regrets will be erased from memory. The idea of remembering and than erasing last year's mistakes is simple. But does it really work? Will it help me? Then come the thoughts about acts not just talk... deep thoughts... they take over our quiet evening just two days before Yom Kippur.

Well, these are my observations for that Tuesday night at the strip between Alrozorov and Shaul Ha'melech on Iben Gvirol. Good luck with your thoughts about "terrible acts"... AmiV @ Tel Aviv Read More...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Law and the City - Labor Law in Tel Aviv

In Israel unlike the United States all employees are either covered under a collective bargaaining agreement or a private contract. In both cases they are protected under Israel labor laws and enforced by the various labor courts.

The National Labor Relations Board that enforces the labor laws of the United States only has juristiction to enforce collective bargaining agreements that involve wages, hours, and conditions of employment. If you have a private contract you are left to file your complain in a regular civil court. These cases usually take a longer time to resolve and you have judges who are not expert in labor law.

In Israel your right are protected whether your coutract is negotiated by a labor union or a personal contract. These cases are resolved in a relativly short period of time. Also unlike the U.S> failure to pay wages may be a crime in Israel. Consult your lawyer, you may have a better case than you think. It's safe to work in Israel where the rights are protected.

Enjoy your life and work in Israel -- sam-D-man @ TLV Read More...

Life in a GREAT City - This is an UPPER, ditch the downers

Every morning I go to my mail box to get my morning paper. It's 6:15 AM, I kiss my wife goodbye and reach for my Jerusalem Post. I say to myself, "now I will read how the sky is falling". Unfortunately the daily alert is not the only "Daily Gevalt." there is CNN, BBC, ABC, NBC and CBS among others.

Editor: The 'Daily Gevalt' is a regular column in the Jerusalem post. This is what sam-D-man is writing here about.

The media only know the 'I Gevalts' you write in your article. The blog ( has it's I's, but these are 'I Tovs'. Tel Aviv which is a microcosm for the country has plenty of positive. There is grand opera, concerts, plays, movies, a cafe society, restaurants, high fashion, beautiful women, hot bars, good clubs, and hot sex. This country also offers a sound economy (5% growth the last year), low inflation, and goods from all over the world at reasonable prices. Sorry we have 10 Tovs (good things in Hebrew / Yiddish) maybe 11, you may also visit our wet lands (which are being re-flooded in an effort to make Israel a more ecologically sustainable environment).

We have the most beautiful beaches with the neatest developed ports in the world. You won't get in trouble for naming your teddy bear. Israel has a first world legal system. Our tourists stay in first class hotels. We offer a great outdoors of parks, nature reserves, amusement parks, and other place to explore. Everybody know about the religious stuff - now let's join together and tell everybody the rest of the "stuff". There will be peace in our time, look us up and tell your friends. Love your country Israel we're here for you...
            -- sam-D-man @ TLV