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.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Politicization of Israeli Economy and Foreign Investment

Rosa Parks with Martin Luther King Jr. - unintended speaker of truth...
This topic would not have come up in my writing if not for a recent comment by UN secretary general in his visit to Israel (see: According to reports, Ban Ki-moon said to students in a speech a few days ago:
“Unfortunately, because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israel has been weighed down by criticism and suffered from bias and sometimes even discrimination,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon admitted during his visit to Jerusalem, according to the European Jewish Press (EJP).
This admission is good news to Israelis which have been complaining about negative bias no only in the UN. What seems like a new revelation, is the secretary's explanation which amounted to something like “what do you expect, after such long and bitter Israeli-Palestinian conflict”. Israelis are accustomed to negative bias from foreign government (and government representatives). Israelis have experienced with bad treatment when visiting foreign countries. Even treatment at embassies representing foreign governments IN ISRAEL, have been known to treat Israelis badly. Is this a new step in honesty from UN officials? Will UN officials be able to limit discrimination from member states? At least in the UN?


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

High Price Apartment Solution: Higher Mortgage, Lower Interest, Easier Credit

Gindi, a leading real estate developer, market luxury in Tel Aviv (Israel)
As Israel's real estate prices soar, banks are not sitting by the sidelines. Banks are making home buying easier than ever before. Israelis are taking more debt, at a faster rate, worrying the central Israel bank regulators. Yet Israeli mortgage is not as leveraged as the US and European markets were when the real estate bubbles collapsed there. While Israeli regulators and policy makers (i.e. government agencies) are worried and taking steps to lower the market's exposure to collapsing prices, Israelis are still following the path buyers in the west went down before. Are Israelis not aware of the danger in taking high percentage mortgages? Are Israeli banks unaware of the risk in a collapsing housing market? What about the regulators and policy makers, are they not aware of the economic collapse due to real estate bubbles? Well, it is not the case of now knowing or misunderstanding. But it is a case of “this happens to others, not to me” (or to “us” here in Israel). We call it the “ostrich behavior”, stick your had in the sand when you are being chased. You don't have to be Australian to understand the ostrich analogy. Pretty much every western culture understand ignoring reality and hoping not to fall in the same situation as others. Just keep on ignoring things enough, and hopefully things will take care of themselves.  

Monday, August 5, 2013

Israel's Public Relation Battle With The Diaspora: A Loosing Proposition?

Taglit is great for the "Next Generation" / What about THIS ONE?
A unique organization called Taglit started thirteen years ago. The organization gave free trips to Israel to young Jewish people who were not in the Jewish community. This may sound a little strange, and initially it was. The idea was to expand the true knowledge of Israel among Jews who were not particularly interested in Israel. Focusing on the “next generation” was a tactic to sell the idea more easily and to implant a seed in the generation coming up no just in the Jewish community. The idea took a few years to take hold. Today, Taglit brings over 50,000 people a year to Israel. Also, initially mainly targeted at the US Jewish population, which has over 50% of Jews not associated with any Jewish community activity, the program is even more successful in the rest of the world. Particularly in small Jewish communities with a population who wants to be associated with a Jewish activity but simply does not have the means. In some Latin-American countries, up to 90% of the young Jewish population who qualify and want to make the Taglit trip, end up coming to Israel.  

Sunday, August 4, 2013

IDF “Kirya” Command Base to Become Israel's Highest Building

Main tower dubbed "Toblerone" is made up of triangle tubes like the chocolate
A plan to turn the “Kirya” IDF command base to high rise towers was released last week. A project plan with the tallest building in Israel, 80 stories high. With additional three buildings housing commercial, office, and residential space. The project is nicknamed Toblerone after the triangle chocolate. An eighty story building made up of Toblerone looking triangle long sections tied together. Three additional buildings, one for offices and two for residential apartments and commercial areas at the first floors are also planned. The project answers the question Tel Avivians asked for decades: “when will IDF move out of Tel Aviv?” At least when it comes to a corner of the base, the answer is a few years. We have not seen a statement from the IDF, but that may be just a matter of waiting a little. The construction project, due to it's location and large size, is managed by the Israeli land authority. This is a unique situation of a semi-government agency, which manages most of the land in the state, directly managing a construction project. Only time will tell if the land authority works as efficiently as private construction companies.  

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Gindi Tel Aviv Old Wholesale Market Project

Gindi's Givon / Old Wholesale Market project is one of Tel Aviv's biggest
In a central part of Tel Aviv, a large parcel of land from the old wholesale market is in the midst of construction. One of the last large pieces of land in the middle of the city is being turned into a luxury complex befitting the fast and furious 1990s and 2000s. Decades with flair and decadence not seen here for a long time. In an effort to make a large project safe for investors and worth the opportunity, Gindi and city planners are designing a whole luxury neighborhood. The complex includes parks, schools, retail spaces, all at a luxury level only seen one building at a time. The project was conceived at the peak of euphoria in Tel Aviv real estate luxury development era. It is still left to be seen if such a large number of luxury apartments can be sold all at once. Yet, the developers and investors seem not to worry, as construction is going full tilt.