Showing posts with label Business. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Business. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Table Service Getting Better (despite history)

Table service at Tel Aviv area cafes and restaurants is improving. Don't expect European top restaurant service, but for a country which came from history of socialism and kibbutz dining rooms. Pun fully intended, © 2018 D-A Vider
Israelis and foreigners still complain about bad service at shops and restaurants. Simply put, Israelis have no experience with good service. Partly the historical legacy of socialism (no wo/man should serve another) and partly the limited food and leisure history are probably a good first guess. There is also the blunt, straight in your face: "just get it done and be done with it" culture which translate into rushed service. Israelis are simply more hyper and less attentive by nature than most Europeans. This means waitresses are going to hop to a table, take the order, and quickly buzz away to the kitchen. Yet there is steady pressure from foreigners to deliver better service. Happily this market demand is met by a few cafes and restaurants. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Politics and Business: Oil and Vinager

Food is a fast growth sector in Israel, here government and business differ in opinion: imports are important
Local economic and global trade trends are changing enough to tear traditional government to business relationships. Israeli businesses relied on government to support and promote local industries around the world. So business and government worked together in making contacts around the world. Yet some changes are pushing the two apart. The changes are fast and slow, slow in the construction and banking sectors, but fast in technology and security sectors. Israeli government wants to promote local business, a balance between manufacturing, service and public workforce. Yet business and industry wants flexibility and the ability to move quickly as opportunities appear. This usually translate into moving jobs from manufacturing to service sectors. Today it also means moving workers or jobs from here to a foreign country. The movement of people out of Israel and even worst into Israel is not welcomed.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Getting the Most of Tel Aviv in a Short Visit

Winter (January) sunset on the Tel Aviv promonade (walk along the Medeterennian) - © 2017 D-A Vider
When coming to Tel Aviv on a business or family visit, take an extra day to experience something special. Israel is one of the most misunderstood place on earth. I remember an American Ivy League professor visiting Tel Aviv. She was so afraid to leave the hotel for security reasons. Told of horrific violent acts by Israeli Defense Forces soldiers (IDF) and the Apartheid treatment of Israeli Arabs, she chose to avoid street life and stay in her hotel. A friend asked me to simply take her on a walk along the beach so she can see the city. After an hour of seeing bathers, from bikinis to burkas, she wondered what the city really felt like. In two hours her preconceived notion of the horrific stories told in the US diapered (some was obviously mass media impressions). A friend (Sam the man, from previous blog posts) just reminded me of a very similar story. One of his old friends came to see why Sam was living here after having a perfectly great upper-middle class life in Ohio. My advice? If you are in Tel Aviv and can add a day to your trip, see the city for yourself. If you have seen Jerusalem or came for business outside the city, don't let this opportunity pass you by. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Quiet Asian Connections

Japanese doll in the Haifa Japan museum / 
If you shut your eyes and use hearing and smell, a few places here will not seem like Israel. Sometimes Tel Aviv streets can be mistaken with another European city. London and Moscow come to mind first. But Paris, Berlin, Rome or Amsterdam would also be good guess. The languages you hear mix with the local Hebrew, Arabic and Russian in a symphony of voices. More Russian and English is heard in cafes and shops at popular spots than the local Hebrew. Shops and cafes are (unfortunately) styled in "western generic" format carrying internationally branded products. This acceptance of Israel as an appendage to western Europe is old news. But recently we see small groups of Chinese and South Korean joining the mix. There are also a few Thai and Singaporeans and the tilt toward the east becomes a real tourist trend. Unlike westerners the few Asian tourists and business visitors are quiet in their manners. Some seem to wonder what has happened in Israel the last few decades. Some are focused on their pilgrimage or technology tasks. Here to see ancient sites or the latest high technology products. Maybe even steal a peek at the incredible start-up machine. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Israel's Individuality Dilemma: Unique or Global?

Used books stall on Dizengoff reflects Tel Avivian's thirst for English literature: pulp to art, cheap to boutique... an identity crisis? Some say no, some are still at the horn of the dilemma.
One of the discussions among Tel Aviv residents heating up lately is the city's identity. Israel's open acceptance of individual voices is straining some people's patience. Giving people "space" or "a stage" to voice their beliefs in public is an age old idea. Israel's early founders, built Tel Aviv with this idea in mind. But over the years, this has turned the city into many separate communities (sometimes called "bubbles"). To outsiders it is confusing sometimes. From some people's perspective Tel Aviv looks like a modern European city. That's the business, lifestyle or even retail shopping side. To some it looks like a Mediterranean city from old days on a Spanish, French, Italian or even Greek coast. That's the tourist, culture or even leisure side. To others it looks like a busy metropolitan hub of Israel's central region. A mix of business, government, culture and residential parts. This makes Tel Avivian's at a loss for one identity "image". More on this identity dilemma in future posts.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Intel's 2004 Guide for Doing Business in Israel ruffles feathers

From the book "International Business: Theory and Practice" by Ehud Menipaz, Amit Menipaz (Google book preview)

A long time ago (probably as far back as 2004) Intel published guidelines for "doing business in Israel". Israel's bloggers hit on this document recently when a photo from a trade-show presentation was posted on social media sites. Apparently the document was written by an outside consultant to help American visitors from Intel to get along with Israeli technologists and business managers. Intel has benefited tremendously from their Israeli operations. From chip design to semiconductor manufacturing, Israel has been one of the more productive and certainly innovative locations for the company. That said, Intel has also been very much and American company. This was true for the company until recently, when the company started to branch out around the globe. What Israelis did not worry about a decade ago, is the image of how we do business and cooperate with foreigners. Intel can somehow guide their workers to work better with Israelis. Some foreigners from around the world may not feel the need to do so. I wonder if companies like Yamaha (from Japan), Samsung (from S. Korea) or ABB (from Sweden) will guide their managers when dealing with Israelis. Comments welcome...

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Carmel Market Night Life & Legal Graffiti @ TLV #6

Semi-Legal grafitti on Nahalat Binyamin pedestrian street (near Carmel Market)

or Israel's Secret in Economic and Technology Competitiveness- Lively Night Life

When most Tel Avivians curl up under fluffy down comforters (there is a term in Hebrew which describes curling up under a down on a cold night) - parts of the city just start buzzing with activity. Around the Carmel market, Tel Aviv's large open air produce shopping district, cafes, restaurants and all kind of off-beat shops welcome a different kind of crowd. Mostly young, more visitors and European techies than in other parts of Tel Aviv, they start an evening of quiet drinking, eating and sometimes business meetings. These meetings are usually based on personal relationships, more than just meetings held in offices. I call this hidden element in Israeli culture one of Israel's secret technology advantage. Personal connections in business not common anywhere else. While in silicon valley start-ups are well funded and do their business negotiation in modern facilities, when New York entrepreneurs connect in Brooklyn bars, in Boston they have Harvard square out-of-the-way joints, Tel Avivians conduct business over a small plate at night with a beer or cup of coffee.  


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ramat Gan Bursa vying for Tel Aviv's FinTechies

Ramat Gan, just east of Tel Aviv is chasing FinTech firms with new attractive construction @ DAVider 2015
While Tel Aviv is undisputedly the location for Israeli FinTech entrepreneurs, Ramat Gan is still chasing the big city technologists and finaciers for attention. Long considered the "orphan child" of the central region, construction at the business areas is moving at a faster clip than anywhere in Tel Aviv. Allegation of cutting lengthy and expensive construction approval processes have been buzzing for decades (actually have turned into a conviction of the last mayor). Yet, the smaller (and much less glitzy) and more affordable city, somehow manages to continue building at a fast pace. There is a new effort to turn the more traditional location, home to banks, insurance companies and financial institutions into a start-up hub. Yet, this illusive goal, of capturing the imagination of the Israeli entrepreneur (and investor) within one location, is still unattainable. But not for the lack of trying. [more on this in future posts]

Friday, September 18, 2015

Will Azrieli Center Fade as New Sky Scrapers Grow?

For the last fifteen years of being an unofficial symbol of Tel Aviv's success, Azriel Towers are slowly fading into a fast growing sky scraper skyline. For years, the three towers symbolized everything modern and business in the city. Until the construction of these buildings, Tel Aviv and Ramat Gan, had a small collection of high rise buildings. Not impressive in international standards. But, things have changed dramatically the last decade and a half. Tel Aviv's skyline is rising gradually in a few central areas. Mostly in the north and east of the center, high rise buildings, between 30 and 40 stories are quickly changing the way Tel Aviv looks and feels. Will this mean a different image for the white city? Probably. Before Azrieli the city used a mixed of beach and old Bauhaus buildings as it's image. That quaint image was a reality of the 1920s to 1950s. Today, Israelis are just as likely to live and work on the 25th floor as on the 4th floor walk-up. Let's see what tomorrow brings. 


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Update on Iben Gvirol and The Coffee Bean Closure

At ''The Gregg Cafe'' in Dizengoff center, the manager's dog has it's own ''personal'' table. Not a common and acceptable practice, it is still telling of the informal feel of Israeli cafes. Not so with ''The Coffee Bean'' and regular laptop workers in 2009 / © 2010

About a year ago bloggers in Israel made some noise about working in cafes. They were grumbling about cafes being hostile toward people who sat and worked using laptops. Some cafes at the time did not offer free WiFi or did not have AC plugs to connect laptops power supplies. Tel Avivians love their cafes and to some it is their living room and office apartment extensions. A virtual (or actually real?) home-office away from home. In central Tel Aviv, where apartment prices are beyond belief, many people live in tiny apartments. Some work from home, that means sometimes working from the local cafe when they meet customers or clients. The American coffee chain " The Coffee Bean (& Tea Leaf)" had a nice big cafe on Iben Gvirol in front of Gan Ha'ir commercial complex. I wrote about The Coffee Bean's up and down policy toward laptop users. Around 2008 the Israeli high-tech sector collapsed. No new investment in start-ups caused companies to lay off thousands of workers. These were software engineers and professional support workers (salesman and marketers, human resource, administrators) as well as related professionals.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Israeli (Tel Aviv's) Malls Turn to Bazzars: Shopers Happy :)

Israel has been building malls at a fast clip the last twenty years. Malls as they come in replaced the small shops along small town main streets and big city neighborhood shopping street. In Tel Aviv and surrounding cities there are many malls (more than 10.) From small ones like Givatay'im to large ones like Ramat Aviv and Hertzeliya's seven stars. Malls are clean and shiny with chain stores from women clothes to gifts to cafes to book stores. Israel's chain retailers have grown in size and sophistication as malls spread across the country. Chain retailers and mall builders have a symbiotic relationship. Malls need shops, retailers need space and shoppers. But small specialty shops with interesting collection of goods do not fit into this mall expansion scenario. This makes for a shift of shopping habits, to some young shoppers malls are what they want but not everyone is happy with the change. There are no dry goods shops with great smells from nuts to herbs and spices. There are no small "school" supplies shops from notebooks and pens to school accessories you would not believe (polar and exponential graph paper, finger puppets and test prep books) where kids can touch and wonder in small dark corners. Vegetable and fruit stands, fish and meat shops, cloth boutiques and bakeries run by mom and pop on a small street simply can not afford the rents and will probably not have enough foot traffic to make a profit in a mall. Small take home food shops and falaffel, hummus, sadwich and shawarma stands are certainly not part of the mall scene. But these little small outlets are still useful in daily life, so mall managers went out to try and get them into their spaces.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Start-Up Nation, Start-Up Mania, Start-Up Fever?

The recent book about Israel: "Start-Up Nation" [Amazon] [B&N] [Borders] brought for the first time the amazing story of Israel's technology start-up world out in the open. In Israel, high-tech entrepreneur success is a 20 year phenomena. The dream of many engineers is to develop an innovative product, sell a few units to show how great the product is... AND sell the venture to a US company. What a simple recipe for a get rich quick dream? The more ambitious entrepreneurs want to take the company public on NASDAQ. (Israel is the number two country with NASDAQ listed companies after the US.) Start-up success is held in almost mythical terms in Tel Aviv. Besides the financial rewards there is a reverence to entrepreneurs as creative inventors and productive managers. This attracts all kind of people to the world of entrepreneurship. Start-up fever or start-up mania (see blog) are a common condition seen around the high-tech community. Start-Up Fever condition comes in many forms, from chronically unemployed (or under-employed) entrepreneurs to job hopping early start-up engineers. There are also the "always in attendance" at tech meetings denizens. Essentially start-up fever is the blinding desire to have your own start-up regardless of reality. Let's face it, not all engineers are able to produce a good product and get on a shelf.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Do We need Innovation? Moving Forward in Israel, Can We Teach Others?

Two recent books show Israel's economic and technology strength touch on the Israel's development of innovation skills. Israel Test is written from the economic perspective by George Gilder a technology writer and thinker [book page]. Start-Up Nation by Dan Senor and Saul Singer two journalists focusing more on Israeli innovation in the form of start-up companies [book page]. Some think of Israeli innovation and technological adventurness in cultural terms. Is innovation such a critical element in Israel's economic success? How is economic success drive cultural and lifestyle success? Is everyone in Israel just concerned with the money and innovation? Or is it the other way around and innovation changed the Israeli culture somehow? I will try to touch on these questions in upcoming posts, this one will introduce innovation in Israel and expand on areas which you will probably have to be here in person to see.

If you spend time in Israel it becomes clear how innovation is not an inbred attribute. Nobody is born with the "innovation gene" or at least the trait comes in so many different shapes and types it is hard to figure out who has the gene. True, there are many start-ups, some even make it big, but most people work in "regular jobs". There are plenty of traditional businesses, these give the country it's stability. Innovation in technology still needs a solid base economically, roads need to be paved and government needs to run and grow at it's own rate. But there is something unique here that many people do not see right away. It's change, here it happens quickly and clearly. If you are following the economy, change came quickly when financial markets crashed in the US and than at the rest of the world. Somehow in Israel we saw it clearly and noticed how our economy slowed down. Tourists use to come to Israel in large numbers, when they stopped coming the economy declined and tourism workers went scrambling for new jobs. Follow politics and state security issues and notice change even faster. When Israel signed peace agreements with Egypt, the Palestinians and than Jordan everyone was happy, but only for a short while. Government was in a high after each agreement but then Israel went back to daily reality and euphoria settled down to regular everyday state. When Israel gets ready for elections there is buzz all over the world, some hope for the big savior (peace maker,) some fear extremist warrior. As soon as the elections are over, it is quiet once again. This cycle of change is a recent memory with the Netanyahu/Liberman government. Replacing Olmert/Livni with such extremist was suppose to bring chaos to the land - I don't think anyone would stick by their predictions today. Change is what makes Israelis innovate. Change makes people look for new ways to do things everywhere in the world, just here people scramble faster. That is what gives Israelis an edge. When engineers come out of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) they are already well equipped to innovate because they dealt with change, sometimes on a massive scale. Imagine what it's like to go from calm to war in one month. The Israeli army goes through this change every few years. A war erupts by surprise or they are asked to go into enemy territory. The last two years both happened in the north and the south. Not only reserve soldiers have to be called, equipment has to be moved to the front and the whole operation of an army has to start, intelligence and communication has to be operational in an instant. The speed of change in Israel is amazing, and one way to deal with it is innovate.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Israel's Hebrew Legacy: English a Barrier ?

Israeli schools are great at teaching English to an acceptable business level. But only a few Israelis end up with world class English writing and editing skills. Hebrew, a language that was resurrected in Israel in the 1880's by Eliezer Ben-Yehuda and others is thriving. Being the main language in Israel for three generations, its been the mission of Israelis to be a language of everything. But this phenomenal success comes at a cost. Israel's economy and business simply needs more English writers, speakers and editors (for that matter many other languages.) The problem seem most acute in the technology and tourism sectors. English is not just a bridging language between Israeli technologists and the world, it is used extensively to document and plan. Essentially working in English is helpful in preparing a company to market internationally. Writing in English all along the product development and marketing process enable Israeli technologists get to international market quicker.

A bit of history of the modern Hebrew language. Hebrew is essentially a modern language with ancient roots. As a language of religious study, it has been used by Jews for two thousand years. But religious study did not mean daily use. Therefore Hebrew was neglected for over 1,000 maybe even 2,000 years (that debate is related to the use of Hebrew in pre-inquisition Spain where Judaism had a golden age from 711 to 1492 CE.) When the Zionists first arrived in Israel (then Palestine ruled by the Ottoman Empire) the use of Hebrew in daily life took on a renewed interest. Clearly there was a need for the language although at times Yiddish was assumed to be the best alternative. Eliezer Ben-Yehuda was not the only European Jew who had in mind reviving the language. But he is remembered today as the one to invent new words and clearly passionate enough to make Hebrew a modern usable language. Literature and poetry in Hebrew started coming from Europe at about the same time. But these were based on the knowledge of religious Hebrew used in Torah and Mishna studies in the Yeshivas.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Israel's Business Moral Weakness: Are We Learning ?

Reading the business papers the last few months in Israel and there are disproportionate number of articles reporting immoral executive behavior. I am worried about two moral issues: greed and fraud. Greed is a new accusation in Israeli business circles. Until this generation the country's businesses had a small fraction of the money we see today. Greed without the ability to "get the money" simply does not work. Fraud is also related to the amount of money involved but goes even deeper into the psyche and moral history of Israel. Let's look at greed in this article and cover fraud later.

Israel's incredible economic growth has brought a whole new class of problems. The first noticeable trend is a concentration of the money in a small group of people. Like the proverbial south America banana republic, Israel is made up of a few individuals and families who own a majority stake in companies and Real Estate. This is the first nouveau riche group in our long history as people. This new group now wants to live like the rich in the US and Europe. With life of luxury comes desire for more. As few succeed, many want to follow them. A race for more and to beat the "guy next door" results. Greed is the driving emotion to other forms of financial corruption.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Hotel Location in Tel Aviv: What to Do and Where to Do It

Looking for a hotel in Tel Aviv is easy, a google search of "hotels tel aviv" returns 3,580,000 results and 11 advertisements. All this action is driven by Google's search and advertising system. People search for hotels and therefore bloggers and web site developers write about hotels. In comparison "restaurants tel aviv" gives only 1,880,000 results and 3 advertisers, most pages are written by locals for locals, "rock climbing tel aviv" gives 18,200 results and "judo tel aviv" give 55,900 results. But google and most of the hotel sites usually don't tell you much about where you are and where to find that fun and interesting "stuff". Stuff you can do, places to see, experience like the native Tel Avivians. To hard core bikers and surfers, niche sport sites can be a better place to get information on hotels near where you are going to be doing your activities. Other information such as experience with a rental business or where to find a diving partner may direct you to the part of town where to stay. I spoke with a SCUBA instructor and he explained how the one rental shop on the water may not be the best choice for experienced divers. Although most divers come to Israel for Eilat on the Red Sea, there is still good diving around Tel Aviv, so ask a local diver. There are also groups that will give you information and even let you tag along when they dive together. There are other places to dive just north and south of the city, in 45 minutes you can be in Caesarea and dive among Roman columns from a 2000 year old pier.

If you are looking for a hotel in Tel Aviv, you may want to find other things first. On a business trip and want to Kayak? Make sure you can get to the Tel Aviv marina just off Gordon street. You can also ask someone in a nearby hotel for a boat reservation. If you stay far away from the beach it may take more time and trouble than it's worth during morning traffic. The same goes with Judo and rock climbing. There is a rock climbing wall in the Ha'yarkon park, if you are staying in the very north section of the beach area it's a walk away. Would you like to start your day biking or running in the park? Ha'yarkon park runs along the whole city from the Mediterranean eastward through Ramat Gan and Bnei Brak. It has long paths, is well maintained and even serious runners on most mornings would appreciate the scenery.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tel Aviv Cafes Fed Up With Bloggers

OK not JUST Bloggers. Basically anyone with a laptop buying a cup of coffee and sitting for two hours and just taking space (electricity and internet bandwidth too.) Some cafes are definitely shooing away customers loitering with laptops. Now that the economy has turned down and every table and seat is a potential cash cow. First cafes shut down the power outlets. Without power, laptops last at the most two hours but in reality from 30 minutes to an hour. This supposedly would limit the digital loiterers to laptop battery life. This did not bother enough digital loiterers, at least not in the popular spots like the Coffee Bean & Tea on Ibn Gvirol, a long time watering hole for the digital set. Then some cafes allowed laptop seating in less comfortable areas. Again in the Coffee Bean the high tables with a tiny space were designated "laptop tables" instead of the comfortable leather seats by the windows. In another cafe not far from Dizengoff center the couches and coffee tables set up like a living room only short time newspaper reading customers were "allowed" to sit there.

The "problem" with the loitering bloggers is an interesting phenomena. Just as the Israeli economy was recovering in 2007-2008, wireless networks were spreading in restaurants, cafes and hotels here in Tel Aviv. While the economy was strong, digital cafe creatures* were spending money and bringing life to the cafes. As soon as the economy slowed down so did the cafe spending. After all if you can go to the same cafe and spend 13 shekels (US$3) on a Cappuccino instead of the 50 to 100 shekels for breakfast... why not take advantage of the situation? The shift from spenders to loiterers - contributors to parasites is obvious in hindsight. But sometimes when such shifts in the economy and people's behavior are taking place, it's hard to pinpoint who is right and who's toes are being stepped on.

There is an important lesson to learn here. How do we handle fast shifts in the economy and in people's behavior? When Henry Miller was writing in Paris cafes nobody was too worried about seats being taken by artists, writers and "wan'-na-be" loiterers. Why? Because nobody took them seriously and in reality cafes did not lose anything. Tel Aviv cafe seats are not that valuable today either. There are plenty of empty cafes and some are very nice in good locations (with beach views or in good residential and commercial locations.) We also learned that technology does not always compensate for basic economic conditions. When a writer or SEO specialist does not have cash to buy breakfast he will go with a cup of coffee and a croissant. Finally, there are people who see trends and some that don't. Laptop computers are becoming smaller with a new name 'Net-Books'. The Internet is becoming more useful and eventually will become a source of income to more people. Businesses will adapt to people's desire to sit for a few hours in a nice cafe - somewhere. If it is not in the Coffee Bean it will be at Hillel's, or Cafeneto, or Arcafe or Greg's or a no-name cafe. The name does not matter, how you are being treated matters. If the cafe needs a few shekels to compensate for the bit of electricity and wireless networking, put out a cup or sell an hour's worth of service for a shekel (US 25 cents.) Maybe cafes will take on a style ~ the digital ones and the analog ones (or is it dead tree reader ones?) There is room for more than one type of cafe in Tel Aviv. I am sure that is true for London, Paris and even San Francisco. Thanks for reading ~~ AmiV@TLV

* I do not know what to call these wondering digital workers. Every city has them, they come in many level of sophistication: sandal wearing designers to suite and tie salesmen. The reality is simple, people need their laptop while on the move, sitting on a park bench or a car is not a place to do work in today's digital world.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Stanley Fisher and Bank Governance: What Should Be Done

A curious story is on the newspaper headlines the last few days. Stanley Fischer the Israel bank governor seem to think that some bank executives are not doing the "right things". I am not sure what the "right things" are all about. But with credentials like past vice-chairman of Citigroup and author of the second most used university economic text book (Macroeconomics), Fischer needless to say has some clout. Now Israeli banks are not in as much trouble as the American banks. Israel did not go though the sub-prime loan disaster and even if you had money you could not have found a hedge fund in Tel Aviv as easily as in New York, London or even Paris. Because the economy in Israel is smaller than the American one and because Israelis basically have much less money to invest, we have not seen the downturn of the US or Europe. But still, Fischer feels responsible to the government and the people of Israel.

The case is about Bank Ha'poalim's board of directors' responsibility to stock holders and customers. Fischer is alleging that the board of directors has acted irresponsibly and has asked Shari Aarison the bank's controlling stock holder to fire Dan Dankaner the bank's chairman of the board. The issue is over the sudden departure of the bank's president Tvi Ziv and quick appointment of a new president Tzion Kinan. Why the shuffling, are they using Ziv as a sacrificial lamb? Get rid of the old president now the bank will be in good shape! All this management shuffling came with the last yearly report (2008) of a loss in revenue in the sum of 895 million shekels. This is the first time the bank has reported a loss, and it's a big loss. Apparently Fischer is unsatisfied with the quick firing and replacement of the bank's president. I wonder if Fischer is forcing American banking standards on Israeli executives. I am not making this accusation lightly. It is hard to describe the way things work in Israel until you face this type of situation. Israel and Israeli executives are much less formal in business management than American or European management. This is actually the biggest advantage of the Israeli economy has. Not only is the economy smaller, which makes it flexible and responsive, it is also informal and can do things Americans can't even imagine. To outsiders it seems like a closed private club, elitist at best, discriminatory at worst. Americans quietly accuse Israeli business of being one big fraternity. It seems like you have a better chance to be appointed a bank president by your old army buddy rather than by a committee selecting on merit or experience. Is this modus operandi a reason to intervene?

Fischer may have a point. After all he is in Israel to change the banking system from a small and isolated position to international (i.e. American) standards. If Israel did not to change anything why bring in an American to run the country's central bank? Fischer has history of flexing his muscles when he wants to make a point. A year ago the central's bank employees complained of being underpaid in international and industry terms. Fischer requested raising the salaries of all bank's staff to something equivalent of market and international levels. This meant changing the way the Israeli government paid employees and making the bank's employees salaries much higher than other government workers. Fischer claimed that he simply can not attract high caliber workers with such low salaries. The government postured that the central bank, a government agency, can not expect to pay double or triple of equivalent workers (judges, generals, physicians). In the end Fischer prevailed, not only that he got a nice budget to improve facilities, infrastructure and computing systems. But other government leaders do not have Fischer's clout (or is it chutzpa?)

It is unclear what will happen in this case. Should Fischer, the international reformer prevail and nudge Israel to a more formal business practices? or is Israel's small, flexible and clubby way more appropriate? What do you think? Powered by Qumana


Monday, August 18, 2008

Sex, Noise, and Smoke: good and bad in Tel Aviv bars

Street dancing on Dizengoff: the Israeli rap generation

It seems like Tel Aviv is having a low level cultural war. Not one that you hear about in the newspapers or TV. The bar culture is being attacked by residents through city hall. No need for alarm, Tel Aviv is not going to be a dry city any time soon*. But there are rumors and and article here and there that "the city" is out to close bars in residential areas. Essentially they enforce a few noise and public smoking laws harshly. I heard of the noise issue from bar owners and bartenders. I also heard of the no-smoking "police" lurking around bars and the staff running around putting out cigarettes (fine of 1,000 shekel for patron, 5,000 for the establishment). If you are a bar kind of person you probably think this is unfair. Why have bars, give them permission to operate, have people come and find a place to socialize and create a community just to close it down for some noise and smoke excuse? If you own or just bought an expensive apartment in a good location you take the opposite side: why doesn't the city keep the city organized? Why can't we have quiet nights and smoke free places? Why do we have to live next to a virtual sex hotel where the young of the city come to enjoy anonymous sex** and a few good drinks? Well, there you have the issue at hand. As Tel Aviv becomes more cosmopolitan it attracts the kind of people who not only want but actually demand the bar scene. The "alcohol culture" which comes with other British and American imports (business, culture, people) is steadily making it's way into the Tel Aviv night life. The "kids" which you see in the bars are not going to be satisfied by Israeli folk dancing and telling stories around the campfire on the beach. That was fine for their grandparents. But if you are going to ask them to do high-tech software, banking, and advertising on international scale, with Europeans and Americans, they want to go to pubs and bars just like in London or LA. This is what in some cultures get banned. The Muslims and Christian fundamentalists mostly in Asia (that includes the Arab countries on the middle east) live in fear of corrupting their young ones. But the cost is freedom to society. Well, let the story continue, we will keep the story going as we see what is going on here. Please post a comment or send an e-Mail if you have any news on the matter - T H A N K S !

* a dry city or county in American slang is a location free of alcohol, both sale and consumption (in public places).
** there is an image of free sex in bar bathrooms has taken hold in Tel Aviv. Apparently this was a popular form of entertainment for the 20 something. From what you see today it's only in very few bars and very few people. Read More...

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Travel to Tel Aviv - it's not just fun and games

From the stories here you may think that Tel Aviv is just fun and games. Shopping, dining out, lying on the beach, hanging out in cafes... well, that's just the leisure and lifestyle part of this city. Just as important, Tel Aviv is the true center of commerce, business, technology, investment... and basically the place people come to meet and make the "deals". Not that there are no other places to meet in Israel, there are lots of wonderful places, both quiet and comfortable. Green areas like old kibbutzim, quiet areas like hotels on the Dead Sea and the Red Sea (at Eilat). Green areas like small bed and breakfasts (called Tzimmerim - in the German tradition) up in Gallil, from the sea (Mediterranean) to the sea (of Gallily). But to see people, go to conferences, get business services, people come to Tel Aviv. Like all business centers the one thing people complain about most is the travel. Roads are clogged beyond belief on rush hours, buses run late and are filled with sweaty riders and cell phone screaming teeny-boppers, taxis are too expensive if you come from anywhere but a close suburb, trains don't run often enough and can also be full. Oh, the thought of getting on the highway or a train one more time. Once you get to Tel Aviv there is never enough parking, there is a ticket writer on every corner, and the bus stop is never where you want it.

Nicely flowing traffic into Tel Aviv on the coast road (Hertzel facing McDonald's)
OK, you get the point. But it's really not that bad, compare to LA traffic, NY bus and subway, Rome or Paris drivers, and London parking. In some of these cities you actually pay just for the privilege of driving your own car into the city. Not here! Actually if you know where you are going and have a little time, there are parking lots in most big buildings and public areas (Dizengoff Center, Azrielli, T"A University and fairgrounds, large hotels, etc.) Traffic is only really bad if you come the absolute peak hours. From 7:00AM to 9:00AM anywhere coming into Tel Aviv you are going to find a traffic jam. In the evening from 4:00PM to 6:00PM it's just as bad as the morning. But if you avoid these hours, you are going to be OK. But for a big city, Tel Aviv is not that bad. Traffic is bad but not everywhere and not every day, but you will have to sit in the car and listen to that radio talk or your favorite iPod collection. Once you figure out where you are going, there are plenty of ways to avoid the big intersections with the most amount of traffic.
Buses are comfortable, run all the time, and go everywhere, but you are still stuck in traffic!
Buses and trains are a whole other story. Trains are great if you are coming and going to where the stations are. The trains from Modiin and from Petach Tiqva are a new addition and you will not be traveling alone during rush hours. They will also save you a great deal of time if you don't have to trek from the stations too much. Buses have the same issues as cars on the highway, there are no high speed lanes in and out of Tel Aviv. So if traffic is at a stand still, so is your bus. But once you get used to a certain bus line you may get to like it. If you catch the bus early in the route you will get a seat. Than, put on these fancy headphones and ride with your favorite tunes. If the ride is longer than 20 or 30 minutes that means the line is not going to run very often, so make sure you don't miss the 7:30 bus because the next one could be 20 to 25 minutes away. Anyway, if you need to get into and out of Tel Aviv, no big deal -- but you better get used to it and figure out what you need.
Tel Aviv is working very hard to make travel easy. Roads are in good shape and there are construction projects to bypass heavy intersections, it's just that construction always take years longer than needed. The train system is moving along, but it is very expensive to construct rail lines and stations are very slowly being built. Actually the train system is already suffering from under capacity, but you don't have this rush of trains like in Calcutta (we are going to eventually learn how the Indians do it). Travel is one aspect of Tel Aviv that is actually working, the city is a usable business center - YOU CAN GET   H E R E !   Which is one thing that we learned from the bigger cities, which you can't get in and out of as easily!

      Next time - alternative transport-ation: bikes, tus-tus, and a board or tiny-wheels. Read More...