Showing posts with label Israel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Israel. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Winter Cranes in Hula Bird Sanctuary

Israel is a stopping station for migrating birds. Large cranes and pelicans from Europe migrate to Africa in the spring and fall. The Hula bird sanctuary is Israel's largest park to see this amazing natural phenomena. This time a year there are thousands of cranes at the sanctuary. In a field next to the ponds, we say thousands of cranes eating and quacking. The noise seems like a crazy conversation between a pair of birds, only multiplied by a thousand. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Christian Pilgrims: Israel's "secret" tourists

Detail of Tiberius church painting
When the rockets fall and the buses blow up with tourists (S. Korean tourists, Sinai, February 2014, Al-Jazeera), there are still people who come to Israel. Called by a higher voice, believing in a purpose, something as fundamental as the terrorists believe in freedom or nationality. Christian pilgrims still come to Israel regardless of state security warnings and daily media buzz. From their perspective, especially the inside sources of the church and tourism, Israel is no more dangerous than any other place. Are church voices mistaken in their assessment of the dangers? Why would priests put their followers at harm's way? Do Christians still possess that fundamental spirit, which called for each believer to be a "soldier" and a believer? Or is there something beyond the media hype and political sniping (from the media, states, international organizations, political and military personalities)? Actually, with a little bi of reading, you notice a difference in opinion and belief in Christians' view of Israel and the conflict. Many Christians, both lay independents and organized groups (mostly independent churches), believe in total support of Israel. Some support Israel due to the Jewish state religion. Some due to the liberal and overall support of the state of Christians living in Israel. Beyond this, there is a different view of political and military issues in religious organizations and religious leaders. Unlike secular views, there is a long term perspective and a sense of belief in slow change. There is also belief in the right resolution long term. Whatever was meant to have happened will happen. More on the impact of religious tourism on Israel, not simply economically, in future blog posts.      

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Digital Media, Economics & Tradition Pitted Against Another

Israel's Calcalist daily (also The Marker) is a take off on The Wall Street Journal and Financial Times
Israel's digital adoption is spotty at times. Amazon and e-Bay did not become the big shopping sites in Hebrew. But Google and WordPress are as strong here as anywhere else. So is Facebook, Twitter and WhatsUp and other mainstream global digital names. Adoption of smart phones and mobile apps is strong and moving faster every day. While Apple's iPhone was a big seller, the Android push from a few companies, not just Samsung, is relentless. Prices of handsets is going down as well as mobile service plans. Golan Telecom, a company founded by a French immigrant wanting to bring European prices to the Israeli market is leading the charge. Add to the consumer digital world the strong technology and start-up activity, which gave Israel the moniker "start-up nation" (after the book), and you got a seemingly digital life here. Hold on skippy (as they say in Texas), not so fast...  digital life is useful in many places, but tradition and lifestyle habits are still holding back certain market sectors. 


Monday, August 18, 2014

Baptism in the Jordan River: A few pictures

Area of Christian Baptism on the Jordan River, Israel
 One of the unique experiences in Israel is the visit to religious sites. Besides prayer and experience of the original place where a religious event took place, Christians and Jews hold life cycle events when visiting. Pilhgrimage to holly sites and holding meaningful events are highly valued by Israel's citizens and the government. In the Jordan river, many come to be baptized in a location where Jesus was called and experienced his baptism (Mark 1, 9-11: "At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” ) [picture below, scriptures in Hebrew and Greek at the site]

Once in a lifetime experience: a prayer during baptism

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Northern Israel: Now its quiet and peaceful

Landscape in Northern Israel: Brown in summer and green in winter | (c) Ami Vider 2011
Life in politics and technology changes fast here in Israel. When attacks were coming from Lebanon up north, nobody wanted to go there. This was just before Iron Dome defense system protected the large rockets. This was even before a multitude of drones and cameras were used to detect launching of rockets and disable them after the first launch. Since them the northern border has been quiet. It is mostly due to the changes in politics in Lebanon, some of it the influence of the war in Syria. Strange how political winds change and so does everyday life. It is still quiet in northern Israel. The politicians were hoping for economic growth and tourism. That is not the way it looks today (mid 2014) while the war in Gaza is going on. But like anything else, time will change politics, and war memories will fade into the history books. Still, even a beautiful place does not feel happy when worries of security is in the back of our minds. Enjoy the pictures. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Come for the History, Enjoy the Trees and Flowers

Flowers at a local park, Givatay'im, Israel (c) Ami Vider, 2010
One benefit of a strong economy and a vibrant urban life is the trees and flowers in public parks. Until you come and see, it may seem strange when Israelis boast a life inside a green bubble. This country is literally being gardened to life, a green life at that. In most urban areas, not just the big cities, there are well tended parks. In many streets there are also small gardens planted in traffic islands. The older streets are covered by well established trees. In Tel Aviv and the older cities (Petach Tikva) there are some treed going back 50 years or more. In many windows and porches you will see green thumb hobbyists showing their prowess in small pots all the way to small trees poking their branches from roof top gardens. For a country with an arid climate and no natural water flowing at a steady pace, this is a wonder. One of the wonders you will not hear about in the mainstream media news channels. Enjoy the pictures, come visit for some real life experience.
Shaded walk / bike path near Ichilov hospital / (c) Ami Vider 2010


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Don't Come for the Animals: Go to Africa

A gazelle in the Negev desert, Israeli biologists are introducing native species
Israelis like to think of Israel as the ultimate place to visit. Well, that is true if you are an archeology buff and want to see Roman temples and early Hebrew synagogues. If you are coming for spiritual reasons, there are Jewish, Christian and Muslim sites. You can take the bible and literally use it as a travel guide while walking in Jerusalem and many areas in the Gallil (northern Israel). If you want to see medium size museums with some local archaeological finds, from glass plates and vases two thousand years old and looks like they belong on a dinner table at a fine restaurant (they probably did see fine dining in their time), to coins from the last 2,500 years, that you can do in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa. If you want to see some of the original Dead Sea scrolls, there are a few on display, including an almost complete book of Isaiah. But don't come here if you are looking for a safari adventure or want to photograph lions walking through your camp. If you are looking to photograph a massive migration of animals, forget about it! Go to north America, Africa or even northern Europe. Not here, not unless you are looking for migrating birds twice a year, traveling from the northern countries to Africa for the winter. Then back again, going north this time, in the spring. If you are fashionista, go to Paris, London or New York for fashion shows and shopping. For sports, any big US or European city will have more events with world famous teams than Tel Aviv (try Barcelona for football or New York for baseball and basketball).   

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Quiet North: What the media doe not report

Haifa, Bahai Temple and port from above (c) 2012 Ami Vider
There is lots of talk on Israeli Radio and in the social media pages about Arab (Muslim) loyalty to Israel. Now that the Palestinian question is back on the front pages. Some relatively small groups like the Druze bring up their loyalty to the Israeli state and their service in the IDF. Some bring up the small number of Arab Muslim protesters during the war in Gaza as a sign of tacit approval with the state's policies. Yet what we don't see is the slow and steady decline in the tourist and regular activity in the north. If you haven't heard, tourism traffic to Israel is just about zero. Even evangelical Christians, ones that sometime on purpose come to Israel to support the economy in hard times are delaying their trips. Both local Jewish and Arab residents are also traveling less inside the state. The tourism department is taking out advertisements to support local tourism. But in general, this small step by the state is not helping. Some tourist destinations from hotels to restaurants and cultural sites (museums, parks, archaeological sites) are also offering discounts through advertisments. This comes at a time when the north needs as much support as possible. We just need to stay aware and see where this Gaza war takes us. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Zones of Comfort: Living Under Virtual Safety (Arava/Ein Yahav)

Raising parrots in an Arava desert village: Israelis find ways to cope with stress and danger
The media channels are filled with politics and Gaza war buzz. The internet and streets around the world are filled with protesters. Yet in Israel, there are peaceful quiet spots. When rockets in the south, send everyone running, out of range areas are still quiet. Sometimes even quieter than a normal peace-time days. A little over year ago (Dec. 2014) I visited Ein Yahav. A small moshav (agricultural settlement) comprised of private farms surrounding the small settlement. Most of the settlements in the arava are small. This part of Israel was considered the least appealing. The area is remote, in the 1950s even power and water service had to be installed and connected to a new settlement. Other areas of the Israeli Negev desert faced equally difficult conditions. Yet the Arava was truly the last frontier.  

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Israel WordCamp 2014

WordCamp Israel 2014 (5/27/2014) a view from the back, small room (c) Ami Vider 2014
For the first time in a few years WordCamp Israel came back to Tel Aviv. The excitement of "Hebrew WordPress" and "Israelis are blogging" has faded. What blogging was ten years ago in the US, was hot here seven to five years ago. The new development is fresh energy of individuals  keeping Israel on the WordPress map. From all the talks, the one by Woo Themes representative Joel Bronkowski telling the story of success with WooCommerce (a free plug-in) was the best one. Other talks on large sites, examples of work, and security issues and solutions also kept the crowd excited. The one new development in the open source and technology community in Israel is: GOOGLE! Not the company products in Hebrew or the work done by start-ups both in support and as part of the big American company, but the actual Google "Campus" a location which hosts local technology events (sometimes for free).

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?


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.


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.


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?


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.  

Monday, July 22, 2013

Netanyahu and Kerry: Do Israeli Leaders Lead? or Follow? Does Israeli Public Opinion Push Politics?

Israeli Cabinet 2013 / Are we following leaders? or LEADING them??
News of John Kerry's accomplishment in bringing Netanyahu and Abbas to negotiate again comes dry over the radio. Today it almost sounds like a war breaking out or another suicide attack. Somehow, certain political news sound all the same. You get the feeling, that this news clip will be used over and over again when we look back on today as history. It brings back the coffee house banter I hear on Tel Aviv streets on who is leading and who is following. Netanyahu's first term four years ago seems like a new chapter in Israeli politics. The right wing Netanyahu with Lieberman, the side kick, had the solution for the Palestinian problem: go tough, don't give in, make security the top issue. But the Palestinians didn't play along. They went under, attacked from Gaza, and got world opinion to swing in their direction. That didn't work out so well for Netanyahu. The last elections, Netanyahu did not promise easy solutions. He followed Lapid and Bennette with a different message. The idea is to listen to the people and have them determine what is important in politics. Now Netanyahu is offering a referendum to decide.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Trouble With Fast Economic Growth: Growing Socioeconomic Gap

Iron Dome military system has implication well beyond a security system
The last two years, Israel's educated middle class started protesting a widening socioeconomic gap. This gap, seem to be widening every day, is more visible in the upper middle classes. Upper classes brought about by strong economic growth in a few small sectors. There are many more luxury apartments going up, more new luxury cars on the street (new Ferrari and Maserati dealerships), and many more shops with items not seen here before. But there are also difficulties to some which are also a new surprise to many. College educated and well trained professionals are no longer assured a well paying job and a comfortable middle class lifestyle. As the number of luxury high-rise apartments is going up at alarming rate, it seems like everybody is enjoying this great economic growth. But as you look more carefully, that's not the whole story. In market segments where the economic growth is concentrated, like construction, high-tech, finance, and luxury retail, the benefactors are not necessarily “yeled tov Yerushalayim” (a good boy from Jerusalem), well educated middle class professionals.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Start-up Attraction: ScaleIO and Alvarion: Two Different Tech Exits

ScaleIO was sold recently for $200 million, giving it's founders, owners of 30%, $60 million. Not a bad exit for a new start up. On the opposite side, Alvarion, a publicly traded wireless equipment company is breathing it's last gasps: a bank is taking the company into receivership. Exits in tech start-ups are like watching a slow baseball game. Sometimes they turn exciting, the rest of the time the game is slow and sleepy. ScaleIO is a software only company. This is the kind of bet most Israeli entrepreneurs like to make. Most of the effort is in the code and the marketing. Building real hardware takes more time and usually much more money. Selling something that requires samples and stock is also more complicated. Software is easier to sell from Israel, especially if the target markets are Europe and the US. To contrast, Alvarion is almost completely a hardware company. They are also in a highly competitive networking sector. To add to this, Alvarion put their effort into Wi/MAX, a new format of wireless networking supposedly covering a wide area and solving some problems in WiFi we use today. I don't want to go as far as saying that software only start-ups have a better chance of success than hardware only. It is much more complicated than this.