Monday, December 22, 2008

I need your help - articles, pictures, opinions, promotion, topics...

White water rafting
Sorry for not keeping up with this blog. I simply got too busy with 'real' work (tech biz dev & contracting) ~ which is getting hard to find as a freelancer. Also it has been hard to block out the bad press about the economy here in Israel and all over the world.

Israel is such a small economy, that when the world turns into a turbulent sea, we are the little rubber raft with a few surviving packed paddlers screaming and stroking little oars. The question here is: "does it help to scream?" -- If you were in therapy and miss the couch of "Dr. Friedman" than screaming probably helps. If you have a sensitive neighbor downstairs with a 3 month old baby, you should probably take up a less public form of anger management.


There are lots of great things going on in Tel Aviv. Nothing has stopped here and actually we are probably much better off than most of the western economies. But things are still very slow on the business side. But I think that there are plenty of people who like the stories here and can help. We are getting 1,500 to 2,500 real readers a month. Statistics are steady and sometimes with a good story are up. Ssssooo --

Please send in stories, pictures, reference to articles, opinions...

Just follow the format and tone of the articles here (there are 130+ examples).

Let's see where this goes :-)       T H A N K S ! !

AmiV @ TLV

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Jerusalem quiet and busy -- why worry about life?

Jerusalem city
If you go to Jerusalem walk around where the locals are walking. Visit the shook (open market), take a walk along the main streets. They are old and narrow and crowded and a little noisy. But not too noise and very little shouting and pushing. I go to Jerusalem about once a week and just realized the difference in the people. They seem to be always going somewhere with a purpose. Not a purpose of buying groceries or picking socks for the kids. A purpose bigger than that. Then I noticed a middle aged man standing at a bus stop reading from a big "religious book". One of these large books the size of an encyclopedia volume with simple black cover and simple Hebrew lettering. I wanted to ask him about his life or what he was reading, but did not want to intrude. So I pretended to be lost and asked directions to a distant part of town, Talpiot, 'which bus goes there'. He quickly looked at me and gave me the bus numbers and the alternatives of how to get there. He noticed that I was not from Jerusalem, not just the question for direction, probably the dress and the accent and the somewhat look of being in a foreign place. So he asked me if I am lost but I was not really lost. I said quickly, looks like in Jerusalem everybody knows where he is going.

He answered right away: "we are not lost like the people in Tel Aviv". I think he meant "we are not searching like the secular people anywhere else". Suddenly it made sense. These people are already where they want to be. Most people wherever they are think that they need to get somewhere different (better?). They need more respect, a better tittle at work, a better home, job, car, wife... you name it... they need to GET SOMEWHERE to be SOMEBODY. But for the religious Jews in Jerusalem they ARE where they should be. The next stop on this train is somewhere not on this earth, so Jerusalem IS the last stop! So as far as where they live, there is no other place they need to go. So that would explain the feeling of comfort with the city. Jerusalem itself is not exactly a pretty place. It is certainly not very well kept and clean or even organized. There is always construction, the old and now new areas are crowded, there is always movement. Someone is always going somewhere and they are in front, beside, or behind you. But that does not feel like anywhere else, it's just busy and quiet.

On the way back I tried to imagine what Tel Aviv would be like if everyone felt like they are where they are suppose to be. Than I tried to imagine New York City and San Francisco. It just didn't make sense. Everywhere you go there are people who simply make you feel like you are not suppose to be there, that you need to go somewhere else. Some cities do have their prototypical residents. New Yorkers always tell you that it's the greatest city on earth, Parisians don't have to tell you, they just give you that look. But in Jerusalem they just go about living it. Nobody is really welcoming and helpful or even courteous. They simply give you the feeling that this is "THE PLACE". Read More...

More computers not getting along with politicians

Likud primaries extended until 1:00 AM. Delays in the voting stations due to the computerized voting machines. The machines work fine, the voters take longer time and there are just not enough computerized voting stations. Is computerized voting not really ready for prime time? A G A I N ?

Today the Likud party in Israel is having it's primaries. The primaries will determine who will represent the party on the Knesset (house of representatives). Remember the Labor party's two day delay? (just few days ago?) In the Labor's case the computers "crashed" completely. In the Likud primary they simply did not have enough voting "booths". The booths are computer touch screens with pictures of the candidates. They identify a voter with his/her identity number (mispar zehut) which makes voting safer and simpler. For the first time, voters can vote anywhere in Israel. If you are on vacation in Eilat and registered in Haifa, no problem. With all this hi-tech in the political world, the politician's common sense has taken a back seat. Likud got their computers to work, so people did come and wanted to vote in large numbers. But they forgot one thing, when people show up at the voting booth, most times they don't "just vote" (right away). Voters tend to dilly-dally, think again, take their time... so what's the problem? Well, when you have cardboard boxes with a slot, NO PROBLEM. The line gets long, people start making noises of "what's the heck is going on up there..." You can go the corner of the room, get another box, put in another voting station, you are set.

Likud web site with news about the extended hours of the votes

In the case of the computerized system, which actually worked fine, there were just not enough voting station. Apparently the computer designers assumed that each voter will take 3 minutes to complete his/her voting. Maybe because of the new, modern, fancy systems, maybe because of the issues involved, maybe because the turn out was high, maybe, maybe, maybe... people took longer, much MUCH LONGER. In some cases reports of 15 minutes per voter was the modus operendi. That made the lines starting at 5 PM much longer and some people turned around and went home. But the election committee decided to remedy the problem. First they thought of opening the voting stations tomorrow. I think that keeping everything on hold for another day was too complicated. Even with computers the party's voting organization was probably not ready for this unforeseeable disruption.

Sticker calling for unified voice in the city of Jerusalem - did it work for Likid?

In Jerusalem a phone company fiber optic cable was cut due to construction, so voting was shut down for two hours. In addition, voters in Jerusalem came out in high numbers. For the first time in years orthodox lined up along Muslim and secular Jews. Likud used this as a sign of success of their message and maybe the overall push to come back against the other parties.

The moral of the story: You can vote with computers, for real! Computers are here for elections in Israel. They may not be here for "the real thing" (national general elections). The national elections may not be with computers this time but certainly will be here for the next primary elections in the coming term. Maybe Israeli computer companies will be the big computerized election providers to the world ~ or maybe . . .

AmiV from Tel Aviv (@the White City)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Avodah (Labor) party is going for primary elections

Amir Peretz giving a speech recently

The Israeli Labor party (Ha'Avodah) was suppose to have primary elections today (Tuesday, Dec-2nd) but they were delayed until Thursday. A friend received an SMS message today informing him of the delay. If you are reading this from the US or the UK or from any western civilized country your first impulsive thought is Shakespeare's often quoted saying: "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark" (errr state of Israel). Why would anyone delay an election by 2 days ON THE DAY OF THE ELECTION? With the political history here in Israel and the current situation it seems that nobody has asked this question. In Israel the question of "can you do it" is more often ask than "should you do it". Clearly in Israel you can delay one party's primaries election by two days and notify party members by sending SMS messages. This part is possible and I don't know how many people are not going to show up on Thursday or even complained today after arriving at a voting site and fining "nothing".

memorial poster to the 10th anniversary to Yitzhak Rabin's assassination

The delay I think is more of reflection of the vacuum in ideology and purpose in the leadership. There are big issues facing Israel as a state and as a nation. People in hard times need a leader, and in most times Israel had that leader. They say that leaders are made in hard times, that was the story of Yitzhak Rabin. In 1967's six day war he was a young chief of staff in the Israeli army. There is still an historical debate on who actually "won the war". Was it a political decision to attack first or was it Rabin's and the military. But for the most part Rabin emerged as the winning general and that has started a long tradition of military chiefs running the country. Rabin eventually started the peace effort with Yassir Arafat and the PLO. Than with much reluctance and a big push from Bill Clinton actually signed an agreement with Arafat and shook his hand on the lawn of the white house. That was called leadership and despite what has become of these decisions since than, Rabin is still regarded as a leader. Like all the memorable leaders in Israel he made difficult decisions and took action. This is what Israelis call leadership. In other countries there are famous speeches and ideas. Lincoln and Martin Luther King had their short memorable mottoes. So did Churchill during WWII (the only thing to fear is fear itself). These sayings have become standards the world over translated to every imaginable language and stickered on bumpers in the most distant corner of the globe. But here in Israel we don't have the "I have a dream" or "of the people, by the people, for the people" (remember that he talked about government!). There are a few sound bytes that usually come from scratchy radio recordings. Ben Gurion's proclamation of the Israeli state, the reporting of soldiers and the army's chief Rabbi at the western wall come to mind. But in Israel what happened counts not what was said.

But sadly I have to report that in the labor party non-election of today nothing was said and nothing happened. Is this bad news or just a slow news day from Jerusalem? Well, maybe? There is another way to look at this. Maybe there is a leader in the labor party who is waiting for the right moment to move up or to give a speech. After all Barak Obama came into the national American stage just that way. Even governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made his "coming out speech" in the democratic national convention. Why are these American politicians even mentioned in an article on the Israeli labor party non-election? Because now the Israeli political parties are starting to import political advisers from the US. The Israeli general election is coming up in two months. You can already see billboards with Tzipi Livni's serious face staring out, no words, just the face. That's all I have to report from a non-election day and a quiet Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. We are still looking out for a new leader not just a politician /// from Tel Aviv, AmiV Read More...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Huldai reelected in Tel Aviv: city goes local

Huldai on his blog lays out his views and experience [HE]

With all the turmoil in the world and an economic tsunami about to hit our fragile shores, Tel Aviv reelected Ron Huldai on a purely local message: Tel Aviv is for everyone and not just the big businesses and the high price restaurants (Ha'aretz quotes Huldai's campaign manager saying: "Tel Aviv is not just [the bohemian] Rothschild Boulevard"). Ha'aretz's article on the results [] mentioned the opposition's mix on the city council. It seems like Tel Avivians are turning inward. This happens to most people who are beaten up by outside forces. Israel is just starting to feel the shock waves of the world's financial explosions. There are reports of lay-offs in the services and hi-tech sectors.

Tel Aviv went on a repair spree, I guess some of it had to do with the elections. Once in five years the street talks goes, we get a few new sidewalks and streets. But more than that, the downturn in the financial services sector is not hitting Tel Aviv anywhere as bad as probably London, New York, or even Hong Kong. Partly because the Israeli economy has been in a slow recovery from 2002. Partly because the building industry as a whole has not followed US banks and investment institutions with the sub-prime to bond scheme.

Tel Aviv 100 index down 50% in 12 months

The Israeli hi-tech sector is still very dependent on the American financial world for seed start-up investment. Some of the smaller and weaker American venture capital firms have closed their operations in Israel. The large American companies with factories or development centers in Israel are also closing or at least laying off people. It is much easier for a company with headquarters in Cleveland or San Jose to cut costs in Israel and keep their image intact. But Israelis are not crying over this situation. The people who work for American companies have known for years that with the benefits of higher salaries and better work comes the risk of a fall in the US costing their jobs. Don't get me wrong, nobody is really happy about it, but you don't see food riots either. Just a gloomy mood all around and slightly emptier restaurants and cafes.

But there is a good news here too. With the slowdown in financial and hi-tech sectors there is more local focus. This is what the Huldai vote says. Tel Aviv can still look and feel good for the locals. There is still so much to fix, build, and enjoy without the glitzy American attitude. Let's hope that this is not going to take too long to "fix". Just like everyone around the world, Tel Avivians are looking to see what Obama and the new democratic congress is going to do about the American financial excesses (or should I say over-exuberance Dr. Greenspan?), maybe we will be wiser and less greedy in the long run? What do you think ? ? ? Read More...

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

Monday, September 22, 2008


I found an interesting story about Haile Satayin, and Israeli Olympic marathoner on a Diabetes diet blog. The story is amazing but the way 'Em' tells it is also exciting. So I am quoting a bit of his text and would encourage you to go and read the rest if you are interested. Thanks 'Em' for a great story!

Haile is the oldest Olympic caliber marathoner in modern history, and his story is one of high drama - in the most altruistic and also in the most-painful ways.

Just as the transliteration of his name is confusingly inconsistent, Haile’s real age is also confusing. He was born in Ethiopia, which uses a calendar which started 7 years before our usual one. What is believed to be the proper birthdate on our calendar is is one that Haile says makes him “only 46″ rather than the soon-to-be 53 years stated in running records. Either age is phenomenal for a marathoner.

Haile is an Jew who was rescued from Ethiopia in 1991, as part of Israel’s massive re-patriation effort called Operation Solomon. Airlifted by the Israeli government, Haile found freedom and settled near Tel Aviv. All people, proven Jewish, have “the right to return” to their ancient homeland, and Israel has tried to keep her word, bringing tens of thousands of people “home”.

Not all the immigrants are skilled, especially those from African countries. Those often illiterate and destitute people have caused great economic strain for Israeli society, for these immigrants need a great many social service safety nets, which are difficult for Israel to provide, especially when it’s money most still mostly be focused on its very survival.

Consequently, someone like Haile has to do ‘the best he can’, and as Haile’s gift is running, that’s what he has concentrated on, but it does not give him an income. He is supported by a monthly grant, and it is barely enough for his family of 9 to survive. Friends in the running community also try to help him out financially, and he runs endlessly for “prize money” on tough surfaces that extract a significant toll with extra body stress. The races don’t bring in much financially anyway, but he works with the few opportunities open to him.

Haile is 5 foot 7 inches tall but only weighs only 119 pounds! He trains all the time, adding 120 miles every week (200km) since the Athens Games four years ago. Yes, in the streets of Hadera, near Tel Aviv, Haile’s been running through his impoverished neighborhood, year in and year out, in the hope that Beijing would help him gain attention and sponsors. It has been a lonely battle.

His personal best in the marathon was 2 hrs 14.21 mins in Venice, 2003. In Athens’ Olympics in 2004, he was 20th, and he was 19th in the 2007 World Championship in Osaka, Japan. This year in Beijing, he was 69 and said he had been injured during the race, but insisted he must finish it. That was true grit. Haile is still the oldest runner ever to finish a world-class marathon. At 52, all his hopes for the future were dependent on that race in Beijing.

Haile (also spelled Ayele) had debated as to how much to jeopardize his Health by running in Beijing’s filthy air. It was a serious risk to his long-term health, and as the sole bread-winner for his family, this was no easy choice. After all, the marathon is more than 26 miles.

The international favorite, Haile Gelbrselassie of Ethiopia, and Haile’s friend, decided not to compete for that very reason; Gebrselassie put aside his almost-certain chance for the Olympic gold medal, because Beijing would hurt his Health, but Haile Satayin did not feel he had that choice.

Both Hailes are also pushed harder as marathoners for, usually, most Ethiopeans do best at the middle distances, but right now several Ethiopeans are at the top in marathon; the Kenyans are often the best marathoners from Africa and the Nigerians usually are the best sprinters.

Again, if you want to read the rest... go to HAILE SATAYIN ( SETENG AYELE ) - MEN’S MARATHON (about 1/2 way down the article). Read More...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Hadag Nachash [pop-rap] - fusion of middle eastern, Israeli, into Rap

Hadag Nachash - The Sticker Song, about how stickers which are posted everywhere reflect a society so fractured that nobody hears anybody else and it all makes no sense. Yes we keep on "stickering" :-)

Tel Aviv has a sound, it's something between European pop (think Abba) and American Folk ~ than add a little rap and 80's rock. At the edges you get jazz, classical, folk (from American to Russian), and in hidden clubs - aha, the house/acid/old_skool you find in most western dance ... Now back to Hadag Nachash - the group sings or actually raps on life in Israel, like their older mentors Teapacks (article) they do it with humor and not "in your face". In "The Sticker Song" they mix a bunch of Israeli stereotypes from religious to rapers to settlers. Essentially commenting on the rediculous ideas behind stickers (which you find just about everywhere in Tel Aviv). It's funny how nobody actually pays attention to these stickers which are posted everywhere. "The sticker song" is not exactly protest as much as a commentary of how our society has become so fractured with ideas that nobody really cares about anyone who is not in his own little world. The song got lots of air play and made non-pop-rap listeners take a second look at this group. Just like Teapacks they are lots of fun to watch. Their videos are a perfect match to the lyrics, so watch and enjoy...

Hadag Nachash in "California" a spoof on a trip to record in Southern California and the trip. Take a look at what their version of the famous Hollywood sign says :-)'
On YouTube search for "hadag nachash"
Hadag Nachash literally translates to "The Fish Snake" but it's also a play on words which means "Fishing a snake" ~ take a look at their logo, a "rap boy" pissing :-)' Read More...

Teapacks - a wacky, funny, mix of sounds

Sitting at a cafe in Tel Aviv: a protest song on rampant CD counterfeit business in the city - and everywhere
Teapacks is a great example of the new Israeli sound. They also play the wacky role on music videos. Originally from Shderot, that southern town hit by Palestinian shelling from Gaza all these months but definitely made the shift into the Tel Aviv music scene. Their music is a mix of eastern, western, comedy, and dark humor. Kobi Oz the front man is a funny looking AND acting spectacled and goteed actor. All the lyrics are acted out in a somewhat exagerated way. But with the funny music and lyrics Teapacks is more than anything a serious commentary on the life in Israel. They always look like they are having fun dancing on stage or in the streets. Poking fun directly is not their way, but that makes the music all more fun. Once again, E N J O Y ! !

Rikudei Amba (Amba Dancing) - a very funny and fast moving song - are they having fun on stage? Read More...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Radio in Israel - rap, rock, folk, classical, music and more

The Radio in Tel Aviv is almost on everywhere. People listen to music and talk radio during work, you hear it in every kiosk and most small shops, and the cafes pipe it "dental office waiting room" style as well. Radio in the home is mostly played the old fashion way off the air. But I see lots of people playing it off cable TV, satellite and the internet.

Get your browser Israel Radio toolbar at:
Take a look at the Israel Radio Toolbar. If you want to get the radio through windows media player search for Israel or Hebrew and you will get a few stations. Israeli military radio driving station also has a toolbar of it's own. This radio station is NOT a propaganda tool or in the style of old soviet marching music. Quite the opposite they play top music for essentially teen agers (18 to 22 y.o.) with emphasis on safe driving and driving music. Notice that they play one English song and than one Hebrew song. Sometimes they alternate and play two or more for one of the other. They play all kind of games and late at night have real radio shows which usually covers a band, an era, or a musical style. I am not that familiar with their programming but for the teen agers this is the place to go.
If you do a google search for "israel internet radio" you will find a bunch of sites and even one more tool bar for radio stations. Kol Israel (voice of Israel) is the official Israeli radio. Reshet Beit (B network) is the second radio station. These are the official stations and they have news and commentary in Hebrew and other languages. The main Israel Broadcasting Authority is the main page for Radio and TV. Ssssooooo, I am not going to rate, describe, or comment on content - YET! but that will come if anyone wants to hear what is on the radio before you tune in... E N J O Y ! Read More...

Original Israeli Music - Ruchama Raz in a real classic

Ruchama Raz singing "in my beloved country" with the Paratrooper Chorus (Lyrics: Leah Goldberg, Melody: Moni Amerilio)
With all the talk of what life is in Tel Aviv I almost forgot the "basic" experiences. One of the things that you see on TV and can experience in person is all the perfomances which are very much Israeli. These are music, dance, comedy, movies and theater which sprung up like weeds after a rain from the 1920's until well into the 1970's. The video of Ruchama Raz is of the Paratrooper corps courus (all the Israeli military sections had entertainment groups of one kind of another speciall singing groups). This is an oldie but a goodie and is very much a typical performance you would have heard on the radio from the early days of the state of Israel (1950's). Ruchama Raz sang this song first in 1975 and the uniforms certainly show this. While Israel was struggling to keep head above water and had all the issues we now hear about, a unique artistic identity was developing. There are lots of interesting historical and current songs on You Tube and other musical and video sites -- E N J O Y !
That reminds me, any interest in Israeli radio, TV, movies... Let me know Read More...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Renting a fabulous apartment in Tel Aviv

A renovated classic Bauhaus building in north Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv is going through an apartment boom phase. Apartments are being renovated, upgraded, divided, and heavily repriced. Rental prices have been going up 20% to 30% for the third year in a row. This means renters who had 2 year contract and need to negotiate are facing a doubling of their rent. Add to this 30% decrease in the value of the dollar to the shekel and rentals in shekels are more than doubling! Is this a crazy - scary situation? Well, not really. Basically landlords are playing "catchup" to the market. There is good news in the rental inflation of Tel Aviv apartments: it is becoming very attractive to renovate and split old apartments. If you are familiar with what happened in the US, UK, and the European Real Estate market a few years ago, than you will understand what is going on here.
I went looking for an apartment in Giv'atayim or Ramat Gan a few weeks ago. After the initial shock that one bedroom, 60 square meter, decent shape apartment is no longer 2,500 shekels a month (or $750), I started "characterizing the market". That's what I do when there is a big change AND a big shock to my sensibility system. But we all get used to changes, specially here when they come fast and strong. I quickly found out that not all landlords are asking for 4,500 shekels for a badly renovated apartment with absolutely no parking in Giv'atayim (this is where I am now). I also found out that for about 3,500 shekels I can have a nicer not newly renovated apartment in a better location. Add another 300 shekels a month and I can have one in Tel Aviv in just as nice of an area. I can finally have parking, or be next to a good shopping center 10 minute walk away... or - or - or - basically have choices and start weighing one vs. another.
If you are looking for an apartment here are a few tips:

  • Take a look at a few apartments before you decide what you really need and want
  • Take a look in areas where you did not think you can afford two years ago
  • Don't be afraid to haggle on EVERYTHING! (I got a reduction in the "security note" (agrat chov).
  • Try to be specific with your questions and descriptions specially with brokers and landlords. If you can't be specific describe yourself in their terms: 'I am a picky renter, I need the best deal you see in the neighborhood you cover')
  • Keep good communication with your current landlord and keep them informed of your move and your status.
Eventually you will see what you like and what fits your budget. You may even find a better place than you were expecting, that could be location, state of the apartment, or anything else that fits your needs.
The most important part is not to get depressed or panicky. That happens to just about everyone a few days before they have to sign a new lease or actually "GET OUT". You know yourself better than anyone so just figure out what you need to do not to make a bad decision. If you like having a little fun and have a little spare time, go see really great apartments. You may not be able to afford them but you can still see how "the other half" lives. When I told a realtor that I looked at something I could never afford but it was just a check on what I can get if I had twice the budget he almost threw me out of his office. Than I said that if he didn't have time to show me a few things I would not be able to give him my time either. After all, his job is to show people ~ I need to find a place to live. Once in a while we all need a little diversion, it's a stressful and wasteful task just dealing with Realtors who don't know you and don't know what you want. Quickly he realized that this search is serious for me but I don't want to wear myself down and end up "settling" (le hitpasher) for something that I don't want. Wow did he change his tune!   G O O D     L U C K     (oh, don't be afraid to speak in English but be treated like an Israeli. We hear all the time that English speakers feel like they paid more or didn't haggle enough, this is your opportunity to "practice" being a little more Israeli!) Read More...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

State Your Case! Legal writings for everyone

Today we begin a new series of articles on our blog. State your case is a place where you may ask us what is on your mind. We will research and write about these issues in general without offering legal advice.

People want to know what are the legal ramifications concerning the release of Gilad Shalit (kidnapped Israeli soldier being held by Hamas in Gaza). How far should the government go? From a legal and political viewpoints Israel, a sovereign country, can not make decisions which affect the entire country to satisfy the desires of the very few. As much as we all hope for the safe return of Gilad, we can not sacrifice 7 million for 1. Note also that political actions are not controlled byt the courts or the legal system. Courts do not have jurisdiction over the political world.
We got an e-Mail question from 'merav' who wants to know what she can do about a landlord who is letting her apartment fall into disrepair. She writes that the electric goes on and off and when you plug something in you get a shock. Her landlord told her to "live with it". Merav, you have a number of things you can do. First write a letter to your landlord giving him/her 48 hours to begin taking steps to solve the situation. If the landlord does not respond positively call the electric company and have them send out a technician to check and document the problem. Make sure you write the technician's name and phone number and get a written report. If this does not convince the landlord (usually this is enough to get people to solve the problem). Than call the city building inspection department and have them send an inspector to check for building code violations. If the problem you are having is a building code violation that will be reported to the landlord and should definitely fix the problem. IF YOU ARE STILL HAVING PROBLEMS! Find a good lawyer and sue your landlord. Now your landlord will have to live with code violation and a lawyer. -- Remember the law is not arbitrary and "QUICK" - take the steps and get things done on time, you will have a safe apartment and the landlord will respect you even more! Read More...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Retire in Tel Aviv: lifestyle, weather, and Mediterranean culture:

Beach and marina in Tel Aviv. A great city with a beach!
      People today retire all over the world. Britis go to southern France, Canadians go to Florida, north-easterners move to Arizona and southern California. In Tel Aviv we are starting to see a trend of full time and part time retirees making their home in Tel Aviv. The white city has plenty to offer, but to some Tel Aviv is a real treat (isn't this what retirement should be?). People come to Tel Aviv for the weather and the cost of living, but they stay for the lifestyle and the truly Mediterranean attitude. Tel Aviv also offers easy access to the “other side” of the globe with Africa, Asia and Europe a short flight away (if you are coming from America). At first I thought that only the religious Jews and American Zionists were the ones who discovered Tel Aviv for retirement. But this is not at all the case. Tel Aviv is attracting British, German, South Africans, and even a few Australians.
      Choosing a retirement location is a combination of a pragmatic practical issues and attractive lifestyle factors. The pragmatic side is mostly based on cost of living and overall basic services such as the quality and availability of health services, similarity and ability to interact with a community on daily basis, and most importantly, the general comfort level: “how it feels to be here?” Once a retiree feels comfortable that pragmatic factors are a good match for them the real allure of Tel Aviv comes to play: incredible lifestyle. Imagine the weather something between southern France and San Diego, in a medium size city, with European culture, cosmopolitan mix of people... and this is just the beginning. Tel Aviv offers so much in culture, variety, weather, and a great location. As a matter of fact, one of the Australians I met wanted me not to write so positively about Tel Aviv, he doesn't want to tell the world about this hidden secret, keep it to himself.
      We will give more details on the attractive attributes of Tel Aviv for retirees in upcoming articles, so let's get started with the physical location. Tel Aviv is a symbolic midpoint of central Israel. Our focus will start here. Tel Aviv is situated on the Mediterranean coast at the center of Israel. The city was officially founded in 1909, so next year will be the centennial celebration, and the city is cleaning up and sprucing up. The municipal borders had limited growth in Tel Aviv proper for some time, so new large construction is not something to look for in the municipal borders. Luckily this is not a problem since there is space surrounding the city all around. Besides the nice residential parts of the city it is also the true cultural center of Israel. Tel Aviv has one of the highest concentration of theaters, concert halls, museums, book stores, shops, restaurants, and whatever culturally you can imagine. Tel Aviv is not just a cultural center in Israeli context but in comparison to many cities. OK, this is not New York city but it certainly competes with many American and European cities twice it's size and decades older. But the real treat here is the combination of year around great weather, a cosmopolitan city with culture, and comfortable mix of people from all over the world. All together this is what makes Tel Aviv the place to be. So if you are retiring, come and really enjoy your time, you deserve it. Now a little about the surrounding areas which will give a bit of understanding and some living choices.
      The city is surrounded by a few smaller towns: Natanya in the north, Holon in the south, and Kfar Sabba in the east. These encompass a few more communities which attract retirees. Each town (even a section of town) has it's own personality. Each community also tends to have a concentration of residents from different country. Natanya is a strong French presence some immigrated in the last two years. Natanya is just north of Tel Aviv along the Mediterranean coast. Natanya is still developing and new construction from low cost small apartments (about US$200,000) to large single family homes (US$1,000,000 and up) attract people who would not be able to afford a new home. As the French started discovering Natanya the word spread and more came. To the east of Natanya lies Ra'anana and Kfar Saba. These two towns with some sections of Hertzelia (between Tel Aviv and Natanya) are the preferred choice of “Anglos”. Anglos is the term used to describe the English speakers (Americans, British, Canadians, S. Africans, etc.) Ra'anana and Kfar Saba have a relatively older town centers with 1960's to 1980's construction. Similar to Natanya, the early Anglo concentration has given the towns a western feel. Ra'anana has a reputation of being clean, green, and spacious. Walking through Ra'anana's neighborhoods and the main street Ahuza does give you a feeling of a well kept town. Here it would be more difficult to find a new apartment and the attraction is the more established community. Bordering the southern edge of Tel Aviv are Holon and Bat Yam. These two towns have also been established a bit longer. They have the most native Israeli feel which is attractive to retirees who want to be in a native environment. Bat Yam sits on the coast and Holon is just east inland. Holon offers cultural activities with museums and performance spaces, Bat Yam has been a working class town which is having an economic infusion from new residents and construction. The beach communities like Tel Aviv, Natanya, Hertzelia, and Holon have a real resort feeling. To most people who want to be here just for the summer or for the winter this is the place for you.

Next time: lifestyle in Tel Aviv and the surrounding communities and a look at a few other towns. We will also describe not just the retirement life in Tel Aviv, after all retirement is not just sitting around. Read More...

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...

Thursday, August 7, 2008

TV humor, political correctness, sensitivity, and freedom

Television commercials are sometimes different from one country to the next. Sometimes we see funny or sexy TV commercials from other countries and enjoy them. But not often do we fear that a funny TV commercial would anger or humiliate someone in another country. But this is what is happening with an Israeli commercial for Nissan Tiida poking fun at Arab oil executives. The commercial started airing about two weeks ago and has been very successful. It shows a group of well dressed Arabs leaving an upscale building on their way to a stretch limousine. Just a few feet away from the group a shiny new Nissan Tiida is parked. They apparently talk about the fuel economy of the car. Suddenly one of the Arabs starts getting excited. He curses and beats up on the car. His group is quick to hold him back and restrain him. All this is in Arabic, so for most of the Israeli TV viewers this is just a skit of an angry Arab. An voice-over and text in Hebrew says, the Nissan Tiida is so economic, it is certain to anger your average oil executive.

An Israeli commercial for Nissan Tiida: poking fun of Arab oil executives?
Up to now everything is fine. A few Arab Israeli actors get a job doing a commercial. Israeli TV viewers laugh at a funny commercial. Nissan sells more cars. Everyone is happy? Well, not exactly. Apparently a government commentator on Saudi Arabia's MBC TV decided to comment and came up with the conclusion that Nissan through the Israeli media is humiliating Arabs. Apparently he is offended by the fact that Arabs are used as caricatures or scape goats for the oil price or shortage in the world. I am actually not clear what the main complaint is. Israeli advertising agency and the Nissan importer were quick to reply that the Muslim Israeli (Arab) actors were not at all humiliated and that no intention to humiliate anyone was intended. But apparently this Saudi TV commentator wanted an official Nissan apology.
This is not a political or religious blog so this issue is not going to be debated here. (See Haaretz article) But this is a great opportunity to look at the Israeli TV and the Israeli viewer. From this commercial and it's topic you can see that both regular TV shows and commercials can be sarcastic and funny. Maybe because of the stress in the security and economy which the average Israeli feels, the TV is more of a funny relief than in other countries. I think that Israeli TV is simply a mix of serious communication and entertainment. In a country where Hebrew is mostly spoken and where nothing from the rest of the world is in Hebrew there is a need for everything. So satire and sarcasm definitely take back seat to political correctness. There is a regular comedy show on channel 1 which pokes fun at just about everything. Specially Israeli government officials and military leaders. But besides the talk when ordering coffee on Monday morning I don't think that anyone ever paid attention to the content of the show in terms of humiliating attacks. If the Saudis want to compare the Tiida commercial they should take a look at the latest McDonald's commercial. Here the US secret service picks average Israeli teen agers from a dance club and their home. Takes them to a closed McDonald's restaurant, open it just for the visiting US president. This pokes light fun of George Bush or the US secret service. But if George Bush as a US president didn't have a chuckle instead of a feeling of humiliation I would be worried. Actually, thinking about it, I would be worried if the US president even paid attention to a commercial on Israeli TV. In general, Israeli TV reflects the values of free speech and open communication.
But what does this say about Arab television? or worst, about Arab advertising? Well, it probably says that the main TV outlets in the Arab world can not be as free as in other places. Israelis are probably not really surprised or worried. Saudi Arabia and other gulf countries are not considered free politically. The dance between free press and state propaganda takes slightly different twists and turns, but than again this is not a political opinion blog.
Paris Hilton poking fun of John McCain - No Israeli TV commentator was offended.
One little bit of funny TV commercial mention. We get to see US television news channels (CNN, FOX, NBC, etc.) - Fox recently had a commentary on the Paris Hilton spoof of a John McCain presidential commercial. Apparently the mud slinging is starting in full force there. This is something we are going to see soon here when the primaries and the election campaign start soon. I wish Paris would come here, or better, we should get some Israeli bomb shell to copy her. We got lots to learn yet. Enjoy the commercials, they are sometimes better than the news! Read More...

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Lobby - Pickup Bars, Strong Drinks, and Quiet Streets

No need for refined graphics, "The Lobby" is quiet and classy.

"The Lobby" is a small bar on Bazel Street (#30) in Tel Aviv. It opened two years ago in a very quiet location. I can't believe that the owners planned on opening a pick-up bar with strong drinks. Well, this is not exactly a "classical" pick-up bar. The location is just one aspect. Most people would assume that a pick-up bar is going to be in a desolate industrial zone where there is plenty of room and parking and only the desperate and sexually adventurous would be trolling dark bars in search of a one-night-stand. Pick-up bars also come in the glitzier variety catering to lonely business types with a few extra dollars to buy a broken hearted girl a drink. Somehow "The Lobby" has become what I would call a "locals'" pickup bar. Since tourists and business travelers usually take over the bar scene in the city in search of a willing one-nighters partner, there has to be a place for the locals. My "locals" term is describing not just Tel Avivians but also out of town Israelis looking for Israelis and not foreigners. You may think that this is a little discriminatory on the side of Tel Avivians or even Israelis. But a few visits to "The Lobby" and you will see that the place is comfortable and friendly. There is the sexual tension of a pickup bar but also a feel of a friendly neighborhood drinking hole. To some this makes "The Lobby" a less intimidating place.
      The Lobby is essentially a small room that holds about 30 people. There is a long counter on the right side of the room where two barman mix strong traditional drinks. Doreen the waitress (a twenty something divorce lawyer by day) was recommending the large Mojito (a liter of rum, sugar, and your favorite juice with lime) or a Long Island Ice Tea. On hot Tel Aviv summer nights, the Caribbean drinks seem to be the weapon of choice here. "The Lobby" is furnished in comfortable seating, high tables and chairs and decent bar stools at the counter. There is definitely a "regulars" arrangement with reserved spots at the counter and some reserved tables. The lighting is muted but not the kind of dark that you can't see a face 10 feet in front of you.
      The drinks are strong and big. Besides the regular western (European) drinks there is a good selection of Caribbean / Cuban / Mexican drinks. I was a little disappointed when they didn't have a traditional summer Sangria with ice. "The Lobby's" version is served warm for cold winter nights. Staff at "The Lobby" is young and energetic. They greet most guests as if they are regulars, even the ones which are there for the first time. Even a group of 20 something girls which seem to have one-nigher pickup on their mind seem to be welcomed by Doreen and the barman. Overall I give "The Lobby" a high score. If you are looking for a comfortable neighborhood bar for a good drink and a slice of pizza this is the spot. If you are looking for a pickup bar, come here on Wed. to Friday (the other nights are a little slow). [The Lobby, 30 Bazel, Tel: 03-5462714 - Note: This area has little to no parking at night.] Read More...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Pride, Endings, Nail biting and Differences of opinion

Last week a strange and maybe very Israeli experience was taking place here. It was part of the prisoner exchange with Hezbollah from the second Lebanon war. The exchange itself was televised and reported in the papers. It seems that the two kidnapped Israeli soldiers were coming back. The public was not sure if they were alive or not. Actually, it seemed a long time ago that they were not alive and the Israel Defense Force has already declared them dead. But among all the news, commentary, and opinion there was something that was very unique. It was Israeli but also Tel Avivi in nature. For a long time, maybe even longer than the second Lebanon war (in 2006), Tel Aviv has not reacted this way. Suddenly the voices from every television set took over the air in Tel Aviv. From open windows and porches, in every corner candy store, in cafes and restaurants, the pictures and voices of reporters and commentators were in the background. The feeling in the air was a mixture of sad reality and hope for a miracle. Most of all it was the feeling that we are all in this together. While the soldiers have families, army friends, and close relatives, they also belong to "us".

TV reporter and commentator while the prisoner exchange was going on.
Most people in everyday life do not care on a personal level about every soldier. You need to keep some distance to cope with death. But the faces of the two kidnapped were on bulletin boards and newspaper ads the last two years. This reporting and advertising and especially the speeches from Hezbollah, some from Nasralla, some from others, have kept the memory alive. This was the day to finish this story, good or bad. Since there has not been a full scale war the last few years, many in Israel assumed that Tel Avivians do not care about kidnapped soldiers. This was the hope of the Palestinians, especially Nasralla and Hezbollah. Many times Nasralla said that Israel is too soft and that soldiers will not fight like in the past. He also said that the population simply does not care to support the soldiers. For some reason, seeing how Israel has become more quiet and more ordinary has equated this to what is seen in most western countries. Where only a small part of the population directly involved in the military is truly worried about soldiers and fighting and the missing and the dead. But that does not seem to be the situation in Tel Aviv. On July 17th, when the exchange with Hezbollah took place, nobody in Tel Aviv seemed to ignore the TVS. As the news progressed it became clear that the two "missing" soldiers are not alive. It was also clear that they were probably not alive much beyond the day they were taken two years ago. In other places there would probably be anger and blame on Hezbollah and Nasralla. In Tel Aviv the feeling was sadness and relief. Now we knew what the situation was. We also knew that there is not going to be any regrets, the soldiers will have to be buried and another chapter of this sad saga was over.
      If you come to Tel Aviv when an event like this happens, take some time to speak with people in cafes and going about town. You will find deep concern and care like no other place. Sometimes there is not much we can do about Hezbollah and Nasralla, but there is a great deal we can do about each other. This is something that CNN, NBC, or BBC will not tell you very clearly. Actually, it seems to me that the media outlets are more concerned with what Nasralla says than what people really feel and do on the streets of Tel Aviv. Which is probably the sign of the times. I guess George Orwell was not that far off when describing the future in "1984". Read More...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Pictures from around the city - Tel Aviv, Israel

Tel Aviv has a surprising variety of things to look at. Lots of people ask me what you see when you are looking around. So here are a few pictures of all kind of things...
Synagogue sign, Yehosua Ben-Noon street

The streets of the city look different from hour to hour. Busy streets are virtually abandoned - fashionable cafes turn to ghost palaces...

Quiet Bugrashov cafe in mid-day, it will be hard to find a seat come 11:00 PM!

Young artists come in all forms and shapes. Tel Aviv has the blend of street art, classical art, and even religious and antique art. Here is a little of the street art.

Graffiti off Bugrashov Street. Hip stores lend their windows as canvas.

Quiet streets full of shade are abandoned on hot summer days. On Friday evening Chev (Haim Nachman // Bialik) Street will be full of family strollers pushing babies along.

Empty Chen Boulevard on a hot summer morning

Protest, solidarity, political activism is a daily part of Tel Aviv. But with a city which has every type of religion and political view, most gatherings are not that exciting.

Protest-Solidarity for the Sderot bombings (February 2008)

Monday, July 14, 2008

The quality of isolation: creativity, independence, self reliance

The other day a small film crew was interviewing an Israeli Blogger in Dizengoff Center. There was not real fuss, just two video cameras, lights, a producer and a director and two people with a little too much makeup having coffee. I remember seeing huge film crew in San Francisco and New York. Once in a while in a Boston suburb. But in Tel Aviv you can see little art being made all over the place. Besides the regular artist area south of the Shalom Tower, and the somewhat artificial artsy old Yaffo, there are little studios and workshops in the strangest areas of the city.

A blogger interview in Dizengoff Center: typical of lots of small productions in Tel Aviv
There is also a somewhat vivid post secondary art community with all kind of programs. Lately it seems like the film schools are buzzing with action all over the place. Most of the students use somewhat old professional equipment, I have no idea where they get it, but it's probably whatever still works from the TV channels, leftover foreign crew equipment, and whatever the Israeli army has not munged to death. The army trains lots of photographers and a fair number of videographers. When the intifadas where going full tilt, there were lots of video people all over the place. Every demonstration and odd activity was filmed and the Palestinians knew how to avoid these hidden lenses. This is what eventually got them to adopt the full head cover with the keffiyeh, that famous Arab scarf in the distinctive white and black or red pattern.
Jump Cut school for editors and animators - art in the city?!
But as you may imagine, filming riots of Palestinian and Israeli army "action" does not a film maker makes. Israel and to some extent Tel Aviv are going through a metamorphosis of sort. Small trade schools which were essential technical institutes for all kind of trades are growing quickly. Mostly because the universities are not big enough to take all the students which want to attend. Also, there are many new areas which excite young people which the universities have never taught. So the film, editing, photo, and performing art institutes are growing like a runner on steroids. Which is not a bad thing at all. So enjoy the original Israeli movies, music, and dance.
So back to the title, if you were still wondering what this is all about? If Israel had relationships with Arab countries, for example Egypt, Israelis would probably opt to go an study there. Unbeknown to most westerners, the Egyptian film industry is only second to to the Indian Bollywood and the American Hollywood. Egyptian film industry dwarfs anything in Europe, Africa, and Asia! But total cultural and trade isolation gives Israeli schools an opportunity to thrive. Sometimes and they say, you got to make lemonade from lemons... just leave the sugar out for me ;-)
Film makers and producers - all kind of schools...
Jump Cut - School for editors and animators
Minshar - Open University film program (BA)

Religious and Secular thoughts about progress

Rabbis are worried about too many Jews
In a recent talk with Elinor, a TV producer, the topic of how people in Tel Aviv see themselves came up. Her friend wrote a book on how Tel Avivians turned complacent, comfortable, bordering on hedonistic. There is definitely a view that life in Tel Aviv is getting "too soft, too comfortable, too isolated from reality". What does this mean? People still struggle here, from finding a decent apartment to balancing work with life... from finding a little peace and quiet in a noisy city, to just avoiding dog poop on the sidewalk at night. Big issues to small ones, they have not gone away, just changed.
It is true that Tel Aviv has become a comfortable metropolis. It is true that Israel's central region is modern and runs well - maybe TOO WELL? (some say!) But Tel Aviv does have the same problems any large metropolis has. The city has a chronic housing shortage, but buildings are still small and personal and not crowded like European cities: Paris, Amsterdam, or Rome. Tel Aviv has a chronic parking shortage, but the city grew out of small street architecture just at the dawn of the automotive age. For over 80 years city planners were thinking about public transportation while residents prefer cars, bikes, and mopeds. Tel Aviv as a city simply changed "too quickly".
But Elinor's point reminded me of another rather extreme position we hear on the street. There is a renewed fierce verbal battle over the view of "who is a Jew". The more orthodox rabbis want to limit the official religious Jewish conversions (official state approved). This goes for both men and women's conversions. But the issue is also pushed in the other direction by more secular rabbis which want to welcome anyone who wants to live and settle in Israel.
These two issues seem to manifest the difficulty in changing view points and mind sets from the past. Thinking that life is too good for "US" is what our parents and grandparents have been hearing in Europe and in Arab countries - long before the state of Israel gained independence and was a Jewish state. The rabbis of today are still thinking and ACTING as if they were in small isolated villages (shtettles). Where bringing someone from the outside was not just strange, unacceptable, hard, but EVEN DANGEROUS! Stories of reprisals in the form of fines and even communal punishment for enticing Christians to become Jews were not strange to us two generations ago. These stories - or the isolated thinking that we hold seem to be still echoing in our minds. But we are not in rural Poland or Yemen any more. Actually we have not been there for two or three generations already.
These deja-vu thinkers are not just as nostalgic curiosities. They are actually disturbing and border on the dangerous. If we keep to our old ways of thinking we may actually hurt ourselves. If we keep to our old ways of thinking we will act accordingly and hurt ourselves. Our thinking will stop us from moving Tel Aviv and Israel as a Jewish state from forward progress. Our geographic, cultural, and historic advantages will be held back. This is what conservative, dictatorial, and religious countries are doing all around us. You don't have to look hard to find crippled countries. They come in every shape and color, they behave in every imaginable way - but basically they hurt people and the overall society.
The Tel Aviv view of change seem to come from just seeing it on the street, on people's faces, in how we live. Change just comes to us, we do not seem to plan or seek it. Some of our old politicians seem to have tried both: planning -or- stopping / ignoring. But neither one seem to work very well. It seems that people change as they see fit, when they don't, we clash. Read More...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The feeling of Tel Aviv

What is Tel Aviv? How does it feel to be in Tel Aviv? This city is the Queen City of Israel. Tel Aviv is so much more than just 500,000 people, brick and mortar. This is a city with a positive attitude. A city on the move where the city administration take pride in it. You will find improving infrastructure work all over town.

This is a city where people work. We have the lowest unemployment in the country (less than 2%). Tel Avivians work hard and play hard. Some people who don't live here express their jealousy by saying that Tel Aviv doesn't really express the old, let's all suffer together like in good old days of socialism.

Well, we Tel Avivians have a different attitude. We are a bit self centered and enjoy the good things a city has to offer. To those who don't like us, sam-D-man says: too bad!

Tel Aviv is a city of capitalism. Socialism is dead in Tel Aviv. This is a city of dynamic private enterprise. People from all over the world want to come to Tel Aviv to do business. This city is open 24 X 7.

The people have an attitude that they are important to the country and should be an example You get the feeling of life as you sit in a cafe or restaurant in the city.

This is the city that makes the country tick. Our beautiful beaches are packed with Tel Avivians enjoying our city. This is one of the greatest cities in the world to work, play, or vacation in.

We love Tel Aviv, sam-d-man

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Cats in Tel Aviv... and a bit around

Cats seem to be everywhere in Tel Aviv. Not the ones which just walk out of the house and explore the neighborhood. The wild ones, that live on the street. Tel Avivians have a love - don't care relationship with cats. On one side they feed them, you see leftover food in aluminum pans tucked away in strange spots. Even bits or cat food left at the same spot every day. Left alone, cats will find their way in the city, the play, fight, breed... Tel Avivians are not exactly sure if the breeding and multiplying aspect of cats is such a good idea. Not that they do much about it. But in the spring and most of the summer you see tiny furry newborn kittens. The majority consensus is that they will mostly die. Some from too little food, some from animal attacks, some simply are too sick or small to survive. The weather here is always fair, so cats don't need to find a place to keep warm. Even on the coldest nights the temperature does not go below freezing.

Cat nap on an artificial tree, North Dizengoff Street, Tel Aviv
Cats have a special status in Tel Aviv. They are left alone and city animal control officials essentially ignore them. Dogs on the other hand must be muzzled, leashes, and most of all owned, registered, AND TAGGED! But not so for cats. They just strut around, nap as they please, and curl up to a willing leg for some attention. If you ask most Tel Avivians about this strange situation you will get a range of answers. The most interesting is the absolute FACT that cats eat mice. Well, for the most part, this is not entirely true. Cats do chase the little critters and once in a while play and kill them. If you ask most pest experts they would probably not advise on getting a cat to get rid of mice. The other interesting answer is that cats are clean. There is an urban legend that cats do not carry communicable diseases and therefore we should not have any cause for concern. I think that most physicians and public health officials would tend not to push that point too much. But overall, cats are nice to look at. Tel Aviv has a good amount of birds, nice dogs, and once in a while you will see a bunny or a ferret in a child's room. But cats, are what this is city is all about. Oh, one more thing, this love affair with street cats is not just in Tel Aviv. Actually, when you look around in Givatayim, Ramat Gan, Hertzelia, and Holon, you are bound to find a great deal of cats. I worked for a while in the Hertzelia Pituach industrial area and early in the morning I would see cats everywhere. They were still on their morning walk before the buzz of the day started. In Givatayim you can see group of cats hanging out in parks and between buildings, specially in areas where they are fed regularly. Read More...

Friday, July 4, 2008

Sicilian love songs in opera style - White Night @ Tel Aviv

Last night was the "White Night" - Tel Aviv's all night celebration. So we went out to sample the events mostly looking for music. A few restaurants offered the special 78 shekel dinner but being all over town, we decided to stay close to the tayelet area. We ended up having a great meal at the Goocha on Ben Gurion and Dizengoff. Then we set off to explore the music. The exciting thing of going out in search of something without a plan, is finding something that you wouldn't be looking for. We certainly found this in a fantastic performance of Italian popular songs by an Israeli Opera singer. He was backed up by non-less a Russian quartet: an accordion, two balalaikas, and a base guitar. The sound could not have been better. The stage was set up next to the Sheraton hotel just above Gordon beach. This area used to be a big Israeli folk dancing stage years ago before the intifadas, when the tourists use to come to the beach and dance all night, but the area has been neglected until now. Luckily Tel Aviv city hall is cleaning and renovating the area once again. There are certainly less tourists to dance, but that does not mean that Tel Avivians can't enjoy this wonderful spot.

Israel Opera soloist singing Sicilian pop songs in opera style: bravo! fantastico!
OK, back to the music. This opera singer and four musicians gave a two hour performance of non-stop Italian hits and the crowd was mesmerized. Talking about a pleasant surprise. First of all the sound was amazing. The setup was a little tricky since there are two bars in the area, but it worked fine. The opera singing together with popular Italian tunes is a wonderful combination. I think that most of the people were not only surprised but also didn't imagine how nice it is to sit by the water on a warm night and be literally serenaded. Now I can understand why Italians really don't have competition in the romance category. They simply put their heart into this and it comes out in music. You can say whatever you want about Opera and Italian music, but you can't beat their love songs. Once again Tel Aviv surprises and delights, if you missed the "White Night" - put it on your calender, because next year will certainly be another delightful surprise! Read More...