a different side of Israel

Tag: New York (page 4 of 5)

Private Philanthropists Outshined Government During War

Israel’s 34 day Lebanese War, now hopefully on hold, created a lot of friction between northern residents and local/national government officials, especially in regards to providing assistance for more than one million people during this period. A few private philanthropists, however, took on themselves to help alleviate people’s suffering, by providing temporary accommodations in the central and southern parts of Israel; and at their own expense.

Though not a perfect solution, billionaire Arkady Gaidamak‘s “Tent City” in the southern city of Nitzanim (the same place where a number of former Gaza settlers still live in temporary accommodations), helped give northerners at least a feeling of safety: and also a feeling that someone really cared for their welfare. Though the government finally did jump on the bandwagon by creating similar accommodations at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds, Gadarnak’s immediate efforts showed that private individuals and organizations can often provide solutions much quicker than government departments or ministries bogged down in indecisiveness and ‘red tape’ bureaucracy. Another known philanthropist, Dudu Zibershlag ,who together with his wife head a social assistance ‘umbrella’ organization, Meir Panim, helped provide clothing, food, toys, and other needed items to needy people, many of them who fled their northern communities with little more than the clothes on their backs.

A number of wealthy Israelis living abroad also got into the act, including former fashion model Ilana Shoshan-Diament, now living in Los Angeles; who together with her husband Moshe, distributed more than $40,000 worth of toys and games obtained from an on-line toy company. Ilana also provided comfort to the firefighters who battled blazes set by exploding Katyusha rockets. She personally distributed large quantities of cake and soft drinks to them during the crises.

A number of Israeli personalities, including Asst. Prime Minister Shimon Peres, and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, have gone abroad on fundraising campaigns to raise money to help rebuild the damage caused to northern communities and assist residents there to put their shattered lives back together again. Barak’s mission, to cities such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Atlanta, hopes to raise a sum of $300 million for the needed rebuilding and economic restoration.

Numerous articles have already been written about how the country’s northern residents felt abandoned by the government and left to languish in either inadequate shelters, or to fend for themselves by seeking safer havens further south. The efforts of members of Israel’s private citizenry and especially by people such as Gaidamak and Zibershlag, helped fill in the gaps when government officials were too busy holding press conferences to express their wartime rhetoric.

Is Israel’s New War Necessary?

Daniel Pipes, a world renowned commentator and author, wrote an article to both the New York Sun and Jerusalem entitled: Israel’s Unnecessary War. The gist of the article dealt with Israel’s past dealings with both the Palestinians and Hezbollah, including pulling out Lebanon in May, 2000, as well as last summer’s disengagement from Gaza. He also pointed out that many think that this new conflict is mainly for the purpose of obtaining the release of two kidnapped soldiers from the Hezbollah, as well as a third from the Palestinians. While the two incidents that resulted in these kidnappings and deaths of 10 Israeli soldiers may have been the “straw that broke the camel’s back”, they are not the main reason for the intense fighting that is now occurring on no less than three fronts, including the West Bank.

Lebanon war 2006Israel has had to deal with entities who want nothing more than to destroy the Jewish State – to “wipe it off the face of the map” as Iranian president Ahmadinejad so graphically expressed it. Even deceased Yassir Arafat, who often proclaimed himself to be Israel’s ‘partner for peace’ gave covert orders and permission for suicide bombers to blow themselves up on Israeli busses, at shopping malls, and at discotheques. On Israel’s northern borders, the Hezbollah were causing problems years before former P.M. Ehud Barak consented to pull Israel’s troops out of the so-called ‘security zone” which had been set up to keep these forces for firing their Ketusha and other types of missiles into Israeli towns and cities. We all now see that what is going on, from Hezbollah’s viewpoint anyway, has in the works for years. Even Nashrallah himself admitted that his organization had been building up their armament for years, getting for such a day. When they well able fill in the vacuum that had been created, following Israel’s pullout, Israeli border towns and settlements suddenly found themselves facing the smiling and bearded faces of Hezbollah fighters, now occupying positions that both the IDF and the SLA (Southern Lebanese Army) had been occupying – even using equipment that Israel, due to lack of time, had not been able to bring back.

An unnecessary war? War in itself is never pleasant, and is always filled with horrors and human suffering. Many wars are necessary, however, in order to defeat forces of darkness who want to shut off the lift of freedom and enlightenment that would set back civilization to a darker era. The recent article comparing Israel’s present plight with that of England in the early days of WWII is a sterling example. Just look what is presently going on in Israel’s north, with more than a million people living in shelters, and with more internal death, injuries, and property damage than any war fought by the Jewish State since the War of Independence in 1948-49. And this destruction is far from being over, with fears that it could reach Israel’s center; and even Jerusalem as well.

A lot of talk about Israel government policies, including the pull out for Gaza, organized by Ariel Sharon, and a possible future one form the West Bank, have been criticized by many, with the belief that is has weakened Israel’s position with it’s enemies. These matters are open to interpretation and discussion and the final outcome will only be known years from now. The question before all of us living here in this new reality is whether we will ever be able to live ‘side by side’ with these people (i.e., the Palestinians) at all. Lebanon is another matter, and though the Lebanese have virtually no kind feelings toward Israel at present, they may change their minds one day when they have their country back – out of the hands of those who want to change it into something that the majority of those Lebanese, who went out into the streets of Beirut to celebrate the withdraw of Syrian forces, would not like to happen. Few if any of them would like to see their country turned into another Islamic republic, like Iran.

And this war, as painful for them as it is, will hopefully help them realize the dawn of a new day.

A Sailor’s Hymn

“Home is the sailor, home from the sea; and the hunter, home form the hill”. These verses from the poem by A.E. Houseman, are mute reminders of the contribution that the State of Israel’s small, but important naval forces make for the security of their country. The loss of four members of an Israeli missile boat when struck by a Hezbollah launched missile, once again brings attention to a branch of Israel’s armed forces who have managed to perform their duties in both peace and war, with the loss of relatively few of their comrades. The only graphic exception, outside of this recent incident was the accidental sinking of the Israeli submarine, Dakar, which sank with all hands on board on its maiden voyage back to Israel from England in 1968 after being purchased from the British Royal Navy. Only recently did the true fate of the Dakar and its crew of 69 become known when the long vanished sub was finally located on the bottom of the Mediterranean off the Island of Crete.

Many countries who have both military navies, as well as merchant marine fleets, have their own version of the Sailor’s Hymn. One of the most notable, composed by American Rear Admiral Charles Jackson in 1879, and heard often by U.S, Navy choral groups, begins as follows:

Eternal Father, Strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bid’st the mighty Ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
O hear us when we cry to thee,
for those in peril on the sea.

Though based on a Christian Protestant song, sung by coastal churches where sailing vessels were a vital part of the lives of people living in cities like Boston, Philadelphia, New York, and Baltimore, the song is still a fitting tribute to those who brave the seas and ocean’s waves on ships of all types; for both war and peace.

Being a Jewish State, Israel cannot use this hymn to honor its men at sea. It would be fitting, therefore for a special song to be composed, with both music and words to pay tribute to those naval personnel who have fallen in the line of duty. The Torah and other parts of the Holy Scriptures have many verses and psalms dealing with the sea, and deliverance from it, including the Chapters from Genesis dealing with Noah and his family, and a later separate book, the Book of Jonah. Both of these examples have fitting excerpts which, together with the proper musical rendition would make into a most beautiful Sailor’s Hymn for Israel’s naval personnel.

The announcement by the Israeli Navy that the bodies of all four sailors were found at least brings some comfort to their grieving families who can now bury their love ones and visit their graves. Those lost at sea, however, such as the Dakar’s crew, are lost forever; as trying to recover them from more than 2,000 feet of water is too difficult, considering the logistical factors involved. They, together with literally thousands more worldwide, share the sea as their common grave.

Still, proper attention needs to be paid to these brave men and the important duties performed for the welfare of their nation. And nothing more suitable and fitting a tribute is needed than to compose a special hymn or prayer in their honor, which will be a lasting reminder of the duties sacrifices by this special branch of Israel’s military forces.

Aroma hits New York – Burekas Anyone ?

Aroma hits New YorkIn case you are walking around Soho (Houston Street) in NYC and have a craving for an Israeli Burekas, you now can satisfy the itch. Aroma Café chain from Israel just opend its first North American store last week. The 24 Hour Aroma Coffee Bar offers most of the items that you can find in its Israeli branches. Aroma Coffee did the proper research and using focus groups made up the North American flavor of their menu offering. The chain selected SOHO, more precisely West Houston Street (South side), across from the NYU dorms. This is Aroma’s first step abroad and this New York launch will be followed by a Toronto store launching a little later in the year.

Some Numbers. The chain did the market research with Ernst & Young and finally invested $1.6 Million in building the store. Rent is $300,000 annually and the starting price for a cup of coffee is $3. The 33 year old franchisee in charge has been living in NYC with his family since January preparing the launch.

A select team of Aroma employees were sent to the NYC branch for the grand opening, they apparently had a few English lessons learning how to say “welcome to Aroma” with a NY accent – not an easy task!

If you are in NYC drop by, I am sure they’ll be happy to see you :) Good luck guys !!

Meat and Wine Company – Kosher Dining With Class

Dining out in Israel has always been a challenge for observant people who want quality dining as well as top notch service. With the opening of a new quality restaurant, The Meat and Wine Company, in Herzlia Petuah, kosher diners will now have an opportunity to enjoy a truly quality meat restaurant without compromising their religious beliefs.

The new restaurant is part of a chain founded by a South African company that plans to open several of them in Israel, including Eilat. Religious diners in that city will soon be able enjoy a fine meal without having to remain in their hotels, once that city’s branch is opened. The company, which opened a restaurant in Dubai, in the U.A.E. received very favorable response there, resulting in their planning to open other branches elsewhere in the ‘Gulf’.
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Photographing women in the IDF

Ashkan Sahihi: women in the IDF
Women of the Israel Defense Forces, by Ashkan Sahihi

Ashkan Sahihi is an Iranian-American photographer who has gained fame with his remarkable portraits. I met him at a party in New York several years ago, where his Drug Series – portraits of non-drug users feeling the effects of substances they were using for the first time – was on exhibition.

We fell into conversation, and I learned that he was born in Iran to a Baha’i family that moved to Germany when he was a child, and from there to the United States. He told me that he remembered visiting Israel as a child, when his family came to see the world-famous Baha’i temple in Haifa. He said he fell in love with Israel, and wanted to visit again.

The Baha’i Temple, Haifa

Several years later, I met him by chance at a Tel Aviv art gallery. He had come to Israel at the invitation of the Israeli foreign ministry, to promote his Women of the Israel Defense Forces series.

Women of the IDF

When Ashkan’s series was exhibited at a San Francisco gallery a couple of years ago, he was interviewed for the Jewish News Weekly of Northern California.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Considering Sahihi’s track record with the taboo, it is no surprise he chose uniformed youth gripping guns twice the size of their forearms for his series. “The women introduce two additional layers to an already multilayered subject matter. They bring up the question of democratic society vs. non-democratic society,” Sahihi, who was born in Iran and raised in Germany, explains.

“For example, feminists in Germany and Sweden have been arguing in support of women in military service, but by the same token German feminists consider Israeli politics aggressive, occupational and undemocratic.”

And then there is the issue of beauty. “In open-minded circles people find anything with guns uncool and perverted. They are chicks with guns, but there’s no way you can’t see human beauty in them. You could hate what they stand for and the sick man who produced the photographs,” he says with a laugh. “But there is plain imagery, beauty that you can’t escape.”

It’s safe to say that Ashkan courts controversy, and I’m perfectly fine with that. His images may be shocking sometimes, but they are never boring, they are often thought-provoking and they are even more often very beautiful.

Israeli street art exhibition in New York

Street Art by Rami Memri
Street art by Rami Memri

Via Stephanie, I found out that the works of some of Israel’s most talented street artists are currently on view at the Bronfman Center Gallery in New York.

Stephanie wrote an excellent article about the exhibition that was published here, but I’d just like to add my two cents.

First of all, Rami Memri’s site is amazing. Check it out to see a whole gallery of his striking works, many of which I have admired while walking on the streets of Tel Aviv.

And secondly, if you live in the New York area you really should take a look at the exhibition – the works are just stunning evidence of why Israeli artists and photographers have been gaining an international reputation over the past few years. There’s some awesome talent in this country, and some very serious international art dealers have long been aware of that fact.

Nir Aharon, whose works are also at the Bronfman Gallery exhibition, has taken some inspiration from Jean-Michel Basquiat and created his own original art. Like this piece:

If you live in New York, here’s your chance to find out what the buzz is all about. Check it out.
Jean-Michel Basquiat

Late Night Fantasy Animation by Eyal Katz

Eyal Katz is a very talented animator and graphic designer. His talents include GUI and interactive creation, web design, 3D modelling and animation, book design and creative, games and educational software interface development, character design and animation and marketing demos and brand development.
He went to school at New York Institute of Technology, Fashion Institute of Technology (NYC) and Bezalel Academy of Art in Jerusalem. He was also a Major in the Israeli Navy.

He created this “Late Night Fantasy” animation. You can visit his very cool site and contact him HERE.

Click Play to start.


The Israeli Samson

Israeli body builder
Amit Saphir, Israeli body builder

by David Levy

Amit Saphir is Israel’s number one weightlifter and bodybuilder, and, for his weight class, one of the strongest men in the world. He bench presses 167.5 kilos, and can squat and dead-pull 250, almost three-and-a-half times his weight. Not only does this make him far and away Israel’s best squatter and dead-puller, it rates him as the eighth best in the world.

Saphir qualified for the 2004 Athens Olympic team, but dislocated his shoulder attempting to break an Israeli weightlifting record in the last trial round, and was forced to watch from the sidelines. Afterward, he decided to focus solely on bodybuilding. He placed a disappointing nineteenth at this year’s World Bodybuilding championships in Shanghai, four spots short of advancement to the semifinals. However, at 24, Amit has not yet reached his peak (A bodybuilder’s prime is from the late twenties to mid-thirties), and the finish spoke to his boundless potential.
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New York Times conducting an election poll in Israel

Here’s an interesting little bit of information. A few minutes ago I got an automated survey call. One of those relaxed sounding cyborg women asked me who I was going to choose in the upcoming elections. (note to self find out why the hell I keep getting these…) In the last 3 months I have received calls from the cyborg clones of Shimon Peres, Ehud Olmeret and a few others I try to forget.

ANYWAY, the interesting thing about this call was that this was a poll done by THE NEW YORK TIMES ! Haaa… I bet you not every country gets automated survey calls (in Hebrew) from the New York Times before they’re elections.

I can’t decide if this is a bad thing or a good thing…

I hung up by the way.

Not Jewish?! What are you doing here? (Part Three)

Jill Cartwright

Sweet Tel Aviv
by Jill Cartwright

Part Three of Jill Cartwright’s memoir about moving to Israel as a non-Jew at the height of the second intifada focuses on her first months as a newly single woman in Tel Aviv, one of the world’s great party cities.
Part one; part two.

Friendships are formed hard and fast in Israel. It seems that people here have neither the time nor inclination for social niceties; they would rather get down to the genuine article without any fake politeness or pretending. It’s a little shocking at first, but then it’s most refreshing. I think it’s Israel. Something in the “here and nowness” of the place causes people to either make an almost instant and powerful connection or just not bother.

It’s not just with Israelis. I have friends here from many countries – Canada, South Africa, the U.S. and France – and our friendships were formed quicker and deeper than many relationships I spent years cultivating in England.

Maybe because we liked and adopted the Israeli directness, maybe because after living here for a while, we too started to forget the meaning of “personal space” and “private life,” or maybe because it takes a certain kind of mentality, Jewish or not, to up and move to Israel and we all need to connect with like-minded eccentrics.

And back then in particular, when I first moved to Tel Aviv, it seemed no one saw the point in adhering to the normal rules of social behaviour in the western world. That was at the height of the second intifada, when suicide bombings averaged five per week. Nobody visited Israel except journalists, diplomats and the occasional intrepid businessperson; the hotels were empty. All around, the world wasn’t adhering to any rules at all. This was Israel 2002 – and, to a certain extent, the post 9/11 world.
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Adi Nes: Israeli photographer

Adi Nes is one of Israel’s best-known and most respected photographers. His works have appeared in European and American galleries and museums, where they were met with critical acclaim and a great deal of notice by the press. Many of his photographs have become so familiar in Israel that they have all but entered the canon of iconic images.

Nes, who is 39, got his first big international break in 1998, when his works were included in a special exhibition, called “After Rabin: New Art from Israel,” at New York’s Jewish Museum. Since then has had solo exhibitions at important museums and galleries in New York, San Francisco and Paris; one of his photographs, The Last Supper, was recently auctioned at Sotheby’s for more than $70,000.

This is the striking photograph that appeared on the advertisement for the exhibition at the Jewish Museum. It gained a captive audience of commuters when it appeared in practically all the subway trains for several months:

Muscular soldier
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Schulz on Hamas, flinching, Buchanan probation and the Marshall Plan

By Denis Schulz

“Everybody is saying exactly the same thing,” said U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, “There has got to be a peaceful road ahead. You cannot be on the one hand dedicated to peace and on the other dedicated to violence. Those two things are irreconcilable.” That makes sense. The U.S. will not send taxpayers’ money to Hamas.

German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, said “continued cooperation (with the Palestinian Authority) will only be possible under three conditions: Hamas needs to recognize the existence of Israel; Hamas has to prove that the use of violence is out of the question, and Hamas needs to respect and accept steps in the peace process reached so far.” It’s the same thing here. Germany will not aid or abet Hamas.

French Foreign Minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, said, “I say to Hamas: meet your responsibilities, choose dialogue and not violence. Hamas must recognize the Oslo accords.” That makes it a threesome. French francs will not be making their way to Hamas.

Kofi Annan, U.N. Secretary-General, said, “If Hamas transforms itself from an armed movement into a political party respecting the rules of the game. I think the international community should be able to work with them.” Ah, yes, the ring is closing around Hamas. No aid in this direction either.

Javier Solana, foreign policy boss of the European Union, said, “All the ideas we have put on the table have been around for a long time, so I think it’s reasonable to put these ideas and sentiments from the international community publicly so (Hamas) understands very well the position we have.” Once again no aid for Hamas!

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Yuval Yairi

Introducing Yuval Yairi, a very talented visual artist. Now showing at the Alon Segev Gallery in Tel Aviv.
Biography is attached below..

Yuval Yairi - Basement with typewriter and bottles

Yuval Yairi - East Bridge

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Yochai Avrahami

Yochai Avrahmi creates some unique pieces of art. A Bezalel school graduate he is showing his work at the Alon Segev Gallery in Tel Aviv.
Biography is below.

Friend or Foe - Yochai Avrahmi

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