a different side of Israel

Tag: Tech (page 3 of 4)

Alice in Job-Hunt Land (Fourth Part)

Read part one, two and three .

Alice in WonderlandYeah, still here. But never discouraged, not me. I really believe I will find a good job, ultimately. I know it’s a long process, that takes a lot of time and patience (and strong nerves!), and which involves confidence, skills and — a whole lot of luck.

But, you’d figure a person with academic background and work experience from Tel Aviv (and not some deserted town) would find a job easily. Well, no. Work places, naturally, want the best employees available, but afraid that someone too intelligent or ambitious might not want to stay around for too long, being unsatisfied with the mediocre sort of job (“overqualified,” don’t you just hate that word?). What if a person wants to just earn some money by working in a nice place with relatively interesting tasks, alongside the somewhat boring routine administrative ones? Do employers really think that whoever studies literature, philosophy or history, for example, absolutely has to deal with these issues all day long?

It’s even more absurd when you look at the job offers especially for the same students during their studies. Noticed an ad directed to students? Bound to be one of the following: telemarketing, technical support, delivery, or security (this particular field, by the way, embracing a whole spreadsheet since it’s become in the last 5 years or so a crucial need here in Israel).

What’s the salary rate, you’re asking, paid to these intelligent young students? Not too far above the minimum rate. So, true, students may not be the steadiest employees in the long run, and may have other things on their minds during the study year, but isn’t it the same thing with any one else – be it a young person planning their essential post-army grand trip, young mothers and fathers, or any other individual who would think of promoting their career, and not necessarily in the same place? Are there any other excuses for this humiliating treatment?

But, hey, why should I be still complaining so much about this, I’m almost finishing my master’s degree already. Could it be a curse that lays upon us “students”…?

Technologically-Challenged Unite

Inspector GadgetA nice middle-aged woman holds her cell phone in one hand, in the other something that resembles a small mp3-player. That’s what I can discern from where I’m standing, waiting for nearly an hour in the fancy new hospital with my father, who came for some simple medical examinations and needed entertainment. I’m sitting down in the now empty seat next to her, and overhear her conversation, in which she apparently receives directions on how to use the little gadget that is now carefully seated in her lap.

She repeats the directions, closely examines the tiny buttons and then just seems to push them all, one after the other. Headphones go up and down, head tilted in expectation, eyes squinting… no go. At this point I feel really badly for her, and for not saying anything, but I wait patiently to see if the person on the other side eventually succeeds without my having to rudely interrupt their conversation. I stop staring at her downcast head and chat with my bored dad.

After a little while I understand that the conversation is over and the problem is yet unsolved. “Um… excuse me,” I turn to her, “I might know how to help you with this thing you have there. We have something similar and I was just about to teach my dad here how to use it” (swear to god, that was the truth!).

Her relieved smile lights up her pleasant face, and she turns to me with her hands, holding the source of bewilderment, extended in despair. “That was my son on the phone,” she says apologetically, “he said I’ll probably be able to find someone young to help me out…”

(Photograph courtesy of Disney)


CPUThere are currently 6 open windows on my computer. I write this now using one program, chat a bit with a friend or two on another, hum the tune that’s playing on my Media Player (whose lyrics I meanwhile look up in another window) (and yet another window opens – damned pop-ups!). Nice song, that one. But rather slow. Next! C’mon, c’mon… Gimme sth fast, sth cool, coz it’s a brand new high-speed world we live in.

Have you sometimes wondered what it’s going to be like in, say, ten years from now? What am I talking about… in less than five years the whole world can change at the current speedy rate of technological advances. And I’m not even talking about major revolutions or strange new worlds and new civilizations.

Just think of the way everything in this world has become much faster, much more multifaceted. Remember we used to follow the little blue squares of the “Downloading Files” window? Now we’re all multi-tasking, quickly switching between windows, languages, even moods and identities, if to think of the great wonders of the World Wide Web just at the tips of our quick fingers.

And what’s the future of music? How many loved oldies survive these days only thanks to new covers and renditions that speed them up and add background sounds and other instruments? How much patience do you have for slow, meditative songs or melodies, or the famous 70’s 13-mintues guitar solos? Try listening to old radio or TV shows and see how s-l-o-w-l-y they used to speak, and how little patience you have for them to finish the sentence.

We want it all – and we want it NOW. It’s natural, sure, not saying it isn’t. But, it’s pretty hard to imagine how faster music can go from the already high point of 300 bpm (and how many speedcore fans do we have here in the audience tonight?).

Boy that was long. You still there? Thought you wouldn’t find the time/patience to read it through thru.

Atonement: Who Needs it Most?

Two nights ago ushered in the Jewish Day of Atonement, otherwise known as Yom Kippur. This the last High Holiday of the period that Jews refer to as the Ten Days of Penitence in which Man’s fate for the coming year is sealed by God. Judging from events which have occurred during the year of 5766, and especially in regards to events in Israel, now containing the largest Jewish population in the world, a number of notable figures have much to atone for. For sake of brevity, the most notable ones will be mentioned here:

1. Kobi Alexander: Former head of Comverse Technologies Ltd, who fled the country after being suspected of massive securities fraud in the manipulation of his company’s shares. He has recently captured in Namibia, and is how awaiting extradition hearings and subsequent return to Israel to face charges.

2. Moshe Katsav: Israel’s President now under investigation for several instances of sexual miss-conduct and harassment. News articles occurring almost daily, revolve around Mr. Katzav alleged philandering, especially involving a somewhat comely young lady known as “A.”

3. Ofer Glazer: another sexual ‘misconductor’ who is married to Israeli heiress and billionaire Shari Arison. Glazer is expected to begin serving a six month prison sentence for making advances towards his wife’s hired nurse. Needless to say the affair has been a bit embarrassing for Shari.

4. Dan Halutz: Israeli Army Chief of Staff who is being blamed by many, particularly IDF reserve soldiers to not managing the Israeli Armed Forces properly during the 34 day conflict in July and August. According to Danny; he’s right and everyone else is wrong. Maybe there’s some truth in this.

5. Omri Sharon: Ariel Sharon’s eldest son and also in trouble with the Law over alleged misuse of campaign funds for his father’s re-election bid in 2003. Omri may also have to serve some time in jail, currently delayed due to the state of his father’s health.

6. Haim Ramon: another ‘romanticist’ and former Justice Minister, who resigned his post over charges of sexual misconduct. It appears that this offense is most popular of all these personalities.

7. Zeeve Rosenstein: That underworld character who was recently extradited to the USA due to charges of drug smuggling into that country. Mr. Rosenstein has also has numerous attempts made on his life, one of them resulting in the deaths of 3 innocent bystanders. Good riddance!

8. Ehud Olmert: Present Israeli Prime Minister, Mr. Olmert believes that Israel won the recent war in Lebanon and also feels that he is doing an excellent job running things in Israel. Not everyone agrees. He is also being investigated to making undue profits on some real estate he purchased during his tenure as Mayor of Jerusalem; smacking of conflict of interest. Olmert also believes that the USA will solve the Iranian problem for him – perhaps his greatest sin.

and the list goes on … who else will join it this upcoming year ?

Musharraf Comes ‘Clean’; after 9-11 ‘fallout’

Pervez MusharrafIs the cat out of the bag, or is this something most people really knew all along? Only days after U.S. President Bush met with Pakistan’s president (or is it Dictator) Gen. Pervez Musharraf, in New York during the opening session of the U.N. General Assembly, the release of the General’s book, In the Line of Fire, some very revealing details concerning Pakistan’s “real relationship” with the United States. Musharraf, who himself is not lily-white when it comes to how he became the supreme ruler of the world’s only (so far) nuclear armed Islamic country, has now made a virtual confession concerning how he had no alternative other than to ‘change horses’ and give support to the U.S. led War on Terror following the Al Qaeda planned attacks against the U.S. in September, 2001.

After supporting the ultra-Islamic Taliban organization to oust the Russians from Afghanistan, in which the U.S. CIA also played a major part, Pakistan continued to give support to this group which turned Afghanistan into an ultra-religious Islamic state where even most kinds of music was considered blasphemy and women had virtually no rights – even concerning education and receiving basic health care. All of this changed, however, when the Pakistani President received telephone calls from both the U.S. President and his Secretary of State, Colin Powell, “inviting” Musharraf to join forces in defeating the Taliban, and it’s Al Qaeda ‘guests’, including Osama bin Laden.

Musharraf writes in his book that “America was sure to react violently, like a wounded bear”, and that “this wounded bear would come charging straight at us” unless Pakistan elected to join the anti-terror Coalition. As was related to him by Mr. Powell, and later said generally by President Bush: “you are either with us, or you are with the terrorists”, with the obvious consequences for those who chose not to ‘join the party’.

Many people are asking, why is this ‘revelation’ coming out now? Why is Musharraf, who still is technically aligned with the U.S. and other countries, now coming clean? The only answer can be is that the Pakistani president has sensed a change of direction in the winds of war, regarding the battle against the Great Jihad of World Islam. Recent news stories have mentioned that Pakistan is not doing enough to search for and find Taliban and Al Qaeda members reported to be hiding in the mountain wilderness of northwest Pakistan; terrain so rugged that it is almost impossible to detect people who may be hiding there, even with the most sophisticated surveillance equipment. Top Al Qaeda leaders as well as Taliban chiefs such as Muhammad Omar, the ousted Taliban leader, are still assumed to be holed up there somewhere, or in similar terrain in northeastern Afghanistan.

Musharraf also has had his neighboring country India in mind when making these strategic decisions, since India is also a nuclear power and very much aligned with the U.S. The two countries have fought several major wars since both gained independence from Great Britain in 1947. They still have occasional skirmishes in the disputed region of Kashmir, and blame the other for frequent terror attacks which occur in both countries.

“We put our national interest on the line for self-preservation, as the Americans threatened to ‘bomb us back to Stone Age’ if we didn’t comply” Musharraf relates. He also sadly notes, that instead of becoming a safer place following the initial stages of the terror war, “the world has actually become far more dangerous”.

Living in A Robotic World

Should we be scared of robots? On the September issue of the magazine Popular Science, a brief review was included of how our world will change in a few years time, by robots. Some people still think that robots belong to science fiction movies solely. To the contrary, people from the industry of robotics seem to think differently. Of course, there is along way to go till we will have robots with artificial intelligence which will overcome the human brain and the humane abilities as a whole, but even after saying that, today’s robots are mission directed entities that can perform complex tasks that could very easily leave you quite astonished.

In order to achieve a robot that can entirely replace a human being, scientists need to make some more breakthroughs in five key areas: interaction, locomotion, navigation, manipulation and intelligence. Most of the job with robotics is concentrated of course in the States and in Japan. Much of the US contribution is achieved by researchers from academic centers such as MIT. Japan, on the other hand, is focused on the implementation of the academic findings of her researchers. Thus, we have many Japanese robots which became very famous such as robots that play musical instruments, play sports and even robots that are designed as pets.

The main focus of US researchers is on making a robot that will be actually sold to every household. Such a robot will have to be capable of doing a butler’s job. The added bonus of such a robot, that it will be able to learn very fast new household chores as opposed to humans, how is that? Simply, by downloading data, for example, the best way to roast a turkey and so on. Experts in the field of robotics, say such a robot is just a few decades away, in that, they mean a robot which will be practical, economical and “easy to use”.

Probably the human mind will not rest till we will be able to achieve our wildest dreams that are demonstrated in most science fiction movies. As intriguing as that may sound, a real danger might evolve out of our dependence on such smart machines which will be quite different from the dummy machines we now possess in every home. Even nowadays, people are more and more dependent upon their hi-tech gear, such as the computer and the web or their cell phone.

Now in such a futuristic world, even if the machines will not turn to kill the human kind, like in the movie I-Robot. A deep change will occur in the human society from the arrival of intelligent machines, we can even compare it to the change that computers brought to the world as we know it. Once again, the human kind will have to be smart enough to use the scientific progress for good intentions. Researchers will have to think of ways to overcome humans that will try to cultivate robots for their own criminal or immoral intentions, which will probably be a very complicated job due to the technological complexity of such “creatures”. For that reason mainly, we should not be very disappointed that we were not born in the future.

Guns or Butter: Budget Worries Threaten Coalition Partners

A statement by Israeli Finance Minister Abraham Hirshzon that the government will have to choose between having enough money to increase armor protection on tanks against missiles and providing subsidized milk to babies is an indication to the growing tension between members of the present government coalition. Friction between those advocating social platforms, and those in favor of increasing the security budget, are a growing dilemma for Defense Minister Amir Peretz, himself an avowed socialist and champion of social welfare programs.

The rift resulting from these confrontations may even result in the Labor Party bolting from Ehud Olmert’s already fracturing coalition, and bring the country back to the ballot box in yet another election; possibly as early as the spring of 2007. Some of the drastic budget restructuring by the Finance Ministry include increasing the tuition at the country’s State-supported universities by nearly 50% in a four year period, canceling unemployment benefits eligibility for workers under age 28, reducing pension and welfare benefits as well as lowering sums received by de-mobilizing soldiers from active duty, and making 3,000 government employees redundant. Most people wholeheartedly object to the majority of these measures, especially the ones affecting the weaker elements of Israeli society, as well as ones affecting the country’s future academic resources. The firing or ‘early retirement’ of the government employees, however, is likely to meet fewer objections as Israel’s already swollen governmental bureaucracy can use a bit of ‘culling’.

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Face to Face – A Hill Too Far 2

NasrallahNews from the Northern Front is not arriving very pleasantly for Israel’s population. With 12 reserve soldiers killed in a Katyusha rocket attack a few days ago, and another 15 killed Wednesday in the worst day of fighting to date, there is no doubt that lights are still on in the offices of the Defense Ministry in the wee hours of the morning – every morning. Battles being fought in Lebanese towns and villages near Israel’s border, including the alleged Hezbollah ‘terror capital’ of Bint a-Jbail, are taking a severe toll of Israel’s ‘citizen solders’ , long considered to be one the country’s most important sources of manpower in a national emergency. And with current on-the-ground realities all too apparent (especially for the country’s northern population), this is indeed a national emergency.

An earlier article written for this site, noted the problems that the IDF may wind up facing by deciding to execute a wide ground offensive. These problems are now becoming all too apparent with the daily casualty lists growing, and the Hezbollah missile launchings still in high gear. Reservists, being called to duty with only a minimum of appropriate training, or retraining as this case may be, are facing an enemy who have been constantly training and preparing themselves for this kind of warfare; vastly different form the air war that IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz is personally used to. This brings to mind an incident, occurring in the first few days of the war, when a young Hezbollah man in Beirut made his heated remarks known to obliging international news teams. The young man, upon seeing what was left of his family’s home in the city’s southern sector yelled: “They (the Israeli military) seem to only know how to bomb our homes and our people from the air. Let them come and fight us face to face. Then, they will see what kind of fighters we really are!”

Well, face to face it is, and the question before all of us, particularly government and military leaders, is whether reserve forces, who only a few days before were sitting in their high tech offices and work stations, or relaxing after completing final examinations at the country’s colleges and universities, are ready to engage an enemy who not only has spent years of training and preparation, but for personal and religious reasons is not afraid to commit the ultimate sacrifice on the field of battle.

Many IDF casualties have been the result of tanks and other armored being hit by anti-tank missiles, most of which can be launched by one man from hidden locations; further damaging the faith in the reliability of these types of military hardware in the terrain they have to fight in.

A lot has transpired since Israel decided to launch a large scale military operation which has been going on for a month, with a cost of nearly 130 lives (38 of them civilian) and an economic bill of more than 7 Billion N.S. ($1.59 Billion). Israel’s northern populations are either continuing to live in and out of shelters, or have left altogether (including near mandatory evacuation from towns such as Kiryat Shmona). Hezbollah, and Sheikh Nasrallah are still very much alive, and the ‘etre cause de’ of the entire conflict – the kidnapped soldiers – remains unchanged. “Amateur Hour” may be over, as a local commentator so correctly put it; but the big question now is: what comes next?

Rock Concert Gig Cancelled at Last Moment


Depeche Mode regretfully announce the cancellation of their scheduled concert on August 3rd, 2006, at Hayarkon Park, following the latest developments.
Unfortunately, at present there is no way to reschedule the concert, as this is the end of the Depeche Mode world tour.
The band apologize to the fans, and thank them for their understanding.

Depeche Mode Whimp OutTo the intense disappointment of thousands of adoring fans, British soft rock group Depeche Mode, announced Monday night that they had no choice other than to cancel their scheduled Thursday performance in Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Park. The group, whose Tel Aviv gig was scheduled as the last stop on their summer concert tour, cited the reason as due to their technical support group refusing to come to set up the necessary lighting and equipment needed by the group for their performance. Though local promoters are assuring fans that a full refund will given for tickets purchased, the issue at stake is not a matter a hundred or so Shekels; it’s a matter of giving thousands of young, and not so young people a severe let down in a period when such a concert would have uplifted spirits and helped to create a semblance of normalcy in an atmosphere that is anything but normal – even for more fortunate residents of central Israel.

This example, along with others, was already in the ‘pipeline’ when Roger Waters and his Pink Floyd rock group did come here in June, but changed the location of their gig to a place called Neve Shalom, a mixed Jewish/Arab village in a serene pastoral setting near the disputed West Bank. Even Waters took this opportunity to use the separation barrier, known as ‘The Wall’ to write a special message against continued occupation of most of the West Bank by Israel. That in itself was all right as many people on both sides of this issue are protesting the security barrier being built by Israel. Had the Lebanon conflict not been raging, Depeche Mode would no doubt have come and entertained their audience, to the cheers and applause of everyone.

Now, unfortunately, the only groups that local fans will most likely see in the coming weeks will be local Israeli groups. This situation could result in top local stars like Sarit Hadad, Ninat Taeb, Shiri Maimoun, Rita, and many others (including older ones like Zvika Pik and David Broza) getting together and putting on some gigs of their own. This would be a lovely idea and will do a lot to raise local morale as well. It will also show groups like Pink Floyd and Depeche Mode that pop music aficionados are not about to let a few security concerns ruin their lives; especially when it comes to getting together and enjoying a good concert.

I for one, who would have enjoyed going to the Thursday concert, feel that somehow we have been let down; and though we can’t blame the local organizers for the group’s cancellation, we can certainly point an accusing finger at those outside of Israel who go around saying how terrible everything is here and how potential visitors to Israel should think twice before coming here. This also applies to certain governments, including the U.S Government and British governments, who seem quick to issue ‘travel advisories’ to their citizens planning on making visits to Israel during times of crises. Israel will carry on, despite all of this. It’s just sad to have to let so many wonderful people down at a time when they need just the opposite.

Super Jews

Super JewsThe conflicts continue, but that doesn’t prevent Israel’s economic success story from abating. The revelation that one of the country’s most successful high tech firms, Mercury Interactive, is being sold to American based Hewlett Packard for the sum of $4.5 billion, even more than the purchase by Intel a few years ago of the DSP company for a ‘paltry’ $3.6 billion, is only the latest of a string of successful ventures that have created quite a stir on both Wall Street and other world security exchanges as well.

Israel’s high tech success story has become one of such importance that multi-billionaires such as Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffet have invested huge sums. Gates has invested heavily into Israel’s software industries, and Microsoft logos are now common place on a number of buildings in Israeli high tech industrial parks. Buffet’s recent purchase of Israel’s renown Isscar precision tool company for more than $2.5 Billion reinforced the attention that the world’ two richest men have given to the Jewish State.

Israel’s big splash on Wall Street, especially in the NASDAQ securities exchange, can in part be attributed to former prime minister and finance minister Binyamin Natanyahu, who placed great emphasis on developing the country’s technological-based industries during his term as P.M. in the late 1990’s, and during his term as finance minister in the government of Ariel Sharon. Natanyahu was also instrumental in changing the countries foreign currency laws, allowing local citizens to both hold foreign currency and invest in foreign securities markets. “Until Israeli citizens can conduct normal business in the international sphere, this country will never progress” he was once quoted as saying.

Numerous global high tech giants, including the above mentioned ones, as well as others such as Amdocs, Siemens, and of course IBM, are alive and well in Israel and providing high-quality employment to thousands. It’s not too difficult to see the results of these ventures with the country’s roads clogged daily with late model automobiles with these companies’ logos emblazoned upon them. Since the year 2,000, high tech companies have contributed billions of dollars to the country’s economy, more than in the entire previous 52 year history of the state.

For a miniscule country with a total population of just 7 million, and who began its’ existence fighting off a combined Arab Legion army equipped with the best modern weaponry, the citizens of Israel certainly have a lot be proud of. The army Israel is using to once again fight for the country’s right to live on a piece of real estate that was 70% desert when granted to them by the U.N. Partition Plan of 1947, is now one of the best fighting forces in the world. In May, 1948 when David Ben Gurion declared the country’s independence from British Mandatory control, the fledgling country of only 650,000 souls had no air force (other than a few aged Piper Cub observation planes) and no armor corps or navy. Yet, they were able to win their independence against overwhelming odds. Israel’s success story, both in industry and militarily, will carry on despite ongoing security problems. It’s a pity that those who seem bent to destroy it cannot see that peaceful coexistence is far better than hatred and war.

In Spite of it all

Aliya People Still Coming to Israel With Israel still immersed in its second major war in Lebanon, and a continuing conflict with the Palestinians in both the south and the West Bank, one bright light still shines to give people here encouragement and inspiration. That ‘light’ is the continuing Aliyah of North Americans due to a very successful program known as Nefesh b’Nefesh. Originating a few years ago, following the Second Intifada Palestinian uprising and the September 11 2001 terror attacks in the USA, Nefesh b’Nefesh, a joint immigration venture of both American and Israeli organizations, landed it’s first group of North American Olim in Israel in July, 2002. Since then, more than 8,000 people, both families and individuals have come to try their luck at living in the Jewish State.

Even during the heat of the present conflict, two El Al jumbo jets full of Olim arrived a few days go, and are now beginning their Aliyah experience in various absorption centers and other locations around the countries – including locations in the northern areas of Israel.

Nefesh b’Nefesh participants do receive some special benefits to help ease them into the mainstream of Israel society, including a basket or “sal” of grants and other special items, a one-way complimentary fight ticket, and certain tax reductions on purchases, rental and mortgage subsidies, etc. One of the prominent American supporters of the program, Tony Gelbart, who is president and CEO of CPM Worldwide, a Florida based investment company was quoted as saying: “We don’t care if you are Ashkenazi or Sepharadi, right or left winged, religious or non-religious. If you’re Jewish and want to try living in Israel, we’re going to help you!”

Special loans, which become grants if the participants stay for at least three years, run from $ 5,000 to 7,000 for singles to $15,000 – 22,000 for families.

Once the new arrivals get settled into adjusting to living in Israel and learning Hebrew in various ulpanim (Hebrew language schools) they begin to look into finding work in order to support themselves, the assistance they receive does have a time limit attached. Those who do not have sufficient knowledge level of Hebrew to allow them to find Hebrew speaking work positions, have a number of English speaking opportunities in tel-sales and telemarketing, High tech soft ware and internet related jobs, as well as outsourced customer service positions, dealing with clientele in “the old country”. In addition to the American based companies, local ones who deal with these foreign entities, have numerous work positions available, allowing people to find work in their native ‘mother tongue’ level of English while still learning Hebrew.

Other kinds of assistance are also available through organizations such as Project Reconnect, an organization headed by representatives of the United Synagogue Conservative movement, with local involvement by such prominent Conservative and Masorati rabbis as Rabbi Paul Freedman, who now lives with his wife Nina in Jerusalem. Rabbi Freedman is one the most active members of this organization, whose purpose is to ‘reconnect’ former members of United Synagogue sponsored youth organizations such as USY, and bring them to Israel of either specially sponsored seminars, as well as permanent Aliyah. Working together with Ms. Devorah Greenberg, the organization’s Shaliah, or Aliyah messenger, their organization alone now has a file of more than 600 potential Olim, many of whom plan to make Aliyah via Nefesh b’Nefesh.

Man’s Best Friends are also Casualties of War

The warning sirens ring in Israel’s northern cities and people run to the safety of the shelters. But what happens to the family dog or cat? Where does Fido or Puddy go? In day 12 of the continuing conflict, Man’s Best Friends are suffering even more than humans. Most public shelters are just not able to accommodate pets as well, due to lack of available space, people being allergic or afraid of being in close quarters with pets, and a number of other reasons, including what to do with the pet when it needs to go to the bathroom during a missile attack.

The problems of what to do with pets has always been a difficult one during these trying times and this is now especially true in Israel’s northern cities and towns. When the first Katusha rockets began to fall in cities like Nahariya, people had so little advance warning that they barely got themselves to safety much less their pets. After a long weekend of staying underground, or with accommodating people further south, many pet owners had to return to their homes to take care of their pet, which may have been without food or water for several days.

There are many concerned individuals and organizations to whom a concerned pet owner can turn to, however. Many of them can be found on a special website.

A special section dealing with pets needing adoption, complete with a photo, is also noted on this site. Information is also available at the local offices of the Israel Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or Saar Baal Haim, transliterated from the Hebrew. Dealing with unwanted or stray animals has always been a problem in this country, as many families often abandon their pets when they no longer want to care for them. The problem with stray or dumpster cats, a serious problem during normal times, is even more pathetic and aggravating during a national emergency. Television civic action programs, like Kolbo-Tech, have screened the plight of stray dogs and cats, with cruel examples of how these ‘problems’ are often dealt with by various municipalities.

Dog and cat lovers country-wide need to get more involved in spreading the word, and a nation-wide S.O.S, concerning the plight of our furred and even feathered friends. When families in the north consider leaving their own communities for the safety of ones in the central region, they have a more difficult time of it by having to worry about their pet. This is why it is good to ‘match’ these families with those who already have pets, in order that all family members will be included. A good example of this was a recent television news magazine program in which a family in Israel’s center took in a family from Nahariya and both families had dogs. While it was commendable for the host family, who have several children, to take in a strange family, including a set of grandparents; it was even more heartwarming that the guest family were able to include their dog as well.

It may be several days, if not weeks, before people in the northern areas will be able to return to a semblance of normalcy, if their homes are still livable, that is. Let’s all be more involved in making their lives easier, by lending a hand regarding assistance for their furry friends.

World Jewish Survival: Whither are we Drifting?

By Maurice Picow

A recent group of world Jewish leaders met in Maryland, U.S.A., with the purpose of determining whether World Jewry is on the increase, or in the midst of an irreversible decline. These leaders, which included leaders of organizations such as the World Jewish Congress, the Present’s Conference of American Jewish Organizations, the Anti Defamation League (of Bnei Brit), as well as former Israeli government ministers, such as Natan Shiransky and Sallai Meridor of The Jewish Agency, gathered to reach some kind of conclusion as to where World Jewry will be in next generation – a mere 25 years from now.

Naturally, differing views of opinion, ranging from sharp declines in birthrates among North American Jewry to increased assimilation in many Diaspora Jewish communities, to problems with secular Judaism everywhere (including Israel) were discussed by these leaders. And in nearly every conversation, the future of Jews in Israel was paramount in these discussions.
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The new Israel Post – New Look, New Image, Same Crappy Service

In January 2006 the market for commercial mail was opened in Israel. Israel Post promptly went through a process of rejuvenation, renewal and upgrade. The old logo was changed, branding was discussed for the first time and the company now facing real competition decided to improve the service and quality of the postal service. The changes included a new web site (not compatible with Firefox of course) and the launch of the Israel Postal bank. Millions were spent on this upgrade.

The “new” targets and mission for Israel Post:
“To become the national carrier for post, packages and monies in Israel and Internationally, based on the principals of business and profitability, while using the latest technologies. To provide a high level of service, in international standards all across the country, every day – 24 hours a day.

Fine Words – right ?!

Israel Post Letter

Now, this is the letter you get from Israel Post when you send a Registered Mail package to the US on the 22nd of February and it arrives on the 27th of April !!!


In the inquiry into the package you sent on the 22/2/2006 to the USA, it was discovered that the package was delivered at its destination 27/4/2006.

For your convenience attached is a record available on the Internet site.

At your service any time.

Public Affairs Manager

Not a word of apology – “We are sorry for the inconvenience” – Something !! I mean delays will happen, I saw Cast Away (twice). But something, some sort of recognition that this was wrong and that they will try and do better. Something….

As you can see the Israeli Postal service has really changed its image and now we know that at least all that money on the new imporved service was well spent !

Raising the Retirement Age: Good News or Disaster?

Israel President Moshe Katsav is reportedly in favor of raising the mandatory retirement in Israel even further. Speaking at a special gathering of “The Century Club” a unique ‘club’ made up of people aged 100+, the President stated that in his opinion, older people can continue working even until age 70 or older, as they still have much to contribute to both the economy, as well as to society as a whole. He also noted that nearly 10% of Israel’s total population are over 60, with more than 22% of all senior citizens over the age of 80.

While the President’s kind intentions may be good news to many people nearing the present retirement age of 67 for men and 65 for women, he failed to mention a very import fact that has been plaguing most Western societies, especially Israel’s. And that ‘fact’ is that as people get older, i.e. become 40+, 50+, and especially 60+, their employment opportunities begin to dwindle; reaching the point where finding any suitable work becomes a nightmare. In Israel, perhaps more so than other countries, jobs that used to be filled by older people were taken over by immigrants from countries such as the former Soviet Union; or by young people, either before or after military service, who cannot find suitable work elsewhere.

Many employers now prefer to hire young people for a variety of reasons: they have fewer responsibilities, are physically stronger and more mentally alert, and can be ‘controlled’ easier – i.e. they can be ‘molded’ into more ideal workers as they have fewer traits that have to be altered or changed. Go to any large customer service or telemarketing company and chances are, nearly all the employees will be under age 30. This is especially true if the job involves ‘shift work’ including night shifts and weekends. While it was once against the law to work on weekends, i.e., on Shabbat, many of these outsourced entities are now open 24 hours a day, seven days week.

Where does all this leave aging workers who may have lost their jobs to younger workers? The scrap heap, that’s what! The opportunities offered by the country’s thriving high tech industries have few places for workers over age 40, not to mention those 50 or above. It doesn’t matter how much computer related knowledge they may have, older people simply do not have a chance against their younger contemporaries, when applying for a job – even for those in the service industries.

We might all consider why people must retire in the first place. The answer is very simple: making way. Yes, the older workers have to ‘make way’ for the younger ones, just like we all have to ‘make way’ eventually for younger inhabitants of the planet. After all, there are only so much available resources, including the very air we breathe.

Retiring at age 70 will mean that it will be even harder for 60+ workers to continue working in our increasingly competitive labor market. And those who were expecting to receive something back for all the ‘contributions’ they have been making to their pension funds, as well to the National Insurance Institute, will now have to wait longer to finally receive them.. While President Katsav may have the best intentions in mind, he has to realize that not everyone is in his own position, and can look forward to an easy retirement.

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