a different side of Israel

Tag: Internet (page 2 of 3)

Vanunu Back In Prison

Mordechai VanunuVanunu is back in prison this morning for 6 months after he repeatedly disregarded warnings and the terms of his release. After spending 16 years in prison and getting released in 2004, Vanunu was giving foreign journalists interviews and contacting people over the Internet…Out of the 16 years he spent in prison, 11 years were in solitary confinement. He is now unable to leave Israel and I am wondering about the value of keeping here.

This guy is a technician and honestly what he has to offer today is all available on the Internet. It seems to me like one of these cases where no one in government is actually taking a hard look at this from a different angle. The more energy and resources that are poured into keeping Vanunu down the more he flourishes. Leaving him alone would actually render him useless and as time goes by his value as news would diminish.

Maybe he’ll move to Minnesota…

Learned How To Kill Online

Zadorov The Accused - Ynet There was an article today in Ynet about Roman Zadorov, the man accused of the murder of Taair Rada six months ago. Evidence presentation started today and the Police showed a video tape of Zadorov speaking to a Police informer who shared his holding cell. He claimed that he learned how to effectively cut the throat of a victim on the Internet from a site that showed the killing methods of KGB agents. The tape had him showing how he saw it done all the while keeping his voice down to a whisper to avoid being recorded.

In another part of the investigation, Zadorov talks about insults and cursing from kids at the school where he worked. In some cases he felt anger and admitted that he has the tendency to lose control when he is angry. As an example he told the informer that when he was in the Ukraine he got angry at his younger brother, attacked him and caused him severe physical harm.

Zadorov’s lawyer, Schpigel, will be presenting the defense and has already alluded to several key questions that need to be answered by police and that include a bunch of questions about missing medical and DNA evidence from the scene. This case is far from over…

Hat Tip: Picture Ynet Chagai Aharon

Notes From The TheMarker Internet Convention

TheMarker Comvention 2007The TheMarker COM.vention is on – see the pictures here. The location was nice (first time at Airport City for me). The host was Yossi Vardi, a known personality in the Internet industry that made his break with ICQ early in the first bubble. Overall, I was unimpressed by the panels, they were shallow and had little real content. Vardi was all about self promotion and bad jokes (he really should upgrade to new material). I disliked the fact that when he ran the panel, he asked a question and then completely disregarded the answer. Really not worth the time..

DotomiI enjoyed the artist sessions downstairs in the convention center. Intimate gatherings where speakers could speak about their areas of expertise. I was there for Yair Goldfinger, one of the founders of ICQ and today the CTO of Dotomi. He was discussing Internet startups, the stages of developing and testing your idea, getting funding (investment), the importance of options for employees (especially in Israel), finding the right business model and other valuable insights.

TheMarker CafeThe second day, yesterday, was for the Israeli market and I wasn’t there. From some chatter online and browsing the business sections the talk is that the Interactive agencies are not doing enough to parlay the potential of the Internet to the big traditional business in Israel. Maybe it’s because the so called Interactive Marketing gurus don’t feel they need to understand the Internet in order to sell it to their clients 😉 . Rani Rahav also had a few pearls of wisdom, but wait, for that guy we are going to have a whole other post…

One of the highlights of this event for me (and a pleasant surprise) was the soft launch of an Israeli Business Social Network – café The Marker. This site was built by Dex in PHP (Kudos guys!!) and that’s a first for any of the large Israeli sites.

Here’s hoping the people from learn and maybe finally get with the times on the main site, that’s still not compatible with Firefox !!!!

Our Universe by Jonathan Harris

UniverseI am a big fan of Jonathan Harris. His Internet work was featured on OJ before a couple of times – you can see the post on We Feel Fine & Love Lines here. So when I get this email from Jonathan Harris about his latest project I was excited. As usual, Jonathan is able to clearly visualize the human side of the Internet. In Universe he uses the news information from, a new news aggregation site that presents information in a different format, to show us our mythology – events, quotes, stories, people that are part of our daily life. If you want to understand more about how Universe works, look at Stages. The Universe is an applet that translates the news streams into a “real” graphic universe where the visitor can search any topic across any timeline, look at the major events, stories, pictures and people. The user can even select the backdrop color for his personal universe and the result is remarkable. Amazing work !

In his words:

Universe presents an interactive night sky, composed of thousands of twinkling stars, which then connect to form constellations. Each of these constellations has a specific counterpart in the physical world — a story, a person, a quote, an image, a company, a nation, a mythic theme. Any constellation can be clicked, making it the center of the universe, and causing all other stars to enter its orbit. Universe is infinitely large, and each person’s path through it will be different. For an explanation of how it works, read “Stages”. For a longer discussion of the ideas behind the piece, read “Statement”.
Jonathan Harris

This is what an Israel search for people looks like..

Israel - Universe

Israelis Are Natural Born Pirates

eMule - Natural Born PiratesYes, we are.. Another survey came out telling us that here in Israel we like to download stuff. Movies, games, applications. We like it all. 41% of Israeli Internet users download and our favourite peer 2 peer application is eMule. We share everything here. 84% of the file swappers are men and overall there has been an increase in file sharing of 30% over last year…

That’s what happens when you have a computer savvy population with cheap broadband and really shitty television !

Play65 Shut Down By Police

Yesterday PLAY65 received official notice and a warrant was issued forcing it to shut down it’s money based Backgammon site in Israel. The State Prosecutor, Eran Shender, announced the decision making Internet backgammon gambling services in Israel illegal. Soon after Head of Intelligence Investigation unit at the Police sent a letter to Interlogic (Play65 operator) warning it to cease gambling operations in Israel and letting them know they consider such activity a criminal offence.

Play65 is a major advertiser and sponsor of sports programming on channel 1 and the company has been anything but quiet about advertising and marketing the gaming service in Israel. Earlier this year Police began raiding some of the leading portals in Israel including MSN, Walla, Sportline, ONE and Nana making it clear that advertising by gaming operations are not to be accepted. Several employees of these companies have been called in for interviews and warnings were issued.

Police have also informed credit card companies that any transaction made with online gambling companies would now be considered a felony offense. Israeli credit card companies have been doing very well from the $125 Million in Israeli online gambling.

Play65 says that based on several respected legal experts and opinions this is a “ridiculous charge” and that Backgammon has been deemed legal. The activity is considered a skill game and not gambling they claim. The company also claims that this is all part of a smear campaign and that it holds proof that all this is part of unethical activities by third parties. It also said that turning Israel’s national game into an illegal activity is not going to wash with the Israeli public.

There in Spite of it all

Yithak Rabin Memorial
Despite his increasing legal and political controversies, and requests by other government officials, including State Attorney Menachem Mazuz, Isreali President Moshe Katsav made good his desire to appear today at a special memorial ceremony on the 11th anniversary of the assassination on Prime Minister Yizthak Rabin. Katsav, who’s sexual misconduct scandals have brought increasing embarrassment to the People of Israel, as well as to the office he holds, seems determined to stay in office at least another six months, or nearly to the end of his official term in office. Articles via the Internet had even said that the President was either gravely ill or had committed suicide, and Katsav has received numerous death threats as a result of the allegations that have not only included acts of sexual indecency, but even rape. Katsav had been admitted to hospital for tests, but this was considered as routine, his doctors said.

In an interview with the radio program Gali Tzahal, the President’s brother, Lior Katsav, assured everyone that the President felt good and doesn’t have any life threatening health conditions. “He has not collapsed, and was not hospitalized, and every person who has wished this on him (the President) should not be thinking such bad thoughts” the younger Katsav said. Reports that the President had become ill was disputed as Katsav has now shown that he is indeed well. “I sat opposite the President and suddenly a reported called and asked if it was true that he had committed suicide!” Lior continued.

The President himself is showing everyone that he is bound and determined to stay in office, and has no intentions of resigning, despite this ‘suggestion’ by State Attorney Mazuz. Lior Katsav went on to say that actions on behalf of the police and the courts against his brother are “an attack against the image of the State”, especially in light of certain comments made by foreign leaders regarding the allegations against the President. “Perhaps there should be a legal consultation against the country’s political leaders instead, especially in light of occurrences during the past four months”, Lior continued.

The ceremony was due to commence this evening with family members of the slain prime minister in attendance including his son Yuval, and daughter Dalia, a former government minister. For the past four years, Rabin family members have not attended the ceremony at the Presidential House in Jerusalem due to the President’s pardon of Margalit Har-Shefi, former girlfriend of Rabin’s assassin, Yigal Amir. Lior believes that the legal proceedings against his brother will only damage Rabin’s memory and that it is better that his brother be allowed to officiate at such important functions. “People who didn’t attend events like this one previously, wouldn’t attend now as well” Lior Katsav added.

Videogames: Israel’s New High Tech Challenge

At a recent conference in Jerusalem, a noted American video entertainment company head reviewed the future potential for Israeli success in the development and marketing of a new generation of video gaming, now a world-wide $25 billion business. Speaking before a group of more than 200 young software company representatives, Jesse Sutton, CEO of the New Jersey based Majesco Entertainment Co. said that a new generation of home video games will change the entire market, by making them more attractive to virtually all people “from 8 to 80”, and not just a limited group of mostly young male ‘game jockeys’.

Sutton, an Orthodox Jew living in the Flatbush district of Brooklyn, said that Israel is already a leader in software design products for internet security, biotech, and medical devices; and that programmers and other computer professionals are “overflowing with creativity”. The seminar, organized by the Israel branch of International Game Developers Association in conjunction with Jerusalem Joint Venture Partners, invited Sutton, whose company sells video game products playable on most popular gaming devices, including Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance and GameCube, Sony’s Play Station 2, and Microsoft’s Xbox.

Sutton’s company being publicly traded, has sometimes resulted in his having to consult religious authorities concerning the ‘content’ of some gaming programs to exclude those with too much sex or violence. “Being Orthodox, I have my limits” he added.

FuntactixMaking the games more ‘virtual’ and easier to play will entice a much larger user audiences, Yaron Laitenberg of the Funtactix company added, citing the example of improved resolution, game details and artificial intelligence which will make game players feel that they are actually in a movie. Games will be used more by people in all types of settings, including using hand-held devices and cell phones while waiting for office appointments, public transport, and other settings; playing with other people all over the world, via the internet.

Game sales in the USA have already surpassed sales of cinema tickets, due to new game programs and user possibilities. Ilan Grazier, Laitenberg’s partner at Funtactix, added that games will become a “new social experience”.

The Jerusalem Joint Venture Partners have already set up a computerized animation company which now has over 105,000 ‘free’ subscribers world-wide and 10,000 paying members.

Ease of playing and playing instruction are two very important factors, the participants added, as games will have to be able to be played with one thumb and without an instruction manual, and not requiring deep thinking. “Even political leaders will be able to enjoy using these game programs”, they added jokingly.

End of the Israeli Macho

Machismo in Israel (Hat Tip: Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times)

A recent New York Times article, dealing with the sexual misconduct affairs of Israel President Moshe Katsav, questions whether this and other publicized sexual misconduct and harassment cases involving Israel generals and political leaders marks the end of the stereotyped “macho” image of Israeli men. Referring back to former years, when men such as Moshe Dayan were known womanizers and even international sex symbols, the more recent scandals and court cases involving Israeli male personalities may mean that the cliché of the macho image may fast becoming history in present day Israeli society.

Delving into the history of modern day Zionism, in which Jewish “Hatluzim”, or pioneers, tamed a harsh and disease ridden land while constantly fighting off hordes of Arabs no longer appears to be the character of the modern Israeli male. While the colorful Dayan was able to carry on his activities without undue controversy, and male actors such as Uri Zohar and Yehuda Barkan displayed images of Israeli playboys and beach boys in their movies, the present legal embroilments of several Israeli male personalities have resulted in this ‘trait’ becoming more of a hindrance than an attribute.

A law passed in 1998 now makes sexual advancements and harassment by men a crime, with women able to come forward to take their cases to court against employers, army superiors, and others. The case of former defense minister and transportation minister Yitzhak Mordechai, which occurred around the time this new law (based of a similar U.S. law) was passed, resulted in his leaving political life and public disgrace; as well as being divorced by his wife, Kochi, who herself may have been one of his “victims”.

With the present sex scandals of both Moshe Katsav and former justice minister Haim Ramon being not only splattered across the front pages of newspapers both in and outside of Israel, ‘The Times’ article has drawn it’s own conclusions on the future image of the Israeli male.

Sex scandals are not the only reason why this phenomena has come about, as the country has undergone substantial changes since the days of Uri Zohar and of comedy flicks such as “Lemon Popsicle”, portraying the sexual antics of three Israeli male teenagers. Fewer young men seek careers in the military and in other macho-type occupations which were popular years back. More and more men, and women, are seeking professional or technological based careers; and instead of meeting on Friday afternoons to play “cadur-regel” (football), these guys may be more inclined to be surfing the Internet. In fact, while being an Egged bus driver was an ideal career about 30 years ago, being a computer software guru is now much more popular.

For those Israelis who still long for the nostalgia of the “good old days”, however; they can probably access onto some of Uri and Yehuda’s old movies via YouTube or other film-sharing websites.

Videos by Oren Fadlon

Lately I get these video clips by Oren Fadlon. These are a few of his “hits” – Internet Art at its best.
(Hat Tip: Heep)

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North Korea to Test Nuke? Or, The ‘Roadrunner ‘ and Kim Jong Il

Kim Jong IlKim Jong Il, that bizarre North Korean dictator, who loves Warner Brothers cartoons (especially the Roadrunner and Daffy Duck), has now divulged his greatest test of world nerve jangling brinksmanship. The announcement today by his government’s spokesman that his country is planning to test a nuclear device “in complete safety”, and for the purpose of it being a deterrent against imperialist powers like the United States who want to harm him and his “peace loving regime”, has more than made countries like the U.S. a bit edgy. It has sparked off alarm bells all over the world – especially in Asian countries like South Korea and Japan.

Kim, whose ultra-authoritarian regime has put even Cuba’s Fidel Castro’s to shame, appears to be so fearful of being deposed (like Saddam Hussein was in Iraq) that he is willing to go the extra mile to provoke countries whom he thinks are planning to invade him, particularly the USA. President Bush, who named North Korea as one of the “Axis of Evil” a few years back, now has a very worrisome dilemma on his hands, as the other main member of the ‘Axis”, Iran, is accelerating it’s nuclear program with the obvious intention of “going nuclear” as well.

North Korea, which was persuaded to scale down its nuclear development program in the early 1990’s, now appears to be making up for lost time. In 2005, after canceling it’s participation in nuclear disarmament talks, North Korea is not willing to make a new treaty that would prevent it from gaining nuclear parity with countries such as India and Pakistan, both of whom have had nuclear weapons for years. That neither of these countries have used these terrible weapons of mass destruction against each other is only because both countries know they have too much to lose by doing so.

Kim Jong Il on the other hand, feels he has little to loose and very much to gain by becoming a nuclear power. After all, this is the country that imprisons, tortures, and kills thousands of its citizens; and where a similar number – especially small children – die from malnutrition annually. Kim’s fascination with Western entertainment media programming (especially cartoons), and the Internet, belie his outright fear of being invaded and deposed as Saddam was in 2003. He is clever enough to know that the U.S. Administration, his number one enemy as he sees it, is in no position to attack him other than shoot a few cruise missiles in his direction; or perhaps drop a few ‘smart bombs’ on some of his government buildings. These acts wouldn’t do much damage as Kim as an elaborate system of underground tunnels and bunkers available that would put Saddam Hussein’s or even Adolf Hitler’s hiding places to shame.

One very interested observer in this deadly game of ‘checkmate’ is most likely Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who will gauge his own country’s nuclear ambitions by what happens to North Korea, which is rumored to already be assisting Iran in its nuclear program. Another country involved at least indirectly in this scenario is Israel; which though not threatened by North Korea, is definitely being threatened by Iran. As was noted in a previous article I wrote: The Arrow and Iran Part III, the U.S. Administration may very well find itself in the dilemma of who to deal with first: Kim and his Daffy Duck mentality; or Mahmoud with his fatalistic desire to ‘erase the State of Israel from the face of the map’; no matter what the consequences may be.

It’s a very perilous world we all live in. And today’s extremely provocative announcement now makes it even more perilous. It almost makes one wish for a return to the “good old days” of the U.S. – Soviet Union cold war. At least that conflict was a lot easier to figure out.

(Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia)

So You Think You Can Drive, Mel?

Mel Gibson A small Internet game to help boost the holiday spirit and strengthen your Jewish identity.

On July 29, 2006 actor and director Mel Gibson was arrested in Los Angeles after been caught exceeding the speed limit. Police officers identified high levels of alcohol in his blood. The incident provoked many reactions as a result of anti-Semitic remarks made by Gibson to the arresting officers. According to witnesses, Gibson said “The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.” Gibson apologized a day later: “I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested, and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable”. Since his arrest, Gibson was criticized broadly and became a subject for mockery by comedians.

The “So You Think You Can Drive, Mel” Internet game raised up a notch the ridicule level. The object of the game is driving Gibson from a restaurant to his home. On the way home you collect tequila bottles while trying to avoid flying Stars of David and police troopers. The more bottles you collect, the drunker Mel gets, and it’s harder to control his car. It’s a funny, stupid but rather addictive game. Let’s get out the little aggressive devil that is hidden in all of us.

Mel Gibson’s Drunk Driving Game Website:

(Photograph courtesy of GSN)

Dapper Data Mapper – New Mashup Maker

Dapper - Data Mapper I met the guys from Dapper a while ago, before they actually started with Dapper. Very smart people working on mapping the Internet. A few month later Voila.

Dapper allows you extract data and create a web service out of any site. APIs are available in PHP4, PHP5 and Java. The output can be in any of the following formats: XML, HTML, RSS, Emails, Email Alert, Google Map, Google Gadget, Image Loop, JSON Data Feed or a link to another Dapper.

This means that any site out there can be turned into a data source and displayed by this system. Turning anything to an RSS feed for example..


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.

Guide to Relocation 2

In Part I of this two series article dealing with international relocations, it was noted that in today’s cost conscious business world, the costs of relocations are often born more by the relocating employee himself. Instead of a company agreeing to foot the entire relocation bill, the employee is often allocated a monetary sum, i.e., $10,000, which is for the entire relocation process, including air fares for the employee and family, packing and moving of household goods, hotel accommodations upon arrival, and even the first month’s rental expenses! After deducting the transportation part of the allotment ( amounting to up to $4,000-5,000) it doesn’t take much calculation to see that what remains of that relocation budget, may not even pay for the shipping costs of the family’s possessions, much less all the other expenses involved. For this reason, employees often resort to finding their own relocation solutions, including choosing a moving company; either from the Yellow Pages, or through the Internet.
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