In Sderot the Kids Know What to do

My cousin was visiting in Sderot last week. He is a Rabbi and sofer (Biblical scribe), and often travels to places in Israel to check religious articles to see if they need to be repaired.

He shared with me this absurd and truly ‘unreal’, but very real story:

Last week, he visited a few houses in Sderot to check their mezuzot (Jewish families are required to place mezuzot on the doorways of their home). During one of his inspections, a nine year old girl from the home was following him and watching his work. Suddenly, the sirens went off. He froze. What to do? Where to go?

The 9 year girl very calmly said, “quick, follow me to the corner of the sealed room and bend down like this.” Fifteen seconds later he heard a big BOOM outside the house. The girl then said, “wait a little longer, there’s usually another boom or two.” Again, seconds later, BOOM, BOOM.

Shaken and disturbed, my cousin completed his tasks in Sderot and hurried home to Jerusalem. He then realized that the other family members were busy doing other tasks around the house and had deliberately sent their girl to watch over him in case of an attack.

This is Israel, a modern first (or second) world country, with a strong economy, lauded hi-tech sector, and yet our border towns have been afflicted with this absurd ritual for as long as Gaza has been in the hands of the terrorist Iran-backed Hamas.

Imagine that you are visiting your friends in Florida. Miami Beach is nice this time of year. During your visit, sirens start whaling and your friend’s 9 year old child (that’s a 3rd grader) tells you that you now have 15 seconds to run to the corner of the sealed room, where the missiles are less ‘likely’ to penetrate.

What if this scenario was played out in France? Would Sarcozy listen to the world opinion that the French government should show restraint and not fire back against the aggressors? Yes, Israel has the capabilities to fight back, and usually only after many blows does Israel finally takes steps to end the aggression against it.

The world media has always run roughshod over the tiny State of Israel. AP and Reuters have Arab journalists managing and writing stories on Israel. They often make feign attempts to show both sides of the story, but usually the venomous words are directed at the Jewish State. Other media organizations, such as the BBC and The Guardian make no attempts to hide their disdain for Israel. Such tendentious reporting helps to skew the already tainted view of Israel.

When you read Yahoo News about Israel (the world’s number 1 website destination), you are often reading AP’s Ibrahim Barzak, a Palestinian Arab, giving you so-called unbiased accounts of Israel’s fight for freedom against daily terrorist attacks.

The next time you read a story about Israel’s aggression and attacks on Gaza, remember the fifteen seconds you will have to follow your nine year old guide to safety.

15 Seconds to Sderot

15 seconds is all that it takes for a rocket fired from the Hamas-controlled Gaza to land in the nearby Israeli town of Sderot. It will probably take you longer than that to read this blog post.

Imagine that you are in your living reading a book, watching TV or having a bite to eat, your kids are in the next room playing, and then you hear the sirens sounding that another mortar or rocket is heading your way. You now have 15 seconds, FIFTEEN SECONDS, to run as fast as you can to your shelter and hope that the rocket goes somewhere else.

Gaza Under Fire (AP)
Gaza Under Fire (AP)

This is the life that has been determined for the residents of Israeli towns near by Gaza the Iran-backed Hamas terrorist organization. Israel has suffered much damage, including loss of civilian lives, damage to buildings, destruction of local economies, and emotional scars to the local residents for eight years.

Israel’s decision to finally (hopefully) put an end to this suffering of its innocent civilians, and to rid the Palestinians of their Iran-backed terror state, was met with mixed responses by the world community. We didn’t expect praise from the Arabist U.N., nor from our ‘so-called’ friends in Europe, but let’s see how any country, democratic or otherwise, would respond to these similar circumstances.

The State of Israel is fighting the same war it has always fought, since it’s inception in 1948. This is a war of “kiyum”, being able to remain a sovereign nation. This is a war we must win.

Bet Shean Half Marathon (Beit Shean)

Yesterday was the 30th annual Bet Shean Half Marathon (21.1KM) which I ran and completed in 1:49.  It was my first time running in Bet Shean.  What a great event!

This race is considered a favorite among Israeli running clubs since the terrain is mostly flat and the organization is top-notch.  It is also considered a great warm-up to the Tiberias Marathon to be held in a few weeks from now (Jan 8).

Your's Truly at the Beit Shean Half Marathon
The Author at the Beit Shean Half Marathon

Yesterday, Dec 11, 2008, over 1,200 runners participated on a windy day.  The course is generally fast, the organizers make every effort to get runners off on a good foot.  There were many registration tables, free coffee, crackers and fruit to make things go smoothly.

The only downside came after the race.  Runners were required to return their timing chips and then receive a free race shirt along with a bag of ‘goodies’.  The lines were incredibly long, and I waited over 20 minutes just to return the chip.  Failing to return the chip would cost I think a 200 NIS fine (~$50 USD).

Official photos from the event can be seen here.

Our club, The Beit Shemesh Running Club, sent a record 29 runners to the finish line.  Our fastest runner completed the race in 1:25.

The Author on the run
The Author on the run

Happy running, and onwards to Tiberias and other great runs in Israel.

Photos of Israel Collection – Part 2

 

Classic Photos of Israel CollectionCreative Commons License

Back to Classic Photos Part 1

Many of our photos have won awards and/or have been published. You may also use them under the terms of Creative Commons License.   Click on images to see larger resolution.  Please rate the photos and add your comments below. Enjoy!

Tel Aviv Beach Panorama

Tel Aviv Beach

Tel Aviv Habima Theater

Rothschild Ave

Going To the Beach

Sex Shop – Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv Sex Shop

Photos of Israel Collection by Holy Exposures is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at holyexposures.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at holyexposures.com.


Photos of Israel Collection – Part 1

Classic Photos of Israel CollectionCreative Commons License

Many of our photos have won awards and/or have been published. You may also use them under the terms of Creative Commons License.   Click on images to see larger resolution.  Please rate the photos and add your comments below. Enjoy!

Night Fall

Chabad at the Jerusalem Shuk

Sunset over the Shefelah

Arab Man Selling Keffiyehs in Akko

Jerusalem’s Old City & Western Wall in Infrared

The spot where Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin was assasinated in Tel Aviv.

The sign says “Forgive Us”

Celebrating a New Torah

Panoramic View of Tzfat (Safed)

Go to Israel Photos Collection – Part 2

Photos of Israel Collection by Holy Exposures is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at holyexposures.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at holyexposures.com.

Financial Crisis to bring recession to israel

We’ve all been watching the recent developments of Wall Street with a keen eye.  How, if at all, will it affect us individually?  Will Israel be dragged into a recession as well as the rest of Europe?

An inevitable part of the US’s historic $750 billion bailout package is the huge amount of paper that the government has to print.  The money has to come from somewhere, and usually that means selling more treasury notes and bills, or bartering paper with foreign governments.

With all that new money hitting the markets, you’d expect the dollar to drop in value.  However, the world economy follows the USA like a herd to a shepherd.  All the talk about Euros, shmooros…  When you want a safe currency in times of crisis, you don’t look to Europe with one of its EU members (Iceland) on the brink of bankruptcy, nor do you look to China or Japan, as they are having their own crises.  You buy dollars.  And that’s exactly what’s been going on since the US bailout plan was passed.

As a result, major and 2nd tier currencies alike have lost approx 5% in value against the US Dollar in the past week.  In Israel, the drop was sudden and major.  Two week ago, the Shekel (NIS) was trading against the USD in a range from 3.48 to 3.50.  Almost overnight, the Shekel devalued against the dollar to 3.70.  That’s a 5 percent change.

That’s very good for Israeli exporters, tourism, and for Israelis who’s salary is linked to the dollar, and for technology companies who raised funds in dollars.

That’s very bad, however, for importers, most Israelis who do not have linkage on their salary, and just about every consumer.  Prices will start to rise at the supermarket, which will in turn reduce consumption, and bring on inflation, and then recession.

Much of the strength of the Israeli economy over the past few years has been related to the strength and new found autonomy of the Israeli currency.  Breaking with the norm of the past 60 years, for example, Real estate was being quoted in Shekels.  Israelis had a new sense of pride in our national currency.

Now with this recent crisis, and the fall of the Euro as the other viable currency alternative to the almighty dollar, it appears Israel’s economy will be waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Listen to Israel Radio on the Internet

I remember as a kid in Chicago how I used to walk around the house (and neighborhood) and try to find the best spot for reception on my shortwave radio. In those days, tuning in to Israel Radio was like catching an ephemeral glimpse of far away land.  At 4pm in the afternoon, I would tune in Reshet Bet and listen to the 6am Boker Tov announcement which included the incredible recital of the Shema and then the top of the morning news.

Nowadays, perhaps the mystery and anticipation are gone, but the fun is still there. Now you can listen to many thousands of radio stations around the world with a simple click of a link on your internet browser. In fact, now that I live in Israel, I listen to Chicago radio stations with the same nostalgia as I did as a kid tuning in from the other side of the world to hear the sounds of Israel.

Here are the most popular Israel Radio selections available for you to tune in live now. Simply click on a link, and your Windows Media Player will open and begin to play the selected channel.

1. Arutz Sheva Hebrew – Voice of the right of center in Israel
2. Galei Zahal – Army Radio, news, interviews, music
3. Galgalatz – Army Radio, mostly music
4. Kol Hamusica – Classical Music
5. Reshet Bet – Israel’s main news and talk channel
6. Reshet Dalet (Arabic) – news and talk in Arabic
7. Reshet Gimel – Israeli Music
8. 106FM Tel Aviv – Local Tel Aviv
9. 107.5FM Radio Haifa 107.5 – Local Haifa, Webcam of Studio
10. 88FM – Jazz Music, News

Watch Israel TV on the Internet

The internet makes it easy for you to watch live tv from anywhere in the world.

There are several Israeli TV Channels who stream their stations live, or offer daily rebroadcasts of news and other shows. When you click on the link, your Windows Media Player will open and begin playing the selected channel.

1. Channel 10 This is a very popular Israeli channel that is available on cable. The internet broadcast is usually live during the mornings and evenings Israel time.
2. Channel 1 IBA News (English) Daily rebroadcast of the half hour long evening English news program.
3. Channel 1 Mabat News Daily rebroadcast of Israel’s most popular evening news (in Hebrew).
4. Knesset Live See what’s going on at Israel’s parliament. They also offer news programs and interviews on political issues.
5. Machon Meir – Religious Classes Online. Catch a live shiur!
6. Shopping Channel TV Shop till you drop (in Hebrew).

The Top 5 Modern Must See Israeli Movies

Israel has worked hard to shed its old image of producing cheesy ethnic insider, one or no-joke movies.

Today’s Israeli movie scene has produced some very creative, critically acclaimed on an international level. There are many dozens of quality films that have been produced in Israel in the past decade.

Highlighted here are five of the top modern movies filmed here in Israel in recent years. All of these films are must-sees.

1. The Band’s Visit – 2007 ????? ???????
IMDB Listing
This movie won Best Picture in 2007 in Israel’s equivalent of the Academy Awards. Starring popular and acclaimed Israeli actor Sasson Gabai, (The Impossible Spy, Rambo III, Made in Israel).
Synopsis: An Egyptian Police Force band come to Israel to play at the inaugural ceremony of an Arab arts center, yet end up lost in the wrong town with a similar sounding name.

Film critic Roger Ebert gave this film four stars and sums it up well:

They are in the middle of the Israeli desert, having taken the wrong bus to the wrong destination. Another bus will not come until tomorrow. “The Band’s Visit” begins with this premise, which could supply the makings of a comedy, and turns into a quiet, sympathetic film about the loneliness that surrounds us. Oh, and there is some comedy, after all.

2. Beaufort (2007) – This Oscar nominated film for Best Foreign Picture is the story of a group of Israeli soldiers stationed at an outpost prior to the withdrawal of forces from Lebanon in 2000. This movie cuts into the pathos of Israelis and their understanding about war, life in the Middle East, and obligation to country.
New York Times review aptly remarks that this is not so much a war movie as a study on human nature and inner feelings.

The men spend most of their time inside its heavily fortified walls, trundling down coffin-shaped corridors in spacesuitlike combat gear and bracing for the next round of attacks from an invisible enemy. Their lives are governed by tedium, claustrophobia and anxiety, and yet they clearly feel something like affection for the bleak, isolated place that has become their home.

Beaufort Movie Trailer

3. Ushpizin (2004)IMDB Listing Starring Shuli Rand and Michal Bat Sheva Rand (who are married in real life).

New York Times:

“Ushpizin” is groundbreaking on more than one count. It is a rare collaboration between secular and ultra-Orthodox Israelis and one of the first movies filmed in the insular Jerusalem neighborhood Mea Shearim with ultra-Orthodox actors.

Shuli Rand won the Israeli Academy Award for Best Actor in this film. This film also has an excellent musical score, including the popular “Atah Kadosh” from Israeli Religious Rocker Adi Ran.

Adi Ran – V’ata Kadosh:

Click here to see more video clips from this movie

4. The Syrian Bride (2004) – Clara Khoury stars in this semi-political, semi-humanitarian, semi-comedic film of a young Druze woman (Arab, but not muslim) who lives in a Druze village in the outermost portion of the Golan Heights, on the Syrian border, who travels to Syria to marry a Soap Opera star there. This tragic comedy touches on the heart strings as she says goodbye for good to her family, since she will be leaving Israel for Syria, to live with her new husband, in a country that Israel is at war with. Syrian Bride was nominated for 7 Israeli Academy Awards.

5. Medurat Hashevet (Campfire) (2004) – Set in 1981 in the early days of Israeli settling (occupation) of Judea and Samaria (The West Bank). Directed by Joseph Cedar (Beaufort), drew fire from the right-wing settler movement as the film portrays them as opportunists looking for good real estate deals rather than being motivated by political and religious beliefs. The Israeli secular crowd loved this film.

From the NY Times review:

Its broader political implications within Israel notwithstanding, “Campfire” offers an outsider an intimate portrait of family members living in uncomfortably close proximity and straining against one another during a difficult period of transition. Rachel, a tough, attractive woman whose husband died of cancer a year earlier, is tugged this way and that by conflicting desires. She longs for the security and companionship of the community. But because her first marriage was unhappy, she is unwilling to settle for another husband who won’t deliver the romantic fireworks the first one didn’t provide.

Winner of 7 Israeli Academy Awards, and nominated for another 8.

Honorable Mention: Etz Limon (Lemon Tree) (2008) – Directed by Eran Riklis (Syrian Bride). This year’s most popular film. Based on a true story, a Palestinian widow cultivates a lemon tree grove next to her house. Her new next door neighbor, Israel’s Defense Minister, Israel Navon, threatens to have the tree grove uprooted because of security concerns. This is another tragic-comedy-tear jerker-veilied left-of-center-political film. The acting is very emotional, but the message is a bit over-the-top left wing borderline propaganda siding with the Palestinians.
This film was nominated for 7 awards at Israel’s Academy Awards, and won at the 2008 Berlin Film Festival.

Also See: Top 5 Israeli Movies of All Time

Israel has made recycling a top priority

Imagine if all the power needed to run Israel’s cars was harnassed from the rooftop sun collectors and sent to the Israel Electric Company for a net gain in GDP with no additional outlays

Israel is a country with little natural resources coupled with expensive sea-based transportation of imported goods. What can be done to keep the cost of energy and products down? In short – recycling and use of renewable energy.

Cleaning Solar Panels
Cleaning Solar Panels

With the hot and sunny climate, Israel is the ideal location for widespread use of solar energy. Nearly all homes today are installed with solar panels for heating household water. Soon, the Israel Electric Company will begin a pilot program to allow individuals to collect energy from solar panels and send them to the Israel power grid, and get paid!

Israel established in the late 90s a government ministry (????? ??????) to deal with environmental issues. This ministry – Eychut Hasviva, has worked diligently over the last 5 years to establish many new recycling programs. All plastic and glass bottles under 1 liter in size are purchased with a deposit fee, with convenient recycling ‘vending machines’ at the supermarkets for return and cash payback.

Most major cities in Israel now have collection points for larger plastic bottles (over 1 liter), and a new pilot program has been initiated for paper materials collection in designated bins.

Plastic Recylcing Bin
Plastic Recylcing Bin

According to the Israel Export Office hybrid car sales have risen 300% since 2007.  Brace yourself, Israel has committed to creating a green / electric car network by 2011.   Imagine if all the power needed to run Israel’s cars was harnassed from the rooftop sun collectors and sent to the Israel Electric Company for a net gain in GDP with no additional outlays.  What a way to reduce foreign energy dependence and to reshift the power balance in the Middle East.

The Police, Mahane Yehuda, and Me

You may ask yourself, what do the police and the shuk Mahane Yehuda have in common with me?

A while back, I was at the Shuk in Jerusalem (Israelis refer to Mahane Yehuda simply as “The Shuk”) which means “shopping area” in Hebrew.  As I am accustomed to do, I had my camera with me on that fine day.   I photographed some of the stalls, and generally blended in to the atmosphere.

I took a photo of this Arab worker sitting on an empty stall.

Worker sitting on empty stall in Mahane Yehuda

Worker sitting on empty stall in Mahane Yehuda

Then, I panned my camera and took a photo of the shuk’s main road with my wide-angle lens.  Within 10 seconds, two policemen (whom you can see in the right corner of the photo) had confiscated my camera, asked to see my ID card, and were questioning me about my ‘suspicious’ activity.

I told them to relax and that I was doing an article for a newspaper in the USA.  Along with my strong American accented Hebrew, there was little to cause them further suspicion.  Then, they wanted to take the film in the camera since I had photographed them.   I then reasoned with them further that with such a wide-angle lens it would be hard to discern their faces, much less their identities.

After a few tense minutes, (the time it takes for a not-so-smart policeman in any country to understand an argument with logical reasoning), they returned my camera to me with the caveat that I could not photograph them anymore.  Once I had the camera back in hand along with my ID card, I jokingly told them that without some more photos of them, I wouldn’t be able to share with them the article I would be writing about the Shuk…  I never did get their names!

Enjoy the photo, i hope it was worth it…

Shuk Mahane Yehuda - The photo that caused a stir
The photo that caused a stir

Nike Tel Aviv 10K Run – 31 Aug 2008

Nearly 10,000 runners lined the streets of Tel Aviv this past Sunday night as the Tel Aviv version of the Nike Human Race was run.  The race began at Kikar Rabin (Rabin Square) and ended at the Sportek in Park Hayarkon.

The atmosphere was electric.  The runnners were requested to wear the Nike red race shirts (with the number heat transfered), and North Tel Aviv looked like a sea of red shirts.  The organization of the race was fantastic, although the water distribution along the route was a bit messed up.  (Most intermediate to advanced runners wouldn’t necessarily drink at a 10k distance, especially at night).

The only spoiler was the incredible Tel Aviv humidity.  Although the course was flat, this runner was about a minute or two off pace due to the high humidity.  Likewise, the shear amount of bodies moving within the marked paths was nearly impossible to run your own pace without having to move latterally or to fly over the masses in front of you.

Here’s a photo of your’s truly crossing the finish line.

Nike Tel Aviv 10K Run 2008
Nike Tel Aviv 10K Run 2008

All in all, a big Kudos to Nike, the race organizers, Tel Aviv, and to my fellow 10,000 runners, for a wonderful evening.

Here’s the Nike Running website in Israel where you can get more information about this event.

Top Five Israeli Movies of All Time

Top Israeli Films of All Time:

1. Sallah Shabbati (1964) – Directed by Ephraim Kishon, starring Topol. Notice the hillarious Mike Burstein in a cameo role. Arik Einstein is there too. This is the quintessential story of the young Israel set in the late 1950’s as Sephardic (Oriental) and Yemenite Jews were immigrating in waves due to changes in policy in the Arab countries. This man’s story, Sallah, is told to represent the light-hearted look at a heavy subject of the trials and tribulations of integration (or lack thereof) to an intrinsically Ashkenazic (European) society. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Not to be missed.


References: IMDB Movie Synopsis Wikipedia Listing

2. Givat Halfon (???? ????? – (1976 Directed by Assi Dayan, Starring Shayka Levi, Gavri Banai, and Yisrael Polikov (The stars of Hagashash Hahiver comedy troupe). This is probably the funniest movie ever made in Israel. Even 30 years later, lines from this film are used in everyday slang. “?? ?? ???? ???”. The plot and premise don’t really matter, other than to give devices for the Hagashash to have fun at the expense of everything. The scene where Shayka teaches the Egyptian Officer how to make good Turkish Coffee is truly inspired Israeli comedy at its finest. Watch also for the young Tuvya Tzapir as the zany Miluim Officer.

References: Wikipedia Listing Video Clip #1 Video Clip #2

3. Chagiga B’Snooker (????? ?????? (1975 – Starring Yehuda Barkan and Tuvya Tzapir. This film exposes the Israeli underside, the mob, as a bunch of nutsos in a madcap film. Yehuda Barkan gives his most hilarious and memorable performance as Snooker huksters try to outsmart the mob and all the craziness that ensues. Although admittedly cheesy humor, it is screened faithfully every year on Israeli TV usually around Yom Haatzmaut (Independence Day).

References: Video Clip Wikipedia Listing

4. Ricochets (1986) (Shtei Etzbaot MiTzidon) ??? ?????? ??????
This anti-war story is told thru the eyes of a young recruit joining his unit in the Lebanon War (??”?). The movie was also well-received by international critics. The plot and action is simple, but the message is clear – war is bad.

References: Video Clip Wikipedia Listing

5. Hashoter Azulai “The Policeman” (1971) – Directed by Ephraim Kishon – Starring Shaike Ophir as Officer Avraham Azoulay. Ophir is policeman in Yafo. He is bumbling and naive, but with more pride and inner-knowing than others in this genre (such as Inspector Clouseau). The music and themes in this film are tragic and uplifting all at once. The final scene of this film, has become one of the most memorable in Israeli cinema. This film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and won the Golden Globe in the same category.
References: Wikipedia Listing IMDB Listing Video Clip

Also See: Top 5 Modern Israeli Must-See Movies