Monday, November 23, 2009

Weekly News Roundup, November 14-20, 2009

I've been a bad blogger lately. Posting on days other than Fridays and whatnot, but I swear I have a good excuse this time. You see, this past weekend was my 25th birthday and, unfortunately, I was too busy having my quarter-life crisis to blog. But now I'm back and ready to tackle Israel news with a renewed passion and unbridled enthusiasm. Let's get to it.

A Rare Look into the Mind of a Former Terrorist: Most terrorists become former because either they self-detonate in a crowded marketplace or get on the express train to paradise courtesy of the IDF. This former terrorist in the video below falls into neither of these categories, which is why he's such an interesting interview. He covers such topics as women's rights in the Islamic world, how Israel should deal with terrorists, and some of his past associations with terror bigwigs. Give it a view, it's only seven minutes long:

Israel's Top 10 Gadgets: It is well known that Israel is a hotbed of technological advancement and a pioneer in the high-tech arena. Israel21C has been generous enough to put together a top 10 list of Israel-developed gadgets. Coming in at #2, but the winner in my eyes, is the Powermat. Ever get all the cords for your various cell phones, iPods, laptops and other personal electronics in a knot that you trip over in the middle of the night? I have, I'm sad to admit, and it sounds like a Powermat would solve this very problem of mine:
"The Israeli company's technology lets you embed a power grid in just about anything - from a desk to a kitchen counter. Then, with a wireless receiver hidden inside a device, there's no need for plugs anymore. Just position the device or appliance near a power "hotspot" and away it goes."

Here's a link to the corporate site in case you want to check it out for yourself or purchase a Powermat for your favorite Israel blogger that recently celebrated his 25th birthday.

More Schalit News/Rumors: It seems, as usual, that most of this is speculation and wishful thinking. Bibi refuses to comment, Hamas is only too happy to announce progress on a prisoner swap deal, and Gilad Schalit continues to rot in captivity. It's been three and a half years since he was captured, and it looks like Gilad's situation won't change in the near future. I try not to get my hopes up when Hamas announces an imminment prisoner exchange, and this time is no different. I'll believe it when I hear it from the Israelis and not a moment sooner.

That's it for now, I hope you can forgive me for being late. Have a good week everyone, enjoy your Thanksgiving, don't OD on tryptophan, and don't get trampled on Black Friday.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Reverse Mifgash/Weekly News Roundup, November 7 - 13, 2009

The Reverse Mifgash: Apologies for not writing a Weekly News Roundup last week. I was very busy participating in the Reverse Mifgash, and was unable to bone up on my Israel news-reading in time. What's a Reverse Mifgash, you ask? Well, in Hebrew, Mifgash means 'encounter,' as in an encounter between Israelis and Americans, only, unlike a traditional Birthright trip, this Mifgash takes place on American turf. It's a reverse Birthright, if you will. A lot of planning, money-raising and coordination went into this 10 day, free trip for the eight Israelis, and it really turned out quite well. While they were here, the Israelis took in our fair city quite a bit, including: volunteering at the DC JCC, a tour of the Washington Post, the US Holocaust Museum, a comedy show by Benji Lovitt (of What War Zone), Shabbat services and dinner at the DC JCC, and plenty of nights out for alcohol consumption. I participated in much of it, including a Phone-a-Thon to raise money for future Birthright trips, and had a great time, as did the Israelis. On to the news...

The Abbas Bluff: Let me get this straight, Mahmoud Abbas is threatening to quit as president of the PA, and willing to give up the figurehead power and millions of dollars in western aid money that comes with the job? Please. He's about as likely to quit as I am to be offered the job after he leaves. But Abbas threatened to quit anyway, due to the lack of progress in the 'peace process.' Then again, we have heard this before, and the old man still collects a check. I'm not biting.

Israel gets a Brazilian...Trade Deal: Shimon Peres went to Brazil earlier this week to sign a free trade deal with the largest South American country. The Brazilian government also signed a deal to buy $350 million worth of Israeli unmanned drone aircraft. On the other end of Israeli/Brazilian relations, around 40 pro-Palestinian Brazilian protestors waved banners that read 'Shimon Hitler' in honor of President Peres's visit. Nice.

Tel Aviv Bans Horse-Drawn Carriages: This week, the bustling metropolis that is Tel Aviv finally banned the use of horse-drawn carriages within the city limits. As of now, Tel Aviv is the first city in Israel to institute this ban. Perhaps the rest of the country will follow suit, but Israel's sizable Amish population is unlikely to stand by idly while its only mode of transport is outlawed. Ahh, Amish jokes.

Have a good weekend, folks.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Phoning it in for Birthright

Last night, November 4, I participated in a "Phone-a-Thon" to raise money for Taglit Birthright Israel and the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. I actually got to give a speech introducing the event and was a 'chair' of sorts, but enough horn-tootage. About 12 Americans and 8 Israelis also joined in on the fun to raise money which, thanks to the general state of the economy, the Bernie Madoff scandal, and a variety of other factors, is a little short right now for Birthright trips.

I participated in a Birthright trip in the Winter of 2008-09 and felt that, since I was given such an amazing (not to mention FREE) gift, why not try to pay that gift forward to DC area Jews?

Lacking a good reason not to participate in the Phone-a-Thon, I decided to head down to the Schusterman International Center in Chinatown to try to charm unsuspecting parents out of their money. Our 'targets' were DC area parents whose children had recently gone to Israel on a Taglit Birthright trip: striking while the iron is hot, as they say. After a short training session, during which the callers learned how to answer frequently asked questions the parents might have, how to most effectively convey our goals, etc., we took to the phones and got busy. And busy is what I got, as in busy signals. Also voicemails, hang ups, and disconnected numbers.

A good portion of the parents answered though, and the vast majority of them were willing to accept more information about donating. Some even donated over the phone. A big selling point for the donors was the fact that the Adelson Family Foundation will be double matching any of the donations we receive by December 31, 2009. For example, last night we raised $4,000 ($200 of which was raked in by yours truly) over the phones, which in actuality results in $12,000 for Taglit Birthright Israel trips due to the Adelsons' generosity.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington needs to raise $130,000 to send a full bus of DC area participants to Israel, and hopefully they'll get closer to their goal as some of the parents who requested more information mail in their donations. There's also you, dear reader, who can help out. Visit to make a donation which, if you don't remember, will be doubled by the Adelsons. It's really for a great cause and you'll feel good that you were able to help Americans get to Israel free of charge for an amazing 10 day experience. Now more than ever, it's vital we continue building strong ties between the Diaspora and Israel, and Taglit Birthright Israel trips are one of the best ways to ensure our respective communities remain closely knit.