Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
I've wanted to tell you about my military service for a while now, but I never knew exactly what I want to say. However, since foreign media take a very negative, false approach towards the IDF, and more and more false accusations pop up every day, I feel I can't wait any longer and will tell you what the IDF is really like through my personal story.
I think I'll begin at the end: a couple of months after my release from the IDF (after a two years long service), I went to a summer camp in Georgia, US, as an Israeli delegate of the Jewish Agency. While mostly having fun and telling exciting stories about Israel to the young campers, my fellow Israelis and I had to also deal with some tough questions asked by our American co-counselors. Most of their questions involved the IDF and its actions, and were based on information they got from the media. Some stood behind what they heard and read, and accused us with some terrible accusations, involving murder and intentions of killing innocent people for kicks. Those people were mostly adamant in their beliefs. They believed they already knew everything about the IDF, even better than we, and were positive of every part-truth they heard over the news. They had no intention of hearing us out, and mainly wanted to give us a piece of their minds for all the evil we've done.
As hard as dealing with this was, the other type of questions was much harder to deal with. Those questions were asked by Israel fans who heard all those things over the news, and weren't sure how to handle it. They were torn between their support of Israel and the horror stories the news handed them on a daily basis. Their questions weren't easy to deal with, because unlike the former group, this one was eager to hear what we had to say, and waited for a straight forward, decisive answer. My replies to them started with the sentence: "what you hear on the news is not entirely incorrect, but the world is not black and white." Then, I started explaining how the IDF's purpose is strictly defending Israel and its people, and never attacking or conquering. I told them that when they read a story of a school in Gaza being attacked by the IDF, it is usually what really happened, and then I explained how our enemies do a very good job in making us look bad by hiding wanted terrorists inside schools and hospitals and by doing that, making the IDF attack those places, which later does not look god in the eyes on the media. Questions like that are very hard to answer, especially when the person asking those questions expects a somewhat different answer. Later in the day, things got much easier when I would sit with my eight-year-old campers and tell them, decisively, how heroic the IDF soldiers are. No complications and in a black and white perspective.
Things are never simple, and there is always far more than the eye can see. Nothing and nobody is perfect and people always make mistakes, but there is no question in whether the foreign media supports the IDF. I am not going to try and explain to you every single move the IDF makes, but I can say that throughout my military service, I never questioned my commander, not once, and neither did my friends, some of them in Combat units. What I do want to tell you, that is if you belong to the second group and are open to hear what I have to say, is that besides special missions and heroic battles, there is so much more in the Israeli military service.
12.10.13 at 12:55 pm | What you are about to read sounds like a big. . .
12.9.13 at 12:35 pm | Mourning Paul and Seffy, lighting up Africa,. . .
12.6.13 at 12:23 pm | Since I live in Israel and am very passionate. . .
12.2.13 at 12:33 pm | International success, music, extreme sport, a. . .
11.29.13 at 11:58 am | Since I live in Israel and am very passionate. . .
11.26.13 at 1:09 pm | Netanyahu goes meatless, the IDF goes green,. . .
12.6.13 at 12:23 pm | Since I live in Israel and am very passionate. . . (34)
12.10.13 at 12:55 pm | What you are about to read sounds like a big. . . (33)
11.15.12 at 10:32 am | It is a solid fact that Operation Pillar of. . . (29)
October 10, 2012 | 10:21 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
After spending eight days in Israel, as a part of the Once in a Lifetime program of the Stand With Us Fellowship organization, ten influential Instagram users from all over the world returned to their homes, carrying memories of an unforgetable trip from north to south (including a meeting with the President). In those eight days, the ten Instagramers captured every aspect of Israel, and shared their best creations with their total of three million followers. Two of the talented modern cameramen, Carli Liene (@inkedfingers), a 28 year old from Austin, Texas; and Dave Temple (@kewiki), a 36 year old from Chicago, Indiana, agreed to share some of their best work with Israelife readers. They collected what they thought captured Israel in the best way, through their eyes, for you to enjoy.
Dave, a first-timer in our beautiful Israel, sure won't forget his visit: "My time in Israel was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. The history, food, architecture, and most importantly the people, make this place one of the most incredible places I've ever visited. It is a photographer's paradise and I definitely will be back! I thank Israel for being such a wonderful host and helping me to understand more about the country. The Once in a Lifetime HD group should also be commended for acting as excellent ambassadors for Israel and showing our group that Israel is full of life and love."
The full photo albums of all ten Instagramers are presented on their pages.
October 8, 2012 | 10:30 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
* Israeli achievement at the Computer Olympics: students from 81 countries worldwide competed in Italy on various computer-related tasks such as solving complex algorithms. The level of problems the contestants solved was higher than what grad-school computer students are facing in class. The Israeli team was ranked 19, and won a total of two silver medals and one bronze medal. The US team, if you were wondering, came in first.
* Apple's flunk turns to Waze's success: Waze is an Israel start up combining GPS system with a social network. Waze's users contribute map data, and report traffic incidents, delays, police ambushes, etc. ,which can help other users find alternative routes or directions and get to their destination as soon as possible. This Israeli program initially operated only in Israel, but slowly started to grow and expand. In perfect timing, Apple's new "Maps" feature for IPhone brought frustration upon millions of users, due to bugs and errors. This lead Apple CEO Tim Cook to recommend Apple users to use competing software such as the Waze, while the issues are being fixed. This recommendation came in just in time for Waze's founders, and gave the Israeli mapping application a huge boost.
After the Red Hot Chili Peppers rocked Israel last month, we received some more great news: Canadian singer-songwriter Alanis Morisette will land here in December for a single performance, as a part of her "Guardian Angel" international tour. It's always great news when an international performer considers Israel in a tour, and when the performer is Alanis Morisette, the news is even greater!
* The Barcelona soccer team has recently invited former captive IDF soldier, Gilad Shalit, to attend the October 7th match against Real Madrid. This lead Hamas calling for a media boycott of the soccer club, and caused quite the shenanigans. In response, the team has invited three Palestinians to also attend the match: soccer player Mahmoud Al Sarsak, who was held in an Israeli jail for three years until being released this year following a hunger strike, along with the president of the Palestinian Football Union Jibril Rajoub and the Palestinian Authority ambassador to Spain.
* The day of the recruitment to the IDF is usually far from making anyone dance. It is long and tiring, and on top of it all-it's the day you say goodbye to your free will for two to three years. That is why everyone in the recruitment center was surprised when Ran Bronstein, on his first day as a soldier, started to dance. 24 year-old Bronstein, who made Alyiah from the States in 2007 to join the IDF, took a camera with him to the first day, and captured every moment of his process of becoming a soldier. Since he couldn't hold his excitement of finally serving his country, he started to dance in front of the camera and didn't stop until the finalization of the recruitment chain. The five minute long video clip was approved by the IDF spokesperson only recently, and Bronstein uploaded it on YouTube. It's been online for about two weeks now, and has already become a hit, showing everyone that recruitment can also be a positive, fun experience.
October 2, 2012 | 10:10 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
After a week of UN speeches, I had the urge to tell you about politicians from my point of view. For several days now my mind has been occupied with a rumble of thoughts and feelings, and I figured the only way I can make sense of it all is to write it down. So who are politicians? They are people we vote for, usually once every four years, to represent us. We choose many, for various roles and parts, while only one of them is chosen to sit on top. This person is the State leader, and he/she is the best and worst of them all. State leaders have the most responsibility, and thus they are under the most pressure. They can try and handle it in a smart way, but the outcome is usually one big mess, with only us to blame.
When we cast our votes, we usually rely on a bundle of promises, packed one on top of another, creating a utopean vision that can never happen. We, the voters, are fully aware of the non-existing reliability of those promises, but choose to believe them anyway. Why? Probably because we crave those things, and by hearing our wildest dreams being realized from the mouth of a soon-to-be important person, we act like we're under a spell. Politicians have a very sharp tongue, especially during an election year. They know exactly what to say, and we listen. We are attracted to their words like a moth to fire, and eventually vote according to their speeches, and not by relying on past actions. We are forgiving, and therefore willing to give a second chance to a mouthful of promises we want to hear so badly. After we cast our vote to the greatest promiser we lay back and wait for the magic to happen. But since our State leaders are not Walt Disney, that's not possible. As time passes by, they make sincere attempts to follow their promises and make them reality, only to discover that's not possible. Then, as we wait patiently, they try to figure a way out, and spend about a year or so coming up with reasonable excuses. At first, we get angry, as we are tired of waiting for Utopia. We promise ourselves to never fall for their traps ever again, and begin to protest against our unrealized dreams. Then, as the election date comes closer, the game changes yet again.
A part of a politician's job is to make speeches. In fact, this is their primary job and the first requirement for the part. State leaders get to make the most meaningful speeches at the top of the political world- the UN. This is the one and only neutral organization which is as far from neutral as Britney Spears is from sanity. The closer the election date is, the more vague and more grandiose their speeches become. They basically stand behind the podium and throw words like "Peace", "Will not allow", "middle east", "obligation" and "friendship" to the air, without mentioning names and without actually saying anything. Then, when their job is done, our job begins, because the interpretation is on us. The day after, newspapers are filled with the finest journalists' attempts to realize what the State leader had said. At this point, each and every one of us forms an opinion based on the newspaper we read. The politician basically sits back at his/her chair, smiling to one self. Their job is done. Ours is just beginning.
One other fact about politicians is that they have selective hearing when it comes to the world's worst enemies. A leader of a hostile country, who may put the world in danger, can say a sentence which starts with "Death to all Israelis" and ends with "Let the peace begin", and the state leaders will only hear the latter. Politicians, just like the rest of us prior to elections, can also put words and actions to a complete separation. Examples? Coming right up! When a tyrant like Assad butchers his people and then poses for a family portrait for a top magazine, smiling shyly and being quoted saying things about the peace and love, politicians will take that as a statement of peace. When Ahmadinejad makes a peace sign to the camera, while building a nuclear bomb which is officially stated for the destruction of Israel, politicians will zoom in on the peace sign without reading in between the lines (or looking at newspapers' headlines).
This leads me to the next politicians' characteristic- they are naïve. Well, they’re either that or they're really good actors. I personally believe that a politician who truly believes Ahmadinejad craves peace is in the wrong business. And since they obviously make beautiful speeches and have ravishing charisma, they are in the right business, meaning they honestly can't really believe in his peace and love screen of lies. A politician who says he believes peace in the Middle East will arrive shortly is naïve. Same goes for the unbelievable politicians who listen to Ahmadinejad stating he intends to destroy every last Israeli and then shakes hands with him, saying his nuclear weapon is for research. A politician saying any of those things is a politician who sits far away from here, and has no clue what's really going on. This is a politician who has a lack of understanding of just how important Israel is for maintaining of peace in the Middle East. There are far more than one politician of that kind. There are countless politicians who truly believe in fairytale peace without changing a thing, or simply by exchanging words with our Prime Minister (who is quite a politician himself). This will not bring peace, and these are NOT the people who should sit on top of the political-diplomatic ladder.
A true state leader, the one we really need, is a person who sticks to what he believes in, even during the election year. A true state leader is the person who is willing to make a change in this world, come what may. A person who is willing to take a risk for the sake of humanity. A true state leader will not only say all of this, but actually do, and "do" is the key word. I am a realistic person, which means I have almost lost hope in such a Messiah, but deep inside, I am still looking for the politician who will bring back our belief in that profession. The most important thing we all must remember is that both the blame and the hope is on us. We must not forgive and forget like we do once in every four years or so. We must remember and face all of the wrongs and rights, not listen to polls or promises, and fight for out Utopia.
September 11, 2012 | 12:50 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
I was only 11 at the time, but 9/11 is a date I'll never forget. I was at home alone, busy with my homework, when the phone rang. I picked it up, and on the other side was my aunt, and she sounded hysterical: "Noga! Where is your father?" –"Abroad", I replied. "Somewhere In the States. New-York, I think". –"Oh my God, do you know if he is okay?" I replied I didn't hear from him that day, but I guess he is just fine, and she hung up. I had no idea what was the conversation about, so I decided to wait for my mother to return home and ask her then. Meanwhile, I turned on the television, and looked for something interesting to see. When I reached one of the news channels, I couldn't look away. In front of me, on the screen, were images too rough to see. People screaming and crying to the sight of the twin towers slowly collapse. The reporter analyzed the situation, but I wasn't listening. I was captured by the unbelievable pictures, of one of the darkest days of the 21st century. It wasn't long until I realized my aunt's panic. My father is there, god knows how close to the smoke and flames. I called my mother, and she hurried to calm me down. My father was safe and sound and in Florida. It wasn't until a few days later when he told me he was supposed to be in New-York, at that time, having a meeting in one of the towers, but eventually experienced some change in plans.
It could be faith, a higher power, or merely luck, but the bottom line is that my father was saved and got to live a happy life in the next 11 years (and counting). Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the thousands of people who woke up that day without knowing it will be their last. Ever since that day, 9/11 became a day of both memory and salutation. On that day, for 11 years, we bow our head in memory of the ones who were lost forever, and salute to the heroes who saved lives, and helped preventing a maybe bigger attack. But the most admirable aspect of the post 9/11 US, is the fact that in it is not just one day a year. 9/11 is everywhere, every day to everyone: from memorial sites, to special programs, to unity with those whose world collapsed and never restructured- you are all united in this memory for 11 years.
At this point, I just want to let you know we remember 9/11 too. We also bow our heads in memory of this unforgettable day and wish it didn't exist. We hold your hands and embrace you all, in hope to never witness such a disaster ever again. But in order to never letting this repeat itself, we all must stand together in the battle against terror. In the past several years, it continues to grow and the threat for all countries of the world is getting more and more solid. Terror continues to grow, and the only way to stop it is to stand together. Together we are a wall, stronger than any brick or metal. The fight against terror may sometimes seem like an impossible fight, but things are always better once you know you're not alone out there. Together we will make a better world, where our children will spend a lifetime not knowing what terror is, remembering the 21st century as the day the world said: "enough". May you all be strong, and may 9/11 always refer only to the year 2001.
September 10, 2012 | 10:30 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
* Israel's Beauty and the Geek's semi-finals turned out to be more than your everyday reality show episode. The final four couples visited Turkey on a very special mission: to try and make things right between the two states. As most of you already know, things aren't going so great for Israel and Turkey. After maintaining a good, healthy relationship, based mostly on mutual tourism, a line of diplomatic mishaps brought the relationship between the allies to a new low-point. In fact, for the past year or so, the state has recommended Israelis avoid taking vacations there. In the popular show's semi-finals, the couples took the not-so-secure trip over there, and became Israeli ambassadors, while trying to bring the relationship status back to "friends". After performing various tasks, they did not succeed in bringing things back to the way they were, but they defiantly took some risks even the best politicians never took.
* Research made by the world's health organization ranked the Israeli youth number three in the world's happiness rate. The research, taken once every four years, tested the mental and social health amongst teenagers from 34 states. In the category testing the contentment from life, the Israeli teenagers were ranked third, while their peers from Macedonia and Armenia are the only ones happier. But while considered happy with their lives, the Israeli teenagers are also the fifth most angry in the world. Well, when it is summer ten months a year, who can blame them?
* A commercial German company, selling puzzles and posters of famous German sites and scenery, decided to add two very controversial sites to their collection, and on the way, hurt many feelings. Under the title of "Germany's most beautiful sites", along with 55 thousand places, the company added a purchasable poster or puzzle of the concentration camps Dachau and Buchenwald. The German-Jewish community expressed their surprise and rage with the new addition, which, in their words, is disrespectful towards the memory of the tens of thousands of people who were brutally murdered there during the Holocaust. Dachau was the first concentration camp built by the Nazis, and Buchenwald was the largest concentration camp built on German land. Today, the places function as memorial and educational sites.
* More achievements for the Israeli Paralympic team! The games in London ended with five more Israeli athletes stood on the podium, and joined the two bronze medal winners from last week: Inbal Pezaro (two bronze medals for swimming) and Itzhak Mamistvalov (one bronze medal for swimming).Pezaro won a third bronze medal (Wonem's 100m freestyle S5), Doron Shaziri won a silver medal for shooting (Men's 50m. rifle 3 positions SH1), Koby Lion won a silver medal for Cycling (Men's time trial H1), and Noam Gershony brought Israel's first gold medal since the games in Athens, 2004. Gershony was injured severely during the second Lebanon war, where he served as a pilot. After winning first place in Wheelchair tennis, he said in interviews he is now "at the top of the world." Gershony and his partner, Shraga Weinberg, also won bronze medal for wheelchair tennis Quad Doubles.
* Rama Burshtein made history last week at the 69th Venice Film Festival. The filmmaker became the first Israeli director with a film presented in the formal contest of one of the three most significant, important film festivals worldwide (Cannes, Venice and Berlin). As if this achievement is not big enough, Burshtein is also the first Haredi filmmaker whose film is presented outside of the community. Her film, Lemale' et Ha'Chalal (Fill the Void), was screened last Sunday and got very loud applause from the audience, which lasted about ten minutes. But it wasn't just the audience who thought this film was a state of the art creation, as critics' compliments started to appear in the papers and online. The film is nominated for the prestigious "Golden Lion" award, and tells of a Haredi family dealing with a tragedy as the daughter dies while giving birth.
* An on the same matter, Hadas Yaron, a 22 year-old waitress-actress who played the lead in Rama Burshtein's film, won the Best Actress award in the festival. Yaron returned to Israel after the movie premier in Venice, and went back to her job at a local coffee shop. On Friday, she received the life changing phone call, with the announcement on her win. On Saturday, she flew back to Italy to receive the prestigious award. Truly a Cinderella story...
Rama Burshtein and the cast of Lemale' er HaChalal at the 69th Venice Film Festival
September 7, 2012 | 11:54 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
This week I'll make an exception and recommend a song. In 2002, Ariel Horowitz, son of Israel's greatest songwriter and composer- Naomi Shemer, released a single from his second album. Horowitz was already quite famous at the time, and continued to maintain a respected musical career. But from his total of five albums, his 2002 single, Renée, is his most famous to this day, and considered one of the most iconic songs in the Israeli culture. Renée was written about Renée Zellweger, whom Horowitz had a crush on after watching Jerry Maguire. This song is so good and so smart, I decided to translate it to English, for you to enjoy, because it's not every day you find a song with lyrics as good as the melody. Rhymes and wordplay not included, so it's not a good as it sounds in Hebrew. However, this song tells of a man who decided to peruse his dream, telling Renée Zellweger he loves her, and take her with him back to Israel. With the combination of wit, innocence and insistence, the hero of the story tells us his entire plan, from deciding to leave Israel, through finding Renée and finally- giving her his big speech. The story is left open, as we have no idea what her answer is. In real life, however, I can reassure you this story remained in Horowitz's dreams.
I went to see an American movie and fell in love with the actress.
On my way back home, in the cab, I was thinking to myself:
why not pack all my belongings, thank my mother for all the years, and just go?
On the wing of the airplane, the homeland's flag shine,
My beloved doesn't yet have a clue
That I, with determination of a unavoidable faith, am closing the gap, and I got an address and a photo.
Your life is about to change completely, because I am on my way.
The custom clerk in New York, with politeness packed with alienation
Wants me to tell him the purpose of my visit.
'I come from love', I say.
To ocean would ever tear us apart, Renée .
Your life is about to change completely, because I am on my
A restaurant, a black dress, a confusing cleavage.
Good thing I prepared my speech in advance, in Israel
Touch me, Renée, and you'll see, I am not made of Plastic.
You'll have a real life with me:
On Thursday nights your will lay in bad, reading a book,
While the guys and I will watch Basketball.
We'll live in a small apartment in Motzkin (a small town in Israel)
And once a year, you'll make a movie with Ivgi (Moshe Ivgi, one if Israel's greatest actors).
Your life is about to change completely, because I am on my way.