Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
This weekend, once again, the people of Southern Israel were under attack. Missiles fired from Gaza exploded in the middle of cities, and people were wounded, both physically and mentally. This weekend was also the formal beginning of winter time here. After an everlasting summer, the rain started to pour and the smell of winter filled the air. The people of the south did not smell the rain. Instead, they smelled smoke, and the mold-scent of the inside of shelters.
While the people of the south stayed inside the shelters, we, who live in central and northern Israel, stayed inside our blankets. This is the reality in Israel- some are under attack, while the rest read about it in the newspaper. This reality, however, is not new to us: In the 1991 Gulf war, the sky above Tel Aviv and central Israel was covered in red, while the southern and northern skies were all blue. In 2000, during the second Intifada, I was not allowed to go on a bus, or sit in a restaurant, because of the fear they might explode. At the same time, my northern friends were drinking chocolate milk at their favorite restaurant. In 2006, during the Second Lebanon War, my southern friends and I could both lie near the pool and enjoy the summer, while our northern friends lived inside their shelters.
It's a bit weird, isn't it? How such a small country can be so disconnected and run a very different daily routine...I do not remember the last time the entire state of Israel was under an attack at the same time. But the thing about us is that even though the reality is different in the different areas, the rest of us never close our hearts and arms. The gap between one reality to another just makes us grow stronger against the ones who want to destroy our lives as individual and spirit as a nation. Every time one area is struck, the people who live there know they have a place to go. In every single strike, some of those who were under attack found shelter in a safe place. Strangers opened their hearts and houses and hosted with kindness those whose houses were brutally destroyed by terrorists.
Those terrorists think they can wear us out, burn out our flame. But while they can destroy houses, and scare children, they cannot destroy Israel's most powerful weapon- solidarity. I don’t know every single state in the world, but I have a very good reason to believe Israel is the most solid place on earth. True, we have no idea how to stand properly in lines, and we can sometimes be a bit hot-headed when we think someone is trying to rip us off. However, when needed, we unite into one powerful wall of people that no one can break, especially when it comes to security. When one is unsafe, another will reach out. That's just how it is, and how it will always be. At times, it is easy to be angry with those who continue to live their lives while others cannot, but in our case, it is a proven fact that this gap between one city to another is an advantage in our war against our enemies. The fact that there are people who still enjoy the first rain proves we cannot be broken. We will never give up on our spirit, and will never leave a fellow Israeli without a safe haven in times of need. This reality, under which the people of the south are living, should not exist. I have no idea why it still does, but I am sure our decision makers will soon know what to do. Terror must be stopped, and the only way to do so is to unite against it. Until the heads of the states of the world will find a way to do so, it is up to us, the people, to maintain our flame and to not let our wall break.
12.17.13 at 12:22 pm | Pro-Israeli activists waited years for the day. . .
12.17.13 at 7:30 am | BDS, the best of Hanukkah, TripAdvisor awards,. . .
12.16.13 at 11:12 am | Since winter here is rather short, and lasts a. . .
12.13.13 at 11:36 am | Since I live in Israel and am very passionate. . .
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,. . .
12.16.13 at 11:12 am | Since winter here is rather short, and lasts a. . . (420)
12.17.13 at 12:22 pm | Pro-Israeli activists waited years for the day. . . (133)
12.17.13 at 7:30 am | BDS, the best of Hanukkah, TripAdvisor awards,. . . (52)
November 11, 2012 | 11:01 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
* Douglas, Isle of Man-based Odyssey Moon Ltd. and Israeli-based NSL Satellites Ltd., in partnership with NanoRacks LLC of the U.S., together launched a number of educational microgravity experiments to the International Space Station (ISS). Three of them are the outcomes of developments made by students from three Israeli high schools. In the past year, the students went through a unique class about space environment, life on the international space station and the legacy of the first Israeli Astronaut, Ilan Ramon, who was killed while on board the Colombia space shuttle. The students pitched many suggestions for experiments in space to a special committee, and only three were elected to actually be performed. One experiment will look at how cancer cells develop in microgravity, another will determine the direction of the sprouts/roots growth of radish seeds under microgravity, and the third will examine the hardening of an epoxy resin sample to test the characteristics of the mix in microgravity conditions. Two experiments were already launched from Cape Canaveral. The third one is due to launch in January.
* One morning, two years ago, Rachel Held-Evans decided to live one year according to the rules of the bible. That decision resulted in one of today's best sellers: Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband Master . In this book, Held-Evans describes her biblical-style life, including living in a tent during the Time of the Month, no getting anywhere near a television or a computer, avoiding gossip and more. Before becoming a famous publishing author, Held-Evans was a blogger, living in the lap of the Evangelical Church. That lifestyle made her want to examine why people choose to educate their children, especially daughters, to live according to biblical rules.
* A surprise visitor in Israel! Tennis champion, Serena Williams landed in Israel last week, after visiting South Africa and Nigeria with her sister, Venus. The two stayed in Africa for several days, where they played some exhibition games, and inspired African women and emphasized the role of women in African development. On Monday, Williams landed in Eilat, Israel's most southern city, where she played some tennis, but mostly rested and took a short break from her hectic schedule.
* A.B. Yehoshua, one of Israel's most important authors, won the Prix Médicis étranger, a French literary award for a translated work for his novel The Retrospective. The novel explores the relationship between life and art through the eyes of a film director, his screenwriter, and their muse: "An aging film director named Yair Moses has been invited to the Spanish pilgrim city of Santiago de Compostela for a retrospective of his early work. As he and Ruth, his leading actress and longtime muse, settle into their hotel, Moses notices the painting over his bed, Caritas Romana, depicting a classical legend of a starving old prisoner man nursing at the breast of his daughter. For the first time in decades, he recalls the infamous scene from one of his early films which led to his estrangement from his difficult but brilliant screenwriter, Trigano, Ruth’s former lover. Throughout the retrospective, Moses is unsettled, straddling the past and the present, and upon his return to Israel, he decides to travel to the south to find the elusive Trigano and propose a new collaboration. But the screenwriter demands a price for such a reconciliation, one that will have strange and lasting consequences". The book was published in Hebrew in 2011 and was translated to several languages, including French. It will be released in English in March of 2013.
* A collection of rare posters stolen by the Nazis in 1938, including advertisement and propaganda from the 19th century, is being sold by the owner's son. Hans Sachs was a holocaust survivor, who escaped to the U.S. after being held in a concentration camp. He is thought to have collected up to 12,500 posters. But only 4,529 have been identified, according to media reports. The German Historical Museum displayed a few posters at any one time, after they became part of its collection following the fall of the Berlin Wall. After years of legal battles in a German court, Sachs Jr. earned back the legal rights for the collection, and is now looking for a buyer. The collection's worth is estimated between 4.5 million to 16 million euros ($5.75 to $20.44 million).
* An innocent shipment of sunflower seeds turned to have not so much of an innocent content. A species of dangerous fire ants was found the shipment, during a routine inspection of the Agriculture Ministry. The infested shipment was detained and quarantined while a specimen was sent to Tel Aviv University for identification. As you probably know, a bite of a fire ant is very dangerous and can sometimes even kill. Thank God it was discovered soon enough…
* For a while now there are rumors that Israel and Turkey are giving their friendship another chance. After a row of diplomatic feuds, it seemed like it can't go any lower, but right in the middle of the peace-making, Turkey took a turn which will put the alliance between the two states yet to another test. Last week, a "show trial" started in Turkey, where four former IDF commanders, including former chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, were accused of serious crimes in the 2010 killing of nine Turks on the Marmara ship. If you need a reminder, in May 2010, an IDF naval unit was sent to enforce a naval blockade of the Gaza Strip and killed nine Turks in clashes with activists on board. The Turks later presented the case to the media and public, making it seem as if they were carrying humanitarian aid and was attacked for no reason. Of course, it was as far from the truth as Pluto is far from the sun. I guess it is almost pointless to say Israel took no part in this trial, and even condemned it. More on that story later this week...
* Until Israeli and Turkish officials will shake hands, first steps are being made in the cultural department. Turkey's best-known alternative rock band, Baba Zula, will play its first-ever concert in Israel at Tel Aviv's Barby Club on November 9. Baba Zula was established in Istanbul in 1996 and made it big in 2005. Baba Zula seeks to merge psychedelic and Turkish folk music. The band's rock is also influenced by reggae, dubbed electronic music, '60s rock, as well as gypsy and Turkish music.
November 9, 2012 | 12:31 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Beaufort is a 2007 Israeli war film, directed by Joseph Cedar, who stands behind many great Israeli films. The film was co-written by Cedar and Ron Leshem, and is based on Leshem's novel of the same name.
Beaufort takes place in the year 2000, and tells the story of an IDF unit stationed at the Beaufort post in Southern Lebanon during the South Lebanon conflict. That year was when the IDF withdrawn from the Israeli Security Zone in southern Lebanon. The film was directed by Joseph Cedar and was co-written by Cedar and Ron Leshem, based on Leshem's novel of the same name. The film is about an IDF unit stationed at the Beaufort post in Southern Lebanon during the South Lebanon conflict, and their commander, Liraz Librati, who was the last commander of the Beaufort castle before the Israeli withdrawal in 2000. It chronicles the daily routine of a group of soldiers positioned at the 12th century Crusader stronghold of Beaufort Castle, their feelings and their fears, and explores their moral dilemmas in the days preceding the withdrawal and end of the 18-year South Lebanon conflict.
The film basically presents one of Israel's milestones, and most of all, gives the viewer a glance at the life of an IDF soldier. It is considered one of Israel's best films, and its creators and cast won several awards, including the Silver Bear award in the Berlin International Film Festival for Cedar, a nomination for the Academy Awards as Best Foreign Picture, and four Ophir Awards for Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Artistic Design and Best Soundtrack, and
November 8, 2012 | 9:27 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
For the past few weeks my mind has been preoccupied. An event that occurred in my home town got me thinking on how mean can people be? And moreover- how mean can young people be? What makes a kid or a teenager, who didn't even get the chance to experience real life, own a heart of stone?
Two weeks ago, I got a phone call. On the other end of the line was the head of the municipal student council, which I am in touch with due to my work as a local reporter. "I just heard something and I wanted to know if it's true," she said. "I heard that a 16 year old girl from one of the high schools in town tried to commit suicide." She then told me that according to the story, being passed from mouth to ear, the girl got drunk one night about a year ago, and had a sexual encounter with two older kids. That night was filmed by one of them, and now he decided to share everything with his friends. The girl was then teased by her peers, and tried to end her life by swallowing pills. At the last minute, she was rushed to the hospital and was saved. The following day, what started as a rumor amongst friends, turned out to be truth and was covered by all newspapers.
I must admit when it came to cyber bullying, I was naïve enough to believe this was a phenomenon which is mostly fictional on such a destructive level. I was exposed to it mainly on American films and television series. A few weeks ago, I read the story of Amanda Todd, which was the sad approval of the worst outcome of cyber bullying. I wish this proof never existed, because when I saw it on the screen I could doubt its existence in real life. After all, television always takes everything out of proportion. Later I found out just how common this vicious act of teasing is in the United States. I read about more stories of such, with the worst kind of ending, and heard from my American friends about this phenomenon, which takes place mainly in high schools. Everyone who is a bit different, in any way, is doomed to a fate of bullying by his classmates. At that point, it seemed to me like an all-American phenomenon. It's not like I thought Israeli kids never take part or suffer from cyber bullying, but I realized the Israeli cyber bullying is on a much smaller scale.
The American approach towards high school is much different than the Israeli one. In the US, high school is a major part of one's life, and this four-year long experience can alter a person's life. In Israel, it is a lesser deal. For the Israeli students, high school is just another passing phase in life. It can have a positive tone for some, and a negative for others, but in no way it has any similarity to the American high school experience. Because of that, I believed cyber bullying, or any kind of bullying, is creating a destructive path mainly in the States. As it turns out, there are mean people everywhere, and have such a little clue of the power of their words. It is not an American phenomenon, it is a global phenomenon, which grows bigger and bigger as the World Wide Web develops. Nowadays, the "grownups" have very little control over their children’s online social lives, and many parents and teachers fail in tracking the online abuse before it is too late. Teenagers' and children's sense of sensitivity is very blunt. They feel like they can do whatever they want, and say anything that comes to mind. When they see someone or something different, they react, while being fully aware or their harsh words. We live by certain standards, and they know exactly when someone takes a wrong turn. Their mean words sting and burn and scar for life, and for some of their peers, this is too much to take. While there are young people who have the skin of an elephant, some are not capable of taking everything in. They sink and drown and feel too embarrassed and too scared to turn to an adult. As they keep taking punches, their peers continue their brutal attack, wearing out their "victim", until they win.
Only then, when it is too late to do anything, they realize their actions, and the school system and families step in. Talks, lectures, sometimes criminal charges- the system does anything it its power to bring justice, retroactively. I keep thinking how many lives could have been saved if mean words would be handled by the system as seriously as physical violence. Words are harsh, and when they are carved on a virtual wall for everyone to see, they are destructive. I probably would never be able to understand how people can be so mean. How can 16 year olds make their peer be willing to take her own life, when there is so much ahead of her? What is it about people that can make them show no solidarity or respect, and not fully realize their actions?
Words can kill, especially now, in the cyber age. It is so easy for a rumor to get out of hand, or an embarrassing video to spread throughout the world in a matter of minutes. There should be zero tolerance around children and teens for aiming mean words at someone else, and handling this should not be after an action that cannot be rewound has occurred. This phenomenon is spreading fast, leaving bodies behind. It is growing bigger and bigger and soon, it might become too big to handle. Now is the time to put an end to cyber bullying, which cannot be detected inside the schools. It is time for parents and teachers to be aware of the young people's after school online activity, and take more interest in the youngsters’ feelings and behavior outside of class. Now is the time for the educational system and parents, all around the world, to take another step forward in fighting cyber bullying. IT CAN BE STOPPED.
November 7, 2012 | 9:36 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Two weeks ago, when Jonathan Mann conversed with Israeli media and political science specialists on the upcoming U.S elections, the discussion revolved around the question: Why do Israelis care so much about the U.S election, and what is its importance to us? For an hour and a half, the group exchanged opinions and talked about the mutual influence Israel and the U.S have on one another. But while the discussion was very passionate, it mostly referred to political, financial and security aspects of this complex relationship. When I asked the members of the Israelife Facebook page what else would they like to read about regarding the Israeli perspective on the elections, one of the readers suggested I should write about the way the "average" Israeli feels about the U.S election: "In the US, both sides feel this election is a crucial turning point for the country, and will likely be following reports throughout the day very closely. Do Israelis feel the same sense of urgency? How closely will your compatriots be watching this election?" he asked.
Well, let me answer with a Facebook status my friend posted two days ago: "I wonder if the Americans care about the U.S election as much as we do." Well, we may not be as passionate about who is better in what policy, but I swear if you visited Israel last week, you would think you never left the States. In the week prior to the election, it seemed as if there is no important news from Israel: Newspapers' headlines gave interpretations, presented predictions, analyzed polls, and compared the enlightened U.S presidential debates to our non-existing ones. Moreover, news channels sent correspondents to Washington, Chicago and New York, to report everything that's going on there during the last week, By everything, I mean EVERYTHING, including visiting bars and asking customers for whom are they voting.
There were times when I wondered if my fellow Israelis really care that much about what's going on many miles away. I mean, I know everyone cares about the results. The future president of the Unites States is Israel's future ally, and we all know that and understand the importance of it. However, the past week made me ponder the small details that there is no reason for us to care about. Do we really need TV specials, satirical shows election specials, news broadcast specials, special newspaper editions? Turns out it depends on whom you ask.
Some of my fellow Political Science students find special interest in the U.S election because of its strategy and order and because it is the international symbol of Democracy. Some of my fellow Communication and Media students find particular interest in the election's media coverage. Some of my friends off campus find absolutely zero interest in the U.S election. Some make jokes on the overwhelming media coverage, and some had no idea when the Election Day is. One of the main jokers on the matter is my friend, Alex Zusmanovich, who wrote this Facebook status Tuesday night: "In just a few hours, 'Presidential Idol' will come to an end across the ocean. The lights will go off, the presentation explaining the electoral voting system to Israelis will go back to storage for four more years, Clint Eastwood will return to his house and embarrass himself there, the United States of America will wake up to the dawn of a new day (because this is what they always do there), and we will go back to deal with the real important issues of our local pond."
On the other side, there are those who stayed up all night on Tuesday (Israel time), and watched the live-update of the results. One of those people is a good friend of mine, Roee Snir. He is the Vice President of the Israeli model United Nations Society, and the Vice President of The Tel Aviv University Model United Nations Society. Soon, I'm sure, he'll be the Israeli Ambassador in the United States, so get ready. But until then, he got the once in a lifetime opportunity to watch the election at the U.S ambassador's residence here. He is following every single step of the American politics. This is his hobby and passion in life. He knows of every policy Obama and Romney ever adopted, and has followed their every move. In case you were wondering, he is supporting Obama. Tuesday morning (Israel time), he wrote: "This is it. The United States' citizens will cast their votes in just six hours. After following the campaign intensely, this is my last status on the subject. In spite of its many issues, the United States, to me, is still the best model there is for Democracy: stable, valuable, honoring the freedom of the individual. I want to see a Unites States where every man has the basic right for health insurance, where every woman earns the same wages as her male co-worker. I want to see a United States who does not give up to aggressive Capitalism, who gives women the right to have full control of their bodies. In those intense times, the model of "land of the free and home of the brave" should glow in the dark that drowns our small world whose people are drifting further away. It is good for the state of Israel and good for the Americans as well."
I go somewhere in the middle. I understand the importance of the election to our small country, and also understand our importance to the election. I find the media coverage, both here and there, in the States, quite interesting and sometimes fascinating. There are so many differences between the way the election process and the campaigns work in the two countries, and in the past couple of weeks I learned a lot about the American culture, which I take particular interest in.
There is a common saying that Romney is better for Israel than Obama. This makes the American-Israelis vote rate for him much higher. Many voices here rose, saying Obama is not a real partner for Israel, and that voting for him would be a disaster. To them I want to say that as much as we are important for the Americans (and especially to their President), as a strategic location and as an ally at a not-so-friendly area, we are not the issue that should tilt the vote here or there. It is true Israel was mentioned over 30 times during the debates, but we almost forgot this is not our election, but yours. I believe each person should get up and vote, and later make sure he put the right name for him or her on the ballot. I can only hope all of you did it, in fact. Right now, I can wish the elected president good luck, and to all of you, productivity and calmness for the next four years.
November 5, 2012 | 9:30 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
* Former Israeli journalist, Shlomo Nakdimon, one of the most respected political correspondents in the history of Israel, will be given a lifetime award by the Israeli Journalists Association. Nakdimon has a major part in the history of Israel, and in the world of media. In his long career, starting in 1957, he has exposed and covered many of Israel's most famous stories. Nakdimon will receive the award in a conference in Eilat next week.
* An original initiative by the Israeli city Haifa, will soon make teachers feel like they're in Hollywood. Haifa's Mayor, Yona Yahav, and his staff, wanted to give teachers the respect they deserve for their hard and dedicated work. Next week, pictures of 80 teachers will be hung at "the boulevard of the star teachers", almost like Hollywood's Walk of Fame. The teachers who interviewed for Yediot Ahronot newspaper, said they are very excited with the initiative, and that it makes them feel even more proud doing what they do.
* Are you a computer wiz? If the answer is "yes", you might be exactly what the IDF is looking for! Exclusive units at the IDF are currently searching for "foreign" additions in Diaspora communities in the States. Representatives of those units are looking for young cyber specialists who wish to join the IDF and contribute to Israel. Nowadays, they are visiting high schools in North America and starting the screening process there. The young talented Zionists who would be tracked down as a potential addition to the IDF, will be invited to make Aliyah and start their meaningful service.
* Turns out the U.S is inspiring Israel even when it comes to elections. A new campaign that launched last week is calling Israelis to vote in the Knesset elections in January. Israeli celebrities, including news anchors, musicians, actors and journalists, were photographed wearing t-shirts with the writings: "Vote! Or somebody else will vote for you." The campaign, under the title: "This time we're all voting," was initiated by social activists Regev Contes, Shir Nosatzki and Roee Neuman, and is inspired by the U.S 2008 campaign, where stars like Madonna, Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson called US citizens to come and vote for their Presidential candidate. The purpose of this campaign is to get as many people as possible to make a difference by casting their votes. In the past years, the number of voters is decreasing, as people believe their "one vote" will not make a difference, and that the "other candidate will win anyway."
* French Jewish scientist Serge Haroche, who won the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics, is visiting Israel as a guest of the Weizmann Institute of Science. Last week, Haroche attended a special event at the Jaffa residence of the French Ambassador to Israel, where he was greeted by Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz, Nobel laureate Prof. Ada Yonath and Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities President Prof. Ruth Arnon, as well as many more scientists from leading Israeli universities. Haroche expressed his objection to the academic boycott of Israel, and showed his great support of the Israeli scientists and academics.
* Most American voters in Israel vote for Romney. So says a survey announced last week by the iVoteIsrael organization. According to the survey, 85% of the 1572 voters participating said they voted for Romney, while 14% chose Obama. This statistic sits right with CNN's Jonathan Mann's prediction, which he presented at a conference in Tel Aviv University last week. iVoteIsrael also announced that as of last Thursday, 80,000 Americans from Israel have already submitted their ballots to their local county board of elections in any of the 49 states where we successfully registered voters from.
* Will it ever end? Antisemitism continues to strike. Last week, huge swastikas were burned into the grass at a California golf course. According to CBS13 news, the people filled with vile hate who committed this crime, reportedly used herbicide to kill the grass at the Alta Sierra Country Club golf course in the shape of a large swastika. The hate symbols reportedly cover the entire tee box at the 14th hole and are easily recognizable from the road. This incident, which reminded golf players much darker times, is not the first one there. According CBS's report, last year, a swastika was burned into the grass in the same manner only a few feet away.
November 2, 2012 | 1:00 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Today, I would like to draw your attention to the Israeli actress who made it in Hollywood. True, she is not a big movie star or an A-lister (yet!), but for almost a decade now she appears regularly on the small screen. You've probably seen her many times, but didn't notice her Israeli identity, for she looks and sounds like your everyday American girl. But she's one of us, and she's here to make it- big time!
Alona Tal was born in Herzliya, Israel, 29 years ago. She started her acting and singing career after finishing her military service at the IDF, with a children's musical video tape. Later on, she played the lead role in the Israeli film: Lihiyot Kochav (To Be a Star). Her big break, however, was in 2003, when she got one of the lead roles in the Israeli hit comedy: Hapijamot (The PJ's). After four years on the show, Tal packed her bags and moved to try and make it in the place where all dreams come true- the United States of America. She moved to New-York, where she recorded a song with Wyclef Jean. In 2003 she auditioned for the lead role of a witty, cynical teenage girl in a new series (and later- a big hit) called Veronica Mars. Eventually, it was Kristen Bell who got the part, but the producers did not give up on the talented Tal, and gave her the reoccurring role of Meg Manning. She also played the recurring role Jo Harvelle on the second, fifth, and seventh seasons of Supernatural. Tal also guest starred in Monk, Pretty Little Liars, Lie to Me, and many more. But even while being busy abroad, Tal runs on the US- Israel line, and continues acting in local productions as well.
I recommend that you keep an eye on her now. If you did not see her on your television screen yet- don't worry. Soon she will be hard to miss.
As Simone on Pretty Little Liars
As Alona on Hapijamot
November 1, 2012 | 10:30 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
On Monday, a very special event took place at my campus in Tel Aviv University. CNN's anchor and correspondent, Jonathan Mann, came for a visit, in order to host a conference on the topic: "The U.S elections: why does it matter to us?" The event was covered by press worldwide, and only a bit more than a hundred people were allowed into the small hall. Ever since I heard of this conference, I knew I couldn't miss it for the world, and I feel very lucky to be one of the few who experienced it live.
The hall was decorated in red and blue, and pins saying "Democrat" or "Republican" with matching candidates' photos were handed to us as we entered. As we waited for the conference to start, two television screens presented short clips from various US electionsele news coverage. Whispers took over the silence, as many Israeli-American voters argued with their peers over who should win. As CNN's correspondent in Israel, Sara Sinder, presented Mann, the whispers stopped at once, and everybody clapped their hands with a great show of respect. After all, it's not every day we earn such an honor.
CNN and other foreign news channels are broadcast here in Israel, but they are not commonly viewed. Before Monday's event, the only idea I had about Mann was from reading his resume'. However, even while not knowing of him, there was something about him that made me feel honored to hear him speak live. Other than Mann, who hosted the conference, four respected figures from the Israeli world of politics, higher education and journalism took the parts of the panelists: Professor Yossi Shain, who other than being an educator at Tel Aviv Uni. Is also a Political science expert; Dov Weissglass, who is a practicing attorney, was responsible for the Prime Minister's contact with the White House, State Department, and other branches of the US administrations; Dr. Yossi Beilin, a statesman, a minister in the governments of Israel and a former journalist; and Dana Weiss, one of Israel's top journalists.
For an hour and a half, all four panelists had to deal with the not-so-simple mission to answer Mann's questions regarding Israel, the US and the mutual impact both countries have on one another. Mann opened the conference with the wondering of why American Jews currently living in Israel, tend to vote for a republican candidate, while American Jews living in the States tend to vote for a democrat candidate. He then mentioned the fact that during the presidential debates, so far, Israel was mentioned 30 times. The only country mentioned more times, he said, was Iran, and even that was in relation to Israel. He talked about how the US presidential candidates actually go head to head on who is a better friend and protector to Israel. Later, he asked the panel members why they believe Israelis care so much about the US elections. Weiss said that in her opinion, many Israelis want to know if Netanyahu has made the right choice by publicly supporting Romney. Beilin replied that Israelis are not just observers, and that even though we are not allowed to participate in the elections, we should. "We are going to be an impact for the results," he said. Weisglass looked at it from a different angle, and said that our dependence on the US is almost total, and that the identity of the future US president is more important to us than the identity of our own Prime Minister. Than he said that "for us, it is a vital matter who will be the next President of the United States."
Many important issues were brought to the table, along with some interesting questions from the audience. One of the topics Mann brought up was perhaps the most important one when it comes to the US- Israel relations: Will the elected President stop the Iranian threat? Weisglass said that when it comes to Iran, the sanctions are very moderate, "If the US would make all commercial interactions with Iran illegal, it would really collapse it. No under the table, over the table, under the chair." Weiss mentioned Netanyahu's saying that Obama hadn't shown true passion of stopping Iran. While addressing this statement of our Prime Minister, she said that the question that needs to be asked is weather Netanyahu is exaggerating, or Obama is really not committed to stopping Iran: "Everybody's saying all the rights words, the armies are ready to go, the sanctions are ready as well. All that's missing is the leader's passion, whoever it might be." Beilin said that the problem with Romney is the "Unknown."
When Mann asked the panelists to compare the US presidential campaigns to the Israeli election campaign, they pretty much agreed that while the Israeli campaign is not nearing the level of respect and intellectuality of the US one, our campaigns have much more action in them. Beilin said that the US campaign is way too long, and pulls away the attention of the current President from performing his role as President. He also criticized the role of the spouses in the campaign: "why would I, as a potential voter, care what the candidate's spouse has to say about him? Why would anyone vote for someone because of his wife?" Weiss addressed the US presidential debates, which are not held here. She said that it is amazing to see how the two candidates, one who is President and one who is an aspiring one, are standing in front of one another, and show absolute respect to one another. She added that as she watches the debates she couldn't believe how they both have the understanding and acceptance of the fact they both get the same amount of attention: "they patiently wait for the other to finish what he has to say, and do not interrupt each other. They both take the time to meet with the voters, and not only give interviews when it is most convenient for them. They actually care about the voters there, in the US." Weisglass then mentioned just how big the difference is: "the Americans can say a debate was full of action, while it is not even nearing our interactions between the candidates. Here they interrupt each other almost all the time, and it sometimes seem like they are about to go at it and fight each other."
Before the conference came to an end, one of the audience members asked how the panelists think the Israeli- Palestinian issue can be solved. Everyone laughed a little bit, saying this answer will take all day, but then shortly replied that the only way to achieve peace is for both sides to not only want peace, or say they do, but to act on it as well.
This was a very fruitful evening for all audience members, and I am sure also for Mann and the Panelists. I have learned many new things thanks to some fresh insights I had yet to hear. But the most important message from the conference, to me at least, is that Israel is as important to the US as the US is important to Israel (And this one goes to all Israel's haters out there, who believe Israel is nothing but a blood sucking leech for the US). You can watch a short clip from the conference here.