Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
This is the first time, since 1988, that Israeli athletes return from the Olympic games without any medals. None. It’s not like we usually bring more than one, but this was still one hell of a national disappointment. This was the first time I watched the Olympic Games, and after a while, I stopped watching games involving Israelis, simply because it is a true downer.
We can’t help but being sentimental here, because here, we are all brothers and sisters. I had at least two friends tagging the athletes on Facebook, wishing them good luck, which means I know most of the athletes by a second degree. That’s how it’s like here, in Israel. We all know each other somehow. It’s partially because we live in such a small place, but mostly because our shared experiences are many, and our warm nature help us make friends faster than Usain Bolt. When we send a representation to a worldwide competition, we all cross our fingers, sharing their tension and excitement, and later their happiness or disappointment. Each and every loss in the Olympics was like punch in the gut for each and every one of us. But even when we’re down, we don’t forget to do the other Israeli thing- hugging strangers. The Israeli athletes’ Facebook pages were filled with “we are proud of you, no matter what” messages, and with every news article that mentioned the word “disappointment,” came the words: “but still a champion.”
I don’t know if you feel it there, in the US. I mean, I know you are very proud of your athletes and that they are now the well- deserved biggest stars nowadays, but do you sympathize with every achievement and every loss? I lately wonder how much would I care about the games if we would have won every second competition. Because now, during these Olympic games, is the first time I feel like Israel is as far away as it gets from the States. On a day to day basis, both countries share common goals and a way of life. When it comes to economics, media, culture, and pretty much anything but size, I feel like we are very much alike. Israel, in spite of being in the middle of the Middle East, is a very progressive western state, that can be said in one breath with the US, Britain, or Germany. In the past couple of weeks, Israel was mostly mentioned in one breath with third world countries.
It’s hard to see Lee Kurzits, Alex Shatilov, Arik Ze’evi and the rest of the team return home with their heads bowed. It’s hard to see them looking for excuses, and feeling guilty for not being able to meet with the expectations. No one knows if it was bad luck or if we were just naïve to believe we can match up to other athletes. After all, for many reasons, known and unknown, the government chooses to put the big bucks in security or education, and not in sports. The bottom line is, we send to London world champions who came back to a strange mixture of appreciation and disappointment. Now, we can only do what we do best: keep up our optimism, hug our national heroes, and hope the lesson will be taught in time for 2016, where we will win.
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August 13, 2012 | 12:18 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
*Apparently, even the other side of the globe has heard of our achievements, and wants some of that Israeli magic. University of International Business Economics, one of the largest universities in Beijing, China, will open a department for Israeli economics studies. There, the Chinese students will be able to learn about the history of Israeli economy, about our coveted High-Tech developments, our business culture, and more. To add to that, the first class of Israeli Culture and Language graduated the University of Foreign Studies in Beijing. Seems to me like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
*Turns out Israel has a part in the latest space extravaganza: The Mars rover- Curiosity. Believe it or not, but NASA itself used a small refrigerator, which was developed and created at a factory in the Kibbutz Ein Harod. The small refrigerator has the very important role of protecting a radar on Curiosity, that must be kept in a temperature of -279.4 degrees.
*With all the attention to the Olympic games, an Israeli achievement in sports almost went unnoticed. But even if it’s been outside of London, it is still worth mentioning: Nadav and Aviv Ativ, brother and sister from Rehovot, are now the new champions of Water Skiing. Last week, Nadav won the gold medal at the world championship in Australia, and Aviv took first place in the European championship to the age of 19.
*The American real estate Tycoon, Stan Hoffman, donated dozens of televisions, air-conditioners, fans and other electric appliances to lone soldiers in the IDF. Hoffman, a lone soldier himself, left his family and friends at the age of 19, and joined the IDF. He then continued living in Israel for 21 years, and then returned to the States and made his big fortune. Now, Hoffman’s son serves also in the IDF, and his daughter is also about to join. Hoffman himself decided to use his fortune for a good cause, and with his donations, helped lone soldiers, who are mostly Jews who made Aliyah by themselves.
*Jay and Lina Pedgog, tied the knot at the age of 80 after meeting in Florida. After getting remarried, something both widows never thought they’d do, the newlyweds decided to take another leap. Tomorrow, they will arrive in Israel with a special flight of the “Nefesh BeNefesh” organization, alongside 400 Americans who wish to make Aliyah. Now, they are ready to start a new life here, as they plan to study Hebrew and tour their new home- Israel.
*Florence Waren, who danced for Nazis in Paris, while keeping her Judaism a secret, passed away at 95. In the 1940’s, while France was occupied by the Nazis, Waren helped the French resistance by hiding Jews in her apartment, and transporting guns, according to the New York Times. It was also said that she risked her life many times when helping Jews while trying to maintain her secret, safe identity. After the war, Waren moved to New York, married producer and director Stanley Waren and started an acting career. Last month, she died at her Manhattan apartment at 95.
*Gadi Sahalo, 37, is an Israeli who made Aliyah from Ethiopia. Now, after completing a two month long course, he will become the first Ethiopian Israeli instructor for the high schools Journeys to Poland. In most places in Israel, 11th graders fly with their schools to Poland, for a trip back in time to world war 2 and the Holocaust. Sahalo, who lived in a concentration camp in Sudan for a year before arriving in Israel, will now guide them through the former concentration camps and death camps in Poland.
August 10, 2012 | 3:08 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
This week, I would like to recommend a book. It took me a while to find a good book in Hebrew which was translated to English. Unfortunately, there aren’t many of them, and I must admit: you miss out on a lot. Fortunately, considering the circumstances, the Minheret HaZman (The Time Tunnel) series contains more than 50 books, all written by the amazing Galila Ron-Feder-Amit
The series tells the story of two children, Dan and Sharon, who discover a secret tunnel which takes them back in time to meaningful events in the history of Israel. For example, in the first book in the series, they find themselves in Jerusalem during the Independence war, as they meet new people and try to come back home safe and sound. What I love most about these books is that they involve both action and learning, because as you follow the new characters the kids encounter and the places they go, you actually get to witness, in a way, chapters in our history. I’ve been reading this book since I was about eight or nine, and still enjoy them every once in a while, as I “steal” a glance at them while the kids I babysit read the latest ones. I believe that while they are meant mostly for children and young teens, adults can enjoy them as well.
August 8, 2012 | 10:19 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
Tel-Aviv was listed in Lonely Planets’ “Top Ten Hedonistic Cities Worldwide” list. On the surface, this is yet another nice achievement to add to our pat-on-the-back list. But if we dig a little deeper, we can find out there’s so much more into the appearance on this list. Israel is one of the most unique places on planet Earth. We may be a small place, which can sometimes be hard to find on the map, but in our tiny territory we have all kinds of scenery and activities: from late-night cities to beautiful beaches to historical places to small, quiet suburbs. You name it- we got it. Every Israeli knows that they can find a place in Israel for any type of an activity. If you need proof of just how unique Israel is, just ask out neighbors- they all want it for themselves…
The unfortunate fact is, however, that most of the tourists who choose Israel as their vacation destination are either Jews who come for a back-to-the-roots trip, or very religious people who come to experience the holy places for the major three religions. This is how it works, and this is how it has always been. Because of our negative publicity in the world media, and our reoccurring appearances in the news under the taglines: bombing, security and Iran, people just don’t see us as a vacation possibility. I don’t blame anyone, I would probably do the same. But it is not easy to experience so much without the ability to share it and sound reliable. Programs such as Taglit help our image a lot, because it begins with fulfilling the tourists’ expectations to see the land of the Jews, and evolves into everything that Israel is.. What I remember the most from my Taglit experience was how in the last day, the Americans admitted they were both surprised and amazed to see Israel as it really is, and like they never knew.
Programs as such do an amazing job in showing all the various faces of Israel, and thanks to these programs, many Jews do come back here to experience non-Jewish experiences. However the problem is that even if these programs do attract more tourists, they still address only the Jewish audience, when Israel’s target audience is way more varied. A lot had been said, by me as well, on how Israel is so much more than rockets in the sky and day to day fear. But a lot is still needed to be said on how Israel is so much more than Judaism. We have clubs, and quiet cabins up in the mountains, and beaches and archeological sites and constant cultural action. Israel has a lot to give, and I see no reason for it not to be a consideration when planning the next vacation. Sure, there were bombings here, and they sometimes reoccur, but the last time I checked, worse things have happened in cities which are major tourist attractions worldwide. So this really should not be a reason to not come here. Fortunately, Tel Aviv is slowly but surely rising as a popular city, and is heard alongside names such as New York or Berlin. This rising popularity got it the respected place on Lonely Planet’s list, and to me, this is a truly remarkable landmark, and hopefully, another baby step in our way of being recognized as a world class city and a popular vacation destination.
August 6, 2012 | 11:01 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
*The Israeli actress and model, Moran Atias, is expected to co-star in a new picture called Third Person, alongside Mila Kunis, James Franko and Liam Neeson. The new feature is created by Paul Haggis (Million Dollar, Baby), and its plot revolves around three love stories happening in Paris, Rome and New-York. Atias, who speaks fluent Italian, will play a Gypsy living illegally in Italy and does everything in her power to survive. The shooting will begin in October. This is not Atias’ first international role. After becoming a famous figure in Italy, she participated in small roles in CSI:NY and CSI:MIAMI and also took part in the features: The Next Three Days, and Crash.
*The international music festival Lola-Palooza will arrive to Israel next year. The once alternative-rock festival that started in 1991 became one of the best musical attractions, and hosted, amongst others, Lady Gaga, The Killers, Kanye West, and more. In a press conference held in Chicago last week, it was announced that next year’s festival will take place on August 20th in Ha’Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv.
*Jewish Russian tech investor Yuri Miller, decided to transfer 3 million dollars into the bank accounts of nine physicists. Two of the recipients of the Fundamental Physics Prize were the Israeli-American Professor Nathan Seiberg and the Jewish Professor, Edward Witten, both of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton N.J. Witten then announced he is most likely to donate part of the $3 million to J Street, a liberal pro-Israel group, supporting Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.
*150 young Jews from around the world arrived in Israel to participate in Magen David Adom (the Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross) summer program. In this special summer program, foreign volunteers go through a quick 10 days first aid and emergency care course and then experience a month-long volunteer period in an ambulance alongside professional Israeli volunteers. The MDA volunteer programs run in conjunction with the Jewish Agency for Israel.
*A brand new initiative by “Bishoolim” school for cooking opens the opportunity for handicapped individuals to learn how to cook like professional chefs. The school recently opened a new class, aimed for handicapped people sitting in wheelchairs, and provides a specially made cooking class, which allows the participants to function at their best and move around freely. For some tasks, which are a bit more complicated to perform while sitting in a chair, the participants’ caretakers help out.
*74 years after being shut down in Germany by the Nazis, Ha’Shomer Ha’tzair youth movement, re-opened a first branch in Berlin last week. The movement’s first branch in Germany opened in 1931, and was allowed to keep working due to its Zionist nature (at first, the Nazis wanted to clear Germany of Jews, and the longing for Israel helped their initial purpose). In 1938, during the Crystal Night, they were banned from existing, but continued meeting secretly.
*The Breakdance team, Kosher Flava, who’s members come from a small town in Israel, won the Israeli Breakdance championship for the second year in a row , and is due to represent us in the world championship taking place in France, two months from today.
August 3, 2012 | 12:19 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
To me, Michael Einav is a symbol of a true success, a young boy from a small town in Israel, who makes his way to the big city- Tel Aviv. There he appears in several local musicals, until he gets his big break in the Israeli version of American Idol. He doesn’t make it to the finals, but one of his performances remains unforgettable, even nine years later. Just when the offers for a debut album start flowing, he decides to devote himself to his true passion: Broadway. He then puts everything aside to work with the best creators of our entertainment industry and put together a truly one of a kind one-person cabaret, where he combines amusing and moving stories from his professional career with the best of Broadway’s repertoire. As if all of this isn’t enough, he recorded the Demo for a brand new Broadway musical in the process.
The name of the show, “On the Road to Broadway,” which plays in one of Israel’s biggest theaters, tells Einav’s biggest desire. “Since I was a little boy, I had this passion to stand on a Broadway stage, and I decided to make this dream happen, no matter what,” he says on a special interview for the Jewish Journal. “But whenever I was ready to board the plane, something came up. So I may still be here in Israel, but I know that I will get there.”
“When I was 21 I moved to London, where I studied at the Guildford School of Acting. I was positive I was going to stay there and even got myself an agent, but I suddenly got this feeling I must come back home. It was the right thing to do at the time, but ever since, I know that when the right moment comes, I will make the dream come true.”
So even though he is not quite there yet, the dream seems now closer than ever. Einav is a good friend with one of Israel’s busiest directors, Yaron Kafkafi. When Kafkafi met with some big Broadway producers to present them with a brand new musical about the life of King David, he didn’t think twice before picking Einav to record the Demo: “Playing the lead would be a dream come true, but a production of a Broadway musical is a long and complicated process and that anything can happen.”
Until then, he keeps himself pretty busy. Besides filling theaters with his show, Einav plays in an Israeli production of one of his favorite musicals: Parade, and does voices for the Hebrew versions of animated features, such as the leading male role in Disney’s Tangled. There’s no doubt the future is wide open for Einav, and after watching him perform several times, the one thing I can say for sure is that he is a born performer. When he sings, it’s hard to keep your eyes open. His voice is so intoxicating, that almost every single person in the room closes their eyes and being led by the clear notes and gentle trebles. When he sings, he carries the audience with him to a faraway land, made of childhood dreams and fantasies, because what Michael Einav does is pure magic.
I know that until he takes over Broadway, it may be a little hard for you to enjoy his voice in real life, but you will get one chance in the near future, as Einav will perform in Orange County on August 29th, along with the brilliant choreographer, Ido Tadmor. The performance will be an Introduction and charity benefit for TLC, Tilly’s Life Center, and will take place
in Shady Canyon Country Club at 100 Shady Canyon Drive, Irvine, CA 92603. August 29th, 6:30 p.m.
Until then, here’s a taste of what he can do with his voice:
July 31, 2012 | 9:06 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
This Friday, I was amongst the 2 billion people who watched the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. It was very impressive, but in spite of my endless efforts, I couldn’t bring myself to enjoy it. It was a magnificent event, a prologue to the sports event we’ve all been waiting for. An event which is one of the few common grounds for all the residents of planet Earth. Because sports, just like music, is a common language to all people. In sports, just like in music, there should be no room for politics. The Olympic games should have been the opportunity for all the countries of the world to enjoy a friendly competition, to cheer their team and perhaps even be impressed with other teams. But as much as these games are a competition, they are supposed to be a professional competition, where the winners and losers are accountable for their achievements. In this competition there should be no politics, so that we can all enjoy the games. In this competition, the participants should be addressed to as athletes, and there should be no special treatment due to one’s nationality. Politics free- this is how it should be and how it is presented to the world.
After watching the opening ceremony, I am ashamed to say that the people behind this grand production caved in to politics. Even though they decided not to, I still had hope that in the last moment, they will change their minds and show one last respect to the 11 Israeli athletes who were killed in Munich in 1972. The request for a moment of silence in their memory was denied by the IOC for the so called fear that Arabic countries would boycott the ceremony. This reason was so absurd that I was sure they would come to their senses and surprise everybody with that minute of silence, especially after more than 20,000 Londoners held an informal one, along with many Israelis and Americans. Just like the musicians who cancelled their concerts in Israel, the IOC, while announcing they don’t want to let politics in this so called neutral territory, let it in in a horrible way. Those 11 athletes were people before they were Israelis. They were 11 athletes who were taken hostage and then killed by a Palestinian group. Is it just me, or that in a normal world a minute of silence would have been held? In a normative world, the participants of the Olympic Games would have showed respect for their fellow athletes who were brutally murdered. In a normative world, their nationality wouldn’t have mattered. And as if all this is not insensitive enough, the first part of the ceremony ended with a minute of silence in memory of the victims of the 7/7 London bombing. The bombing occurred in 2005, when an Islamic terrorist committed suicide in the middle of London, during rush hour. If beforehand, the IOC could have maybe get away with this whole debacle by saying the Olympic Games should revolve around the living and not the dead, this minute of silence made the inequity and discrimination even clearer.
Once again, politics rears its ugly head, and once again, Israel is on the losing side for no reason. I’ve showed by affirmative objection to musicians who cancel their concerts in Israel, because they falsely accuse us for things we don’t do to the Palestinians, many times before. This is much worse. This is not private people who don’t like Israel, this is an official worldwide event which shows no proper respect for the dead, just because they fear those who supported this massacre would not show up to the event. What sense does it make? The IOC was so blinded by politics that they have lost all sensitivity. Those athletes were people, and I have a strange feeling that if they were from any other country, a minute of silence would have been held. This hurts not only the state of Israel, but also the families of the 11 athletes. By making this decision, by marking the deceased as Israelis first and athletes later, they ruined the essence of the Olympic Games as a politics-free-sports-only event. They now made it as political as any UN discussion. Add the team of the non-existing country, Palestine, with east-Jerusalem as their non-existing capital, and you got yourself the most political non-political event.
I always saw sports, music and art as the languages we all understand; one of the symbols of Globalization, which brings us all together with common ground. Lately, these worlds of escapism are slowly fading away, blending with the real world and making no room for peace.
*At this point I would like to thank all the US networks and correspondents, as well as the Israeli ones, who showed their respect to the victims of the Munich massacre and held their own minute of silence.
July 30, 2012 | 8:43 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
For this week’s Israel and the World, I can’t think of something more important than the Olympic Games. Only three days into the games, I present to you the Israeli Olympic team members. Ofir Golan, one of Israel’s best Olympic specialists, will provide you with a prediction for the Israeli athletes who are still in the game. So far, we’re not doing so well, but there’s still hope for some of our athletes to bring home a medal.Athletics
Donald Sanford- 400m (8/4)
: will reach the semifinals.
Zohar Zemiro- Marathon (8/12)Prediction
: will rank 30th or higher.
Jillian Schwartz – Pole vault (8/4).
she will have to fight hard to reach the finals, where she will meet with the world record holder and the Olympic champion: Yelena Isinbayeva.
Misha Zilberman- Men’s singles. Ranked 3rd (did not advance).
Felix Aronovich- All around. Ranked 32 (did not advance).
Alexander Shatilov- All around and floor (advanced. Finals in 8/1 and 8/5.)
The biggest Israeli Olympic hope, and there’s a good reason for it. Has the biggest chance in winning a medal in Floor.
Valeria Maxiota- All around (did not advance.)
Neta Rivkin- Individual (8/9-10.)
Will come at top 10 in the finals.
Moran Buzoysky, Victoria Koshel, Noa Palathcy, Marina Shultz, Paulina Zakaluzny, Eliora Zholkovski- Team (8/9-11).Prediction:
will rank 5th, 6th or 7th in the finals.Judo
Artiom Arshansky- Men’s 60 kg (Did not advance.)
Golan Pollack- Men’s 60 kg (Did not advance.)
Losef “soso” palelashvili- Men’s 73 kg (Did not advance.)
Arik Ze’evi- Men’s 100 kg (8/2.)Predictions
: This is Ze’evi’s 4th time competing for an Olympic medal. His speed may not be like it used to, but his experience and good thinking may win him a place on the Podium.
Alice Schlesinger- Women’s 63 kg (7/31.)Prediction:
she is ranked 6th in the world, so there’s a good chance to see an Olympic medal, but in when it comes to Judo, you can never know…Sailing
Shahar Tzuberi- RS:X (7/31-8/6.)
It all depends on the wind. But after winning a bronze medal in 2008, he defiantly has a good chance of standing on the podium once again.
Gideon Kliger and Eran Sela- 470 (8/2-9.).Prediction:
after Kliger disappointing in 2004 and in 2008, this is his chance of leaving London as a winner.
Lee Kurzits- RS:X (7/31-8/6.)
Great expectations. May become the second Israeli woman to win an Olympic medal.
Nufar Edelman- Laser Radial (7/30-8/6.)Prediction:
will rank in the top 15.
Vered Buskila and Gil Cohen- 470 (8/3-10.)Prediction:
will defiantly finish in the top 10 and there’s a reasonable chance of winning an Olympic medal.Shooting
Sergey Richter - 10m air rifle (Did not advance); 50m rifle prone (8/3).
Can advance to one final at least. Everything will be determined on the spot and anything can happen.
Nimrod Shapira Bar-Or - 200m Freestyle (Did not advance.)
Imri Ganiel - 100m Breaststroke (Did not advance.)
Gal Nevo - 200m Butterfly (Advanced to the semifinals), 200m individual medley (8/1), 400m individual medley (Did not advance.)
Will reach the semifinals in 200m individual medley.
Yaakov-Yan Toumarkin: 100m Backstroke (Did not advance), 200m Backstroke (8/1.)Prediction:
May be the big surprise of the Olympic Games and reach the finals in 200m backstroke.
Amit Ivry: 100m Butterfly (did not advance), 200m individual medley (Advanced to the semifinals)
will try to break her personal record, and qualify for the semifinals.Synchronized swimming
Anastasia Gloushkov and Inna Yoffe- Duet (8/5-6).Prediction:
Will reach the finals.Tennis
Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram- Men’s double (Won round of 32.Still competing in Wimbledon.)Predictions:
After failing in 2008, there aren’t any great expectations from the duo. But who knows? Maybe the lack of expectations will bring some good luck.
Shahar Pe’er- Women’s singles (Did not advance.)Prediction:
After losing to Maria Sharapova, she is now waiting for the mixed doubles, where she may have another chance of winning a medal.