Friday, November 07, 2008

Good news...

I have been ambivalent, at best, about Barack Obama. I have not been inspired by him in the way millions of Americans have. He appeared, to me, to be to far to the left to produce truly effective leadership.

However, the recent news about Obama's choice for chief of staff has done a lot to quell my fears. Rahm Emanuel appears to be much more of a centrist, which leads me to believe that an Obama presidency will not be as left as advertised. Also, having an Orthodox Jew serving as the right hand to the President has also somewhat assuaged my fears about Obama's plans for Israel.

I was in fact very happen to read this morning a headline expressing concern about the choice.

Is Obama Screwing His Base with Rahm Emanuel Selection?
By Stephen Zunes, AlterNet. Posted November 7, 2008.
Obama has asked conservative Clinton vet Rahm Emanuel to be his chief of staff -- it's not a good sign for progressives.

That's music to my ears.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Israeli Media Exageration

If there is one thing the Israeli media is good at, it's making the situation in Israel seem a lot worse than it actually is. The love to make dire conclusions about life here and about the government. Take a look at these recent headlines about a recent report comparing the Israeli education system to the OECD countries.

Israeli teachers earn less than half the global average

OECD report paints bleak picture of Israeli education

OECD: Israelis in last place for science, math

Well it certainly looks as if the sky is falling. Does this mean Israel has somehow lost the Jewish commitment to education. Is the government not spending enough money on education. The answers are of course no and no.

Israel spends plenty on education. In fact all of these articles missed the most interesting piece of information to come from this report. As a percentage of its GDP Israel spends more than any other OECD country. What this means is that Israel is in fact on the right course.

Yes, these articles do make important points about areas in which Israel is trailing and I'm not arguing that the system is perfect. But these stories fail to point out the huge amount of money Israel is spending to educate its children. By failing to accurately describe the reality of the situation the media is preventing the public from drawing the right conclusions about how to move forward and actually make things better.

What Israel really needs to do is grow its economy. Israel could then spend the same percentage on education but have the total equal a lot more. The Israeli economy has performed wonderfully over the last several years and has grown a lot faster than the OECD average.

Why hasn't the media talked about this? Those headlines should have instead said something like this, "Israel makes progress in Education over last several years."

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Israeli Perspective ...

I've seen this commercial on a number of occasions now and just had to post it. This commercial is funny because of the way the Americans pronounce the Israeli names but it also offers a unique window into Israeli perspectives on America.  Remember this is an Israeli commercial for an Israeli audience and yet there is almost no Hebrew.

Friday, July 25, 2008

For any one wondering why I moved to Tel Aviv, this article is a must read. It's not that the New York Times can explain the wonder of Tel Aviv better than I can (well maybe), it's more that people are more likely to pay attention to them.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Two Posts for the Price of One

The Neighbors Don't Care For Us Very Much ...

I stumbled on this article in the New York Times from some random corner of the internet. It is disturbing to say the least. The article details the results of a new poll about the Palestinians views' on violence towards Israel. I thought I would share just a few of the highlights.

According to the poll, conducted last week with 1,270 Palestinians in face-to-face interviews, 84 percent supported the March 6 attack on the Mercaz Harav yeshiva, one of Israel’s most prominent centers of religious Zionism and ideological wellspring of the settler movement in the West Bank. Mr. Shikaki said that this is the single highest support for an act of violence in his 15 years of polling here. The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.
Here's another gem:
The pollster, Khalil Shikaki, said he was shocked because the survey showed greater support for violence than any other he had conducted over the past 15 years in the Palestinian areas. Never before, he said, had a majority favored an end to negotiations or the shooting of rockets at Israel.

“There is real reason to be concerned,” Mr. Shikaki said in an interview at his West Bank office.
You don't say?

The Best Blog Post Ever ...

No description, just go read now! Blue and White homegrown Israeli Grindhouse flick

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Shouldn't the choice be obvious ...

The sad news from Sderot today is that the Qassams coming from Gaza have claimed another victim.  A man was killed while waiting in his car near Sapir college in Sderot.  He is just the last in a line of people who have been killed or injured by the so called "harmless" rockets from Gaza.

This news comes on top of a recent revealing article in Haaretz that talks about the anti-missile defense system being developed by Israel to counter the Qassam threat.  Israel has chosen to develop a system called "Iron Dome" which targets the incoming missiles with another missile, much like the Patriot or Arrow system.  The article points out that due to economics and a host of other factors, the "Iron Dome" system will be completely ineffective against the Qassams.

This has always seemed obvious to me.  Why counter a $750 dollar Qassam with a $100,000 dollar missile?  Why build a new missile when there are already better options available?

In my mind I always imagined that Israel would employ the Skyguard anti-missile laser.  After all, it had helped develop the Nautilus prototype.  To see just how effective the system can be check out this video.

David at Treppenwitz has also talked about this issue a couple of times.  He suggested a currently operational system called the "Vulcan Phalanx," which is right now protecting American troops in Iraq.

Whatever system is chosen, it seems obvious that there are options, and options that are available now.  I simply can't understand what the Israeli government was thinking, or how they thought no one would notice.  I mean doesn't it seem obvious?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Because My Dad Can Use It ...

I was reading this story over on Engadget about the popularity of different cellphone makers. Coming in way ahead of the pack is Apple with their iPhone followed closely by Blackberry maker RIM. Check out the story and the cool graph.

I was trying to figure out how Apple, who has just released their very first cell phone, was able to storm to first place in customer satisfaction. Of course as an avid Mac user I'm not surprised, but nevertheless it is still quite remarkable that Apple could hit such a big home run with their first phone.

After pondering the question for a bit, I remembered a conversation I had with my dad recently. He was kvelling about his new iPhone and all the fun things he's doing with it. Now my dad is a smart guy, and he's fairly technologically savvy for someone of his generation, but the iPhone has a lot of features that I thought he simply wouldn't use or wouldn't bother with. However, my dad rattled of all the things he was doing with his phone as if they were no big deal.

And that is the reason for Apple's iPhone success. They built a very capable phone, but designed it such a way so that people can actually use it. They built a phone that my dad can use.

On the other hand my job has given me a very fancy Nokia smart phone that probably has a lot of features that the iPhone doesn't. But the thing is so wonky* and difficult to use that I don't use any of the special features and to be honest I can barely make phone calls with it.

Back in July when I was in the states, I went to the Apple store to play with the iPhone. From the moment I picked it up I was able to understand it and make it work. It really is the classic example of the Apple slogan - it just works.

*Not the proper use of the word wonky.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Numbers ...

A couple of years ago a group of Israeli and American researchers released a controversial report on the demographics of the West Bank and Gaza.  The group, AIDRG, claimed that the official population estimates of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics were grossly exaggerated.

Basing their argument on a number of factors — double counting of populations, inclusion of foreign residents, overestimation of births and immigration — they contended that the Arab population in the West Bank and Gaza is actually 1.5 million less than suggested by the Palestinian Authority, 2.5 million instead of 3.8.

I don't want to discuss the validity of their arguments.  I am not a demographer and I can't offer an informed opinion on the matter.

I can say, as a reasonably intelligent person, that the arguments they make seem logical and possible.  The Palestinian Authority has never been known as a bastion of accountability or truthfulness, and it wouldn't surprise me if they had inflated their population numbers.  I also happen to personally know one of the researchers, giving me more reason to trust their results.

But I do have a reason for discussing this two year old report today.  I mentioned it to my coworker the other day during a conversation on politics and the situation here in Israel.  My coworker happens to be an officer in the IDF and served a fair bit of time in the West Bank.

I mentioned the report to him to see what he thought.  When I mentioned the numbers involved he nodded his head in agreement.

"That makes sense," he said.  "The IDF sees the Palestinian population at about 2.5 million.  That's the number we use when we plan operations for the territories."

He said this in a very casual way, as if this were no major revelation.  I was stunned, since 1.5 million people is an incredible number.  That these people could simply vanish is frightening in the implications for this region.  The conflict in this part of the world is more about perception than anything else.  Figuring out just how many people are involved in this conflict will go a long way towards bringing perception in line with reality.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Why Take them THERE?

So I was walking to the bus today near the intersection of Allenby and Rothschild when I noticed a group of Birthright kids getting off their bus. I thought Allenby was a strange place to take a bunch of young Americans, but I figured they had simply parked there and were going to explore Rothschild.

To my surprise they started walking the other way, in the direction of Yehuda Ha-Levy. As the bus was pulling away I noticed a group of them grabbing some lunch at a bakery where Allenby intersects with Yehuda Ha-Levy.

What, are we trying to scare the crap out of these kids? Is Birthright choosing the grimy and dirty parts of Tel Aviv over the nice parts? I just don't get it. Rothschild was two steps away with all its cafes and pretty buildings and yet some madrich pointed these kids in the opposite direction.

This is just another example of a larger problem. I once heard a friend complain that the new Terminal at Ben Gurion Airport was too nice, to clean, and to high tech. Israelis are constantly saying that the recent progress here isn't real and that everything is dysfunctional. I think Israelis have some sentimental attachment to their country being a poor and underdeveloped place. They feel they have to show the poverty that exists because somehow that is more "real."

To me that's BS. G-d forbid anyone should see the potential in this place. We wouldn't want anyone to think that this city and this country could become beautiful and prosperous. No, because if that happened the Israelis would have to learn to stop complaining about everything that happens here.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

It's Raining Outside ...

The raindrops are falling outside. It's dark, as it should be at two in the morning. My wife is sitting next to me on the couch.

The rain is a good thing. Sitting next to my wife is a good thing. The darkness outside ... well I don't think I'll ever really get used to it.