Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Israel and Hamas: Who won the last round?

Operation Pillar of Defense lasted eight days, during which Israel and Hamas exchanged numerous blows. This “boxing match” was the latest round of violence between Israel and the militant organizations based in Gaza, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and a few smaller factions. During eight long days, Hamas and its allies fired rockets and mortars into Israeli cities, while Israel dropped precision bombs on infrastructure and fired guided missiles at Palestinian militants. With 1500 rockets matched by 1500 air raids, one might wonder “who won this round?” (*)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Value of Technology Education

I graduated from high school over 35yrs ago. All these years I never came back to visit. Granted, there were logistical reasons, such as living over 7000 miles away for the past 20yrs. But let’s face it, there were emotional reasons as well. High school wasn’t much fun for me. It involved long days, tons of homework, strict discipline, and hardly any social life. Today I returned to my high school to give a talk about: “The value of technology education”.  It was an interesting experience, to say the least, kind of "back to the Future".

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Don’t Argue With a Traffic Officer

I recently started doing my volunteer shifts with the Tel-Aviv traffic police. I spend 5hrs each week accompanying a traffic police officer on his duty. We help some drivers and pedestrians, attend to traffic accidents, and issue traffic tickets. The latter gives me an opportunity to experience the interaction between drivers and traffic officers – this time from the other side of the fence. I have one suggestion for drivers out there – please don’t argue with a traffic officer…

Monday, October 22, 2012

Don’t Blame the [Orthodox] Jews…

Before the state of Israel existed, the majority of Jewish people lived in the diaspora. For centuries they served as “scapegoats” for their gentile neighbors.  Famine? Plague? Financial crisis? War? Simply blame the Jews. Clearly they have done “something” to bring that disaster about. But these were the “dark ages”, when antisemitism was the popular thing to do. Thankfully we are in the 21st century - the Jews have a state of their own, and “blaming Jews” is a thing of the past. Not quite…

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Tour de Tel-Aviv

When you think bicycles, you probably think ‘Tour de France’. Well, think again. Tel Aviv has its own bike tour, called ‘סובב תל-אביב’ (i.e. Around Tel Aviv). And true to Tel Aviv style, it is a grand happening: major streets are turned into bike lanes (including ‘Ayalon’ highway), and thousands of bicycle riders gush the streets.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tune-in From 8000 Miles Away

When you move away, there are little things you’ve learn to appreciate over the years that you must leave behind. Perhaps it’s the coffee shop around the corner. Maybe it’s the neighborhood park you used to visit, or a hardware store that carried your favorite supplies. For me it was a radio station I used to listen to.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

How I came to be a [volunteer] Police Officer

I have been concerned about the driving culture in Israel. Even wrote about it in my blog “Looking for a Gentler Mr. Wheeler”. I get upset with drivers who disregard basic traffic rules and endanger themselves and others. And I swear - a lot. “If you are so concerned about the driving here, then why don’t you do something about it?” said my wife. Since I always (ok - at least sometimes) follow my wife’s advice - I did.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

To Bomb [Iran] or Not to Bomb: That is the Question

You can’t really watch TV, listen to the radio or read the newspaper in Israel now days without coming across the question: “should Israel bomb the nuclear facilities in Iran, or not?” It seems to be the ultimate “you’re damn if you do and you’re damn if you’re not” question. There are little, if any doubts that Iran is frantically racing towards the production of nuclear weapons.  The specter of a nuclear Iran keeps many in the Middle East, Europe and America awake at night.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Between ‘Little Harlem’ and ‘Little SOHO’

There is some resemblance between Tel Aviv and Manhattan: The energy you sense on the streets, the cafés, restaurants and bars, the art galleries, theatres and more. Both cities also carry a ‘melting pot’ atmosphere, with people of all races and color filling the streets along with sounds of many languages.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Dining philosophers in a bathroom

Last week I met a friend at a restaurant. We had a good talk and managed to catch up on each other lives. After few cups of coffee and numerous glasses of water, it was time for him to leave.  Before hitting the road, I decided to visit an “important place”, i.e. the bathrooms. I borrowed the key from the hostess and followed her instructions to the bathrooms which were next door. All went “as planned”, until I tried to exit the bathroom and discovered I was locked inside.

Friday, June 29, 2012

A little bit of water can go a long way

Most restaurants in California will serve a customer a glass of water upon request. And some will even pour you water automatically the minute you sit down at the table. Occasionally the waiter will stop by to check if you need a refill. He will even leave you his water jar if you ask for it. Not so in Israel. If you ask for water, the waiter has to place your order with the bar and will bring over one glass at a time. Refills aren't automatic: your waiter has to order another glass from the bar, which takes time and requires a few friendly reminders.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Giving 'Green Light' to Young Drivers

One of my ‘pet peeves’ in Israel is the local driving culture. Admittedly, driving has improved over the last decade or so, especially after major investments in road infrastructure. Yet compared to California, I feel far more anxious on the road here. I wrote about my dissatisfaction with driver behavior before, as in ‘Looking for a Gentler Mr. Wheeler’. And according to my wife, I sound far less subtle when I sit behind the wheel and curse. One day after sending yet another driver to hell, she said to me “if you feel so strongly about the situation why don’t you do something about it?”. Ah, wives and their pragmatism…

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Oil Change - In Broad Daylight

My car needed an oil change - nothing too complicated. I have done it myself in my younger days: you unscrew the oil plug at the bottom of the engine, drain the oil, replace the oil filter, screw the plug back, pour fresh oil on top and you’re done. It takes 20min max. But who wants to get down and dirty now days? Especially when lots of places (in California) offer to do that, plus lube, plus rotating your tires and inspecting your car – all for about $20? But wait, we’re not in California anymore…

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Gilad Shalit: All-for-One or One-for-All?

Gilad Shalit is an Israeli soldier who was kidnapped by the Hamas organization in June 2006. He was released after 5+ years in a prisoner exchange deal that took place in October 2011.  The deal involved swapping 1,027 Palestinian prisoners for one Israeli soldier. The return of Gilad was the culmination of a public campaign and his return was celebrated by all Israelis. The prisoners exchange was hailed as a moral victory for Israel; however the support for deal was vocal, but not unanimous. Few expressed (quietly) their concern over the deal ramifications to Israel’s security. So did Israel make the right choice?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Beer and Quantum Physics

What does beer have to do with quantum physics? At first glance, not much. Unless of course you attended one of the venues that participated in the “Science on the Bar” (מדע על הבר) event in Tel Aviv last month.   It was a feat whereby dozens of Tel Aviv bars hosted scientists from the Weisman Institute that talked about the latest and greatest in science.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Yair Lapid: Israel Politics new Torchbearer?

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a house gathering (חוג בית) conducted by Yair Lapid – the media star turned politician. There is no doubt that Yair Lapid is a savvy speaker and knows how to captivate an audience. He is eloquent, armed with a sharp sense of humor, quick on his feet, and can easily handles tough questions in front of an audience. And he believes someone must carry the torch in Israeli politics. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Do You Still Love Israel When It’s 64?

The Beatles asked “will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64?” In some ways, these questions are very pertinent to the state of Israel that has just turned 64. Compared to the United States of America who is 235yrs old, Israel is a very young state.  But the last 64 years have been quite eventful.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Unwanted House Call

We had a nice Friday dinner at my mom’s house. We stayed a bit later than usual and got back to our house around 11pm.  For some reason, the motion-sensitive light at the car park didn’t turn on. “I should replace the light bulb tomorrow” I thought as I walked over to the front door. The minute I stepped through the door I knew something was wrong. “Someone broke into the house” I said, “Call the police!”

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Partly Sunny With Chances Of [Missile] Showers

There are two types of forecasts we follow in Israel now days– one has to do with the weather and the other deals with possible missile attacks. Those who live in southern Israel, i.e. closer to the Gaza strip, experience this dual-forecast syndrome daily. But if you live in the Tel Aviv area, then chances of “missile showers” are still relatively low.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Why Did Philosophy Get Such A Bad Reputation?

I managed to graduate from high school, then College, and finally Grad school without taking a single class in Philosophy. Where I went to school, philosophy was looked down upon as an inferior subject. It was considered “all talk” and improper for “serious people” who have a knack for science. Engineers, doctors, accountants and even lawyers actually get stuff done. But philosophers? What do they do all they long besides talking?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Why (on earth) Did You Move Back?

When I tell people that I lived in California for 20yrs and recently moved back to Israel, I invariably get the question: “Why did you move back”? Some people are genuinely interested in my motivation to make such a big change in my life. But the vast majority really means to say: “You have been to paradise and chose to leave? What on earth where you thinking???”

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Where Do The Children Play?

Lately I have been humming an old song by Cat Stevens. The song is called “Where do the children play?” If you don’t know/remember the song, you can listen to it on YouTube.  It is a great song, but what does it have to do with going back to Israel? Well, apparently it does.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wow, It’s Been a Year Already!

A year ago, on January 22nd 2011, my wife and I landed in Israel after living 20yrs in California. Moving is never easy. There is stress, time pressure, inconveniences, costs and efforts associated with any move. Some moves may be easier than others, but generally speaking, moving ain’t easy…

Friday, January 20, 2012

Looking For a Gentler ‘Mr. Wheeler’

Three hundred eight five (385) people died in car accidents in Israel during 2011. That’s more than a person a day.  According to Israeli police, the key causes for accidents are: running a red light, unsafe passing, ignoring right of way, not maintaining safety distance, speeding, and disregarding pedestrians. We can’t blame the state of the roads, or the vehicles condition, or the density of cars. There’s one key factor to blame – drivers’ behavior.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

When Do I (re)Earn the Right to Criticize?

Israelis love to criticize. It seems to be the national past time. In California people discuss Sunday’s Football game, their last or upcoming vacation, their jobs or the weather. In Israel people discuss politics, argue - and criticize. I know I am making generalizations, but like any generalization, there’s some truth to it…

Thursday, January 12, 2012

You Can’t Find Movies Like That In California

Hollywood is the capital of movies, no doubt. Over the past century California led the “fantasy industry” that fed the dreams of millions. But with success came challenges… You cannot attract millions of viewers to a newly released movie unless you aim for common denominators (note: I didn't say the lowest common denominators...).  The pursuit of large audiences and big revenues led Hollywood down the path of tried and proven plots, such as “hero trumps villain”, “boy meets girl”, etc.  No wonder that “special effects” became a huge factor in Hollywood movies. If the stories are the same, then ‘presentation’ is even more important than content.