In the shadow of the Euro 2012 soccer championship, a smaller yet more intellectually profound sports event, took place last week in Haifa.
Israel hosted the so-called Authors’ Euro, an international tournament of national soccer teams consisting of writers and poets. For three days, German, Italian and Israeli authors battled for the cup. In between, they shared stories, participated in readings and panel discussions (and, of course, guzzled beer) while watching television as their “real” national teams fought for their own trophies.
The European Writers’ League has been in existence for about a decade. Teams of scribes from different countries started meeting and playing each other in the hope of fostering cultural exchange, increasing literary awareness and, of course, fulfilling lost childhood dreams of becoming soccer stars.
The Israeli team was founded by yours truly in 2008, following an invitation by the German team to play in Berlin. The response to my call was impressive. Among those traveling to Berlin in May of that year were striker Nir Baram (whose novel “Fine People” in English translation is due from Knopf next year); winger Avi Shilon (whose biography of Menachem Begin will be published this fall by Yale University Press); successful pop musician and novelist Yali Sobolin in midfield; and the author of “Almost Dead” (HarperCollins, 2010) — that’s me — in defense.
We were badly beaten there, but the event (hosted by the German Foreign Minister) was so successful, that as soon as we returned to Israel, we started plotting the replay. That December we invited the German and the English writers’ teams to a tournament in sunny Tel Aviv, in which we beat both teams and won the cup. A year later we travelled to London and were badly beaten again, in the pouring rain.
One student at Technion gets full marks for ingenuity. Staying true to the Haifa institution’s tagline, “Israel Institute of Technology,” he put technology to good use when preparing for an examination. Using his lecturer’s computer, he asked the dean to send him the questions. But the dean smelled a rat, and now the 26-year-old student has been caught. According to Haaretz, the fourth year medical engineering student has been detained but is staying silent, refusing to cooperate with investigations. Perhaps the police could try the student’s own technique, and send him a short email. “Hi. Worried about you. Are the police giving you enough to eat? By the way, what did you do? Are you guilty? Love, Mom.”
In another university-related story, the student union at Bar Ilan University seems to have messed up, choosing to have its start-of-the-year party on Thursday, November 4 — the anniversary of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s murder. Some students at Bar Ilan — the university that assassin Yigal Amir attended — plan to boycott the party, according to Ynet.
What is the man who discovered the wreck of the Titanic hoping to discover in the waters off the coast of Israel?
As well as boasting the discovery of the Titanic wreck in 1985, Robert Ballard, a former US Navy commander and today a professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island, also found the wreck of the battleship Bismarck in 1989 and the wreck of the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown.
Yesterday, his research ship, the Nautilus, set sail from Haifa. Nautilus is a research ship fully equipped with state-of-the-art technologies for sea-floor research, and includes diving robots, elaborate control rooms and more. Ballard is on board… but via videoconference, choosing to control goings-on on the ship from the US. Present on board to manage proceedings together with cyber-captain Ballard is Zvi Ben-Avraham, the Israel Prize winning director of Haifa University’s Leon H. Charney School of Marine Sciences.
The aim of the two-week expedition is to examine the sea floor of Israel’s coast. As for what they hope to find, Ben-Avraham said that “[t]he future is in the sea and this voyage is a first step towards understanding the mystery of a region that is so close to us yet still so far and unknown.”
Isaac Tshuva, the Israeli energy king whose $2 billion net worth makes him the country’s sixth-richest citizen, is not one for opulence.
Yes, at 61, Tshuva owns the Delek Group, which helped discover the Tamar field, 7.7 trillion cubic feet of gas near the Haifa coast that could help wean Israel from imported coal and gas. His global empire also includes, but is not limited to, luxury apartment towers in cities as varied as Los Angeles and Singapore, power plants, gas stations and New York’s Plaza Hotel.
But Tshuva’s idiosyncrasies suggest he’s more of an everyman. According to a profile in this week’s Bloomberg Businessweek, the Libyan-born, Israeli-bred billionaire:
Here in Israel, they say that Passover brings Jews together. Religious and non-religious, Ashkenazim and Sephardim, Tel Avivians and Jerusalemites, the vast majority of Israel’s Jews will sit down to a Seder this evening.
Yet few people realize that Passover also spurs a certain unity between some of Israel’s Jewish and non-Jewish citizens. The holiday has some Israeli Arabs rooting for the Orthodox political parties, including the rightist and pro-settler Shas.
Jewish religious law forbids the possession during Passover of bread and similar products, known in Hebrew as chametz. In Israel, the sale of chametz in Jewish areas on Passover has been illegal since the enactment in 1986 of the Festival of Matzot Law. It states that bakery goods may not be displayed in public during the weeklong holiday.
But the law has seldom been enforced, and for years Shas, together with other Orthodox factions, has been on a crusade to change this situation. This Passover, Shas is in control of the Interior Ministry, and has instructed local municipalities to employ inspectors and fine anybody they find purveying chametz.
In an Arab bakery in Haifa this week, there was rare admiration for Shas. It’s simple economics. Arab bakeries used to do roaring trade during Passover, selling to Jews searching for chametz. But in recent years, the taboo on Jewish shops selling chametz has eroded, and chametz has become far more readily available on the Jewish market. Shas’ move to reverse this could mean a very happy Passover for Arab bakers.