The Shmooze

Grindr To Donate Revenue In Support Of Surrogacy In Israel

By Anne Cohen

A Wider Bridge

Grindr, the popular gay mobile app, has announced that it will be donating 100% of all revenue from new subscribers to Grindr Extra this week to Israeli couple Yuval and Liran, as part of their Grindr for Equality world campaign.

“I read about Yuval and Liran’s emotional personal story and was impressed by their creativity in pursuing their dream of fatherhood, and their persistence, recruiting international celebrities such as Joan Rivers, to help raise awareness that in so many parts of the world the joy of parenthood and other aspects of family are still not available to gays who are not equals in the eye of the law.” Joel Simkhai, Israeli-born CEO and founder of Grindr said in a statement.

“We at Grindr believe in giving back to the gay community that’s been so loyal to us and made us the #1 dating app for gays. With our ability to reach millions of users, Grindr is in a unique position to provide real and meaningful assistance within the community and advance the cause of our community worldwide.”

The story of Yuval and Liran, an Israeli couple who have been trying to have a kid via surrogacy for the past two years and lost most of their money, in the process went viral after the couple filmed themselves holding up signs criticizing Israeli surrogacy laws, which they see as discriminatory against gay couples. A number of Israeli celebrities supported their cause by photographing themselves holding up similar signs, stating “We want them to have a baby too,”

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Stephen Hawking To Visit Israel

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images
Stephen Hawking

British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, 71, will be visiting Israel in June for the first time in almost seven years.

In 2006, Hawking was invited by the British Embassy to tour the country and meet with prominent academics.

The renowned author of “A Brief History of Time,” will be participating in the fifth President’s Conference, which will focus on “Facing the Future,” The Jerusalem Post reported Wednesday.

The head of the practical mathematics and physics department at Cambridge University has been suffering from ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) for decades, which has left him unable to move his body. His mind, however, is as sharp as ever, and he communicates through a digital voice system. In April last year, scientists tested new technology — the iBrain — on Hawking, which would potentially allow him to communicate simply by thinking.

Watch Stephen Hawking question the universe during a TED talk in 2008.

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Peter Yarrow and Stav Shaffir Sing Bob Dylan

By Anne Cohen

How many Jews does it take to wish you Happy Passover? Apparently, at least three.

Watch Peter Yarrow from Peter, Paul and Mary team up with Knesset member Stav Shaffir to wish you a Chag Sameach with Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ In the Wind.”

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4 Biggest Snafus of Barack Obama's Israel Trip

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images

Well, it’s over. After three days of meeting, greeting, cheering, and even a heckle or two, President Obama has bid adieu to Israel. While the overall trip was successful, we couldn’t help but round up the some of the more, ahem, entertaining moments.

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Bar Refaeli Ad Airs Despite Army Objection

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images
Bar Refaeli

When it comes to tourism, Israel has a lot of things going for it. The weather is almost always perfect, the food is delicious, and the people are good looking. Really, really good looking. So when the Israeli Defense Force objected to an ad featuring Israel’s most beautiful of “beautiful people” — Bar Refaeli — people were understandably confused.

“Created in Israel,” as the ad is titled, is part of an Internet campaign by Israel’s Foreign Ministry that features products and technologies developed in Israel that are used in everyday life. The ad closes by introducing Refaeli as “one of Israel’s most beautiful creations,” according to the Foreign Ministry.

Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, a spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces, in a letter Sunday to the Foreign Ministry criticized the choice of Refaeli because she did not serve in the Israeli military. Refaeli married a family friend in 2007 in order to avoid conscription and continue her modeling career.

In response, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement, “Refaeli is considered one of the most beautiful women in the world and is widely recognized as an Israeli. There is no reason to bring up the past when it comes to a campaign of public diplomacy of this kind.”

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#ObamaInIsrael Has Its Own Pinterest Page

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images
President Obama, on the second day of his Israel trip.

Social media loves a good diplomatic visit. Pictures abound, attempts at speaking other languages often fail, and the agonizing possibility that something will go horribly wrong — like a car breaking down, perhaps? — makes for great third party commentary.

All of you avidly following President Obama’s trip to Israel this week will be happy to know that the visit now has its own Pinterest page, called “The Unbreakable Bond: #ObamaInIsrael.”

Run by Israeli volunteers of the Ministry of Public Diplomacy, the page features 18 boards and 198 pins showing everything from the Jerusalem preparations and the President’s arrival at Ben Gurion airport, to Obama and Bibi tasting matzo while checking out robots at the Israel Museum.

All that’s missing are nifty DIY recipes for him to try out while he’s there. Don’t worry though, we’ve got him covered.

Watch Obama say how happy he is to be in Israel — in Hebrew:

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Bibi's Gift to Obama Is 2,000 Years Old

By Anne Cohen

Technion's Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute
The chip on the stone.

President Obama will be receiving an unusual gift during his trip to Israel.

According to New York Magazine’s Daily Intelligencer, Prime Minister Netanyahu commissioned scientists at Technion’s Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute to inscribe the US and Israel’s Declarations of Independence side by side on a “golden-coated silicon chip.” The inscriptions measure a grand total of 0.04 square millimeters, and run 20 nanometers, or 0.00002 mm, deep.

Impressed? Well, that’s not all.

The chip was set on a Jerusalem stone dating back to the Second Temple Period (1st century BCE to 1st century CE). It’s nearly 2,000 years old.

The etching was done by “accelerating charged atoms, called ions, and bombarding them at various points on the surface of the chip,” a press release by Technion explained. “When an ion beam hits the chip it creates a tiny recess, in this case 20 nanometers deep.”

The preparation process took about a week, but the actual engraving took less than an hour, the statement added.

The final image etched into the chip is made up of over a million dots.

Top that.

Watch Technion scientists explain exactly how the gift was made:

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Obama/Bibi Video...Set to Golden Girls Theme Song

By Anne Cohen

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama
The Israeli Embassy in Washington D.C. is really excited about Obama’s trip to Israel. So excited, that they made an animated bobble-head video set to theme from “Golden Girls” to tell us about it. Bibi and Barry, just like Rose and Blanche.

This is possibly even more insane than the Obama mustache meme, but it’s absolutely amazing nonetheless.

Enjoy.

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President Obama's Fake Mustache Fantasy

By Anne Cohen

On Thursday night, President Obama told Israel’s Channel Two that he often fantasizes about going around in disguise while on official trips —with say, a fake mustache — and just blending in. As expected, the Internet exploded.

“Sometimes I have this fantasy, that I can put on a disguise, wear a fake mustache and I could wander through Tel Aviv and go to a bar and have a conversation, or go down to a university and meet with some students in a setting where it wasn’t as formal,” Obama told the interviewer.

While I completely get the President’s desire to be normal, I have to point out that a fake mustache is probably not the best way to achieve this.

But if he does decide to go for the fuzz, I have to ask: the Handlebar, the Salvador Dali or the Chevron?

See the full interview below:

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Joan Rivers Supports Surrogacy for Israeli Gay Couple

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images
Joan Rivers

When she’s not in bed with Sarah Silverman or giving scathing fashion advice, Joan Rivers advocates for the rights of gay couples in Israel.

Rivers joined Fashion Police co-stars Kelly Osbourne and George Kotsiopolous, as well as a number of Israeli celebrities in lending support to Yuval and Liran, an Israeli couple raising awareness about surrogacy for the LGBT community in Israel, The Jerusalem Post reported Monday.

The couple told their story in a video — which went viral in Israel — holding up signs criticizing Israeli surrogacy laws, which they see as discriminatory against gay couples.

Celebrity supporters held up similar signs in both Hebrew and English, stating “We want them to have a baby too.”

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What a Boob! Kardashian Deletes Gaza Tweet

By JTA

getty images
Kim Kardashian

Reality television star Kim Kardashian apologized for tweeting about the Gaza conflict.

Kardashian apologized after two tweets in which she first told her followers she was “Praying for everyone in Israel,” and then tweeted that she was “Praying for everyone in Palestine and across the world!”

Kardashian later deleted both tweets and issued an apology: “(A)fter hearing from my followers, I decided to take down the tweets because I realized that some people were offended and hurt by what I said, and for that I apologize,” the statement, published on her blog, said in part.

The statement continued: “I should have pointed out my intentions behind these tweets when I posted them. The fact is that regardless of religion and political beliefs, there are countless innocent people involved who didn’t choose this, and I pray for all of them and also for a resolution. I also pray for all the other people around the world who are caught in similar crossfires.”

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Israel's New Soccer Star on Rise

By Elliot Olshansky

getty images
Tomer Hemed

A new Israeli soccer star is on the rise.

Tomer Hemed turned Israel’s recent World Cup qualifying games against Luxembourg into his own personal coming out party. The 25-year-old striker scored a hat trick in Israel’s 6-0 win in Luxembourg City last Friday, and then followed it up with two more goals in a 3-0 win on Tuesday at Ramat Gan Stadium. The lopsided wins allowed Israel to move into a second-place tie with Portugal in the six-team qualifying group, with Israel having the edge on goal differential.

Of course, if it were just a matter of whipping up on one of Europe’s soccer minnows - Luxembourg is the lowest seed in Israel’s group, and the fourth-lowest seed in Europe - then Hemed’s heroics wouldn’t mean all that much. As it happens, however, the Haifa native’s star turn comes in the midst of a breakout season in Spain, where Hemed is in his second season with Mallorca.

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Other 'Hebrew Hammer' Scores TKO

By Elliot Olshansky

Ryan Braun may be sitting at home and watching as the Major League Baseball playoffs continue but a different “Hebrew Hammer” was in action Saturday night, and certainly lived up to his billing.

Undefeated welterweight boxer Cletus “The Hebrew Hammer” Seldin improved his pro record to 9-0 on Saturday night, when he defeated Carl “The Assassin” McNickles via TKO in the third round of their co-main event bout at the NYCB Theater in Westbury, N.Y.

Scheduled for eight rounds, Seldin and McNickles both came out looking to make it a short night early on, throwing heavy punches to the head and body in the first two rounds. In the third round, however, Seldin took control, dropping McNickles with a crushing right hand. Chicago native McNickles was able to beat the count and continue the fight, but Seldin picked right up where he left off, finishing McNickles later in the round. It was the seventh career knockout for Seldin, and his sixth consecutive stoppage.

Elsewhere in weekend Jewish sports news:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers fullback Erik Lorig matched his career high with his sixth reception of the season on Sunday in a 38-10 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. With the Bucs backed up to their own two-yard line, the 25-year-old Stanford alum caught a short pass on the left side from Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman, and took it to the 18-yard line before being pushed out of bounds. The 16-yard catch was the longest of the season for Lorig, whose team improved to 2-3 on the season and sits second in NFC south behind undeafeated Atlanta.

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No Iverson, But Israeli Hoops Galore

By Elliot Olshansky

getty images

When rumors linked Maccabi Haifa with former Philadelphia 76ers star Allen Iverson last week ahead of the Israeli Super League club’s preseason U.S. tour, it made a certain amount of sense.

As it turns out, the 2001 NBA MVP won’t be suiting up for Haifa when the club faces the NBA’s Golden State Warriors on Thursday night or when the team faces the Minnesota Timberwolves, but given that Haifa head coach Brad Greenberg was the 76ers’ general manager when the team drafted “The Answer” first overall in 1996, there was a plausible connection. However, the presence of Greenberg wasn’t the only reason that an “A.I. signing” made sense. In recent months, Haifa - which finished last season at the bottom of the 11-team Israel Super League - has become something of an outpost for lost souls and reclamation projects.

While Maccabi Haifa (owned by Florida-based businessman Jeffrey Rosen) regularly looks to promote Israel and the Super League in the U.S. - the club last visited the U.S. in 2010, and the Haifa-produced Inside Israeli Basketball program airs on the YES Network and other regional sports channels around the country - the club landed in the headlines for a less-than-positive reason earlier this year, when former Syracuse University assistant coach Bernie Fine was hired to serve as a consultant. Fine, who was fired from Syracuse last year amid accusations of child sex abuse, consults on personnel matters from his home in upstate New York, and played a role in the search that led to Greenberg’s hire as the team’s new head coach.

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Tiny Israel Town Makes Big Soccer Splash

By Elliot Olshansky

With a population of just over 23,000, the northern Israeli city of Kiryat Shmona doesn’t often get a chance to stand out on the map of Israel. On Thursday, however, the city’s Israeli Premier League soccer club took a big step towards putting its hometown on the map in Europe.

This past spring, Hapoel Ironi Kiryat Shmona, won the league title, marking the first time in nearly three decades that Israel’s champion didn’t come from Jerusalem, Tel Aviv or Haifa.

After a long bid towards qualifying for the UEFA Champions League group stage fell just short this summer, Kiryat Shmona opened play Thursday in the second-tier UEFA Europa League, playing to a 1-1 away draw with Spanish club Athletic Bilboa.

Kiryat Shmona is one of two Israeli clubs in the Europa League group stage, joined by Hapoel Tel Aviv. Hapoel, known as “The Workers,” opened up Europa League play at home on Thursday against the defending champions, Atlético Madrid, dropping a 3-0 decision at Bloomfield Stadium.

Despite the mixed results, one can argue that competing in Europe in and of itself represents a win.

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Amid Holidays, Israel Wins Baseball Opener

By Elliot Olshansky

getty images

The history of Jews in baseball is inexorably tied to the High Holidays, with the stories of Hank Greenberg attending Rosh Hashanah services in Detroit in 1939 before playing for the Tigers (with rabbinical approval) and Sandy Koufax’s refusal to pitch the first game of the 1965 World Series on Yom Kippur standing out as two of the most famous moments in Jewish baseball history.

During these Days of Awe, an unlikely team will look to add its own chapter to that legacy.

With a 7-3 win over South Africa on Wednesday night in Jupiter, Fla., the Israeli national baseball team opened the qualifying rounds of the 2013 World Baseball Classic. Roger Dean Stadium will play host to the qualifying tournament between Israel, South Africa, Spain and France, with the winner advancing to the 16-team main tournament in March, along with three other qualifiers (powerhouse baseball nations like Japan, the Dominican Republic and the United States are pre-qualified for the event).

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Gilad Shalit's Rosh Hashanah Message

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images
Rosh Hashanah can be a busy time for all Jews, but Gilad Shalit’s family has had even more going on than most.

First, Gilad Shalit’s older brother Yoel wed his girlfriend of three years, Ya’ara Vinkler. They stood under the huppah last Friday afternoon at Kibbutz Beit Oren in the Carmel region of northern Israel. “We’ve waited for the happiness of this family for a long time,” wedding guests told Ynet. Yoel and Ya’ara met during the campaign to free Gilad from five years of Hamas captivity (he was released on October 18, 2011 in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners), and announced their intention to marry last April.

Also this past weekend, Gilad published his first op-ed piece — a personal reflection for the New Year — in Yediot Aharonot. “…Most of all, I believe Rosh Hashanah symbolizes new opportunities,” he wrote. “For me, the past year has been the year in which I went back to living like regular people do. I returned to my family, I went back to having a social life and I rehabilitated myself, both physically and mentally.”

Shalit shared that, for him, the highlight of the past year — other than being freed and reunited with his family — was his being able to meet the athletes in the locker room at the NBA Finals in Miami, even getting sprayed with the celebratory champagne.

The former captive warns that fate can turn on a dime, and that the best way to deal with life’s vicissitudes is to see the glass as half full. If something bad does happen, “You must overcome. Crying won’t help. And always remember that it is possible to get out of any bind,” he wrote. “This is true for many things — diseases, injuries or crises. There is no point in regretting what happened; you must look to the future and think of the next stage of your life.”

Shalit admits that his life this past year has been rather extraordinary and public, and added that he expects to revert to a much more private existence in the future.

Judging by the number of ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ Shalit’s op-ed received online, it would appear that many people were glad to read what he wrote and see a photo of him dribbling a basketball on the cover of Yediot’s “7Days” supplement. Blogger Noam Reshef, however, gave voice to those who think Shalit should have disappeared from the public eye many months ago. He thinks that all this exposure — even a Rosh Hashanah reflection — is far too painful for the hundreds of Israelis whose have to deal with the fact that the murderers of their loved ones are now walking free as a consequence of Shalit’s release.

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Egypt Reality TV Prank Goes Very Bad

By JTA

courtesy of memri

Egyptian actors on a hidden camera television show reacted violently upon being told they were being aired on an Israeli TV channel.

Excerpts from the show, part of satellite TV channel Al-Nahar’s special Ramadan programming, were translated and distributed this week by MEMRI-the Middle East Media Research Institute.

In one show, Egyptian artist Ayman Kandeel attacks the producer, who had identified himself as Israeli, and slaps the host, causing her to fall to the floor.

Realizing he has been pranked, Kandeel tells the host that she brought it on herself and offers to rub lotion on her back where she has been hurt.

Actor Mahmoud Abd Al-Ghaffar also reacts violently, pulling a producer by his hair and fighting with other staff members.

“If you weren’t a girl, the moment you told me you were Jewish … I hate the Jews to death,” he said.

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Should Israelis Cancel Trips to Bulgaria?

By Nathan Jeffay

Getty Images
A member of the Israeli rescue and recovery squad collects evidence during investigations at the Airport in Burgas where a suicide blast targeting Israelis took place.

The tragic attack in Bulgaria has united Israelis in shock and mourning. But some are also left asking a rather mundane question — who pays for the knock-on effects?

The Hebrew media reports that in the main Israelis with travel plans for Bulgaria are continuing to travel. But inevitably, some want to cancel.

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Conflict Condoms Turn Up the Heat

By Hannah Rubin

Buzzfeed.com

Israel advocates don’t just want you to visit. They want you to come.

Over the past decade, pro-Israel campaigns have internationally turned up the heat, by printing pro-Israel messages on widely distributed…condoms.

The unambiguous mix of sex and sightseeing first began in 2003, at the behest of the University of California — San Diego’s Inside Israel Initiative. The campaign, funded by the campus Hillel, aimed to promote Israel’s unique gender equality record through the dissemination of condoms branded with the slogan “Israel: its still safe to come.” T-shirts with condoms waving Israeli flags were featured as well.

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