The Shmooze

Israel To Convert Army Bases Into Apartments

By Nathan Burstein

Israel’s government may kill two birds with one stone by converting as many as eight army bases into residential living areas.

The plan, still under discussion among the treasury, defense ministry and Israel Land Administration, would initially turn four bases into apartment complexes, in a move that could eventually create up to 40,000 new housing units in the greater Tel Aviv area. The plan addresses two sources of local protest: anxiety among residents who’ve seen real estate prices sky-rocket in recent years because of a housing shortage, and concerns among army officials over a treasury proposal to cuts its budget by 3 billion shekels (about $795 million) annually.

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#israelhates on Twitter: Fun or Offensive?

By Nathan Jeffay

It’s like one of those catchphrase competitions, but for Israel-haters. The new craze on Twitter: #israelhates.

According to reports at one point this week the hashtag accounted for 0.15% of all Twitter traffic, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you think about the scale of Twitter’s usage, is quite remarkable.

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Red Hot Chili Peppers (Finally) Perform in Israel

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

It took more than a decade, but the Red Hot Chili Peppers have finally found a “more suitable time” to perform in Israel.

The band, which received a Grammy nomination yesterday for best rock album, will play in Tel Aviv next September in support of its latest release, “I’m With You.” The show will take place more than 11 years after the band’s original date for the concert, which it called off because of security concerns in August 2001, during one of the worst periods of the second intifada.

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Revealed! Henry the K Blasted Jews

By Renee Ghert-Zand

getty images
Henry Kissinger

It seems Henry Kissinger had little patience for Jews who were fighting for the rights of their brethren in the Soviet Union or lobbying for Israel.

Britain’s Daily Mail reports that newly-released State Department documents indicate that in 1972, when he was National Security Advisor in the Nixon administration, Kissinger called such Jews “bastards.”

At the time, the White House and State Department were being flooded with requests from Soviet Jewry activists for the U.S. to make some public diplomatic moves to address the high levies the Kremlin had put on exit visas. Among the documents revealed was a letter from Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir urging Nixon to abandon his “quiet diplomacy” approach and to confront the Soviets directly on the issue.

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Gender-Bending Baby Names Take Off in Israel

By Nathan Jeffay

iStockphoto

It’s hard work keeping up with my four-year-old’s social life — not only because it’s far more lively than mine, with invitations freely exchanged over the sandpit, but also because it’s so difficult to identify his friends.

“Can you see Rotem?” he asks during morning drop-off at kindergarten. I look at each of the girls, believing I’ve already met her and risking his wrath because I have forgotten what she looks like, but no, this Rotem — though it’s a traditional girls’ name — is a boy. A couple of days later, a woman chats to me at the kindergarten gate. “I’m Natanel’s mom,” she says, positive that I know Natanel (the Hebrew form of Nathaniel). The name rings a bell, so out of politeness I say I know how much my son enjoys playing with him. Cover blown: Natanel is a she.

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New App Detects Military Police Presence

By Nathan Jeffay

iStockphoto

It’s the iPhone app that helps you to be a shloch. For Israeli teenagers who grow up attending schools with — how shall I put this delicately as the husband of a teacher? — loose discipline by international standards, the military police they encounter on their conscription to the army come as a shock.

All of a sudden they can be apprehended anywhere in the country if they’re not wearing their uniform according to regulation, or for a variety of other misdemeanors. Coming from schoolrooms where threats of punishments are rarely acted upon, they’re now in an army where the police officers mean business, and punishments are harsh.

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Herman Cain Angers Palestinians With Gaffe

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain has once again demonstrated that he could use a crash course in American foreign policy. His latest blunder in this subject area comes as a quote from him in Israel Hayom, the Israeli right-wing mass circulation tabloid backed by American multi-billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

Sounding more extreme than even the most hardened Israeli nationalist, Cain referred to the Palestinians dismissively as “the so-called Palestinian people.” He was speaking of the Palestinian’s seeking U.N. membership and the full quote was “I think that the so-called Palestinian people have this urge for unilateral recognition because they see this president [Obama] as weak.”

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Montel in Israel on Medical Marijuana Quest

By Nathan Burstein

iStockphoto

“Fact-finding missions” to Israel don’t usually involve cannabis, but medical marijuana is the reason former talk-show host Montel Williams is currently in the Holy Land.

“Some of the leading science on where and how those chemicals [in marijuana] work is being done right here in this country,” the Emmy Award winner said during the trip.

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‘Good Girls’ Rewarded With Sticker of Boys

By Nathan Jeffay

It’s just the prize that every seven-year-old girl wants. Not a teen-pop record or a Barbie doll, but a sticker with the faces of her male contemporaries.

Take kids to the physician here in Israel and they are often rewarded for their cooperation with a sticker. If you belong to the Clalit health maintenance organization, the stickers have pictures illustrating the message, such as a recuperating child with the message “get well soon.” But the stickers bearing the message “good girl” distributed in some parts of Israel are illustrated with a picture of four boys.

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Social Justice Protestors Taking To Israeli Streets Again

By Nathan Jeffay

Israel’s social protests are due to return to the streets tomorrow with a march, the first in just under two months. “On October 29, we young people need to take to the streets and demand a new national budget, and the social justice we deserve,” protestor May Turgeman said at a press conference in which details of the renewal of the struggle were released.

The protests, which began on July 14, clearly had a large impact on the national agenda, forcing the government to grapple with the cost of living and convene the Trajtenberg Committee. This panel has recommended reductions in tariffs on food, extra benefits for working mothers, a home-building plan and expanded childcare, and has had its recommendations endorsed by the cabinet.

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Diabetic Israeli Children Test Artificial Pancreas

By Renee Ghert-Zand

An artificial pancreas was taken for a test drive recently in Israel. This new technology, if it proves successful, could be a huge breakthrough in diabetes care and control.

“A Sweet Life,” a website for healthy living with diabetes, reported that 18 children in Israel were gathered at Kibbutz Ma’aleh Hahamisha to participate in the world’s first out-of-hospital artificial pancreas trial. The study was led by two doctors from the Schneider Children’s Medical Center of Israel: Prof. Moshe Phillip of the Institute of Endocrinology and Diabetes, and and Eran Atlas of the Diabetes Technology Institute.

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Fashion Week Comes to Israel

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images
Israeli model Bar Refaeli on the runway in 2008

It won’t be quite like Fashion Week in New York, Paris or Milan, but it will be Holon’s biggest fashion week ever. This month, the Mediatheque Cultural Center in Holon, just south of Tel Aviv, will host a fashion-focused event October 24-27 that will include film screenings, an international symposium, master classes taught by international fashion personalities and a fashion show.

The Holon municipality and the Design Museum Holon, which opened in 2010, are behind the fashion week. They are aiming to make a name for their museum and to gain recognition for Holon within the international design community. This, the third annual Fashion Week in Holon, is being produced by produced by Benny Moran Productions in collaboration with the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, the lifestyle channels of Ananey Communications, the Israel Textile and Fashion Association and the Foreign Ministry.

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Israeli Scientists Learn to Levitate

By Renee Ghert-Zand

You know that scene in “Back to the Future 2” when Michael J. Fox’s character Marty McFly skates on a hover board? It’s no longer just movie magic.

Tel Aviv University scientists demonstrated quantum levitation at the Association of Science-Technology Centers annual conference held last week at the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore. The researchers from the Superconductivity Group at TAU’s Schools of Physics and Astronomy wowed conference attendees with their demonstration of superconductors locked in a magnetic field.

They showed how a disc frozen with liquid nitrogen can be made to hover over a magnet in any position. Similarly, it can “fly” over a track at any height or at any angle. It even appeared to defy gravity as it circled underneath the track.

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Gymnast Alexander Shatilov Is Israel’s Great Olympic Hope

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

Israeli gymnast Alexander Shatilov is on his way to the 2012 Olympic Games in London after winning the bronze medal for floor exercise at the Gymnastics World Championships in Tokyo on October 15.

The 24-year-old Uzbekistan native, who immigrated to Israel in 2002, tied for third in the floor exercise with Diego Hypolito of Brazil, with a score of 15.466. China’s Zou Kai, the Beijing Olympic and 2009 world floor champion, won the silver, and Kohei Uchimura of Japan took the gold. Uchimura had won another gold 18 hours earlier, becoming the first male gymnast to win three all-round titles.

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Bootlegged Lulavs, Etrogs, for Sukkot?

By Nathan Jeffay

Wikimedia Commons

Produce harvested in the dead of night, smuggled and sold for high prices under the radar of authorities. Warehouses burglarized. Tourists hiding the good stuff in suitcases and getting found out by customs.

No, this isn’t a story of drug rings, but rather of lulavs and etrogs, the plant species waved during synagogue services on Sukkot, the festival that starts tomorrow night.

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Mubarak for ‘Man of 5771’?

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

The Egyptian newspaper Al-masry Al-youm took note of the fact that an Israeli journalist has suggested that ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak be named Israel’s Man of the Year (with “year” meaning the recently departed 5771).

Political correspondent Udi Segal apparently said on air during a Channel 2 evening news broadcast that “Mubarak symbolizes the last Jewish year ‘with all its changes, risks, hope and despair.’”

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Avigdor Lieberman Can’t Carry a Tune

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

There are many Israelis, especially those on the left side of the political spectrum, who would describe Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman as having a tin ear when it comes to recognizing socio-political realities.

Lieberman’s opponents will feel especially validated now that it turns out that he is actually — and totally — tone deaf. If the painful sound of his singing Hatikva, the national anthem, at a pre-Rosh Hashanah gathering of members of his Yisrael Beiteinu party on Monday, is any indication, it seems as though Lieberman would not be able to sing on key if his life depended on it.

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Jews Lag Behind Arab Israelis in Child Vaccination Rates

By Renee Ghert-Zand

iStockphoto

The Center for Disease Control of Israel’s Health Ministry has analyzed medical and health trends over the past decade and issued a report with some significant findings.

One of the most glaring pieces of data was the fact that Arabs in Israel vaccinate their children at a higher rate than do Jewish Israelis. The overall vaccination rate in Israel is high (around 70-90%, depending on the specific vaccine), but fewer Jewish children are vaccinated against hepatitis A and polio than are Arab ones. Inoculation against meningitis, diptheria, pertussis and tetanus is almost completely universal in both communities.

The lower vaccination rates among Jewish children is speculated to be a result of the prevalence of ultra-Orthodox families who do not vaccinate, as well as the growing numbers of other families who embrace a natural lifestyle that eschews vaccinations. Haaretz reports that just two weeks ago there was an outbreak of measles at a kibbutz because the children there had not been vaccinated against the disease.

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Obama Makes New York Magazine Cover as ‘First Jewish President’

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

Barack Obama may be America’s “first Jewish president,” this week’s New York magazine cover provocatively suggests.

The publication sets the phrase in quotation marks, placing it over a cover photo of Obama’s kippah-wearing head. The accompanying article — entitled “The Tsuris,” and written by staff political analyst John Heilemann — looks at at Obama’s relationship with both Israel and American Jews. Is the latter group truly up for grabs in next year’s election because of the president’s Middle East policy, as some Obama critics suggest? The article explores the issue via interviews with commentators on both sides, taking its cover quotation from Obama supporter and former White House counsel Abner Mikva, who in 2008 joked, “When this all is over, people are going to say that Barack Obama is the first Jewish president.”

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Israeli Military Snubs Domestic Shofar Merchants

By Nathan Burstein

Deror Avi, via Wikimedia Commons

Israel’s shofar merchants consider it a low blow, but the country’s defense ministry isn’t backing down.

Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot reported Friday that local shofar sellers are red in the face over a decision by the defense ministry to purchase 150 of the rams’ horns from suppliers in China and Morocco. Going abroad for the shofars — which will be used in military ceremonies — will save the ministry, and by extension Israeli taxpayers, 4,500 shekels, or about $8 per shofar, according to the snubbed Israeli suppliers.

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