The Shmooze

Smoking Declines in Palestine as Israelis Keep Puffing Away

By Nathan Jeffay

Wikimedia

There aren’t many facets of healthcare in which Palestinians are progressing faster than the far better-resourced Israelis. But it turns out that that Palestinians do seem more prepared to kick the tobacco habit.

The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics has just reported that among Palestinians, there has been an enormous decrease in smoking over recent years. It has declined by some 18% in the last decade. In Israel, by contrast, the figures are stagnant. The percentage of people who smoke is — coincidentally — 23%, the same as among Palestinians. But while the figure among Palestinians has been on a downward slide, the Israeli number has been the same for three years. That’s despite investment in stop-smoking campaigns.

What is really bizarre is the huge discrepancy in smoking habits between Israeli and Palestinian Arabs. While between a quarter to a third of Palestinian males smoke, among Israeli Arabs the figure is more than a half.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tobacco, Palestine, Smoking, Israel, Health

In East Jerusalem, the Battle Over Street Names Continues

By Renee Ghert-Zand

WAFA, the Palestinian News and Information Agency, is reporting that crews from the Jerusalem municipality started working early this morning to remove existing street signs in East Jerusalem and replace them with new ones. The new signs will change the names of streets and locations from their Arab names to Jewish ones.

According to WAFA’s press release, “The municipality, as part of its project to change the Arab and Islamic character of East Jerusalem, changed the name of Sultan Suleiman Street that extends between Damascus Gate and Herod’s Gate of the Old City Wall to Eliyahu Street, as the new signs say. The Sultan Suleiman Cave on the same road has been renamed to Eliyahu Cave.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: East Jerusalem, Israel, Jerusalem Horizons, Palestine, Street Names, WAFA

Who Is Coming To Israel With Glenn Beck?

By Nathan Jeffay

Getty Images

Glenn Beck fever is sweeping the Holy Land. The controversial American broadcaster has got Israel talking about the rally he is planning for Jerusalem in August.

Last year, he organized a huge event in Washington called Restore Honor, bringing together thousands of conservatives. He’s now planning Restore Courage — a similar concept with a pro-Israel focus. It is intended to “unite the people of the world in standing with Israel and remind us of the need to have faith, honor and courage in our own lives,” according to his website.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Restore Honor, Sarah Palin, Restore Courage, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Michelle Bachman, Israel, Glenn Beck

Shakira To Speak at Israeli Presidential Conference

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

Pop star Shakira is on her way to Jerusalem — not to perform, but to speak about childhood education at a summit organized by Israeli President Shimon Peres.

The “Hips Don’t Lie” singer will participate in the Israeli Presidential Conference this month with an eclectic set of guests, who range from Dr. Ruth and Sarah Silverman to Nobel Prize winners Israel Aumann and Eric Maskin.

A goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, the Colombian singer has family ties to the region: she was born Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll, and comes partly from Lebanese Christian roots. She has regularly incorporated Middle Eastern sounds and even a bit of Arabic into her performances, and she knows a thing or two about belly dancing. Shakira has made childhood education a focus of her charity, the Barefoot Foundation.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Shimon Peres, Shakira, Sarah Silverman, Jerusalem, Israel Aumann, Israeli Presidential Conference, Israel, Gerard Pique, Dr. Ruth, Eric Maskin

Facebook Revolutions: The Great Israeli Cottage Cheese Boycott?

By Renee Ghert-Zand

iStockphoto

While the Arabs are organizing historic political uprisings on Facebook, Israelis are using the social networking website to protest the high price of cottage cheese.

Fed up with the nearly NIS 8 price for a 250 g container of the popular dairy food (it accounts for 28% of all cheese sales in Israel), consumer groups set up two Facebook pages to protest the regular price increases on the product that have been taking place in the past half year — going so far as to urge people to boycott cottage cheese for an entire month. These Facebook groups have garnered thousands of “friends” in just a few days.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Protest, Kadima Party, Israel, Facebook, Cottage Cheese, Binyamin Netanyahu

Jewish Men’s Clubs Boycott Scotch Whisky

By Renee Ghert-Zand

You know things are serious when Kiddush clubs are willing to give up their scotch.

The Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs, an affiliate of the Conservative movement, has called upon its North American members (250 clubs; 25,000 individual members) to boycott scotch whisky made in distilleries located in West Dunbartonshire in Scotland.

Among the distilleries in West Dunbartonshire included in the boycott are Morrison Bowmore, Loch Lamond and Chivas Brothers — the latter known for its premium Chivas, Glenlivet and Ballantine’s labels.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Scotch, Isreallycool, Israel, Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs, Boycott, Scotland, The Muqata, West Dunbartonshire

10,000 Yeshiva Students Allegedly Cheat Ministry of Education

By Renee Ghert-Zand

10,000 Yeshiva students have been playing hooky and bilking Israel’s Ministry of Education of NIS 4.5 million, according to a recent audit. The Ministry of Education shared with the Israeli business publication Globes that these students, who have not actually been showing up to classes, were receiving NIS 450 each per month in stipends.

The Ministry of Education has revoked these scholarships, but Knesset Finance Committee chairman, MK Moshe Gafni of United Torah Judaism, a religious party, made sure that the money stayed in the Yeshiva system. Instead of the funds saved being directed elsewhere in the Israeli economy (like to specifically train the hooky players for gainful employment outside the study hall), they are now going to other Yeshiva students. Gafni felt that those Yeshiva bochers who were avoiding army service and getting a job, but who were actually showing up to the beit midrash, deserved to be more highly compensated.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Audit, Education Ministry, Israel, Knesset Finance Committee, MK Moshe Gafni, Stipends, Students, United Torah Judaism, Yeshiva

Israelis Can't Get Enough Facebook

By Renee Ghert-Zand

We all know that Israelis spend more time than the rest of us on certain things, like defending their country, starting cool hi-tech start-ups, and eating really good hummus. What we might not have guessed is that they also spend more time on social networking websites than we do.

According to a global survey conducted and released earlier this week by comScore, Inc., a source of digital market intelligence, Israel ranked highest in time spent per visitor on social networking sites, averaging 10.7 hours per person for the month of April. The average Israeli apparently socializes online far more than his American or Canadian counterpart, who logs only 5.2 and 6.4 hours per month, respectively. Russia came in second with 10.3 hours of social networking per visitor, followed by Argentina with 8.4 hours, Philippines with 7.9 hours and Turkey with 7.8 hours.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Twitter, Social Networking, Israel, Internet, Facebook

Israel To Participate in 2013 World Baseball Classic

By Aaron Yellin

Getty Images

It might be high time for Major League all-stars like Ryan Braun and Kevin Youkilis to fully embrace their Jewish heritage — and they wouldn’t even have to leave the field to do so.

Yes, Shavuot begins Tuesday night. But perhaps a more compelling argument for solidarity among baseball’s top Jewish performers is that Israel will participate in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, Major League Baseball announced June 1.

The news is part of the World Baseball Classic’s expansion from 16 to 28 teams, including a 16-team qualifying round, which Israel will be a part of. And according to the Israel Association of Baseball, even non-Israeli citizens of Jewish heritage are eligible to join the team.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: World Baseball Classic, Sports, Ryan Braun, Major League Baseball, Kevin Youkilis, Israel, Baseball

Following Facebook Fury, Coldplay Removes ‘Freedom for Palestine’ Link

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

Coldplay appears to have changed its mind about the Arab-Israeli conflict — at least when it gets in the way of promoting the band’s latest single.

A week after promoting a song called “Freedom for Palestine,” the English pop/rock group has removed the link from its Facebook page, where it attracted thousands of comments, some very ugly in tone.

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Coldplay Gives Thumbs-Up to ‘Freedom for Palestine’ Music Video

By Lucy Cohen Blatter

Coldplay is getting into some serious “Trouble” with its Jewish and pro-Israel fanbase. (See what we did there?)

In a message posted on its Facebook page yesterday, the British band urged fans to check out the “Freedom for Palestine” music video. “Some of our friends are involved in OneWorld’s new ‘Freedom for Palestine’ single,” the band wrote, posting a link to the video on OneWorld’s website.

“Freedom for Palestine,” performed by international music artists, starts with strong lyrics: “So many years of catastrophe/more than six million refugees/it could be you and your family/forced from your home and your history.” It also features depictions of Israeli army checkpoints and Israel’s controversial security fence, and goes on to urge “breaking down the wall” and “justice for all.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Coldplay, Facebook, Freedom for Palestine, Israel, OneWorld, Palestine

In Jerusalem, Proposed Bill Would Replace Arabic Place Names With Hebrew

By Nathan Jeffay

No doubt you’ve heard about the ongoing protests in Sheikh Jarrah and the famous hummus of Abu Gosh. Soon, mentioning these place names on Israeli state television and radio could become illegal.

The right-wing firebrand Tzipi Hotovely, the youngest lawmaker in Knesset, has initiated a bill that would rename these Jerusalem districts with Hebrew appellations. In areas for which a Hebrew name already exists, this would be used instead.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Arabic, Hebrew, Israel, Jerusalem, Tzipi Hotovely

Grants Awarded To Reverse Israel’s ‘Brain Drain’

By Renee Ghert-Zand

May was a good month for the Cedar family. On the heels of Israeli filmmaker Joseph Cedar’s winning the best screenplay award at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival for his film “Footnote,” about Hebrew University Talmud scholar rivals who are father and son, it was announced on May 31st that his father, real-life Hebrew University professor Howard Cedar, was the recipient of one of the three first major grants in a $350 million Israeli government program to reverse Israel’s brain drain.

The Chronicle of Higher Education, citing an article in Haaretz’s “The Marker,” reported that the government has granted funds to the first three of what it hopes will be 30 Centers of Research Excellence in the country that will attract approximately 300 top Israeli academics and researchers back from the best universities around the world. Already, 11 such scholars have signed on to return from such universities as Harvard, Yale, Columbia and UC Berkeley to join the first three centers.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Science, Joseph Cedar, Israel, Howard Cedar, Academics, Universities

Israel Is Laid-Back, Study Finds

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Apparently, there’s no need for Israel to loosen up. So say the results of a psychological and cultural study published on May 27 in the journal Science looking closely at 33 different countries in an effort to better understand cultural differences, and consequently foster better cross-cultural communication and cooperation.

A large international team of scientists led by Michele J. Gelfand, a professor of psychology at the University of Maryland, considered the “tightness” and “looseness” of various countries and their cultures. “Tight” national cultures have many strong norms and a low tolerance of deviant behavior, and “loose” ones have weak social norms and a high tolerance of deviant behavior. In determining where nations stood on the tight-loose continuum, the researchers considered factors such as ecological and historical threats, broad versus narrow socialization in societal institutions like government and media, the strength of everyday recurring situations, and micro-level psychological affordances such as regulatory strength and the need for structure.

Of the 33 countries for which data was collected, Pakistan was found to be the tightest, and Ukraine the loosest. The results for many countries were not surprising, Gelfand said in an interview for PRI’s The World. Japan, for instance, predictably turned out to be rather tight.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Sociology, Science, Pakistan, Michele J. Gelfand, Israel, Ukraine

Counting Down to ‘Ben-Gurion’s Solar Revolution’

By Renee Ghert-Zand

The homepage of the Arava Power Company’s website shows a clock counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds to “Ben-Gurion’s Solar Revolution.”

On June 5, in celebration of World Environment Day, the company will inaugurate Israel’s first commercial solar field at Kibbutz Ketura in the Arava Valley. The Arava Power Company is a privately held partnership, owned by Global Sun Partners, Siemens, and KKL-JNF. It is the only public-private partnership in the solar market in Israel.

The solar power field uses photovoltaic (PV) technology, which produces no emissions, makes no noise and uses no water. The backers of the venture hope that increased use of solar energy will reduce the need for new coal plants in Israel. In November of last year, Israel’s Infrastructure Ministry signed a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement worth NIS 250 million with the company, allowing it to supply power to Israel’s electrical grid.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: World Environment Day, Siemens, Israel, Energy, David Ben-Gurion, Arava Power Company, Yosef I. Abramowitz

Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov Headlines Israeli Technology Conference

By Michael Kaminer

Spacing out was encouraged at this year’s Limmud FSU, an annual cultural and education festival for Russian speakers in Israel. That’s because the history-making guest speaker was Alexei Leonov, the first man to walk in space when he exited the Voshod 2 ship for 12 minutes in 1965.

According to eJewishPhilanthropy, Leonov’s visit to the Beersheva conference — which had a science and technology theme — was also intended to mark the 50th anniversary of the first flight in space by Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. Leonov, himself twice named “Hero of the Soviet Union” back in the day, was joined by cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko and American-Jewish astronaut Dr. Garrett Reisman, eJewishPhilanthropy reported. “The spirit of friendship between them was evident in all their joint presentations as they swapped jokes, mostly in Russian.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Alexei Leonov, Garrett Reisman, Israel, Limmud FSU, Mikhail Kornienko, Science, Shimon Peres, Space, Technology

Israel on the 1,800th Day of Gilad Shalit's Captivity

By Renee Ghert-Zand

This Sunday, May 29 – Memorial Day Weekend here in the United States – marks the 1,800th day of Gilad Shalit’s captivity. He was kidnapped June 25, 2006, by Hamas in a cross-border raid, and it is believed he has been held somewhere in Gaza since then. He has been denied communication with his family or visits by the Red Cross or by human rights organizations.

Just two days ago, Gabi Ashkenazi, former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, admitted that he had failed to secure Shalit’s release. He was reported by Ynet as having said, “We have to admit that we do not have the ability to use military force to free Gilad…Hamas has Shalit hidden in such a way that we cannot locate him. We don’t know where he is.” Indicating that he is in favor, if necessary, of releasing Palestinian terrorists in exchange for Shalit, he added, “If we fail to manufacture a military option for his release, we have to admit it and pay a reasonable price for his return.”

Last Sunday, President Obama called for Shalit’s release in his speech to an audience of more than 10,000 at the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, in Washington, D.C.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Israel, Gilad Shalit

Israel's Kashrut Fraud

By Nathan Jeffay

American immigrants to Israel are in shock. No, it’s not the fact that the President of their motherland is clashing with the Prime Minister of their new country, or that many in Israel would have you believe that Barack Obama is turning on the Jewish State. It’s something far more important than all of that political stuff.

Somebody has been messing with their supply of Hershey’s. They have long been paying a premium to get that sweet taste of home, but it seems now that something untoward has been happening with the imported chocolate. The Orthodox Union has just published a warning that stickers attached to Cookies ‘n Chocolate sold here are counterfeit. “This product is sold in Israel with a sticker placed by the importer that contains an unauthorized OU symbol. This product is not certified by the Orthodox Union and the sticker did not originate from the Hershey Chocolate Company,” states the warning. An Israeli website has published pictures of the offending treat.

News of this kashrut fraud comes just a few days after Israel’s state comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss reported that out of 35,000 tons of fresh meat unloaded at Israel’s ports during 2007 to 2009 for sale in the Palestinian Authority, only 15,600 tons reached its stated destination. What does that mean? Well quite possibly, according to the state comptroller, the rest made it in to the Israeli market, sold by butchers claiming it has both veterinary and kashrut supervision that it doesn’t.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Israel, Hershey's, Kosher

Israeli Model To Audition for 'James Bond' Film

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

The next Bond girl might be Israeli.

Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Esti Ginzburg has been invited to audition for the next James Bond movie, Israel’s Ynet news site reports.

The role would mark a professional breakthrough for the 21-year-old, who had a small role last year in the little-seen “Twelve,” whose biggest star was Chace Crawford of “Gossip Girl.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: James Bond, Israel, Gossip Girl, Esti Ginzburg, Chace Crawford, Twelve

Hebrew Ink: Justin Bieber's New 'Yeshua' Tattoo

By Nathan Burstein

A month after his first visit to Israel, Justin Bieber has gotten a Hebrew tattoo.

The 17-year-old pop star showed off the new ink during a visit to Hawaii with his girlfriend this week. (Because that’s what normal 17-year-olds do: get tattoos and go to Hawaii with their girlfriends.)

The letters spell out “Yeshua,” or Jesus, in Hebrew.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Christians, Hebrew, Israel, Jesus, Justin Bieber, Tattoo




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