The Shmooze

New York Journos Pay Tribute to Ed Koch at Benefit

By Masha Leon

“Mayor Koch believed that mayors were not elected to be president…but to pick up garbage …balance the budget…” said Marcia Kramer, CBS2 New York chief political correspondent and a panelist at the April 3 Tribute to Mayor Edward I. Koch and Benefit for Beit Morasha’s Edward I. Koch Center for Public Policy and Jewish Ethics In Jerusalem.

Held at the Harmonie Club, emcee NBC4 New York Anchor, Chuck Scarborough recapped President Ford’s “Drop Dead!” message to the City and its “1977 riots and death spiral.” Discussion moderator “Maury Povich,” — taking a break from his syndicated “The Maury Show” featuring couples anxiously awaiting results of paternity tests — expounded on Koch’s agile maneuvering “to get elected and save the city.”

“Koch made chutzpah a New York virtue.” joshed NBC4 New York senior correspondent Gabe Pressman. “In the 1970s he was considered a schlemiel…. grew into the job as mayor and was more available than any other mayor.” Pressman also alluded to the “pain in his life”— the suicide of Queensboro President Donald Manes. “It haunted him for a long time…. He was never accused of city corruption but it was on his watch.”

Ido Aharoni and Pat Koch Thaler // Photo by Karen Leon.

N.Y. Post political correspondent Michael Goodwin remembered Koch as “a loyal Democrat to the end [and] I suspect he’d have supported de Blasio but not a lot of his rhetoric.” Also on the panel: Peter Solomon, former deputy mayor of economic policy and development in New York City.

Preceding the dinner and panel discussion, Israel’s Consul General in New York, Ido Aharoni— bracketed by the mayor’s sister Pat Koch Thaler, American Friends chairman of the board Mel Salberg, and Jerusalem’s mayor Nir Barkat — recalled Koch’s “special relationship with Jerusalem’s legendary mayor Teddy Kollek.”

Aharoni acknowledged his “debt to “dear friend” [public relations maven] Howard Rubenstein when he arrived in New York “two months before 9/11” and was told, “the first person I need to meet with and seek advice from was Ed Koch… He was a legend in Israel…. Why would he meet with me? Not only did he take my call, but invited me to his office, interrogated me about my career, my work for Shimon Peres.

Harking back to the prior night’s JCRC (Jewish Community Relations Council) Annual Gala at The Pierre at which he was the keynote speaker “with Mayor de Blasio present,” Aharoni said, “I grew up in a suburb of Tel Aviv and would pass a street named La Guardia every day. I had no idea who LaGuardia was…. Later I discovered a street named Ed Koch and — of course — there will be something named after [Michael] Bloomberg. So I told Mayor de Blasio that I wish for him one day there’ll be a bridge in Tel Aviv named de Blasio Bridge so that my grandchildren will pass the bridge and know who de Blasio was.

Aharoni concluded: “On behalf of the State of Israel, I would like to express our profound appreciation of [Koch’s] unwavering support, his friendship and his unconditional love for the State of Israel.”

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Tel Aviv Makes Top Ten 'Selfiest' Cities List

By JTA

Tel Aviv has the sixth-most “selfie-takers” per capita of any major city, according to a ranking in Time Magazine.

One-hundred thirty-nine Tel Aviv residents per 100,000 frequently take selfies, or self-portraits taken with a cellphone, according to the survey, published Monday. The magazine calculated its results by surveying 400,000 selfies tagged according to location on Instagram, a popular photo-sharing online social network.

The survey looked at selfies from every city worldwide with at least 250,000 residents. Tel Aviv, Israel’s second-biggest city, has a population of approximately 400,000. Jerusalem, Israel’s capital and biggest city, did not crack the top 100. The Philippines’ Makati City won the distinction of the “Selfie Capital of the World,” with 258 “selfie-takers” per 100,000.

The United States holds three of the top five spots, with the New York borough of Manhattan placing second, Miami placing third and the metropolitan area of Anaheim and Santa Ana, Calif., placing fourth.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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Natalie Portman in the Holy Land

By Haaretz

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Natalie Portman and Benjamin Millepied

Natalie Portman is currently in Israel working on a film adaption of an autobiographical novel by Israeli author Amos Oz.

The Jerusalem-born Oscar winner will direct and star in “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” which is to be filmed in Hebrew in Jerusalem. This will be her feature film directorial debut.

Portman, who is staying at a Tel Aviv hotel, is currently writing the screenplay and ironing out production details, with filming scheduled to begin in January.

“A Tale of Love and Darkness” is based on Oz’s autobiographical novel of the same name, which takes place in Jerusalem in the second half of the 1940s. The story focuses on the author’s childhood, his mother’s mental illness and his father’s helplessness on the backdrop of the period’s historic events.

Portman is expected to play the role of the author’s mother, and will act in Hebrew.

Read more at Haaretz.com

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Will Madonna Call Tel Aviv Home?

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

It looks like the Kabbalah-loving Madonna may be trading in a London flat for an apartment in the Holy Land.

Madge was apparently seen toting a brochure for a high-end housing project in Tel Aviv. Israel’s Channel 10 reported on a photo circulating on Facebook showing her with sales material from the Meier on Rothschild tower, a 50-story luxury apartment building going up at the corner of Allenby St. and Rothschild Ave. The project is named for the man who has designed it — famed American architect Richard Meier.

We’re fairly certain the steep prices will not be a problem for the superstar. Apartments in the building have already been sold for between $1.4 million and $47 million.

We already know from Madonna’s several recent visits to Israel, including for the kickoff concert of her 20102 MDNA tour, that she finds the Holy Land inspiring. If pictures don’t lie, it would seem that she might also soon find spiritual uplift in an “awe-inspiring view of the Mediterranean,” as the Meier on Rothschild sales literature suggests.

Who knows? The Israeli paparazzi might soon catch Madonna making Aroma runs (Sorry, Madge, there’s no Starbucks in Israel).

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Chelsea Clinton Touts Israeli Coffee App

By Anne Cohen

Getty Images
Chelsea Clinton

Chelsea Clinton really loves coffee.

On Wednesday, she took to Facebook to gush about CUPS-Unlimited Coffee, the Israeli coffee app that allows users to enjoy unlimited coffee at 55 participating Tel Aviv coffee shops for $45 a month.

“Pretty incredible!” she wrote. “An Israeli startup created an all-you-can-drink coffee app for coffee addicts (like me!). I think we need something like this in America.”

We agree (as do the 664 people who “liked” her post).

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Public Transportation on the Sabbath?

By Nathan Jeffay

iStockphoto

Of all the ways that religion impacts the Israeli public sphere, the lack of public transportation in most of the country on Sabbaths and religious holidays has possibly the largest week-to-week impact on people’s lives. It means that those who don’t have their own vehicles can’t get far from home on these days.

The difficulty this poses is made greater by the structure of the work week here. In contrast to in the United States, where Saturdays and Sundays are rest days, here Sunday is a working day. That means that Saturday, when there is no transportation until nightfall, is the only full day off available for going on trips or to visit friends and family.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tel Aviv, Ron Huldai, Public Transportation

Shack Up in a Tel Aviv ‘Pixel Hotel’

By Renee Ghert-Zand

It used to be that if someone asked you if you wanted to shack up on the beach in Tel Aviv, there would have been a good chance they were rudely propositioning you. But now, they could very well be assisting you in making upscale hotel reservations for your trip to the Big Orange.

Looking to the pixel hotel trend that started in Austria (a pixel hotel has rooms scattered around the city in unconventional and abandoned locations, like old storefronts, former workshops, hidden courtyards, or even on boats), the Atlas hotel chain and the Tel Aviv municipality have announced that they will be upcycling lifeguard shacks on the Bograshov beach into boutique lodgings. Talk about a beachfront view!

Lilach Chitayat, Anat Safran, and Alan Chitayat are the designers for the project, and they hope to “pixelate” areas beyond the beach. They envision similar projects in the Jaffa Port, Neve Tzedek and water towers all around the country.

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Tel Aviv Makes 'Most Creative City' List

By Haaretz

Tel Aviv had the honor on Thursday to be named one of the world’s most innovative cities, alongside London, Sydney, Stockholm and Shanghai. A special report by Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper proclaimed that “while Tel Aviv is small, it’s one giant innovation engine.”

“The entire population of Israel may only number seven million—smaller than New York City,” the report says, “but this Middle Eastern state spends more of its GDP on research and development than any other nation.”

The writers highlight two main examples of Israeli innovation. One is the facial recognition software called Face.com, founded by Gil Hirsch and three other colleagues in Tel Aviv. “Face.com really made waves when Facebook integrated its site,” the report says. “Two Facebook-specific apps—Photo Finder and Photo Tagger—spawned calls from other developers eager to work with the technology.”

The second example of Tel Aviv’s technological creativity is Waze, a crowd-sourced GPS navigator. The software, developed by Ehud Shabtai and two other colleagues in 2009, optimizes driving routes with drivers contributing their data in real-time. According to the article, “since its arrival in the U.S. last year, two million users have begun contributing data, and Waze is now working to develop partnerships with broadcasters.”

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Terrorist's Widow Treated in Tel Aviv Hospital

By Nathan Burstein

Being the widow of one of the Middle East’s most notorious terrorists isn’t enough to stop Israeli doctors from treating you.

In one of today’s stranger news items, Israel’s Channel 2 is reporting that the wife of Mohammed Oudeh, the mastermind behind the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics, is receiving medical care at Assuta Hospital in Tel Aviv. Channel 2 reporter Ohad Hamo says she’s in a coma, and is being visited by daughters who’ve arrived from Jordan and Ramallah. A third daughter is reportedly on her way from Syria — an unusual situation, to say the least, given relations between the two countries.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tel Aviv, Mohammed Oudeh, Assuta Hospital, Abu Daoud, 1972 Olympics, Terrorism

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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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Army Bases, Housing Protests, Israel, Israel Land Administration, Tel Aviv

Claire Danes: Tel Aviv is a ‘Party Town’

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Getty Images

Claire Danes surprised TV talk show host Conan O’Brien by telling him what Tel Aviv nightlife watchers already know — that it’s “a party town.”

She told O’Brien that she learned this when she went to Israel to shoot the pilot for her psychological thriller Showtime series, “Homeland”, which is based on the Israeli series “Hatufim.” “The big reveal, the big surprise, for me was that Tel Aviv was the most intense party town I have ever been to,” she said.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Showtime, Homeland, Hatufim, Conan O'Brien, Claire Danes, Baghdad, Tel Aviv

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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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Shuki Weiss, Second Intifada, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Hayarkon Park, Israel, Grammy Awards, Tel Aviv

Low Fence Blamed for Tel Aviv Skyscraper Suicides

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Wikimedia Commons

The Azrieli Towers have come to define the Tel Aviv skyline in recent years, but they have also become the prime location for those seeking to jump to their deaths. There have been 10 suicides from the towers in the past three years.

Israel’s Channel 2 News reported yesterday that the Tel Aviv police have opened an investigation into possible negligence on the part of the Azrieli Group and the towers’ management company. There is a fence around the perimeter of the towers’ rooftop balconies, but some feel its height is not sufficient. Three years ago, then Tel Aviv district attorney Ruth David sent a letter to the management company asking it to raise the height of the fence, even though it was technically up to code.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Suicide, Hila Gerstel, Channel 2, Azrieli Towers, Azrieli Group, Tel Aviv

Does Yom Kippur Unite or Divide?

By Nathan Jeffay

Does Yom Kippur in Israel unite or divide the country’s Jewish population?

Gesher, a nonprofit that promotes religious-secular dialogue, believes that a poll it just commissioned with Ynet shows the holiday’s unifying function. The poll found that 58% of Israeli Jews plan to fast. Taking a closer look at the figure for fasting, that means that nearly 100% of religious Jews and 87% of “traditional” Jews will fast, while 54% of “secular” Jews say they won’t fast.

“This is a day for everyone, which connects all factions among the people of Israel,” said Gesher director Ilan Gal-Dor in response to the poll, and in a sense he is correct. The fact that almost one in two secular Jews will fast to adhere to a system of religious law they generally reject is notable.

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Australian Man Suspected of Grisly Murder in Tel Aviv

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Husband-wife trips don’t always work out well, but this one turned out far, far worse than the usual bad vacation.

Israeli police were summoned to a hotel room on the 15th floor of Tel Aviv’s Dan Panorama hotel earlier this week to find Australian tourist John Paul Sebastian with the body of his 54-year-old wife, who had been stabbed multiple times in the neck and upper body. Sebastian was arrested on the spot.

Sebastian, 45, from Melbourne, is facing possible murder charges, but in the meantime is being held for eight days for psychiatric evaluation. He claimed that he was compelled to kill his wife because she was an enemy agent “with a written agreement that meant she owned him.” Even more bizarre was his assertion that she had forced him to eat raw meat and human flesh.

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Paul Simon Holds World’s Dullest Press Conference

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images
Paul Simon receives a shofar after the press conference in Tel Aviv.

Hopefully the concert will be more exciting.

Paul Simon stayed studiously boring during a press conference in Tel Aviv today, shortly after arriving in Israel for a concert tomorrow night in Ramat Gan. The 69-year-old musician claimed never to drink, smoke or party — or even to consume dairy products — in order to preserve his voice. He denied rumors of a feud with Bob Dylan (allegedly over a collaboration that never happened), and offered flattering remarks about the most benign topic imaginable — the local weather.

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Young Israelis Camp Out for Housing Reform

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Israelis traditionally fill their city squares during warm summer nights. This week, young Israelis in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other cities are doing just that — but they’re not going home at the end of the night.

Israel’s “cottage cheese revolution,” having spurred a number of economic protests, has now led to a young people’s revolt against the high cost of housing. The National Students Union has joined with other young citizens’ groups and individuals in a mass camp-out demonstration on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard begun by a young woman named Daphni Leef.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Real Estate, Protest, Jerusalem, Israel, Tel Aviv

All-Night Cultural Events Across Israel — Not Just in Tel Aviv

By Nathan Jeffay

The gap between the center and the “periphery” — a term that is increasingly used to refer to pretty much everywhere in Israel except Tel Aviv and its surroundings — is growing, at least economically. But happily, the cultural divide may be starting to narrow.

Two weeks ago, Tel Aviv didn’t sleep — it held its “White Night” of nocturnal events. Today, four other cities will prove that they, too, know how to pull an all-nighter and will benefit from 2.4 million ($685,000) of Culture Ministry funding to get the party started.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tiberius, Tel Aviv, Netanya, Israel, Ashdod, White Night Beer Sheva

Israeli Stuntman Topples David Blaine’s Pole-Standing Record

By Michael Kaminer

While Benjamin Netanyahu was delivering a fiery speech to Congress, another Israeli challenged the U.S. by just standing there — and succeeded spectacularly.

Stuntman Hezi Dean balanced atop a pole in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square for 35 consecutive hours, toppling magician David Blaine’s record.

“It was very hard. I want to tell you only one important sentence: Nothing stands in front of the will,” Dean said in Hebrew following the stunt.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Rabin Square, Pole Standing, Netanyahu, Jewish, Hezi Dean, David Blaine, Stuntman, Tel Aviv

Bibi-Bieber Summit is Off, Bieber Hates Israeli Paparazzi and More

By Nathan Burstein

Getty Images

The Bibi-Bieber summit is off.

Contrary to yesterday’s reports, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not be meeting Justin Bieber this week before the pop star’s Tel Aviv debut. The pair were set to have a tête-à-tête today, but the meeting has been called off amidst what’s turning out to be another PR fiasco for Israel.

According to Netanyahu’s office, Bieber had requested a meeting with the Israeli leader this week, as part of the Christian singer’s first trip to Israel. Netanyahu obliged, but then — perhaps to justify meeting with a teen singer — invited children from near Israel’s volatile border with Gaza. The move appears to have displeased the singer, as have overly zealous local paparazzi.

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