Writing at Geektime

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I’ve actually been pretty busy publishing on Geektime, Israel’s leading technology news blog. It’s been fun writing about tech again. You can check out my full list of pieces on Geektime, but I’m just going to share a few pieces here.

Courtesy of Geektime

Can tech solve acute depression? As you can imagine, I wrote this in the wake of Robin William’s tragic death. It has a few morsels of optimism. 

Courtesy of Geektime

How China is shaping the global economy in 5 charts It’s insane how much China’s economic growth dictates the the state of the world economy. For reals: check out this piece and see some graphs made by yours truly. 

Hopefully I’ll have more clips to share soon. Thanks everyone for your support, as always. And if you have any ideas for articles, send them over my way!

These Images Sum Up the Mood in Israel Right Now

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If you’re wondering what it’s like to live in Israel during Operation Protective Edge, this piece should hopefully give you a pretty good picture. Here’s my Mic debut, titled “These Images Sum Up the Mood in Israel Right Now,” about the Israeli-Hamas conflict.

New blog at Times of Israel

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I sent over my latest blog post and not only was it accepted at Times of Israel, but they invited me to become as TOI blogger. Here it is, updated with the events that have unfolded since the operation began. Titled “Waiting for a final ceasefire,” I ask the question on many of our minds: What will bring a moderate, two-state oriented leadership to Gaza?

Any of your thoughts, comments, and shares would be most appreciated. Thank you to everyone who’s reached out to me since the operation began: hoping for it to end as soon as possible.

Photo of Iron Dome intercepting a rocket. Courtesy of Creative Commons.

In the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Everything Can Change in a Moment 

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I may be a journalist, but I am not a fortune teller. This is why I am glad I did not appear on the BBC Friday evening: I did not expect Israel to launch a military offensive in Gaza, which it did this morning.

Early Friday afternoon, the BBC’s World Have Your Say TV program asked if I would like to speak on their show as the “Israeli journalist.” They were interviewing several journalists to fill this one slot, including me. For 10 minutes, a producer talked with me over the phone to get a sense of what I would say on the program. 

The BBC journalist, sitting at a desk in London, asked me, “Do you think the violence will escalate?” 

On Friday, the funeral of Mohammed Abu Khdeir — the Palestinian teen kidnapped, burned, and murdered as a possible “revenge killing” for the kidnap and murder of Israeli teens Gilad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach, and Naftali Fraenkel by Hamas — was taking place in the East Jerusalem neighborhood where he lived. At that time, Jewish extremists were suspected of murdering Mohammad, and riots erupted near the funeral and in other areas around Israel in reaction to these allegations. 

Meanwhile, five rockets and two mortar shells had hit Southern Israel from Gaza Friday morning. Since the IDF started Operation Brother’s Keeper to find the Israeli teens kidnapped on June 12 and to weaken Hamas, dozens of rockets from the Gaza strip had hit Israel. But many questioned whether Israel’s incursions, arrests of hundreds of Hamas operatives, and restrictions of movement in the West Bank and Gaza constituted “collective punishment” against the Palestinians, or were necessary to deter Hamas, whose terrorists were responsible for killing the three Israeli teens. 

Courtesy of Abed Rahim Katib/Flash90

Yet, amidst all of this, there was talk about an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire possibly taking place. 

This is the information I knew when the BBC called me early Friday afternoon.

So I told the British journalist, “Assuming that no other large, harmful incident takes place, I don’t think Israel will launch an operation in Gaza. It doesn’t have the international backing, and I don’t think it would be strategically wise.” 

In the end, I did not appear on the show — and my predictions were wrong. 

Early this morning, Israel launched a military offensive in Gaza, titled “Operation Protective Edge.” During the four days between the phone call and the present moment, scores of rockets have hit Southern Israel, including 100 in the last day alone. On Sunday, our worst nightmare was confirmed that Jewish extremists did kill Mohammad Abu Khdeir, burning him alive. Riots have ignited across the country. Now, it’s looking more like the beginning of a third intifada than a deescalation. 

Strangely, a memory from Operation Pillar of Defense, the last time Israel started a military offensive in Gaza, gives me hope. On November 21, 2012, a bomb exploded on a bus in Tel Aviv, wounding 15 people. This was the first bus bombing in Tel Aviv in more than six years. 

Courtesy of REUTERS/ARIEL BESHOR

Courtesy of REUTERS/ARIEL BESHOR

The bombing occurred only a mile away from the Jerusalem Post’s office, where I was working. I immediately got calls from my partner to check if I was okay, and I wrote on Facebook that I was fine. Everyone called anyone they knew that could be close to the bombing, which was a lot of people. It reminded my Israeli colleagues of the horrific years during the second intifada. 

I was really scared. Not only was the bus bombing close by, but it could also intensify the operation. 

Instead, hours later, Israel and Hamas reached a ceasefire agreement, ending the eight-day operation. Both a bus bombing and a ceasefire occurred within the same day: That’s Israel for you.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict can often feel intractable. It increasingly is. 

But everything can change here in a moment, for the better or the worse. I just hope that this operation ends as quickly as possible and we can get back to the real work that needs to be done: making peace. Israeli President Shimon Peres almost made peace with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in 2011: I’m just waiting for that moment to come back. 

‘We are like this’ – 6 Jews suspected of killing Palestinian teen in revenge attack

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Our worst fears have come true: Six Jewish extremists are suspected of kidnapping and murdering Palestinian teen Muhammed Abu Khdeir as a revenge killing for the kidnap and murder of Israeli teens Gilad, Eyal, and Naftali.

This disturbing turn of events makes me remember a powerful quote from the Laramie Project, a play about Matthew Shepard – who was killed for being gay – and his town’s response. “Someone got up there [at Matthew's vigil] and said, ‘C’mon, guys, let’s show the world that Laramie is not this kind of a town.’ But it is that kind of a town. If it wasn’t this kind of a town, why did this happen here?… And we have to mourn this and we have to be sad that we live in a town, a state, a country where shit like this happens. .. I mean, these are people trying to distance themselves from this crime. And we need to own this crime. I feel. Everyone needs to own it. We are like this. We ARE like this. WE are LIKE this.”

Yes, Jews are like this too. So what are we going to do about it? 

Poster depicting 16-year-old Muhammed Abu Khdeir during his funeral in Shuafat. Courtesy of CBC.

Getting some Twitter love

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I was super flattered to see that Chris Schroeder, who wrote the groundbreaking book Startup Risingcompliment my most recent PolicyMic piece about women entrepreneurs in the Middle East. His book, which came out in August 2013, describes the tech revolution bubbling all over the MENA region.

Here’s the Tweet love fest:

 

Thanks again Chris for the Twitter love!

New article up: ‘How The Middle East Is Solving the Gender Gap That Silicon Valley Is Ignoring’

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It’s the featured story on PolicyMic‘s entrepreneurship page. I must say, it was fascinating to learn how much more Arab women are involved in tech entrepreneurship in the Middle East than women are in the Western world. Check it out!

Screen shot 2014-04-02 at 7.12.28 PM

First article on PolicyMic up: ‘In Major Breakthrough, an Israeli Company Has Created Water Out of Thin Air’

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After a long absence, I’m back to reporting! I wrote a piece about a very cool company called Water-Gen that has managed to create drinkable water from air. Here’s the piece, titled “In Major Breakthrough, an Israeli Company Has Created Water Out of Thin Air.”

GEN - GD

Photo of the outside of a Water-Gen water generating unit.

It’s thankfully getting a lot of positive response so far. Almost 500 shares (March 14)!

smallest screen of shares

*Update: Now there have been more than 1,100 shares (March 17)!

I look forward to writing more about Israeli tech, and am open to suggestions. Are there any technologies or companies you think I should know about?

Facebook’s Look Back: Yay Family, Boo Bachelor

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I don’t know about your feeds, but partners, marriages, and children were by the far the most popular subjects from the Facebook 10th anniversary look back videos on my news feed. Although animals, trips, job announcements, and partying also featured prominently, it almost felt like your video didn’t have a narrative without the family-making progression. A friend of mine, who recently got divorced, commented “Facebook should automate a ‘look forward’ video for anyone who has changed their marital status.”

Also, all those political statuses people write are not that popular. The only political statuses I saw in the look back videos came from professional activists or warm statuses about gay marriage becoming legal.

Facebook, hats off to you. The mirror is striking.

And for transparency’s sake, here’s my video. I must say, it’s basically an account of my life before and after I met my boyfriend:

Screen shot 2014-02-06 at 12.40.23 PM
What do you think of the look back videos?

How a surgery cured my friend’s mother of Parkinson’s symptoms

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My best friend’s mother, Darcy Blake, made an inspiring video about her battle with Parkinson’s. After five years of medications, her symptoms were progressing, including a heavy tremor on her left-hand side. She decided to pursue a surgery called Deep Brain Stimulation. The procedure implants a neurostimulator to target parts of the brain that control movement, such as tremors.

It’s amazing to see how effective the procedure was. On a personal note, I’m so grateful this surgery has given Darcy a new lease on life.

Recently, Darcy submitted this video The Neuro Film Festival, a contest by the American Brain Foundation to raise awareness through video about brain diseases. So please, watch this video and share it with your friends. Who knows-you may help someone with Parkinson’s in the process.

20 Israeli celebs support civil unions in cute video

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This is a very sweet video of Israeli celebs, including Bar Refaeli, supporting a civil union bill. To give some background, Yesh Atid, a large centrist party in Israel, introduced the legislation in late October. It would not only give same-sex couples access to marriage benefits, it would also free heterosexual couples that can’t (or don’t want to) get married through Israel’s Orthodox Rabbinate. Right now, Arab-Israelis can get married through Islamic or Christian authorities, and Jewish-Israelis can only get married through the Orthodox Rabbinical Court. If either group wants to get married to a same-sex partner, intermarry, or get married outside of religious strictures, they must get married abroad.

The video, which was released on Sunday, asks the question “Why do I support the civil marriage bill?” At the end, the video asks people to share the video and raise awareness about the new bill. Hopefully the bill will be voted on in December. I don’t normally ask people to share stuff on my blog, but I feel this is important. So if this moves you (even though you can’t understand all the Hebrew…thankfully the visuals tell most of the story), please share this with your friends!

Guy proposes while girlfriend is fighting breast cancer

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This is a really sweet video from The New York Times, titled “Vows: In Sickness and in Health. It’s the story of a man and woman that have been dating for six months, and then find out the woman is diagnosed with breast cancer. The guy proposes in the hospital: Watch the video if you want a Sunday-morning pick me up.

Tok about some news… some more ch-ch-ch-changes

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As you may have noticed, I have not written here in a while. I dropped off the radar a bit because of a new job opportunity, in addition to the Post. I started working as a content editor for Tok Social News Network, a venture capital-backed start-up that facilitates online discussions in a more visual, networked, and intelligent manner.

The comments platform is really cool, one of these things you’re surprised wasn’t thought of years ago. Rather than looking through tons of annoying, vertical comments on an article, the platform easily shows you who’s “tokking” and how folks weigh in on a topic. Because people sign in using Facebook, the participants are also much more respectful than the nightmares of most online comment sections.

For example, this Tok question is embedded within a news article:

Tok

And this is Tok’s Facebook application, a go-to for hot button news discussions on a daily basis.

Tok FB

It feels like a new media job. Rather than writing 1,000-word features, or choosing the layout of a monthly or weekly magazine, I’m mulling through the biggest stories on the web on a daily basis. I have to write pithy 80-character social media questions and 160-character discussion starters that provoke the most discussion possible. One of the biggest challenges is choosing the voting buttons, which need to elegantly partition the audience into camps on any issue – rarely just yes and no. Politics, guns, abortion, religion, sex, drugs…I get to write about all the fun stuff.

Up until now, I’ve been trying to develop areas of journalistic expertise, such as reporting on Israeli start-ups, social issues, etc. But at Tok, I help choose the most interesting stories to write about on Facebook from everywhere in the world. It’s a breath of fresh air and nicely complements my longer form magazine work.

How does all this affect my blog, you might be wondering (probably not, but it’s about the best way I can transition into this paragraph, :) )? For example, I may bring the whole “Rating the news” section of this blog back from the dead, especially now that I’m reading so much news all the time. We’ll see…now that the cat is out of the bag, you can expect to hear from me more. Take care for now!

The Israeli Palestinian peace talks spark a few glimmers of hope

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Photo courtesy of hromedia.com

Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced in Jordan that Israel and the Palestinian Authority have “established a basis” for resuming direct peace negotiations. Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, Israeli chief negotiator Tzipi Livni, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s special envoy Isaac Molho are expected to begin initial talks. They will meet with Kerry in Washington in the next week or so.

Most reports of this initial breakthrough focus on the expected challenges of these negotiations: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s political weakness; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative coalition; the split between Hamas and the West Bank; the Israeli public’s increasing domestic concerns. Then, they focus on the longstanding grievances that hold up most peace talks: borders, settlements, Jerusalem, and Palestinian refugees.

Additionally, few believe that Abbas and Netanyahu can make real progress towards ending the Israeli Palestinian conflict. In a poll published earlier this month in The Jerusalem Post, “68% of Israelis and 69% of Palestinians view the chances of an independent Palestinian state’s formation in the next five years as low or nonexistent.”

Interestingly, although both groups are pessimistic that peace negotiations will succeed, the majority of Israelis and Palestinians still support a two-state solution. The poll states that “62% of Israelis and 53% of Palestinians” say they “support a two-state solution.”

Even though many analysts still claim the chances of the negotiations’ success are slim, there are several key distinctions in the beginning of these peace talks that may make them more feasible. First, The New York Times reports that Kerry won “concessions on the new framework, which American, Israeli and Palestinian officials said would allow Washington to declare the 1967 prewar borders as the basis for the talks — along with the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state — but allow Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Abbas to distance themselves from those terms.” (As of the last New York Times report, it is unclear whether the framework explicitly declares the 1967 prewar borders as the basis for talks.)

Kerry was partly able to separate Netanyahu and Abbas from these potentially controversial terms by commencing the talks with their negotiators instead of the two men themselves. This way, the leaders can’t be blamed at the outset, and the initial negotiations are more likely to stay behind closed doors. Kerry asserts that the best way to ensure the talks’ success is to “keep them private.” Ynet, the leading Israeli online news site, echoed this sentiment, with a top headline reading “Without them [Netanyahu and Abbas], talks have more of a chance” (article in Hebrew).

Additionally, both sides made concessions. Israel will free some Palestinian prisoners as a goodwill gesture before talks. The Palestinian leadership gave up on previous demands for a settlement freeze before entering talks. NPR relays that Palestinian officials “wanted guarantees the 1967 lines would be the basis for talks, saying that if Israel accepts that, it would make most of the settlements illegitimate.” Although there is no public settlement freeze, The Times of Israel reports that Kerry promised Abbas there would be a de facto settlement freeze.

The Palestinian leadership may have felt more able to make such a public concession because of the Arab League’s support for Kerry’s talks, which was announced on Wednesday. This came after a substantial diplomatic breakthrough in late April, when the Arab League stated for the first time that it would back a peace plan that allows small land swaps based on the 1967 prewar borders. Previously they had only supported an agreement based on these borders, without land swaps. This change in policy would allow Israel to keep some of the largest settlement blocs in exchange for largely Arab-populated areas within Israel that would become part of a future Palestinian state.

Kerry’s intensive diplomacy, and more importantly, changes in the region likely influenced the Arab League to change their stance. Since the last peace talk attempts, which broke down in 2010 within three weeks, the Syrian civil war and Iranian threat have deeply concerned the 22-member Arab League. They may view a solution to the conflict as a strategy to gain needed backing from the United States for their security concerns.

Increasingly, European and Israeli top officials have criticized the intransigence of the Israeli Palestinian conflict. This week, the EU released a harsh rebuke of Israel’s settlement policy, insisting that all future agreements with Israel exclude Jewish territories in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Golan Heights, which were captured in the 1967 Six Day War. Furthermore, The Guardian reports that, “EU guidelines will prohibit the issuing of grants, funding, prizes or scholarships unless a settlement exclusion clause is included.” Palestinians and their supporters applauded this move.

Also this week, Yuval Diskin, a former chief of the Shin Bet (Israel’s internal security service), wrote a highly critical op-ed in The Jerusalem Post about Israelis’ complacence with the conflict. He declares in its opening paragraph, “We are approaching a point of no return regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In fact, it may be that we have already crossed it.” Earlier this year, six former Shin Bet chiefs profiled in the Oscar-nominated documentary The Gatekeepers profess that “the occupation is immoral and, perhaps more important, ineffective,” urging Israel to withdraw from the West Bank like it did in Gaza in 2005. In May, former prime minister Ehud Olmert revealed details of his peace plan with Mahmoud Abbas in 2008, putting pressure on Netanyahu to come back to the negotiating table.

One important question is how much Kerry will be able to influence negotiations moving forward. Many critics have been skeptical of how much Kerry can individually impact talks, including Barak Ravid, a leading columnist for Israeli paper Haaretz. Two months ago, Ravid wrote that Kerry was naive, “that instead of conducting himself as the United States’ chief diplomat, he is acting as a lone ranger who still thinks he’s a senator, propelled by messianic zeal and the belief he was sent by the gods to bring peace to the Middle East.” Now, he admits that, “Kerry deserves the applause… The U.S. secretary of state managed to end the impasse of more than three years in Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy with the power of his will.”

Another important factor is if Saeb Erekat and Tzipi Livni, who both led negotiation teams in 2008 between Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas, can produce better results this time around with Kerry. If they can stay at the negotiating table for at least six months, as has been agreed upon, that will be an improvement from 2010. Can they come up with a final status agreement? That answer is for more elusive.

The Atlantic story in photos

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The more I write, especially when using social media, the more I realize how much more people respond to pictures than text. For example this photo that I posted on Facebook, which shows my Atlantic article on the front page of the Atlantic’s global section, elicited more likes than when I simply linked people to the article:
36567_10102802308243633_917109672_n

It makes sense: the article’s super long, and folks can’t “like” the article without reading it first. Likes are easier to garner for statuses people can instantly support.

In any case, it’s been a nice last couple of days professionally (minus the horrible news of the Zimmerman trial). I want to thank you, my loyal readers, for being there for me. Many of you have helped me along the way, and are helping me get the word out about this article (hint hint: share, comment, and like away!). Your interest in my work means a lot to me.

To close things, here’s a sweet photo from my parents. They took a photo of their iPad, where my article ranked first in the global section yesterday:

View from iPad of Atlantic's global section, 7/13/13. My article's at the top!

View from iPad of Atlantic’s global section, 7/13/13.                                 My article’s at the top!

Debut feature in The Atlantic: ‘Does Waze Mark the Beginning of the End of Israel’s Brain Drain?’

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After months of work, I am very happy to announce my first piece in the Atlantic! The headline/subheadline pretty much sum up the article:

Does Waze Mark the Beginning of the End of Israel’s Brain Drain?

The country’s entrepreneurs are torn between opportunities abroad and at home.

As always, let me know what you think, and if you like the article, comment and share away!

Photo of Uri Levine, co-founder of Waze; Courtesy of Sithzu Photographers

Photo of Uri Levine, co-founder of Waze; Courtesy of Sithzu Photographers

 

Laurarosbrow.com was quoted in the BBC

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Two days after writing the post “Why doesn’t Moore, Oklahoma have any public tornado shelters?,” I was quoted in the BBC. (I refrained from posting at the time because 1) I was on vacation and 2) I didn’t want to sound too enthusiastic to the readers coming to the site from the BBC article). In Tara McKelvey’s piece “Why so few storm shelters in Tornado Alley hotspot?,” people in Tornado Alley explain why there are so few storm shelters. Towards the end of the article she quotes my blog post, the only international perspective in the piece:

One Israel-based blogger, Laura Rosbrow, says that she cannot understand why people in Oklahoma do not have more publicly-funded shelters.

In Israel, Rosbrow says, bomb shelters are located “within blocks of every residence”.

“In Israel, you feel like the country is giving you peace of mind,” writes Rosbrow on her blog. “Isn’t that the way it should be?”

From BBC article.

Thank you Tara McElvey, whose career I respect enormously.

And dear readers, now that I am back from vacation, expect more regular posts. Getting back into gear!

Why doesn’t Moore, Oklahoma have any public tornado shelters?

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First, my heart is with all the lives that have been lost in the tornado that has hit Moore, Oklahoma and the surrounding area. At this moment, USA Today claims that at least 24 people were killed. CBS News‘ “KFOR meteorologist Mike Morgan called this ‘the worst tornado damage in the history of the world.’”

Photo courtesy of freebeacon

Photo courtesy of freebeacon

As I have been watching the destruction unfold on TV with my family (I am visiting California), I have been struck by the lack of tornado shelters in Moore, Oklahoma. The best shelter during a tornado is in a basement or underground facility. Yet according to an MSNBC reporter on All In With Chris Hayes, only around 1 in 10 homes have these facilities. Even more chilling, the City of Moore’s website says “The City of Moore has no community (or “public”) tornado shelters.” Why?

On All in With Chris Hayes, the reporter (whose name I cannot remember) it is prohibitively expensive for most people to build tornado shelters. Additionally, there’s a form of rock underneath most Moore residents’ homes that is very tough to build through.

Further, the City of Moore bluntly states that it cannot guarantee FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) will cover the cost of building tornado shelters in individuals’ homes. In response to the question “Should I wait to build a safe room in the hopes that the FEMA grant program will be re-instituted?”, the City of Moore replies in the following manner:

No. If you’re concerned that you need a safe room, it is recommended that you build one. There is no guarantee that even if the rules are changed that we will be chosen for a grant; and if we are chosen, there is no guarantee that there will be enough funding to accommodate all residents who wish to participate. Your peace-ofmind will more than offset the cost of a shelter.

But if the cost is too expensive for individuals, why aren’t there public shelters? The City of Moore gives several reasons: “people face less risk by taking shelter in a reasonably-well constructed residence!” It seems strange to give a fact that few can afford the enthusiasm of an exclamation point.

That aside, the City of Moore encourages residents to shelter in the closest home with a reasonable facility. This is because “the average tornado warning time is generally only 10-15 minutes,” so if a shelter is constructed underneath one’s home, it is faster to reach that destination than to drive to a nearby shelter. Although the city has “2,210 registered saferooms” from individuals (the population is 55,081), there is no public listing of these rooms.

Regarding the possibility of public buildings with tornado shelters, the city’s website simply states “There is no public building in Moore which has a suitable location for a shelter.” Again, why?

Again, money. In response to the question “Why don’t we build a community storm shelter?”, this is the City of Moore‘s response:

  • How large of facility should we build? Our population is 55,081. To shelter that many people would require building something like an underground sports arena. (If we didn’t build for that many, then how do we determine who gets turned away when the facility was full?)
  • What would you use this large facility for the other 364 days of the year? The facility wouldn’t be financially feasible without other uses; but the other uses would have to accommodate unscheduled storms.
  • Security. If the other “intended uses” require equipment or supplies, how do those items remain secure when people arrive for sheltering? Security necessary to properly maintain order for 55,000 people exceeds are current capabilities.
  • Staffing. Sheltering thousands of persons also takes a lot of support staff, from ensuring someone has the keys and opens the doors, to custodial staff, to concessions, to maintenance.
  • What about multiple smaller facilities? You still have many of the same issues, just spread over more locations, therefore requiring as many or more resources.

This governmental response feels like the complete opposite of living in Israel. There are bomb shelters within blocks of every residence. 10-15 minutes feels like a luxury compared to the 15-90 seconds most Israelis get before a bomb drops. In Israel, you feel like the country is giving you peace of mind. Isn’t that the way it should be?

In the aftermath of this horrible tragedy, let us prioritize funding governmental programs like FEMA over partisan politics. It is always worth the cost to save a life.

Photo courtesy of The Huffington Post

Photo courtesy of The Huffington Post

Cracking the Technion’s code

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I just published an in-depth article in The Jerusalem Post Metro section, titled “Cracking the Technion’s Code,” about why the Technion was ranked sixth in the world in a Massachusetts Institute of Technology survey that evaluated entrepreneurship and innovation in higher education institutions. For anyone interested in understanding the start-up nature of Israel, this article provides a number of insights. Technion’s impact on the Israeli economy is pretty expansive: for example, two-thirds of the 72 Israeli companies listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange either were founded or are led by Technion graduates.

If you want to learn how Technion graduates have become so successful, you can see the full (non-pay-walled) article below. As always, I’d love your comments and suggestions.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Cracking the Technion’s code

With a degree for start-ups and a minor in entrepreneurship on offer, the university is in the business of encouraging innovations.

By LAURA ROSBROW

Nobel Prize winner Dan Shechtman offers a course in entrepreneurship
Photo by: LAURA ROSBROW

In an attempt to understand the impact of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, the authors of the 2012 book Technion Nation: Technion’s Contribution to Israel and the World asked graduates of the institution a survey question that verged on the poetic: “Ernest Hemingway once wrote an entire story in only six words. It was ‘Baby shoes. Never used. For sale.’ Please describe your contribution to Israel and to humanity, in six words.”

Many responses touched on the diversity of Technion graduates’ technological accomplishments: “Provide poor countries with appropriate technology… Developed Intel’s 8087 microprocessor… Simulation software for unmanned drone aircraft.”

But one of the best and most straightforward answers was the following: “I came, I studied, I’m rich.”

The entrepreneurial spirit is so strong at the Technion that even MIT has noticed. In early April, the Technion ranked sixth in the world in a Massachusetts Institute of Technology survey that evaluated entrepreneurship and innovation in higher education institutions. The only universities that beat the Technion were MIT, Stanford, Cambridge, London’s Imperial College, and Oxford – meaning that the Technion scored higher than Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan, all of which have top-ranked business programs.

The Technion probably received this ranking in part because of its new partnership with New York’s Cornell University. In late 2011, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued a first-time bid to universities around the world to launch an applied sciences graduate school in his city. The Technion partnered with Cornell, and both won the competition. Now Cornell Tech, which is in and of itself an innovation at the university level, will start offering limited programming this fall. The Roosevelt Island campus where Cornell Tech will be based is expected to launch fully in 2017, serving approximately 2,500 graduate students.

Aside from that partnership, though, the Technion’s numbers speak for themselves: Two-thirds of the 72 Israeli companies listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange either were founded or are led by Technion graduates; graduates of the institute lead nine out of the country’s 10 leading exporting companies; and one quarter of the Technion’s 67,000 alumni have at one time initiated a business.

Technion graduates largely drive the annual output of the country’s electronics and software industry, which is approximately $20 billion – half of the country’s total annual exports.

A glass window at the Faculty of Computer Science reads "I do not fear computers. I fear the lack of them."

A glass window at the Faculty of Computer Science reads “I do not fear computers. I fear the lack of them.”

Long before Israel’s independence in 1948, graduates of the school – which was founded in 1912 – were helping to build the state. They developed much of the industry in the country’s early days, including roads, highways and desalination plants. More recently, they created technologies such as text messaging, drip irrigation, the disk on key, and the Arrow defense system. In the last eight years, three Technion faculty members have won Nobel Prizes.

While the Technion has greatly contributed to Israel’s becoming a “start-up nation,” the school is also a product of Israeli culture.

According to Prof. Miriam Erez, the associate dean of the Technion’s MBA programs and a recipient of the 2005 Israel Prize in management science, “entrepreneurial spirit is very Israeli. Israeli culture has all the ingredients necessary for entrepreneurship and innovation.”

Photo of Professor Miriam Erez

Photo of Professor Miriam Erez

Erez – an organizational psychologist – is the Israeli coinvestigator of the GLOBE Study of Leadership, an international group of social scientists and management scholars from 62 countries that studies cross-cultural leadership. Out of the values that the study compares, she says, Israel ranks well in those pertaining to entrepreneurship and innovation. Significantly, though, it has a moderate ranking in the most important value, collectivism versus individualism.

“The common research says that individualism enhances innovation, and collectivism discourages innovation,” she explains. “Israel is in between – not very individualistic, but also not very collectivistic. I think in today’s global culture, because entrepreneurship is to a large extent based on your network, if you’re a pure individualist, what is the likelihood that you’ll get support for your project, even if you have great ideas? I personally think this moderate level is best, which is exactly what we found here.”

This conclusion helps affirm why collective Israeli experiences, such as the army and university, foster local entrepreneurs’ networks.

Along with strong communities, the Israelis’ individualist side plays out in a value called “power distance,” in which Israel ranks very low. Erez explains that power distance is about hierarchy in society, such as the power distance between managers and employees. In cultures where that distance is higher, employees do not feel they can express their opinions.

That is not the case in Israel.

“People feel very comfortable criticizing their own bosses,” she says, noting that although it can be difficult to manage these kinds of employees, “this is exactly what you need for entrepreneurship and innovation.

[You need] people who feel free to express their own ideas and criticize until they find the best solution.”

Sitting in Erez’s office, one can tell that she nurtures her relationships. Near one of her large windows sits a 30-by-90-cm. paper tree, with the photos of several young people adorning the ends of each white branch. When asked about the tree, she smiles and says her students made it for her last year.

OVER THE years, she has maintained good contact not only with students, but also with industry professionals.

Her interest in creativity and innovation led her to found the Knowledge Center for Innovation, which aims to enhance innovation in Israeli industry.

One of those contacts was Uzi de Haan. Both were PhD students at the Technion at the same time. While Erez went into academia, de Haan went into industry, having been trained as an aeronautical engineer. In his last position, he was the CEO of Philips in Israel, which grew to $350 million in revenues under his management. When he retired from Philips at a relatively young age in 2003, Erez saw it as an opportunity and invited him to become a professor at the Technion. He accepted, wanting to teach entrepreneurship.

Photo of Professor Uzi de Haan

Photo of Professor Uzi de Haan

In 2004, he helped start the institute’s first entrepreneurship center. The Bronica Entrepreneurship Center, which began with only one course, now offers 17. In the fall, Technion students will be able to select an entrepreneurship minor.

The Technion also offers an international MBA program in English, with a similar program focused specifically on start-ups beginning this fall.

Alongside courses, the center offers assistance to early-stage entrepreneurs in developing business ideas, including to Technion alumni.

According to Keren Rubin, the center’s director, “in the last six years, the center has assisted in establishing more than 40 companies. We help them in the very early stage with the transition to the ecosystem.”

Although the center is of a modest size, with a handful of employee desks and a small conference table, it feels well-placed to grow. The office is located on the top floor of the Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management. From one of its many windows, there is a bird’s-eye view of the modern, blue-and-beige-paneled Technion, and the industrial yet beautiful Haifa Bay at the bottom of the hill.

Asked why he thinks the Technion received the No. 6 ranking from MIT, de Haan answers, “We’re very much part of the ecosystem. Half of Intel’s engineers [in Israel] are Technion graduates. All those guys in tech companies are Technion graduates. We’re like a main supplier for engineers and innovation in Israel.”

It is no coincidence that Google, Yahoo, Apple, IBM and Intel have offices in Haifa.

They did this largely so they could recruit graduates from the Technion. Many students at the institute also work in industry while they study, applying what they learn in the field to their studies and vice versa.

Photo of Technion courtyard

Photo of Technion courtyard

Tal Goldman, an undergraduate student in computer science, works at the Technion’s Student Union.

He says he gains skills in this position that he would not gain in hi-tech – though he is sure his grade point average would be higher if he did not need to work.

In contrast, Tehila Sabag, an industrial engineering student who works for the Bronica Center, asserts that her studies “were not hurt because of my work. On the contrary, I think that because of my work experience, I am now a better industrial engineer and manager with more of a business perspective, rather than just an engineering one.”

She also values taking entrepreneurship courses, such as a popular one that Nobel Prize winner Dan Shechtman offers.

“The entrepreneurial activity that takes place here is the flagship of the Technion,” she says.

Goldman, too, sees such activity as a major part of the school’s efforts.

“I see the Technion’s investment in entrepreneurship all the time,” he says. “There are advertisements everywhere, such as in emails, posters, and from lecturers, to take part in entrepreneurial projects.”

2013-04-24 15.50.27

THIS DEEP-ROOTED relationship between the Technion and industry is part of what makes the Bronica Center’s BizTEC competition so successful. Now in its eighth year, the student-run BizTEC is a national competition that selects the best student-led technology-based ventures. Winning the competition opens doors for many to connect with venture capitalists and interested funders from the center’s network of professionals.

Life Bond, one of BizTEC’s early winners, created biological sealants to seal bleeding tissue instantly. It has raised over $30 million.

More recently a start-up called Pixtr, which automatically corrects photos taken by mobile phones so that they look professional, accomplished several impressive early-stage goals thanks to the Bronica Center. In a select meeting between the center’s top start-up ventures and top industry mentors, a fairy-tale match was made: Uri Levine, the founder of Waze – which was voted Best Overall Mobile App in the Global Mobile Awards Competition in February – decided to become Pixtr’s mentor and chairman. He and the center helped Pixtr join Microsoft’s Azure Accelerator Program, which is aimed at early-stage start-ups. As part of the program, Microsoft provides office space, training, mentoring and other benefits.

“The most important thing about the center is the people,” says 30-year-old Pixtr cofounder Aviv Gadot, explaining what he feels has made the center a success.

“Uzi has so much experience and a great reputation within the industry, and Keren could move mountains. They are an amazing team.”

But for all the center’s success stories, there are many more start-ups that fail. Rubin asserts that the chances are “90% against you when you start.”

Still, asked if he thinks the start-up bubble has burst, as some leaders are saying, in light of the current budget deficit, de Haan quickly replies in the negative.

“Technology and economic growth are synonymous,” he says. “There’s an exponential growth in new technologies.

There’s no way big companies want to take on these new technologies. You need more and more start-ups to do this first innovation. Big companies don’t want to take the risk. They feel, ‘Why not outsource these crazy innovations to start-ups, and if they don’t fail, we’ll buy them.’” The problem, he notes, is how to fund those start-ups.

“But there are new mechanisms – crowd-sourcing, boutiques, venture capital, etc. There are ways to do it.”

Link

Only an Accident” is a very well written New York Times op-ed by a former hose and conveyor belting seller, Bruce MacHart, who describes countless manual labor related accidents he has seen over the years. He then compares the media’s reaction to the Boston Marathon bombing, where four people died and around 200 were injured last Monday, to a “fertilizer plant explosion in a small town called West [that] left more than a dozen dead and around 200 injured” in Texas two days later:

In the first hours after the fertilizer plant explosion, many commenters had wondered about the likelihood of foul play or terrorism. But once it was deemed an industrial accident, the hysterical coverage tapered off. We had nothing to fear from West; we could stop paying attention.

We tend to discount that which is accidental as somehow less tragic, less interesting, less newsworthy than the mayhem of agency. Lives have been “lost” in Texas, but in Boston, by God — lives have been “taken.”

Boston Marathon: Photo from www.bagnewsnotes.com/

Texas fertilizer plant explosion: Photo from Christian Science Monitor

Earlier in the piece, he cryptically describes the sense of the word “lost” in labor-related accidents:

Then there was the grisly story of the debarking drum, which is effectively a giant, spinning, kilnlike pipe into which one puts logs to strip them of their bark. Imagine a machine violent enough to tumble logs clean. Now imagine that machine loaded with a grown man. Who knows how such mistakes are made, but, so the story goes, he was still inside when the machine turned on. He was lost.

I often came back to that word — lost. It implies a certain negligence, a certain culpability, but it also suggests that what is lost might be found again. In those days, I routinely called on manufacturing facilities and mines and sawmills and petrochemical plants, and on company marquees all over town was the following phrase: “___ days since the last L.T.A.” L.T.A. stands for “lost time accident,” meaning an accident that caused an injured employee to miss future “time” at work.

He concludes that the loss of human life, no matter how it was lost, should be valued equally:

But this distinction means nothing to the victims or, I imagine, to their families. In Boston, in West, whether by sinister design or by accident, whether on a television-ready stage or hidden away in a rural factory, when people are hurt, when lives are lost, the essential human cost shouldn’t be lost on the living.

I think this is a beautiful piece that shows the media’s bias towards terror-related violence. But one crucial aspect that I don’t think MacHart touches upon is why viewers can identify with terror-related accidents more than labor ones. Especially in the United States, fewer and fewer people are working in manufacturing jobs. However, everyone can be the victim of a terror attack. I think this plays into the fear, that anyone can be affected.

He highlights the media’s ability to diagnose “the mayhem of agency” and “sinister design” behind terrorism rather than “by accident,” and explains this as the reason behind the media’s increased coverage of the Boston Marathon in comparison to the Texas fertilizer plant explosion. On the other hand, I also believe the media does this because they know that viewers will identify with acts of terror more than accidents.

What do you think?

Rating: Shit is complicated.

Photos and social media

Image

I suppose this should come as no surprise, but images seem to be way more popular on social media than text. Whenever I post a photo of somewhere I’ve been, or just a photo of an article I’ve written, I get a whole lot more “likes” than my regular, text-oriented posts.

For example I posted this photo, and it got a whole bunch of likes. It was just three words: “Old City spice.” I saw this impressive castle of spices while walking through the old city in Jerusalem and took a photo of it:

2013-04-13 14.42.03

 

Photos help make a message shorter: as they say, a picture is worth a 1,000 words. So photos greatly aid social media because people like messages that are easy to absorb within the status update itself. If someone can understand something and like something within one or two sentences, that’ll produce way more likes than a lengthier post, or a post that links to content the reader must consume. This is why social media platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest have become so popular.

I’m going to admit that I’m not great with social media. Does anyone have tips for how to maximize social media’s impact, especially for those of us who are writers?

Video of 2-minute siren across Israel on Israeli Memorial Day

Video

For those that don’t know, every year on Israeli Memorial Day there is a two-minute siren that goes off around the country. People stand in remembrance of those that died defending Israel.

Here is a clip of people standing across the country. (I shot a few seconds of people standing in Haifa, towards 1:20). I hope this video edited by Hadas ParushThe Jerusalem Post‘s video reporter – helps you feel like you were here today.

On the Online Front: ‘Jerusalem behind the headlines’

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It looks like my next piece just got published. I think this Jerusalem Post Metro piece, titled “On the Online Front,” will be interesting for those interested in learning about Israel’s PR behind the scenes, both the good, bad, and complicated aspects of it. What is also unique about this piece is that the group, called Ambassadors Online, consists of a number of Arab students, which are usually underrepresented in such public diplomacy activities. Without further ado, here is the article (beyond the paywall). As always, let me know what you think.

_ _ _ _ _

On the online front

A diverse group of University of Haifa students gains skills in new media and learns about ‘Jerusalem behind the headlines’ to represent Israel in the Internet age.
By LAURA ROSBROW
Haifa University students
Photo by: Ifat Segal

‘I’m an Israeli citizen, and many things are said about Israel that are not true. I want to show a true picture of Israel. It’s not all protests.”

Ayat Rahal does not fit the typical profile of a pro- Israeli hasbara, or public diplomacy, activist. She is a Muslim Beduin student at the University of Haifa from Rumat al-Heib in the Galilee. For her, participating in Ambassadors Online (Shagririm Bareshet), which trains students to represent Israel as unofficial ambassadors in the international arena, is crucial for promoting coexistence. “As a Muslim, I think [doing hasbara] is important for coexistence. People don’t understand that we live together, we study together, and do everything together. I want to show what life is really like here.”

Rahal, several Druse participants, a Polish exchange student, a Jewish new immigrant from Venezuela and 25 Jewish Israelis make up Ambassadors Online’s second cohort. The students were chosen from over 60 applicants, with more applicants in this round than the first group last year.

Ambassadors Online’s goal is to train students in new media skills, such as social media, blogging and filmmaking, so they can defend and represent Israel online. David Gurevich, a PhD candidate in the Department of Archeology at the University of Haifa and the program’s director, founded the program last year with Prof. Eli Avraham, a senior faculty member in the Department of Communications. The project is co-sponsored by the university, its student union and the ISEF Foundation. Although the cohort was supposed to begin in the fall semester, it was delayed to the spring semester because of a lack of funds.

Gurevich says the group’s diversity reflects the range of students that are passionate about representing Israel: “You can see that we have totally various populations here. What unites everyone is they feel connected to this country and want to stand for it.”

He also says that Ambassadors Online does not have a political orientation. “We’re saying, ‘Guys, you can be Left, you can be Right.’ The idea is we have a lot more in common here as Israelis, and that we can represent that common ground for the world.”

Several Jewish students wanted to participate because they feel Israel is misunderstood abroad. Maya Zaliuk- Sharabany says, “I wanted to be in this project because whenever I go abroad, it is hard for me to talk about Israel, to answer people’s questions. I’m glad to take a course that prepares me to do that.”

For Maya Beinin, the rationale behind Israel’s actions is obvious. But she does not think this understanding translates to foreign audiences. “Israel’s hasbara is really bad. The world doesn’t understand us.”

Perhaps Adam Asad, a master’s student in international relations who wants to become a diplomat, will improve Israeli hasbara in the future. Like Rahal, he also does hasbara in part to promote coexistence. “I really want to represent Israel from my point of view as Arab, as Druse, from Israel. I want to show the Israeli side. It’s not understood in the world that there are Arabs in Israel and they can represent Israel… I believe in coexistence.

I believe in interfaith dialogue inside and outside of Israel. That’s why I attended this program.”

To familiarize participants with the central issues that make up headlines about Israel, Gurevich leads a tour called “Jerusalem behind the headlines.” In the tour, the group visits controversial places in the Jerusalem area – such as the Temple Mount and Ma’aleh Adumim – as well as the Foreign Affairs Ministry. Gurevich hopes the tour shows “how complicated the situation is, and some information about the solutions so each one can go home and decide for himself.” This reporter had the privilege to join the tour.

On the two-and-a-half-hour bus ride from Haifa to Jerusalem, Gurevich lectures almost the entire time.

He covers many of the main aspects of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, providing facts that defend Israel or complicate one’s views towards solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

For most of the participants on the tour, it is their first time visiting the Temple Mount. Many smile, rush to take pictures of the golden dome and pose with friends as Gurevich guides.

Later in the tour, the group visits the intersection where Ma’aleh Adumim borders E1, a hotly contested territory adjacent to east Jerusalem. Although Gurevich says that E1 “does create a territorial sequence for Israel,” which some claim threatens the feasibility of a contiguous future Palestinian state, “that it prevents territorial continuity in the Palestinian state, that is just not true factually… What it does is prevent connecting east Jerusalem to that future Palestinian state… Right, not right, smart, not smart, that’s the situation. But it’s important to know the facts. The fact is that building in E1 does not prevent a two-state solution.”

Gurevich first statement that it is important to know “the facts,” and his further statement that building in E1 does not prevent a two-state solution illustrates part of the tour’s perspective.

The next stop is the Foreign Ministry, where officials present Israel’s hasbara strategy to Ambassadors Online. Ilana Stein, ministry vice spokeswoman, discusses hasbara’s “creative energy” strategy, which focuses on topics such as start-ups, the arts, and “cool” events taking place in Israel. The goal is for more people to engage with Israel through positive, non-political channels. She also encourages Ambassadors Online participants to write about fun experiences on social media sites so that peers can relate to Israel. Her motto for participants is, “Be truthful, authentic, say things that are fun.”

Although Stein’s advice is helpful, this reporter wanted to hear from the ministry about how it deals with the most difficult arguments against Israel.

When Eliya Rubinstein Benditovich, the ministry’s head of new media, is asked what the hardest question she ever found on the Internet was, she says, “The hardest questions are about delegitimization.

‘Why are you doing this?’ And it’s hard to answer because sometimes, yes, we’re doing this.” She then talks about what the office does during times of conflict.

This makes her reflect on Israel’s most recent operation, Pillar of Defense, which ended after a week of strikes between Gaza and Israel in November. “If the state had decided to continue with [the operation], our duty is to go along with it, to represent it.”

Therein lies hasbara’s greatest challenge: to make the case for all of Israel’s actions to audiences abroad.

Already, Ambassadors Online participants have organized a hasbara conference and created videos, blogs and pro-Israeli Facebook groups. Only time will tell if these students are up to the tough task of representing Israel. •

Cover of the Jerusalem Post Metro!

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The article I recently published about the mixed Jewish-Arab neighborhood in Haifa made it to the cover of the Jerusalem Post Metro!

Metro Cover- Haifa's Florentin

In addition to the whole cover story thing, I took the photo on the cover, as well as the photos in the article itself. This is the first time in my professional life that I’ve gotten paid for photos, so that was a nice experience.

Haifa's Florentin Article

Thanks everyone for your interest in my work and your support. It means a lot.

Next week I have at least one, if not a few stories coming out. Stay tuned.

Help me redesign my website!

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Hi readers,

I decided to pay a little extra at WordPress to upgrade the blog. First, the domain now is laurarosbrow.com instead of laurarosbrow.wordpress.com. So that’ll be easier to remember.

The other big thing is that I can customize the appearance. I have been thinking for a while about creating a static front page instead of a “bloggy” front page with all my recent posts.

So, I’ll give two options. One is how the website looks currently:

Option 1: Bloggy front page

Laura Rosbrow's front page

Or a more static front page. Say, like my friend Gil Shefler‘s website:

Option 2: Static front page

Gil Shefler's home page

Which option do you prefer? I’d really appreciate your input!!

Profile of a mixed Jewish-Arab neighborhood in Haifa

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I published a piece in The Jerusalem Post‘s Metro section about Masada street, the vibrant, bohemian center of Haifa’s Hadar neighborhood. The piece, titled “Haifa’s Florentin,” (which references a hip neighborhood called Florentin in Tel Aviv), profiles the neighborhood and describes some grassroots efforts being made here. It also examines what coexistence means for people living in this mixed Jewish-Arab neighborhood.

Since the article is pay-walled, I have copied the article below. As always, let me know what you think.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Haifa’s Florentin

While the municipality could do more to renovate the ill-kempt Hadar neighborhood – one of the country’s most diverse – grassroots efforts are being made to promote coexistence and encourage community activism.

By LAURA ROSBROW

Masada Street

Photos by Laura Rosbrow

 

Approaching Masada Street in Haifa, a small bakery kiosk with “Masada” written in orange and blue graffiti welcomes you. The kiosk offers the usual fare: burekas, chocolate and cheese baked goods, and of course, pita. But on a large plate next to the cashier, the bakery displays a food combination this reporter had never seen before in Israel: halla with za’atar.

This unusual fusion symbolizes a lot about Masada Street. It is one of the few places in the country where Jews and Arabs live side by side. This street is the bohemian heart of Hadar Hacarmel, which is one of the country’s most diverse neighborhoods: Jewish Israelis, Arab Israelis, Russian immigrants, students and foreigners all reside here.

Graffiti

 

Many of the street’s buildings are adorned with graffiti art reminiscent of Tel Aviv’s Florentin neighborhood, and a good number of store names are written in Hebrew, Arabic, English and Russian.

The street has an alternative, grassroots vibe. A poster hung on the door of MishMash, a new vegan café and restaurant, presents an intriguing invitation: “In March, a group was created for men that will engage in a wide range of issues: sexuality, politics, emotions, ecology, and more.”

At Café Masada, the street’s signature neighborhood café, one often hears snippets of political, left-wing conversations.

One person exclaims, “I’m not an extremist! I’m just.…”

Falafel

Similar to Florentin, many of Hadar’s buildings look ill-kempt, and one can tell that the neighborhood, although colorful, could use a face-lift. Nestled between Arab neighborhoods Wadi Nisnas and Wadi Salib, Hadar has historically been characterized as a Jewish immigrant neighborhood. The peak periods of the neighborhood, created at the beginning of the 20th century, coincide with the largest waves of Jewish immigration: in 1948 when many Holocaust survivors settled in the area, and in the early 1990s when many newcomers from the former Soviet Union were first absorbed there.

However, both groups treated Hadar more like a launching pad than an ideal destination. Some Russians have stayed in the area, largely because of economic constraints. Most of the neighborhood’s residents are lower income, and many of the neighborhood’s buildings have suffered from years of neglect.

When asked about the city planning department’s strategy for Hadar, a top official (who asked not to be named) says, “The city is in the midst of renovating Yerushalayim and Pevsner streets. That is what the city is investing in Hadar. This construction is the only project specific to Hadar.”

Although this is a solid effort, it seems more could be done to improve the neighborhood’s infrastructure so that it can become a desired, long-term place of residence. Instead, the city has focused more attention on bringing young people to the neighborhood. In partnership with the Haifa Municipality, the University of Haifa and the Jewish Agency, a student village – Kfar Hastudentim – was created in Hadar in 2007, shortly after the Second Lebanon War. Students participating in the project move to Hadar and receive a NIS 14,500 scholarship. In exchange, they do community work with Hadar residents, such as facilitating youth groups, community organizing, assisting the elderly population and coexistence projects.

Inbal Levy-Leibovits, the director of Kfar Hastudentim, explains that the project’s main goal is to “stimulate a process of urban renewal.” In the long term, she hopes that the students that “have gone through this program will be dedicated to society and the country later on in their lives.” She also hopes “that some of them might choose to manifest this dedication within the neighborhood.”

So far, around 200 people have participated in the program, 50 of whom have remained in the neighborhood.

Noam Fonia, a 27-year-old Technion student, moved to Hadar a year ago and has been active in the student village.

He thinks the neighborhood is “fascinating… There are a lot of groups, communities, activities and good people.

I’m always recommending it to other students.”

He is involved with a project that helps teenagers in the neighborhood, and he likes it a lot. When asked if he plans to stay in Haifa after he graduates, he says, “Yes, I would like to stay in Hadar if I can. That’s the plan.” But he will need to find work in order to stay in the area.

Perhaps he will follow in the footsteps of activists such as 32-year-old Shai Nir, who manages Hadar’s Community Center. Nir moved to Hadar seven years ago from Jaffa. He says he moved from that mixed Arab-Jewish area because “Hadar is more mixed. It’s more like Israeli society: Arabs and Jews, immigrants and veterans, religious and secular.

Everyone is here.”

At the Elika Art Bar Café, where an Arab artist’s paintings, a Che Guevara poster and Banksy prints line the walls, an amusing cross-cultural interaction is taking place. Two older Americans are sitting with a Jewish Israeli man in his 60s. One of the Americans proudly tells the manager, who is Arab, that they are all attending their first Arabic lesson tonight. The manager smiles, says that’s great, and then continues to talk to his co-worker in Arabic.

When asked if there is a feeling of coexistence in Hadar, Fonia reflects, “On Masada Street, you see students, Jews and Arabs all sitting in one place. It’s not exactly a rosy picture; it’s more a feeling of openness.”

In fact, whenever this question is asked, the term “coexistence” feels a bit like a dirty word. Var Kevenbrov, the cofounder of MishMash, flatly states, “Yes, there’s coexistence because everyone is living here together.” She then laughs, not knowing what else to say.

Nir explains, “We do not live outside Israeli society.”

Addressing racist incidents that are reported in the media, he adds, “Of course it influences us. But we deal with this. We work in collaboration. We work together. Of course, we have a lot of work to do.”

Waheed Asakli, who manages the Elika Art Bar Café, says that racism in the Arab community has been on the rise: “Life for Arabs is not easy. Racism is increasing all the time; the economic climate is difficult.”

When asked if there is a feeling of coexistence at Elika, he simply replies, “For me, it’s not exactly true. I would say that everyone speaks his truth, but I wouldn’t call it coexistence. That’s what we’re trying to do here…Your truth is different from my truth. But if you say, ‘That’s okay’ and it’s not okay, then you’re not being real with me. We want everyone to be real.”

It appears that the words “coexistence” and “reality” do not mix.

Coexistence perhaps connotes a state of utopia where people live in harmony.

Although folks who frequent Masada Street do interact with each other, often forming close bonds, the mere word “coexistence” seems to gloss over the challenges each community faces: discrimination felt within the Arab community, economic hardships and challenges integrating the Russian community.

Even though the student village and other social groups work with Russians, their presence can hardly be felt in hip, younger areas such as Masada.

Instead of lofty ideals, Asakli hopes that Elika provides a space where “many different kinds of people are more free, true, human and democratic.”

Everything is done in the three main languages of its clientele – Hebrew, Arabic and English – so that everyone can be understood. He hopes this open atmosphere – where films and music are played, art and books are discussed, and alternative thinking is constructed – encourages people to create change.

Not surprisingly, Masada’s peak hours are in the evening. When choosing what to eat for dinner, one is likely to order street food – hamburgers, empanadas, chorizos, pizza, felafel and the like. Music is playing, people are conversing, but there’s one big thing missing: foot traffic.

Masada Street’s multicultural bohemian epicenter is only two blocks long. It is hard to believe this because there is so much activity in these two blocks.

While sitting at any café in the area, one could not see a passerby for a span of five minutes. Many of the smaller cafés have only half a dozen customers in an hour.

However, the solution to this lack of activity is complex. As Inbal Levy- Leibovits notes, “On the one hand, you want to help the local population living here and bring them up. But on the other hand, you want to re-brand the neighborhood to the outside, and make it attractive to people from different backgrounds.”

Rating the news: “In Fight for Marriage Rights, ‘She’s Our Thurgood Marshall’” – The New York Times

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This story profiles lawyer Mary Bonauto, who “some say is almost single-handedly responsible for the same-sex marriage cases now pending before the Supreme Court.” I like these kinds of stories because it reminds us that social change happens because of individuals who put in a lot of work over a long period of time. This article from the New York Times is a nice, positive, instructive read.

Rating: Stuff that makes me happy.

Craig Dilger for The New York Times

Craig Dilger for The New York Times

 

Rating the News: ‘How would Obama’s speech play in Ramallah?’ – The Jerusalem Post

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How would Obama’s speech play in Ramallah?,” which was written by Jerusalem Post Senior Correspondant Herb Keinon shortly after Obama’s speech yesterday in Jerusalem, captures a lot of my feelings and lingering questions about his visit. So, I’m just going to repost it here

Rating: Sh*t is complicated.

I’d love your thoughts on this piece and Obama’s visit in general.

Photo by Ariel Shasha, a student at Bar Ilan University.

Photo by Ariel Shasha, a student at Bar Ilan University that attended Obama’s speech.

Obama’s visit to Israel and the West Bank in Pictures

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As I’ve been scouring the news the last few days, eagerly anticipating Obama’s visit, I’ve been affected by the photos. They show how differently Obama is perceived in Israel in comparison to the West Bank.

Here are photos of Obama flags in Israel before the visit:

Photo from Your Jewish News

In Jerusalem: “Unbreakable Alliance, President Obama in Israel, 2013.” Photo from Your Jewish News

Students in Israel make an image of President Obama from chocolate. Photo from Ariel Schalit/AP

Students in Israel make an image of President Obama from chocolate. Photo from Ariel Schalit/AP

And here are the first photos of Obama in Israel. Around 1,000 people came to greet him at the airport, including a military band, politicians, and a whole lot of journalists:

The whole scene at the airport as Obama arrives. Photo from Camilla Schick, Jerusalem Post

The whole scene at the airport as Obama arrives. Photo from Camilla Schick, Jerusalem Post

President Shimon Peres, President Barack Obama, and Prime Minister Netanyahu. They all wore blue! Photo from Ben Hartman, Jerusalem Post

President Shimon Peres, President Barack Obama, and Prime Minister Netanyahu. They all wore blue ties! Photo from Ben Hartman, Jerusalem Post

Meanwhile, this is what has been going on in the West Bank.

Palestinian protestors against Obama. Photo from REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Palestinian protestors against Obama. Photo from REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Photo from AP

Photo from AP

Photo from EPA

Photo from EPA

Obviously, many Palestinians are not pleased with Obama coming.

Obama’s already done quite a charm offensive to Israel, saying some words in Hebrew and describing the Jewish people’s 3,000-year-old connection to the land.

What will Obama do when he meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas? It’s hard to imagine Obama being able to sweet talk his way out of these hostilities. Honestly, I have no idea what that kind of charm offensive could look like.

Rating the news: ‘Drinking tea with the man who killed my father’ – Ynet Magazine

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This a moving story about Jo Berrya woman whose British MP father was killed by Pat Magee, a bomber from the IRA. When he was released from jail as part of final peace negotiations with Ireland, she sought to develop a dialogue with the man who killed her father. They have been in a dialogue ever since.

They both visited Israel and told Ynet their story. The piece is moving and thought provoking, and I personally doubt that I would have the fortitude to do something like Ms. Berry did. I wonder how many stories there would be like this if  peace were negotiated in Israel/Palestine?

Rating: Stuff that makes me happy/ Sh*t is complicated

Jo Berry and Pat Magee Photo: Ofer Amram

Jo Berry and Pat Magee. Photo: Ofer Amram, Ynet 

Rating the news: ‘Liberman: IDF should open fire at stone-throwers’ – The Jerusalem Post

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Avigdor Liberman, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s second hand man and Yisrael Beytenu chairman (who is also on trial for corruption), wants to change IDF rules of engagement so that soldiers should open fire at stone throwers rather than use dispersal methods, such as tear gas. My first gut reaction to this article from The Jerusalem Postwas man, this is definitely stuff that makes me mad. It’s totally messed up to shoot Palestinians that are throwing stones. A gun seems like excessive force.

Rating: Stuff that makes me mad/ Sh*t is complicated

Sh*t is also complicated because of the context behind the comment. On Thursday, The Times of Israel reported that, “Six people were injured, one critically, after stones thrown by Palestinians caused a car to collide with a truck near the West Bank settlement of Ariel.” That one critically injured was a 3-year-old. She’s currently in a hospital, fighting for her life.

Additionally, violence in the West Bank has been on the rise. Here’s a good tally of attacks from The Jerusalem Post:

“A total of 139 attacks, including firebombings and the use of improvised explosives, took place in February, compared to 83 in January.
One hundred of February’s attacks took place in the West Bank – 84 of them firebombings – compared to 56 in the previous month.
In the capital, 38 attacks – 35 of them firebombings – were registered by the Shin Bet in February, compared to 27 in January.”

In general, I support a 2-state solution and hope for as little violence as possible. I don’t want soldiers to shoot at Palestinians throwing stones, but I also want stone throwing to recede.

Maybe President Obama can give his thoughts on the subject when he visits Israel this week. Although I doubt he will, considering he’s coming here on a “listening tour.”

What do you suggest?

ShowImage

Bus damaged by stones on Route 5 near Ariel, March 14 

Photo: Channel 10

Rating the news

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A lot of friends and readers have wanted to hear more of my opinions. For example, my most popular post on Facebook last year was a status I wrote right after Operation Pillar of Defense began.

“Several friends and family have been reading about the recent military conflict between Israel and Gaza and wanted to know if my friends and I are okay. Thankfully, so far, the answer is yes. I appreciate your thoughts and concerns. In the next day or so, I’m going to write as objective a post as I can write about the history of this conflict and what’s currently going on. Sending my love and hopes for peace.”

I unfortunately never got around to writing the post because I experienced so many things during the conflict that it was hard for me to articulate all of my thoughts in a timely enough manner. Sorry Facebook friends.

So, I’m trying to devise ways to share more of my opinions about current events without needing the time nor energy to create well-formulated posts. I’d also like to do this in a way that’s insightful for the reader versus just fluff.

Rating the news

Because I’m a journalist, I’m reading news ALL the time. I often have a gut reaction about a piece, whether that’s positive or negative.

Now, I’m going to post articles I read and categorize them in 1 of 3 ways:

1) Stuff that makes me mad

2) Stuff that makes me happy

3) Sh*t is complicated

Because news in Israel is often so complicated, I may end up double-categorizing many pieces. But still, I think this will help me share current issues that are important as well as my take on things.

If you have other suggestions for how I should rate news, let me know!

Last, a fun GIF to top things off, :).

thumbs up and down

 

Starting a new Haifa beat

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As some of you know, I have started to write about the Haifa area. I can do this now that I am working from home and have the 4 hours of my day back that I used to spend commuting. Yipee.

Here is my first piece, titled, “The allure of the city by the bay,” which I published in the Jerusalem Post‘s weekly metro section. It’s their top story this week!

Screenshot on Metro's page, Monday, March 11: http://www.jpost.com/Metro/Home.aspx

Screenshot on Metro’s page, Monday, March 11: http://www.jpost.com/Metro/Home.aspx

 

If you have ideas for pieces I can write about Haifa, the North, or about whatever, let me know. I’m looking to develop my portfolio considerably, so any ideas would be appreciated.

Without further ado, here’s the piece, texted below so that you can read it beyond the paywall (sshh).

 

The allure of the city by the bay

A small immigrant shift is taking place in Haifa. What does the city have to offer Anglos that other urban areas do not?

By LAURA ROSBROW

Haifa: The German Colony Quarter
Photo by: Itamar Grinberg

Many would say it is hard to find English-speakers in Haifa – that although one can hear English spoken occasionally in public, it does not happen often. So it may come as a surprise that there are over 700 members of the “Haifa Young English Speakers” Facebook group.

At an HYES pub night recently – an event held once or twice a month – several dozen people crowded into the dimly lit, cozy student bar and restaurant Nola Socks, located near the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. It was a diverse and well educated group. Many studied at the Technion.

Several were postdoctoral students. Quite a few were new immigrants, only one or two of whom wore kippot, though there were some Israelis there as well.

According to statistics from Nefesh B’Nefesh, there is an immigrant shift taking place: More Anglos are coming to Haifa. Since 2008, the number of North American and British immigrants who have moved to the northern city has tripled. In the same period, the number of olim from those countries has not even doubled.

However, this movement is small. According to Smadar Stoller Porat, the city’s project director of immigration for olim from English-speaking countries, the total number of English-speaking olim living in Haifa is around 2,600.

What is Haifa starting to offer Anglos that other urban areas cannot? Put simply, it’s cheap and beautiful.

Rental apartments cost around half what they do in Tel Aviv, and unlike in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, many apartments in Haifa have views. If you want a San Francisco-like view from your apartment and a more affordable quality of life, Haifa delivers.

MOLLY MULLIGAN, a 30-year-old American postdoctoral student in biomedical engineering at the Technion, is HYES’s social activities coordinator.

Raised Christian but now secular, she came to Israel because a doctoral mentor urged her to work with his colleague at the Technion. Asked if she plans to stay in Israel after her postdoc is done, she says she wants to if she can.

“I would like to stay, but I have to see if I can get a work visa. The level of work being done at the Technion and the companies I’ve had interactions with is just very high,” she says.

Aside from sometimes being mistaken for a Russian, Mulligan barely mentions encountering any difficulties.

In contrast, Diana Polansky, who made aliya five months ago from New York, seems less certain she will stay in Haifa. The 33-year-old Polansky says she doesn’t know if she was sold the truth about the city as an ideal launching pad.

“It’s hard to survive here. People come to Haifa for the lower cost of living, but then can’t find a job,” she says. “You’re not saving anyone any money if you can’t work.”

Indeed, this is the key reason Haifa is cheap: Beyond the Technion, the University of Haifa and the hi-tech industry there are fewer lucrative job opportunities than in the Center.

And even though Kevin Mayer – a 33-year-old Australian immigrant to Haifa – is an engineer, he thinks he will probably move to the Center of the country. “I’m looking both in the Center and in Haifa.

A lot more jobs in engineering are in the Center, so I’m more likely to be in the Center.”

FOR THOSE newcomers unanchored by institutions like the Technion, the critical support they need to stay in the city seems to be a partner. Tellingly, Stoller Porat asserts that “Haifa is great for young families and young couples who want a good quality of life that’s not too difficult.”

She has less to say about what benefits the city may have for singles.

This family-friendly atmosphere was one of the factors that motivated 39-year-old Josh Turner, his wife, Revital, and their two children to make aliya a little over two years ago from Canada to Kiryat Bialik, a short drive away from Haifa.

The Turners’ greatest challenge in moving to Kiryat Bialik was finding work, as it is for most olim. But “I got around that by starting my own business,” says Josh. “I do international PR for companies. I’m a bigger fish in a small pond in the North, as opposed to a small fish in a big pond in the Center.”

He says he appreciates what the area has to offer and thinks it’s a pleasant, affordable place to raise a family.

Australian immigrant Tanya Ford, meanwhile, lived in Tel Aviv for more than four years before recently moving to Haifa to live with her Israeli boyfriend, and she feels there have been many benefits to the move.

“It’s a lot cheaper than living in Tel Aviv in terms of rent. In my field, which is engineering, there is a lot of work available here. And it’s beautiful – it reminds me of Sydney,” she says.

However, she cannot see Haifa becoming a hub for new immigrants, as there simply aren’t the numbers for it.

“Anglos and olim are attracted to places where there’s a bunch of olim,” she points out. “Haifa isn’t an ideal starting point for olim, but I think it offers a lot to people who are more settled down and established in the country. I think it was a really good move at this point in my aliya life.”

Annette Cohen, a religious woman who made aliya from the US in the early 1960s and has lived in Haifa ever since, sums up what is good about Haifa for Anglos: more interaction with Israelis and with nature.

“Haifa is good for people not interested in living in an English-speaking community,” she says. “And after all these years, I still stop to stare at the view.”

‘If You Build It, They Will Come’

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This is a sweet story I just published about a baseball field in Israel that was opened recently in partnership with the Jewish National Fund. It’s called “If You Build It, They Will Come,” and was published in Philadelphia’s Jewish paper, Jewish Exponent. For all you folks that like baseball, Philly, kids, Jews, philanthropy, or Israel, this might be up your alley.

As always, let me know what you think!

Marcy Levin and her son, Robert, dedicated a baseball field in Israel in memory of her late husband.

So far this year, being a woman is more deadly than terror in Israel

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(This post was recently re-published onto the Jerusalem Post’s blog site.) I can’t count the number of terror related articles I have read in the last year about Israel. On the other hand, I’ve probably only read a few dozen articles over the same period of time about Israeli women facing domestic violence.

With this kind of media focus on conflict many Israeli women, myself included, are more afraid of terror than their intimate partners. However, the data reveals another story.

The Women’s International Zionist Organization just announced that the number of women that have been killed by partner violence in Israel so far this year is 19this is more than nine times the number of Israeli women that have been killed in terrorist related incidents in 2012, including Operation Pillar of Defense. Only two women have been killed in terror attacks so far this year. Furthermore, the number of people in general that have been killed in terror incidents in Israel in 2012 is 14: this is five people less than the total number of women that have been killed by their partners.

As a journalist and a woman, this gives me a lot to think about. Any thoughts from readers?

PHOTO: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST

Fifty voters from 50 states: Or, as the Israeli title goes, “50 shades of America”

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My 50 voters from 50 states piece, where I asked 50 voters from 50 states to explain why they’re voting for either Obama or Romney, came out today on the front page of Walla! News! The Israeli title’s even better than my original one: it translates to “50 shades of America.”  (Soon after, it was also republished in an English version on the Jerusalem Post.) It’s the largest reporting project I’ve done to date, and I’m happy to be publishing this after around a month of blood, sweat, and tears.

Walla! News, one of Israel’s leading online news sites, hired me to not only interview 50 voters from 50 states, 25 for Obama and 25 for Romney, they also wanted me to get a good quality photo from each voter. This was quite a task, and I learned a lot about reporting and political journalism in the process.

This is how the Israeli piece looks. You click on each photo to find out who they are voting for and why.

Because this article is being published in Hebrew (Amir Shiloh, Walla! News’ international desk editor, thankfully translated it. If I had done it, the article would probably be ready for publication in 2013.), I have pasted below my original version in English. Sadly I could not replicate the awesome graphics of the Walla! version of this article, but alas, a long-form blog platform will have to do. The voters are in alphabetical order according to state.

As always, let me know what you think. Additionally, I want to send my well wishes and support to everyone that’s been affected by Hurricane Sandy.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

50 shades of America

The faces of the election.

By Laura Rosbrow

“It will not be easy, and it will be long.” This was what President Obama stated in his inaugural address in January 2009, predicting his first term would be difficult in the wake of the economic crash that he inherited. One voter interviewed here remembers this line. Many more lament the economy’s slow growth.

In this piece, where I profile 50 American voters from every state in the U.S., 25 for Obama and 25 for Romney, Romney voters’ overwhelmingly say that they want to replace Obama with a business savvy candidate that will exercise more fiscal restraint and create more jobs. They believe he can do this from his ability to balance the budget when he was the governor of Massachusetts without raising taxes, as well as his extensive private sector success.

Some of the Obama voters express support for Obama’s economic policies, and often credit the 2008 economic crash at the end of Bush’s presidency for the difficulties still lingering in the economy. However, Obama voters’ largely say they support the President for his social agenda. Most voters cite social issues such as fair pay for women, LGBTQ rights, a women’s right to contraception and abortion, and healthcare as the main reasons they are voting for Obama. Perhaps this is because Obama’s first term was more successful on this front in comparison to the economy.

On the other hand, Romney voters barely mention social issues, such as traditional marriage and pro-life policies, as reasons they are voting for Romney. Unlike other campaign seasons, the economy is the central issue for Republican voters. Additionally, Israel ranks high among Republican concerns.

Granted, this pool of voters is undoubtedly biased considering everyone knew this article was going to be published on an Israeli news site. That being said, it is interesting to see that of the voters that mention Israel as one of their reasons to support either candidate, seven voters support Romney and three support Obama. Delving a bit deeper, of the 10 voters that mention Israel, five are Jewish, three of whom are the Obama supporters. Not surprisingly, this demonstrates American Jews’ continued division over policies regarding Israel, whereas most non-Jewish voters that value Israel (mostly religious Christians) support the Republican party.

Each voter interviewed gives a unique, valuable perspective on the challenges facing the United States. I hope these voters give you a glimpse of what is at stake for Americans in the 2012 presidential election.

Name: Allana Pinkerton

State: Alabama

Age: 44

Occupation: Child Passenger Safety Instructor

Who are you voting for? Romney

Why? Obama is no friend of Israel. Obama’s life has been influenced by too many radical people who are anti-colonialist. He is slowly and secretly putting the U.S. on equal ground with the rest of the world which will enable other countries to increase Muslim extremists. If he has another four years in office, our country will be more vulnerable to attacks.

He is not a business man. Running a country takes business sense and experience. So, I am voting for Romney based on what I don’t like about Obama. It’s not that I love everything about Romney.

Name: Catkin Kilcher Burton (left)

State: Alaska

Age: 54

Occupation: Small business owner (Co-founder Eagles Enterprises, LLC) and Colonel (retired), United States Marine Corps

Who are you voting for? Romney

Why? Governor Romney brings to the table the traits and characteristics I believe are important in a leader. His core values are admirable and his educational attainment show me he has the intelligence to absorb the sheer volume of information he’ll have to deal with to make sound decisions in the areas of foreign policy, defense, and other legitimate federal roles. His broad spectrum of experience  in business and government have convinced me he has the skill sets required to act as our Chief Executive and guide America back to prosperity and leadership.

Name: Donna Alu (right)

State: Arizona

Age: 66

Occupation: RN in a neonatal intensive care unit

Who are you voting for: Romney

Why? I am voting for Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan because I believe in the Republican ideals of smaller, less intrusive government and I want a health care system that is patient focused; not one that is run by a huge federal bureaucracy.

I am also concerned about national security, in light of the chaos in the Middle East and the fact that ammunition used against our embassy in Libya was given to the Libyan rebels to be used against Gaddafi. I believe that the Obama administration has failed in this regard.

Name: Patricia Nation

State: Arkansas

Age: 51

Occupation: Attorney

Who are you voting for? Romney

Why? He shares my worldview.  Romney believes in American exceptionalism.  He promises to lower taxes, balance the budget, repeal Obamacare, and put Americans back to work by implementing free market based principles that will stimulate economic growth. Romney’s decision to visit Israel and meet with Benjamin Netanyahu symbolized that he will make Israel and its protection a top priority. The relationship between America and Israel is at the top of my list for casting my vote for Romney because I believe Romney will give Israel unwavering support and put all options on the table to support Netanyahu against imminent and future dangers.

Name: Abraham Teran

State: California

Age: 32

Occupation: Self employed accountant

Who are you voting for? Obama

Why? I have strong faith in my president as people who voted for him should, and not change their minds as quickly as a coffee drink at Starbucks. Obama has invested money in a green direction that we should all follow! Obama is a humble and respected president, both here and abroad. His first address in office was clear. “It will not be easy, and it will be long.” He has fulfilled promises and promotes fair taxation where the middle class and poor benefit instead of the rich! Lastly, abortion: a woman has the right to do whatever she pleases with her body.

Name: Thomas McGuire

State: Colorado

Age: 35

Occupation: Auto body repair

Who are you voting for? Obama

Why? I am voting for Obama. Ready to move forward, for change, new ways of hope, for better jobs, community, more roads and buildings to be built, and the military.

Name: Brian H. Dennis (right)

State: Connecticut

Age: 49

Occupation: Material analyst

Who are you voting for? Obama

Why? The Romney plan don’t add up and he is a flip flopping pandering liar. It takes more than four years to get us out of the mess that we were in. Obama didn’t get a fair deal in the spirit of cooperation from the Republicans when it came to his policies in helping move this country forward and at the end of the day, Romney has no real plan except to make us believe that policies and belief systems used in the past which got us in this mess will work. I trust Obama to do what’s right for 100% of all Americans!

Name: Barry Guerke

State: Delaware

Age: 64

Occupation: Attorney

Who are you voting for? Obama

Why? As a registered Republican, I fled the party due to the extreme right wing policies that started with Newt Gingrich and culminated with George W. Bush. Obama promised to restore America’s stature in the international community, which I think he has done. He inherited many problems, but I believe that things would have been much worse without the policies he put into effect. I like his inclusiveness versus the exclusiveness of current Republican policies. Health care reform and eliminating Osama bin Laden are major accomplishments. He has earned the right to another four years to complete his agenda.

Name: Ingrid Linhares

State: Florida

Age: 30

Occupation: Hilton Hotels

Who are you voting for? Romney

Why? I was born in Brazil, but moved to the U.S. and gained citizenship in my teenage years. America is a great place where anyone can be successful if they work hard. I believe that Mitt Romney will preserve this great country and that under his leadership, the opportunities to become successful will grow. I just had my first child, and I want a bright future for him. Mitt Romney will provide a bright future for everyone because he will strengthen the economy and create jobs. As an immigrant, I know that hard work can help anyone achieve great things in America.

_ _ _

Name: M*nica Chau

State: Georgia

Age: 26

Occupation: Graduate student

Who are you voting for? Obama

Why? I’m liberal and my ideologies fall more in line with the Democrats. Particularly, it’s important to me to have a president who supports gay rights, abortion, and also, since I’m a stem cell researcher, I need a leader who supports this work.

Name: Juanita Brown Kawamoto

State: Hawai‘i

Age: 52

Occupation: Self employed

Who are you voting for in November? Obama

Why? I believe President Obama is focused on the issues affecting middle class America and the U.S. economy.  He is also aware of the unique matters faced by our state. He has a good plan to lead ALL our peoples!

Name: Michael Smith (left)

State: Idaho

Age: 64

Occupation: Retired

Who are you voting for? Romney

Why? Obama’s appointment has been anti-business and his actions have pushed government controls into more and more areas. He has failed to deliver on too many of his 2008 promises (I voted for him in 2008). And I especially like Ryan as VP.

Name: Matt Weiner

State: Illinois

Age: 28

Occupation: Midwestern regional director of Moishe Hosue (nonprofit org)

Who are you voting for? Obama

Why? Universal health care, a woman’s right to decide how to treat her own body, and LGBTQ rights are issues that are important to me. On those fronts, not only do I side with President Obama, but Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan scare the crap out of me. I also think Obama is great on foreign policy, especially pertaining to Israel. As an American Jew with close ties to Israel, I think that Obama is the stronger candidate to keeping Israel a safe and democratic Jewish State, while actively and realistically seeking out a peaceful solution with the Palestinian people.

Name: Holly Stroup

State: Indiana

Age: 34

Occupation: Warehouse supervisor

Who are you voting for? Romney

Why? I normally do not vote and never have. I’ll be definitely voting this year to help get the right president in office and to get Obama OUT of office. He has taken all the religious beliefs from our school, saying that this is no longer a religious country, and has taken our prayer day away but allows the Muslims to have prayer day. He’s making it harder for people to find jobs but easier for some to collect the welfare.

I will be voting for Romney because he is more for all the people. He’s for getting jobs back so people can actually work again.

Name: Eben Seaman

Age: 31

State: Iowa

Occupation: Musician

Who are you voting for? Obama

Why? I am proud of Obama’s leadership at home and abroad. I thought the Iraq war was a mistake and he ended it.  I know what Obama’s beliefs are, as opposed to his opponent whose message changes depending on his audience. Finally, my wife is a school music teacher and the President and his party support public educators, while Republicans run on platforms of cutting their jobs while their allies in right-wing media demonize teachers, blaming them for much of the U.S.’s budget woes.  When I vote for Obama, I am making a vote that directly affects my family’s economic security.

Name: Dale Harwood

State: Kansas

Age: 44

Occupation: Museum Coordinator

Who are you voting for? Romney

Why? Because I believe that Mr. Obama has lied, and continues to lie to not only the American people, but also the rest of the world about many things.  He promised hope and change ….. I see no hope. Conditions are worse now than before. He CANNOT be trusted, nor any of his lackeys in Congress.

Name: Carol Rogers

State: Kentucky

Age: 56

Occupation: Homemaker and Volunteer

Who are you voting for? Romney

Why? The economy is in terrible shape with unprecedented government spending, a $16 trillion national debt, high unemployment, lack of jobs, and increased dependency on the government through entitlement programs. Mitt Romney is a smart businessman with clear ideas for improving our economy, in contrast to Obama who has never done any work in the private sector. Romney is for small government and lower taxes; Obama is for big government and higher taxes on many Americans. I have two children and two grandchildren; I want America to be strong again so that they and other young people may have a future of opportunity.

Name: Audrey Melissa Diket

State: Louisiana

Age: 23

Occupation: Student

Who are you voting for? Romney

Why? Mitt Romney has the necessary qualifications and experience in creating jobs and running a business, specifically in the task of budgeting SUCCESSFULLY; he lowered taxes multiple times, and managed to get rid of his state’s debt, and create a “rainy day fund.” Obama has not been successful with his budget, lowering the deficit, fixing the failing economy, or working with Republicans. Mitt Romney has been successful in working with Democrats when he was governor of a majority Democratic state, Massachusetts. Lastly, there are many other good things he did for people throughout his life that show his compassion for others.

Name: Jesse Connolly

State: Maine

Age: 34

Occupation: Works for a Member of Congress

Who are you voting for? Obama

Why? I am voting for President Obama this November because I believe there is a lot of work that still needs to be completed by the President and his team to turn our economy around. Furthermore I feel that President Obama is more concerned with the issues that face me and my family then his opponent.

Name: Ed Levine

State: Maryland

Age: 66

Occupation: Retired

Who are you voting for? Obama

Why? President Obama and the Democratic Party’s platform is best suited for me, my family, and the U.S. Their platform is committed to 1) improving education and health services that will lead to increased employment, educational opportunities, and quality of life; 2) implementing a plan to address global instability through decisive military action that is cautious yet effective; and 3) enhancing our planet’s environmental health.

Mitt Romney and the Republican Party’s platform is committed to supporting major corporations by lowering their taxes and setting fewer regulations. This approach has proven to be ineffective, irresponsible, and has lead to economic disaster.

Name: Bonnie Margulies

State: Massachusetts

Age: 63

Occupation: Interior decorator and former middle school teacher

Who are you voting for? Obama

Why? I believe he is undoubtedly the best candidate because of his record in his first four years. I believe he really cares about all the people. He has a proven record in foreign policy. He has made his way to the top because of hard work and this life experience will allow him to perform even more effectively in his 2nd term.

Name: Amit Weitzer

State: Michigan

Age: 26

Occupation: Youth Environmental Education Program Coordinator

Who are you voting for? Obama

Why? I believe in a women’s right to define her future and have ownership over her body, and all people have the right to marry whomever they like. Legislators should stop legislating my body and definitions of love and family and get back to improving our safety nets. I believe in investing in green energy technology, in economic justice, and in desperately needed educational investments. I believe in comprehensive pathways to citizenship for people who have immigrated to our country and that the wealthy have a role in providing resources for those in need. A vote for Romney is a vote against everything I believe in.

Name: Jules Goldstein

State: Minnesota

Age: 65

Occupation: Retired Systems Analyst

Who are you voting for? Obama

Why? What President Obama has been able to do in the face of unrelenting partisan obstruction is amazing. Equal pay for equal work, repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, affordable health care, easing the burden of student loans, rescue of the auto industry, and reform of the financial industry are but a few accomplishments. He continues to pursue a foreign policy that promotes a strong Israel and fights nuclear proliferation.

All the while, Romney seems to be a walking shadow, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Name: Nic Lott

State: Mississippi

Age: 32

Occupation: Founder of Mississippi Forward, state affiliate of the National Taxpayers Union

Who are you voting for? Romney

Why? This election is about the course of the U.S. and two very different paths. We can’t afford to continue President Obama’s record of high deficits and chronic unemployment. Governor Romney has a plan to create 12 million new jobs. He will provide real solutions for accessible and affordable healthcare where folks won’t lose their current coverage and health premiums won’t go up as they will under Obamacare by $2500 per family. A President Romney will stop the $716 billion dollar Obamacare cut to Medicare, strengthen our military, and prevent defense cuts as we keep America strong and get the middle class working again.

Name: Kailea Bogner

State: Missouri

Age: 19

Occupation: Student

Who are you voting for? Romney

Why? I see this country going in the wrong direction. I believe that the policies that Romney will bring forth will enable our government to balance the budget and reduce excessive spending. Romney can improve the country not only in the short term, but for the long term. The Romney-Ryan ticket will ensure that our Social Security will be available when the Americans who are working now retire. Romney believes in a strong national defense and will protect the traditional principles that I believe in. He will not be ashamed of this country, but will make this country powerful once more.

Name: Jessica Sena

State: Montana

Age: 26

Occupation: Campaign Staff for Rick Hill for Governor.

Who are you voting for? Romney

Why? Gov. Romney possesses the business savvy and leadership needed to collaborate effectively across the aisle, as well as around the world. Congressman Ryan has the knowledge and experience needed to parlay his work in Congress into meaningful reforms for our economy. The two have the proven to be leaders in and out of politics, and are just what America needs to restore prosperity and opportunity in this country through the policies of less government and greater freedom. They fulfill the ideals of the nostalgic “American Dream” we seem to have lost over the last four years.

Name: Cyndi Lamm

State: Nebraska

Age: 54

Occupation: Attorney for eight years

Who are you voting for? Romney

Why?  I am a wife, a mom, a grandma, and a small business owner.  I am voting for Romney because I have concerns for my family and my business. Here in Nebraska, we have elected officials who largely exercise fiscal restraint.  We have a balanced budget amendment and our unemployment rate is well below the national average.  I believe that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will provide the same on a national scale, and that with their leadership, I can be confident that my children and grandchildren will have opportunity and that they will not be burdened by my generation’s debt.

Name: Dustin Ravizé

State: Nevada

Age: 23

Occupation: Computer Engineer

Who are you voting for? Obama

Why? I believe that social issues are at the forefront of what America is looking for. We now more than ever have been fighting hard for marriage equality, abortion rights, and a separation of church and state. I also believe Obama truly cares about the American people and has shown his care with his tax cuts to families and providing healthcare that has saved lives in need when no one would have offered anything. I believe this among many other solutions will bring the American people together, stimulate our social awareness and community, and build a better economy through new ideals.

Name: Natacha Sochat (left)

State: New Hampshire

Age: 61

Occupation: Physician (retired)  Artist/curator (ongoing)

Who are you voting for? Obama

Why? 1) Obama cares about everyone and has an economic plan that will benefit the entire U.S. population, not just the top 1%. 2) Obama was able to finally institute the beginning of health care reform, something that I never believed would be done in this country. As a retired physician, ‘Obamacare’ is a great accomplishment for our country. 3) Wall Street reforms were instituted along with other financial reforms including putting a stop to credit card companies’ financial abuses. 4) President Obama has been one of the best presidents to represent us to the world and have relationships with other nations.

Name: Sarah Luke

State: New Jersey

Age: 30

Occupation: Attorney

Who are you voting for? Obama

Why?  I am voting for Barack Obama for several reasons. First, I think that the measures he took in the beginning of his presidency kept the country from experiencing a much steeper economic decline. Second, I support the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare). Third, President Obama supports equal rights for same sex couples. And finally, President Obama will protect organizations like Planned Parenthood which provide women with access to quality reproductive care.

Name: Barbara Glazer

State: New Mexico

Age: 76

Occupation: Retired psychotherapist and college professor

Who are you voting for? Obama

Why? He feels a moral obligation toward equality, understands why women want equal pay for equal work, and knows that access to contraception and abortion is a woman’s choice. This election frightens me more than any other. I marched with my daughters in the civil rights movement.  Those daughters are now in their 50s, and have their own children and grandchildren. I don’t want to see my great grand-children, three of whom are girls, lose the equality we worked so hard to attain.  I will vote for President Obama and stay up all night until the results are in to see if I celebrate or sit shiva.

Name: Gabriella Rodriguez (middle)

State: New York

Age: 29

Occupation: Social Worker

Who are you voting for? Obama

Why? I think the country is moving in the right direction under his administration. He has shown a lot of strength, courage and determination. He has kept his original campaign promises as far as health care and bringing back the troops from Iraq. There was a lot hat he had to clean up after Bush left office and I think that with a second term he has a good chance at getting this country back on track economically.

Name: Steve Nicol

State: North Carolina

Age: 52

Occupation: Self Employed in Transportation

Who are you voting for? Romney

Why? I’ve witnessed a decline in my nation the likes of which I’ve never seen. I believe in limited government intrusion into both private and public sector arenas. As a business owner, I’m solidly against the Democratic philosophy of “regulation.” I truly believe President Obama has weakened our position both here and abroad. I don’t support many of his allegiances, I do not support his fiscal spending policies, and to be honest, as a judge of character, I do not believe he speaks for ALL Americans as a president should. Last, I support your nation’s continued efforts at self-direction and solidarity.

Name: Ken Callahan

State: North Dakota

Age: 50

Occupation: Energy Services Manager

Who are you voting for? Romney

Why? The economy is in horrible shape except for North Dakota. I believe a successful businessman knows how to balance a budget and will promote small businesses that will CREATE JOBS!!! We have a chance to become oil independent in North America and with Mitt Romney in office we have a better chance. Look at our president’s refusal to sign the Keystone pipeline project; he’s definitely not oil friendly. He can say we produced more oil in his administration than any other administration, but it’s not because of him; it’s because of the Bakken in North Dakota. It’s time for change.

Name: Jamie Zimmer (right)

State: Ohio

Age: 30

Occupation: Journalist/Editor

Who are you voting for? Obama

Why? Obama upholds stances on a number of social issues close to my heart. He also implemented economy saving measures that stopped the U.S. from defaulting on its loans by raising the debt ceiling in order to prevent a worldwide depression. Romney seems to not only want to undo all of Obama’s work, I also believe he lacks any understanding of foreign policy and the fragility of international relations. I also believe, as a resident of Israel, that Romney would plunge Israel and the U.S. into a state of war with Iran that could take decades and millions of lives to resolve.

Name: Gabriel Crawford

State: Oklahoma

Age: 22

Occupation: Student/ Associate at Squires Resource Development (Fundraising firm)

Who are you voting for? Romney

Why? I am voting for Mitt Romney because of his fiscal conservatism and his desire to tackle the country’s current debt crisis. As a young man, the growing debt will be strapped on my back and my paycheck will have to reimburse these outlandish expenditures. Also, the United State’s current entitlement reforms are going bankrupt in this process, not guaranteeing me any benefits once I get older. I believe we must change the engine of the current entitlement structure (Social Security, Medicare, etc.) to maintain it for the current generation and preserve it for my generation. A Romney presidency will do just this.

Name: Cole Merkel

State: Oregon

Age: 24

Occupation: Vendor Coordinator at Street Roots newspaper; Social services

Who are you voting for? Obama

Why? I work with people experiencing homelessness and poverty. I see first hand the trickle-down economic theories of tax cuts for the rich that will eventually benefit everyone through job creation only work to keep individuals in the upper class richer while subjugating the middle and lower class. This is what Mr. Romney is proposing. On the other hand, Obama’s economic policies create a more equitable future. Also, Mr. Obama’s support of same-sex marriage places him on the right side of history, which I am confident will be a harbinger of more freedoms for LGBTQ-identifying individuals, myself included, if he’s reelected.

Name: Rachel Robbins

State: Pennsylvania

Age: 29

Occupation: Arts/Nonprofit Administrator

Who are you voting for? Obama

Why? I believe in rights to contraception, healthcare, and abortion. Gay marriage needs to be legal. On the whole, it does not benefit the U.S. or the world for our leaders to be only interested in their own profit or in defending their traditions. I want an ethical leader who I trust and that is Barack Obama.

Name: Robert Davis

State: Rhode Island

Age: 46

Occupation: Nuclear medicine technologist

Who are you voting for? Obama

Why? I believe that the President has been, and will continue to be, acting in the best interest of all Americans. His plan for repairing our economic state makes sense and frankly, is the only one presented thus far by either party. His ideals match my own, equality for all regardless of sex, race, creed, and sexual preference. At this crucial moment, it isn’t practical to start with new, proven failed, policies.

Name: Lorilee Maurer

State: South Carolina

Age: 56

Occupation: Self-Employed

Who are you voting for? Mitt Romney

Why? My husband and I are small business owners. I feel that Romney better understands the economy and how to grow businesses. I think his approach to lowering the debt won’t be easy and may be a little uncomfortable, which makes sense. When you run up a debt that needs to be paid off, some things need to be cut, whether it’s my debt or our national debt! I appreciate his pro-family policies of traditional marriage and his anti-abortion stance. He’s not afraid to acknowledge God or his faith. I trust him and am proud to support him.

Name: Yvonne Rogalla

State: South Dakota

Age: 67

Occupation: Retired

Who are you voting for? Romney

Why? I believe that he can turn the economic situation around by lowering taxes on the small businesses and on the large companies so the large ones will come back to America, putting our people back to work. He also says he will open up resources we have here in the U.S. like oil, natural gas, and coal, again putting our people back to work and not depending on the Mideast and China. The greatest reason I am voting for him is because he says he is for Israel. Father God says that if we bless Israel, we will be blessed. America needs to be blessed.

Name: Daniel Garner (middle)

State: Tennessee

Age: 55

Occupation: Physician

Who are you voting for? Romney

Why? This is because I am concerned over the excessively liberal policies and decisions of the Obama administration, the poor record on Israel, and issues of the Federal deficit. Unlike many decisions, I am neutral on Obama’s record with the so-called “Obama-care,” health reform.

Name: Debbie Ferris

State: Texas

Age: 49

Occupation: Self Employed Technical/Grant Writer

Who are you voting for? Romney

Why? I support Mr. Romney because he has turned around several failing businesses and made them viable again. He was one of the most successful venture capitalists in the 80s and 90s and he was very successful at Bain Capital. Mr. Romney understands how private sector businesses work. As Governor of Massachusetts, he closed the deficit gap without raising taxes. I just think that Mr. Romney understands finances and the business world much more than President Obama and he will start the long process of helping the U.S. recover from the current recession.

Name: Jordan Hess

State: Utah

Age: 25

Occupation: Office Manager

Who are you voting for? Romney

Why? Mitt Romney encourages me to work hard and create my own success, rather than rely on the government to provide my happiness. My rights are given by God, not the government. America is a country where anyone can be successful if they work hard. Mitt Romney is also a family man with a beautiful wife and 5 great sons. I believe in marriage between a man and a woman, and Mitt Romney believes the same. I believe in a strong American military that stands with Israel. Mitt Romney believes the same. I believe in a free market economy; Mitt Romney believes the same.

Name: Rachael Cohen

State: Vermont

Age: 49

Occupation: Freelance editor, instructor at the University of Michigan New England Literature Program, adjunct professor of humanities at Colby-Sawyer College, laborer at Sunrise Farm, scholar for the Vermont Humanities Council Reading and Discussion Program, and dog-sitter.

Who are you voting for? Obama

Why? Although his first term was disappointing in some ways, especially compared to the enormously exciting promises he made during his first campaign, he came into office with nearly impossible financial and political challenges to overcome. I don’t agree with every decision he has made, but I believe that his economic policies are basically sound — and definitely sounder than Romney’s. We need the reforms of health care, education, and energy policy that he has been working toward.

Name: Jody Kemp

State: Virginia

Age: 57

Occupation: Church/Social services, serving women and children in situations of domestic violence

Who are you voting for? Romney

Why? I vote Republican because I am in favor of conservative solutions to America’s problems. Romney favors a strong defense budget and Obama does not. Romney opposes “Obamacare!” Mitt Romney supports an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to protect traditional marriage.Governor Romney will support our ally Israel. We have a long standing relationship and clear biblical mandate to stand with the state of Israel in every way. Finally, the United States needs Mitt Romney who understands economics, is a successful businessman/entrepreneur himself and who will work to create much needed jobs to get our economy moving again.

Name: Crystal Sweet

State: Washington

Age: 32

Occupation: Court Clerk

Who are you voting for? Obama

Why? I am voting for President Obama because he shares my values. I am particularly pleased with his stances on gay marriage and gays in the military. I also believe he will continue to protect a woman’s right to choose and he will continue to help fund much needed social services.

Name: Steven Starcher

State: West Virginia

Age: 36

Occupation: Pharmacist

Who are you voting for? Romney

Why? Barack Obama has steered this country to the brink of collapse with his policies and government takeover of the banking, auto, housing industries, and over regulation by the EPA on the oil, natural gas, and coal industry. These policies have caused 23 million Americans to be out of work and have led to six trillion dollars of additional deficit in just four years. This path for America is unsustainable. Finally, the foreign policy of this administration has been one of appeasement. In the eyes of your enemies, is it better to be feared or respected. I feel the current administration wants to be respected.

Name: Terri Krause

State: Wisconsin

Age: 50

Occupation: Administrative Assistant

Who are you voting for? Obama

Why? I believe that President Obama understands the difficulties and hardships that many Americans are experiencing. Mr. Romney has written off 47% of our population. I admire President Obama for standing up to corporate America by signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Paul Ryan voted against it. I support Obamacare. I supported the auto industry bailout – Mr. Romney said to let Detroit go bankrupt. That bailout saved thousands of jobs. Most importantly, I want President Obama to have the opportunity to appoint the next Supreme Court Justice and hopefully overturn Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission.

Name: Clay Long

State: Wyoming

Age: 28

Occupation: In the oil industry

Who are you voting for? Romney

Why? Mitt consistently proves his ability to manage large, overloading crisis with poise and pride. He understands the American dream isn’t born or protected in the marble clad domes of DC but the brick and mortar of America’s homes.

Before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni

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The feature as it first appeared in the Jerusalem Post Lite.

Well, that was a cute, somewhat misleading hook for an interview I did recently for the Jerusalem Post Lite. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Adi Ezroni, she is one of the lead actresses in Hatufim, the Israeli series that Homeland is based upon. She’s also a serious Hollywood producer: A Late Quartet with Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, and Christopher Walken came out on November 2 in the US and she executive produced it!

If you’re abroad and haven’t seen Hatufim, you’re in luck: the first season is available with English subtitles on Hulu and Sky Arts.

*Warning: There are spoilers for the second season of Hatufim towards the beginning of the interview.

As always, let me know what you think!

 

Interview with Adi Ezroni

Hatufim lead actress, Hollywood producer and huge Princess Bride fan.

By Laura Rosbrow

Hatufim just began its second season. We were thrilled to speak with Adi Ezroni, who plays Yael Ben-Horin, sister of Amiel Ben-Horin (played by Asi Cohen), one of three prisoners of war (POWs) “released” after 17 years in captivity. Amiel was released, but died. Or so we thought.

Now, we know Amiel is alive, he’s a Muslim named Yusuf, and he’s secretly living with Syrian terrorists that tortured him. Meanwhile, Yael is starting to date Noni. What seems simple isn’t: Noni’s father was killed by a terrorist exchanged for the POWs’ release.

In a long afternoon chat at Café Noach, Adi Ezroni talked about playing Yael, how Gilad Shalit’s return changed Hatufim, Homeland, and being a Hollywood producer.

What’s been your greatest challenge playing Yael?

In this season, she’s trying to come out of a shell and put everything away. It’s hard figuring out who she is, because grief is such a part of her. Now she has a relationship, and Noni, as far as she knows, has no connection to her past. This is the most complex thing, because they have a perfect relationship.

It’s true that being alone or getting into emotional places is challenging. I think that acting with Asi Cohen was extremely helpful.

What is it like, acting with Asi Cohen?

A dream. It was easy to miss him, because it’s easy to fall in love with him. I recommend it to all actors. I think he’s doing something that’s extraordinary, to go from total comedy to being able to play Yusuf and speak in Arabic and look honest.

How did Gilad Shalit’s return affect this season?

I don’t think all the differences this season were done consciously because of Shalit’s return. But the fact that he did come back in the middle is interesting, because the second season can move away a little from the sensitivity, and be focused on good television drama.

I think the first season touched on a sacred issue that hasn’t been dealt with before. It was more focused on family drama, on them returning home. I think the first season had this feeling of intimacy with the audience, dealing with the subject with sensitive gloves. Ultimately, that was also an incredible plot.

In the second season there’s a lot more suspense. Now that Shalit’s back, we could also talk about the consequences of that decision. We can look at the prisoners that were exchanged for the deal, as well as families affected by terrorism.

What do you think of Homeland?

I think Gideon Raff did something that’s perfect for an American audience, which is to change the focus from the family drama to the investigation. It’s great re-formatting for TV, because this could go on forever – there could always be new people to investigate.

The Israeli show comes from a different perspective that is extremely intimate. The Israeli series focuses on the family drama because they’re one of us. The issue of kidnapping and being in captivity because of political events is real. It’s a daily thing. Everyone says the Israeli series is more personal, but it’s also more political.

What was it like meeting the cast of Homeland?

It was really nice. Now, the same production working on Homeland is the same one working on Hatufim. They were here shooting, and we screened the first episode of Hatufim, so they got to see us. They responded well to the screening of the second season premiere, and enjoyed being in Tel Aviv.

But the real climax was meeting Mandy Patinkin. I couldn’t believe I actually spoke with Inigo Montoya! I’m the biggest Princess Bride fan. He has an incredible career besides that movie. But Inigo Montoya’s such a person in and of himself.

I just recently went to see Princess Bride again after many years. I think that it’s the most perfect movie ever created. Every moment there are twists, turns, and punch lines. Wallace Shawn was also in one of the movies I produced recently.

Many people don’t know you’re an accomplished producer. Some of your films coming out soon have huge Hollywood stars.

I have a production company called Spring Pictures that I run with Mandy Tagger. Our first film, A Late Quartet, is coming out on November 2nd in the U.S. and November 29th in Israel. It’s director Yaron Zilberman’s first narrative film and stars an amazing cast: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Christopher Walken, Catherine Keener, Wallace Shawn, Mark Ivanir, Liraz Charhi, and Imogen Poots, who was just listed by Variety as one of “10 actors to watch in 2012.” I’m really excited.

Last, can you tell us juicy details about this season?

Yael will get much more than she asked for.

That’s no surprise. But during this season, Yael will have many surprises. Maybe Adi Ezroni will have some pleasant surprises in Hollywood.

‘Anyone Who Says Differently, Is An Idiot.’

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In this month’s edition of D”ash, the Jerusalem Post youth magazine that I edit, I introduced a fun new feature to the magazine. It’s a single-page feature called “So Random!” where we interview every day Israelis. No one famous: just regular people. Each interview will include the same random, personal questions. In 15 minutes, we want to capture the essence of the interviewee as best we can.

This first one was really amusing. To give you a taste the headline of this post, as well as the article itself, is a direct quote from the interview: ‘Anyone Who Says Differently, Is An Idiot.’

Let me know what you think, as well as questions you’d like to include in this feature.

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Website’s got a brand new bag

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Or, more specifically, design. What do you think? You like it? Don’t like it? Think it could be improved in some way? Think it rules? Whatever the case may be, I’d love your feedback.

The idea is that I wanted the website to look a bit cleaner, more professional, and less “bloggy.” This is why I chose this theme so that the pages “about me” were more prominent. I also added an additional page at the top called “Professional Services” to direct more people to my technical writing services. You think the website is conveying this concept effectively? Let me know what you think. Thanks.

Music Interview with The Young Professionals (TYP)

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This month we decided to do a special music edition of D”ash, the international youth magazine that I edit for the Jerusalem Post. We figured August is usually a slow time for news, so why not make it pop (quite literally)? Below is the cover story/interview I did with TYP, a great Israeli up-and-coming electropop group. In fact, they’re so up-and-coming that Universal signed them for a three-album record deal. To boot, for those of you that don’t speak Hebrew, no problem: all their lyrics are in English!

I am pretty proud of this interview, also because it was one of the first interviews I’ve done in Hebrew (another step towards acculturation; check!). As always, let me know what you think.

Cover of D”ash’s August Issue

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

The Young Professionals

D”ash interviews the most hyped Israeli band of 2012.

By Laura Rosbrow

Last year, The Young Professionals (or TYP for short) won Best Israeli Act at the MTV Europe Music Awards. This year, they signed a three-album deal with Universal. What makes this electropop duo, formed by veteran Israeli music scenesters Ivri Lider and Johnny Goldstein, such an international success? Besides their infectious melodies, catchy beats, and English lyrics, it probably has something to do with men in heels, campy dancing, and multi-layered videos.

Part of TYP’s tagline is “We create something new, always based on something old.” “D.I.S.C.O.”, their hit single, is a great demonstration of this concept. The song is an obvious homage to the Disco era, but the music video has various visual and musical influences. The girls that dance in the beginning are a colorful, hipster take on Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love”, also known to some as “that 80s video with models that look bored and fake play the guitar.” The girls here play keytars, and the song itself has a mix of 80s and indie electronic beats. So in one seemingly simple pop song, TYP takes us all the way from Disco, to the 80s, to today!

And here’s the clip:

Despite their impressive musical mastery, their real secret weapon is Uriel Yekutiel, their dancer. Extremely flamboyant, he is usually dressed in women’s clothing and heels, and often leads cheesy, choreographed group dances. His enthusiasm really brings the group to another level. First, he strengthens TYP’s connection to the LGBT community; Ivri Lider, himself openly gay, also sings frequently about relationships with men. But I also imagine that his energy makes their dance hits even catchier, helping TYP cement itself as a powerhouse on the electronic dance floor. This catchiness is also a large part of what has made them an international sensation.

Uriel doing signature campy dance in a TYP music video.

D”ash was thrilled to chat with this emerging pop duo. Similar to their videos, where Ivri sings while Johnny stares into the screen and occasionally taps his foot, Ivri was the bigger talker.

What led you to form TYP in the first place?

Ivri: The connection started about a project that featured many different artists but eventually, it didn’t come out. Then we played one year together for fun. And we didn’t plan all this, but we started to develop what we did together, and we found out that there was something tangible and wished to do something with it. Then we came up with TYP, which in its concept, is more than a band.

What is the importance of multi-media collaboration in TYP’s concept?

Ivri: It’s of huge importance. We don’t view it as mixing multi-media, but as one thing. And our band is a part of it. There are two musicians, a graphic designer, and a stylist as well. It’s more than the music. Music is an experience that combines all your senses. It’s not only what you hear, but also what you see. It’s about everything – what you wear, what you see on stage. It’s a total experience.

What impact has signing with Universal Music Group/ Polydor Records had on your lives? 

Ivri: I think that when you get connected to a huge body like Universal, it’s a very powerful bond because it allows us to do a lot of things. They have thoughtful and creative feedback that is really fun to accept. They have a great understanding of the market and it feels really good to collaborate with them. Basically, it enlarges our abilities – it allows us to do more.

Part of Universal’s feedback was to first release TYP’s debut album 9:00 to 17:00, 17:00 to Whenever in France (it was released in June). Why did they choose France first? 

Ivri: I think that France is a center for electronic music. The scene and especially the live music scene are very developed. They are very intelligent and stylish. They like things that are chic and special.

You said in an interview recently that, “We like opposites… we feel all those opposites is something in our everyday life.” This is reflected in different styles mixing within your music and videos. How much of this attitude comes from being Israeli?

Ivri: Yes, I think it’s a lot about being Israeli. There are all these extreme opposites that exist within Israel. You can find almost any opposites: within the economy, the music, that there’s liberal women walking down the beach in Tel Aviv and at the same time you have a woman walking down the street in Beit Shemesh that’s getting spat on. The fact that there’s also a war two hours from here, and clubs in Tel Aviv.

Part of it is also feeling like we live in a world where we have so many things. It’s part of also being Western people.

That’s interesting to hear your examples because they’re all parts of why living in Israel is stressful. But your music is really fun. Do you think that’s also part of being Israeli?

Ivri: We live in such a stressful environment that we don’t even notice it anymore. I definitely think the whole “party party” thing, especially in places like Tel Aviv, is a response to that stress. You know better than anyone (referring to said reporter) because you’re an olah chadasha (new immigrant) how stressful life can be in Israel. My boyfriend’s also an oleh, from Germany, and I see it through him how stressful life is here.

What do you want us to remember from this interview? 

Ivri: The fact that this is such a unique idea that is going to conquer the world!

TYP may not be conquering the world yet, but they will be performing in Paris and a few summer festivals in Europe. After that, we’ll see what Universal has up its sleeve: D”ash hopes this fun, thoughtful, artistic duo will go far.

Sivan Azulay and Tal Lado contributed reporting.

Arabs and Jews want to save lives

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Some good news for once. Read my Jpost post about an inspirational group of Orthodox Jews (including ultra-Orthodox) and Arabs that save lives in East/West Jerusalem, as well as across Israel. Considering the most popular nonprofits seem to be public health related, they may be onto something. In fact, of the top 100 nonprofits around the world ranked by Global Journal, almost half of the top 25 are public health or humanitarian relief related.

What lessons do you think this group has for the peace movement? I’d love your thoughts, also because I’d like to delve into this deeper in my next post.

‘Israelis in Vietnam’ on JPost.com front page!

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Israelis in Vietnam: From drug addicts to fakers, and in the middle, the heroic truth,” is my first article published directly to the Jerusalem Post’s website! No need to pay for it! And it made it to the front page of the website…so that’s cool.

Front page of the Jerusalem Post's website, 1.22.11

The piece is about Vietnam War veterans that later immigrated to Israel. I did interviews with two of them and their stories are very moving, especially regarding trauma. They are both interviewed for a new documentary in Israel about Israeli-Americans that fought in Vietnam, which airs tonight on Israel’s History Channel.

Arthur Regev, Interviewee

Dr. Jack Pastor, Interviewee

Let me know what you think.

Holocaust free speech v. hate speech?

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There was a bill backed recently that would forbid the use of the term Nazi or anything associated with the Holocaust in Israel. This reminded me of the lessons I learned from writing the, “What are Holocaust humor’s limits?” article, and decided to write a Jpost post connecting the two. You agree with my assessment? Let me know what you think! I’m very curious to get others’ reactions.

Ultra-Orthodox protestors; Photo by Marc Sellem

Hipster Hitler comic with T-shirt

Churning it out… Any ideas?

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Well, so far I’ve been one of those writers that sits and stews on pieces for a while, and then all of a sudden, I post several articles within a short period of time. Unfortunately, this does not bode so well for regular blogging…

One of my editors told me recently that in order to stay on the Jpost blog site (especially because they’re looking to cut the bloggers down substantially), I’ll need to start writing once a week. He wanted me to stay, but cautioned me that I’d have to post more frequently. Eeck! It that was a kick in the butt to pump up my game. Which I’m trying to do.

This means that my approach to blogging will have to change. Instead of writing longer posts and posting less frequently, which is what I have been doing, I will have to write shorter posts but post more frequently. This means I will either describe short, clear stories, or spread out a piece over several posts.

Which leads me to ask you, my loyal readers, some valuable questions: If I could write about anything about Israel, what would most interest you? Which posts of mine have you liked more, and would like to see more of? Any and all ideas would be appreciated! Thanks!

Courtesy of lovelihood at Creative Commons

A word for losing a child

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I wrote a new Jpost post reflecting on the fact that there’s a word in Hebrew for someone that loses a child. There’s a clip from Six Feet Under to compare Americans’ v. Israelis’ attitudes towards death. I guess there’s a reason I went back to Hebrew classes; language reveals so much. Let me know what you think.

PR photo

Six Feet Under PR Photo

Holocaust survivor creates moving art exhibition

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Several weeks ago, I attended an amazing art exhibit by a Holocaust survivor. I was so moved that I wrote this review in the Jerusalem Post Lite below. The artist’s name is Israela Hargil, and the exhibit, Cherries and Golden Butterflies, is on display from now until January 1st at the Theater Art Gallery of Holon. It is about her experiences as a child during the Holocaust in Poland. (NOTE: the location has changed since the original publication.)

I posted this to my Jpost blog so I could encourage folks in Israel to see it. For those of you abroad, I merely urge you to read the review below. Hopefully this will bring you there in spirit.

Cherries and Golden Butterflies

A review of Israela Hargil’s exhibition about being a child during the Holocaust.

By LAURA ROSBROW

 

I see an art piece that consists of candy wrappers piled one-meter high. Above the candy wrappers there are metal wires hanging from the ceiling with candy wrappers tied along them, as if butterflies were flying above. Next to the piece, there is a poetic text explaining the story. The text ends by saying, “And one of the kids found a real sweet there.”

It is the story of an eight-year-old Jewish girl during the end of the Holocaust in Poland, remembering a candy factory being bombed. All the kids played with thousands of candy wrappers flying everywhere. Amidst this, one kid did find, “a real sweet there.”

This eight-year-old girl is now 73-year-old Israeli conceptual artist Israela Hargil, and this piece is part of her new exhibition, Cherries and Golden Butterflies, which can be seen at the Theater Art Gallery of Holon until January 1st, 2012. It is the third and final exhibition in a series of autobiographical work about being a child during the Holocaust.

Focusing on the end of the war, the exhibit captures the unique memories that only a child who survived the Holocaust could have: longing for a doll; pretending to be a “cow girl” to fit into the Polish family that was hiding her; buying a bag of cherries for only a penny. These sweet and dark memories are expressed through mixed media, combining elements such as photographs, found objects, personal writings and sculpture, Hargil’s specialty.

The exhibit has three large installations. The installations tell longer stories and have poetic text alongside them, such as the candy wrappers piece. These pieces are particularly strong. The size of the installations and the accuracy of the materials make you feel as if you are right there in her past.

The only other sculpture in the exhibit is also moving. It is a series of bronze bodies that express different stages of death. One particularly striking figure is crudely made, as if melted and without certain parts, lying like a body.

Most of the exhibit consists of what the artist calls “memory boxes,” that hang along the walls. Each of these is a cupboard filled with photographs and found objects from the artist’s past. Whereas the strength of her larger figures was in their sense of setting, the strongest memory boxes were more individually focused, all with photographs of the artist or her parents. These intimate views of her loneliness haunt the viewer.

Israela’s tale is amazing: She was born in 1938 in Poland. Only three years later, in 1941, her mother was killed. Soon afterwards, her father was convinced to place Israela, then called Eva, in the care of a Polish Christian family. During the Holocaust, Eva stayed with several families, often hiding under beds for months at a time.

Eventually her father, who became a Russian soldier during the war, came back. They both immigrated to Israel in 1948. Sadly, in 1952 he died of a heart attack. Israela remained on a childrens’ kibbutz.

For years this talented artist, who has exhibited at Yad Vashem and the Israel Museum, made abstract pieces. Only five years ago did she begin to do autobiographical work about the Holocaust.

After I saw the exhibit, which I was invited to through my friend (as well as her grandson), I wanted to interview her myself.

I asked her what inspired her to start doing work about the Holocaust. She explained that when she was around 12 years old she wrote a diary about this time. “I did it so I wouldn’t forget what happened during the war because my father was no longer with me. I wrote it so he’d read it and know what I went through.” She used these writings in her first two exhibitions, Photoerosion I and II.

She explained that when her father died (he had read some of her diary before), she inherited his papers: “From time to time, I would go to the attic and look at them,” she said. This went on for years. Then, around five years ago, she created a piece that had three empty boxes. The next thing that happened, “I made a collage of my mother, father, and me as a little girl.” And it just came out.

I asked why this is her last Holocaust exhibit?

She stated calmly, “I cleaned it out of my system. It made it easier. Now it’s not weighing so heavily on me.”

That’s good to hear.

 

For more information, visit Israela Hargil’s website: http://www.israela-hargil.co.il


Ch-ch-ch-changes: Part II

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First, I must thank many of you who reached out to me after my last post. Your positive energy was much appreciated. I think it worked, because not only did I land my first contract writing gig, I also got rehired for my editing position. Yipee! The contract writing will be a part-time grant writing job that I can do from Israel. That’s a very exciting development and lovely way for me to step back into the nonprofit world. Then, the story about my position, well…how about you read this Jpost post, titled, “Working it: Some advice about journalism in Israel,” to get the full picture? :).

In any case, I’m very excited for these next steps and really appreciate all of your support. Hope you’re doing well, and look forward to seeing many of you in the Bay Area over Thanksgiving!

Courtesy of lovelihood at Creative Commons.

 

Ch-ch-ch-changes

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Courtesy of qthomasbower at Creative Commons

Turn and face the strain, ch-ch-changes…

So yes, I have been going through some ch-ch-ch-changes lately. Which is partly why I’ve been a bit out of touch writing-wise. First, I moved to a new apartment! I basically moved from the less-hip border to the more-hip border of Tel Aviv’s African area. I suppose a little bit of Senegal always stayed with me, :).  This is both exciting because of the location and the fact that my place is a bunch nicer. These days, I’m all about improving my quality of life. Struggling is not as sexy or as sanctimonious as it once was.

The other change is professional. As some of you know, I was hired as a magazine editor for the Jerusalem Post on a maternity leave contract for six months. The woman I replaced is returning to her position in December, which means I am in the midst of finding work. Thankfully, I won’t be completely saying goodbye to the Post: I will keep my blog and will be proofreading part-time as well.

I am trying to take this change as an opportunity in disguise. Over the course of the last year, I have realized my true passion is writing. However, for me this can come in many forms. Much to my surprise, I even enjoyed editing a children’s magazine. So, even if the subject is not 100% my cup of tea, I still enjoy the work because it involves writing and being creative.

This realization also helped me understand that I want to get back into the nonprofit world. Part of why I burned out is because I went into nonprofit work believing my passion would be advocating for an issue. With this logic, it would just take time to figure out what that issue was. However, I was not as inspired by this as I thought I would be. I only found this passion when I began to write for a living.

Now, I am really excited to start consulting nonprofits and social profits on their communications! This would combine my newfound passion for writing and my first love for social justice issues. Considering I am between jobs, this seems like as good a time as any to try being self-employed, which is something I have been thinking about for a while.  Additionally, I hope this will also give me more time to pursue my own journalistic writing. 

So, friends and colleagues, if you know of anyone needing help with research, grant writing, evaluation planning or reporting, press releases, op-eds, website content, and marketing materials, I would be deeply grateful for referrals! I can work global hours and do video chats via Skype or Google Video.

Thank you all for your support throughout my first year in Israel and I look forward to being in touch.

Courtesy of Guy Sharett

Picture of Florentin, my new neighborhood! Courtesy of my friend Guy Sharett

Mom visited Israel during Gilad Shalit’s return

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If it weren’t enough that my Mom visited me for the first time in Israel, she was also here when Gilad Shalit came back to Israel! Her insights as an outsider were very interesting. Read my new Jpost post to see the full story!

Gilad Shalit on the phone with his mother just after being released; Courtesy of Israel Defense Forces

My Israeli Love Story: Part II – At The Airport

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I know it’s been a while since I posted. Oops. It’s holiday season in Israel and I’ve been trying to interact with people in person rather than online. Good for me, bad for writing.

Anyways, here is the second part, titled “My Israeli Love Story: Part II – At The Airport,” in what will be a series of blog entries about Uri and I on my Jpost blog. This weekend was our one year anniversary, and it was amazing for me to reflect about the whole thing. A year and a half ago, when I was doing stand up comedy about my horrific dating life, I would have thought you were crazy to tell me that I’d be writing about a budding romance in the paper. Life is nice and surprising sometimes, :).

Hope everyone’s doing well!

Photo by Hoyasmeg on Creative Commons