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!

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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:

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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!