An image that shows what my move feels like

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As most of you know by now, I am moving to Ithaca, NY in September. My husband has been offered the opportunity to do a PhD in physics at Cornell – I’m very proud of him and excited to start this new chapter of our life together.

As you can imagine, my emotions are all over the place, particularly now that we’re beginning to pack and say goodbye to people. I think this image best sums up some of what I’m currently going through. (The following image and text first appeared on Instagram.)

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“I have moved a lot in the last 13 years, and have had the privilege to live abroad for a bit more than half of them. My first time living out of the U.S. was in Senegal 11 years ago, when I studied there for my junior year abroad. I still have a few photos (this was before smartphones and at the very beginning of Facebook) and this: this little, Senegalese wicker basket. It’s never served much purpose beyond decoration. Now, as I’m packing up my husband’s and my place as we embark on moving to the U.S., I thought I could pack this little souvenir amidst some sheets. I guess I hadn’t touched it in years – upon contact, the threading started dusting off like flaky wax. Alas – getting to the age where some moments will only be able to live on in my memories. Without that year in Senegal, I’m not sure I would have had the courage to move to Israel.”

I appreciate all your love and support as we embark on this journey and I look forward to being in more touch with many of you.

Tech that matters

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I know that it’s been quite a while since I posted. This year I’ve been working hard at developing Geektime, where I am now managing editor. To get a sense of my writing over the last year, you can simply visit my author page.

In an effort to report on technology that has a real impact beyond selfie apps, I am launching a bi-monthly column called Tech that Matters. Here, “We want to interview companies, teams, and individuals that are doing just that: creating technology that impacts large amounts of people in profound ways. Whether it’s medical technology, social entrepreneurship in low-income communities, or mass transit systems like the Hyperloop, we want to increase the amount of coverage that impactful, meaningful solutions get in tech media.”

Man who just went through brain surgery. Photo Credit: Kevin Stanchfield / Flickr

Man who just went through brain surgery. Photo Credit: Kevin Stanchfield / Flickr

The response so far has been amazing: Lots of great individuals and companies have gotten in contact with us. If you know of anyone or any company doing important work that needs to be written about, please have them email me at laura@geektime.com.

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 a 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.

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.