‘An Insider’s Account’

Ambassador Yehuda Avner (Max613/Wikimedia Commons)

Ambassador Yehuda Avner (Max613/Wikimedia Commons)

Ambassador Yehuda Avner, who served as a chief aide, English language note taker and speechwriter to Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin Menachem Begin and Shimon Peres, published his insider’s account on those experiences in 2010. “The Prime Ministers: An Intimate Narrative of Israeli Leadership” was an instant best seller and received rave reviews from all ends of the political spectrum. The book takes the reader from 1947, when Avner arrived in Palestine from Britain as a boy of 17, through most of Israel’s history. Written in Avner’s very personal and vivid style, key Israeli, American and British leaders come alive. The Academy Award-winning film division of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Moriah Films, produced a two-part documentary based on Avner’s account. Crystal City Entertainment has purchased the rights to a dramatic adaptation of the book to be released in 2014.

On Nov. 17, Baltimore will host an exclusive first look at “The Prime Ministers: The Pioneers.” To buy tickets and for more information, go to baltjc.org/primeministers.

— Baltimore Jewish Council

All Abuzz

The coffee market in Israel woke up last week to a new era with the launch of a new coffee and food chain, Cofix. The coffee shop is kosher and offers costumers food and beverage for only five shekels (less than $1.50). It is only for takeout with no seating or wait staff.

On the menu: coffee, iced coffee, soft drinks, seltzer water, bottled water, cold and hot sandwiches, pastries and fresh juices such as carrot juice and orange juice. The network’s first branch opened on Ibn Gabirol Street in Tel Aviv. If the long lines on Day 1 are any indication, Cofix will be a huge success. More than 2,000 people visited the branch during the first week.

Next year, Cofix is planning to open about 100 more locations throughout the country.
— Roey Tshuva, Baltimore Zionist District

On The Road Again

100413_mishmash_israelBen-Gurion University of the Negev researchers revealed earlier this year that data culled from geosocial networks such as the GPS traffic app Waze can help prevent traffic incidents with better deployment of police resources at the most accident-prone areas.

The paper, “Data Mining Opportunities in Geosocial Networks for Improving Road Safety,” was presented at the IEEE 27th Convention of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in Israel last January.

Waze records location data and enables users to upload and share comments on any detail,
including traffic alerts, accidents and police presence. Using Waze data and Google Earth, the BGU researchers determined that 75 percent of the locations in Israel with the highest number of accidents were intersections. They then analyzed references to a police presence to determine if the police were present at the spots that had the worst traffic accidents.

“There were numerous instances where the police were manning quieter intersections, while busier intersections went unmonitored,” said BGU researcher Michael Fire. “According to the data, police response time varied from 20 minutes to 40 minutes in some situations.”

When can we get this in Baltimore?

Plan A Trip To Israel

092713_mishmash_israelThe leaves have yet to turn, but many Baltimoreans already are planning their winter-break trips to Israel. Besides mild, albeit rainy weather, December is a wonderful time to visit the Jewish state.

In addition to the every-season tourist attractions, there are a number of festivals to enjoy.

Schedule your visit around the Festival of Festivals, held in Haifa each December. The popular event promotes peace, understanding and good relations with one’s neighbors. There are numerous artistic and cultural events celebrating Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

For the more adventurous, sign up for Israel’s largest biking and off-road running event that is held at the lowest place on Earth. The Veolia Desert Challenge runs Dec. 20-21. And don’t forget the Night Spectacular, a 45-minute light-and-sound display using the walls beneath the Tower of David in Jerusalem.

This winter, if you are traveling on Birthright, you can participate in Taglit 12, adding two additional days in Baltimore’s sister city, Ashkelon, for free to volunteer, explore and get to know Israeli peers. For information, contact Sam Konig at skonig@towson.edu.

Who’s A Big Boy?

092013_mishmash_israelIsraeli doctors were shocked last week by the birth of the hospital’s largest baby. The size of the 13-pound, 7-ounce (6.245 kilograms) boy, born at Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa, surprised his mother, too, who was not able to find proper baby pajamas in his size after he was delivered by Caesarean section in the 38th week of pregnancy.

Rambam physicians calculated that the baby at birth was the approximate size and weight of an average 6-month-old infant. Guinness World Records recently reported that a baby weighing 13.49 pounds (6.12 kilograms) was born in Germany in July, and last month, a baby weighing 13.66 pounds (6.2 kilograms) was born in Spain.

“This is the second-largest baby [born at Rambam] in the 35 years that I’ve worked here,” said Shraga Blazer, director of the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit. “Twenty years ago, I delivered a baby that weighed 6.3 kilograms (about 13.9 pounds). But even when I worked in the U.S., I did not see such a thing.”

Mother and baby are being monitored at Rambam.

Stepping Into The Shoes Of The Elderly

The Holon Children’s  Museum of Israel

The Holon Children’s Museum of Israel

The Holon Children’s Museum of Israel is known for its hands-on, multimedia exhibits, such as “Dialogue in the Dark” and “Invitation to Silence,” where visitors experience a 90-minute tour focusing on what it feels like to live with physical impairments, such as vision and auditory deficiencies.

“Dialogue with Time,” a new exhibit geared toward teens ages 14 and up, focuses on allowing visitors to participate in everyday tasks such as unlocking a door with a tremor, scheduling appointments with limited hearing and walking up stairs with bad knees. The museum hopes that the experiences spark thought about being elderly and dialogue about compassion and understanding.

Former Deputy Minister Lea Ness of the Ministry for Senior Citizens in Israel said the exhibit “provides a remarkable educational experience by allowing young people to literally step into the shoes of the elderly and experience what it feels like to age. In so doing, we are able to expand communal awareness and heighten the bond between generations.”

Tel Aviv’s Tallest Tower

090613_mishmash_israelIsrael’s tallest building is going up in central Tel Aviv.

The municipality’s building commission approved the Keren Hakirya complex, which will include an 80-floor skyscraper. Keren Hakirya will be located in the northeast corner of the Kirya, the Israel Defense Forces’ headquarters, and will be comprised of five buildings. Joining the
skyscraper will be two triangular-shaped office buildings and two residential high-rises.

The office buildings have been nicknamed the Toblerone Towers by planners, the Israeli business daily Globes reported, since they are shaped like the delicious Swiss chocolate. The plan calls for up to 770 apartments.


083013_mishmash_israelIt’s time to hit the books! As American students return to school this season, like their Israeli counterparts, they will study world history, math and science.

But there is one subject they won’t have — a subject core to the Israeli curriculum. Shelach, a Hebrew acronym for field (land), nationhood and society, is a hands-on tangible course that teaches Israeli students about their environment — the land in which they live.

Unlike American environment or citizenship courses, which are incorporated into a science or social studies curriculum, Shelach is a dedicated course designed to teach middle and high school students about the Israeli landscape. The curriculum features outdoor field trips, where students tour the country. During these trips, students study Israel’s unique natural environment, from how their water flows from the hills to the identifying features of an olive tree.

This year, The Associated’s Macks Center for Jewish Education brought two shinshinim,18-year-old Israeli emissaries, to Baltimore. Their Shelach course, they said, has helped prepare them to impart their knowledge and instill a love of the land of Israel.

From Bodega Vendor To Business Mogul

Nati Shohat/FLASH90

Nati Shohat/FLASH90

When Rami Levy, a severe dyslexic who failed out of school, took over his grandfather’s store in Jerusalem’s famous Machane Yehuda Market, no one could have imagined that 36 years later he would be worth an estimated $500 million.  Rami’s chain of supermarkets, Rami Levy Chain Stores Hashikma Marketing 2006 Ltd., operates by offering the cheapest prices around Israel.

When the company went public in 2007, Rami caught the attention of industry experts after opening a large store in Haifa forcing nearby supermarket branches to significantly lower their prices. The company’s stock increased by more than 400 percent, which attracted international attention.  This past March, Michael Dell’s investment company, MSD Capital LP, invested 900 million shekels (more than $250 million) into the supermarket chain and wholesale distribution company, acquiring a total of 6.1 percent of the business and making Rami Levy’s stores their first Israeli investment.

Since taking his company public, Rami has acquired factories, founded a cellular telecom branch, invested in Israeli and Bulgarian real estate and started an insurance business.

Record-Setting Shabbat Table?


(istockphoto.com/ lisafx)

The central Israeli city of Bnei Brak set what is believed to be the world’s longest Shabbat table earlier this summer.

At 197 feet long, the table — set with china plates, crystal goblets and silver candlesticks, as well as traditional Shabbat foods — comfortably seats more than 300, Ynet reported.

The municipality, in conjunction with the Bnei Brak-based Coca-Cola Company and the haredi Orthodox advertising agency Meimad, set the table in an attempt to make it into Guinness World Records.

The table is also aiming for the world record for the best-set table.
— Marcy Oster, JTA Wire Service