Dog trainer Tamar Geller uses positive reinforcement — not fear — to build confidence. Photo by Janiece Benlty

Celebrities respond as Tamar Geller unleashes puppy love to train dogs

Israeli-born dog trainer Tamar Geller sat in her Bel Air living room surrounded by five well-mannered, tail-wagging canines, including Oliver, her golden retriever, who was mislabeled as aggressive by his previous owners and faced possible euthanasia. Nearby was Katy, her pit bull mix, who once wanted to attack “every male who came to my house,” Geller said, and a German shepherd who had come to her home for a weeklong “training vacation,” during which she will learn doggie “life skills,” as Geller put it.

When a UPS driver rang the doorbell with a delivery, some of the dogs started barking. “Shush,” Geller said. And when the pooches complied: “Good shush,” she told each pooch by name in a joyful voice.

Geller’s longtime client Oprah Winfrey has called her “a life coach for dogs and their people.” The trainer eschews the use of forceful practices in favor of cruelty-free methods. She doesn’t issue commands or use the word “no.”

“A lot of people who call themselves trainers say to the dog, ‘You’re going to shut up, and you’re going to be obedient,’ ” said Geller, 53. “But I don’t care about obedience. I also don’t care about ‘respect.’ Science has shown that dogs’ cognitive development is very much like the human toddler, and I don’t want a child to come to his mother with respect; I want him to come with love and trust. The dog has a story to tell, and it’s my job to [help], because in the process that’s tikkun olam — making the world a better place.”

Rather than using harsh words to curb continuing unwanted behavior, Geller might turn her back on a dog for, say, excessive jumping. For superb behavior, she “makes a party,” which involves praising the dog and offering treats. While initial training might involve lavish goodies, Geller tapers off the treat-giving to once in a while. Random rewards work best to ensure a well-mannered dog, she said, citing the renowned behaviorist B.F. Skinner — the dog behaves well because he never knows when he is going to get lucky.

Geller never set out to become a dog trainer. Rather, she aspired to become a psychologist, in part to understand the abuse she suffered at the hands of her parents while growing up on a moshav in Israel. Her parents often beat her, sending Geller to the hospital more than a few times with a dislocated shoulder.

Her childhood dog, Lori, a dachshund, also was mistreated. “My parents housebroke him by hitting him on the nose with a newspaper,” Geller writes in the first of her three books, the 2007 best-seller “The Loved Dog: The Playful, Nonaggressive Way to Teach Your Dog Good Behavior,” which has a foreword written by Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. “When the poor puppy innocently chewed up my father’s stereo wires one day, he beat the living daylights out of him. … After Lori had been disciplined and shamed, I would take him to my bed and cuddle him to sleep. I now know that my parents trained Lori the way they raised me.”

While later serving as an intelligence officer in the Israeli army’s elite special forces, Geller witnessed the brutal training of dogs for the military. “The idea of breaking an animal’s spirit was popular at the time, and they used what I have come to call ‘Spanish Inquisition’ methods — choke chains, prong collars, hitting, pushing and more,” she writes. And later: “I wanted to scream out, ‘Stop this right now!’ ” But she didn’t yet have any training alternatives to suggest. (The army’s methods have since changed, she said.)

After Geller finished her military service, she decided “to get away from humans for a while.” She headed to a research facility in the Arava Desert, where eventually she began observing the behavior of wild Asian wolves. She was impressed by how the alpha male used games to teach his pack members how to hunt and to behave. Geller eventually would use some of those games, including “chase” and tug of war, to train her own canine clients.

Her professional career with dogs began almost by accident. Geller traveled to Los Angeles in the late 1980s for what was supposed to be just a couple of weeks when she decided to volunteer for a dog trainer. One day, he received a call from a Beverly Hills resident whose pooch kept stealing his socks. The trainer didn’t want to deal with a potentially difficult, wealthy client, so he sent Geller instead, even though her English wasn’t good at the time. 

She diagnosed that the cocker spaniel in question had an attention-seeking issue. “He knew if he stole socks, his owner would drop everything and chase him,” she said. Geller taught the owner to play tug of war and other games with the spaniel, “so he got his needs met in a constructive rather than a disruptive way,” she said. The problem was solved in two days.

The client was the musician Kenny G, and before long he was telling his celebrity friends about Geller. “All of a sudden, Goldie Hawn and a bunch of other famous people were calling me,” she said.

One of those clients, actress Nicollette Sheridan, eventually introduced Geller to Winfrey. When the talk show host adopted three golden retriever puppies, she arranged for Geller to live with her for a month to train them.

Natalie Portman hired Geller to help her pick out her Yorkie from a shelter in Harlem.

For her efforts, Geller has become the resident dog expert for the “Today” show and has earned praise from celebrity clients such as Ellen DeGeneres, Jon Stewart, Ryan Seacrest and Charlize Theron. She has been featured in The New York Times, USA Today and other publications. And People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has collaborated with her to make dog training videos for the organization.   

“While some misguided trainers use yelling, yanking, and abusive devices like shock collars, choke and pinch collars, Tamar uses positive reinforcement to build confidence in dogs, not fear,” PETA Vice President Lisa Lange said in an email.

Geller doesn’t work only with celebrities; anyone can hire her to train their canine, with the fee based on the dog, the owner and the behavioral issue.

Do Geller’s methods merely coddle dogs? “I do not believe that giving love is in any way a negative connotation, particularly in the teaching process,” she said.

“Dogs come from a different culture; they’re foreigners to the human culture,” she added. “We have to teach them our ways, with endless sources of compassion.” 

ADL reports ‘dramatic surge’ in anti-Jewish violence

When a Turkish owner of a cafe near the Belgian city of Liege puts up a poster that welcomes dogs but not Jews, that’s a sign of the times.

And when an on-duty doctor refuses to treat a 90-year-old Jewish woman from Antwerp and refers her to Gaza instead, that, too, is the kind of news that encapsulates a larger reality.

Such incidents, well publicized in the international media, suggest how Muslim immigration has lifted Europe’s post-Holocaust taboos and in turn loosened inhibitions for many educated Europeans. But behind those headline grabbers are countless smaller incidents that, though they seldom makes the news, are very much part of the daily grind of anti-Semitism in Europe and elsewhere.

Some of these less noted incidents appeared in a report published Wednesday by the Anti-Defamation League. Titled “Violence and Vitriol,” the report offers a snapshot of anti-Semitic attacks in Europe and elsewhere in the wake of Israel’s recent operation in Gaza. The report covers incidents in over 15 countries, including Australia, Canada and several Latin American nations.

“There was a dramatic surge in violence against Jews and Jewish institutions around the world during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge,” ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said.

The list — ranging from firebombs hurled at a synagogue in the German city of Wuppertal to the beating of a Moroccan rabbi in Casablanca as retribution for Israel Air Force strikes – aims to “illustrate but do not fully document the hatred of Jews displayed thousands of miles away from Israel and Gaza,” the ADL wrote.

In the United Kingdom that hatred manifested itself in the placing of pro-Palestinian messages on two synagogues, including one that read “child murderers” in Kingston on July 30. Earlier that month in Manchester, anti-Israel protesters returning from a rally drove through Broughton Park while shouting and swearing at Jewish pedestrians with slogans that included “Heil Hitler.”

A pattern “continued and metastasized” during the operation, the ADL wrote. “Hamas fired missiles from Gaza; Israel’s military responded; Jews around the world were attacked, this time in even greater numbers.”

The pattern also included what scholars of anti-Semitism call Holocaust inversion: The portrayal of Israel as equivalent to Nazi Germany. This tendency was prominent in Latin American countries.

In Venezuela, lawmaker Adel El Zabayar claimed on state television on July 14 that relations between international Zionism and Nazism were established long before the creation of the State of Israel, and that a high-ranking official of Hitler’s government had visited Israel to support the creation of the future Jewish state.

And in Chile — where the Jewish community of Santiago received numerous death threats and where an Orthodox Jew was chased on the street and called a murderer —  one protester was seen carrying a sign accusing Israel of being worse than the Nazis, the ADL reported.

Calendar Picks and Clicks: June 29 – July 5, 2013



In Lebanese writer-director Ziad Doueiri’s latest drama, Israeli Arab surgeon Amin has his picture-perfect life in Tel Aviv turned upside down when police inform him that his wife was killed in a suicide bombing at a restaurant — and they believe she was responsible. Convinced of her innocence, Amin abandons the relative security of his adopted homeland and enters the Palestinian territories in pursuit of the truth. Palestinian actor Ali Suliman (“Paradise Now”) and Israeli actress Reymonde Amsellem (“Lebanon”) co-star. Sat. Various times. $11 (general), $8 (children 11 and under, seniors). Laemmle Royal, 11523 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles. Laemmle Playhouse 7, 673 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. (310) 478-3836.



He discovered martial arts sensation Bruce Lee, guided the careers of celebrities like Woody Allen, Joan Rivers and Neil Diamond, and championed the making of the Warner Bros. concert film “Woodstock.” Weintraub, a Hollywood legend you’ve probably never heard of, discusses his memoir, “Bruce Lee, Woodstock and Me,” as part of the Autry exhibition “Jews in the Los Angeles Mosaic.” Sun. 2-4 p.m. Museum admission rates apply: $10 (adults), $6 (students, seniors), $4 (children 3-12), free (children under 3). Autry National Center, Griffith Park, Los Angeles. (323) 667-2000, ext. 326.


Organized by JDate, this singles event for likeminded animal lovers features drinks, games and a bit of shmoozing — and dogs are welcome (leashes required). Tamar Geller, an ex-Israeli intelligence officer-turned-celebrity dog coach, hosts the event. Proceeds benefit Operation Heroes & Hounds, which pairs wounded veterans with shelter dogs. You don’t need to be a JDater or own a dog to attend. Ages 21 and over. Sun. 2-5 p.m. $50. Private Topanga Canyon estate (RSVP to receive address).


“If your world is spinning … put a record on” is the tagline of writer-actor Alex Knox’s solo show in which a Jewish man’s crisis of faith takes him on a journey of self-discovery, which includes stops at untamed beaches on Kauai, sweaty recording studios in Los Angeles and a tiny town in Israel that hides an earthshaking relic. Directed by Becca Wolff. Ages 17 and over. Sun. 2 p.m. $10. The Lounge Theatres, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 469-9988.


In Israeli artist Mordechay’s latest exhibition, mixed-media installations encroach on nearly every surface of the project space, with delicate paper sculptures suspended in intricate wire structures. Sun. Through July 28. 4 p.m. (art show opening). Free (donations welcome). Beyond Baroque, 681 Venice Blvd., Venice. (310) 822-3006.


Journal columnist Dennis Prager and Hugh Hewitt, a pair of outspoken and opinionated radio personalities for whom religion is a favorite topic of discussion, appear in conversation. Hewitt interviews Prager about why Jews keep kosher, why Jews don’t believe the messiah has come and more. Q-and-A session with the speakers follows. Sun. 5-7 p.m. $25-$75. First Church of the Nazarene of Pasadena, 3700 E. Sierra Madre Blvd., Pasadena. (847) 840-5535.



Kibitz, dance and nosh. Organized by the Chai Center, this eighth annual Fourth of July bash features live spinning by DJ Gary; burgers, hot dogs and veggie options; beer and soft drinks; a Jewish astrology table and more. Co-sponsored by JConnectLA and AMIT. Young professionals (ages 21-39) only. ID required. Thu. 2-6 p.m. $13 (advance), $18 (door). Private residence, 602 N. Whittier Drive, Beverly Hills. (323) 639-3255.



Dust off the picnic baskets and pack up the carrots — Bugs is back. This latest world-premiere concert of Warner Bros. cartoons on the big screen — with their exhilarating scores played live — features composer, conductor and show creator George Daugherty and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Expect old favorites “Duck Amuck,” “What’s Opera, Doc?” “The Rabbit of Seville” and “Baton Bunny,” two new 3D theatrical animated shorts and more. Fri. Through July 6. 8 p.m.  $17-$167 (general), free (ages 2 and under). Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 850-2000.

Emergency transport for pets in Israel

When Gaza rockets were raining down on southern and parts of central Israel in November, the staff at Terminal4Pets — located outside of firing range in Maccabim-Reut — told its clients that it would work out the logistics of boarding or evacuating their pets if they suddenly had to leave the country.

The eight-year-old pet travel agency, which shares a building with the clinic that spawned it, the House of Veterinary Doctors, is an Israel-based initiative that enables international travelers, including relocated diplomats and expatriates anywhere in the world, to transport their pets with the minimum amount of trauma to animal and owner.

At the start of the hostilities, Dr. Eytan Kreiner, the veterinarian who heads Terminal4Pets, wrote in a press release: “We understand that people are under a lot of stress and especially foreign diplomats and their families, and we wish to help them any way possible.” He urged people to spread the word that “we are here 24/7 for people and pets during these rough times.” That time, most clients stayed put.

While the agency has helped many owners during times of national or personal emergency, its specialty is providing logistical support for the types of “routine” pet transfers that keep many pet owners up at night worrying.

An airplane flight “is very traumatic for the pet and the owner, whether it’s a diplomat or a student spending a year abroad,” said Ayala Bar, the agency’s head of marketing.

Just as a traditional travel agent advises clients on whether they need a visa or vaccinations, Terminal4Pets helps owners navigate the bureaucratic and complicated process of pet flight and beyond.

When people transfer to another country with a cat or dog, Bar explained, they don’t necessarily know where the nearest clinic is or, as is the case in Israel, they need to register their animal’s microchip information with the Ministry of Agriculture.

The agency, which collaborates with professionals around the world when necessary, advises owners on which vaccinations are required and which ones are advisable, even if not mandatory.

“Their local vet doesn’t understand how difficult it will be for a dog that’s been based in Lapland to adjust here,” Bar said.

Whenever possible, the agency works with pet owners long before the flight.  

“We’ll have a long telephone conversation and ask a lot of details: the [dog’s] breed, its weight, its exact measurements and, especially if it’s a puppy, its kennel size, because the airlines are very strict,” Bar said.

The kennel (in-flight holder) must be large enough to accommodate a pet’s limited movement and include a pet diaper and a blanket.

Because the agency is connected with the clinic downstairs, a newly transferred pet can be assessed as soon as it arrives, if the owner requests it, Bar said.

Although the agency doesn’t board animals, it contracts with two companies that do. That’s especially important for owners who are in a country for a limited amount of time and have no one who can care for their animal for a few days or months at a time.

“Expats and diplomats often don’t have a support system,” Bar said. “Whereas other pet owners might ask their mother to mind their dog for a while, foreigners don’t have that option.”

Sometimes locals need help, too.

When Ziva Ben Shaul’s son, Micki, died suddenly in Florida, she wanted to adopt his cat, Mario. She contacted the agency, which in turn told Micki’s friends what vaccinations and documents the cat would need to fly to Israel.

Today, “Mario is with me,” Ben Shaul said. “His hind legs are paralyzed, but that doesn’t matter. Micki really loved Mario, and it does me good that he’s here with me.” 

Dog ‘Guru’ Justin Silver puts owners on tight leash

When it comes to canines going to the dogs, trainer Justin Silver has seen it all: the pooch whose owner treated it like a baby, complete with diaper changes; the bulldog named Beefy who refused to take a walk unless he was schlepped down the street on a skateboard; the modeling agency owner who brought her fierce terrier mix to work every day, where it tried to attack everyone in sight. When Silver asked her how many times the mutt had bitten people, she replied, “Are you counting blood bites and non-blood bites?”

Training humans, as well as hounds, how to behave in an urban setting is Silver’s focus on CBS’ “Dogs in the City,” which will air its final episode on July 11 (previous episodes are available at It’s the latest take on how-to-fix-Fido shows, following the success of National Geographic’s “The Dog Whisperer With Cesar Millan” and Animal Planet’s “It’s Me or the Dog” with Victoria Stilwell. Silver’s angle is that he’s a guru for the more than 1 million dogs in New York City (there are 78 million dogs in the country) — and that owners are often to blame for canine malfeasance. “A dog’s behavior is shaped by the people in its life,” said Silver, who was raised with Shih Tzus in a Jewish home in Queens. “You’re always communicating to your animals, whether it’s directly or inadvertently, through your behavior.”

Read the rest of this story at Naomi Pfefferman’s blog, The Ticket.

Lawsuit accuses Hebrew National of unkosher practices

A lawsuit filed against Hebrew National alleged that its hot dogs and other products are not actually kosher.

The class-action suit, filed in May in a federal court in Minnesota, accuses ConAgra Foods — the business designation of Hebrew National that is certified kosher by Triangle K — of several transactions that would render the meat being processed as not kosher.

The suit also accuses the company of mistreating its employees, especially its kosher supervisors and slaughterers. The firm AER provides the kosher slaughtering services at Hebrew National facilities in the Midwest.

Employees who complained about the inappropriate actions were fired or transferred, the suit claims.

Among the complaints is that non-kosher meat was packaged and labeled as kosher meat. The complaints also said that the lungs were not inspected well enough for imperfections and that some cows were slaughtered incorrectly.

The suit also alleges that the employees were paid in violation of American tax laws.

Shlomoh Ben-David, the owner of AER Services Inc., denied the charges in an interview with The Failed Messiah website.

The story was first reported last week by the American Jewish World.

TV for dogs reaches prime time

Bark if you love DogTV.

The new made-in-Israel U.S. cable channel is scientifically programmed to keep pooches stimulated, happy and comforted when they’re home alone.

When dogs are left alone, they can get depressed, lose their appetite and their desire to play, says DogTV CEO Gilad Neumann. There are 46 million households with dogs in the United States, encompassing a total of 78.2 million pet canines.

“That’s quite a few potential viewers and many lonely dogs,” he said. “It’s all very scientific, although I know it sounds like a joke. When you dig deeper, you see it’s a serious business.”

Time Warner Cable and Cox Communications began a six-month free trial of the 24-hour digital channel on Feb. 13 for their one million viewers in San Diego. If it is successful, DogTV will be distributed more widely as a subscription-based service, Neumann said.

The concept came from Ron Levi, a New York-born dog lover and chief content officer at Jasmine Group, a private media communications company in Ramat Gan.

At the time, Neumann was CEO of Jasmine TV, one of several subsidiaries of the Jasmine media conglomerate whose July-August Productions recently sold the format for the hit game show “Who’s Still Standing?” to NBC Universal.

“We’re always seeking interesting ideas with an emphasis on international expansion. So when Ron approached me with this idea, I thought it was crazy enough to look into,” Neumann said. He suggested that Jasmine invest some seed money to explore the idea.

Their research revealed that the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Humane Society of the United States all recommend leaving the TV on for dogs home alone, to provide stimulation and keep away stress and depression.

“We combined this with a lot of science on the effects of video on dogs, how they react to TV and what kind of visuals, music and sounds they enjoy,” Neumann said.

He recruited professor Nicholas Dodman of Tufts University’s animal behavior department as DogTV’s program director and chief scientist. Dodman explains on DogTV’s Web site that dogs won’t sit on the couch for hours at a time watching the channel. It’s more like a backdrop with a pleasing soundtrack that they can choose to view as long as they wish.

British trainer Victoria Stilwell, from the Animal Planet series “It’s Me or the Dog,” and Warren Eckstein, an animal rights activist and pet trainer, round out the crew of DogTV experts.

“They added their knowledge to our production experience,” said Neumann, who holds an MBA from Pepperdine University and a law degree from the Israeli College of Management.

As good as the idea was, it couldn’t have been put into action if not for the introduction of LCD television technology. Neumann explains that dogs’ eyes are bothered by the flickering frames on old analog televisions, though humans don’t notice them.

“Now they can see perfectly fine on LCD, but they can only see blue and yellow, so we enhance and recolor the contents for them,” Neumann explained.

As content developer, Levi organized the channel’s programming into three categories: shows meant to relax dogs, shows that stimulate them and shows intended to expose them gently to situations with which they may need to get more comfortable — such as a running vacuum cleaner or street traffic.

“This creates a companionship environment,” Neumann said, “a channel that is fully suitable for dogs. ”

This is hardly the first instance of an Israeli TV show hitting prime time in the United States. “In Treatment,” “Homeland,” “Traffic Light” and “The Ex List” went first. However, it is the first time a programming concept has gone directly from the Israeli drawing board to American TV screens. Neumann hopes DogTV is barking up the right tree.

High-tech poop, gender-separate beach

Here are some recent stories out of Israel that you may have missed.

ID’ing dog poop goes high tech

Petach Tikvah dog owners better watch where their dogs leave their poop—it may be used as evidence against them.

A new law proposed by the City Council would allow city dog inspectors to test the DNA of dog excrement left in the streets and send a ticket to the animal’s owner.

A DNA database would be collected from the dogs’ saliva, likely collected when the pets come in for their yearly rabies shot, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Bibi’s new neighbor—Chabad

Chabad has moved into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Jerusalem neighborhood.

Chabad of Rechavia, serving downtown Jerusalem, moved into a prime location in the Windmill of Rechavia building next to the Kings Hotel and across the street from the prime minister’s official residence.

The new Chabad house, in one of the capital’s most central and busiest locations, will serve Jerusalemites and tourists.

Record-setting stage career

Veteran Israeli actress Helen Meron has qualified for the Guinness World Record for “longest career as a theatrical actress.”

Meron, who at 87 is currently performing in a Cameri Theater play in Tel Aviv, first appeared on stage at the age of 4. She has been nicknamed the “first lady of Israeli theater.”

The Germany native came with her family to Palestine in 1933.

No sex on the beach

Just days after a photo shoot of hundreds of naked Israelis at the Dead Sea, a new gender-separate beach opened.

The $3.4 million project is meant to allow the religiously observant community to enjoy the Dead Sea’s salty waters, Israel Hayom reported. Project leaders have promised that entry to the beach, the first segregated by gender in the area, will be free and stay open all day.

The new beach was built on land owned by the Tamar Regional Council, which expressed its opposition to the Spencer Tunik photo shoot last month.

First female sapper on the job

The Israel Police graduated its first female sapper—Inbal Gawi, 26, graduated from the 10-month bomb disposal course last month and joined the force.

Gawi told Ynet that she decided to become a bomb disposal specialist because she wanted “to do something challenging and different,” as well as to blaze a trail for other women. She previously served as a combat soldier in the Israeli army.

She was trained to defuse bombs, and handle explosives and weapons.

Fountain pen, times four

A set of Israeli quadruplets had a bar mitzvah in Jerusalem.

Benzi, Yosef, Shlomo and Yishai Mizrachi celebrated their bar mitzvah last month with a service at the Western Wall and a huge party at a hall in Jerusalem.

About 500 guests attended the party, according to reports. The boys attend different schools, and each could invite 30 classmates and teachers to the bash, at which they performed religious songs together.

The brothers have seven other siblings, including a set of twins. Their mother told the Jewish Chronicle that she did not undergo any fertility treatments in order to conceive the boys.

Each boy received a set of four species for Sukkot in honor of their quadrupleness.

Salam alaikum: First Arabic cable channel to debut

Israel’s Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council has granted a license to a group of investors to operate an Arabic-language cable and satellite channel.

The channel, which will be launched in January, will be free and available on local satellite and cable company menus. The Hala TV group, which received the license to operate the channel, has been working on pilot episodes of a children’s show, news programs and lifestyle shows.

Hala TV includes Arab and Jewish partners.

Two previous attempts to set up a permanent Arabic-language channel on Israeli TV fell through.

The poop on diaper prices, plenty of pooches and millionaires

Here are some recent stories out of Israel that you may have missed.

Diaper wars

The cottage cheese wars in Israel may be over, but the diaper war is heating up.

Major Israeli supermarket chains have cut the price of Huggies brand diapers imported from Turkey in an effort to lure customers back to their stores. The diapers are reportedly not as effective as the Huggies Freedom diapers made in the United States.

The Turkey diapers are being sold at about 30 percent less than they had been, with the reductions continuing as major supermarket chains vie to offer the diapers at the cheapest price.

Meanwhile, several new studies are reporting that food in Israel costs more than 12 percent more in Israel than in Europe. And a study by the Knesset Research and Information Center found that food prices in Israel have risen at a rate alarmingly higher than in Europe and the United States.

In the past six years, food costs in Israel grew by more than 12 percent, while prices in 17 member states of the European Union increased by an average of 1.1 percent, the Israeli business daily Globes reported.

At the same time, a poll conducted by the Public Trust consumer organization in conjunction with Nielsen found that yogurt is 34 percent more expensive in Israel than in the United States, Britain and Australia.

Israeli dairy companies argue that raw milk prices are higher in Israel and the Value Added Tax adds greatly to the cost of dairy products.

Israelis love man’s best friend

Israel, it seems, is going to the dogs.

More than 387,200 are listed on the National Dog Register in the Agriculture Ministry, with some 50,768 new dogs registered in 2010 and the first half of 2011.

Lady is the most popular name for females, with 3,098 bearing that moniker, and Lucky rates for males, with 2,734 having the name.

Israelis like their dogs purebred, and the most popular is the Labrador Retriever with 20,490 registered. The rest of the top five: the Pinscher, German Shepherd, Pekingese and Golden Retriever.

Tel Aviv leads all Israeli cities in dogs registered, followed by Jerusalem and Haifa. Some 40,650 owners have more than one dog.

Who wants to be a millionaire? Many are in Israel

The number of Israeli millionaires rose by more than 20 percent last year, according to the recently released Merrill Lynch-Capgemini World Wealth Report.

The 10,153 Israeli millionaires in 2010 were worth about $52 billion, according to the report.

Around the world, the number of millionaires grew in 2010 by 8.3 percent, for a total of 10.9 million millionaires—defined as those with at least $1 million in liquid funds excluding their year-round home.

There were 99 Israeli multimillionaires—those worth more than $30 million, excluding debts.

Israel had the third highest rate of increase of millionaires after Hong Kong, at a rate of 104 percent, and India, at 51 percent.

Hold the (Shabbat) phone

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will now be able to reach his Sabbath-observant aides by phone if an emergency arises on Shabbat.

Netanyahu’s office, which employs the highest number of religious workers since Israel was established, according to Ynet, recently purchased 12 special Shabbat phones for its workers.

The phones, which cost about $330 each, use special technology to ensure that pressing buttons as well as answering them and hanging up do not automatically trigger an electrical current.

The Shabbat phone user acts only in an indirect way, which is permitted on Shabbat for essential activities, even if they do not involve a mortal threat, according to the Tzomet Institute, which invented the Shabbat phone. .

Some Sabbath-observing Mossad and Shin Bet security service members also have the special phones.

Shalom from Paul Simon

American singer-songwriter Paul Simon has spoken to his Israeli fans, even before landing in the country for his July 21 concert.

“Shalom, this is Paul Simon,” the singer said in a specially recorded message released on several Israeli news websites in early July. “I’m looking forward to seeing all of you on the 21st of July at the Ramat Gan stadium. See you soon!”

The greeting was in sharp contrast to Bob Dylan, the iconic Jewish singer who performed an entire concert recently without so much as a “Shalom” to his audience.

Standing-room only tickets for Simon’s concert reportedly have been limited to two per purchase in order to accommodate the demand from fans.

New day of rest?

Israelis are ready to add a second day of rest to their weekly schedule—Sundays.

Following a protracted political debate, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has established a committee to examine the pros and cons of moving the weekend from half a day on Friday and Saturday to Saturday and Sunday. Netanyahu’s chief economist, Eugene Kandel, is the chairman of the new committee, which no doubt will spend plenty of time examining how the move will affect economic productivity in the Jewish state.

The committee was formed after two Likud lawmakers, Ze’ev Elkin and Yariv Levin, submitted private member bills to make Sunday a weekend day. The concept was also championed by Natan Sharansky when he was part of the government.

The idea of changing the weekend from Friday-Saturday to Saturday-Sunday has angered the Arab community, which comprises approximately 20 percent of the population, since Friday is the Muslim Sabbath. Orthodox Jewish Israelis see it as an opportunity to take advantage of cultural activities and shopping, since they are unable to do that on Shabbat.

Kidney swap saves three lives

A “domino triple kidney-pair exchange” was performed at an Israeli hospital, the first of its kind in the country.

Under the exchange, unrelated donors offer their kidneys to others and in exchange receive a kidney for their loved ones.

Nine surgeons, five anesthesiologists, dozens of nurses, blood bank workers and other hospital personnel participated in the successful transplants at the Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus in Petach Tikvah earlier this month, The Jerusalem Post reported. 

The three pairs of donors and recipients met for the first time at the hospital just days before the operations

Facelift for a Tel Aviv fountain

The Yaacov Agam fountain in Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Square is slated for a facelift at a cost of nearly $600,000.

The work reportedly will restore the iconic “Fire and Water” fountain to its original condition, Haaretz reported.

Once the renovation is completed, the municipality has promised to resume the fire, water and music productions that came to be associated with the fountain.

Tel Aviv last year accepted responsibility for the cost of the renovations.

Agam and the municipality had staged a nine-year legal battle over the work. The artist demanded that the fountain be restored to its original state, with Tel Aviv picking up the tab, and the city countering that the renovations were the responsibility of the artist.

Agam donated the fountain to the city in 1986.

The fountain is scheduled to be repainted and reinforced, as well as to have repair work performed on its pumps, motor, lighting and electrical parts.

Citizen Canine

Stephanie Poretz brings Sasha, her 13-year-old cockerspaniel, to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center twice a week. Mark Ferber comes in withhis beagle Miss Daisy. Beverly Byer brings down Brailley, her black lab who wasrejected from guide dog school because of her bad hips.

Since 1995, Jewish professionals have participated theirpets in POOCH, an acronym for Pets Offering Ongoing Care and Healing. TheCedars-Sinai program allows affectionate dogs to spend time cheering up sickand terminally ill patients.

“It’s very healing having a dog give you unconditionallove,” said Barbara Cowen, who coordinates POOCH with Sandra Colson and Terri Lukomski.”When the dog comes into the room, there’s a lot of physical and emotionalbenefits. It’s really healing for everybody involved, including the staff.”

Originally launched in Cedars-Sinai’s AIDS unit, POOCH nowfans out its four-legged friends to the cardiology and pediatric wards and the Thalians Mental Health Center. The dogs undergo an extensive screening process, and specialcare goes into making sure that the canines do not harbor germs.

“Dogs are bathed 24 hours before they come,” Cowen said,”and they have stool sample checks twice a year.”

For two years, Meagan Panzer has brought down Cosmo, her7-year-old Bijon.

“It’s an absolutely wonderful program,” Panzer said. “Youbecome an instant friend of whomever it is you’re introduced to. You’re nottalking about the illness, you’re bonding with them over dogs.”

She recalls one time when “a woman saw me in the hallway andbegged me to see her father in the Intensive Care Unit. He had had a terriblenight. They couldn’t calm him down. The minute he saw Cosmo, you saw his wholebody relax. He fell asleep with my dog [sleeping] in his arms. The familycouldn’t have thanked me more.”

Cosmo loves his tikkun olam work. But even for the dogs, theexperience can be emotionally draining.

“He’s actually exhausted afterward,” Panzer said. “Cosmocomes home and takes a really long nap.”

To learn more about POOCH, contact Barbara Cowen at (310)423-2749.

The Sixth Sense in Security

Even though we’ve just crossed the first anniversary mark of Sept. 11 without incident, security specialist Dennis Kennedy does not think America should relax just yet.

"I believe that everything we see happening in Jerusalem will happen in Los Angeles in the near future," he said.

Kennedy and his company, Security Operations Group, have fought the war on terrorism by training private citizens, bodyguards and security personnel in counterterrorism and self-defense. Now the Huntington Beach-based group has discovered "da bomb": bomb-sniffing dogs.

"We decided after Sept. 11 that bomb-detecting dogs would be a logical addition to our business," said Kennedy, who counts private corporations, military personnel and movie studios among his canine-carrying clients.

Over a three- to six-month period, Kennedy trains the dogs to detect a roster of red flags, including firearms, ammonium nitrates, plastic explosives, TNT-based explosives and black powders used in pipe bombs. Passive hunting dogs, such as retrievers and border collies, make the best bomb-sniffers, he said.

"They sit down when they find a bomb," Kennedy said. "It’s really a game to a dog. We use affection and reward to teach the dog to recognize the smell of various kinds of explosives."

As simple as it sounds, in the battle between nature and technology, nature has the upper hand in counterterrorist sophistication.

"Bomb dogs are the single most effective tool that in detecting explosives," Kennedy said. "They have a success rate in the high 90th percentile. Electronic detectors, such as a handheld device that goes for a few thousand dollars, fall in the 40th percentile."

As a security expert and U.S. Army veteran who trained dogs while serving his country, Kennedy doesn’t pull any punches in his assessment of where we’ve come in the past year.

"I think that virtually nothing has happened," Kennedy said. "Our pilots are not armed. There are very few sky marshals aboard. Most are poorly trained. Airport screening is not working. And we’re not taking any proactive steps anywhere — not at theaters, not at malls. "To me, it seems like Americans are sitting on their hands waiting to see what the terrorists are going to do next."

Kennedy believes that America does not have to go far to take the basic steps of counterterrorism prudence.

"The Americans have learned little from the Israeli model," Kennedy added, "which is the most effective counterterrorist model in the world. We don’t need to spend millions of dollars. All we have to do is follow the Israeli model."