Israeli security inspects some Arab visitors email accounts

Israel has begun inspecting emails of some Arab visitors and expelling those visitors who are deemed a threat to the country.

Israel airport security officials are asking these visitors to log on to their email accounts so officials may conduct a security search for any incriminating activities, according to The Associated Press.

The inspections have targeted Arab visitors in an effort to root out any individuals with histories of pro-Palestinian activism.

At least three Arab-American women have been expelled in recent weeks after their email accounts were searched, according to the AP.

The report indicates that Israel has become stricter in its security policies following clashes with international activists who continue to attempt to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Israel has used social media to identify and prevent activists from boarding flights to Israel.

Jerusalem, Tel Aviv on new Google project

Jerusalem’s Old City and parts of historic Tel Aviv are featured in Google’s new “World Wonders Project,” although Jerusalem is not included under the Israel category.

The project allows visitors to take a virtual tour of the 132 historic and heritage sites from 18 countries and is presented in six languages including English and Hebrew.

The Asia category includes Israel, Japan and Jerusalem. “White City of Tel Aviv” is under the Israel category. Jerusalem, in its own category separate from Israel, is made up of views of the Old City, including the Western Wall.

The project was launched May 31 and uses Street View, 3D modeling and other Google technologies. Partners in the project include UNESCO and the World Monuments Fund.

Americans, Israelis jointly developed computer virus

The National Security Agency and a secret Israeli military unit jointly developed a complex computer worm that attacked equipment in Iranian nuclear installations.

The cooperation—which began in the Bush administration and was accelerated by the Obama White House—may have been part of an American effort to dissuade Israel from launching a preemptive military strike on Iranian nuclear installations, The New York Times reported.

Israel’s Unit 8200 worked with the NSA to develop what Americans called “the bug,” according to the Times report. To do so, the teams built replicas of Iranian centrifuges using equipment that had been provided by Libya’s Gadhafi regime when it revealed its nuclear program to international inspectors in 2003.

After successful tests, “spies and unwitting accomplices” with access to the Iranian plant at Natanz infected computers there with thumb drives, the newspaper reported.

Many western countries believe the Iranians are using what they say is a civilian nuclear energy program to mask an effort to make their own nuclear weapons.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that Israel should be “wiped off the map.”

His country has dragged out negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency for inspections of its sites.

Israeli officials repeatedly have pressed the United States and other western countries to halt the Iranian program and are widely believed to have prepared military strike plans against Iranian nuclear sites.

President Obama has said that he has not ruled out any options when it comes to halting the suspected Iranian weapons program.

Rabbinical court fines man for being unfaithful on Facebook

A woman reportedly proved to an Israeli rabbinical court that her husband was unfaithful by showing it correspondence between him and other women on Facebook.

The court awarded the woman damages from her husband of about $40,000, Ynet reported. It did not identify where the couple was from or when the decision was reached.

The couple, in their 30s, met on a dating website and ultimately married. Six months after they were married, the woman found that her husband was corresponding with other women on Facebook and on dating websites, according to Ynet.

The woman told the rabbinical court that her husband doomed the marriage.

The court agreed with her and ordered her husband to pay a divorce settlement.

For haredi Orthodox, Internet threat harkens back to the Enlightenment

To the outside observer, the Charedi Orthodox anti-Internet rally at New York’s Citi Field may have looked uniform: a single mass of black hats, white shirts and brown beards.

But the crowd at the May 20 event was far from homogeneous.

Yiddish speakers sat next to Anglophones. Chasidim from Brooklyn mixed with “yeshivish” Charedim (non-Chasidic) from Lakewood, N.J. Bobov Chasidim cheered along with Satmars. These groups, while similar in many ways, usually stay within their own communities.

But it’s hardly the first time the Charedi community has faced a threat from the outside world.

As speaker after speaker at the rally made clear, the Internet is the latest in a series of threats dating back to the Jewish Enlightenment, or Haskalah, which first opened up a path for Jews to leave tradition for the secular world.

“Just as they fought tooth and nail against the Haskalah, they’re fighting again against this,” said Samuel Heilman, a professor of sociology at the City University of New York who studies Charedi communities. “They live in a singular world. They’ve tried to keep all the doorways locked from the inside, but you can only lock something from the inside if the people are willing to keep it locked.”

Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman and others made clear at the rally that they view the Internet as a profound challenge to the Charedi way of life.

“This issue is the test of the generation that threatens all of us,” Wachsman, a Charedi lecturer, said. “Your strength at this gathering will determine what we look like a few years from now.”

At the same time, the Internet has become a necessity for many, if not most, Charedim: They use it to conduct business, communicate with each other and even to promote Jewish observance.

“In the sense that they have already used the Internet to spread their message far beyond the local community, the Internet has been good for them as well,” Heilman said. “They’re going to use it, going to say that the end justifies the means.”

The late Lubavitcher rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, famously embraced technology as a means of spreading the faith. The Chabad-Lubavitch movement, which did not officially participate in the rally, was an early adapter to the Internet age and has used online tools to spread its message.

“Everything God created in this world could be used for good or the opposite,” said Rabbi Zalman Shmotkin, director of “It’s our responsibility to channel the enormous powers of technology in a positive manner.”

But the Internet’s dangers — not just pornography and the window it provides into the secular world, but even its potential for distraction — present the Charedi lifestyle with the challenge of how to use it for good while keeping out the bad.

The Charedi community is not alone in this struggle.

Jason Miller, a Conservative rabbi who maintains an active Web presence, said the Internet challenges anyone who cares about ethics.

“To some extent, we all need to have the Internet moderated for us,” Miller said. “Beyond modesty, there’s content that I don’t think is healthy or beneficial for individuals to see or read.”

Adrianne Jeffries, a female blogger who sneaked into the rally disguised as a man, wrote that although not Charedi, she found herself agreeing with some of the speakers’ points at the rally.

“There wasn’t much I could quibble with in the speech,” wrote Jeffries, who blogs for BetaBeat, a technology blog associated with The New York Observer. “The Internet is about instant gratification? It’s ‘fleeting and empty’? It causes us to waste productive hours? It threatens the preservation of isolated communities with strong traditions, such as the ultra-Orthodox Jews? Well, yes, but …”

For a community whose survival depends in part on maintaining its isolation, the Internet can be particularly pernicious.

“Jews should separate themselves from the general community,” Rabbi Yechiel Meir Katz, the Dzibo rebbe, said at the rally. “The great rabbis have done so in order to safeguard future generations.”

Even as he delivered his speech — in Yiddish that ran with English subtitles on Citi Field’s JumboTron — many in the crowd could be seen thumbing their BlackBerrys or iPhones.

“The battle against the Haskalah they lost,” Heilman said. “It’s clear that they’ve lost this one already.”

Alan Mittleman, a professor of Jewish thought at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary, said that on the contrary, the Charedim are winning the battle against the Internet just as they survived the Haskalah.

“It’s a problem that they’ve already solved,” he said of the Internet. “It’s more powerful and invasive, a new kind of threat, but it’s the same kind of thing.”

Haredim fill N.Y. stadium to decry Internet’s dangers

The sellout crowd that filled the New York Mets’ Citi Field on Sunday night wore black and white, not the Mets’ blue and orange.

And instead of jeering the Philadelphia Phillies or Atlanta Braves, they faced a foe that was, to hear them talk about it, far more formidable: the World Wide Web.

“The internet even with a filter is a minefield of immorality,” said Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman, a haredi lecturer. “This issue is the test of the generation. Your strength at this gathering will determine what Judaism will look like a few years from now.”

The rally to caution haredi Orthodox Jews about the dangers of the Internet drew an audience of more than 40,000 men to the stadium, most of them wearing black hats. The group organizing the rally, Ichud HaKehillos LeTohar HaMachane, or Union of Communities for Purity of the Camp, barred women from attending—consummate with the haredi practice of separating the sexes.

In Yiddish and English speeches, rabbis from haredi communities in the United States, Canada and Israel decried the access that the Internet gives haredim to the world outside the haredi community. Speakers called the Internet “impure,” a threat to modesty and compared it to chametz, or leavened bread, on Passover.

Almost no rabbi addressed pornography directly—which traditional Jewish law prohibits. Several speakers also lamented the Internet’s potential to distract men from learning Torah.

To a man, each of the rabbis who spoke said that Jewish law forbids Jews from browsing the Internet without a filter that blocks inappropriate sites. The speeches in Yiddish were broadcast with English subtitles on the stadium’s JumboTron.

Rabbi Yechiel Meir Katz, known as the Dzibo rav, compared the threat of the Internet to the dangers that Zionism and the European Enlightenment posed in the past to traditional Jewish life.

“A terrible test has been sent to us that has inflicted so much terrible damage” on haredim, Katz said. The Internet poses a greater threat to haredim than secularism did, he said, because “in previous challenges we knew who the enemy was. Today, however, the challenge is disguised and not discernible to the naked eye.”

The crowd ranged in age from small children to senior citizens. One participant, Yitzchak Weinberger, said that although the speakers focused on the problem of the Internet rather than on solutions to that problem, the event was “inspiring.”

“This is a beginning,” said Weinberger, 43. “They’re coming to raise awareness. Every situation is different, everyone requires some filter.”

While haredim must limit their internet access, “you can’t not use it,” he added.

About 50 people protested the event across the street from the stadium. Many of the protesters came from Footsteps, a local organization that helps people who leave haredi Orthodox life to integrate into non-haredi society. In particular, they complained that Ichud HaKehillos invested money in the rally rather than in preventing child molestation in the haredi community.

“Their priorities are messed up,” said Ari Mandel, a former haredi. “Not only do they ignore child molestation, but they intimidate victims. If your house is on fire, you don’t worry about leaking pipes.”

The rally came after a series of reports in the N.Y. Jewish Week, the Forward and The New York Times about haredi intimidation of victims of sexual abuse who have gone to the police to report their haredi tormentors.

Google donating N.Y. office space to Cornell-Technion school

Google will donate office space to the new applied science graduate school of Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

Google CEO Larry Page and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the partnership Monday at a news conference at the company’s New York headquarters. Officials from Cornell and the Haifa-based Technion were on hand.

The high-tech firm will be providing 22,000 square feet of space in a temporary arrangement designed to help the school fulfill its promise of beginning classes this fall.

The CornellNYC Tech school, which was announced last December 2011, was the winning bid in an initiative announced by Bloomberg 18 months ago—also at Google headquarters—to foster collaboration between the public and private sectors here. The joint venture between Cornell and the Technion beat a bid by Stanford University, the alma mater of Page and Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

“This is a major step towards the fulfillment of Mayor Bloomberg’s vision to seed the city with entrepreneurs and start-ups,” said Technion president Peretz Lavie.

Citing Google, The New York Times reported that Cornell will be responsible for most of the costs of operating in the Google building and that the program has to be out by the fall of 2017, when the school’s state-of-the-art Roosevelt Island campus is scheduled to open.

Bloomberg noted in the news conference that New York University, IBM and Cisco are partnering on a similar initiative in Brooklyn.

Facebook IPO: Good for the Jews?

If the Talmud were written today, would it look like Facebook?

First, the rabbis of the Mishnaic period post a Jewish legal rule. Then, Talmudic sages weigh in with their comments, all pithy and lacking punctuation. Almost immediately, the comments grow far longer than the original post. Eventually, outside links to the Shulchan Aruch and Maimonides’ compendium of Jewish law appear on the right side.

It may sound too cute by half, but if you look closely, the Talmud and Facebook actually share similar layout.

They also share a few basic ideas about commentary and community. The Talmud enabled scholars who lived in different times and different places to argue with each other, creating a virtual community. Facebook allows people who live in different places and may not know each other to do the same.

“Every piece of information that’s offered opens up the opportunity for commentary, for amplification—whether it’s a link from The New York Times or something that happened to you at the Israeli Interior Ministry or an idea that you simply want to express.” said Esther Kustanowitz, a Jewish social media expert who works part time for the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. “And Facebook doesn’t just amplify the message, it expands the conversation.”

On the eve of Facebook’s initial public offering, scheduled for Friday, Jews—like everyone else—are still figuring out how Facebook can serve their personal or professional needs.

What started out in a college dorm room in 2003 as a way for Harvard students to rate women’s comparative “hotness” (it was then called has morphed into a medium for more than 900 million people worldwide to communicate with each other, rally support or opposition, publicize news, make money, flirt and fulminate in ways both profound and mundane about the million and one things happening at any given moment.

For a few in the Jewish community, Facebook’s IPO raises the $64,000 question—or in this case, the $64 billion question—of how much of that newly created wealth will go to Jewish causes. The jury’s still out on whether Facebook’s Jewish creator, Mark Zuckerberg, will turn into a major Jewish giver following the IPO, when the just-turned 28-year-old figures to become one of the richest people in the world.

But the real story of Facebook’s impact on the Jewish world ultimately is likely to be more about the ways it is prompting Jews to change the way they think, behave, organize, and even mourn and celebrate than it will be about Zuckerberg’s tzedakah.

Facebook helped thousands of Israelis coordinate last summer’s socioeconomic protests, the biggest in Israel’s history. The site helped J Street turn from a fledgling, little-known upstart into a broad-based, left-wing alternative to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Most Jewish community institutions, however, haven’t yet figured out how to maximize the potential of Facebook, according to Lisa Colton, president of Darim Online, a Virginia-based company that helps Jewish organizations adapt to the digital age.

Partly, Colton says, that’s because Facebook is inherently threatening to institutions.

“Facebook is about people more than it is about institutions. It supports individuals connecting with and learning from each other,” she said. “It’s a wonderful way for individuals to circumvent institutions.”

Facebook enables Jews to construct communities organized around areas of interest rather than geography, religious denomination or institution.

When Hindy Poupko Galena and her husband, Seth, began using Facebook to update friends and family about their year-old daughter’s fight against a rare bone marrow disease, a community of sympathizers quickly emerged that included thousands of people who had never met the toddler, Ayelet.

Strangers reached out to the Galenas—members of the Modern Orthodox community on Manhattan’s Upper West Side—not just with messages but with care packages.

“It allowed people to connect with what was going on on a very deep and real level,” Hindy said. “So many people came out of the woodwork and emailed me and said, ‘I had a sick kid and never told anyone about it, but I now feel that I can tell people about it.’ ”

Even now, months after Ayelet’s death in January at age 2, the Facebook-based community, which they call Ayelet Nation, serves as a source of sympathy for the Galenas.

“For a girl who only lived two years, it’s very comforting to know that people know her name, and I think that was only possible because of Facebook,” Hindy said.

Whereas many Jewish institutions define their community by who’s inside and who’s out—synagogues, JCCs and the Israeli Rabbinate, to name just a few—Facebook offers an opportunity for Jewish community with no bounds.

“It can take Jewish leaders off their pedestals and get them to interact with real people and real life in a multidimensional way,” said William Daroff, the director of the Washington office of the Jewish Federations of North America who has more than 3,000 “friends” on the social networking website. “And it’s not just about the Jewish world, but a place for us to talk about our kids and our dogs and the games we like to play and who we really are.”

As Facebook evolves, the Jewish communities it enables will change, too.

“I think it really is analogous to having phone lines, which later enabled faxes and early Internet,” Colton said. “With Facebook, it’s not about what we see and use today, it’s about what its foundations and widespread adoption make possible in the future.”

(Follow the author on Facebook at

Web site launched to counter calls to boycott Israeli goods

Israeli businessmen have launched a Web site to help counter calls to boycott products made in Israel.

The campaign, called Shop-A-Fada—a play on the word of the violent Palestinian uprising, the intifada, was launched Monday. It encourages the public to counter anti-Israel boycotts with the purchase of merchandise manufactured in Israel.

Shop-A-Fada was developed by a team of Israelis who own and operate the Web site, an online clearinghouse of more than 8,000 Israeli gifts and Judaica manufactured by 120 Israeli companies.

The campaign is intended to “Fight back against those who think that they’ll be able to destroy Israel by waging economic warfare,” said Israeli sports star Tal Brody, who serves as honorary chairman for the initiative.

“The time has come to show our enemies that as resolved as they are to practice hate against us, we’re equally committed to come out in unwavering solidarity for Israel,” Brody said in a statement.

For the next month, 5 percent of all sales will be donated to American Friends of Magen David Adom.

Arik Barel, CEO of, said the economic toll exacted on Israel by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is “by no means negligible, and we wanted to respond on behalf of the business community before the damage is irreversible.”

Last month, a major British supermarket chain announced that it would halt trade with Israeli companies that export goods manufactured in the West Bank, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Israeli exporters.

Israeli green tech highlighted at Milken Institute Global Conference

Israeli scientists and the entrepreneurs who bring their innovations to market have accomplished some remarkable feats during the Jewish state’s 64 years. Israel has long had dairy farms, despite not having any pastureland. Today, thanks to drip-irrigation technology, its desert regions produce quality wine.

These and other eco-friendly innovations from Israel were discussed at a panel on May 1 at the 15th annual Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills.

One of many sessions coordinated by the Milken Institute’s Israel Center, the panelists, including a representative from the Israeli prime minister’s office, a venture capitalist who invests in Israeli green technology, a researcher with the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture and the CEO of a company developing cutting-edge seed technology, discussed, among other subjects, role a government should take in supporting the development of innovative technology.

Panelist Glen Schwaber, an American-born, Harvard-educated partner at Israel Cleantech Ventures, said that his company, which has managed a $75 million fund that invests in Israeli companies pursuing ecological innovation since 2007 and is now recruiting investors for a second $100 million fund, has backed about 50 different companies in that time.

One of the major drivers of Israeli innovation, Schwaber said, is a program run through the office of the chief scientist at Israel’s ministry of industry and trade that offers Israeli green tech startups significant non-equity funding to help get them off the ground.

Hoop, there it is! Milken’s robotics team scores big

When “Sir Lancebot,” the motorized basketball-playing robot built by the Milken Community High School’s robotics team, made its debut appearance at a regional competition in San Diego in early March, the results were not encouraging.

The team, officially called the Milken Knights, but more often identified as team No. 1856, spent the competition’s first day frantically working to make the robot run and the entire second morning stripping it down to comply with the 120-pound weight limit. When Lancebot finally made it onto the field on a Saturday afternoon, it instantly crashed into another machine, shattering its own electronic board. By the end of the third and final day, the repaired Milken robot had managed to score just one point.

“It was kind of a disappointment in San Diego, but nobody just gave up,” Jonathan Zur, an 11th-grader and the team’s co-captain, said. “We all knew we could do better.”

Two weeks la-ter, at a regional competition in Long Beach, they did just that. The team’s 22 middle- and high-school students earned Lancebot a second-place finish, the best result for the Milken team in its six years of entering the competition.

The mission of the program known as FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), in the words of founder Dean Kamen, is “to transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders.” The nonprofit organization has been holding international competitions for robots designed and built by high school students for the past 21 years, and at the Milken campus on a Friday afternoon in late April, its transformative power was evident.

Even while 400 other robotics teams from around the world were participating in the championship round of the FIRST Robotics Competition in St. Louis — which the Milken Knights came close to, but did not qualify for — a few members of the team were still only too happy to demonstrate their robot’s abilities.

“We’re running a special drive-train called West Coast Drive, which has six wheels, and the center wheel is lowered so the whole robot can tip back and forth,” Michael Bick, an eighth-grader, said. “You have a smaller wheel base, and so that allows you to turn more efficiently.”

Lancebot is powered by a battery about half the size of that of a typical car, and it includes mechanical and pneumatic as well as electronic parts. Like all of this year’s robotic entries, the Milken machine had to be able to maneuver around a field about half the size of a regulation basketball court on which it had to launch small, foam basketballs through one of four hoops mounted at the ends of the court and retrieve those balls either from the floor or from the human operators standing at the court’s edges.

In essence, the robot had to be able to play basketball. But if that task appears straightforward, designing and building a robot to do those things is anything but.

“There’s a lot of student enthusiasm, and they’re doing high-level stuff here,” Roger Kassebaum, director of the Mitchell Academy of Science and Technology at Milken and the robotics team’s mentor, said.

This year, for the first time, the Milken robot was designed entirely on a computer before fabrication even began. Bick did all the computer-aided design, or CAD, using a computer that was built by fellow teammate Josh Rusheen, who is in the 11th grade.

And the student work isn’t exclusively technological.

In competition, three robots, each from a different team, compete together, so their makers have to learn how to cooperate with people they’ve just met. And because fielding a robotics team can be expensive — on top of teacher salaries, Kassebaum estimated that the program costs about $20,000 annually to run — fundraising and developing partnerships with local businesses and corporate sponsors is also important.

“This year, we made a brochure and launched a more developed version of our Web site,” said Milana Bochkur Dratver, one of two female members of the team. Dratver, who started on the team last year, when she was in ninth grade, mostly focuses on public relations for the team.

On the field, she said, one major reason for Team 1836’s success was Lancebot’s performance in the first 15 seconds of each match, when all robots have to act independently, without any human guidance.

“Our programmer, Daniel Kessler — this was his very first year,” Dratver said. “He’s a ninth-grader, and he was able to program our autonomous round. It was very successful.”

Baskets scored during the autonomous period are worth significantly more than baskets scored during the remaining two minutes of each match, when drivers control the robot.

Milken’s robotics team has become a selling point for prospective students.

“I was considering either Milken or Harvard-Westlake,” said Austin Shalit, an eighth-grader and the team’s pneumatics captain. “I came here because I was very drawn by the robotics and science research. That’s what really made the decision for me.”

“The robotics team is absolutely why both of my kids came here,” said Hal Schloss, a former software developer who acts as the software and Web site mentor for the team. His son and daughter, now both in college studying computer science and aerospace engineering, both served as captains of the robotics team at Milken.

Schloss, who has, with his wife, provided Shabbat meals for the team during competitions for at least the last three years, said Shabbat observance can be difficult, particularly for Orthodox Jews like himself. As for his children, when they competed, Schloss said, “I didn’t look too hard. They did more than I would’ve liked.”

Kassebaum said he doesn’t know of any other Jewish day schools in the United States that field robotics teams in the FIRST competition. In Israel, where competitions are not held on Shabbat, it’s a different story.

“There’s a Tel Aviv regional,” Kassebaum said, and the Milken team competed there in 2010. “We ended up being finalists.”

With an eye on Twitter, StandWithUs releases app for pre-fab pro-Israel messages

To celebrate the 64th anniversary of Israel’s founding, StandWithUs released a new social media application that the pro-Israel educational nonprofit hopes will help expand its impact on Twitter and Facebook.

ShareIsrael, an app designed for iPhones, iPads and devices running the Android operating system, is intended to promote pro-Israel messages in the social media landscape. Using the new app, people can take readymade messages and like them on Facebook or post them to Twitter.

Critics of Israel often use social networking outlets to spread their messages, StandWithUs Israel Director Michael Dickson said, and the group hoped its new app would help counterbalance those critical messages with supportive ones.

“They are able to get their tags to trend,” Dickson said of Israel’s online critics. “That’s something that we certainly want to counterbalance.”

The ShareIsrael app, which was developed by StandWithUs with two Israeli web developers, Omri Ariav and Alon Carmel, allows users to distribute prefabricated messages through email as well as Facebook and Twitter. Of the three portals, Dickson said, Twitter is the preferred one because that’s where the conversation about political matters and current events takes place today.

In 2010, when Israel Defense Forces soldiers raided the Turkish flotilla bound for Gaza and killed a number of those on board, Twitter guided the conversation, but only somewhat. Today, Dickson said, its influence has grown.

“Journalists are as in tune with what’s going on in their Twitter feeds as they are in tune with what’s coming out of the central news agencies,” he said.

With that in mind, the new app’s prefabricated tweets are presented complete with accompanying web links, never exceeding 140 characters and, perhaps most important, equipped with pro-Israel hashtags.

Hashtags—a word or string ofwords preceded by the # symbol—have been used in the conversation about Israel before. In December 2011, when messages with the hashtag “#IsraelHates,” began to emerge as a trend on Twitter, a senior Israeli official promoted a messaging campaign with the hashtag “#IsarelLoves” in response.

The messages promoted by StandWithUs through its app in its first week included, “Warren Buffet’s first purchase outside the USA ever was an Israeli company. #israelat64” and “#Israel: 3,000 years old, 64 years young”.

“We realize that people don’t have a lot of time and are on the go,” Dickson said. “They want to do something good for Israel, and we’re just making it easier and quicker and more effective.”

According to StandWithUs, the app was accessed by more than 2,000 people in its first week via the group’s website. It is expected to be available for download in the App Store and Android Marketplace within a few weeks.
—by Jonah Lowenfeld, Staff Writer

Coming to a seder near you: A haggadah on your iPad

This Passover, Jews can still reliably be called “the people of the book.”

If sales of newly published versions of the haggadah are any indication, on the first night of Passover, when it comes time to tell the story of the Exodus, most people sitting at seder tables will be holding in their hands a text that consists of printed words and images on paper.

Next year, though, it’s anyone’s guess, and it seems inevitable that electronic readers and tablet computers will become a big part of at least some future seders, and anyone with an iPad can experience that future today.

A purpose-built iPad app, titled, simply, “The Haggadah” (Melcher Media) was released on March 28, and another iPad-friendly haggadah, an e-book version of the new ink-on-paper title “Sharing the Journey: The Haggadah for the Contemporary Family” (CCAR Press), has been submitted to Apple’s iBookstore for approval, for a release, the makers hope, before seder time.

The creators of “The Haggadah” app anticipate that people won’t only use the new application to follow their own seder, but also that the app itself could become a site for actual sharing — of recipes, photos, stories and, of course, questions.

[Related: Download the Jewish Journal on your mobile device]

“As far as I know, this is the first haggadah app with this kind of interactivity,” said David Kraemer, a professor of Talmud and Rabbinics at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), who translated the haggadah’s text into English and wrote most of the app’s additional text. There are features familiar to any reader of Passover books — an introduction to Passover and a history of the haggadah — and Kraemer also wrote dozens of comments sprinkled throughout the text, each one accessible with the tap of a finger.

Search any online marketplace for e-books and you’ll find a few haggadot (the plural of haggadah), each with its own tone, quality and price. Craig Buck, a TV writer who created the 15-page “Ina Gada Haggadah” for his family’s 20-minute seder back in the 1990s, doesn’t think anyone has purchased the Kindle version yet, although hundreds have downloaded versions available each year (in PDF format) on his Web site.

PDFs can be read on many tablet readers, and DIYSeder, an online resource that allows users to customize a haggadah’s text (What word would you prefer to substitute for “God”?) and commentary (Is your seder table full of politicos? Children? Non-Jews?) has apps for iPad- and Android-equipped devices that will allow their haggadot to be read there.

Another haggadah in the Kindle store — “The Union Haggadah,” first published in 1923 by the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) — displays both a menorah and a dreidel on the cover, a clear indication that the seller mixed up Chanukah, probably the best-known Jewish holiday, with the most widely celebrated one, Passover.

“The copyright expired, so it’s technically in the public domain,” Rabbi Dan Medwin, publishing technology manager for the CCAR, said. “We don’t know who took that text and made it an e-book. There’s even an iPhone app.”

That shoddy repackaging of a 90-year-old text (retail price $3.99) is nothing like the e-book version of “Sharing the Journey” that Medwin created for the CCAR Press.

E-books, Medwin said, are becoming more flexible. Thanks to the advent of iBooks Author, software released by Apple in January of this year that allows publishers to incorporate various kinds of media into their e-books, Medwin was able to include a number of special features; for example, he embedded more than a dozen recordings of Passover songs directly into the text of “Sharing the Journey.”

All of the text from the paper version of the book is in the e-book version as well. The illustrations by Mark Podwal are included in the e-book, too; Medwin added tap-activated captions to one illustration of a seder plate.

But if “Sharing the Journey” feels like a powered-up book with a soundtrack included, “The Haggadah” app — which was paid for in large part through more than $25,000 of donations solicited through the crowd-funding Web site Kickstarter — is something else entirely.

“The way people use apps is much more tactile and exploratory than the way they use a book,” said David Brown, one of the developers who worked on the app at Melcher Media, a New York-based book producer that has been creating apps since 2011, including the award-winning app version of Al Gore’s book, “Our Choice.”

“What people want is interactivity and surprise and layers of information in a way that a static page can’t deliver,” Brown said.

Just how layered is the app? Look past the fancy spinning seder plate in the “Preparing for the Seder” section, and consider the other illustrations, all of which come from haggadot that are centuries old.

While the main haggadah text in the app might use only a detail from a particular page — say, a single, ornately inscribed word from the Washington Haggadah, which dates back to 1478 and is held in the Library of Congress — a finger-tap on a magnifying glass icon nearby takes the reader to a new screen. There, the full page where the detail is from is displayed, and with a few pinches and swipes, any part of the reproduced page — crinkles, faded sections, even what look like wine stains — can be viewed.

Most of the illustrations come from the holdings of JTS’ library, where Kraemer is director; some illustrations are accompanied by audio commentary from Sharon Liberman Mintz, the library’s curator of Jewish art.

If the illuminated manuscripts reproduced in “The Haggadah” look as though they might have taken years to create, the app itself was put together far more quickly. Rabbi Irwin Kula, president of Clal, the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, contributed his own audio commentary, which he recorded in a single one-hour session, a little more than a month before the app’s release.

And the running time of his observations was even shorter.

“The challenge was, OK, say something in one minute about ‘Dayenu,’ or say something in one minute about the Four Questions or the four sons,” Kula said, naming a few of the better-known parts of the haggadah. “Say something in one minute that is accessible and usable and relevant — that gets the job done, which is to help create meaning in people’s lives.”

Kraemer said he won’t use the app at his seder — he doesn’t use electricity on the holiday, and prefers to use a “basic traditional haggadah” anyway, to allow for more interaction between the people around the table.

Kula, who hadn’t yet seen the full app but had heard the edited versions of his commentaries, was very happy with the result and is looking forward to using it at his family’s second seder, which has always been more free in its format. In previous years, Kula said, the young adults at the table have incorporated media of all types, everything from recorded songs to YouTube videos.

In 2012, it seems, flexibility and interactivity are the words to live by when creating seders, and in that spirit, Amichai Lau-Lavie, the founding director of Storahtelling, contributed to “The Haggadah” app an alternative order of events of his own design.

Lau-Lavie began creating “The Sayder” six years ago, and the basic model — four rounds, each one focusing on one question and accompanied by one glass of wine — was established early. Since then, the format has changed; what was an “on-the-fly” innovation morphed first into a one-page paper handout, then a Web site ( and now, an app.

“I don’t think the haggadah was ever meant to be read cover-to-cover, as is,” said Lau-Lavie, who is now studying to become a rabbi at the Jewish Theological Seminary. “The Sayder,” he said, has a uniquely spelled name for a reason: “We really wanted people to read less and say more,” Lau-Lavie said.

This year — in light of the harsh conditions under which the workers who make Apple electronics are known to endure, and particularly since there’ll be at least one iPad at his seder table — Lau-Lavie is hoping to get people to talk about consumption and the conditions of workers.

To that end, Lau-Lavie is asking people to put an apple on their seder plates this year.

“Are we the Pharaoh or are we the Moses?” Lau-Lavie asked, modeling the kind of inquiry he hopes to inspire. “How can we do more to spread freedom around the world?”

Singles at Passover saying so long to cell phone, Facebook contacts

While Passover is the time to clean out chametz, single Jews apparently will be cleaning out their social lives.

Jewish singles will use the holiday as an excuse to clean out their cell phone and Facebook contacts, a poll conducted by the Jewish dating site Jewcier found.

In a poll of more than 1,120 Jewish singles, 68 percent of women and 65 percent of men said that cleaning out their cell phone and Facebook contact list was the most important thing to do before Passover.

“When it comes to Passover priorities, Jewish singles have traded the traditional priorities with modern, non-traditional ones,” said Shira Kallus, relationship adviser for Jewcier.

According to the poll, single men prioritize cleaning out their cell phone contacts, while single women prioritize cleaning out their Facebook friends list. Both said that ex-boyfriends and girlfriends should be the first to go.

Quit Facebook or risk expulsion, N.Y. Orthodox school orders students

An Orthodox Jewish girls’ high school in Brooklyn has ordered its 11th-grade students to close their Facebook accounts and pay a fine.

Administrators at the Beis Rivkah High School, which is associated with the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, reportedly called each 11th-grader with Facebook account out of class to issue her a written ultimatum to either delete the account and pay a $100 fine or be expelled, reported last week. About half the 11th-graders reportedly have Facebook accounts.

Some parents and students are upset by the crackdown, reported, saying that students had been urged to create the accounts last year in order to vote for Beis Rivkah in the Kohl’s Cares charity giveaway, which gave money to the schools with the most votes via Facebook.

An unnamed school administrator told that the school was eliminating Facebook from its students’ lives in an effort to restore a higher level of modesty among the students.

eBay to expand activity in Israel

eBay is expanding its activity in Israel.

The Internet consumer company said it will unite its two activity centers in Netanya and Tel Aviv into a development center, and will expand the center by recruiting computer engineers, industrial and management engineers, and information system engineers, Ynet reported Monday.

eBay employs more than 200 workers in Israel. The new Israeli development center will focus on building catalogues, creating information on products and developing tools for social commerce aimed at allowing collective purchases and sharing the buying process with other users, according to Ynet.

Last year eBay bought the Israeli startup The Gifts Project, which developed an application for online group gifting.

In addition to five development centers in the United States, eBay has centers in India and China.

Israeli-led team of scientists discovers longevity gene

A team of Israeli and U.S. scientists has discovered a gene that increases longevity in mammals.

The team, led by Dr. Haim Cohen of Bar-Ilan University’s Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences, and including researchers from Hadassah Medical Center, the Hebrew University and Carnegie Mellon University, said the discovery increases the likelihood that similar activity can be found in a human gene. The results were published this week in the scientific journal Nature.

A gene from the Sirtuin family, SIR2, when activated by a low-calorie diet, was found to prolong life, according to a news release from Bar Ilan University.

Cohen and his team fed two groups of mice a high-fat diet containing 60 percent more fat calories than average. The mice with the SIR2 gene removed developed the diseases associated with aging, while the other mice remained healthy.

Preservation of the SIR2 family of genes during evolution indicates the importance of the genes in critical life processes. In each organism in which SIR2 has been found, including yeast and worms, the gene regulates lifespan, but this was yet to be proven in mammals. Last year, scientific literature carried many reports on the extent of the SIR2 gene’s involvement in the lifespan. More than 30 research groups debated the issue in the pages of Nature and another leading scientific journal, Science, but no final conclusion was reached.

Technology may reveal missing Holocaust graves

Scientists using ground-probing electronics may have discovered the missing mass graves at the site of Treblinka, one of the Nazis’ most notorious death camps.

No actual bodies were found and the graves were not excavated, in keeping with Jewish law, but bones and bone fragments were discovered in the ground, according to Caroline Sturdy Colls, a forensic archeologist at Straffordshire University in Britain, who headed the research.

The underground structures detected by her equipment outline what most likely are the graves.

Historians believe as many as 850,000 people, mostly Jews and some Roma, or Gypsies, died at Treblinka.

Although eyewitnesses told of the existence of mass graves, the Germans did everything they could to cover up their crimes, and the inability of researchers to find them was sometimes used by Holocaust deniers to claim large-scale murder did not occur there.

Sturdy Colls used aerial photographs from the 1940s, satellite imagery, GPS mapping devices and new ground-penetrating radar. The radar could not detect corpses but could detect differences between the ground and disturbances and inconsistencies in the ground, such as buried objects, in 11 areas.

“Given their size and location, there is a strong case for arguing that they represent burial areas,” she said.

Sturdy Colls began working at Treblinka in 2010. She and her colleagues used radar and electrical imaging to get an idea of what was underground without actually disturbing the site. One of the first things she discovered was that the early maps of the site were incorrect — the northern boundary line was off by 160 feet.

After the war, Treblinka’s neighbors had looted some of the graves, seeking gold they thought the Jews had hidden. That complicated the topography, but Sturdy Colls’ equipment found several pits exactly where witnesses said they would be.

The largest is 85 feet long, 55 feet wide and at least 13 feet deep, with a ramp for access. At least five others that deep also are in the area.

Treblinka was opened on July 23, 1942, as an extermination camp in east-central Poland, part of Germany’s Operation Rheinhard, the extermination of European Jewry.

It was designed for one purpose: murder. Ninety-five percent of the people sent there were killed immediately, mostly by carbon monoxide poisoning from tank engines pumped into gas chambers.

Treblinka was closed on Oct. 19, 1943, following a rebellion by the Sonderkommando unit — Jews forced to assist in operating the camp. Several German and Ukrainian guards were killed in the rebellion, enabling 300 prisoners to escape.

The Germans, however, were suddenly afraid that their crimes would be detected.

In 1943, they had discovered the bodies of thousands of Polish officers executed by the Russians at Katyn three years earlier and realized that if anyone found the bodies at concentration camps, they would be blamed.

Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler ordered that whenever a camp was to be abandoned, all the bodies had to be exhumed and cremated, Sturdy Colls said.

Sturdy Colls said that it takes very high temperatures to cremate a human body, and bone fragments almost always remain after the process, even when the cremation is done in a modern facility.

The job was done in a rush. As late as the 1960s, human remains would emerge from the ground, often after a rainstorm.

The Germans leveled the camp, destroying all the buildings, built a fake farm on the site of the bakery and even settled a Ukrainian family on the farm to make it look as if nothing had happened there. Little of the camp remained above ground.

A five-day Polish war crimes investigation in 1946 found a cellar passage with the “protruding remains of burnt posts, the foundations of the administration building, and the old well. Here and there can also be traced the remains of burnt fence posts and pieces of barbed wire, and short sections of paved road. There are also other traces.”

The early researchers also found decomposing corpses that the Germans had misplaced. Construction of a stone memorial at the site also turned up human remains.

They did not, however, find the graves themselves until the current research.

“We mapped what we can. We’ve identified 11 individual pits that we can survey,” said Sturdy Colls, whose work is ongoing. “A good chunk of the memorial was built where they thought the mass graves were, so there is a good chance there are more in the forest and under the memorial itself.”

Hackers hit websites of Israeli hospitals

The websites of two Israeli medical centers as well as several other public Israeli websites, were hacked.

The websites for Tel Hashomer and Assuta medical centers, among the largest in central Israel, were down Wednesday morning.

The hospitals’ security systems held back the assaults and patient information was not compromised, according to the hospitals.

Following the attacks on the hospital websites, the websites for the Dan Public Transportation company, the Israel Festival, the Cinematheque and the Haaretz newspaper were simultaneouly attacked in the afternoon.

The Israel Festival website was changed to read “Free Palestine, death to Israel.” The other sites read “Jew = Nazi.” 

The attacks come after successful assaults by anti-Israel hackers on the websites of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and El Al, as well as the exposure of thousands of Israeli credit card holders’ information.

Israeli hackers bring down Arab Web sites

Israeli hackers said they brought down the Web sites of the Saudi Stock Exchange and the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange.

The hackers, who call themselves IDF-Team, said in a post on the PasteBin Web site that the Jan. 17 attacks were in retaliation for the cyber attack the previous day on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and the El Al Web site, adding that “This is only the beginning.” The Israeli hackers also threatened to paralyze Web sites for up to a month if attacks on Israeli sites continue.

Saudi hackers used the PasteBin Web site last week to publish the credit card information of thousands of Israelis.

Also on Jan. 17, the pro-Israel hacker Hannibal published a list of e-mail addresses and Facebook passwords for some 30,000 users from Arab countries, Haaretz reported. He also claims to have information to allow access to 10 million Iranian and Saudi bank accounts.

Meanwhile, a different group of Israeli hackers posted the details of e-mail accounts belonging to dozens of Saudi medical students.

The Saudi hacker 0xOmar said he would continue to attack Israeli Web sites until Israeli officials ask for forgiveness from the people of Gaza for “genocide.”

Hacker takes over Israeli deputy FM’s website

A hacker temporarily took over the website of Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon.

The hacking attempt came Monday. Ayalon had spoken out over the weekend against cyber terrorism after suspected Saudi hackers released the details of thousands of Israeli credit card holders in three files over several days.

Ayalon’s website was down for about a half-hour. He reportedly has tens of thousands of followers on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.

“They will not be able to stop my activities and work on behalf of Israel,” Ayalon said in a statement. “Certainly not in cyberspace, where we have had recent successes on YouTube and Facebook. Cyberspace appears to be the new battlefield, and our opponents will not be able to defeat us on this plane either.”

On Monday, Israeli hackers told Ynet that they are in possession of the details of thousands of credit cards used on Saudi shopping websites and will release them at “the right moment” in retaliation for the Saudi hackers’ attacks on Israeli citizens.

Israel concerned it may be under cyber attack

Israeli officials said on Friday they were concerned the country may be under cyber attack after a wave of credit card code thefts in the past week by a hacker who claims to be operating out of Saudi Arabia.

Credit card company officials said 14,000 numbers had been posted on line on Tuesday and another 11,000 on Thursday. However, they said some of the codes had expired and that the active cards were all being cancelled.

The hacker has identified himself as OxOmar and says he is part of a Saudi Arabian hacker team. In a post on Thursday he said he had leaked information about more than 400,000 Israelis and said the “Jewish lobby” was hiding the scale of the attack.

Israeli officials say the hacker has also released email addresses and passwords, but have yet to confirm where he is based.

“This incident should be treated as a cyber attack,” Justice Ministry official Yoram Hacohen told the Ma’ariv daily.

“When it comes to digital felonies committed outside the country, it is difficult to locate the perpetrator if he took the correct precautions,” Hacohen added.

The data theft was one of the worst that Israel has said it has faced, and while the financial damage was reportedly minimal, the breaches have heightened concerns about the potential use of stolen information by Israel’s enemies.

“These matters are worrisome,” Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz told Israel Radio, calling the incident “a sample of the great danger out in cyberspace.”

He added that Israel had “impressive capabilities” and was setting up an agency to deal with the issue, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged last year.

On the back of the credit card theft, a parliamentary committee has scheduled a session for the coming week to review Israel’s readiness to defend itself from cyber attacks.

“We must prepare to cope with cyber threats in anticipation of any attempts to use Internet terror to strike at Israel,” said lawmaker Ronit Tirosh, the committee chairwoman.

Some newspaper columnists speculated that hackers might be retaliating for recent attacks in Iran, including the mysterious Stuxnet computer virus that snarled its controversial nuclear computer systems.

“The peculiar incident we are facing could be a bad joke, a youthful prank, a hate-driven terror attack for beginners or the first stage in an Iranian cyber-terror attack,” commentator Ben Caspit wrote in Friday’s edition of Ma’ariv.

However, Hershkowitz dismissed such speculation, saying: “the imagination tends to soar.”

The hacker wrote in his Web post: “So, I’ve started thinking of sending all Israeli credit cards I own which reaches 1M data.”

“Enjoy it world! Purchase stuff for yourself online, buy anything you want,” he added.

Dov Kotler, CEO of Isracard, a unit of Bank Hapoalim , said 5,200 credit card numbers listed by the hacker on Thursday, belonged to his customers.

The thefts have dampened Internet sales in Israel, media reports said, though no figures were immediately available. Israeli reports have indicated that most of the information stolen had been gleaned from online commercial sites.

Editing by Crispian Balmer

Hackers disable German right-wing websites

The websites of several right-wing extremists in Germany have been attacked by hackers.

The international hacker group known as “Anonymous” disabled several neo-Nazi websites in an “Operation Blitzkrieg” on Jan. 1, with a “Happy New Year” wish to their targets, according to the German news agency DAPD.

The German-language website published data about donors to the country’s biggest far-right political party – the National Democratic Party of Germany, with an estimated 7,000 members – and about customers of a right-wing mail-order company.

Neo-Nazi groups reacted with alarm to the publishing of client data, which in some cases included e-mail addresses and phone numbers; Spiegel Online reported that the National Democratic Party has threatened to sue, while the publishers of a far-right paper, Junge Freiheit, have already filed charges.

The attack comes as Germany grapples with news about a violent neo-Nazi ring that operated unchecked for more than ten years, and is allegedly responsible for at least ten murders of immigrants in Germany. Recently, it was revealed that German authorities knew about the cell’s activities and proclivities at least a decade ago.

While German politicians and religious leaders debate whether to ban the far-right National Democratic Party, groups like “Anonymous” are taking the law into their own hands, testing legal boundaries with their cyber attacks. “Anonymous” has dealt similar blows to the Scientology organization, organized crime and drug cartels, among others.

The creators of the Nazi-Leaks website reportedly are planning to publish additional material. So far, there has been no confirmation that the lists published this week are authentic.

According to news reports, some of the information had already been hacked and published early last year and has now been assembled at one website.

Saudi hackers release Israelis’ credit card details

Saudi hackers released the credit card information of hundreds of thousands of Israelis online.

Members of the Saudi hacking ring Group-XP took credit for the release of the information on Jan. 2. The information, including credit card details, the holders’ names, addresses, phone numbers and national identification numbers, were posted on a popular Israeli sports Web site.

Calling the posting of the information a “gift to the world for the new year,” the hackers said they hoped it “would hurt the Zionist pocket,” according to Ynet.

The information reportedly came from Jewish Web sites from which Israelis made purchases, as well as a Web site for making donations.

The Bank of Israel released a statement saying that the approximately 15,000 credit card holders affected by the hacking will not be responsible for fraudulent charges based on the incident.

Apple reportedly acquires Israeli startup

Apple reportedly has purchased its first Israel-based company, Anobit Ltd., a flash storage solutions provider, for an estimated $500 million.

The deal for the Herzliya-based startup reportedly was finalized Tuesday. Anobit’s management was gathering its staff early Tuesday afternoon to formally announce the acquisition by Apple, the Israeli financial daily Calcalist reported.

The purchase comes on the heels of an announcement last week that Apple will open a development center in Israel focusing on semiconductors, reportedly the first to be opened outside of Apple’s California headquarters.

Cornell wins ‘genius’ contest, to team with Technion for N.Y. campus

Cornell University will collaborate with the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology for a new science campus after winning a competition to build New York City’s next “genius” school.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg was expected to make Cornell’s victory official on Monday at the Weill Cornell Medical College in Manhattan.

The Ivy League school will receive free land on New York’s Roosevelt Island, as well as $100 million in city subsidies, to build a state-of-the-art science campus with Technion. The program is scheduled to begin in September at a temporary location.The campus is expected to take more than a generation to build.

Cornell, which received an anonymous $350 million grant, beat out six other universities and consortiums that submitted bids.

The campus will accommodate 2,000 students and include 2.1 million square feet of building space with classrooms, science laboratories, a conference center, housing and other facilities. It will feature environmentally friendly solar energy and geothermal wells.

“I am thankful and proud that this extraordinary individual gift will support Cornell’s goal to realize Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s vision for New York City,” Cornell President David Skorton said.

Reports: Apple to open Israel development center

Apple will open a development center in Israel focusing on semiconductors, according to reports.

The development center would be the first to be opened outside of Apple’s California headquarters, the Israeli business daily Globes reported.

Aharon Aharon, a veteran in Israel’s high-tech industry, reportedly has been hired by Apple to head the center, Globes and Calcalist reported Wednesday, citing unnamed sources.

The announcement comes as the company enters talks to acquire its first Israel-based company, Anobit Ltd. of Herzliya, a flash storage solutions provider.

Apple’s corporate vice president of research and development, Ed Frank, is currently visiting Israel, according to Globes. Calcalist reported that Frank is meeting with several Israeli high-tech companies.

Nobel winner Shechtman stresses education, entrepreneurship

Accepting his Nobel Prize, Israel’s Dan Shechtman encouraged entrepreneurship among the young.

Shechtman, of the Haifa Technion, became the 10th Israeli to win the world’s most prestigious prize at Saturday’s annual Nobel ceremony in Stockholm.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said Shechtman’s discovery of quasicrystals, long ridiculed by colleagues, “has created a new cross-disciplinary branch of science, drawing from, and enriching, chemistry, physics and mathematics. This is in itself of the greatest importance.”

“It has also given us a reminder of how little we really know and perhaps even taught us some humility,” said academy professor Sven Lidin.

Addressing the Nobel banquet, Shechtman said scientists have a duty “to promote education, rational thinking and tolerance.”

“We should also encourage our educated youth to become technological entrepreneurs. Those countries that nurture this knowhow will survive future financial and social crises. Let us advance science to create a better world for all,” he said.

Interviewed Sunday, Shechtman, 70, made clear he worried about education in Israel—specifically that of the haredi Orthodox sector, which sometimes places more a premium on religious studies than on core secular subjects.

“You can pray to the heavens, but it doesn’t put bread on the table or provide defense for the country,” he told Israel Radio.

Shechtman called for state funds to be denied to schools that neglect the core curriculum and for parents who deprive their children of a rounded education to be “punished under law.”

Peres promotes Israeli moon probe

Israeli space enthusiasts are taking part in an international moon-probe competition.

President Shimon Peres cut the ribbon Thursday on Space IL, a nonprofit group that will compete for the international Google Lunar X Prize. The challenge is to become the first team to successfully launch, fly and land a robotic spacecraft on the moon. The team also must operate the spacecraft, which will carry an Israeli pennant, across the lunar surface and relay back video.

The first prize is a $30 million grant, which has has stirred dreams in Israel of mounting a manned moon mission.

“The time has come to fly Israel’s flag on the moon,” Peres said at the ceremony, which took place at the Israel Aerospace Industries campus near Tel Aviv.

Hebrew support for Siri in development

Apple reportedly is developing add-ons for the Siri interface that will include support for Hebrew, among other languages.

Sources told the website that Nuance, a company working directly with Apple, has rented a studio where sound bites and sentences are being recorded in Hebrew. Nuance is using a special developer’s iPhone app to make the recordings.

The report does not guarantee that iOS 5.1, the forthcoming software update for iPhone, will support Hebrew.