From left: Carol Bishop captures “Bishop10 Aharonovitz St., Brazilai-Haussmann 1937” and "35 Petah Tikvah Rd. Rekanati House, Shlomo Leaskovsky-Yaakov Orenstein, 1935." Photos courtesy of Carol Bishop

Lifting the veil on the ‘White City’


The famed modernist apartment buildings that line Tel Aviv’s streets have earned the Israeli port city the nickname the “White City.” Influenced by the International Style of modern architecture in the 1930s, the buildings reflect the prevalent vision that shaped the city’s creation and left an architectural legacy recognized with a World Heritage Site designation.

Two Los Angeles-based photographers, Susan Horowitz and Carol Bishop, examine that legacy in an exhibit called “Tel Aviv — The White City + Beyond,” now on display through May 28 at the Academy for Jewish Religion, California in Koreatown.

“The style came from the idea of ‘new’: a clean slate. And what was more new than these ideas about buildings?” Bishop said.

“When they needed to accommodate so many people streaming into Israel, they felt that that would be the newest style and one without reference to older design and other cultures,” Horowitz added.

When Jewish settlers came to Palestine in the early 1900s, they worked with British colonial administrators to build a new city on the sand dunes north of the ancient city of Jaffa. The architects of that era drew inspiration from the International Style of architecture that took hold in Europe immediately after World War I. The style emerged from the Bauhaus School of Arts, Design and Architecture, which Walter Gropius founded in Weimar Germany in 1919. (The Nazis closed the school in 1933.)

The rise of Nazism led to a mass migration of European Jews to Palestine in the 1930s. Tel Aviv’s rapid growth meant an immediate need for housing and no shortage of work for architects. Among them was Arieh Sharon, a Bauhaus-educated architect who designed workers’ housing, private homes, cinemas, hospitals and government buildings.

Approximately 4,000 Bauhaus-style buildings were built in Tel Aviv in the 1930s and ’40s — the largest collection in the world. The buildings were collectively recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site in 2003, and guided tours of the White City are still popular with tourists.

Bauhaus-style architecture emphasizes functionality and eschews decorative elements. The Tel Aviv buildings resemble white blocks with clean, flowing lines and smooth surfaces, the facades interrupted only by inset windows and balconies. The architects adapted their style to the sunny Mediterranean climate, maximizing ventilation by placing the buildings on pilotis, or ground-level support columns, to create shady outdoor areas.

Horowitz and Bishop, longtime friends and colleagues, combined their images in one show to reveal two different perspectives on Tel Aviv.

Susan Horowitz’s photograph “Meier on Rothschild.” Photo courtesy of Susan Horowitz

Susan Horowitz’s photograph “Meier on Rothschild.” Photo courtesy of Susan Horowitz

 

Bishop’s part of the exhibit, called “Colors of the White City,” is made up of color photos, with green palm trees and bright, blue skies framing the gleaming buildings. She also includes a sepia-toned series of photos of Jaffa’s old buildings, and a conceptual series focused on the use of limestone bricks.

Horowitz’s photos, in her part called “Perspective — The White City,” are black and white and often include nearby buildings to juxtapose the white Bauhaus-style apartments with their more contemporary (and far less stylish) neighbors.

One photo by Horowitz shows a billboard promoting “Meier on Rothschild,” a mixed-use complex designed by American architect Richard Meier (designer of The Getty Center in Los Angeles) that opened in 2015 and includes a 39-story building — Meier’s take on Bauhaus architecture. The billboard displays a quote from Meier: “Building this white tower over the white city is a dream come true.”

When she first arrived in Tel Aviv, Bishop said, she was struck by its similarities to Los Angeles, such as the climate, the culture, the age of the buildings and the integration of indoor and outdoor spaces. She also noticed another parallel: Just as L.A. is attempting to preserve modernist buildings that have fallen into disrepair, so, too, is Tel Aviv rehabilitating some of its decaying Bauhaus-style buildings.

Horowitz, during her research, discovered another connection between Tel Aviv and L.A. through the work of architect Ben-Ami Shulman. He was born in Jaffa in 1907, studied at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels and became one of the noted modernist architects in Tel Aviv in the 1930s. After moving to Los Angeles in 1960, Shulman built residential and commercial buildings in a nondescript style often referred to as “vernacular architecture.”

Horowitz photographed all 17 documented Shulman buildings in L.A., as well as eight Shulman buildings designated as landmarks in Tel Aviv, and organized them into a mini-exhibition she calls “Some Shulman Architecture,” which is included in the “White City” show. (The title is a reference to artist Ed Ruscha’s iconic photographic series “Some Los Angeles Apartments,” that draws attention to easily overlooked or banal elements of the built environment.) Horowitz’s Shulman project was previously displayed at the American Institute of Architects’ Los Angeles office in 2015.

Not everyone accepts the historic narrative of the White City, however. In his book “White City, Black City: Architecture and War in Tel Aviv and Jaffa,” dissident Israeli historian and architect Sharon Rotbard notes that only four Bauhaus students ever emigrated to Palestine, and they were more influenced by Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier. Tel Aviv began as a suburb of Jaffa, but its population boom in the 1920s soon came to overshadow the Arab economic and cultural hub. Since Jaffa’s annexation to Tel Aviv after the 1948 war, most of Jaffa’s residents were pushed out and its neighborhoods were bulldozed.

“Tel Aviv eagerly appropriated the Bauhaus brand name in order to develop the local myth about the rebirth of Bauhaus in Palestine,” says Rotbard, who contends that the story of a gleaming white city built on sand dunes is a “fable” created to serve “obvious political and economic agendas.” While the Bauhaus school emphasized utopian social ideas, Rotbard argues that Tel Aviv’s modernist architecture was used for colonial purposes: to whitewash the dispossession and expulsion of the Palestinians.

But to label the White City as a “colonial” architectural project is inaccurate, Bishop argued.

“I think the word ‘colonial’ is a little tricky,” she said. “I would say utopian. A dream that, finally, in our own power, we can visually — and, of course, culturally — start anew.”

“Tel Aviv — The White City + Beyond” by Carol Bishop and Susan Horowitz is on display through May 28 at the offices of the Academy for Jewish Religion, California, 3250 Wilshire Blvd., No. 550, Los Angeles.

An Orthodox Jewish man stands in front of the U.S Embassy in Tel Aviv on Jan. 24. Photo by Baz Ratner/Reuters

More than symbolism involved with moving U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem


The location of the United States Embassy in Israel has been an issue of controversy for decades, but it is newly on the front burner. Moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was a persistent Donald Trump campaign promise, one of its strongest advocates is U.S. ambassador to Israel nominee David Friedman, and Israeli officials called on Trump to relocate the embassy in their messages of congratulations on his election.

Like so many other variables in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this one boils down to whether you feel more strongly about principles or outcomes. Unlike other areas of contention between Israel and the Palestinians, this is one where the smart solution is one against which I instinctively recoil.

The historical reason for the embassy being located in Tel Aviv is because the international community views the overall status of Jerusalem as being subject to negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. This is not an issue in which the U.S. is an outlier in any way — while there were a small number of primarily Latin American countries that located their embassies in Jerusalem in the past, there have been no embassies in Jerusalem for more than a decade.

Aside from the American position that the status of Jerusalem should not be prejudged, there is a daily and ongoing practical reason for having the embassy in Tel Aviv. American regional allies are adamant that locating the embassy in Jerusalem would be a literally explosive issue, and indeed Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama have on national security grounds waived the requirement in the Jerusalem Embassy Act that the embassy be moved to Jerusalem. It is taken as an article of faith that moving the embassy will create protests not only in Israel but against American embassies and consulates throughout the Middle East and subject American diplomats and soldiers to the threat of violence.

The argument for moving the embassy to Jerusalem relies on a basic notion of fairness. Israel defines its capital as Jerusalem, and yet it is the only country in the world whose capital — determined by its own democratically elected and sovereign government — is not accepted by the rest of the international community. Despite the fact that Jerusalem does indeed represent a complex problem whose ultimate settlement must be resolved through negotiations, this is a red herring. Israel’s capital is in West Jerusalem, the newer section of the city that was built by Jewish residents of Palestine and was part of Israel from the very beginning. Its status is not and never has been disputed, was not and is not subject to any past or future negotiations, and is not the part of the city that is viewed by some as being more appropriately internationalized. Many Israelis and American Jews view the refusal to locate the American embassy in West Jerusalem as an unfair double standard and believe the Palestinian and larger Arab red line over moving the embassy to be evidence that the issue is acceptance of Israel in any borders rather than a stand against Israel’s presence in the West Bank.

Many people and organizations on both sides of this issue feel very strongly about it, as evidenced by the flood of statements and commentary on it since Trump’s election. Similar to the debate over the president using the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” it is an example of the divide over whether powerful symbolism should take precedence over more easily measurable consequences, and as with that debate, there are legitimate arguments for both. Irrespective of where one falls out, I wish that those on opposite sides of this divide would recognize that it is not a cut-and-dried debate.

To keep the embassy where it is does not constitute a purely neutral move. Israelis rightly feel that it signals an unwillingness to accept Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the Jewish people, the return to which was the object of centuries of Jewish longing. An American embassy in West Jerusalem does not prejudice the status of the Old City or negate the eminently reasonable desire of Palestinians to have their future capital in East Jerusalem. Keeping the embassy in Tel Aviv grants a hecklers’ veto to those whose real problem is with any Israeli presence in Jerusalem and who aim to deny the Jewish connection to Jerusalem. As with the Temple Mount status quo, having the world’s diplomatic corps to Israel live and work in Tel Aviv is a painful concession, even if it is one that ultimately is wise for security purposes.

To move the embassy is an ideological move completely devoid of any practical considerations. It doesn’t mean that it is ultimately the wrong policy to adopt, but it is highly misleading to pretend that moving the embassy to Jerusalem is the clear “pro-Israel” move and that keeping it in Tel Aviv is a sign of less than full support for Israel. Moving the embassy will not necessarily result in chaos and riots in Jerusalem itself, but there is no question it will result in chaos and riots somewhere, whether in other spots in Israel, the West Bank, Muslim-majority countries, or at American and Israeli embassies around the world. Is making a completely symbolic statement of moving the embassy worth even one American, Israeli, or Palestinian life? Is it worth even one dollar of property damage? Is it worth the Palestine Liberation Organization following through on its threat to withdraw its recognition of Israel, or halt the security cooperation that is preventing mass terrorism and rockets from the West Bank? The idea that the American embassy can be moved in a cost-free manner is laughable.

The embassy issue is hard. Do not use it as a litmus test for what is right or wrong, what is supportive of Israel or not, what should be done or should not be done. Above all, do not turn it into such a sacred cow that keeping the embassy in Tel Aviv will automatically result in a 50 percent cut to American embassy security worldwide, as the absolutely insane bill introduced in the Senate last week will do. Policies have consequences, and moving the American embassy or keeping it where it is involves a lot more than whether diplomats will have to order new business cards. We are entering an era where every policy is in danger of being reduced to a mere rhetorical argument; do not give in to that temptation with regard to this one.


MICHAEL J. KOPLOW is the Israel Policy Forum’s policy director, based in Washington, D.C. Reach him at mkoplow@ipforum.org.

White House: Trump administration in ‘beginning stages’ of discussing embassy move


The Trump administration is in the “beginning stages” of discussing whether to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“We are at the very beginning stages of even discussing this subject,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on Sunday in a statement, according to Reuters.

The statement came hours before President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were scheduled to have a phone conversation.

Spicer said in a briefing call with reporters at the end of last week that an announcement on the embassy move would be “coming soon.”

Trump told an Israeli reporter on Tuesday in Washington that he will move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. Israel Hayom reporter Boaz Bismuth reported that during a conversation with Trump, he asked the president elect if he remembered telling him in a previous interview that he would move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

He reported that Trump replied: “Of course I remember what I told you about Jerusalem. Of course I didn’t forget. And you know I’m not a person who breaks promises.”

Kellyanne Conway, a top Trump adviser, told conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt during a show in December that moving the embassy was a “big priority” for Trump.

“It is something that our friend in Israel, a great friend in the Middle East, would appreciate and something that a lot of Jewish Americans have expressed their preference for,” Conway said. “It is a great move. It is an easy move to do based on how much he talked about that in the debates and in the sound bites.”

The nominee for U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, has reportedly said in private conversations that he will “work and live in Jerusalem,” Ynet reported. The official ambassador’s residence is located in Herzliya. Friedman owns an apartment in the Talbiyeh neighborhood of Jerusalem, which he reportedly visits several times a year.

Friedman is expected to arrive in Israel at the end of February and take up his job as ambassador. He has not yet been confirmed by the Senate.

Congress recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 1995, and at that time passed a law mandating the move that included a presidential waiver that lapses every six months, that allows the president to delay the move for national security reasons.

Trump tells Israeli reporter in Washington he will move embassy to Jerusalem


President-elect Donald Trump told an Israeli reporter that he will move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.

Trump made the remarks at an event Tuesday evening in Washington, the Israeli daily Israel Hayom reported on Thursday.

Israel Hayom reporter Boaz Bismuth, who served as Israel’s ambassador to Mauritania for four years until 2008, attended the event sponsored by Trump’s close associate, chairman of the 58th Presidential Inauguration Committee Thomas J. Barrack Jr., for current diplomats serving in the United States.

Bismuth reported that during a conversation with Trump, he asked the president elect if he remembered telling him in a previous interview that he would move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

He reported that Trump replied: “Of course I remember what I told you about Jerusalem. Of course I didn’t forget. And you know I’m not a person who breaks promises.”

Asked about current events in Israel, Trump replied: “I can’t wait to start working with Israel. This weekend, relations between us officially begin.”

Israel Hayom is a free Hebrew-language daily newspaper owned by Republican donor and billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.

During the campaign, Trump said he would move the embassy, but his transition team has declined to offer a timeline for the action.

Trump’s choice for secretary of defense said at confirmation hearings before the U.S. Senate on Thursday that Tel Aviv is Israel’s capital.

“The capital of Israel that I go to, sir, is Tel Aviv, sir, because that’s where all their government people are,” James Mattis, a retired four-star general, told the senators in response to questions about policy on Israel.

David Friedman, Trump’s choice for U.S. ambassador to Israel, said in the announcement of his nomination that he hoped to work from a Jerusalem embassy.

Congress recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 1995 and mandated the move to Jerusalem, but successive U.S. presidents have exercised a waiver in the law that allows them to delay the move for national security reasons. U.S. security and diplomatic officials say that moving the embassy would stir anti-American violence in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Obama told Trump that embassy move to Jerusalem could be ‘explosive’


President Barack Obama said he told his successor Donald Trump that moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem could be “explosive.”

“Obviously it’s a volatile environment when sudden unilateral moves are made that speak to the core issues or sensitivities of either side. That can be explosive,” Obama said Wednesday at his final news conference when asked if he consulted with Trump about moving the embassy from Tel Aviv.

Obama said his administration’s message to the Trump transition team was “pay attention to this, this is volatile stuff, people feel deeply and passionately about this.”

Obama said he understands that it is important to give a new president a wide berth on policy issues.

“I think it is right and appropriate for a new president to test old assumptions and re-examine the old ways of doing things, but if you’re going to make big shifts in policy … you want to be intentional about it, you don’t want to be off the cuff when it comes to an issue this volatile,” the outgoing U.S. leader said.

Trump’s pick for ambassador to Israel, his longtime lawyer David Friedman, has said he favors moving the embassy. Trump campaigned saying he would move the embassy, but his transition team has declined to offer a timeline for the action.

Congress recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 1995, but successive presidents have exercised a waiver that allows them to delay the move for national security reasons.

At the news conference, Obama again defended his decision last month to allow a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement expansion. It was the first time Obama had allowed a resolution that Israel opposed.

Obama noted that his own attempts to restart peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians had ended in failure, and said that settlement expansion was eroding the prospect of a two-state solution.

“It was important for us to send a signal that this moment may be passing,” the president said. “Hopefully that creates a debate inside Israeli and Palestinian communities that won’t immediately result in peace but will at least lead to a more sober assessment.”

Elon Gold: Three weeks in Israel and I go blond and gay


It was my first kiss — on camera. 

I was filming a TV pilot in 1998 where I played a Jewish guy marrying a shiksa, the first of many similar roles. In the rehearsal, I cautiously leaned into actress Cynthia Geary and gently kissed her lips. The director stopped me. He pulled me aside. 

“Are you gay?” he asked. He was nonjudgmental, matter of fact. 

“No, why do you ask?’ I said.

“Because it looks like you have no interest in kissing that gorgeous woman,” he said.

I explained to him that I had every interest in kissing her, but this being my first TV kiss, I didn’t know how it works. With tongue? Without? Do you just go for it, or hold back and let her lead? I was losing my TV kiss virginity, and I was nervous and scared to be too aggressive and have the actress blow a rape whistle on me.

Cut to almost 20 years later. Just last week I was in Tel Aviv on a set with a full production crew, filming a web series called “Bar Mitzvah,” in which I play a gay dad who takes his son to Israel for his bar mitzvah. Only now, this was going to be my first on-screen kiss … with a man. 

I was nervous — dreading not only my first man-on-man smooch, but also a repeat of my maladroit, first TV kiss. Now, my fear was the director taking me aside after I sheepishly and awkwardly lean in for a kiss and asking me, “Are you straight?” To which I would reply, “Yes! And if it looks like I have no interest in kissing this man, I don’t!”

This all started when my manager called me with an offer to co-star in a web series created by Gal Uchovsky, known as “The Simon Cowell of ‘Israel Idol’ ”; Ilan Peled, a popular Israeli actor/comedian; and Eytan Fox, who had one of Israel’s biggest hit movies, “Yossi & Jagger.” 

“It’s filming in Israel for three weeks and you play a gay dad,” my manager said. 

My first thought was, getting paid to do what I love — comedic acting — in a land I love, how could I say no? But then like any real Jew, I went right to the negative thoughts. I’ve never been away from my family for more than a week. And what about all my relatives, rabbis and everyone else I encounter as an observant Jew, who have always chastised me about playing a guy who’s married to a non-Jewish woman? There’s only one thing that could be worse to them than that: playing a guy who’s married to a non-Jewish man! 

My first concern about the length of time away from my family was instantly alleviated by the deal itself; with four kids in yeshiva, I couldn’t turn down what they were offering. 

But it was my second concern that I really had to grapple with. Every TV sitcom I ever did, the producers cast me against a non-Jewish wife. I always promised everyone that one day I’d be able to have my own show and I would make sure my TV wife was Jewish. That day never came. I did have my own show: I pitched and sold a sitcom to NBC called “In-Laws” about my experience living with my Jewish wife’s parents. But when it came time for casting, the producers and network wanted to go shiksa — and there was nothing I could do about it. There I was again, playing the Jew who marries out of his religion. “You’re not helping our problem with intermarriage!” I heard over and over again. 

My defense was always the same. As an actor, I will take on any role, including that of a serial killer. It’s just a part I’m playing. I don’t kill people in real life. And I happen to be married to a nice Jewish girl from Scarsdale, N.Y., and we are raising our kids in an observant home. But that wasn’t enough for everyone. It was like I was single-handedly responsible for the end of the Jewish people.

The cast of the web series “Bar Mitzvah.”

After “In-Laws,” I got cast opposite Pamela Anderson — a lovely woman and the ultimate shiksa! — on another sitcom. After that, on the hit show “Bones,” I was playing the boyfriend of a woman who is not Jewish and half black. I could just hear my not-so-casually racist aunt saying, “A half-shvartze shiksa!? What’s he gonna play next — faygala??”

Well, yes. That’s exactly what I’m proudly playing. A homosexual who is married to a man and has a child whom he is also raising to be gay. When my character finds out, while in Israel, that his son is attracted to a young girl, he spirals out of control and just can’t handle it. 

“My son, straight? You think he’ll grow out of it?” I hopefully ask my husband after hearing this terrible news. 

It’s a funny script and a great role. One I wouldn’t turn down because of Jewish-peer pressure. 

In fact, the only relative I had any concern about offending was my younger brother Ari, who is gay. He was glad that I was going to portray a Jewish, gay man in a positive light. He is a well-known recording artist in the gay community and is very out and proud of both his Jewishness and his gayness. “Another gay role going to a straight actor!” he complained, mostly in jest. His bigger concern was that I would play the role stereotypically. 

“No effeminate lisps or limp wrists, please!” he warned. 

The truth is, by the time I was cast as the gay man, I had already wrestled with what it meant to be the straight brother. Being an observant Jew and having a gay brother whom I love and accept with all my heart can sometimes be conflicting. I’m an advocate for gay rights, and yet I’m also a Torah Jew who loves and learns Torah regularly, knowing it doesn’t exactly have wonderful things to say about a man lying with another man. But I don’t believe you have to take sides. Gays should never be judged negatively for who they are, and the Torah shouldn’t be scorned for calling homosexuality a sin. Let’s not forget that in the Torah, there’s all kinds of heterosexual sex that’s also a sin. This is a much bigger topic that I can’t tackle alone. I just wish people would be more accepting of those who marry outside of their religion, or inside their gender. Especially considering that a close friend of mine who married a non-Jew, who converted to Judaism, almost single-handedly rebuilt our synagogue. The running joke in our congregation is that, “A shiksa built our shul!”

With that in mind, and the knowledge that you can’t ever please everyone anyway, I took the role. I slipped into my first class El Al seat — another reason to do it! — with excitement and anticipation of what lay ahead of me in the Holy Land.

My first day, they had me in a wardrobe fitting where I was trying on the gayest outfits I’ve ever worn. Then, to gay me up even more, they took me to a hair salon and dyed the top of my hair blond. Now I looked and felt the part. The next day we began filming and all my trepidations of whether or not I could play this role — and fears of what relatives and fellow Modern Orthodox Jews will think — went away.

And the kiss? It was three seconds longer than I would’ve liked, but it was nice. The gay director was happy with his two heterosexual actors sharing a sweet, “real” moment between these two “husbands.” It didn’t hurt that I had been away from my wife for almost a month, so, frankly, it was good to get any action. 

While I may not be looking forward to the wrath of negative comments and emails when this web series premieres, I am looking forward to continuing to make Jews and non-Jews everywhere laugh, and to keep on playing roles that challenge me as an actor and entertain audiences — whether my Aunt Ruth approves or not. 

I’m back in L.A. now, filming a TV pilot this week and preparing for my big annual “Merry Erev Xmas” show at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood next week. I walked into the door of my home after my long but fruitful trip and passionately kissed my wife. There were no cameras, no actresses or actors, just me and my high school sweetheart. And no director took me aside to ask if I was gay or straight. Because, you know, you can’t fake real love.


Elon Gold is a comedian, writer and actor whose latest viral video has more than 1 million hits and counting. His annual “Merry Erev Xmas” at the Laugh Factory will take place Dec. 24. For times, tickets and information, visit this story at laughfactory.com.

Obama renews waiver delaying Jerusalem Embassy relocation


This article originally appeared on “>position paper on Israel, released six days before the election, Trump’s advisors suggested that even before negotiations take place between the two sides, “the U.S. will recognize Jerusalem as the eternal and indivisible capital of the Jewish state and move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.”

But in an “>interview with Jewish Insider, former ADL national director Abe Foxman suggested that the Trump administration should “move the process gradually rather than as a dramatic act.”

To curb binge drinking, follow Israel’s lead


The scene outside a bar in Tel Aviv looks very different from the scene outside a college party in the United States. 

Young American college kids may spend their evenings slumped over a curb, with heads in hands and consciousness in question. Young Israelis actually seem to be enjoying their evenings out. 

That’s not to say American college students don’t also enjoy their time out, but rather that the Israelis will typically remember those nights.  

Going out as an underage college student in America is a blur of cheap vodka and swigs of orange juice from a shared bottle. The result of these wild evenings often includes “blacking out,” a badge of honor in some circles.  

So what’s going on? Why does it seem as if young Israelis have a better handle on alcohol consumption than their American peers? I spent this summer working and living as an of-age adult in Israel, and I discovered revealing disparities in the laws and culture surrounding alcohol. 

In Israel, the drinking age is 18 and alcohol cannot be purchased in stores after 11 p.m. The Knesset also limits advertising and marketing of alcohol and imposes increased taxes on alcohol.  

According to a Times of Israel story, alcohol consumption in Israel is low. Binge drinking, which the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) says is a serious health hazard for youth, is lower in Israel than in other developed nations.

Binge drinking in the United States is on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 90 percent of alcohol consumed by adults under the age of 21 in the United States is in the form of binge drinking. 

The drinking age in the United States is 21. For many college students younger than 21, the primary objective seems to be to consume high volumes quickly. 

Given that young people use and abuse alcohol at a staggeringly high rate, we should take action to address this epidemic and our outdated laws governing alcohol consumption. 

Reforming laws surrounding alcohol can help to turn an unsafe, irresponsible and illegal activity to a regulated and safer one. According to the OECD report, individuals of higher socio-economic status as well as higher education levels are more likely to abuse alcohol. College students are at risk. 

Israel’s experience resonates with the finding of health professionals. According to a report in the U.S. National Library of Medicine — National Institutes of Health, policies that limit the hours of alcohol sale by more than two hours “might be a means of reducing excessive alcohol consumption and related harms.”

In the United States, we seem to believe that a higher drinking age will teach our children a lesson that alcohol is for more mature individuals. This is a failed experiment that did not work during Prohibition and does not work now. Rather than an absolute ban that encourages buying “by the bottle” late at night, we should encourage better behavior. Better instead to have young people drinking in bars, ordering drinks that are measured in alcohol content one at a time. 

By lowering the drinking age and imposing stricter rules about purchasing alcohol, we have a better chance at getting to the root of the issue — binge drinking. 

During my two months in Tel Aviv, I noticed how young Americans simply didn’t have the opportunity to binge drink. By the time we finished dinner, stores had stopped selling alcohol. The 11:01 p.m. dilemma ensued. Either we paid for expensive alcohol at bars, or we stopped drinking. We drank less. 

The moral of the story for those of us older than18 in Israel was that we’d plan our night out. We consumed alcohol over a longer period of time, typically with dinner, which is safer. If we did not have this foresight, the system punished you a little bit by making your ability to get belligerently drunk or “blacking out” that much harder. 

Israel has often been referred to as the “startup nation.” Perhaps in addition to its technological achievements, we Americans might now follow its lead to “start up” changing our attitudes toward alcohol and making our kids safer and healthier.


Lauren Sonnenberg is a junior at Northwestern University studying journalism and history. She recently completed an internship at Haaretz newspaper in Israel.

Shimon Peres’ son says family ‘will have to make decisions’


The son of former Israeli President Shimon Peres gave a sober assessment of his father’s condition following a massive stroke and said the family “will have to make decisions.”

Shortly after 11 p.m., several hours after Peres, 93, was admitted to Sheba Medical Center in Tel HaShomer near Tel Aviv, hospital officials said the statesman remained in stable but serious condition in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit.

In a statement in front of the medical center, Peres’ son, Chemi, acknowledged to reporters that “in the coming hours, we will have to make decisions,” though he did not specify what those were.

He said his father “loved, loves the people of Israel,” and he called on those who were praying for his father to continue to do so. The director of the hospital, Dr. Itzik Kreiss, told the media that the statesman suffered bleeding on the brain as a result of the stroke.

The Israeli media reported that the president had two CT scans on Tuesday night that showed no change or improvement.

Peres’ office said in a statement at approximately 8 p.m. Tuesday that Peres was “stable and fully conscious.” The office later announced that Peres’ doctors decided to sedate him and put him on a respirator as he undergoes medical treatment.

In January, Peres had a heart attack and then cardiac angioplasty to open a blocked artery. He was hospitalized twice more with chest pains.

In an interview in January with JTA, just days before his heart attack, Peres said he was busier than ever, including his work with the Peres Center for Peace, which he founded.

A month earlier, social media was flooded with rumors that Peres had died, leading him to take to Facebook to declare that rumors of his demise were greatly exaggerated.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement that Netanyahu spoke with the director of Sheba Medical Center and was updated on Peres’ condition. Netanyahu conveyed the prayers of the entire nation for a quick recovery, according to the statement.

Peres, who retired as president of Israel in 2014 after more than half a century in public life, including a stint as prime minister, won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize with the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the late Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.

Israel rabbi: Deadly parking garage collapse due to Shabbat desecration


An Israeli rabbi said the collapse of a parking garage under construction in Tel Aviv that killed six was due to lack of Sabbath observance.

Rabbi Meir Mazuz, the head of the Tunisian Jewish community in Israel, made the comments during a lecture he delivered Saturday night in Bnei Brak, Ynet reported.

“What happened, the disaster this week — nothing like this ever happens. There are engineers, there are smart people, there are inspectors — and dozens of people are buried underground. It all comes because they disrespect Shabbat,” he said, according to Ynet.

“Running away from Shabbat is the largest mistake in the world … prime ministers need to understand that the Shabbat will not forgive … the Almighty gave us a good gift, the Shabbat … you must not harm the Shabbat.”

His remarks came following a government crisis over Saturday repairs to Israel’s railroad.

Haredi Orthodox political parties had called for a halt to the work and threatened to bolt the ruling coalition if it was not cancelled, which could have toppled the government.

The rabbi’s remarks reportedly were directed at state-sponsored work, not individual observance.

He also blamed the pre-launch explosion of Israel’s Amos 6 satellite on Shabbat desecration. The launch was scheduled for Shabbat. He said a previous Amos satellite was deployed successfully because it had not been launched on Shabbat.

Mazuz is the spiritual leader of the Yachad party, founded by former Sephardic Orthodox Shas Party leader Eli Yishai. The party did not receive enough votes in the last election to gain any seats in the Knesset.

Hours before Mazuz spoke, search and rescue workers removed the sixth and last body from the rubble of the collapsed garage.

Three of the dead workers have been named as: Oleg Yakubov, 60, of Tel Aviv; Dennis Dyachenko, 28, a foreign worker from Ukraine, and Ihad Ajhaj, 34, a West Bank Palestinian.

A fourth worker has been identified as Muhammad Dawabsheh, 29, from Duma in the West Bank. He is a relative of the family members who were killed in a July 2015 firebomb attack on their home allegedly by right-wing Jewish extremists.

Israel’s best kept secret (weapon) is a tour guide


Our group’s infatuation with Michael Bauer began in a small conference room at Tel Aviv's Carlton Hotel, where he stood at the front of the room armed with a set of maps and taught the history of Israel — from Abraham to Operation Protective Edge, the most recent Gaza war — in 45 minutes.

It deepened in the Golan Heights, when he stood atop a bombed-out Syrian bunker captured by Israel in 1967 and explained the modern history of Syria — from Assad I to the rise of political Islam and ISIS — as the distant thrum of explosions rocked our consciences for 17 heavy minutes.

On a Jerusalem promenade overlooking the Western Wall, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of Holy Sepulchre, Bauer offered Bible passages and Koranic stories to illustrate why the magical city sparkling beneath us has remained for thousands of years the most ardently loved and hotly contested real estate in the world.

Each time he finished, our group would erupt in cheers.

“I’m a bit like a performer,” Bauer, 43, admitted when I met with him separately one evening in Tel Aviv. “I enjoy the drama.”

For us, members of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Foundation’s “Reality Storytellers” trip last month, Bauer, our tour guide, was a highlight among highlights. What began as a light infatuation eventually morphed into something resembling rock-star obsession, as our group frequently chanted his name and compared him to the fictional Jack Bauer from “24.” (Ever the on-guard Israeli, Bauer sometimes carried a gun.)

In case you’re thinking we were easily impressed, allow me to disavow you of that notion. We were about 50 people familiar with excellence – among us were prominent political speechwriters, screenwriters, actors, entrepreneurs, executives and foundation directors; some who call the Obamas and Clintons their bosses, others who work for prominent media companies including the New York Times and Facebook. Part of why Bauer was so effective at telling Israel’s story is because he spoke to all of us — Jews and non-Jews; Israel veterans and Israel first-timers; those already highly educated about the country and the conflict and those just beginning to understand how Israel ended up with the West Bank and Gaza to begin with. Bauer refused to oversimplify; rather than present “two sides,” he’d instead offer multiple competing perspectives that sometimes contradicted each other. “Teaching these topics is so complex, and if you do not understand the complexity, you miss the whole thing,” he told me.

Bauer has spent more than 20 years guiding groups through Israel, Jordan, the Sinai and Turkey, as well as Poland and Germany, via his company, Bauer Trails. His expertise in minority relations, religion, history and the Arab-Israeli conflict has attracted an international clientele that includes foreign diplomats – including members of the Clinton and Bush administrations, as well as a former Prime Minister of Canada – in addition to Hollywood celebrities like Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Bauer’s reputation for presenting facts unalloyed to politics, and his theatrical gift for storytelling has also won him repeat business from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and Columbia University’s Middle East Institute. It’s safe to say he’s probably Israel’s top tour guide, but that would not encapsulate the additional work he does teaching at Israeli colleges or within the intelligence unit of the Israel Defense Forces.  

Only once did Bauer reveal his emotional side. At Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial museum, Bauer surprised the group when he abruptly paused his tour in the Warsaw Ghetto section to share a personal reflection. As light streamed down from the sole window in the museum’s interior, Bauer said, “I can’t tell you how huge this event is in the Israeli psyche. This is the part of the Holocaust Israelis study the most – the Jewish uprising.”   

In person, Bauer looks more like the combat commander he once was than the educator he is now — shaved head, intense blue eyes and a face lined by desert sun. Though his formal education was standard, Bauer has been reading books, he said, “all my life.”

“I’ve loved history since I was kid, and Israel is a haven for history,” he told me. “I was also always curious. Even in the military, I was always trying to understand why are we doing what we’re doing.”

Photo by Neta Cones

Bauer grew up in a middle class, center-left neighborhood in an agricultural village outside Tel Aviv. Today he lives on a Kibbutz southwest of Jerusalem with his wife and five young children. When I asked him what it’s like raising children a few miles from the Green Line, where there are occasional violent skirmishes, he said, “I could live anywhere in the world; I live here out of choice. And I believe that my [kibbutz] is the best place to raise kids.”

Even though Bauer’s tours are exceptionally fair-minded and apolitical, his passion for where he lives pulsates through his prose. “I love my country,” he said, when someone in our group asked about his personal politics. Looking down as he answered, he nestled his feet in the gravel. “I love the rocks.”

There is something almost mystical about Bauer’s teaching, beyond the obvious spiritual subject matter. It shows in the way he marries history, religion and archaeology, or the way he lights up when reading passages from Torah or the New Testament that he can prove actually happened. This quality is part of why our group felt so in awe of him; teaching the history of the world, he somehow made the world make sense. In seven days, Bauer transcended the role of tour guide and simply became our Rav, our teacher.  

Not that he sees himself that way: “For me, I’m not a spiritual person,” he insisted. “The Bible is an unbelievable text and book, and I do believe in many things that are written in it, especially when I can prove it academically. And what I cannot prove, I am full of appreciation for, because I cannot argue with a text that has influenced so many people. I have respect for the Bible — beyond.”

When I pointed out that “beyond” is a spiritual word, Bauer laughed.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about him isn’t his lack of spirituality, but his lack of ego and material ambition. He was mostly unfazed by all the adulation and attention he received. “I’m not a big deal,” he insisted. And later, when I asked him what he dreamed of, he said: “My true mission is to be able to raise my family and support my kids.”

Since he values family so deeply, I asked how a secular Israeli might express his gratitude.

“I say, ‘Thank God,’” he replied automatically. Then he cracked a smile.

“I do say ‘Thank God.’”

Danielle Berrin: Why were you drawn to the study of Arab-Israeli relations?

Michael Bauer: It’s something that shapes our life over here. I live on the green line, so I see Arabs, fences, borders every single day. And I see Israeli-Arab relations as the future; whether it’s negative or positive, it’s a crucial part of our life.

DB: As an Israeli, can you teach the conflict objectively?

MB: It’s not that I don’t have a political view, I do; but I don’t have an agenda. My agenda, if there is one, is that at the end of a program of mine, I’d like you to appreciate Israel and respect Israel, with its complexity.

DB: What do you hope someone who has no prior experience of Israel will learn from your tour?

MB: The importance of size and location. Location in the context of the Middle East [matters], but location is not only geographic. It’s always political. Understand that we are now sitting in Tel Aviv, and two days ago, there were missiles an hour away from here. [My first night home from our tour last week,] I was drinking wine and telling my wife about the group, and I could hear ‘BOOM’ and see the lights.

It’s also very important to understand the history, including [the religious texts]. There’s a deep connection of people to the ground over here.

DB: What do you hope someone who already knows a great deal about Israel learns from you?

MB: For people that know all the facts, the next thing they need to learn is the [role of the] psyche. There’s a gap sometimes between the facts and what people think and believe. Christians believe Jesus was resurrected from the Church of Holy Sepulchre, and Jews and Muslims think not. The Muslims think that Mohammad rose up to heaven on a night journey from Al-Aqsa, and the Christians and Jews think not. Therefore, it doesn’t matter what really happened; it’s only what people think and what they’re willing to do about it. Same with discrimination in Israel: If I tell you there’s discrimination, you can tell me there isn’t discrimination, and then we can argue about it. But if I tell you Arabs feel discriminated against, that you cannot argue. That is a fact. If the Palestinians feel there is an occupation, it doesn’t really matter what is happening on the ground – I mean, it matters — but it matters more what they feel when they get up in the morning. If Jews wake up in the morning and they’re afraid, you can’t tell them they shouldn’t be afraid because they have an F-16. That’s irrelevant. People need to consider feelings as given facts.

DB: So how do you teach the deep, psycho-spiritual connection people have to this land?

MB: If people really want to know, they need to go back to Abraham and then all the way to yesterday.

DB: What do you wish the world knew about settlements that isn’t  considered in media coverage?

MB: Someone that tells me “I am in favor of the settlements” or “I am against the settlements,” for me, that’s very shallow. It actually means they don’t know much. There are different settlements and different settlers. You have smaller, isolated settlements that are religiously ideological; you have settlements along the valley that are more agricultural, very strategic, less religiously ideological. You’ve got big settlement blocs of 30,000-40,000 people, which are Ariel, Maale Adumim and Gush Etzion. Then you have a few you need to argue [about]; then you have a few that are near the Green Line. And then you have East Jerusalem — the Jewish quarter, Gilo, French Hill and so on. All of that is different.

If you were to go to French Hill tomorrow and make elections, you would realize that a majority of them are voting for Meretz, which is an anti-settlement party. Which means, they don’t see themselves at all as settlers. Are we allowed to build in the Jewish quarter in Jerusalem? Most Israelis will say ‘Yes.’ Most Israelis are not aware that they’re actually on the other side of the Green Line. They’ll say “I’m against settlements.” And you’ll say, “What about Gilo?” “Oh, that doesn’t count.” So if you don’t know the nuances of settlements, don’t hold an opinion.

DB: How do you talk to people about the occupation? Do you even use that word?

MB: When someone says “occupation,” I need to understand what is it exactly that they’re talking about. Because when Hamas says “occupation,” we are right now in Tel Aviv, sitting in “occupied” land. So what is occupation?

It’s true that Israel, in 1967, occupied territory. That’s a fact. But the moment I start using the word “occupation,” it becomes politicized.

If you ask me, “What do you think about the occupation?” I’ll ask you: “Which occupation?” Right away. And then you will tell me about the West Bank, and I’ll say, “OK, you’re asking about the policies of Israel in the West Bank.”

The fact is that tomorrow Palestinians will wake up in the morning and they will feel occupied. There’s not one soldier in Gaza, but they feel occupied. Why? Because they are encircled by Israel and also Egypt, which is hostile to them as well. And because Palestinians, most of them, see all of Israel as occupied. That’s also fact. Who is responsible for the occupation? That’s a political argument. Now the question is, what is the solution?

DB: How do you reconcile feeling rightfully rooted in this land with Israeli policies that have caused suffering to others who also feel rightfully rooted in this land?

MB: I do not want to belong to an occupying force, and I do not want to rule other people as an Israeli. But given the fact that an agreement that I believe was fair was offered and rejected by the Palestinians in 2000 — and then came the disengagement in 2005 — [those] for me, as an Israeli, were crucial for feeling well when I look in my mirror.

DB: How do you talk to your young children about where they live?

MB: I believe that we have to be honest no matter what. Usually we’re not honest with our kids because we want to protect them. I am always honest. During [Operation] Protective Edge, when there were missiles falling on our kibbutz, I told them “There are missiles.” They knew it came from Arab people in Gaza strip that are led by an organization called Hamas. At the end of the day, you don’t want them to be terrified and hate Arabs, so it’s a complicated balance. Many times, they see me armed, and they’ll ask me suddenly, “Why are you armed?” So how do I tell them I am taking a gun, but they are safe so they should not be afraid?

Photo by Rick Sorkin

MB: As a secular Israeli, how do you think about the fact that the Bible and the history of this land intersect?

For me the Bible is a book of history, literature and philosophy. And I fully accept the fact that for a lot of other people, it’s a spiritual book, which requires a little faith. I’m not a spiritual person, but I do work with people of Jewish faith, Christian faith, atheists, Buddhists. Everything. And I need to make it relevant for everyone.

When I can take that book and prove that a lot of it happened, that it was written here, and I can connect the geography, the culture, the people and the land, I do get excited by the fact that I belong to this people, and they are my ancestors in those texts.

And when I prove to Christians who are not devout that [a lot of] what’s written in the New Testament makes sense — I can actually prove it to them — I love it. I’m a Jew, and I’m strengthening Christian identity! It’s very funny because I’m not spiritual, but strengthening people’s spirituality makes me very happy.

MB: Where is your favorite place in Israel?

I like to go to the Negev or Judean desert, because I love the wilderness. All religions were born in the desert, so that’s where I like going more than any other place.


Danielle Berrin is a senior writer and columnist at the Jewish Journal.

New rail line to connect high-tech Tel Aviv with holy Jerusalem


Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are only 60 km (40 miles) apart but they often feel like different planets, not just in terms of mentality but because the commute from the Mediterranean to the hills can sometimes take two hours.

That is set to change in the next 18 months with the completion of a $2 billion, high-speed rail line that will slash the time between the high-tech, business center and Jerusalem's Old City to just 30 minutes.

After more than a decade in the planning, the project, which has involved boring tunnels through mountains and spanning bridges over deep valleys, promises to transform Israel's two largest cities, or at least bring them a little closer.

“We are doing in Israel what was done 200 years ago in the United States, after World War II in Europe and in recent decades in Asia,” Transport Minister Yisrael Katz said on Tuesday, touting several new rail lines in the works. “The main aim is to connect Jerusalem to the rest of the country.”

There is already a train between Jerusalem and the coast — built during the Ottoman empire and added to by the French and the British — but it's a slow, scenic route that takes an hour and 40 minutes, not ideal for commuting. That said, around 7,500 people still ride it most days.

The new line takes a more direct route, cutting through the steep hills between the Mediterranean and Jerusalem, which sits 800 meters (2,640 feet) above sea level.

Working with 10 foreign companies, the line runs over 10 bridges and through five tunnels. Construction began in 2010 and is scheduled to end in March 2018.

Double-decker trains holding around 1,700 passengers will travel at 160 km/h. The plan is for four departures an hour, serving 50,000 commuters a day, or 10 million a year, said Boaz Zafrir, the chief executive of Israel Railways.

Katz believes the train will give a jolt to Jerusalem's economy, encouraging more people from the coast to open businesses in the city, which is more religious and conservative than Tel Aviv. Some Tel Avivians, fed up with high rental costs and high humidity, may also decide to move to Jerusalem.

The new line also promises to be a boon for foreign diplomats, Israeli government employees and parliament members, many of whom live on the coast but commute to Jerusalem almost daily and often lament the traffic jams.

Death toll in Tel Aviv construction site collapse rises to 4


The body of a worker was pulled from the rubble of the collapse of a four-level underground parking structure under construction in Tel Aviv, bringing the death toll to four.

The third and fourth bodies were located several hours apart on Tuesday afternoon.

Three other workers, Israeli and Palestinian, are believed to still be trapped under the rubble more than 24 hours after the collapse at the building site late Monday morning. At least 20 people were injured in the accident.

One of the dead has been identified as a Ukrainian worker.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the site late Monday night, eschewing the FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifying soccer match between Israel and Italy being held in Jerusalem. The site was swarming with search-and-rescue personnel.

“I am constantly monitoring the rescue efforts at the disaster site in Tel Aviv,” Netanyahu said Tuesday morning as he boarded a flight for a two-day state visit in the Netherlands, adding that he was “deeply impressed by the work of the rescue units led by the GOC Home Front Command.”

“The people are doing exceptional work on the highest professional level to be found anywhere in the world,” he said. “There are still people trapped; we are making every effort and are not giving up on anyone. We will reach them all.”

Dudi Mizrahi, the head of the Israeli army’s Home Front Command Search and Rescue Unit, said Monday evening that the search-and-rescue operation could go on for days. He said “the chances of finding anyone alive” were less likely with each passing hour, according to The Times of Israel.

Some 300 Israeli army search-and-rescue personnel have been involved in the search, as well as 160 rescue workers from the fire department. A K-9 unit also is on the scene to assist in locating the missing workers.

Police have placed a gag order on details of the investigation into what caused the collapse, according to Haaretz, which reported that a number of serious safety accidents have occurred in recent months at sites under construction by Danya Cebus, the company operating the site where Monday’s collapse occurred. An accident three months ago occurred at the same site, according to Haaretz.

Israeli startups on cutting edge of aging tech


The world’s fast-growing over-60 population needs tech solutions for issues ranging from retirement planning to health monitoring, and Israeli companies are stepping up to meet the challenge. Some of the most promising products were displayed earlier this year at the Israel Aging 2.0 startup contest during the Conference for Technologies for Aging Well at Bar-Ilan University.

“We see the entry of more and more high-quality Israeli ventures in this field, and more interest from the investor community,” said Dov Sugarman, the Israel representative for Aging 2.0, a global platform to accelerate innovation to improve the quality of life of the aging population.

The competition was part of Aging 2.0’s worldwide startup search. Winners of 40 local events were featured on the Aging 2.0 website for popular voting and expert judges’ review. A chosen few will vie for prizes and mentoring at a San Francisco event in October.

Sugarman said that Israeli entrepreneurs and marketers — who tend to be young — are becoming aware of the opportunities in aging technology.

“We have so many great apps, but most 85-year-olds don’t have smart devices, and we need to address that with new solutions,” he said.

The Aging 2.0 competition was hosted by the Conference for Technologies for Aging Well, a program of the Israeli Society for Aging Well of the Society of Electrical and Electronic Engineering in Israel.

The 250 members of the society, ranging from social workers to doctors to engineers, look at the future role of technology not only for health needs but also to help combat loneliness, aid in retirement planning, make devices like computers and cellphones easier to use, and provide assistance to caregivers.

“In the last four years, we’ve seen big progress in Israel’s aging technology,” said Yael Benvenisti, chairwoman of the society and the conference. “In Israel’s startup incubators, there are more and more companies with solutions for the aging population. Nobody used to think about this population, and now they see it’s a good market.”

From left: Dov Sugarman, Israeli rep for Aging 2.0; MyndYou co-founders Itay Baruchi, Ruth Poliakine Baruchi and Dan Sztybel; Yael Benvenisti, chairwoman 
of the Israeli Society for Aging Well. Photos courtesy of Israel21c

 

Sugarman, a Tel Aviv-based aging-tech consultant, manages strategic partnerships for SafeBeyond, a platform for creating and storing personalized messages for distribution later in life or after death. SafeBeyond pitched at the first Israeli Aging 2.0 competition last year.

He noted that monitoring, sensing and tracking technologies — delivered via apps, smart TVs and robots, for example — is becoming critical in extending the independence of people in declining mental and physical health.

“The megatrend is aging in place [aging at home], and we need technology for that,” Sugarman said. “We’re seeing activity in Israel across all those spectrums. I expect that 2016-17 will see Israeli companies playing a growing role in global innovation and the generation of new business ideas.”

The U.S. caregiving market is estimated to be a $279 billion opportunity, with some $100 million in venture investment going to tech-enabled home care in 2015. 

Israeli startups are making significant contributions in this aging-tech sector, and here are 11 to watch.

MyndYou: Winner of the Aging 2.0 Israel competition, MyndYou is developing a mobile platform to help people with early stage cognitive deterioration maintain independence. The monthly subscription platform will monitor cognitive, physiological and behavioral parameters, alert family members to changes and offer actionable insights, according to CEO Ruth Poliakine Baruchi.

A $1.2 million funding round is going toward finalizing development and launching in the U.S. next year; the startup is now in the ICONYC Labs accelerator.

Vitalitix: Following a new phenomenon called “crowd-caring,” the Vitalitix social-responsibility platform provides three-way communication among seniors, caregivers and community “social angels,” as well as volunteers from existing networks. The idea is to reduce loneliness, improve safety and allow more freedom at home and out. The senior can access the app, now in beta, through any wearable device or smartphone.

Pharmpool: Pharmpool is developing a mobile app that evaluates the safety of a particular drug therapy regimen for a specific patient, and includes features to increase medication adherence and management.

Steps&: Steps& has created a virtual smartphone assistant who guides and encourages physical therapy patients through home exercises. The interface, managed by the physical therapist, includes instructional videos, a motivation boost, and goal-setting, pre-scheduling and tracking features.

Kytera: Kytera, a graduate of the Microsoft Ventures Tel Aviv Accelerator, is working on a smart wristband and motion-sensor technology to monitor seniors who are aging at home. It automatically detects and alerts to “stress situations” that vary from a person’s usual activity patterns. It’s being piloted in the United States ahead of commercialization by the end of this year.

AbiliSense: According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, 1 in 3 people from age 65 to 74 has hearing loss and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing. AbiliSense is developing apps that continuously listen to the world around the user, analyze the sounds and transform them into alerts — delivered to smartphones, wearables and other devices — ranging from “the doorbell is ringing” to an emergency SOS.

HelpAround: Founded in Tel Aviv in 2013, the HelpAround platform for chronic patients and caregivers enables organizations to match patients with appropriate resources to improve access to care. The founders applied their knowledge of mobile health and data-driven, targeted advertising to build a smart “safety net” of helpers for chronic patients similar to the way ad tech pairs buyers with sellers.

HelpAround was one of four Israeli startups chosen as regional finalists in the 1776 Startup Challenge, and visited Washington, D.C., in June for the global competition.

Mybitat: Mybitat, a company in Herzliya, partnered with Samsung to develop a suite of smart-home solutions aimed at helping the elderly remain at home longer with better quality of life. Advanced sensors, cloud-based software and behavior analytics monitor daily routines and wellness. If a change in behavior or health is detected, the system alerts preselected contacts.

Perlis: Haifa-based Perlis is developing an artificial intelligence and robotic system to identify early symptoms of diseases commonly affecting the elderly, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. The system serves as a support tool for physicians, caretakers and family to address health problems quickly enough to enable the elderly to retain independence at home.

E2C: Easy to Connect (E2C) in Ramat Gan offers a Basic smartphone (available in the United States and Israel) and a Basic tablet (available in Israel) designed to help seniors easily access the latest communication technologies with large print, one-button navigation and other streamlined processes. A Basic smart TV and Basic smartwatch are coming next.

PowerTags: PowerTags are miniature low-cost wearable tags providing location-based tracking capabilities for institutional caregivers of the elderly, among other applications. A proprietary “position engine” presents the tag’s real-time and historical movement patterns on a cloud-based dashboard viewable on smartphones, tablets and laptops. An emergency alert button is embedded in the tags. 

Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, ex-defense minister and longtime Knesset member, dies at 80


Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, a former Labor Party leader and defense minister who served in the Knesset for 30 years, has died.

Ben Eliezer, who withdrew from the country’s presidential election in 2014 over corruption charges, died Sunday in a Tel Aviv hospital. He was 80.

Known by the nickname “Fouad,” Ben-Eliezer served in the Knesset from 1984 through 2014. He led the Labor Party in 2001 and 2002.

In the early 2000s he was the defense minister for four years under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon during the second Palestinian intifada. The West Bank security fence was built during his tenure.

In December 2014, Ben Eliezer resigned from the Knesset for health reasons. A year later he was indicted for receiving more than $500,000 from businessmen in return for political favors. He paid a nearly $3 million fine in a plea bargain in May, which kept him out of prison.

Along with being defense minister, he served in the Cabinet as housing, infrastructure, communications, and industry and trade minister.

Ben-Eliezer was born in Basra, Iraq, in 1936 and immigrated to Israel as a teen immediately after the birth of the state. He had a distinguished military career in Israel, beginning his service in the Israel Defense Forces in the Golani Brigade, which he served as an officer. He served as deputy battalion commander during the Yom Kippur War, and was appointed battalion commander of the IDF brigade responsible for protecting the Lebanese border. He was the first commander of South Lebanon, and served as commander of the Judea and Samaria region for four years until 1982, when he retired from the IDF, returning in 1984 for one year to serve as coordinator of government activities in the West Bank and Gaza.

On a visit to Tunisia in 1994 with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Ben Eliezer became the first Israeli minister to meet PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat.

In December 2014, Ben-Eliezer received a kidney transplant and several months later was placed in a medically induced coma with a serious case of the flu until his health improved.

“Fouad served the State of Israel for decades as a fighter, commander, public servant and senior government minister,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. “I knew him and I esteemed his contribution and his special personality. In my many conversations with him, Fouad expressed his concern for – and commitment to – the future of the State of Israel that he loved so much. May his memory be blessed.”

The missing children: Yemenites who found their way to L.A. carry family wounds from Israel’s past


On a recent Sunday morning, Meir Cohen switched off the Israeli news playing on the television in his Encino home. He poured himself a glass of tea with hawaij, a cardamom-scented mix popular among Yemenite Jews such as himself. Then he reclined into a leather armchair.

Cohen had been hesitant to discuss what some see as “just another Israeli story,” he said. He’s told the story before, to little effect. He was worried another retelling would be just a waste of his time. Nonetheless, he agreed to talk.

In the late 1960s, when Cohen was about 15 years old, a letter arrived at his Tel Aviv home on Israel Defense Forces stationery — a draft notice addressed to Aaron Cohen. He’d never heard of such a person.

So he asked his mother, “Who’s Aaron?”

“Aaron is your brother,” he recalled her saying. “They stole him.” Then his mother started cursing the people who took her son from her.

At about that time, this same conversation was playing out in households across Israel.

The missing children’s parents were predominantly immigrants from Yemen, though not exclusively; some children from the Balkans and North Africa also went missing, and new media reports show that even some Ashkenazi families were torn apart.

Children said to have died in the sickness and depravation of transit camps during the state’s chaotic early years were being sent draft notices. For parents who had never really believed their children to be dead in the first place, the notices confirmed their suspicions.

It was the first time the traumatic saga of the yeladim hatufim — the kidnapped children — was resurrected. It has never completely died in the ensuing decades.

Three times in the years since, the Israeli government has formed a state commission of inquiry to investigate. And three times the commissions have failed to confirm or kill a belief, widespread among Yemenite Jews, that Israel’s early Mapai (Workers’ Party) government systematically kidnapped hundreds of children from transit camps and sold them to Ashkenazi couples who couldn’t bear children of their own.

Now, activists, legislators and journalists in Israel once again are elevating public attention on the story of the missing children. 

Cohen said he has little hope that this new round of questioning will be any more conclusive than its predecessors. He’s encouraged, though, by the fact that Tzachi Hanegbi, a prominent minister of Yemenite origin in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, has become the de facto leader of the new effort. 

The push in the Knesset to relitigate the issue started with Nurit Koren, a Likud member whose parents were born in Yemen. She grew up in a community where the missing children were a frequent topic of lament.

“I heard about it all the time when I was a child,” Koren told the Journal. After she was elected in 2015, “I said to myself, ‘I must do something with this.’ ”

In February, she approached Netanyahu to suggest he take up the issue and delegate to Hanegbi, a trusted ally of the prime minister, the task of declassifying as much evidence as possible.

But for her part, Koren is not waiting for the results of the investigation. Instead, she’s organizing a genetic database so children who suspect they went missing can potentially reconnect with their birth families. (In a phone interview, she encouraged those wishing to participate to reach out to her via email at nkoren@knesset.gov.il to learn how they can be tested free of charge.)

Koren described a massive outpouring of interest from impacted families after Israeli headlines began to crop up about her campaign.

“This is the time,” she said. “People want answers.”

Already, Hanegbi has ordered that previously classified material from earlier investigations be released to the public. But the Holy of Holies — a roster of names and addresses of vanished children — remains elusive, if it exists.

It is beyond doubt that something went awry in the early days of the state. Children were displaced from parents. Accounts of empty graves and grown children reunited with parents seem to confirm as much. In 1997, The New York Times carried the story of a Sacramento woman who had been shown by genetic testing to be the missing daughter of an Israeli Yemenite mother. 

Each successive commission has made note of a growing number of missing children while failing to explain the circumstances behind each instance. The most recent investigation, begun in 1995, dismissed the idea that children were purposefully kidnapped but sealed much of its evidence. 

The report chalked up the disappearances to a long list of bureaucratic and communication failures, said Nadav Molchadsky, a professor of history at the UCLA Nazarian Center for Israel Studies, who researched the investigations for a forthcoming article, “Negotiating a Contested Jewish Past: Commissions of Inquiry and the Yemenite Children Affair.” 

Painful questions linger in the wake of the last investigation, which went on for six years, the longest state commission of inquiry in Israel’s history, he said.

“Neither the commission nor the families give us a full explanation about what happened or did not happen,” Molchadsky said in an interview. “And it’s very hard to live with this notion, with this awkwardness, especially because it’s a tragedy — it’s a human tragedy and it’s a national tragedy.”

But within the Yemenite community, many are certain the Israeli government preyed on the naiveté of immigrants — predominantly, but not exclusively, Yemenite ones — to steal their babies from their very arms.

As Yemenite Jews have joined in the Israeli emigration to centers of Jewish life around the world, including to Los Angeles, they brought their pain with them.

“All these kids today are like hostages by these Ashkenazi families — period,” said Cohen. “We have to release them.”

A Right to Know

Three years before Meir Cohen was born, his mother gave birth to a beautiful boy. He remembers her saying the baby had “cheeks like apples.” A few days later, a nurse summarily informed her that Aaron was dead. 

Cohen’s mother demanded her son’s body — it’s a Yemenite custom to sit in mourning even for a stillborn baby — but the hospital refused. Shortly after, when his family opened the grave where hospital officials told them Aaron was buried, they found it empty.

Today, Meir Cohen is 63. If Aaron is alive, he is 66.

“Something very crooked happened,” said Yaniv Levi, an Israeli of Yemenite heritage in his early 40s who has lived in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood for 14 years.

The grandchildren of Yemenite immigrants — people roughly Levi’s age and generation — are leading the charge in Israel to declassify documents and hopefully bring to a close a painful chapter for their families. 

“We are not going to be suckers like our parents, our grandparents, who came [to Israel] and just went with the flow,” Levi said in an interview, sitting in the back patio of the office space where he works on Robertson Boulevard.



Yemenite children at Kisalon, a transit camp near Jerusalem, in 1950. Photo by David Eldan/GPO

The first time he remembers his family openly discussing the story of Pinchas, his uncle, was at the shiva, or mourning period, of his grandmother Miriam.

“It was Friday night,” he said. “We ate together during the shiva, and this issue came up — like, the kid doesn’t know that his mom passed away. His biological mom actually passed away. But what could we do, you know?”

Pinchas Levi was last seen by a member of his family on Dec. 10, 1949. He was 3. The toddler was being loaded onto the back of a truck in the Ein Shemer transit camp near Hadera in Israel’s north, supposedly to receive vaccinations, according to an email to the Journal from Yaniv’s father, David, and aunt, also Miriam. Both live in Israel.

“Pinchas was a beautiful boy, with light skin and blue eyes,” they wrote. “He had a birthmark on his neck.”

His mother was hospitalized when they came to take him, and his father had died, leaving Miriam, just 12, in charge of the family.

“Since that day, our mother didn’t see him, and until her last day, on Passover 1991, when she passed away, she never forgot him and was in sorrow of his disappearance,” they wrote.

Yaniv Levi wouldn’t mind seeing somebody in Israel’s government go to jail for stealing children, even though he believes it unlikely the people responsible are still alive. But punishment is not his focus. 

“If we will know who did the crime and they will be ashamed of themselves, that’s also welcome,” he said. “But the main goal is to know: Where is my uncle? We have the right to know where he is, and he has the right to know who’s his family.”

Koren, too, said recrimination is not her goal, and she’s willing to go as far as passing a law that would shield any perpetrators from punishment if it would further the investigation.

“I want to find the children,” she said. “I want to know what happened — only this.”

In the Cold and Mud

Ely Dromy moved to Los Angeles from Israel in 1971 and built a successful real estate business. Today, he is an active benefactor for many Jewish and Yemenite causes, including Tifereth Teman, a Yemenite synagogue on Pico Boulevard.

But in October 1949, his family left a comfortable life in Yemen to become penniless immigrants to Israel.

He was barely 6 months old when he boarded a plane with his family as part of Operation Magic Carpet (in Hebrew, kanfei nesharim — the wings of eagles), which airlifted thousands of Yemenite Jews to Israel.

Most of the immigrants had never so much as seen an airplane before. Dating from the Babylonian exile, the Yemenite Jews were isolated from the rest of the people of Israel. To them, the ingathering must have been an event of, literally, messianic proportions.

The reality that awaited them was an impoverished and untamed expanse of land surrounded by enemies and struggling to call into being a Jewish state. 

Dromy’s family found its way to Ein Shemer around the same time as Levi’s.

The makeshift camps’ former residents refer to them as ma’abarot, a word that seems to come from the Hebrew ma’avar, or transit.

Accounts of the camps are colored by disease and hunger. A lack of adequate shelter left residents boiling in the summer and cold and wet in the winter. It was amid this chaos that babies began to go missing.

Top:  Ely Dromy, left, shortly after his family left the Ein Shemer camp. Bottom: David Dromy (standing) and his father, Ely, at their Beverly Hills office. According to family lore, Ely was kidnapped in the Ein Shemer transit camp as a six-month-old child. 

Dromy believes he was almost one of them. Immediately upon his family’s arrival at the camp, authorities took him from his mother, Shula, to place him in a hospital nursery. After about five days, during which nurses turned away Shula when she came to see her son, Shula ran into her sister-in-law, who literally smacked her into her senses.

“My aunt said to her, ‘Be careful,’ ” Dromy recalled, sitting with impeccable posture in his Beverly Drive office. “‘It’s on your life. They are disappearing babies.’”

Shula went straight to the hospital and forced her way past staff members. She burst into the nursery, locked the door behind her and went looking for her baby. Finding him, she tied the baby around her belly and jumped from the second-story window.

“I trusted in God and didn’t think twice,” she says in a video recorded by her relatives before her death.

The winter of 1949 brought historic rains, Ely Dromy said, and the camps were choked with mud. When camp officials came looking for the baby, his mother had hidden him away in the muck of a friend’s makeshift abode until she could retrieve him.

I’m Sorry I Came

In the opening sequence of the classic Hebrew film “Sallah Shabati” (1964), a satire of the ma’abarot that mocked pompous kibbutzniks and unmannered immigrants with equal cruelty, the title character walks off a plane from Yemen with his large family and finds a local housing official.

“How many children do you have?” the potbellied Ashkenazi asks the slouching, bearded immigrant.

“A lot,” Sallah says. “Six.”

“It says here seven,” the official replies, looking down at his papers.

“Let’s see what?” Sallah says in his Arabic-inflected Hebrew, squinting at the documents. Then, he looks up shiftily and nods his agreement, “Seven.”

The stereotype of Sephardic and Mizrahi (Eastern) immigrants held that they had more children than they knew what to do with. In that context, they could afford to lose a few.

A high mortality rate contributed to the idea that life was expendable in the camps.

“They had dysentery; they had the flu; they had all kinds of diseases, fever, because the water wasn’t good, because it was hot and [they were] hungry,” said Malca Yarimi, an Israeli-born Yemenite Jew whose two older siblings were born in Yemen. “They were mizkenim [pitiful folks]. And, in general, a lot of kids died. So [camp administrators] thought they could say to them in the hospital, ‘He died.’ So he died!”

Yarimi, 63, now lives in Santa Monica. Sitting down in her daughter’s Pico-Robertson apartment over Nescafé and cream cookies, she recalled a childhood in Rehovot’s Yemenite community where neighbors and friends were devastated, believing in their hearts their children were not dead. 

Consigned to squalor and their trust in the new state broken, the enthusiasm of many immigrants quickly faded to disillusionment. The title “Sallah Shabati” is a play on the Hebrew, slicha shebati — I’m sorry I came.

‘A Knife in Your Back’

Yarimi’s daughter, Maya, remembers asking her grandfather if he was happy when emissaries from Israel arrived in Yemen to announce the coming operation.

“I was so amazed to see my grandfather’s reaction,” she said, scowling and swatting the air in front of her with the back of her hand. “Like that. I was like, ‘Why is he reacting like that?’ I was taught that the Israelis came and redeemed the Yemenites.”

After immigrating to Los Angeles at the age of 28, she began to read a darker history of Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews in Israel — a history of marginalization and discrimination.

As a teenager, she had dismissed the stories of kidnapped children as tall tales. Now she began to believe them. 

“I became very upset,” she recalled. “I said, ‘You know what, I love Israel, but I’m not proud of the state of Israel, of what it did.’ ”

In general, Israel’s early European residents regarded the dark-skinned immigrants from Arab countries with distaste, said Rabbi Daniel Bouskila, who directs the Sephardic Education Center in Jerusalem and Los Angeles.

“When the Ashkenazi Zionists saw the boats coming, and they saw Jews from Yemen and Jews from Morocco, they didn’t really care,” he told the Journal. “It was, to them, ‘not us.’ ”

Nonetheless, Yemenite Jews were — and remain — by and large a deeply traditional community committed to the Zionist ideal. 

“All the community of Yemenites is Mizrahi, is Orthodox and is Zionist, and trusts and believes and serves in the army and everything,” said Rabbi Aharon Shaltiel, the leader of Tifereth Teman. “There’s no doubt.”

In fact, although some Yemenite Jews have become secular, like most Israelis, they remain deeply patriotic. 

Shaltiel is an energetic man with short gray sidecurls and a wide-brimmed black cap who is vocally proud of his own service in the Israeli army. But the idea that “Jewish people — people building a country together with you” could carry out the kidnappings is “very hard to live with.”

“It’s like somebody tells you we’re brothers, then puts a knife in your back,” he said.

An Uncomfortable Accounting

In the ma’abarot, the largely Yemenite population chafed at their conditions and their treatment by their light-skinned neighbors. Hungry residents stole produce from nearby farms. In 1952, rioting ensued when a kibbutz guard roughed up an old woman out gathering weeds for her goat at Emek Hefer, a transit camp close to Ein Shemer, according to an account in Haaretz. 

Even when immigrants relocated to Israel’s urban core or formed Yemenite communities in so-called periphery towns, the air of mutual suspicion lingered.

The affair simmered through two unsatisfying state investigations. In 1994, tensions escalated when Rabbi Uzi Meshulam, a Yemenite activist in a periphery town called Yehud, claimed to have evidence of 4,500 kidnapped children. Following a siege on his compound, Meshulam and his followers’ interactions with police turned violent, resulting in one death. But Knesset members eventually followed through on a promise they made to defuse the standoff and launched the 1995 commission of inquiry, which lasted through 2001.

Still, some Yemenites who grew up in Israel trade in rumors, though apparently with little foundation, of children sold as research subjects to the United States or harvested for organs.

On the other hand, some insist the entire affair of the disappeared children is made up. In an article in the Jewish newspaper Algemeiner, Steven Plaut, a University of Haifa business professor, compared talk of kidnapped children to accounts of extraterrestrial visitation.

Mistrust remains, compounded by lingering socioeconomic gaps.

Today, the periphery towns where many Sephardic and Mizrahi communities live receive a disproportionately small amount of government resources and their narratives get short shrift in textbooks, said Bouskila, the Sephardic Education Center director. 

As part of the tapestry of Sephardic and Mizrahi communities in Israel, Yemenites have long been influential in food and the arts — Middle Eastern crooners like Idan Raichel and Shlomi Shabat top Israel’s charts. But only recently have residents of periphery towns been able to attain the highest reaches of Israel’s government. 

“To become a member of Knesset or minister of government — that was not on the table in the first 40 years of Israel,” he said.

Now, the same lawmakers who have broken those barriers are demanding an account of the state’s early sins, messy as the story may be.

“The narrative is not as neat as you’d like it to be,” Bouskila said. “But I think a society like Israel only becomes better and stronger, and is only able to deal with its social and cultural problems, when it confronts them.” 

Koren, the Israeli legislator leading the charge, said she will consider her efforts a success if even a single family is reunited. 

“It’s enough for me to find one,” she said. “To bring one kidnapped child to their family.”

IDF razes homes of Sarona Market attackers


The West Bank homes of the two terrorists who killed four Israelis in a shooting attack on the popular Sarona Market in Tel Aviv were demolished.

The Israel Defense Forces razed the Hebron-area homes of cousins Mohammed Mahamra and Khaled Mahamra on Wednesday night using bulldozers and explosives. They reportedly did not meet with any resistance or rioting.

A joint investigation by the Shin Bet, the IDF and the Border Police found that the men entered a wide gap in the West Bank security fence leading to the Israeli settlement Meitar, near Beersheba. The men were carrying arms. They reportedly were inspired by the Islamic State to carry out the attack, which also injured six.

The two shooters were caught after the attack and are awaiting trial on charges of murder. A third Palestinian man is accused of assisting them.

The victims were Michael Feige, 58, a professor in the Israel studies program at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev; Ido Ben Ari, 42, of Ramat Gan; Ilana Navaa, 39, of Tel Aviv ; and Mila Mishayev, 33, of Ashkelon, who was soon to be married.

Only the top floor of the building in which Mohammed Mahamra lives was demolished, in keeping with the Supreme Court’s approval of the demolition order. The entire building in which Khalid Mahamra and his family lives was demolished, after the court said in its decision that members of his family knew he was planning the attack and praised it on social media.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court approved the demolition of the home of Muhammad Nasser Tarayrah, 17, who killed Hallel Yaffa Ariel, a dual Israeli and American citizen, as she slept in her Kiryat Arba home.

Immediately following the attack the village was sealed off and permits to work in Israel were revoked for the village’s residents, many of whom are related to the attacker. Tarayrah’s sister and two of his brothers was arrested for incitement after publicly praising their brother’s actions.

The court approved the destruction of the floor on which Tarayrah lived, but ordered the home sealed off in case the floor cannot be destroyed without razing the entire building.

Possible wreckage from EgyptAir crash washes up in Israel


Debris apparently from the crash of EgyptAir MS804 was found on a beach north of Tel Aviv on Thursday, an official in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said.

Netanyahu, who was briefed about the discovery during a visit to Ethiopia, instructed Israeli authorities to hand over the material to Egypt, possibly as early as Friday, for further analysis, the official said.

The Airbus A320 plunged into the eastern Mediterranean en route from Paris to Cairo on May 19. All 66 people on board were killed. The cause of the crash remains unknown.

Last week, debris from the jet was brought to Cairo airport, where investigators will try to reassemble part of the frame to help establish what might have caused the disaster.

The Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said “parts of an airplane” were discovered on the seashore in Netanya, a Mediterranean resort town about 30 km (18 miles), north of Tel Aviv.

“They were collected and it turns out there is a very high probability that they are from the Egyptian plane,” the official said, without elaborating. “In accordance with international procedures, France, the aircraft's departure point, and Egypt, were informed.”

On Tuesday, sources on the crash investigation committee said audio from the flight deck voice recorder indicates an attempt to put out a fire on board the aircraft before it plunged into the Mediterranean.

Istanbul and Hallel


After the Istanbul airport terror attack that left 49 dead and hundreds wounded, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a statement, “Make no mistake, for terror groups, there are no differences between Istanbul, London, Berlin, Ankara or Chicago.”

Too bad he left out Tel Aviv. Too bad he left out Kiryat Arba.

Because just two days after the Istabul horror, a 17 year-old Palestinian terrorist named Mohammad Tra'ayra, climbed over a fence in the Israeli town of Kiryat Arba, burst into a  home, and stabbed to death 13-year-old Hallel Yaffe Ariel as she slept.

The girl’s blood on the floor, walls and mattress of her childhood bedroom is no different, no less precious and holy than the blood staining the entryway to the Istanbul airport.  the brutality and senselessness no less profound, the sorrow of her family — of us all — no less deep.

What did Erdogan, the self-styled leader of Sunni Muslims, say following her murder? 

Nothing. And that’s a second tragedy.

Because unless and until Muslim leaders condemn all terror, whether it takes place in Istanbul or New York or Paris or Hebron, terror will continue to spread.  Accepting terror anywhere is accepting terror everywhere.

For decades, Israel has been the canary in the coal mines for international terror.  No matter how brutal the Palestinian tactics — killing schoolchildren in Ma’alot,  pushing a wheelchair-bound old man off a cruise ship, blowing up diners at a pizza restaurant — the vast majority of Muslim leaders have either remained silent or rationalized the murders.  Before the 1967 Six Day War, acts of terror against Israelis were justified as part of a war for liberation.  After 1967, the rationale for killing innocents has been that it is a war against occupation.  

The sickness continues. After Hallel’s murderer was shot dead by an Israeli security guard, his parents quickly pronounced their cowardly son a “martyr.”  Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said nothing, and, according to a report in Haaretz, the coward’s family will receive compensation for his death from the PA.

By giving terrorists a pass in their attacks on innocent Jews, the Muslim world helps them perfect their tactics and elevates murderers to heroes.  And then they are shocked, shocked, when these delusional young men and woman inspire others to use these same tactics against innocent Turks, Parisians and Saudis. 

You reap what you sow.  The same sick terrorist minds who believe they are giving the Jews what their Muslim leaders think they have coming, now are getting the same violence coming at them.  If not one of them will condemn the murder of a 13-year-old child in her bed, not one of them should be surprised when the next stabbing takes the life of one of their own sons and daughters. There was zero justification, zero, to take the life of Hallel.   Stabbing an innocent in cold blood is inhuman and despicable. It is anti-peace and, therefore, anti-Palestinian. And the Palestinians who justify it can and will go to hell until they figure that out.

A day after the murder, a Palestinian peace activist named Nadiya al-Noor said it best.

In a column on the Times of Israel website, she wrote, “Let me tell you something. Stabbing pregnant women in the stomach is not ‘resistance.’ Shooting people at a cafe is not ‘resistance.’ Driving your car into pedestrians is not ‘resistance.’ Bombing a bus is not ‘resistance.’ Breaking into a woman’s home and murdering her in front of her children is not ‘resistance.’ And stabbing a little girl to death in the one place where she was supposed to be safe is certainly not ‘resistance.’ Terrorism is not resistance. Terrorism is an unjustifiable crime.”

This is the simple truth Erdogan and other Muslim leaders must begin to convey to their people. And they can add this as well: It starts with the Jews. It never ends there.


ROB ESHMAN is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. Email him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @foodaism and @RobEshman.

Morrissey of Smiths fame returning to Israel in August


Morrissey, the British singer-songwriter best known for his involvement in The Smiths, will perform two concerts in Israel this summer.

The 57-year-old solo musician will play Tel Aviv on Aug. 22 and Caesarea two days later, The Times of Israel reported Tuesday.

Morrissey sold out his most recent concerts in Israel, in 2012. His latest album, released in 2014, is “World Peace is None of Your Business.”

He is an outspoken advocate for animal rights and vegetarianism.

Palestinian teen bystander killed by Israeli soldiers responding to rock-throwing attack


Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian teenager and wounded several others whom they wrongly thought were involved in a rock-throwing attack, the Israel Defense Forces said.

The military said it was investigating the incident, which happened early Tuesday morning outside Jerusalem.

Palestinian news agency Maan identified the killed teen as Mahmoud Badran, 15, from the nearby village of Beit Ur al-Tahta. Four others were injured, Maan reported.

The soldiers were responding to the rock-throwing attack. An Israeli man and two foreign tourists were injured when rocks hit their car traveling near Jerusalem on Route 443, one of the main arteries between the capital and Tel Aviv. Several cars were damaged in the attack.

The army initially said those shot by soldiers were involved in the attack, but later said none of them were.

The Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry called the incident an “execution.”

My experience in an active shooter incident


The Jewish Journal columnist Shmuel Rosner wrote the following in his blog (Rosner’s Domain, June 13, “5 Comments on How to Stop a Lone Wolf Terrorist”):

“Stopping a person who kills with a knife or a gun is a scary thing to do. The natural instinct of all people when such a thing happens is to flee. But reality is simple: The more people flee, the longer the attack continues. Citizens who have the courage to try to do something — throw something, hit the attacker with something — can make an attack much less deadly.”

I would like to share an experience I had that perhaps underscores his point. My military training may have saved my life and the lives of others when I found myself in the midst of a shooting. I still find the experience oddly vivid in some ways, but cloudy in others.

Sometime in 1979 (I forget exactly when), my then-wife and I were at LAX picking up her sister and brother-in-law from a flight from Israel. I seem to recall that what is now the international terminal was under construction, so we met them at the baggage claim around where Terminal 3 is today.

While we were standing at baggage claim, I — we all — heard shots. I looked through a large plate-glass window, and on the other side, I saw a woman holding what seemed to be an enormous handgun, shooting at people.

We — everyone — ran and hid. I pushed my now ex-wife under a bench, and then I slid in beside her. Within a few seconds, though, my military training kicked in. I was just three years out of the Marines, and I distinctly remember thinking, “I am not going to get shot and killed here, hiding, lying down.” I decided to fight. I got up and went toward the sound of the gunfire.

I remember thinking the moment I got up that the sandals I was wearing were noisy. They flapped. I kicked them off and sneaked toward the plate-glass window. (I have rarely worn sandals since).

I saw the woman stop shooting. I saw one wounded person through the glass; the rest had fled the hall. I then saw the woman walking out from the terminal to the sidewalk with the gun in hand, make a right and head our way. I yelled at everyone who was hiding in the baggage claim area to get out quick. People seemed frozen in place. I yelled again for everyone to get out.

I hid on the side of the entrance to the baggage claim with my back to the narrow wall holding the plate glass, next to the sidewalk, determined to attack her when she turned the corner. A young Marine in uniform was tentatively approaching me from the side. I looked at the insignia on his upper sleeve, and said “Lance corporal, when she turns this corner, you and I are going to take her down.”

Maybe seeing me go toward the window inspired him to join me. Not enough. I am sad to say that he thought for a brief second, then ran. I remember feeling alone.

She indeed came down the sidewalk and turned the corner. She was about my height (5 feet 9) or even taller. A big, heavy woman. She turned and faced me and still had the handgun in her hand right hand, but it was not (yet) pointed at me. I found myself staring into her eyes for what was probably a fraction of a second but seemed much longer. The white of her eyes (the sclera, to use the right word) were yellow. I saw what I could describe only as craziness. I felt mesmerized, swallowed up. Again, I think my military training kicked in, and I forced myself to into action.

I lunged at her before she could raise her gun. A man nearby, short but stocky, sprang up from his hiding place under some luggage right after I engaged her, bashing her with a suitcase. He and I got her down and pinned her. I seem to recall that I had her torso and he had her hands. When she slammed into the sidewalk, the gun spun out of her hand.

Very soon, a few of the people who had not fled the baggage claim area came over and began trying to kick her. The other guy and I yelled at them to stop, that we had her. I don’t think they were trying to subdue her; we had her under control, with my knee on her belly, and the other guy on her hands, as I remember it. It was a strange moment, holding her down while we both were trying to fight off a small mob that seemed to be trying to kick her to death.

That is when a police van pulled up and several SWAT team members burst out. I did not want them to think I was the shooter attacking a woman. With my knee on her belly, I put up my hands and yelled to them that she was the shooter. The luggage guy also put up his hands. The police could see the handgun on the sidewalk and that neither of us was armed.

People have asked why I didn’t run, why I went to fight. Wasn’t I afraid? Here is the truth: One result of Marine Corps boot camp was that I feared not doing my duty far more than I feared for my life. Honestly, I had no fear. I did not feel courageous. I just did what I had been taught to do.

One officer quickly pulled me aside to take a statement. I could see that other officers had hustled the woman off into the van, and still others were also taking statements.

I told him everything that I am writing here, and he wrote it in a notebook. He asked me to stay for a more thorough interrogation. We hung around for a while, but it seemed the police had forgotten about me. They had my address and phone number, so I figured they would call if they wanted more info. I never heard from the police, or anyone. Maybe the officer lost his notebook.

Of course, I told people about it. A few days later, someone brought me a Sentinel newspaper, which covered the African-American community (the shooter was African American). It contained a brief article on the incident. My name was not mentioned, but the article said that an ex-Marine had taken her down, but “slipped away before he could be identified.” It did not mention the luggage guy.

Here is what I want to say, affirming what Rosner wrote. When I saw footage of the attack in the restaurant in Tel Aviv, I saw people who were right next to the terrorists running away. They might have body slammed the shooters, or picked up a chair and beaten them senseless. Of course, most people don’t do that, because they are rightly terrified of getting shot. Civilians are not trained to attack.

I don’t know yet exactly what happened inside the Florida nightclub, but I find myself thinking of one shooter killing 49 and wounding more than 50. Had those hundred people charged the shooter with fists, chairs and bottles, the number of casualties would likely have been far less. I certainly don’t blame the victims. The human instinct is to run and hide. Had I not been a former Marine trained to run toward the sound of gunfire and not be led by the overwhelming instinct to run and hide, I am sure that I would have stayed under that bench. I have to believe that the Marine next me who took off was an anomaly.

After the shooting in 2015 at the African-American church in Charleston, S.C., I decided to offer instruction to my congregation for the event of an active shooter. About once a month at Shabbat morning services, I first remind the assembled group that the Department of Homeland Security directive is “run, hide, fight.” I tell people at the far end of the sanctuary, next to the emergency door to the parking lot, that they should open the doors, exit quickly and that others should follow them. Stay low. Don’t trample.

Then I address the people by the entrance. I want them to conquer their instinct to run, as the Marines taught me. I rather bluntly tell those sitting next to the entry doors of the sanctuary that they are likely to get shot if an active shooter were to come through that door. They have a choice to make: Get shot in the chest attacking, or in the back running. I tell the 20 or so people in that corner that in the case of an active shooter, to pick up chairs and rush the attacker and beat and disarm that person. Some will get shot, but far fewer than if they all turned and ran.

No one from the congregation avoids that corner of the room. Many people even opt to sit or stand there. No one whose regular seat is in the corner has moved away. A few people have stationed themselves right by that door. I look at them all when I talk about this, and they look right back at me.

Our security plan is more extensive than these instructions. For example, we also have an excellent lay security team in force every Shabbat morning.  We have a person who is working with incredible selflessness on expanding our security capability. My wife, Meirav, (who is an Israel Defense Forces veteran as well as executive director of our congregation, Ohr HaTorah) and I and others have specific roles, as well.

The main thing I want to say here is that if you are ever in a place where there is an active shooter, and if you are too close to the shooter to effectively run or hide, and you have to fight, then fight. Body-slam them. Use your fists or feet; grab a chair, a bottle, a book — anything — and attack. If you have time, train yourself in some martial art to get into the mindset of physical self-defense.

If you are going to get shot, get shot in the chest, not in the back.


Rabbi Mordecai Finley is the spiritual leader of Ohr HaTorah synagogue in Mar Vista, as well as professor of Jewish Thought at the Academy for Jewish Religion, California Campus. Relative to this article: He is a former Marine Corps sergeant, and holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Trump condemns ‘outrageous’ terrorist attack in Tel Aviv


Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Thursday condemned “in the strongest possible terms” Wednesday’s deadly terrorist attack in Tel Aviv.

“I condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the outrageous terrorist shootings that took the lives of at least four innocent civilians and wounded at least twenty others in Tel Aviv yesterday,” Trump said in a statement posted on his Facebook page 24 hours after the attack. “The American people stand strong with the people of Israel, who have suffered far too long from terrorism. Israel’s security is a matter of paramount importance to me and the American people. I express my deepest condolences to the families of the four Israelis who were murdered, as well as my wishes for a speedy recovery to the wounded.”

“We understand all too well the unspeakable horror that terrorism unleashes. To address it — and address it we must! — we must recognize the parallel horror of the culture of religious hatred that permeates many Palestinian quarters,” Trump stated. “From schools that indoctrinate toddlers to grow up to kill Israelis to the daily menu of hate that spews forth from various “news organizations,” change is long overdue in the Palestinian territories. Let us begin the arduous task of creating a future where peace can take root and terror finds no refuge.”

Trump’s lengthy statement came after Jewish Insider‘s request for comment.

Trump’s opponent, presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, condemned the “heinous terrorist attack” in a statement sent out to the media just hours after the attack. “I condemn the heinous terrorist attack in Tel Aviv today. I send my deepest condolences to the families of those killed and I will continue to pray for the wounded,” Clinton said. “I stand in solidarity with the Israeli people in the face of these ongoing threats, and in unwavering support of the country’s right to defend itself.”

“Israel’s security must remain non-negotiable,” Clinton added.

Last week, Clinton “>recent pollhowever, showed that 62 percent of Israelis are sure or think that Trump will be committed to safeguarding Israel’s security if elected as president.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked world leaders for their statements and support as he visited the Sarona Market, the scene of yesterday’s terrorist attack -for the second time –  Thursday evening. “This people is strong. They will not defeat us,” Netanyahu said in a statement to the press. “I heard and appreciate the sharp and unequivocal condemnations of this abhorrent murder from leading world capitals. I have not heard such a condemnation from the Palestinian Authority. But I did hear shouts of joy in Gaza and in other parts of the Palestinian society in Judea and Samaria. This merely reminds us who and what we are dealing with.”

Four dead, four seriously wounded in shooting attack in central Tel Av


This story is developing.

Four people were killed and four seriously injured in a shooting at Sarona Market, a fashionable new food and retail shopping center in Tel Aviv.

The two gunmen who carried out the apparent terror attack were disarmed, according to the police. One was shot by police and taken to a hospital, according to reports; the other is in custody.

The Magen David Adom rescue service said it took nine victims to Tel Aviv hospitals. One is said to be in critical condition, and four others are in serious condition.

Khaled Abu Toameh, the Jerusalem Post's Palestinian affairs reporter, wrote on Twitter that Palestinians celebrated the shooting in Hebron and Tulkarem in the West Bank.

Meanwhile, 48 News, an Arabic news network based in East Jerusalem, reported that Palestinians in Istanbul lauded the attack by handing out sweets.

Ismail Haniyyeh, a leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, tweeted a picture purportedly from the attack, with a caption referring to the terrorists as a heroes and calling for mercy on their souls.

Quds News Network, a Palestinian news organization, reported on Twitter that Israeli forces were gathering near the entrance to Yatta, the village south of Hebron where the suspects are reported to have come from.

Roi Shivek, a tech entrepreneur who lives in Holon, south of Tel Aviv, was taking a cooking class at the Culinary Hub in Sarona Market when he started hearing gunshots from about 60 feet away.

After the first two shots, he thought it might be the sound of firecrackers.

“I think around the fifth shot it was pretty obvious that it’s a terrorist attack,” Shivek said.

Immediately, people began running and screaming.

“We all hid behind the counter,” he said. “Some of the people ran inside the kitchen. Someone locked the door, and that’s it. We just waited on the floor for something to happen.”

When the crowd heard police sirens, he said, they felt safe to exit the shop. Stepping out into the market, he found a swarm of police officers, border police and first responders. As soon as it became apparent that there was a potential bomb threat, bystanders began running south towards Ha’Arba’a Street.

“All OK here in Jerusalem,” Evan Kent, formerly the cantor at Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles, who made aliyah to Israel, said on Facebook.

Kent, a faculty member at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem, said in an interview with the Journal that he expects Israelis will continue to lead regular lives despite Wednesday night’s attack. 

“One thing I’ve noticed. Israelis, and maybe I'll put myself among them, we’re pretty strong and tough. It [violence] doesn’t deter us, people will be at Sarona tomorrow, shopping, buying food for dinner. They know they can’t succumb to the will of terrorists,” Kent, who lives in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Talbiya with his husband, Rabbi Donald Goor, said. “Israel wont let that happen.” 

The two moved to Israel almost three years ago. Do incidents such as these make him second-guess his decision to relocate to the Jewish state? Kent said not in the slightest. 

“We live in a very strange and bizarre world. You could have been on the UCLA campus last week; you could have been in San Bernardino nine months ago. I think we live in a crazy world, in Jerusalem I feel remarkably safe. It’s a strange thing to say, we always sort of comment we feel very, very safe, and then things like this happen, but things like this happen in many parts,” he said. “I think Israel is under a
microscope, the chances of getting shot in Chicago are far greater than anything to happen here, and, at same time, it is an emotional and psychological toll that takes place.”

An eyewitness told Israel Radio the gunmen were dressed up as Charedi Orthodox men.

A popular retail and dining hub, Sarona Market was in April cited for security and safety violations. According to The Jerusalem Post, the problems — including  the way security guards were inspecting visitors at the entrance — were corrected within 24 hours.

Clinton condemns Tel Aviv terror attack


Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton expressed her “unwavering support” of Israel’s right to defend itself in the wake of the horrific shooting attack that claimed other lives of four Israelis at a popular shopping and restaurant area in Tel Aviv on Wednesday.

Security footage showed two Palestinians from a village near the city of Hebron, dressed in suit and tie and posing as customers at a restaurant, suddenly pull out automatic weapons and open fire, shooting one man point blank, as other diners fled. Four people were killed and six were wounded. 

“I condemn the heinous terrorist attack in Tel Aviv today. I send my deepest condolences to the families of those killed and I will continue to pray for the wounded,” Clinton said in a statement released by her campaign. “I stand in solidarity with the Israeli people in the face of these ongoing threats, and in unwavering support of the country’s right to defend itself.”

“Israel’s security must remain non-negotiable,” Clinton added. 

The U.S. State Department condemned the terrorist attack “in the strongest possible terms.”

These cowardly attacks against innocent civilians can never be justified. We are in touch with Israeli authorities to express our support and concern,” deputy spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement. 

Reuters contributed to this report

Israeli reporter calls Tel Aviv attacks ‘gruesome’


Israel Channel 2 news reporter Gilad Shalmor told the Journal that Wednesday’s terrorist attack by two Palestinians that left four dead in an upscale Tel Aviv marketplace “was one of the most gruesome ones I’ve ever covered.”

“I’ve been covering too many terror attacks,” Shalmor said in a phone interview at approximately 1 a.m. on Thursday in Israel. “This was one of the most gruesome ones I’ve ever covered.”

The shooting at Sarona Market began at a Max Brenner, a chocolate cafe chain, and left six wounded, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. The two Palestinian men, who have been taken into custody— one is being treated for wounds after being shot by a shopping mall security guard, Shalmor said—were dressed in suits.

“All we know so far is two youngsters from the West Bank came in wearing … two suits. … After ordering dinner they took out the rifles and started shooting randomly, which caused the death of four people.

“After that they escaped. They threw away their rifles, they ran away and eventually were captured by a cop and a security guard. They [police] found bags with [the terrorists], leather bags filled with knives and obviously the police estimation is that they planned, after they finished their [ammunition] they planned to stab random people in the streets,” said the Israeli reporter, who arrived onto the scene two minutes after the shooting, which he said began at 9:18 p.m.

“That’s what we know so far,” he said. “It was a great big mess.”

The attack comes on the heels of a series of stabbings of Israelis that have been occurring in Jerusalem over the course of the year. Shalmor, for his part, said it is rare for incidents such as these to occur in Tel Aviv, a city that is known for its fun-loving lifestyle.

“Tel Aviv people are vibrant and life-loving,” he said, “but I think they are having a tough time dealing with such a thing.”

Gay pride parade draws 200,000 to Tel Aviv


Approximately 200,000 people, including many tourists, gathered in central Tel Aviv for the city’s 23rd gay pride event.

The event, whose theme this year is women in the gay, lesbian and transgender community, kicked off Friday morning at Gan Meir, a park that houses the Tel Aviv Municipal LGBT Center. A representative of the center presented an award to journalist Ilana Dayan and to Ilana Shirazi, an organizer of lesbian marriage ceremonies.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai then gave the signal for the Gay Pride Parade, which features a procession with floats and music terminating at a beach party in south Tel Aviv.

Among the first-time foreign participants this year in the parade is Buck Angel, a transgender male adult film producer, actor and motivational speaker from California. “This is my first time in this side of the world,” he told Ynet. “It’s exciting to see the gay community being accepted in the Middle East, and it’s generating change.”

Elsewhere in the region, homosexuals — gay men especially — are subject to legal persecution. Countless homosexuals have been murdered in the region.

Same-sex marriages are not performed in Israel, where Jewish marriage is the purview of the Chief Rabbinate. Muslims and Christians have corresponding religious bodies.

Last year, Yishai Schlissel, after being released from prison for stabbing several people at a 2005, Jerusalem gay pride parade In 2005, stabbed victims at the gay pride parade in Jerusalem, killing a 16-year-old participant and wounding several others.

Despite these incidents, violence against homosexuals is relatively rare in Israel, which is rated by many LGBT publications as one of the world’s best and safest travel destinations.

Also taking part in the parade were members of a week-long LGBTQ mission to Israel sponsored by the Jewish Federations of North America. During the mission, which officially ended Thursday, more than 100 participants met with leaders of Israel’s LGBTQ organizations, LGBTQ leaders from Israel’s political parties, Israeli president Reuven Rivlin and U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro. Participants included Stuart Kurlander, an attorney and former president of the Washington, D.C.-area Jewish federation, and Matt Nosanchuk, a senior advisor at the U.S. State Department and former White House liaison to the Jewish community.

Obama renews waiver delaying Jerusalem embassy relocation


President Barack Obama on Wednesday renewed a presidential waiver suspending the relocation of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem for another six months.

“Pursuant to the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, including section 7(a) of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 (Public Law 104-45) (the “Act”), I hereby determine that it is necessary, in order to protect the national security interests of the United States, to suspend for a period of 6 months the limitations set forth in sections 3(b) and 7(b) of the Act,” Obama wrote in a memorandum directed to Secretary of State John Kerry.

The Jerusalem Embassy Act, passed by a supermajority of Congress in 1995, stated that “the United States Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999.” An inbuilt waiver authority allowed the president to postpone the move, in the interests of “national security,” for six-monthly periods. Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama have all issued waivers at six-month intervals ever since.

“>reported at the time. Clinton hasn’t taken a position on the issue in 2016. On her 2008 campaign website – under the heading “Standing with Israel against terrorism” – her position paper “>page does not exist in the revamped 2016 campaign site.

A recent Gallup poll 

Transgender Israeli Arab wins historic Tel Aviv pageant


A Christian Arab-Israeli ballet dancer won Israel’s first-ever transgender beauty pageant.

Ta’alin Abu Hanna, 21, was named “Miss Trans Israel” in Tel Aviv Friday, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Abu Hanna told reporters she is “proud to be an Israeli Arab,” noting, “If I had not been in Israel and had been elsewhere — in Palestine or in any other Arab country — I might have been oppressed or I might have been in prison or murdered.”

The Nazareth resident will represent Israel at the Miss TransStar International pageant in Barcelona in September — the first time an Israeli will participate.

She also will receive $15,000 worth of plastic surgery treatments from a hospital in Thailand, plus airfare and a hotel stay during the treatments and recovery.

Abu Hanna beat out 11 other finalists, a diverse group spanning Israel’s geographic, ethnic and religious diversity, including a Russian, Muslims and residents of Beersheba, Haifa, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. At least one finalist grew up in the haredi Orthodox community.

Several finalists told reporters they had struggled with the disapproval of family members — with some eventually finding acceptance and others not. Caroline Khouri, of the Arab town of Tamra, told NBC News her male relatives tried to murder her after learning of her plans to transition from man to woman.

“My cousins, my father, my brother-in-law all came and beat me and took me by force and cut my hair, tied me to the bed and left me there for three days with no food,” she said. Rescued by the police, the 24-year-old said she remains estranged from her family.

A formerly Charedi Orthodox contestant, Aylin Ben-Zaken, said she “looked like a rabbi” before her transition, and ran away from home at age 15. But many in her family accept her now, she said.

“Three years ago I didn’t talk to my mom. Now she loves me, and I go to Shabbat dinner,” the 27-year-old told NBC News.

According to the Post, most of the contestants work as dancers or designers.

Friday’s pageant consisted of a swimsuit competition, two formal-wear competitions and a question-and-answer portion.

Asked about “pinkwashing,” the accusation that Israel exploits its LGBT rights record as a PR coup to hide its alleged abuses of Palestinians, pageant organizer Yisraela Stephani Lev said, according to the Post: “Listen, there isn’t propaganda here. We live in Tel Aviv, in Israel, the only sane country in the region where people can live as gays or transgender and no one is going to throw them off the rooftop or slaughter them. This is just the reality here. It’s not some sort of brainwashing or pinkwashing or whatever.”

Lev said hundreds of trans women contacted her “from Dan to Eilat, Muslims, Jews, Christians, Bedouin,” and that they held three auditions beginning in March to select the finalists. Criteria included not just physical beauty but a “sort of coexistence and diversity,” Lev said, adding, “We are looking for coexistence, because this is the beginning of peace.”

A food tour of Israel’s cities


Mediterranean cuisine is consumed with gusto all over the world. While many dishes commonly enjoyed in Israel originate elsewhere, things like hummus, falafel, kibbeh, and shakshuka have been adopted into Israeli tradition with the recent advent of “foodie-ism” by chefs all over the country.

What’s more, every city in Israel has its own unique approach and local flavors. From the street food of Jerusalem to the haute cuisine of Tel Aviv, the options are endless and sure to offer a unique culinary experience for the discerning epicurean.

Jerusalem

The Holy City is best known for its hypnotic architecture, spiritual effect, and historic significance. Home to a uniquely diverse range of religions and ethnic groups, the city has birthed a composite food revolution marrying the city’s varied flavors and culinary traditions. Not surprisingly, the capital city is famous for having the best hummus in Israel, and possibly the world. Particularly lauded among the city’s hummus joints is Abu Shukri, a little hole-in-the-wall in the Muslim Quarter, for which the Wall Street Journal says: “If you are to consume only one plate of hummus in Jerusalem, this is the place to do it.”

Of course, you can’t do J-Town without visiting Mahane Yehuda, one of the busiest shuks in the country, where you’re guaranteed to get drunk on the scents of fresh bread and aromatic spices. This is your chance to marvel in freshly baked goods. Experience street food like never before with warm za’atar-coated flatbreads and potato and mushroom-stuffed bourekas. To finish on a sweet note, indulge in the dreamlike, chocolate-and-filo-dough morsels known as rugelach for dessert. Don’t forget to stop by the Halva Kingdom to sample the sweet sesame treat in over 100 different varieties, all homemade and ground by millstone.

Tel Aviv

While there’s no shortage of traditional Middle Eastern fare in Tel Aviv, this modern metropolis is home to incredibly diverse fine dining, ethnic, and experimental options. If you’re going international, The Brasserie on Kikar Rabin serves up its French delicacies 24 hours a day, while the atmosphere and Spanish tapas at Vicky Christina in Hatachana will take you to the other end of the Mediterranean. The food at Topolopompo is even more fun than its name. Enjoy an acclaimed, finely-honed menu of Asian fusion dishes. For some of the best Asian cuisine in Tel Aviv, try Taizu – that is, of course, if you can get a table.

Dizengoff has earned its reputation as a cultural mecca, so you can’t go wrong with exploring this central bustling street. The perfect balance of flavors at Sabich Frishman will make you redefine what ‘sandwich’ even means, while Keton will warm your heart with awesome traditional Ashkenazi dishes like chicken soup and chopped liver.

Then, for a sunset stroll on the Tel Aviv boardwalk, absolutely nothing in the world compares to frozen yogurt, Israeli style. Like all culinary feats, the key is to have a strong base. The secret lies in the fresh, creamy yogurt produced from the incredible dairy produced by Israeli cows. Pick from a variety of mouth-watering ingredients to create a mind-blowing frozen treat.

Eilat

If you’re doing the resort thing, Eilat is an absolute seaside gem for vacationers. And with the seaside comes incredibly fresh seafood! High among the heavy hitters is Rak Dagim, a fish joint serving fresh, locally caught treasures. Rak Dagim is also one of the oldest restaurants in Eilat and utilizes characteristic Israeli flavors on their extensive menu.

To juxtapose that, Pastori on Tarshish Street combines locally caught seafood with Italian flavors to showcase a different kind of Mediterranean food. Then, of course, there’s nothing better than ending a meal with seaside gelato.

Haifa

This northern city and cultural hub is set against the beach-lined backdrop of the Mediterranean and caters to foodies of every type and budget. Sitting adjacent to one of Haifa’s central mosques, Abu Marwan is known as the best hummus in town. Must-haves include their hummus with lamb, the mashwasha, and their spicy fries.

For a delightfully carnivorous meal, try Limousine, a famed steakhouse run by two “Israeli cowboys.” Locavores delight in the regionally raised, high-quality meat prepared in a variety of styles and accompanied by beers of both Israeli and European origins.

Go light and flavorful with breakfast the next morning at Café Louise on Mount Carmel. Serving a natural, culinary experience, the café offers both the traditional salad-and-spread ‘kibbutz-style’ breakfast as well as a ‘Western style’ brunch. Louise also boasts a variety of vegan and veggie options, as well as a whole menu of juices that are so fresh, you’ll instantly feel superhuman.

No matter where you go in Israel, the food is unforgettable. The downside? You’ll be craving that Abu Shukri hummus for months afterward.

For more information on traveling Israel, click here.