September 25, 2018

Episode 105 – Living in the Shadows of ISIS

4 years ago, under the sweltering heat of Nineveh in the Kurdish region of Northern Iraq, the small city of Sinjar came under attack by ISIS forces. The Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, caught off guard, retreated, abandoning the civilians of Sinjar without warning.

The outcome was devastating. Thousands massacred. Women and children taken into slavery. A population dissolved by evil.

Of course, all this appeared in the headlines, it flashed across our television screens but beneath the surface of the stream of breaking news from this tormented region, live a people whose lives have been shattered to pieces by daily tragedy.

The horrors are unimaginable, the evil seemingly unstoppable and the trauma almost insurmountable, nevertheless, as always, wherever there is human peril there are stories of human virtue.

This story is about Lisa Miara. Born and raised in the UK, but currently residing in the Shariya refugee camp, Lisa has spent the past several years trying to save the lives, literally, of thousands of Yazidi refugees from both mortal danger and the agony of their trauma. Through her foundation, Springs of Hope, Lisa works restlessly to provide the displaced Yazidi people with hope and purpose.

She joins us today to share her stories.

Donate to the Springs of Hope foundation 

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Episode 104 – Back in the USSR

In the 1990’s the Iron Curtain finally came down, making it possible for approximately 1 million Russian Speaking Jews to flee and immigrate to Israel. It was the biggest single immigration wave in Israel since the 1950’s.

But many things have changed since Israel began accepting immigrants – or Olim as they are called in Hebrew, in the golden years of the 50’s. Then, the concept of the melting pot, embraced by Ben Gurion in the hope of creating one homogenous Israeli culture – kept the Israeli society from disintegrating into secluded factions, by enforcing severe pressure to erase the past completely and assimilate at any cost.

But that policy has dissipated over time. The result was, and in many ways still is – a cultural chaos.

Amidst this chaos enters Alex Rif, a daughter to Russian-speaking parents. Alex was raised as an Israeli, but realized that something inside her longs for her ancestors’ Russian culture. She formed the group Generation 1.5, in the goal of bringing new life to the Russian-Israeli culture. Alex joins 2NJB to speak about her struggles, hopes and initiatives.

Episode 102 – Bannon’s Canons and the Nation-State Bill

Photo by Raheem Kassam.

Behind every great man stands a great political strategist. As far as political earthquakes go, Donald Trump’s victory in November 2016 was at least an 8 on the Richter scale. Right up until the last second, no one saw it coming. But a few people were probably less surprised than most of us and one of them is surely Steve Bannon.

Considered by many to be the architect of Trump’s rise to the White House, Bannon is certainly a controversial figure. To most, he’s a either the despicable leader of the Alt-right or the savior of American pride and nationalism. And to the rest, he’s an enigma. Luckily, we’ve got Gadi Taub.

About a month ago, Dr. Taub, a senior lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was able to sit down for about 2 hours with the man himself. You can find his in-depth analysis piece on the Haaretz website.

Although Bannon’s been dismissed from the administration, it seems that he might be the key to understanding the currents of change that took place and that are continuing to take place in America, as well as the Jews’ place in all this mess.

We’re thrilled to welcome back Gadi to the podcast to disambiguate Bannonism for us once and for all.

Episode 99 – Spotlight Israel

Never underestimate the task of a journalist. In the maelstrom of political commentary which seems to pull every news outlet into its powerful grip, it’s probably pretty difficult to swim against the newsfeed and remain true to, well, truth. Especially in today’s endless stream of information.

Many English speakers in Israel, and around the world, turn to the Times of Israel for honest reporting on the Middle East. Reading through their articles, you get a sense that the Times of Israel is not looking to please any specific readership.

Despite their relative youth, The Times also has an impressive record of investigative journalism including the piece known as “The Wolves of Tel Aviv” written by Simona Weinglass (who was a guest on the podcast). The expose and Weinglass’ journalism are widely accredited for playing the central role in taking down the fraudulent Binary Options industry in Israel.

David Horovitz, the founding editor of the Times of Israel, began his career in 1983 at the Jerusalem Post where he eventually became editor-in-chief. After leaving the Post in 2011, Horovitz launched the Times on Israel in 2012 and has since grown the website to a reach of 3.5 million readers a month. Horovitz has also authored several books including Still Life with Bombers: Israel in the Age of Terrorism and A Little Too Close to God: The Thrills and Panic of a Life in Israel.

We’re thrilled to have David Horovitz on the podcast today to speak about Israel, Journalism and free speech.

Times of IsraelDavid Horovitz’s articles, his Facebook and Twitter

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Episode 98 – Beautiful That Way

Photo by the Vatican.

Reading through a list of Achinoam Nini’s performances, you can’t help but be taken aback by the sheer magnitude of her career. Carnegie Hall, Olympia in Paris, the Colosseum, just to name a few. From humble beginnings, Nini, or Noa as she is known outside of Israel, has conquered the world with her music.

In 1994, in the presence of Pope John Paul II, Nini performed Ave Maria for a live audience of 100,000 and a television audience of millions at the Vatican in Rome. In 2000, Nini recorded “La vita e bella”, the theme song for Roberto Benini’s Oscar winning film, “Life is Beautiful.” The list of her accomplishments goes on, and on, and on. She performed in the white house before President Clinton, and collaborated up until today with Sting, Steivie Wonder, Santana, Sheryl Krow, Mercedes Sosa and many others.

There is no question that Nini and her music are a pillar not only in Israeli music, but in the global music world as well.

Noa on Facebook, and her official website

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Episode 91 – Settlers: Let’s Break Some Myths

Settlers. They are mentioned endlessly in international media, often described as religious fanatics. They are also very present in the Israeli media, which tends to blame them for much of the political distress Israel faces. On the Israeli street, no one is indifferent to this issue. The settler is either notorious for their illegal theft of Palestinian land or celebrated for being the frontline pioneers of the Zionist endeavor. The left and advocates of the two state solution scorn them for basically looting the state coffers due to the disproportionate sums of money they receive from the government. While the right praises them for their vineyards, their factories and even their employment of Palestinians. One camp shines the spotlight on the violent factions that throw Molotov cocktails and break through checkpoints to reach Joseph’s burial site in Nablus, Shchem as the other camp cheers for their bravery. The settler is perhaps the most controversial figure on the face of the planet today.

Yishai Fleisher is the spokesperson for the Jewish Community in Hebron, he’s a radio show host and a writer. Fleisher is also the founder and director of Kuma, an organization meant to help educate for the cause of Zionism. Yishai Fleisher has been living in the West Bank or as he would call it, Judea and Samaria for the last 15 years.

We’re thrilled to be joined by Yishai Fleisher to talk about the settlements.

Yishai Fleisher on Facebook and Twitter

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Episode 90 – In the Name of My Son

Photo by Dan Peretz.

Nothing in Robi Damelin’s life could have prepared her for that day. Not growing up in South Africa under Apartheid. Not her immigration to Israel in 1967. Nor any other character forging event throughout her life. A mother is not meant to bear the death of her own child. But what is meant to be, is not always what ends up happening. Robi’s son David was shot by a Palestinian sniper in March of 2002. But from the endless grief and sorrow, Robi chose to re-emerge with a new purpose in life.

Counting from 1860, 23,645 Israelis have lost their lives in wars or terror attacks. Every year, on the national memorial day, around 1.5 millions Israelis – almost 19% of Israel’s population – visit the cemeteries to remember their lost loved ones. But recently, on the national memorial day, there’s another event that catches public attention – the alternative memorial ceremony, conducted by the Parents Circle Families Forum, in which both Israeli families who lost their loved ones to war or terror attacks, and Palestinian families who lost their loved ones in war – unite in their grief.

The controversy in Israeli society around these ceremonies, and around the Forum’s agenda in general – is vigorous. Nevertheless, the organization, that has more than 600 families as members, both Israeli and Palestinian, continues its struggle to end the violence. Robi Damelin is the Forum’s spokesman, and she’s here today to talk about her personal story, about her son David, and about the Parents Circle Families Forum, which became her life’s purpose.

Official website of The Israel-Palestinian Bereaved Families for Peace Circle

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Episode 89 – Professor Cannabis

Close to 60 years ago, in the early 1960s, Marijuana AKA Cannabis wasn’t exactly the friendly substance it is today. In pretty much every developed country, recreational use of the drug was totally illegal and medical research was limited.

So as a junior faculty member of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam had to jump through a few loops to get his hands on a sample for his research. Luckily for Dr. Mechoulam, the director of the Weizmann institute had an old army buddy in an opportune place – the head of the investigative branch of the national police. Dr. Mechoula, reach out to him and was provided with 5 kilos of seized Lebanese Hasish.

This sample allowed Dr. Mechoulam and his research partners to discover cannabidiol in 1963 and THC the following year. In 2001 Prof. Mechoulam was awarded the Israel Prize, the country’s most prestigious award for scientific achievement and today he continues his research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

We are super thrilled to be talking to Prof. Mechoulam today about cannabis, his life and his research.

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Episode 88 – Innovation Nation: Inventor of the Thumb Drive

Once upon a time there were cave walls. Our ancestors sketched hunting scenes and traced their hands on them. Thousands of years later, we humans, in our abundant ingenuity, invented papyrus, parchment, canvas and finally paper. Eventually, we began storing data digitally. Remember those 3.5 inch floppy disks with a few measly megabytes? But as men and women had more to say, more to paint, more to communicate, these methods were no longer enough.

Enter Dov Moran. Dov Moran was fascinated by technology from a very early age. He would tinker with electronic gadgets he bought from MAD magazine, unfortunately, according to him, to not too much avail. But this passion eventually lead Moran to invent a gadget of his own that would, in many ways, change the world – the USB Flash Drive AKA the diskonkey. A small device, you can carry in your pocket, capable of storing large amounts of data.

Dov Moran studied in the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and went on to establish his own company, M-Systems. He continues with his entrepreneurship today with over 40 patents!

We are extremely glad to be joined today by Dov Moran to talk about the story of the DiskonKey and his passion for technological entrepreneurship.

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Episode 86 – The Palestinian Refugee Who Became a Yeshiva Boy

Mark was born in Kuwait. His father was a Palestinian refugee, who was born in 1945 in Bet Shean (now a city in Israel). When his father was 3 years old, the family fled to Jordan, and eventually ended up in Kuwait. As a kid, Mark attended activities conducted by UNRWA, the U.N Relief and Works agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East. What they taught him there about Israel, and about Jews, profoundly shaped his views.

But a decade later, when Mark moved to Canada to study at university, an unexpected encounter changed his life forever. This is the story of how Mark, became Mordechai.

Today we’re joined by Mordechai Yossef.

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Episode 85 – Jerusalem: A Tale of Many Cities

Jerusalem. A powerful city. So powerful that we recall it when we take the oath of matrimony, on every holiday and with it we seal our national anthem. But it also has the power to divide, to tear apart families, to bring nations to wage war against one another. Jerusalem isn’t only a city. It’s a stoney ocean of history, of reincarnations, of dreams and of destruction, layer upon layer.

All of that, and more, is encapsulated in one new book, beautifully titled “Jerusalem, Drawn and Quartered”. This book was written by none other than Sarah Tuttle-Singer, and it depicts a year in her life, a year in which she dwelt between those ancient walls, met with the inhabitants of the old city, conversed with them, and immersed herself in Holy City.

But the book also tells Sarah’s life story, a story of much love and passion, but also tragedy.

Sarah Tuttle-Singer is probably one of the more influential Israeli Americans living here. She writes for the Times of Israel, she’s a social media sensation, and her name is extremely well known both in the local English speaking community, as well as in the international Jewish community.

Sarah joins us today to talk about her life, and her exciting debut book.

“Jerusalem, Drawn and Quartered” on Amazon, Sarah Tuttle-Singer on Facebook and her official website

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Episode 84 – Haredi Horror Stories

What do you know about the world of ultra-orthodox Jews? Probably more or less as much as we, secular Israelis, know. Much of the ultra-orthodox community lives in self-confinement, enclosed in their almost “alternate universe”. Only seldomly do we catch a glimpse of the secrets of this fascinating and menacing world, and when we do, we’re left in awe.

Meni Philip was born to a well-known ulta-orthodox family in Petach-Tikva. After studying in Yeshiva for a few years, Meni decided to pivot and embark on a new career as a Hasidic singer. His talent was embraced by the Israeli Orthodox community, and he quickly became the most successful Hasidic singer in Israel. But after two albums and a marriage, Meni began drifting away, towards a new life. He decided to “return to question”, as the Hebrew phrase describes the excruciating process of leaving the religion and becoming a secular Jew.

Meni became an award winning documentary filmmaker, with a successful international career. He’s been living in Los Angeles for several years, but now he’s visiting Israel, shooting a new documentary about a new groundbreaking movement that he established.

Meni Philip joins us today to share his amazing life story.

Meni Philip on Facebook, his website and his documentary “Let There Be Light”

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Episode 83 – Big in Tel Aviv

Immigrating to Israel is not easy. Alongside mastering Hebrew, finding a Job and making friends, one of the biggest challenges is simply to integrate, to find your place, to feel like a local. If you’re an artist immigrating here, it can be even more difficult. If language is not your medium, art is certainly always a cultural thing – and the divide can easily become a chasm.

Nonetheless, Tel Aviv has become a vibrant multi-national city, and it seems that English speakers are thriving here. Even if you’re an Israeli English speaker, so long as you’re present on social media, you can’t escape the stream of immigrant produced content emanating from Israel. And at the top of that chart, sitting comfortably on her throne, is Renny Grinshpan – the benevolent queen.

Renny Grinshpan is an actor, creator and a model who made aliyah 4 years ago. Since then she’s been scorching Israel’s facebook feed with hilarious viral videos, mainly as part of the Israeliot group, making her one of the most known and influential local internet stars. Renny graduated the Columbia School of Journalism. She’s created videos for the Jewish Daily Forward and the Tross Creative House.

Renny Grinshpan is here with us today to answer the age old question: chocolate or vanilla? Also, will there be peace in the Middle East.

Renny’s FacebookInstagram and website

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Episode 81 – Staring in the Eyes of Evil

Photo: Voice of Israel / YouTube

It was a Saturday afternoon in mid December in 2010 when Kay Wilson and Kristine Luken decided to go for a hike in the Mata forest, near Beit Shemesh, west of Jerusalem. That decision proved fateful, and even fatal for one of them.

Rewind 4 months. Kay, a British-born Israeli citizen, is guiding a Holocaust tour through Poland. She meets Kristine Luken, a Christian American enthralled by the Jewish people and their history. Kay is so moved by Luken’s passion that she invites her to her home country to experience the real Israel and Luken accepts. She flies to Israel and the two engage in their mutual love of hiking.

What happened in the hills that day in December has been haunting Kay ever since. This very interview was postponed as Kay found herself suffering from a debilitating bout of PTSD. But still she finds the strength to tell her story, again and again. Why?

We’re honored to have Kay Wilson join us today to tell her story and answer that question herself.

Kay Wilson on Twitter and Facebook

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Episode 80 – What Makes Us Curious?

What were the qualities that pushed mankind forward throughout history? Deduction was an important element in our ability to understand the world around us. Innovation certainly aided us in our pursuit the master the forces of nature. But perhaps one characteristic above all others has driven our species forward: Curiosity.

Curiosity is almost an instinct, an impulse to find an answer to question. The itch to find new questions to which we ought to seek answers. And the ability to doubt and question everything around us – these abilities led us to be the dominant species on earth and known universe, light years above any other form of life.

But a very reflexive question comes to mind when we speak of curiosity, and that is – what is it that makes us curious? It seems we are so eager to find answers to questions, that we never quite stopped to think about why we’re asking the questions.

Dr. Mario Livio is a world renowned scientist and the author of six internationally acclaimed popular science books. He was a professor of physics at the Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology, and worked with the Hubble Space Telescope from 1991 to 2015. His bestselling book The Golden Ratio – the Story of Phi won the Peano Prize and the International Pythagoras prize for popular books on Mathematics. Dr. Livio’s new book, titled “Why? What makes Us Curious”, depicts his journey to understand the roots of curiosity.

It’s a great privilege to have Dr. Mario Livio with us today to discuss this curious topic.

Mario Livio’s books on Amazon, his FacebookTwitter and Official Website

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Letters to the Editor: Gun Violence Debate, Phil Rosenthal and More

Gun Violence Debate

The underlying argument of gun law reform: Public safety will be achieved through legislature (“When Will It End?” Feb. 23). In light of the Florida school shooting, this argument is shaping the modern U.S. political and sociocultural landscape. However, the dialogue on gun control has diverted the public from the underlying cause of shootings: pathology.

In Europe, multiple acts of terror have taken place through the use of cars. By driving through crowds of people, terrorist attacks have killed people in masses. Even in the absence of legal gun purchases, assuming black market sales are somehow nonexistent, pathological individuals can find means to fulfill their destructive motivations.

While empathizing with the victims of this tragedy, this conversation lacks this simple empirical observation: Pathology is a problem of being; it is not a problem of legislature.

Mahmut Alp Yuksel, Los Angeles

Former President Barack Obama and the left are partly responsible for the Parkland, Fla., shooting. Obama’s Promise Program lowered Parkland’s juvenile arrest numbers from 3,000 to 600. Then it lowered the number of children disciplined and expelled; it reduced the treatment of problem children; it lowered the number of children arrested. So when the killer attacked, the police did nothing because they were part of the Promise Program.

Robin Rosenblatt, Sebastopol

What a great column by Danielle Berrin (“In America, Life Should Come Before Total Liberty,” Feb.  23)! Thank you so much for bringing up the essence of the prophetic words of Isaiah Berlin. Having lived for 33 years in a society that believed in the absolute ideal of socialism, I experienced firsthand the truthfulness of his words: Everything is justified by the goal of attaining an ideal society. I would add only this: The more noble the ideal is, the more paranoid and fanatic the society becomes. Total liberty is possible only if a single person lives on an isolated island. If two or more people are to live together as a family, society, etc., then total liberty must be replaced by other values that put life at the center of everything.

Svetlozar Garmidolov, Los Angles

It seems to me that Ben Shapiro is a tad defensive about his hardline interpretation of the Second Amendment (“The Parkland Dilemma,” March 2). He harshly criticizes the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSD) for becoming strong advocates for gun safety. How dare they criticize Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) for his support of lax gun safety measures? In the very next sentence, he comes to the defense of NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch, arguing that she cares “deeply about their (students’) safety.”

These MSD students experienced a horrific massacre. If some of them spoke in hyperbole, it is understandable. What is Loesch’s excuse for her screed at CPAC? She accused those of us who support strong gun safety laws of being ill-informed, ignorant of the Constitution and anti-American. Yet, Shapiro does not chastise her for these comments.

Andrew C. Sigal, Valley Village

In his opposition to gun regulations, Ben Shapiro says he refuses to give up his guns to “browbeating gun control advocates.” We’re not asking him to give up his guns if he feels that they truly give him a sense of security. What we are asking is for improved background checks, introduction of “smart” guns to reduce the likelihood of accidental shootings, and restrictions on assault weapons. If people like Shapiro would listen and consider such reasonable proposals, then we wouldn’t have to shout at one another.

John Beckmann, Sherman Oaks

The “tribalism” David Suissa describes arises from a failure to develop “team skills” (Trapped Inside of Our Tribes,” March 2).

The deepening political divisions and increase in violence, such as the murder of schoolchildren in Florida, have cultural and interpersonal roots. As our culture has become increasingly technological, individuals have become focused on their smartphones and video games at a young age rather than being encouraged to develop relationships with others. Developing and maintaining relationships with others is a skill that is becoming increasingly difficult for some growing children and increasingly difficult for many adults. Violence and primitive tribalism are the consequence of deep personal isolation.

William E. Baumzweiger, Studio City

Phil Rosenthal’s Modesty

Phil Rosenthal significantly understated the level of his and Monica’s generous philanthropy to Jewish and Israel-based causes (“Phil Rosenthal’s 3 Desires,” March 2).

Just a sampling: They supported the production of the award-winning 2008 documentary about the life and death of Hannah Senesh; Monica received the JNF’s Tree of Life Award; and the couple made a significant gift to underwrite the Department of Religious Services, in memory of Phil’s uncle, Rev. A. Asher Hirsch, at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

Paul Jeser via email

There is at least a third trait that “Italians and Jews share”: We talk with our hands. Hence the Yiddish joke: “How do you keep a Jew from talking? Tie his hands behind his back.”

Warren Scheinin, Redondo Beach

The Truth of Deir Yassin

The deceitful and perverse Deir Yassin “massacre” fraud was a deliberate, manipulative propaganda effort by Palestinian leadership (“The Truth of Deir Yassin,” March 2).

Perhaps anticipating the sacrosanct status of the Palestinian narrative, Jonathan Swift wrote that “Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it.” This would explain why professor Eliezer Tauber is still looking for an American publisher among those affiliated with the apparently now moribund “marketplace of ideas.”

Julia Lutch via emaill

What Protests Mean

Thank you, David Suissa, for writing “Obama and #IranianWomenToo,” Feb. 16).

Most of us are not brave enough to do what these women (and men) did, openly protesting an evil power —a real one, not from a movie or a novel.

I know this because I used to live in the evil empire, and I knew what an open protest would lead to. We did listen to Voice of America and Free Europe and knew of protests going on in front of the Soviet embassy, United Nations, etc. These people fought for our rights to leave, and for “refusniks” it meant a lot.

In light of this, the pretentious marches, resist movements, demands to remove old statues, and other political demonstrations seem meaningless compared with real issues of liberty (including women’s rights) that some societies face. It is very easy to participate in some march, feel good about it, then go home, knowing that there will be no consequences.

Andy Grinberg via email

A Rabbi’s Spiritual Journey

Thank you, Rabbi Adam Kligfeld, for poetically sharing your experience integrating yogic and Buddhist meditation practices with Judaism (“My Sabbatical Journey: Feeling the Drumbeat of Life,” March 2). In addition to spotlighting the enormous need for tikkun olam, meditation helps me to discern how best to use my God-given gifts to serve our world. None of us is expected to do it all, but each one of us is expected, even commanded, to do what we can. Whatever comes easily and naturally to us is exactly how to help, so go ahead, pick the low hanging fruit! What comes easily for you is difficult for others. Paralyzing guilt has no function in Jewish life.

Cathy Okrent via email

Listen and Learn

I strongly recommend to your readers a recent edition of “Two Nice Jewish Boys,” a Journal-associated podcast. It features Einat Wilf, a former Labor Party MK, who grew up supporting the two-state solution, but has since changed her mind.

It wasn’t just the failure of the Oslo Accords, the atrocities of the Second Intifada, ceaseless terrorism and repeated Palestinian rejection of good-faith offers that prompted her to “get real,” but her conversations with Palestinians themselves. She now believes, sadly, the Palestinian mindset makes a peaceful solution impossible.

Rueben Gordon, Encino

Inclusion at Sundance

Very glad to read about the Shabbat Tent at Sundance (“Sharing Some Light,” Feb. 2). I attended Sundance for 10 years — from 1998 to 2007— first as a programmer for another festival, and then as a filmmaker with a short that played Sundance in 2004. The only year I ever managed to participate in anything remotely Jewish was the year that “Trembling Before God” was an official documentary selection at the festival (in 2001). Very glad to hear that now there’s so much more, and that it is so welcoming and accessible.

Paul Gutrecht via email

The Power of Poetry

Thank you, Hannah Arin, for providing the lovely poetic parameters for wishing upon a star.

Charles Berdiansky, Culver City

New-Look Journal

Your new design format for stories is more conducive to reading all the material than the old design of presenting a starting story and continuing it on the back pages. Thank you for the change.

Ruth Merritt via email

Episode 79 – The Lost Brother

Usually a Skype call begins with a clamor of several similar, almost identical, questions: “Can you hear me?”, “Can you hear me now?”. But not this one. This one started with a series of quiet smiles, followed by all eight? people on the call bursting into tears.

One end of this call is New Jersey, the kitchen table of the Katz family. The other end, a remote part of Russia called Sakhalin Island, near Japan.

In April of 2016, Jess Katz picked up again on a search she’d been conducting for most of her life, a search which she most likely expected to lead her to archived documents or in the best case scenario, a photo. She was continuing a cross-generational search for her grandfather’s long lost younger brother. Her grandfather never had the fortune of meeting his younger brother after the Holocaust ripped them apart. Unfortunately, neither did Jess. But her search was definitely not to no avail.

Jess Katz joins us today to share her inspiring story.

If you have any other relevant information and you wish to contact Jess, this is her email and Facebook.

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Episode 77 – Can Climate Cause War?

Photo by William Proby

For almost seven years a gruesome civil war has been tearing Syria apart. With half a million dead, 5 million refugees and 7 million citizens who were forced to leave their homes – it seems there’s no apparent end on the horizon.

The war has changed the Middle East in many ways, and has affected all the neighboring countries, including Israel. But it seems that of all these states in the area, Jordan is the one who was forced to bear the brunt under the circumstances. This poor desert kingdom had to absorb millions of refugees, who literally ran across the huge border between the two countries. As a country that was itself on the brink of civil war several times in the past, Jordan now faces yet another severe challenge.

Into this mess entered Rachel Delia Benaim. Rachel is a reporter and a few months ago she embarked on a risky journey across Jordan, in search for an unexpected cause of the Syrian Civil War. What she found was alarming. Lucky for us, she’s here to share her story and her fascinating insights.

Rachel Delia Benaim on Facebook and Twitter 

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Episode 76 – Uri Geller: Spoon Bender and Spy

Uri Geller on a Game of Thrones style throne of spoons, which has been created for Kellogg's. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday December 16, 2014. Photo credit: David Parry/PA Wire

“There is no spoon.” Remember that line from the “The Matrix”? Neo walks into the Oracle’s house to discover a monk-child sitting cross-legged on the carpet. The kid holds up a spoon and begins to seemingly bend it with his mind. He hands it to Neo and urges him to realize the truth, “There is no spoon.”

In August 1973, the CIA conducted a study at the Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, California. Just to be clear, this is in reality, not in the movie. That study conducted by the CIA documented the unique abilities of a young man. After 7 days of tests, the study concluded that this young man had “demonstrated his paranormal perceptual ability in a convincing and unambiguous way.”

Uri Geller became popular in Israel in the late 60s early 70s. Within a few years he’d become an international sensation, bending spoons for television audiences worldwide and even appearing on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1973. That appearance was a humiliation as Uri described it and almost caused him to pack up his bags and go home for good.

Uri Geller claims to have paranormal abilities, ranging from the psychokinetic to the telepathic. Of course, there is much skepticism, not excluding our own, but to paraphrase Uri’s own son: whichever way you look at this, there’s a fascinating story here!

Today, here in the studio, there is a spoon. And here to bend it is Uri Geller himself.

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Episode 75 – 5 Years in a Cuban Prison: The Story of Alan Gross

In the fall of 2016 something truly bizarre happened in the United States embassy in Havana, Cuba. According to reports, 22 embassy staffers were suffering from mild brain damage, concussions and permanent hearing loss. Scientists and researchers are still debating the causes of these events but many suspected covert sonic attacks. In response, the US expelled two Cuban diplomats and warned US citizens not to travel to Cuba.

These peculiar events took place just one year after the US embassy was reinstated in Havana and only a few months after President Obama became the first US president to visit Cuba since 1928, as part of what became known as the Cuban Thaw. The thaw marked a warming in the relations between Cuba and the US – a move which was heavily criticized by many.

In the midst of all this was one American Jew from Long Island.

Alan Gross was a US government contractor and social entrepreneur who traveled to developing countries to bring modern communication technology like satellites, phones and internet to the locals. His journeys led him to Cuba in 2009, where he provided local Jewish communities with various technological equipment. However, during his fifth visit to Cuba, something unexpected happened. The 60 year-old Gross was arrested by the Cuban Police.

About the events that unfolded next, we will hear from the man himself. Today we are deeply honored to be joined by Alan Gross.
(Photo by the White House)

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Episode 73 – Obama Friend or Foe: a Recap with MK Dr. Michael Oren

“Unshakable and unbreakable.” Those two words were used by the Obama administration to describe the special, intimate relationship between Israel and the United States. When Michael Oren found himself, almost against all odds, serving as Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. in 2009, he found out sooner rather than later the these relations were, in fact, very shakable, and maybe even breakable. His impossible job was to prevent that from happening.

Promising change and peace, Obama entered the white house with a burst of optimism, and some might argue, arrogance. To Michael Oren, the Obama administration and its relations with Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu, shaped to be the greatest challenge of his life.

In his book titled “Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide” Oren depicts the almost unimaginable chain of events that took place during his 4.5 year term as an ambassador.

Since this January marks one year to the end of the Obama era, we thought it was a good opportunity to recap, look at the Obama years from a distance, and discuss his legacy.

Michael Oren is a Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s office, Member of Knesset in the Kulanu Party and he served as the Israeli ambassador to the United States in the years 2009-2013. In a previous life, Oren also taught history at the Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University and was a visiting professor at Harvard, Yale and Georgetown. He is the author of several books, both fiction and non-fiction.

Deputy Minister Michael Oren joins us today for the second time to talk about the Obama years from an Israeli perspective.

Michael Oren’s books on Amazon, his Facebook and Twitter

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Episode 72 – #metoo and the Power to Forgive

On October 5, 2017, only a few months ago, a report published in The New York Times shook the foundations at the epicenter of America’s film and television industry – Hollywood. More than a dozen women accused the hugely successful film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment, abuse and rape.

These allegations brought about a wave of accusations against prominent male figures in film and TV. It gave birth to a movement named #metoo and recently another movement named Times Up both aimed at empowering women to speak up against sexual violence and misconduct.

One year before this seismic report, there was a warning tremor. A tremor that was nonetheless seismic for the person reporting. A journalist from the Los Angeles Jewish Journal published an essay titled: “My Sexual Assault and Yours, Every Woman’s Story.” That journalist’s name is Danielle Berrin. Danielle refrained from naming names and instead conveyed her experience, her trauma and the devastation she felt from this once idolized man.

Soon it became clear that this man was the prominent Israeli journalist, Ari Shavit. Shavit apologized, begrudgingly, and stepped down from the public stage. Israel’s media world was shaken to its roots.

Danielle Berrin joins us today to talk about her story, the #metoo campaign and how, after the ashes settle, we might be able to build a better future.

Danielle Berrin on the Jewish Journal and Twitter

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Episode 71: What the Hell is Going on in Poland?

Photo from Mazaki.

I (Naor) just came back from a ten day trip in Poland. What I saw there perplexed me. On one hand, Poland is going through massive political changes in which the far right have taken control over the country. Recently, a bill was passed that gives the right wing government greater control of the Supreme Court.

Just last month, tens of thousands of anti semitic protesters marched through the streets of Warsaw shouting racist chants.

On the other hand, the Jewish community is still present and actually at its prime since WW2. One memeber of the Jewish community there is Matan Shefi. Matan decided to move to Warsaw three years ago with his wife and the two still live there today. Matan works at the Jewish Historical Institute and helps people trace their Jewish roots in Poland.

Today, Matan joins us to talk about his new home, his work and recent developments in Poland.

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Episode 70: Etgar Keret and the Art of the Short Story

Size matters. Or so, at least, we’ve been told from the moment we were born: the tallest guy gets the glory on the basketball courts at school; The longest thesis at the university class stands for the quality of research and work that was put into it; A filmmaker can make 50 short films but he’ll never make it if he hasn’t made a Feature. And then there’s literature: Ulysses, War and Peace, and even the Lord of the Rings trilogy – all stand for the concept of size as a quality stamp.

Etgar Keret’s career, however, has been proving just the opposite. For 30 years Keret has been focusing mainly on short stories, and it’s safe to say that his technique and unique style has contributed a lot to the reshaping of short storytelling as an art form.

Keret’s one of the most translated Israeli writers. His books have been translated to 37 languages. His short stories were adapted to international productions, like “Wristcutters” or the stop animation film 9.99$.

Keret has published 13 books, including short stories books, comics, graphic novels, and even children’s books. He won many awards, among which the Knight Medallion for Literature in France. His debut feature film, that he co-created with his wife Shira Geffen, was awarded the Golden Camera in the Cannes film festival. And now a new documentary film about him is being released.

Today 2NJB are deeply honored to host Etgar Keret.

Etgar Keret’s official website, his books on Amazon and his Facebook page

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Episode 69 – Haaretz Chief Editor Talks Journalism

Freedom of speech or freedom of the press has been a key ingredient of healthy democracies since, well, since healthy democracies have been around. But what does it mean to be a good Journalist? Where do we draw the lines between freedom of press and national security? How do you keep a newspaper’s ethics in check without compromising on its values?

As Israel’s leading liberal national daily newspaper, Haaretz and its journalists must struggle with these questions on a daily basis, particularly the person who runs the paper.

So, here to help us answer those questions is Aluf Benn, the editor-in-chief of Haaretz. Aluf Benn has been published in a number of international newspapers including The NYT, The Guardian and Newsweek.

He joins us today to discuss journalism.

Haaretz’s English website and Facebook page

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Episode 68 – Viral in the Valley

If you have kids, you probably know that television is dead, or at least, dying. Nowadays young adults and kids alike spend the vast majority of their free time on YouTube, binging endless hours of free content, tailored specifically to their tastes and desires.

This revolution has afforded talented people from all around the world not only the opportunity to reach huge audiences without having to go through producers and networks – but also the chance to make a living from their art.

Leigh Lahav, an Israeli-American who moved from Israel to L.A 3 years ago, is probably the most successful Israeli YouTuber out there. Her short animations, usually mash ups of shows and movies from pop culture, have accumulated millions and millions of views. She has a huge community of fans and followers, and now she’s on a journey to make it big in America.

Leigh joins us today to talk about her art, career and future endeavors.

Leigh’s YouTubeFacebook and Twitter

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Episode 67 – Middle East Break Down

The Middle East isn’t the friendliest neighborhood to grow up in, especially for Israel. With the cold peace it shares with both Egypt and Jordan to the persistent “state of war” it holds with Iraq and Iran, Israel is hard pressed to find a friend in its corner of the world. The USA is often seen as Israel’s big brother, its protector, its ever-loyal ally, but the United States lies thousands upon thousands of miles away geographically and light years culturally. So how does a country like Israel fit in in its home town? What’s its role here in the Middle East? How does a young nation forge relationships in such a harsh climate?

Here to help us understand the intricacies and intrigues of the Middle East is Barak Ravid. Barak is the chief diplomatic correspondent for Channel 10 News in Israel. Before that he served as the diplomatic correspondent at Haaretz for a decade, covering the Prime Minister’s Office, the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Defense, dealing with issues such as U.S.-Israeli relations, EU-Israeli relations and the peace process.

Barak Ravid joins us today to talk about Israel’s place in the Middle East.

Barak Ravid on Facebook and Twitter

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Episode 66 – Behind Bars in Iraq

Everyone loves a good adventure. Whether you’re into climbing the highest mountains, bungee jumping from the highest bridges, or in my case – going to my cousin’s Bar Mitzvah in Delaware – a little bit of a risk can bring on a rush of adrenaline that adds that excitement we all live for.

But some people take adventure to the next level. With us today is Tamara Baraaz who happens to be that kind of person.

Tamara is a journalist who travels to the most dangerous countries in the world to tell the stories of the people who live there. Her journeys led her to east Ukraine, Chad, Central Africa, Somalia, and even Afghanistan, where she couch surfed, and Iraq, where she ended up in a prison.

Tamara joins 2NJB to tell us about the extraordinary people that she met and the places she’s seen.

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The Melting Podcast: Passport Control

We have a new podcast about aliyah and what it’s like to become an Israeli, called The Melting Podcast. Here’s the first episode!

On this episode, we speak to Ilana Vaknine, AKA La La Vak, one of Tel Aviv’s funniest sex bloggers, plus live music by Quarter to Africa.

We produced this podcast for Kan, Israel’s Public Broadcasting Corporation, and you can find it wherever you get your podcasts. Episode 2 is already out!
Find all episodes here

Subscribe to the new podcast here:

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Episode 65 – Behind the Scenes of Binary Options

Over the last decade, in Israel, Binary Options has become a term that carries with it a heavy stigma of fraud and theft and is generally associated with shady people. But it hasn’t always been like that. For a long time, for many people, it was just another sector of the financial industry which was raking in A LOT of dough. It actually provided an opportunity for many people who otherwise struggled to make a living in Israel, an opportunity to make good money, fast!

On the 23rd of March, 2016, Simona Weinglass, a reporter for the Times of Israel, wrote an expose of the Binary Options industry. In it, she described a world that thrived on deception, illegal activity, and ultimately on preying on the weak.

Since her exposé in the Times of Israel, Simona has been covering the battle against Binary Options in Israel’s Parliament. Today, the industry is well on its way to being taken down.

This episode is a rerun from a year ago (ep 14) when Simona joined us to talk about this dark industry and how she came to uncover it.

For her original exposé on the industry:

And for more of Simona Weinglass: simona-weinglass/

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