Web Design Tips for an Auto Parts Website

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to website design. Whilst some strategies, like link building and content marketing are applicable to all industries, it’s important to adopt a holistic approach to website design if you are marketing a niche business. Here are some tips to help you design the perfect website for an auto parts business.

Anyone can build a simple website. Content management systems like WordPress and Magento are easy to use and once you have a basic framework in place, you can play around the layout using a drag and drop interface. However, if your business depends on website traffic, it’s sensible to look into website design Melbourne, as a professional website designer will be able to advise you on SEO and the more technical aspects of web design. But if you already have a website and you just want to tweak the design, check out the following tips.

Mobile Friendly

Businesses can’t afford to ignore the importance of mobile-friendly web design these days. More people than ever before are using mobile devices to search online. This is especially true in the auto parts industry, where customers need parts quickly and are often outdoors, or away from a computer.

Google likes mobile-friendly websites, so if you don’t take steps to make your website suitable for mobile devices, it could harm your position in the search engine rankings. It will also make it harder for customers to find the auto parts they need.

Easy Navigation

How easy is it for customers to find the auto parts they need on your website? The harder it is, the more likely they are to click away and use a different website. Since you probably have a vast catalog of different auto parts, it is essential that you catalog them in an intuitive manner. Look closely at your navigation links. The more steps a customer has to take to find the part they need, the more annoyed they will be. Install a search facility on your site to make it nice and easy for customers to find the part they are looking for.

Eye-Catching Design

Auto parts are not very sexy, so you should try to make your website as easy to the eye as possible. Try to avoid using too much text on the homepage, as this is less appealing. Use professional photos, preferably images that are unique to your business. However, check how long pages take to load once you have images installed, as slow load times are damaging to your SEO.

Business Branding

Use branding to set your website apart from those of your competitors. Do you have a company logo? If so, incorporate it into your website design, along with any colors you use.

Local Information

Do you have a bricks and mortar auto parts store? If so, place your contact details in a prominent location on the site. Having a landline number on a website establishes your business as a trustworthy partner.

Don’t forget to include social buttons on every page, so customers can share information about auto parts with their friends.

Fearing cyberattack, Israel curbs government Web sites’ foreign traffic

Israel will temporarily suspend some of its government Web sites' international traffic to fend off a potential mass-cyber attack by pro-Palestinian hackers, an Israeli security source said on Thursday, without elaborating on the threat.

The precautionary measure would be in place from Friday through Monday, the source said, and include refusal of electronic payment from abroad for government services.

Some routine reprogramming of Web sites was also on hold, the source said.

The Walla news site said Israeli civil servants had also been instructed not to open emails received from foreigners.

Israeli officials declined to comment.

In January, an Israeli cyber security firm said hackers had broken into a Defence Ministry computer via an email attachment tainted with malicious software that looked like it had been sent by the country's Shin Bet security service.

Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall

Jews and baseball: An American news media love story

For those of us who follow the careers of Jewish ballplayers — a small, eccentric niche of fandom — checking the ” target=”_blank”>jewishsportsreview.com), edited by Ephraim Moxson, who lives in Pico-Robertson, and Shel Wallman of Manhattan’s West Side. 

Moxson and Wallman collect the names of Jewish athletes in sports ranging from football, basketball and baseball to table tennis. It is the national go-to spot for information on Jewish athletes, and Wallman and Moxson were willing to share with Jewish Baseball News. “They are the gold standard,” Barancik said.  

I called Moxson. “We go through the rosters of all major sports,” he told me. “We review every roster of every college, men’s and women’s, including small Christian schools in the South. You never know.”

Tips come from many places. A woman called Moxson and complained that her major league ballplayer son, Jason Marquis, hadn’t been mentioned in the Jewish Sports Review. “He’s not Jewish,” Moxson said. The woman replied that he was. “Our name was Marcus,” she said.

As he began Jewish Baseball News, Barancik had to struggle with a question that has long troubled our religion and probably never will be settled: Who is Jewish? Rather than consulting the rabbis, he accepted the criteria established by Moxson and Wallman in the Jewish Sports Review several years before: An athlete needs one Jewish parent, is not practicing any other religion and is willing to be identified as Jewish in public. Interestingly, their broad definition was not much different than that of the Pew Research Center in its recent public opinion survey of Jews: Those who “say their religion is Jewish (and who do not profess any other religion)” or “people who describe themselves … as atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular, but who have a Jewish parent or were raised Jewish and who still consider themselves Jewish in some way.”

As I pursued this column, I felt I was learning something important about Jewish life in the United States.

I wondered why the number of Jewish ballplayers in the major and minor leagues is increasing. “In the ’50s and ’60s, there were five or six [in the majors]; now there are 15,” professor Peter Dreier of Occidental College, an intense scholar of the game, told me. “All but three [of the major leaguers] came from mixed marriages. To the extent there is a Jewish gene in baseball, it’s an intermarriage gene.”

Barancik and Dreier also attribute the growing number of Jewish baseball players to Jews becoming part of suburban life and being affluent enough to afford the expenses of youth sports — the expensive equipment, private coaching and travel.  

In addition, Dreier said, the major leagues are increasingly looking to colleges for players, and the schools with the best programs happen to be in areas with large Jewish populations — Florida and California.

We fanatics focus on numbers, but actually what we are witnessing is how Jewish life is changing.

Bill Boyarsky is a columnist for the Jewish Journal, Truthdig and L.A. Observed, and the author of “Inventing L.A.: The Chandlers and Their Times” (Angel City Press).

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Best. Site. Ever.

It’s common these days to micromanage what information we receive. Many of us have a list of favorite Web sites and blogs we regularly go to, as well as Facebook pages and mobile apps that reflect our individual tastes and ideologies. It’s a way of maintaining some level of control amid the chaos of the Internet.

There’s an opportunity cost, however, to micromanaging this flow of information: We rarely experience the joy of what I call “bumping into knowledge.”

That’s why I want to tell you about my all-time favorite Web site, Arts & Letters Daily (aldaily.com).

This is not really a Web site. It’s more of a playground for human thought, a garden of fascinating ideas, a cocktail party for the incurably curious.

The site is wonderfully ugly. There are no cool images or graphics, just columns of words … striking, original words that are like mental speed bumps.

And, thank God, it’s not interactive. There are no inane comments from rabid and angry readers. It’s a one-way freeway of intellectual delights — they serve, we savor.

As many as 15 topic areas are listed on its masthead: philosophy, aesthetics, literature, language, trends, breakthroughs, ideas, criticism, culture, history, music, art, disputes and, yes, even gossip.

The home page features three column headings: Articles of Note, New Books, and Essays and Opinions. Under each heading is a series of brief blurbs, each one linking to an article from a broad range of publications, many I’d never heard of before discovering the site.

There are no ideological or topical boundaries. The only boundary seems to be: Is this a smart and fresh read?

The site is curated daily, which means you’re guaranteed a daily dose of brain food.

Just to give you a sense of what it feels like to be on the site, here’s a sampling of some thoughts and ideas you’re likely to encounter on any given day:   

“A modern Marx. Jonathan Sperber’s attempt to confine the man to his milieu misses the point. Marx’s ideas shape our world …”

“Technology confounds Sven Birkerts. What happens when this not-quite Luddite goes for a ride with Siri? A transcendental experience ensues …”

“Albert Camus’s writings on the Algerian war are marked by their honesty, consistency, even purity. His peers — Sartre, de Beauvoir, Aron — were cynical at best …” 

“ ‘Never before has anti-Semitism been so eliminationist in its rhetoric,’ says Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, ‘not even the Nazi period.’ Chilling. But is it true?”

“Before Soho was boho, there was Covent Garden. Its theaters, bordellos, and back alleys gave rise to a modern archetype: the poverty-stricken artist …”

“The demonic Picasso. In the absence of morality, it is monstrosity that carries the weight of his work, and shakes the viewer’s beliefs …”

“Could humans — so fractious and violent — forge a moral lingua franca, a unified system for weighing values? Let the metacognitive revolution begin …”

“For all of us, but especially for Generations X and Y, a sustained and quiet read is harder to get than ever. Cultural studies is to blame …”

“Income inequality will worsen, predicts Tyler Cowen, but revolution is not stirring. Our economic and social future will be a ‘hyper-meritocracy’…”

Get the picture? The site provides a constant flow of challenging ideas that hit you from all sides. Imagine that. You lose control. You are constantly surprised. You are at the mercy of a curator’s taste. 

One minute, you’re reading about a critic’s outrage at “America’s cultural debasement …” the next you read about how “regret is what makes us human.”

Right after a piece on how “putting pen to paper unlocks a sort of alchemy,” you read about Michael Ignatieff, “a man who would be philosopher-king … left Harvard and reinvented himself as a politician. Or so he thought …”

AL Daily, which is owned by the Chronicle of Higher Education, is the brainchild of the late Denis Dutton, its founding editor. According to Wikipedia, Dutton was inspired by the model of the Drudge Report but wanted to reach “the kinds of people who subscribe to the New York Review of Books, who read Salon and Slate and The New Republic — people interested in ideas.”

The plain, word-heavy design of the site “mimics the 18th century English broadsheets and a 19th century copy of a colonial New Zealand periodical, the Lyttelton Times.”

The site is so intellectually rich that it even includes a little section titled “Nota Bene” (Latin for “mark well”), which offers a collection of daily links to more quirky articles.

In short, the site is the antidote to boredom and predictability. It counters the modern-day habit of finding refuge in media channels that mostly confirm what we already know and believe.

It’s comfort food, but only for those who don’t seek comfort.

In that sense, it might be the ultimate Jewish site, designed not to comfort us but to challenge us, not to reinforce us but to move us, not to change our minds but to open them.

David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

Using media as a weapon in the agunah fight

The websites look like those of political prisoners.

Under the caption “Free Tamar Now!” there is a close-up photo of demonstrators with signs and megaphones. “Stop the abuse,” one sign reads.

But FreeTamar.org and the Free Gital Facebook group seek emancipation not from literal bars or chains. Rather, they seek liberation for agunot — so-called chained women being denied religious writs of divorce from their husbands.

Under Jewish law, divorces are not final until the husband gives his wife the writ, known as a get. If a husband refuses, the woman cannot remarry; any intimate relationship with another man is considered adultery. Children born from such a relationship are considered mamzers, a category of illegitimacy under Jewish law that carries severe restrictions.

Under Jewish law, women chained to recalcitrant husbands have little recourse, and the problem of agunot long has plagued the Jewish community. In one recent case that garnered broad media attention, the FBI arrested several men in New York who allegedly kidnapped and tortured recalcitrant husbands — for fees of tens of thousands of dollars.

A more common and increasingly popular tactic agunot advocates are adopting to try to compel recalcitrant husbands to relent and grant their wives gets is the public shaming campaign.

Gital Doderson, 25, of Lakewood, N.J., brought her divorce fight to the front page of the New York Post on Tuesday. After three years of pursuing but failing to obtain a get from her husband, Dodelson wrote, “I’ve decided to go public with my story after exhausting every other possible means. The Orthodox are fiercely private, but I am willing to air my dirty laundry if it means I can finally get on with my life.”

The Organization for the Resolution of Agunot, known as ORA, is at the forefront of a campaign to harness public remonstrance as a means to thwart recalcitrant husbands.

Using the slogan “Get-refusal is a form of domestic abuse,” ORA, in cooperation with Yeshiva University, has organized rallies outside the homes of recalcitrant husbands like Albert Srour and Ephraim Ohana. Their website features a “Recalcitrant Husbands” page that prominently displays the images of husbands who refuse gets to their wives.

When Aharon Friedman, an aide to U.S. Representative Dave Camp, refused his wife, Tamar, a get, ORA took out a billboard ad on the DC Metro, with his face emblazoned against a demand to “Give a get now!”

“If and when we’ve exhausted all amicable means of resolving the situation, we will try to get him ostracized, and publicize his name,” Rabbi Jeremy Stern, executive director of ORA, told JTA.

The jury (or beit din) is still out on whether this tactic will prove more effective than other attempts to sway recalcitrant husbands. What is certain is that the spate of recent media coverage about agunot is drawing broad attention to a problem more often contained within certain segments of the Jewish community.

Exploring ‘Soul of the Biz’

“The money and glamor of Hollywood hides the real truth of its power,” Rob Eshman, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Jewish Journal and its parent company, TRIBE Media Corp., said this week. “Its power is in the ability of stories to shape our lives and our values.”

“And that,” Eshman said, “is what Hollywood Journal explores.”

Hollywood Journal, a new Web site launched on Jan. 25 by TRIBE Media Corp., explores the true soul of the entertainment industry through the words of writers and bloggers inside Hollywood. The site’s editorial director, Jill Cutler, previously of Creative Artists Agency (CAA), has already enlisted more than 50 Hollywood insiders to write for Hollywood Journal about their emotional and spiritual journeys through original essays as well as photos and videos. 

“My partner Rob Eshman and I find movies a lot more enjoyable than Middle Eastern politics, and we both agree that Hollywood pretty much runs the world, so this was a natural,” said David Suissa, president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. 

Contributors are film and television writers, directors, actors, musicians, artists, producers and story creators of every genre: “Our stories will follow the emotional and spiritual journeys of those people who create the stories that people love, and hopefully the stories that they tell will impact and influence for the good,” Cutler said. 

Cutler worked for more than 15 years as a talent agent at CAA and then became president of production at Winkler Films. She is also an independent producer of film and TV projects.

Unlike other publications and Web sites that focus on celebrity news, gossip and paparazzi photos, Hollywood Journal’s tagline, “Soul of the Biz,” is intended tell the reader that this is a different kind of publication, Cutler said.

“It’s an intimate, insider’s point of view of Hollywood, but not through gossip or news. It’s a deeper, meaningful take on Hollywood.”

For example, Debi Pomerantz, vice president of research at the Oprah Winfrey Network, writes about her struggle finding suitable TV programs for her own children to watch in an essay titled “Late Night Revelations of a TV Addicted Mom,” and music producer A.J. Weiner tells how Bob Dylan’s music has kept his family close for more than 35 years in “The Soul of Dylan.”

The site includes “Industry Impressions,” “Making a Difference,” “Personal Journeys,” “Soul Dilemma” and a page for video content, and also brings together an aggregation of think pieces, lifestyle lists and writings by and about industry professionals. A question of the week will ask readers to reflect on films and other works of art that have shaped them through questions such as, “What film has most inspired the choices you’ve made in life, and why?” 

“I think everybody has a story,” Cutler said. “And everybody has challenges and opportunities and struggles and victories, so we will be following different people in Hollywood on their journeys.”

Reform congregation websites hosted by URJ are hacked

The websites of several congregations hosted by the Union for Reform Judaism were hacked and linked to anti-Semitic websites.

Following the weekend hacking, the URJ pulled down the websites for scanning and clean-up, according to Mark Pelavin, the URJ's senior advisor to the president.

In an e-mail to JTA, Pelavin said the sites were set to be brought back online by Monday evening, adding that URJ made some changes to its security protocol.

The hackers appear to be a group calling itself Moroccan Ghosts, according to Jeffrey Salkin, the Anti-Defamation League's New Jersey community director.

Since March, Moroccan Ghosts has hacked some 82 websites, mostly in the United States, but also in France, Britain, Vietnam, South Africa, Germany, Spain and China, the ADL said. The Facebook page of Moroccan Ghosts includes graphics reading “Free Palestine,” as well as an Israeli flag ripped in half and on fire.

A member of the group, a 17-year-old hacker from Morocco who calls himself King Neco, in an interview from over the summer with Eduard Kovacs on the Softpedia website, identified as part of the organization's objectives “Defending Palestine and Jerusalem 'al Qods.' “

My Single Peeps: Rob T.

I had a lot of difficulty with this interview. It’s actually the hardest one I’ve ever done, simply because Rob was so difficult to figure out. He’s a grown man drinking soda from a Marvel Avengers reusable cup. He looks lost. A little on the fringes. He’s out of work but receiving money from his last employer because of a pending lawsuit. He’s licensed as a chiropractor but doesn’t practice for money. Instead he volunteers to work on the backs of amateur wrestlers who can’t afford proper care. He runs a lot of Web sites.  One of them is called Findanagentbecomefamous.com. “I’ve devoted my life to helping children, so if children have a dream to become famous, I connect them with an agent or manager and give them advice.” He claims he makes no money off of the site and insists that children be with their parents at all times when auditioning or meeting with an adult. I press him on this one a bit, because it just seems so creepy. But in the end I think he’s just a guy who’s fascinated by fame.

He also runs a Web site on which he offers himself up as a Sober Companion.  He says all it requires is spending time with the addict so they have a distraction from using — and if he’s unable to do it, then he finds them someone who can. He tells me more than once that he doesn’t charge for referrals. He does it because he cares.

I tell Rob that he comes off a bit odd to me, and I’m not sure if I have a handle on him yet. I say, “I’m not sure what to make of you.” I tell him why I’m uncomfortable, and then we sit quietly for a moment before he says, “You said some things that make a lot of sense to me.” He tells me that the “Today” show had him on to talk about addiction and that he seemed off when he watched the show. I find a clip of it online — he has trouble forming sentences. We talk about his thought process and vocal patterns, which he says have always been unique. But it’s worse since the alleged harassment he received at his last job. As he starts to open up about his flaws, I start to get a better idea of his struggles. “[I’m] more of an acquired taste. I’m more actions than words, and anyone who spends a certain amount of time with me sees the love and caring that I’m about. In the writing I’m able to express myself a little bit clearer than in talking.” But, as he says, “It’s not how we communicate in real life.” And that’s his struggle.

He loves spinning class — “I’ve spun at almost every club in Los Angeles, but when I went to Crunch, I seemed to fit in the best there. The other places seem more like a clique.” And he wants a woman in her 30s or 40s with a Jewish identity. “Traditions and customs mean a lot to me.” He also wants an educated woman who has the time to spend on a relationship. “Somebody who has more than weekends,” because he likes to travel and take road trips. “I don’t mind if [she has] children or not.”

Rob’s way left-of-center, but he’s not off the map. He’s just struggling to find his place, and I have no doubt there’s at least one woman out there who would appreciate who he is. She’s probably sitting by herself in a screening of “The Amazing Spider-Man,” hoping Rob takes the empty seat next to her. If only he would get up the courage to ask.

If you’re interested in anyone you see on My Single Peeps, send an e-mail and a picture, including the person’s name in the subject line, to mysinglepeeps@jewishjournal.com, and we’ll forward it to your favorite peep.

Seth Menachem is an actor and writer living in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter. You can see more of his work on his Web site, sethmenachem.com, and meet even more single peeps at mysinglepeeps.com.

Israel’s whiz kids

Mickey Haslavsky of Holon is only 18, but he’s already on his second startup.

“When I began my first startup at 16, I thought I was the only one creating Web sites at this age, but I was amazed to discover a huge community between [the ages of] 10 and 18 around the world, and I know of about 10 startups by Israelis my age,” Haslavsky said.

By invitation of Israeli high-tech godfather Yossi Vardi, Haslavsky recently gave a TEDx Youth@Holon presentation, “Teenage Nation,” about how he founded an online youth magazine.

One thousand people registered the day Haslavsky launched his second site, Machbesa (Laundry), this past spring. It’s a viral scheme for racking up genuine “Likes” on Facebook, pluses in Google Plus and views on YouTube.

“I want to bring the system to Brazil next because it has 51 million Facebook users and it’s spreading all the time,” said Haslavsky, who needs to find someone to run his enterprises come November, when he gets drafted for military service.

That shouldn’t be hard, as he is at the older end of the spectrum of Israeli teens helming a surprising number of high-tech ventures.

Mickey Haslavsky, 18, presenting at TEDx Youth@Holon.

Tal Hoffman of Haifa says Israel’s designation as the “Startup Nation” has encouraged young business developers. “Israel’s entrepreneur community is really big among my age,” said the 15-year-old founder of Itimdi, a not-yet-launched site where teens can meet and interact based on their interests.

Another 15-year-old, Gal Harth of Herzliya, was interviewed at TechCrunch Disrupt last year in San Francisco about his Doweet Web site (motto: “So, what do you want to do?”), described as “a fun and easy way to create activities with your friends.”

Harth said he founded Doweet with his pal Nir Ohayon in reaction to all their friends playing Xbox and PlayStation instead of engaging in social and physical activities. “This is a way to get together easily to go to the gym, go swimming, play soccer. It’s an app that links everyone in one spot.”

Harth and Ohayon got initial funding from Israel’s Rhodium, the first venture capital firm they approached.

“My passion is startups,” Harth said. “My passion is to change the world.”

Nurturing whiz kids

Enterprising Israeli teenagers have plenty of role models. Gil Schwed, founder of Israel’s Check Point Software Technologies and one of the world’s youngest billionaires, is a prime example. Schwed was taking computer courses at the Hebrew University before graduating high school. Drawing on experience gained in the Israel Defense Forces’ Unit 8200 intelligence corps, he invented the modern firewall at just 26.

Many up-and-coming entrepreneurs are eager to follow the same path, knowing that their military service can pave the way to successful careers. It’s no coincidence that many Israeli startups are co-founded by former army buddies.

However, programs to recruit high school students for high-tech military units focus on top achievers and tend to miss a considerable number of kids whose tech abilities far surpass their grades. Finding and cultivating these diamonds-in-the-rough has become a priority for StartupSeeds, a 1,300-member community for entrepreneurial Israeli teens founded in 2007 as a private philanthropy-supported project of the MadaTech-Israel National Museum of Science in Haifa.

One of its original members, Ido Tal, created a wildly popular Flash video game at the age of 14, but — perhaps because of his addiction to video games, he said — wasn’t exactly a model student. Likewise, Haslavsky, whose math teacher once told Haslavsky’s mother that the boy wasn’t going to amount to anything.

“From our research, nobody is dealing with this population of kids,” StartupSeeds Director Saar Cohen said. The organization is hoping to fill that gap by reaching out to parents of teens who show a talent for coding, Web design, video editing, animation, social media, security and other needed skills.

Through contacts in the military and academia, StartupSeeds brings these teens out from under the radar for the benefit of themselves and their country. “Everybody wants their kid in a special unit because if you get in, you’re set for life.”

This is just one of the organization’s programs devised to nurture and encourage Israeli whiz kids, with support from Israel’s high-tech industry and academia. In 2008, StartupSeeds was invited to lead a panel on entrepreneurial youth at the prestigious Israeli Presidential Conference.

“StartupSeeds promotes excellence, entrepreneurship and innovation among technological youth,” Cohen said. “We believe in strengthening their existing strengths by giving them tools and a platform for them to reach their potential. We help them make connections through an online community as well as physical forums.”

Every two weeks, StartupSeeds hosts meetings and lectures along with social activities. There are periodic regional conventions and field trips to army units and high-tech industries. Members get access to events such as TEDx, groups such as MIT Forum and competitions such as BigGeek, a live broadcast from the Microsoft R&D Center in Herzliya where four teams of techies scramble to develop a working application within 24 hours.

What is special about Israel that seems to encourage what Cohen calls a technological youth phenomenon?

“Everything here happens fast,” Cohen said. “Kids are encouraged from an early age to think on their feet, ask questions, be curious and not be afraid to try anything. The high-tech industry and the startup industry in Israel are very strong, and they take great pride in that, so it’s contagious. The army helps, too, because a large percentage of those in high-tech startups went to these special tech units.”

Boys and girls together

StartupSeeds, as well as Israel’s military, academic and industrial leaders, are eager to get more girls into the high-tech mix.

“Research shows there’s an early age at which kids decide what to go into, and everyone wants to get girls to choose technological fields,” Cohen said. “We recently decided to target this audience by starting an all-girls forum, offering meetings with female leaders in industry, to see if we can create a community. Our goal is to get to 30 percent girls [in our membership]. We think they are out there, and we are approaching them at the perfect age.”

For now, most teen entrepreneurs are boys, including recent immigrants such as Ben Lang, 18, who co-founded the Innovation Israel community for startups, entrepreneurs and investors; and, most recently, Mapped in Israel, a Web site pinpointing Israel’s many startups.

In March, Lang and three young colleagues ran a successful Hackathon Israel event, sponsored by Carmel Ventures and ROI Community; their stated vision was “to share the incredible high-tech scene in Israel with the entire world.”

“Because Israel is so small, it’s easy to create a startup and give life to an idea,” Haslavsky said. “In the media you see every day how startups sell their companies for millions of dollars, and that also encourages us. Every young entrepreneur wants to be a CEO. I think Israel is amazing in this field.”

Lauder to acquire control of Israeli news Web site

Ronald Lauder is expected to acquire complete control of an Israeli news Web site and has plans to establish a new English-language Web site about Israel.

The American businessman and philanthropist’s company JCS, which operates Jerusalem Capital Studios, has finalized a deal to acquire Nana 10, Haaretz reported. Lauder currently owns 24 percent of Nana 10, which features news from Israel’s Channel 10 and reportedly is the fourth most popular Hebrew language Web site in Israel.

Haaretz also reported that Lauder, who is president of the World Jewish Congress, has plans to establish, with other American Jewish businesspeople, a new Web site in English to present Israel’s position to Jews around the world.

Online anti-Semitism in Spain doubled in 2011, report says

Online anti-Semitism in Spain doubled in volume last year, according to a Spanish Jewish community monitor.

In a report on anti-Semitism in Spain in 2011, the Observatory on Anti-Semitism in that country counted more than 1,000 anti-Semitic sites and web pages that it said were created in Spain. In 2010 the observatory counted 400 such sites. The observatory includes Spanish Facebook pages and groups in its reports.

The document on 2011 is the observatory’s third annual monitor report. The observatory was co-founded by the Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain.

In addition to the observatory’s research of anti-Semitic websites, the observatory received 57 reports of anti-Semitic incidents in 2011. Of those, the observatory deemed 42 to be anti-Semitic. In 2010, the center received half the number of reports.

“There is growing public awareness of the [observatory] initiative,” a Jewish federation spokesperson said. 

A few of the incidents reported involved the heckling of Jews in public. On Sept. 17, a group of youths confronted members of a Jewish cultural group at a mall in Saragossa. The youths allegedly told the group that Jews were “fascists, racist murderers” and that “there should be no Jews in the world.”

Spain, a nation of some 47 million people, has approximately 50,000 Jews. The similarly sized Dutch Jewish community registered 123 anti-Semitic incidents in 2011 throughout the Netherlands, with a population of 17 million.

During 2011, “there have been notable progresses in the legal field, as well as increased efforts in the fight against anti-Semitism,” the Observatory on Anti-Semitism in Spain’s report said.

The observatory nonetheless called on the political establishment to address “ambiguous wording” in the penal code. This, according to the observatory, leads to “contradictions” in the fight against hate crimes.

Web site launched to counter calls to boycott Israeli goods

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Haredi Orthodox website executives arrested for extortion

The owner and three senior employees of a haredi Orthodox website based in Israel were arrested on suspicion of extortion.

They reportedly are accused of demanding money from haredi public figures, rabbis and companies in exchange for removing negative talkbacks from and placing positive stories on the Behadrey haredim website.

The men were arrested Sunday in Tel Aviv. Police, who have placed a gag order on the case, reportedly interviewed dozens of people about extortion on the website, according to Haaretz.

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

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

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

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

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

Canadian Jewish Congress seeks charges against Muslim website

A Jewish group is seeking hate crimes charges against a Toronto-based Muslim website that featured a video address by former U.S. Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

Duke’s video was scrubbed April 13 from Casmo.ca, the site for the Canadian Shia Muslim Organization, but the Canadian Jewish Congress is pursuing charges under Canada’s hate crimes laws.

In its letter to police, the Canadian Jewish Congress calls for a probe of Casmo.ca, which describes itself as the “national platform of Shia Muslims in Canada.”

The CJC pointed out that the 12-minute video, in which Duke espoused conspiracy theories about “Zionist running dogs,” remained on the site for two days after it was exposed by the National Post newspaper. For a brief period on April 13, a second Duke video was posted to the site.

“The decision to remove the video two days late doesn’t hold much water,” Bernie Farber, the CJC’s CEO, told the Post. “In fact, they put up a second video and I can only assume they were getting some inside pressure, not the least of which was a police complaint.”

Duke, a former KKK grand wizard, played a key role in helping to spread the Klan through Canada.

On the site, the Canadian Shia Muslim Organization says it “supports multiculturalism” and “interfaith dialogue.”

In an editorial, the online journal The American Muslim accused the group of joining “the Muslim lunatic fringe.”

J Street needs another lane

I was watching the J Street convention on its Web site, and it reminded me a little of those underground meetings among religious settlers in the West Bank. That is, a constant flow of red meat served to the fervent and the like-minded.

In the case of J Street, this red meat can be boiled down to this: It is really, really, really, really important that Israel reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

One fervent speaker after another came down from the mountaintop to convince an already convinced audience of how really important this goal is. Whether it was Peter Beinart fearing for Israel’s democratic future, or Rabbi David Saperstein appealing to our highest Jewish values, or Sara Benninga finding her meaning in life by leading weekly demonstrations at Sheikh Jarrah, the theme was the same: Israel must make peace and end the occupation as soon as possible.

And who’s the bad guy in all of this? Take a guess. With the J Street crowd, the underlying assumption is always that the major obstacle to peace is Israel. Palestinian obstacles to peace? They’re as likely to be mentioned at a J Street convention as Avigdor Liberman is of being invited.

Sometimes I wonder what it must feel like after three days of one of these J Street smugfests. How do you go from feeling absolutely certain that you are right to feeling even more certain that you are right?

I remember when Rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun invited me to speak several years ago at one of its peace conventions in New York City. I was glad that he did, because it gave me a chance to ask a few hundred peaceniks a question they likely rarely hear: “When is the last time any of you woke up in the morning and asked yourself: ‘What if I’m wrong?’ ”

No one raised their hand.

Yes, compassion is a great Jewish virtue, I told them, but so is humility. I confessed that, initially, I didn’t believe in the Oslo peace process (because I didn’t trust Arafat), but I asked myself, “What if I’m wrong?” and I ended up going along with it. So, I suggested, “What would happen if you all asked yourselves that same question?”

When I look at J Street now, I see some obviously good intentions (“We want peace!”), but not much humility. What comes across more than anything is an orgy of ideological self-confirmation toward pressuring Israel.

That’s disappointing. I expect more from open-minded liberals who claim to care for the “other side.” For one thing, I expect they would also care for the other side of an argument.

Have they studied, for example, the Palestinian Authority’s global campaign to undermine and demonize Israel and the corrosive effect this has had on the peace process? As a “pro-Israel” group, what kind of public pressure have they brought to bear on the Palestinians to end their glorification of terror and indoctrination of Jew-hatred that has made so many Jews reluctant to take more risks for peace?

Where was their public campaign to pressure the Palestinians to return to the peace table during the first nine months of a 10-month Israeli settlement freeze the Obama administration lauded as “unprecedented”?

To balance their countless speakers who advocate putting more pressure on Israel, why haven’t they included speakers like Itamar Marcus of Palestinian Media Watch, who has documented the continued anti-Semitic incitement in official Palestinian media, or an award-winning Mideast journalist like Khaled Abu Toameh, who makes a powerful case that the Palestinian Authority’s primary interest is not to make peace with Israel — but to delegitimize the Jewish state?

If the goal is to bring together two sides, isn’t it important to scrutinize both sides?

Why doesn’t J Street bring in experts to explain the danger of Hamas taking over a Palestinian West Bank and pointing 10,000 rockets at Israel’s nuclear installations, potentially creating a catastrophic meltdown in the Jewish state? Talk about fearing for a country’s democratic character.

J Street’s relentless focus on pressuring Israel isn’t only unfair, it’s also remarkably ineffective. A couple of years ago, Palestinian and Israeli leaders were negotiating directly as a matter of course. Now, in the face of the enormous and single-minded global pressure on Israel, Palestinians are negotiating in international forums on how best to demonize Israel. They won’t even consider talking to Israel until it commits to freezing all construction in disputed territory, including, I presume, freezing any renovation of the restrooms at the Western Wall.

We’ve seen that the greater the pressure on Israel, the faster the cockier-than-ever Palestinians have run away from the peace table. J Street’s reaction to all this is to bring 2,000 people together in Washington, D.C., to put even more pressure on Israel and urge the Obama administration to do the same.

In other words, after two years of generating bumper-to-bumper traffic on the failed road called “let’s pressure Israel,” J Street has decided that the best thing to do is to attract even more traffic to that road.

Maybe they ought to consider adding another lane to their congested highway and calling it “Let’s pressure the Palestinians to stop undermining Israel and return immediately to the peace table.”

In Los Angeles, we would call that the carpool lane.

David Suissa is a branding consultant and the founder of OLAM magazine. For speaking engagements and other inquiries, he can be reached at {encode=”suissa@olam.org” title=”suissa@olam.org”} or davidsuissa.com.

Muslim Brotherhood website: Egypt protests not Islamist

The Muslim Brotherhood’s English website rejected claims that the Egyptian protests are aimed at creating an Islamic state.

“The current uprising in Egypt is a revolution of the Egyptian people and is by no means linked to any Islamic tendencies, despite allegations, nor can it be described as Islamic,” said a statement on Ikhwanweb, which calls itself “The Muslim Brotherhood’s Official English website.” “The revolution is peaceful and calls solely for reform and a democratic civil state initiated by the youth through the social networking service Facebook and is far removed from any Islamist groups.”

The statement also criticized Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Iranian supreme leader, for likening the protests to Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979.

In a separate statement, another Muslim Brotherhood leader said last week that a new government would end Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel.

Some Israeli and pro-Israel leaders have expressed misgivings about the Muslim Brotherhood’s role in the protests because of its rejection of Israel’s right to exist and its affiliation with Hamas. Other pro-Israel voices have suggested that tne Muslim Brotherhood’s influence is limited and have welcomed the overall push for democracy.

Jewish group claims Hamas hacked its website

The website of the Jewish People Policy Institute was hacked Thursday by a group that the institute claims is affiliated with Hamas.

The JPPI, a Jerusalem-based think tank that focuses on the Jewish future and Israel’s security, issued a statement saying hackers took over its website, then posted a picture of an Israeli tank and a Palestinian child on the English section, and removed a recently uploaded assessment and analysis documents.

The documents that were removed were written by JPPI’s senior staff, including a paper dealing with the participation of world Jewry in decisions relating to the political process, a document concerning the deligitimization of Israel,  an assessment of the situation of European Jewry, and a document summarizing the discussion of Israel’s controversial Conversion Law and its ramifications.

JPPI is claiming that the group that hacked its site has ties to Hamas.

“The hackers’ website is identified with the Hamas movement and we know for sure that they are operating from the Gaza Strip,” a spokesman for the JPPI told JTA.

Yad Vashem launches Farsi YouTube chanel

Yad Vashem has launched a YouTube channel in Farsi and an expanded version of its Farsi website.

The Farsi YouTube channel launched Sunday contains survivor testimonies, archival footage and mini-lectures by Holocaust historians on topics such as contemporary anti-Semitism, and what makes the Holocaust a unique historical event.

The comprehensive new website includes a chronological and thematic narrative about the Holocaust with related video, photos, documents and artifacts; frequently asked questions about the Holocaust; a lexicon of terms; online exhibitions including a multimedia presentation of the Auschwitz Album in Farsi; and stories of Righteous Among the Nations. 

Addressing viewers on the YouTube channel, Israeli President Shimon Peres encourages visitors to the site.

“History is rich in events, but there is one event that is exceptional, which is a watershed. That is the Holocaust, when a cultured nation in an organized manner killed 6 million people because they were Jews, including a million-and-a-half babies and children,” Peres says. “What we suggest is that each of you will see the material, which is based on records and on photos, to understand what happened, and also to be able to tell your own children to beware, not to let history fall again to such a depth, to such shame,” he said.

“One of our primary goals is to make credible information about the Holocaust accessible to as wide an audience as possible,” said Avner Shalev, the chairman of Yad Vashem. “Today, when there is so much disinformation and distortion easily available online, we provide an alternative to anyone who is interested in the truth.”

Yad Vashem’s website and YouTube Channel are available in English, Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, Spanish and Farsi.

‘Filthy Jewish Terrorists’ site back on the web

A website in Canada that advocated the mass killing of Jews is back online after being shut down.

“Filthy Jewish Terrorists,” operated by former Toronto college student Salman An-Noor Hossain, reportedly is using a host in Switzerland. Its Canadian web provider had shut down the site in March.

Hossain was suspended from York University; it is believed that he has left Canada.

His site, the subject of a five-month investigation by the Ontario Provincial Police, had called for direct terrorist attacks and said Jews should be “exterminated.” Last summer the Ontario police said Hossain “wilfully promoted hatred and advocated genocide of the Jewish community,” and he was charged with five counts of hate crimes, but he skipped his court date.

Last month, an Ontario court issued a warrant for Hossain’s arrest on Interpol, the international police agency.

Hossain posted a blog Tuesday identifying himself as the operator of the relaunched site. But reports say the new website is registered with generic information, making it impossible to locate him.

Canada’s spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, said in a statement that it is “very aware of certain Internet websites which support or incite terrorist violence, and that some of those sites are based in Canada.”

The dating game: New website puts parents in charge

A new Jewish online dating site allows parents to search for their children’s bashert.

The site, which was launched Tuesday, allows parents to browse for potential matches for their sons and daughters, including contacting other parents for more information and setting up casual dates.

“Moms have been setting up their children for centuries,” said Danielle Weisberg, co-founder of TheJMom.com. “TheJMom.com puts parents behind the keyboard and lets them do the clicking and the matching.”

The site was the brainchild of Weisberg and her brother, Brad, who conceived of the site after their mother asked Brad to see his online dating profile and spent hours searching the matchmaking site to find the right woman for him.

Cooperation and Consolidation Needed on Jewish Web

“The Internet will save you!” seems to be the refrain these days when it comes to the American Jewish media. But while many Jewish newspapers have grabbed for this lifeline, the process has been hectic and uncoordinated. We may be trying to save ourselves, but right now we’re floating around in private digital lifeboats, bailing water for dear life.

Where has this strategy gotten us? Where do we go from here?

To answer those questions, my company, 4Wall, in conjunction with its Jewish initiative, JInsider, recently released a report titled, “The Jewish Internet Metric Study,” which takes a business-oriented, top-level look at the Jewish Web. With this “McKinsey-style” analysis, the community can fully understand the business issues, the competitive situation and the hurdles and opportunities for sustainability on the Web. The report offers a basis for productive discussion on what individual or cooperative strategy might be considered.

The full report, which also includes analysis of Jewish educational and religious sites, and Jewish search terms, is available online at jinsiderblog.com/JIM.zip.

The problem for the American Jewish media is not quality of content — it’s scale and coordination. Just compare traffic and engagement patterns between several major Jewish news Web sites in the United States (JTA, The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, The New York Jewish Week, Forward, Jewish Exponent and The Jewish Press) and the most popular English-language sites of Israeli newspapers (Ha’aretz and The Jerusalem Post).

For a Web site to be self-supporting, it is critical to attract a significant enough share of clicks to sell a wide range of ad packages. JPost.com and Haaretz.com have achieved a high level of visitation. But the findings of several traffic-analyzing sites (Mondo Times, Echo Media, Alexa and Compete) suggest Jewish media outlets in the United States are lagging behind.

JTA.org and JewishJournal.com are at the head of the American pack, yet no clearly dominant or go-to source for American Jewish news has emerged online. The sum of all the major U.S. Jewish news sites, however, does approach the level of traffic generated by the Israeli sites.

Beyond just unique site traffic, visitor engagement patterns (generated by Quantcast) also suggest the American Jewish news industry is too fragmented on the Internet. Not only do visitors spend significantly more time per visit when perusing the Israeli sites, but many more of those visitors are regulars (people who visit more than once per month) and addicts (people who visit more than 30 times per month). Because of this “addict” phenomenon, a quarter of the traffic to Haaretz.com and JPost.com is generated by just 2 percent of their users. In contrast, only JTA.org has any sort of measurable traffic generated by addicts — 11 percent. A better strategy for U.S. sites would involve more regular updates (not weekly or semi-regularly) and a wider and deeper offering to encourage habitual readership.

The full study goes into detail about linkage, referrals and social analytics, but the takeaway point is this: The American Jewish media need to coordinate and combine their assets online. The Web is a winner-takes-most environment where a brand has to be dominant or readers will click elsewhere. While JTA and The Jewish Journal are market leaders whose growth is outstripping their American competitors (together, their traffic grew 85 percent from 2008 to 2009), currently there is no dominant U.S.-based Web site — and thus no economically sustainable one.

All the newspapers can still offer the great niche local coverage they do best, but in terms of an online brand, no one paper is strong enough.

By combining and centralizing the Web presence of many of these brands, media outlets would create advantages that would extend beyond the basic aggregation of their traffic. A centralized U.S.-based news site would benefit from economies of scale, a greater ability to attract the best talent, and stronger ad sales. A dominant Web brand would also enjoy exponentially increased readership and engagement. Significant traffic from regulars and addicts would be within reach.

With that in mind, the following strategies should be considered immediately:

• Create a cooperating organization with sufficient multi-year funding to help coordinate and integrate Internet media assets.

• Launch a Huffington Post-style (no politics implied) central Jewish news site. This site will house local brands and local coverage, as well as serve as a focal point for national and international Jewish news. The Jewish Journal’s new Web site is a good example of a basic implementation of this strategy. There may be opportunity to build off it.

• Use this centralization to create a definable, trusted brand for Jewish news. As part of this brand, develop well-known columnists who will serve as experts and go-to sources for the secular media.

• Create an advertising and marketing platform for the main and cooperating sites. This will reduce the cost to reach the Jewish community en masse and increase ad sales.

• Cross-promote education sites with the Jewish news industry.

• Secure widget and content distribution on other key Jewish Web sites.

• Deploy efficient tools such as a centralized calendar and newsletter system.

The remaining question is how to accomplish these goals. Unlike Condé Nast, which recently hired the consulting firm McKinsey & Company to look at its business, the Jewish community has no lead family or centralized management team for consultation and execution. Lacking a clear organizing body, a feasible way to bring this vision to reality is through a graduated ladder of involvement, where media outlets move from sharing articles and links to sharing promotional ads to increasing multi-site ad packages to sharing common databases and information to sharing resources such as reporters and facilities. Ultimately, the increasing cooperation would culminate in the creation of a holding company bringing multiple entities under one organizational roof.

What the community definitely needs is action. We encourage funders and media stakeholders to use this study as impetus to get together now. We may be concentrated on bailing water from our own leaky lifeboats, but together our lifeboats could make one watertight ship, ready to steam us ahead.

Mark Pearlman is the founder of 4Wall and JInsider. To contact him about his new study, please send an e-mail to {encode=”connect@jinsider.com” title=”connect@jinsider.com”}.

Party planning in the Holy Land is just a mouse click away

Planning a bar mitzvah in Israel? The Israeli Ministry of Tourism has just posted a Web site to help you get started: www.bar-mitzvah.org.il. For party purposes, the site is Jerusalem-centric, but it does offer links to fun things to do outside the city.

Considering the daunting task of holding a rite of passage and feeding your guests thousands of miles from home, the site does a good job of letting you know that there are places willing to host you, including the Bible Lands Museum and the Tower of David. While the site provides contact information, including Web sites and phone numbers for some of the more popular Jerusalem venues (though not much information on making a bar mitzvah outside that city), it doesn’t offer many specifics, so write up a checklist before you call or e-mail particular places. Some of your questions might include capacity, price per head, other fees and, if it is important to you or your guests, the specific kosher certification of the venue, since there are many throughout Israel.

The site also provides name of tour operators around the country who can handle the bookings for you — helpful, but you’ll want to ask friends who they used, or at least ask the tour operators to refer you to people who used their services. One family who used a widely known operator was disappointed by his refusal to help them secure a bar mitzvah program on Masada — he claimed that a mountain where people committed suicide didn’t seem right for a bar mitzvah celebration. When speaking with operators, keep in mind whose celebration it is and stand your ground, within reason.

The site does a decent job of listing the most popular locations in Jerusalem for services and parties — but if you’re on a budget, you may need to do some additional research. For example, while the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, listed on the new Web site, can help you plan a bar mitzvah at the Western Wall, a cheaper option — especially if you’ve only got a small group — is to head down to the Wall early on the day of the bar mitzvah and stake your claim to a table and Torah, and then head up to the Jewish Quarter for breakfast at one of several cafés. For names of places to eat, some of which will take reservations, access www.myrova.com.

If you’ve never been to Israel before, or not for a while, use the site’s excellent MP3- and PC-based tours of Jerusalem to get a feel for the city. The virtual tour is especially good. At the very least, you’ll get your bearings a bit faster after you arrive and before you start fielding calls from the guests about the program.

You might be surprised to see that the site includes a link to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, for a bar mitzvah celebration. The synagogue at the complex is beautiful, filled with Torah arks rescued after the Holocaust. Food at Yad Vashem is delicious, and if you think it’s an odd choice for a celebration, consider this: Yad Vashem does not charge admission, so any money you spend there — on catering, or at the gift shop, which offers some lovely favors for guests — offsets costs of this sacred memorial to the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust.

The Web site’s builders certainly know kids, and they’ve included links to attractions such as zip-lines, kayaks and paintball around the country. Be sure to access the “useful information” link, which includes important data such as exchange rates, weather and bus and rail information. (On a recent trip to Israel, though, online schedules for the trains between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv proved unreliable, so you may want to call instead.)

While the hotel portion of the site has almost a dozen choices, it leaves out a couple of upscale ones, including the King David and the David Citadel, and some less expensive but lovely choices, including the new Prima Royale and A Little House in Baka.

Individual tour guides can also help plan a bar mitzvah — ask friends if they’ve used a guide for a trip who they’d recommend. For maximum idea input, you can use the new site as a starting point while working with a guide. Lee Glassman, a veteran guide, says “anything that will encourage folks to come, visit and participate in the only country on earth that was designed, founded and built just for them sounds good to me.”

Since the site is short on bat mitzvah specifics, you might want to consult a new touring company, Tzofiah Tours, which offers ample assistance to families planning a trip for a bat mitzvah. Estie Hershkovits, one of the company’s partners, says they are a specialized tour company focusing on women and education. The guides are all women with experience in formal and informal education, as well as mothers who know what kids enjoy.

“For a bat mitzvah, we combine these interests by studying with the bat mitzvah girl before the trip about a topic of her choice, often connected to Israel,” Hershkovits says. “When she arrives, if she likes, she can choose to present a short skit, or song, or game, or activity at the site itself and share her learning experience with all of her guests.”

For more information, visit Prima Royale or A Little House in Baka.

Francesca Lunzer Kritz is a freelance writer based in Silver Spring, Md.

Israel fights 24/7 infowar against Iran in cyberspace

In response to the Iranian government’s recent media war against Israel on satellite television and the Internet, Israel’s Foreign Ministry last month launched its own offensive — a Persian-language pro-Israel Web site. Although the site’s first aim is to teach Persian-language readers about Israel, it also gives Iranians in Iran a different perspective on their own government’s activities. And for all these reasons, the site, Hamdami.com — Persian for “camaraderie” — is also of great interest to Los Angeles’ large Iranian community.

Hamdami has been praised by local Iranian Jews and Muslims for reaching out to average Iranians who are constantly fed anti-Israel propaganda by Iran’s fundamentalist Islamic regime.

“I believe it’s a well-designed, balanced, factual and informative site,” said Sam Kermanian, Secretary General of the L.A.-based Iranian American Jewish Federation. “The content is less about Israel and more about political issues relevant to all people of the Middle East.”

Politically active Iranian Muslims in Southern California who have used the Internet to reach out to Iranians, particularly the student-run opposition groups, see opportunities in Hamdami.

“A site like this can definitely influence everyday Iranians and brings them closer to Israel despite the negative brainwashing they might have received from the government,” said Roozbeh Farahanipour, head of the Marze Por Gohar Party, an Iranian political opposition group based in Westwood.

Farahanipour said the reach of the Iranian regime’s anti-Israel campaign goes beyond its own hate-filled Web sites; it has also provided financial backing for multiple anti-Israel, pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic blogs through the Orkut.com Web site. Orkut is a free international social networking Web site for non-Westerners set up by Google.

Los Angeles Israeli Consul General Ehud Danoch said the Hamdami site is the first effort by Israel’s Foreign Ministry in nearly 30 years to open a direct channel of dialogue to Iranians in Iran.

“We have always distinguished completely between the people of Iran — who we believe are striving for peace — and the Iranian regime, which is very radical,” Danoch said. “We believe that it’s a tremendous step in Israel’s public diplomacy when it comes to the issue of Iran.”

The Hamdami site offers information in Persian about the Holocaust, a response to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denier’s convention in Tehran last year. The site also gives readers opportunities to interact directly with Israeli officials.

“There will be a Q-and-A for people from Iran to ask questions from the government of Israel through this Internet site, and they will receive answers from us directly,” Danoch said.

Various online surveys and estimates indicate that as many as 11 million people from among Iran’s population of 70 million use the Internet. Farahanipour said even though the Iranian government may be able to block the Israeli site, Iranians will find ways to gain access.

“I think this site can still be very beneficial even if blocked, as it is likely that other Persian-language sites that are not blocked will reference it as a source — so Iranians may ultimately obtain this information from the Israeli government one way or another,” Farahanipour said.

According to a poll of Iranians living in Iran conducted by the Center for the Promotion of Democracy and Human Rights (CFPD), an L.A.-based Iranian American nonprofit, 70 percent of Iranians do not agree that Israel should be destroyed and another 65 percent do not believe Ahmadinejad’s statements about the Holocaust.

Danoch said that later this month the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles will have its own formal event to launch the Hamdami site and welcome local Persian-language newspapers, radio programs and television stations to attend. A year ago, the Consulate first reached out to Los Angeles’ Persian-language media outlets broadcasting into Iran by holding a press conference responding to Iran’s leaders who were calling for Israel’s destruction. The gathering was the first public interaction between the Israeli government and the Iranian media in more than 25 years.

Local Iranian Jewish leaders said that while the Hamdami Web site is a productive first step by the Israeli government to reach out to Iran’s population, the Iranian government is still winning the public relations war in the United States and Europe.

“They [Iranian officials] seem to be very effective in arguing their half-truths, untruths and proliferating them into the Western media, which in turn feeds it to Western public opinion,” Kermanian said. “They are also gaining momentum in their direct and indirect lobbying efforts in Western capitals, including Washington D.C.”

The Persian rabbi explains it all

Haji Hayim sings and dances to a traditional song typically sung at b’nai mitzvah ceremonies, but he does so to a techno beat.

” target=”_blank”>Persianrabbi.com will be a gateway for Iranian Jews to connect with religious leaders and their Jewish identity.

“It’s a little thing; it’s not going to change the world,” he said. “But at least for those that are interested in asking questions to rabbis … they can always ask a question and have an answer.”

Giving back to the community and generating awareness about ways to help are Esmailzadeh’s goals. To that end, the leader has become involved in a variety of community projects: He is planning a subsidized “part Jewish learning part touring” trip for Sephardic college students to Israel with Jerusalem’s Aish HaTorah. Esmailzadeh has delivered food parcels to Persian Jewish families in need on Shabbat through Eretz-SIAMAK Cultural Center. And he has become a big brother with Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles and is a member of their recruitment committee.

“[He has] helped bridge the gap between our agency … and the Iranian Jewish community, and that is paramount in us ultimately serving more kids,” said Mark Mandell, Jewish Big Brothers and Big Sisters director of community development, who added that Esmailzadeh helped bring the organization closer to the Iranian community through the Jewish Unity Network, Beverly Hills’ Nessah Synagogue and Woodland Hills’ Hebrew Discovery Center.

“You see a kid whose mom passed away from cancer, how can you not help,” Esmailzadeh said. “You see a Persian Jewish family that doesn’t have food for Shabbat, how can you not help when you know about that?”

For more information visit ” target=”_blank”>www.jbbbsla.org

The Times, it is a-changin’

How many times have you unsuccessfully tried to interest the Los Angeles Times in an important organizational event or, harder yet, tried to get the paper to devote
some space to articles reflecting your views on an issue?

Suppose for example, your synagogue is hosting a discussion on mixed marriage, and you think it should be covered or even just publicized with a small notice.

You phone the paper or send in a press release, but it never makes it through the layers of editors and gatekeepers. Or, suppose you are mad at a Times editorial. You write a letter to the editor, and your letter is either savagely edited or not published at all.

Times are changing, and the Times, with circulation and advertising dropping, can no longer afford to be so high and mighty. At long last, the paper is going to juice up its Web site, and community input like your synagogue discussion meeting and your opinions and activities may be a big part of it.

The paper’s Web site, ‘ TARGET=’_blank’>L.A. Observed Web site. This gives me a voice. I don’t need the traditional press or, as it is called in the blogging world, the MSM (mainstream media).

I hope the Times follows through on improving its Web site. I had lunch with the Times’ new editor, Jim O’Shea, and he’s got some good ideas. I hope he sticks around long enough to put them to use.

Until leaving the Los Angeles Times in 2001, Bill Boyarsky worked as a political correspondent, a Metro columnist for nine years and as city editor for three years. You can reach him at bw.boyarsky@verizon.net.

Friendship — and pain

I don’t date much. I have all the usual excuses – too busy, not into “the scene,” but really, I’m just a lazy dater. I’m like the fisherman who waits for the fish to jump into
his bucket. I don’t go to bars or join groups, but if someone comes my way, I happily pursue.

That’s what happened with Patrick. In December, 2004, a friend offered to put my profile on a dating Web site. Easy enough. I’d wait for the fish to come to me.

And a few did. Including Patrick.

Patrick is caring, intelligent, well-read and fun-loving. He’s tall, lean, muscular, sports short straight blond hair (except when it’s long, curly and mussed up) and is about 18 years my junior.

He responded to my profile, and soon I found myself in a virtual world, instant messaging until 3 a.m., as we got to know one another. I’d go to bed each night with the swirling, euphoric feeling that I’d found true love — or that it had found me.

You’re probably thinking: Get a clue, Jeff. Surely you know that virtual words and pictures are anything but reality. But as someone who hadn’t been dating much (read: My last relationship was when a Democrat ran the country), I was determined to approach this optimistically.

After several weeks, I was determined to turn this relationship from virtual to actual. But Patrick (code-named Aharon by friends who couldn’t accept that I might date a non-Jew) wasn’t ready. I was reluctantly patient, overly empathic and beginning to doubt we’d ever meet.

Then, two months after our virtual relationship began, I again suggested meeting, and instead of no, he said, maybe. As fast as you can say Rip Van Winkle, he was driving to my house for our first date.

I prepared with eager anticipation. He arrived, we talked, the chemistry seemed an extension of our up-to-then instant messaging relationship, and six hours later he left, I knew that what I felt in our e-mails was becoming reality.
We shared guilty pleasures like “Survivor” and “Desperate Housewives,” had many common interests and on and on. Our second date also lasted six hours.

Sometimes, it seemed, the fish does jump into your bucket.

Well, before the third date, he e-mailed that my bucket wasn’t the one he was looking for. In person, he said he felt I was too emotional and our ways of looking at the world were too different.

I was sure there was something he wasn’t telling me.

“Is it our religious differences?” (He’s agnostic and was expelled from Catholic preschool.)


I summed up my courage: “Are you not attracted to me? If not, just say so. It’s really OK.” (We all know how OK that would be, but I needed the truth.)

“No,” he said.

My ego breathed relief.

I became lead attorney for my own defense, while trying to remain unemotional.
“Well, that doesn’t seem like a deal-breaker. A deal-breaker would be if we weren’t attracted to one another, or if I were a sociopath. And I’m not emotional. I don’t cry. Not when it counts, anyway. Maybe at a Hallmark commercial….”

Anyway, there was an unspoken agreement to continue to give it a try. Unspoken because he didn’t say it until six months later.

In the intervening months, we got together once a week or so. It was always wonderful, and I always ended the “seems-like-a-date-but-is-it-a-date?” hoping it would lead to more.

June 30, just before I went to Israel for a month, we had the most memorable romantic “is-it-a-date-date-to-date”: a hike in Topanga Canyon (seeing deer up close); a picnic lunch on the beach; drinks at the LAX bar; Encounters; and dinner. Afterward, as we walked to his car, I felt the sadness that the day had to end and the ecstasy of this perfect day.

Patrick was my fish. We hugged at his car, and he said the hope-filled words that would echo in my head ever since: “I’m really going to miss you, Jeff.”
OK. So it wasn’t a vow of love. But it expressed to me how much our relationship meant to him.

After a month of little communication, I returned with purposely understated but meaningful gifts for Patrick. He was in and out of town in August, and I was disappointed that his e-mail responses were few and my voice mail messages went unreturned. Yet I thought about him all the time, and “I’m really going to miss you, Jeff” continued to echo.

In September, we finally saw one another for the first time in more than two months. I was clearly more excited to see him than he seemed to be to see me. When he left that night, I was heartbroken. I spent that week wallowing in self-pity and resolved that I would ask him the question to which I already knew the answer.

At the end of our next get-together, I told him I wanted to talk. Patrick told me he had in fact given it a try (who knew?), and he wasn’t interested in a romantic relationship, but that our friendship was really important to him. (I think they call this the consolation prize, though it offers little consolation.)

Ironically, I felt better when he left that night. I knew where we stood. Patrick and I continue to get together weekly, and he continues to be among my first thoughts every day. I know that he likely doesn’t think about me as much, and that when he does, it isn’t the way I think of him.

Some friends believe that I shouldn’t see him again; that it would be easier. But I’m not ready to do that. Perhaps I think I should be stronger than that. Perhaps my heart simply refuses to accept the telegram from my head that says: It’s over. Stop. He’s not interested. Stop. He never will be. Stop.

I love my friendship with Patrick. Perhaps one day my heart will catch up with my head.

Jeff Bernhardt is a writer living in Los Angeles. He has written “Who Shall Live…?” a play for the High Holidays, and his work appears in the books “Mentsh” and “Rosh Hashanah Readings.”

Briefs: Journalist: West Is losing ‘War of Ideas;’ Daniel Pipes comes to Pepperdine

Journalist: West Is Losing War of Ideas

The conflict between the West and terrorist Islam is not about terrorism, land or economic grievances but about fundamental ideas — and the West is losing.

So posits Melanie Phillips, a feisty British journalist, who backed up her thesis in an hour of rapid-fire arguments and examples at UCLA on Monday.

Phillips is the author of “Londonistan,” a book that has triggered heated discussions in her native country by indicting the alleged blindness and fecklessness of British society in the face of an increasingly hostile Islam at home and abroad.

Under the banner of “multiculturalism,” academe, the church and the media have transformed the meaning of the term from a decent respect for all cultures to the politically correct rule that the minority is always right and the majority always wrong, Phillips said.

In Britain, Europe and the United States, conventional thinking now has it that no religious or social demand by an aggrieved Muslim population can be refused because they are the victims of oppression.

“This is the dialogue of the demented,” she declared.

While most Muslims are not terrorists or direct supporters of terrorism, even those mislabeled as “moderates” believe that the Jews dominate the West, that the West wants to destroy Islam, and therefore Jews, as “a metaphysical evil,” are to blame for the Islamic world’s problems, she said.The West, including Israel, has not recognized that Islam wants ultimately to establish a medieval caliphate, and is “ceding the battleground of ideas,” Phillips warned. “We’re on a cliff and going over the edge.”

During an extended question-and-answer period, only one person, Hillel Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, suggested a more conciliatory approach toward Islam.

The rest of the audience of some 70 students and faculty seemed supportive of Phillips’ arguments. There were no hostile questioners, as those who might have been were likely occupied with the simultaneous opening of Islamic Awareness Week on campus — whose main lectures carried such titles as “Qur’an (Koran): The True Message of Jesus” and “Muhammad: The Inheritor of the Judeo-Christian Tradition.”

Sponsoring Phillips’ appearance were Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, a national pro-Israel organization that has just formed a UCLA chapter, the UCLA Political Science department and the activist group StandWithUs.

Phillips also spoke in the evening at the Wilshire Theater, at a public event sponsored by the American Freedom Alliance and the Temple of the Air, part of her national tour with stops in New York, Detroit and Atlanta.

— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor

Islamists’ Critic Comes to Pepperdine

Middle East expert Daniel Pipes, who is among most prominent scholars to have warned of the growing threat of radical Islam to the West before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and a lightening rod for criticism among some Muslim groups, is spending the spring semester at Pepperdine University in Malibu as a visiting professor. Pipes, who received his doctorate from Harvard, is teaching a graduate seminar on Islam and politics.

The founder and director of the Middle East Forum, a Philadelphia-based think tank that publishes Middle East Quarterly, Pipes has won supporters for his warnings of possible dangers emanating from the Muslim world. Some Muslim groups have characterized him as intolerant.

“Over the years, Pipes has exhibited a troubling bigotry toward Muslims and Islam,” said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Southern California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights group. “He perceives Islam, and not just extremism, as a threat.”

Pipes said CAIR is a radical organization that “lies.” He rejects the notion that he is anti-Islam.

Through his writings and speeches, Pipes has waged a multi-pronged campaign against “Islamists,” whom he argues want to subvert democracy and impose Islamic law on their respective societies.

“My effort is to try and isolate them,” Pipes said, “and convince politicians, the media, the academy and other institutions that this is an outlook that should be spurned, shunned.”

— Marc Ballon, Senior Writer

Wiesenthal Center Adds Persian-Language Information

Following an Iranian government-sponsored conference late last year questioning the existence of the Holocaust, local Iranian Jewish activists have provided a Persian-language translation of 36 questions and answers regarding the Holocaust for the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Web site (www.wiesenthal.com/36questionsinfarsi). Iranian Jewish activist George Haroonian provided the translation, directed at Iranians surfing the site for facts about the Shoah.

“This is important because we not only need to counter the propaganda and lies being spread by the Iranian government about the Holocaust, the Jewish people and Israel, but we also need to present younger Iranians with the truth,” Haroonian said, adding that he hopes the translations will encourage other Web sites to repost the information for those who do not understand English.

Haroonian’s Council of Iranian Jews collaborated with the Wiesenthal Center last year by inviting Persian-language media outlets based in Los Angeles to visit the Museum of Tolerance to learn about the Holocaust.

In the last two years, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly denied the Nazi genocide and called for Israel to be “wiped off the map.”

— Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer

Web Archive Brings Voices of Past to Present

Want to listen in on conversations with the late Bella Abzug, George Burns and Abba Eban? Want to watch a video of the historic Freedom Sunday Rally for Soviet Jewry in 1987, when 250,000 Jews from around the country gathered in support of their Russian brethren? Want to listen to a broadcast of a Jewish religious service conducted by American GIs on liberated German soil?

Thanks to the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) new archival Web site (www.ajcarchives.org), you now can with only a few clicks of a computer mouse.

Awareness Center and other blogs draw praise and scorn

There is no unabridged database of rabbinic sexual abusers. But there is the Awareness Center.

It’s not a physical place, but a Baltimore post office box, cellphone number and Web site — ‘ target=’_blank’>unorthodoxjew.com, the ‘ target=’_blank’>Jewishwhistleblower.blogspot.com and Chile’s Jews part of the larger community in Santiago