I Want to Be Different, Just Like Everyone Else

Last week Israel’s Channel 2 News had a segment about brides and grooms that want their wedding to be different. Apparently, after watching a couple of viral wedding videos they thought to themselves: “Yeah, how about we do something original for a change: Let’s do exactly what those other people did…”. Forget about holy matrimony, these people are here to entertain you on their quote-unquote “most important day” of their lives.

The segment is in Hebrew, but you don’t really need to understand the language in order to understand this copycat phenomenon should be studied by both psychologists and sociologists. You can skip over the first 55 seconds:

I Was Born on a Seat

Israeli newspaper Haaretz has an interesting article today on high school seniors’ misuse of electronic dictionaries during their English exams. Can you decipher what the students meant, from what they actually wrote?

  • I want you to barber about your experience
  • Drivers don’t curfew in red light
  • The weather was father-in-law
  • I was born on a seat

Read the full article in Ingleesh or in Ibroo.

H/T: Guy Yitzhaki

Pay No Attention to the English-Speaking Israeli behind the Facebook

There is no way around it, when it comes to computers, I am old school. When I first laid my hands on a keyboard, I was about seven years old and all the letters were in English. It was an Apple II clone, there was no hard disk, instead of a mouse there was a joystick, and of course there was no Hebrew involved.
The grown-up world was still trying to make these business machines work, so making them work in Hebrew, a language used by a few million people, was unheard-of.
To this day whenever I get an annoying ‘my computer does not work’ phone call from one of my computer illiterate friends, the first thing I am trying to establish is what pretentious action was executed to make a popular software fail. One time it was Nero not being able to burn Hebrew-named files onto a CD. Another time it was a graphics editor that kept refusing to open photos from a Hebrew named folder.
This is why I consider myself old school, as I always try to make it work and never insist on making it work my way. My thinking is always: it worked for a couple billion users, what possibly could Dana from Jerusalem do to make it break down?

Shahar with his Apple clone computer - 1984

I am aware, though, that I am pretty much alone in this battle: while I consider Hebrew an added bonus within the IT world, most Israelis approach it with a sense of entitlement. ‘If it does not work in Hebrew – it does not work’ some say. Others confess to not even trying to read any English, pressing the [Yes] or [No] buttons arbitrarily or by gut instinct.
The number 1 movie database is in English? Let’s use database number 700 – it’s in Hebrew!
You Google for answers in Hebrew and get none? Chances are you stumbled upon one of those eternal unanswered mysteries of the universe!

Shahar and his brother Liran with their Apple clone computer - 1986

This was pretty much the mentality around here, until MySpace and Facebook arrived. All of a sudden, Israelis found out they can read and write in English when they want to, and they started seeing the benefit in communicating worldwide using one universal language.
For all those people (some of which are my best friends) I hold the utmost disdain:
You who have frowned upon your (copied) software for not doing what you wanted it to do,
You who have allowed your personal computers to contract viruses, Trojan horses and venereal diseases because the warnings were in English,
You who have called your geeky friends in all hours of the day and night, horrified that your computer stopped working after clicking ‘Yes’ to an ‘Are you sure?’ message box you have not read,
All of you should be ashamed.

Only now did you discover you can actually put to use the second language your country made you learn from grade 4 to 12?

Is Perez Good for the Jews?

Perez Hilton by Hanoch PivenAside from covering ‘What’s Britney doing now‘ stories, gossip blogger (and Forbes’ 2007 Web Celeb) Perez Hilton publishes from time to time posts from the real world, in an effort, I guess, to educate his celebrities-obsessed readers on other things they should care about.
As an avid reader myself [you may choose to pause for laughter here] I have read a number of posts that hit close to home, including positive coverage on Israeli singer Ivri Lider’s first video in English, positive coverage on budding Israeli singer Yael Naim, and appropriate coverage on conservative commentator Ann Coulter’s incredibly insulting Jews-need-to-be-perfected speech.

Now granted, Perez being gay gives him enough reason to bash equal-opportunity-hater Coulter and praise Lider’s gay openness – plus Naim being half French doesn’t hurt – still, with the disproportionate number of Jewish/Israeli related posts, I have to ponder is Perez Hilton good for the Jews?

Anything Jew in the Classifieds?

Israel is a country like no other – I think we can agree on that – but whether this statement has a positive or a negative meaning – is debatable. Case in point: the following want ad:


In no other country in the world would someone publish a want ad that specifically recruits ‘No Jews’, but as you can see for yourself (Assuming you can read Hebrew – if not, you will have to take my word for it), a very popular job site in Israel clearly had no problem posting today this ad for a control room operator.

Usually businesses that advertise jobs just for Jewish people do it in a much more subtle way, for instance they might list ‘a full army service’ as a prerequisite, knowing full well that Arab citizens of Israel cannot enlist in the Israel Defense Forces, while Jewish citizens are required to serve.
But this ad is not for Jews – it is for non-Jews, and believe it or not, publishing it is probably legal in Israel.

You see, when the people who gave the world the idea of a weekly day of rest had established a sovereign state, they declared it unlawful for an employer to make someone work on his day of rest. So each Sabbath the state of Israel sends enforcement officers to venues that do business on the Jewish day of rest, only the business owners do not get fined for operating on a Sabbath, as that is legal – they are only fined if their employees happen to be Jews working on a Sabbath.
For that reason, employers who post recruitment ads for non-Jews for positions that require attendance on a Saturday would probably be impervious to discrimination lawsuits.

Oh, and about the enforcement officers working on the Sabbath? You have nothing to worry about, as all of them are ‘No Jews’.

Why I Chipped In To Buy A Pakistani Woman A New Dry Cleaning Machine

Season's Greetings, Shazia Nawaz
This is Shazia Nawaz, photographed here with one of her four children. She and her husband live in the town of Vehari in Punjab province, Pakistan. Yesterday she applied for a micro-loan of US$250 to buy a new dry cleaning machine for her dry cleaning business. Yesterday just so happened to be the day that I decided to log on to Kiva.org, a non-profit organization that transformed microfinancing into an interpersonal experience. Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus’ idea of microcredit means giving the working poor small cash loans without interest, without collateral and without red tape, as Shazia and many other entrepreneurs in the developing world do not need a handout. They already run small businesses successfully and support their families, but in order to further grow their business they need a loan. Me and nine other people who read Shazia’s story online donated US$25 each and allowed the local Kiva field partner to give her the needed money. While the loans are given without any collateral or credit history checks, the percent of people who do not pay back a loan is 0.2%. The money I loaned will gradually return to my account, and I would then decide whether I want to withdraw it or loan it to someone else.

With the season’s holidays drawing near I wanted to urge you to get into the spirit of giving, and less into the spirit of buying. You can personally make a difference in someone’s life, and you could also give someone you love a Kiva Gift Certificate that will allow him to start giving. Check out this video showing how easy it is to lend with Kiva.

You can follow Shahar Golan’s loan portfolio here.

Nine Eleven Got Branded, Nine Eleven Got Sold

A knot of bystanders at Park Row and Beekman Street look up as the south tower begins to collapse | Photograph by Patrick WittyOn this 6th anniversary of the tragedy of September 11th, I just wanted to make a quick note to Israeli news editors:
This might be the most documented event in history, yet every time there is some news item related to the event – like the recorded emergency phone calls being released to the public or any one of those post-9/11 stories – it seems that news editors always use the footage of a plane crashing into the World Trade Center.

With millions of photos and hundreds of videos depicting the first hours of this human tragedy, why is it so important to use that specific point in time, probably the most painful one to watch? Is it intellectual atrophy that forces Israeli news-editors to use the actual impact as a metaphor for the extent of the event? Are these the same people that started calling everything a ‘tsunami’ after the 2004 event – basically comparing every annoying new trend to the catastrophe that caused over 200,000 human casualties?

I leave you with these unanswered questions and one relevant song, Jacob’s Ladder (Not In My Name) by Chumbawamba, one of my favorite bands, from which I took the quote for this post’s subject.

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Aroma Espresso Bar Wishes Some of You A Happy New Year

Aroma Espresso Bar Wishes Some of You A Happy New Year | MaarivAs the Jewish new-year draws near, Israeli coffee shop chain Aroma Espresso Bar placed this full page ad in today’s papers, wishing us all a Happy New Year. Now, Israel’s official languages are Hebrew and Arabic, but the greeting appears in four languages: Hebrew, English, Arabic and Russian, so it seems the company went out of its way to make everyone feel welcome in the coming holiday.


Amharic, the mother tongue of Israeli Jews of Ethiopian descent, most of which are very observant, is missing from the ad. I would not have mentioned it, but after last year’s incident, in which Aroma’s CEO called a woman a ‘stupid, inferior black stain’ and made sure she noticed his white skin as opposed to her ‘black skin’, I’m not so sure anymore.

What The Hell Are You Reading?

Ever noticed that every book you read has its name printed on every second page? What’s the deal with that? What kind of boring books do people buy that they just pause in the middle of reading and ask themselves ‘What the hell am I reading?’ – ‘Oh, I see, in that case – on with the boring Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ Why does every book you read has its title printed on top of every second page?

Shahar currently reads the book ‘IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation‘. If you want him to read something else, you can purchase it for him on his Amazon.com Wish List.

I Spy With My Little Eye

Everyday, on my five minutes walk to school, I am being photographed by three CCTV cameras. That is, three that I know of, and possibly additional ones that I am not aware of. These security cameras, while aimed at the entrance of each building, grab big chunks of the sidewalks as well.
I spy a security cam on Coresh street, Jerusalem
Should I be bothered by this?
I spy a security cam on Jaffa street, Jerusalem
Is there a cause for concern?
I spy a security cam on Safra Square, Jerusalem
Does this make the public space safer?
Does John Q. Shin Bet have the capability to access each of these security cams, and if so should anyone but the 'bad guys' be afraid?

Lots of questions and not enough knowledge.