Archive for Culture & Arts from Israel

Tel Aviv Market

by on April 26, 2008 at 12:00 pm

A stroll through Tel Aviv’s market

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Israelis Put Family First

by on April 25, 2008 at 12:00 pm

I am invited to go clubbing in Tel Aviv by two Israeli women in their mid-thirties. They tell me they?re not heading out until 11 pm or so. Before then, one has an errand to run and a friend to see, another who is a blogger, has work to do and then may grab drinks with friends before we meet at the club.

They love the club energy in Tel Aviv ? what?s not to love? The restaurants and clubs are diverse and things stay open late ? New York style, unlike the majority of American cities that close early and have strict alcohol laws.

Yet, they?re ready to start families and like many driven American females I know who are CEOs of companies or professors at universities, hours are long and demands are high.

I learn about the single scene through their eyes, a few male Israelis, also in their mid-thirties, and a 39 year old going through a divorce. A mutual friend of this soon to be divorcee, doesn?t have any divorced friends. She?s a Berkeley graduate who has spent most of her life in Israel, has two children, is a Director at a technology company and lives a modern family life.

A few other married friends inside and outside the technology world say the same thing. My 43 year old friend who spent six months in my home town nearly 25 years ago is married with two kids. He met his wife at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem where he majored in history and she was ploughed through language studies.

They too have no divorced friends, although they both agree that ?times are a? changing? and not only are they witnessing others outside their circles facing separation but also single women in their late thirties and early forties who are going to sperm banks.

In a country that honors family more than it does work, many of these women have extended families who can help raise their children in a nurturing environment, a blessing that many single American women don?t have.

That said, everyone I met and talked to ? single and married ? felt that ?working it out? whether that be through counseling or moving through it, was preferred over throwing it all away. They?re not as quick to sign those divorce papers because of the fact that family is so central to the core values of Israeli life.

Says one friend who spent all of his life in Israel except for a five year stint in a South African middle school in his teens, “It is extremely hard to live in Israel without family. Family is at the heart of everything we do.

“It?s hard to imagine being single now without family ? everything revolves around family on weekends, holidays, even on weekday evenings. My wife and I both work and she is more driven than I am. At the end of the day, something has to give if we don?t have enough time with our children and it must be our work. What?s more important than our children?”

Part of this commitment to family comes from a long history of struggles and cultural and religious beliefs. Part of comes from Israeli?s love of children. There?s that old Genesis 1:28 reference: “sweeter than honey is a house filled with children.” This belief seems to carry a lot of weight in the Israel I experienced whether the family is religious or not.

I spent time talking to numerous Israelis in their thirties and forties. One 31 year old technology entrepreneur who exudes independence says, “I don?t want to be too old to raise my children. I?m on my second start-up, so I haven?t had time to dedicate to relationships or made family a top priority but that needs to change very soon.”

I ask about the start-up. “I?ll have to offload some of it,” he says with internal conflict in his voice. “Family is more important.”

I had another conversation with a Lebanese Christian journalist who is married to a German woman in her late twenties. He left Lebanon after the war when he was not quite 19 and only just returned about a year ago. Living in Israel for him is about as foreign as it was during his four year college stint in London.

While his parents now live in Israel too, he doesn?t feel like he belongs here. As a Christian among largely Jewish friends and colleagues, he doesn?t fit into any of the traditional buckets that have become the melting pot of this country: Russians, Orthodox, Mizrahim, Ethiopian immigrants, Haradim, Ashkenazim, the Bedouins or the eastern European Zionists who moved here for a better life in the 40s and 50s.

Israel is a land of diversity, each immigrant confronting their original roots, while also absorbing what it means to be Israeli. The latter comes with a great deal of turmoil for so many. How do they feel about living side-by-side with Palestinian fundamentalists who want all Jews dead? How do they feel about mandatory military service? Or leaving family behind in Chile, Poland, or the Ukrane?

I shared a long homemade meal that consisted of German, Jewish and Polish food with a family who has roots in all three. Part of the family was born on an Israeli kibbutz in the south and are now working at non-profits, part of the family was extremely urban, holding entrepreneurial and professional positions, and part of the family was born in Poland and East Germany who fled here for a better life in the 1960s.

One son had dark features and the other had Irish-white skin and piercing blue eyes. Half the family spoke English as well as my San Francisco neighbors and the other half struggled to understand me when I spoke too quickly.

The children showed me their homework assignments and some of the artwork they did in the 3rd and 4th grades. Their work was remarkable and everyone in the family gave them praise and smiled with pride in a way you don?t often see outside the Midwest.

On Saturday, we walked through one of Tel Aviv?s parks only to find parents everywhere with their children playing, walking, picnicking, cycling, rollerblading and eating. There were times I felt as if I was in a ?super large? nursery but the children were so well-behaved that if you weren?t looking for signs of family life, you may not even notice.

I think about how my own family struggled to keep up with annual extended family get togethers. After awhile, it was simply too hard and today, we barely see each other. Many of my American friends make huge efforts to keep those family bonds going despite the number of miles between them.

What seems to be common in my circles, are annual retreats. Parents live in one city or town, and siblings live in two or three others. Sometimes these gatherings are in their home towns and those with more money and time head to a holiday resort town or the mountains and rent a house or two.

It?s not quite the same of course, but its our ?modern way? of keeping family ties strong. In Israel, its expensive to live the kind of mobile lifestyles many Americans take for granted. Except for my high tech friends in Tel Aviv who have fat salaries, most Israelis are more likely to stick close to home and focus their attention on family life.

While two or three kids are not uncommon, the cost of living for a family of five is high. One friend?s $980 a month two bedroom flat in Ramat Gan would cost double in the center of Tel Aviv, a 15 minute drive away and they still can?t afford to buy a house. While my rent is more than double, their flat is on the outskirts, doesn?t have outdoor space, a designated parking spot, or an updated kitchen or bathroom. In other words, Tel Aviv is expensive.

Someone has to pick up their kids at 1 pm and if both parents work, it?s a tough schedule, particularly if there?s only one vehicle. My $21K Honda Accord costs $44K in Israel, so its no wonder that many families use public transportation or opt for only one car.

On my way to the airport, I watched my friend fill up his car for 265 shekels. That?s roughly 24-25 shekels a gallon (nearly $6) for a four cylinder Ford.

Israeli friends sent me to trendy shopping areas, such as Shenkin Street (a bit like NY?s SoHo for the youth), Shabazi Street and the Port of Tel Aviv (largely high-end designers). Even if the dollar was still at 4.5, it would have been too expensive to bother. Their Top Shop-like retail stores were also extremely expensive so I ended up leaving Israel with nothing but mud from the Dead Sea.

Some things are subsidized in ways I?ve never seen in my lifetime in the states, like healthcare and education. They don?t stress over losing their house if their kid needs a serious operation, because their out-of-pocket is manageable.

People also prioritize and are not sucked into ?retail therapy? like so many families in the states. They think of their children first and go without if it means giving their children a better life. It?s not unlike the mentality my first generation American immigrant grandparents had, which is exactly what Israel?s current generation is going through today.

While family isn?t a central part of my life in the same way it is for my Israeli friends, I it is a value I hold dear. Sadly, like many people I know, it is much harder to stay connected to family than in places like Israel, Europe and even South Africa, where it is not uncommon to have granny flats in backyards for elderly grandparents when the time comes.

When family is an integral part of the culture, it is automatically placed higher on the ladder than the values that currently sit on the top in the states, like education, our careers and independence. American?s hunger for freedom and living life ?our own way? allows us to explore the world, innovate and get rich, but it has a price.

We also haven?t faced the same hardships ? and on a regular basis ? as Israelis have. If you think about their day-to-day realities and compare them to the United States, its no wonder family is high on the list. Just think about the soar of marriages and pregnancies in the states soon after 9/11. It?s something to think about isn?t it?

Israeli Design & Editorial

by on April 25, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Browsing through Tel Aviv’s Friday supplement Musaf (from leading newspaper Haaretz)

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Shamenet, an Israeli design magazine (Shamenet means Cream)

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The Rogazin School Performs Miracles

by on April 22, 2008 at 12:00 pm

I learned of the Rogozin School through a bit of research and Yossi Vardi, an Israeli serial entrepreneur. Located in a dilapidated neighborhood in South Tel Aviv, I was fortunate to visit the school last week, which takes in children from all over the world.

Rogozin gets support from various sources, including the Jewish Federation of greater Los Angeles. Among their numerous efforts, the school is helping Darfur refugees escape genocide and start anew in Israel. Some of these children have never received formal education and have lost their parents.

While we didn’t have a lot of time with the children, I was able to talk to a couple of classroom instructors who told me a bit about the “day in the life of….” “Many fled from Darfur to Egypt and then to Israel,” says a ten year old Darfur refugee survivor.

Math and Hebrew are obviously part of the curriculum. Thankfully, so is artistic expression. I’m a huge believer in art therapy, particularly for those who have gone through trauma in their life, like every child refugee who has walked through their doors.

Below is a sample of their artwork (taken by JD, who also wrote a post about our experience there as did Robert Scoble – entitled hope: its very moving)

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Says one of the instructors, “they all find it interesting to meet each other and learn to live side-by-side, to live among each other as one. They have to maneuver within the polarity and those that make them feel alienated and rejected. This is a place where they can come, feel safe and accepted.”

Adds one of the children in a video we saw on-site, “It?s frightening to wake up every morning and wonder what will become of us.” One girl had always wanted to learn to dance, but she was “ashamed and afraid.”

They have children from 29 countries, some of them smuggled across the border. UnVC start-up founder Avi Segal is also involved with the school. Avi works ways to support children on an ongoing basis, as well as start-ups who need mentoring.

Avi says, “we are looking for ways and programming languages that make it really easy for young people to get into computers. The key here is to bring the same energy from our start-ups to young people. Giving back to the community empowers us, particularly when we work with children.”

Yossi pipes in, “There are seven different populations in the school — 726 students from age 5 to age 18. 65% of these kids come from single parent homes. Most of these kids don?t have a male figure in their lives.

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Yossi also talked about the importance of self esteem which is a key part of the program. “If they don?t have self esteem, you can?t sell them dreams.”

Cisco opened up a Cisco Academy, which teaches 10-12 year old kids network management, technical support and quality software control. After completion, the children receive certification. Six mothers have also graduated from countries as diverse as China, Congo, Phillipines and Nigeria and can now get jobs as technical support representatives. Additionally, scholastic improvement has gone up by 50%.

This school is not a school of any group or ideology and they support a “no child left behind policy.” It?s just a neighborhood school that happened to be in a poor neighborhood of Tel Aviv, yet today, it is a school of great dreams.

Apparently the city wanted to close the school three years ago. Thankfully, today the school is still ticking and miracles continue to happen between its four walls.

Interesting Facts about Israel

by on April 22, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Here’s a fun video that presents some interesting facts about Israel on YouTube; great timing since I just returned from the Holy Land. Click play and be prepared to tap your foot and snap your fingers while you watch it.

U.S. Aid’s Tie to Israeli/Palestinian Peace Process

by on April 22, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Map At the San Francisco Commonwealth Club earlier this month, I attended a heated debate on whether U.S. aid should be tied to the Israel peace process.

Subject to congressional approval, the U.S. would pledge $27 billion in security assistance to Israel over the next decade. The discussion was whether this investment was in support of peace and whether it is a good investment for America.

Panelists included:
Dr. Stephen Zunes, Professor, University of San Francisco; Chair, Middle Eastern Studies
Alison Weir, Founder, If Americans Knew
Dr. Mitchell Ba/2008Author Myths and Facts
Dr. Uri Bar Joseph, a visiting professor of Israel Studies at SFSU
Jonathan Adelman, Author, The Rise of Israel: A History of a Revolutionary State

Alison Weir was adamant about getting her point across that we only hear one side of the argument through the American media and suggested history as many of us know it isn’t entirely accurate. She argued that Israel has received more in U.S. tax money than any other country on earth and that Jordan and Palestine gets 1/20 to 1/23 of that.

She says, “Over half of our tax money abroad goes to a country the size of New Jersey.” And then she proceeded to go on and on about how Israel’s evil ways. How they tend to attack first, and then throws death stats out: Israelis have killed 982 Palestinians and 119 Israeli children.

While she ‘could have shown us’ a fair opposing perspective, she failed to deliver. Commitment to being right was too strong as it was for Dr. Mitchell Bard on the other side.

What I found frustrating was that each side seemed to have their own set of stats, which conflicted with every stat on the other side, and that instead of presenting fair arguments, it all just felt far too personal. The problem is that its not just a political or economic issue – it IS personal. It’s about land that both sides want and need to call home. Your home is about as personal as it gets.

Dr. Mitchell Bard probably had the strongest opposing view of the panelists who were in favor of continued aid. “Israelis hunger for peace,” he asserts. “How do we achieve peace in the Middle East when the Israelis gave up land in Gaza and Lebanon and terrorism continues? Israel must be able to defend itself and its land. Israel has traded land but where is the peace?”

There was tremendous polarity among the speakers, which in many cases made it counterproductive. In some ways, I wished they merely had each panelist make a 5 minutes opening remark and then move to the floor so we could engage with them and have a productive discussion about the issues at hand.

The topic is clearly a highly-inflamed one. I’m simultaneously reading The Lemon Tree and The Israelis, both of which are fabulous reads. After the read, you end up empathizing for both sides and end up in conflict.

And yet if you’re not Jewish, ask yourself the question: how far would you go to protect your homeland if you didn’t have one? If you had lost a couple of generations because of your religion, your family name?

After the event, I met a number of interesting people with views on both sides. An American Jewish lawyer who was pro-Israel had concerns that continued aid for weapons would only lead to more violence, never allowing a chance for peace. Other American Jews took different sides — it was really all over the map.

Another woman in her who was roughly 70 simply wanted to tell her story of how she led American students to Israel in the early seventies. How her Israeli husband still lives there and what it is like to spend half her time there and half of it in Silicon Valley. After walking down Market Street with her for nearly an hour, I wanted to hear her entire life story as well as her husband’s lengthy tale. I later got this lengthy tale which I’ll write about later.

It’s such a complex issue that its painful to go back and forth between so many scenarios. Israeli Uri Bar Joseph seemed to be the calmest of the panelists posing a solution that sits somewhere in between, a view that seemed reasonable and ‘kind.’

He felt that the money could be more wisely spent if we diverted some of it to rebuilding Palestine and Syria. He reminds us that 60% of both Israelis and Palestinians agree on some form of peace plan from the 2000 agreement. His approach of a quieter solitude rather than an angry “you’re wrong, I’m right” approach left me feeling more optimistic. There must be a solution to ending this conflict if both sides want to live side by side.

And on the business side, the world is very different. My world. See a March SJ Mercury News article about the growth of Silicon Valley Israel ties.

As the article points out, “tech history buffs may recognize the land where Jesus was born as also the birthplace of Intel’s Pentium chip and AOL’s ICQ instant-messaging service. As technology transforms the 21st century, the relationship between the valley and Israel is intensifying, creating a rich two-way flow of highly skilled workers, intellectual property, finance and commerce.”

Israeli Women: as Woman-y as the Rest of Us

by on April 21, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Men are always befuddled by women, right? Well, last week, I felt their pain. I spent a good deal of my time in Israel meeting with female entrepreneurs and bloggers to get a sense of how gender roles were different from Silicon Valley, where frankly, I?m often the only woman in the room.

A key difference: Women are required to serve in the Israeli army along with men. That’s right, the prettiest, girliest, most flirty girls I saw on the trip had all spent two years in khakis carrying machine guns. In fact,
Israeli blogger Orli Yakuel used to fold parachutes in the army. She
and her troupe got to jump out of planes as a “bonus.” They frequently
went before the men, because they were less scared, and well, no Israeli
men wanted to be shown up by a bunch of girls. Wow. I mean, we like to
say “girl power!” in the U.S. when we change a tire. But that is
intense.

But the army hardly made these women macho or masculine. Interestingly Liat Vardi?who is co-founding Blogla, a portal for women with Maya Miller?said
serving in the army helped her discover her femininity. They learned
there are many areas where women are just better than men, like
negotiation.

As the girls talked, I was getting very excited, imagining a country of
bad-ass women who have none of our hang-ups in the U.S. You know, lower
pay, being considered a “bitch” if you?re successful in business,
always being judged by what you wear. Imagine a guy trying to bully you if he knew you used to run around with a machine gun jumping out of a planes? So much of gender roles boil down to confidence. I went to a fantastic all girls school for 13 years and I credit it for a belief that I could do whatever I wanted. But if I’d been in the army? Forget it. I’d be 90% more bad-ass, at least. Boo me on stage? Pssshh. Big deal! I’m a commando! Watch yourself, coder!

Well, it?s not quite that rosy. Apparently there are just hang-ups that come
with the gender no matter how well you can hit a target with an uzi.
For one, both Liat and Orli confess to being horrible at
negotiating when it comes to their own salaries. How is that possible? (For what it’s worth: Kara Swisher’s advice is to pretend you are a lesbian while you negotiate. That actually works.)

Perhaps the fact that it’s required– hence not a novelty– to be in the military as a woman in Israel means it doesn’t have the same cultural impact it would in the U.S.? (Please, weigh in in the comments, Israelis!) Still, I think overall, Israeli women have a leg up on us. They’re just tougher. How could they not be? I am totally rooting for them to prove it.

Of course, there?s the other endemic girl quality we all share: boy-craziness. Liat blushed showing us her engagement ring and gushing about her talented chef of a fiance who keeps her and Maya in high quality organic meals as they scrape by on startup wages. (Blogla is looking for angel investment, btw, something there is not enough of in Israel.) Indeed, the girl traveling geeks all agreed there was plenty to be boy crazy about. None of the
girls on our delegation, whether married or single, gay or straight,
could help but notice Israeli geeks are just better looking than the
ones you see in the Valley (Sorry guys! It?s empirically true. You could chart it if you wanted to and I know how you all LOVE analytics!) I asked Orli about it. “Forget the geek
part, Israeli men are just better looking,” she said. I wouldn’t go that far. She did admit there was one cute Valley geek, but I won’t embarrass her by saying who….

One voice: meet up—Craig Newmark and One Voice group

by on April 20, 2008 at 12:00 pm

The boy is late teens, handsome and fair, and his eyes are earnest as he talks: “In One Voice we don’t call it peace anymore; we want to bring about an a agreement that will bring bout comfort and a more stable situation than they have now. It’s not peace, it’s divorce…the metaphor says now we are pre divorce and we need to balance the situation…this is the difference between one voice and the normal peace movement that talks about peace and friendship.”
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It’s a weekend morning, in Tel Aviv and Craig Newmark, JD Lasica and I are meeting with the director and a group of student leaders from One Voice , a powerful, grassroots peace movement that has engaged Israelis, especially college students, from all over Tel Aviv, Ramallah, and Gaza, as well as drawn in members from the US, the UK, Canada, and other parts of the world. The group is bright, committed, and right now, engaged in making sure this group of American bloggers and funders (Craig is on their board), understands how they work and what they have to offer.

Basically here’s what I learn:
The universities are flash-points for OneVoice recruitment, as are the occupied terrorities. The movement tries to educate through lectures and events, then recruits at various levels of engagement, from signing up for a newsletter (over 100K people in a country of 7 million) to attending events, to joining as an organizer.  For the students involved, One Voice clearly offers a change to discuss, a change to create change, but mostly importantly, a means to hope.

Here’s some of what the students tell us:

Marina:  This movement involves the public so they can have an opinion for themselves and think about what they support.

Tal: We try to enrich student understanding with lectures and knowledge; we also take the message of OneVoice and careful optimism and take it out on the streets, where we want to mobilize the students and the city residents.

Another student: We ask citizens what would you do to end the conflict? People can become policy makers, instead of just consumers of policy
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Talking with this group, they make it clear to me that what engages them so deeply is the feeling of being empowered in a frustrating situation where it is so hard to effect policy changes. Because OneVoice is a participatory culture, with youth councils, leadership councils, and local action, it provides a means for these bright engaged students to avoid dispair, as well as to educate and inform.

Listening to the talk flow around me, and seeing the passion in these fresh eyes, it strikes me that like the African National Congress (ANC) for South African Doris Lessing and her fellow progressives in Johannesberg, so long ago, OneVoice provides a means to survive and hang on in an impossible situation by becoming a force for positive change. It strikes me that OneVoice is a great group, not only for what it offers in terms of the conflict, but the positive vision it offers Israel and Arab youth, and through them, their parents, families and neighbors
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Making Time for Silence

by on April 20, 2008 at 12:00 pm

At last, I found a caf? in the center of Tel Aviv without air conditioning, without English menus and without an English speaking waitress. Now in my silence, I can think. I can hear. I can see. I can absorb and I can feel.

I taught my waitress the word straw in English. We laugh. She yearns for more interaction as do I. This is a different side of Tel Aviv, the side of town where tourists and trendsetters don?t hang out. I?d love to spend many more afternoons watching people pass by this little caf?, over an iced coffee, the kind with thick frothy milk on top.

For about a week, I?ve been traveling with nine other bloggers throughout northern and central Israel in an air conditioned van to visit companies and organizations in air conditioned rooms. In my travels abroad, I rarely have to deal with cold fabricated air like I do at home and its almost always a pleasure. People here seem to love refrigerated rooms and buses as much as the yanks do.

What I realized today was how little I?ve traveled in a group setting inside or outside the U.S. in the past ten years or so. There?s an occasional side trip with a group of friends or people I know inside a community but these are often short and center around food, drink and bonding.

The bonding on this trip has been wonderful, between learning about each others worlds in more intimate detail through conversation and observation and twittering silly and ridiculous updates to each other, none of which could possibly be understood by anyone else who follow our feeds, and yet we all decide we don?t care. We don?t care because we?re 10,000 miles away from home and can?t stop laughing.

When I travel outside the states, I never travel in groups. I tend to go ?walk about? by myself for hours and sometimes days. I rarely understand a country unless I do. ?Walk about? time allows me to hear a city or town?s soul.

It allows me to listen to its silence and to its noise: its music, accents, car horns, police or ambulance sirens, TV shows, radio chatter in almost always more than one language, passing buses and cars, taxi hoots, a shopkeeper yelling at a vendor, and the way waves crash up against its shore compared to the way waves crash up against a shore I already know.

Americans are not very good at silence, nor are they very good at being alone or making time to be alone. We?re always in a rush to go somewhere else other than where we are. We rush through a meal and applaud restaurants that can get us “in-and-out” rather than ones that encourage a four hour experience.

We?re also often in a rush to try something new and different, which makes us great at innovation, business, science, medicine and biotech. And, we often rush through a conversation rather than being in the moment, sitting still and quietly listening.

We have rushed around so much and for so long, its no wonder that yoga and meditation centers are exploding around the country and Carl Honore?s book In Praise of Slowness was such a hit. We?re starting to learn that there?s value in slowing down and spending time alone, with ourselves.

Despite our hunger for independence and freedom of expression, Americans tend to tour in groups more than they tour solo, rally around sporting events in groups and spend more time in chains, whether they be food or retail chains, than they do in smaller less mainstream alternatives.

Starbucks is almost always the first suggestion when I meet someone for business even in New York and San Francisco where we still have a wide selection of eclectic coffee bars.

I?m not suggesting that all Americans are shallow or don?t take time to reflect or appreciate a unique perspective or experience, but what I am suggesting is that as a culture, we?re more about movement and speed than we are about solitude and serenity.

Israel is birthing some of the same cultural energy for many of the same reasons America did one hundred years ago. People often forget how new Israel is because of the way Israeli business executives and government present themselves to the outside world.

There?s a tremendous amount of support for Israel commerce in Silicon Valley and because of this dynamic, we engage with Israelis on a more regular basis than the rest of America (NYC may be an exception). They live among us, VCs set up shop on Sandhill Road, Israeli engineers move their families across the world to be close to the action, and they hunger for success and the American dream in a way that Europeans don?t.

JVP?s Erel Margalit hit the nail on the head when he said, “Israelis don’t think about what they can lose but about what they can gain. Unlike Europe, they don’t have a plate on their door in a town where their family and history was rooted for 1,000 years. Israel is new and full of immigrants from all over the world.”

Because of this, the country is breeding risk takers who are moving at tremendous speeds and with a lot of energy. In a country that is constantly at war, entrepreneurs don?t fear failure because fear of survival is much greater than a failed start-up. As immigrants pour in, they are learning to live with diversity in the same way we did as a nation 60 years after our birth.

Like America, Israel is a culture driven by movement and growth rather than tradition, status quo and silence. They voice their concerns and opinions loudly in the same way the yanks do. People often view them as abrupt, even moreso than Americans because they don?t have the same infusion of puritan cultures that came over on the Mayflower.

These cultures taught us to be reserved, dress conservatively and not ?rock the boat.? Now, we?re a culture that says: ?ask for forgiveness later,? ?do your own thing,? ?be your own person,? ?speak your mind,? and yes, ?take over the world.?

We?re a competitive nation. So is Israel. They want to win, whether its in war or in the boardroom. Rosenthal in her recent book The Israelis, put it beautifully: “to Israelis, the word ‘no’ is a dare. For example, when I tell an Israeli entrepreneur “the deal is dead,” he answers, “how dead? Is it still breathing?” There is no such thing is a dead deal. Israelis always try to find another way. You close the door on them and they jump in through the window.”

And as I sit here inside this quiet Tel Aviv cafe and reflect in my silence, I look around at the diversity and energy around me. What does it mean to be Israeli? Like a street scene in Manhattan, I see and hear faces and voices from Russia, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, England, Austria, Czechoslovakia, America, Poland, and Chile. And it doesn?t stop there.

I see Arabs that look like Jews and Jews that look like Arabs. I see a country yearning for peace but afraid that the other side doesn?t, so they hang on tightly to their freedom, to their space, to a land they now all call their own even if not everyone in the world agrees.

We all need to call ourselves ?something,? or at least we think we do. And although the world is getting smaller and cultures continue to blend and cross pollinate, we all hang onto a clan we can call our own. It is within the walls of this ?clan? that we ?think? we?ll have peace and where we? think? we?ll find acceptance. At the end of the day, it boils down to three things. Everyone wants to be respected, understood and loved.

While a clan may provide some of this, its only part of the answer. As these lines continue to blur, we?ll all learn that we can find a clan anywhere we go if we choose to wear peace and love on our sleeves rather than fear and hate. Only then will we become citizens of the world, where our clan is each other.

Next time you go abroad, be sure to listen to the silence.

Back Home…Finally!

by on April 20, 2008 at 12:00 pm

I got home safely late Friday afternoon after some 20 hours of travel time. I was only gone a little over two weeks, but it felt like months. There was so much crammed into my trip to London, Cannes and Israel that I tried to capture as much as possible here, but really, I’m still processing a lot of it. As much as I was ready to be home, I also immediately wanted to go back everywhere.

So don’t expect I’m done blogging about it all. I’ve also got a BusinessWeek column on London and one on Israel to come, plus a lot of the video I shot on the trip for Yahoo. But right now, I just need a break and some bedrest!

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