Archive for Social Media from Israel

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.

So What Did We Accomplish?

by on April 19, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Our visit, sponsored by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, was a pilot experiment to see what would happen if we could turn bloggers and podcasters loose to write about Innovation in Israel. This is a pioneering effort to utilize the connectivity and immediacy of the Web in service of extending “knowing” rather than just knowledge about Israel.

The number of blog posts, twitters, videos, podcasts and photos is prodigious and will grow over the next month as our traveling geeks consolidate their material. These people worked hard to produce a wide range of work that has been collected and will be easily accessible on the travelinggeeks.com/ site.

The site itself, built by our volunteers, is an example to the government and other organizations who wish to connect people to Israel of what can be done with the new technology to represent Israel. Hopefully, it may affect how technology is used to build community through interactivity on the web for many organizations. It is different than traditional media in that it is informal, personal, experiential, interactive, visual, and immediate (real time reporting).

Tens of thousands have followed the twitters (posts by the bloggers picked up by people following their activities); thousands more will see the postings, photos, and videos and will hear the podcasts. This should increase general awareness and knowledge of Israeli life and innovation.

Perhaps the most important accomplishment is the personal connection for each participant to Israel and Israelis. As Robert Scoble said,” I knew Israelis, but I did not know Israel and I want to come back.”

The generous hospitality of of our Israeli hosts enabled each member of the group to connect individually to Israeli peers?formally and informally. Our women bloggers had a special meeting with counterpart Israeli women bloggers?from that meeting there will be further connection that will reverberate from what people will do with each other.

Hopefully, connecting people everywhere to Israelis through our personal experience on this trip,? then using the web to extend those experiences to the awareness of many?will do good for a long time to come.

My Friend Ish

by on April 19, 2008 at 12:00 pm

The impetus for this journey began when I met Ishmael Khaldi, Vice Counsel for the Israel Consulate in San Francisco (covering the Northwest US) at Gina and Dan Waldman’s house in Tiburon. We spoke about blogging and began to develop the idea of bringing well-known bloggers to Israel to report on Israel Innovation.

Over the course of a year we struggled through many setbacks and delays, but remained resolute together. Once the trip was approved by the Foreign Ministry Office in Jerusalem, we spoke daily for months to hammer out the details. In Israel, we became like a pair of Kayakers paddling together over many rapids?hey, these are Bay Area metaphors?we came to trust, respect, and count on each other.

In addition to our close association and friendship, Ish has given me a great gift of understanding something important about Israel that eluded me during many past visits for Jewish organizations and activities. Israel is a pluralistic society and its non-Jewish citizens compose a critical element?Israel will succeed and be secure to the degree they feel at home there living as citizens with Jews?they can be the best ambassadors of Israel’s justice and vision. I came to understand that perspective through his love for Israel from my friend Ish.

I will always be grateful.

(Photos of us will be posted)

The Traveling Geeks Revealed

by on April 19, 2008 at 12:00 pm

The Traveling Geeks became a community during our five day visit. We partied in the evening with Israeli hosts and were schlepped in vans from site to site during the day to meet with Israeli VC?s, entrepreneurs, and innovators. We schmoozed, ate, laughed, and kvetched together?so I have come to know these people.

As a group they are bright, funny, curious, passionate and savvy about trends and technology. They are all practitioners of a new electronic journalism that is more experiential, informal and visual than traditional print and broadcast media. Chosen for their audiences and credibility in the technology field, they are as competent and knowledgeable as one could hope for to comment on Israeli innovation. Please read their blogs and view their photos and videos to gain their perspective.

In no particular order, here are my revelations on each of them:

Craig Newmark: One of the best known personalities on the Internet for his Craig?s List, Craig has an amazing following and reputation. He began to Twitter (posts of what he was doing at any particular moment) that had a thousand people for each post within days of his beginning to Twitter. Craig was the resident comic who had us in stitches with his self-deprecating, dry wit. On several occasions he showed what a Mench he really is. Highlight was taking cover together during a rocket attack alert in Ashkelon. So Craig, “We will always have Ashkelon.”

Robert Scoble: One of the most followed bloggers on the Internet, Robert is as cool and funny in person as he is on line. Hard at work or play, Robert has a curiosity and intelligence that just does not quit. He lives, breathes, and snorts technology; his knowledge of tech trends and innovative businesses is awesome. We all agreed Scoble writing for Fast Company is a perfect fit.

Renee Blodgett: Great spirit and lots of energy. Renee is fun, free wheeling, and friendly. Her writing and visuals beautifully tell stories. Her blogs reveal her self and her experiences. She is a great example of the experiential blogger who seeks knowing rather than just knowledge.

Susan Mernit: First time in Israel, Susan may have had the greatest personal transformation of the group. Her personal background combines poetry, creative writing, business, anthropology, arts, and a dozen more interests. Writing from a personal style and interest, Susan brings the social scene and personal interests to her readers with wit and insight. Warm, funny, and bright, Susan is a Techie with heart.

Cathy Brooks: An extrovert, Cathy fills the room with her presence. Her writing is insightful, cool and heartfelt, but her skillful use of visuals and video distinguish her. She is a dynamo. Losing her voice from Laryngitis early in the trip, Cathy still could dominate the conversation just with her facial expressions. Her connection to Israel was awakened a few years ago and this trip had a personal and professional impact on Cathy that you will see in her blog posts.

JD Lasica: A veteran journalist who has focused his talents to expand the reach for groups through the use of technology in the media for social and cause based organizations, JD combines visuals and writing masterfully. JD also blogged on the human side of the Israeli/Arab conflict. He was responsible to get the Traveling Geeks website up and running and made a major contribution through that effort, working with Susan Mernit and her contacts.

Sarah Lacy: A savvy business writer and blogger, Sarah can weave her personality and experience of the moment into her stories. She is about to publish a new book on Web 2.0 (if you want to learn about Web 2.0 check out her book) and understands as well as anyone the potential for business with these new capabilities. Ironically, the moment I will always remember to distinguish Sarah is not from her awesome business and writing acumen, but how emotionally affected she was during the prayers of the Christian pilgrims in the Jerusalem Room of Christ?s Last Supper. Her spontaneous emotion revealed more about the power of the religious experience in Jerusalem than any words or visual images could portray.

Deborah Schultz; The most connected, knowledgeable, and active person with Israel and Israelis among us, Deborah is the best to bridge US and Israel reality in her writing. She knows and feels Israel and her writing shows it. A New Yorker who now lives in the strange land of the SF Bay Area,, her passion, insight, and familiarity with Israelis and new technologies make her the perfect blogger to highlight Israel Innovation.

Brad Redderson: As the only podcaster among us, Brad?s work will be mostly developed from the interviews he conducted with thought leaders and tech innovators on his own time away from the activities of the group. Thoughtful, steady, and dependable, Brad was my volunteer partner in putting the trip together with the Israeli Consulate. He contributed greatly to the project. There were lots of bumps along the way before and especially during the trip when Brad and I could easily consult each other about how to solve problems.

View and read the work on Israel Innovation from these extraordinary people at travelinggeeks.com/. Collectively we hope to contribute to the better understanding of Israel Innovation for those in technology and for those who just want to know more about Israel.

On my way home from Israel

by on April 17, 2008 at 5:00 am

I have a TON I will say about my Israel trip, but in the meantime I just wanted to shout out my fellow travelers who’ve already been doing awesome blogging and stuff about our trip. There are going to be spinouts for weeks from this trip. Heck, just look at the list of tools that alpha geeks use (which was produced on this trip).

I’m too exhausted to do any blogging. Might explain why I’ve been doing so much Twittering. It takes far less effort to write 140 characters at a time than to put together a cogent post.

The Floor From Hell

by on April 17, 2008 at 5:00 am

I seem to be on the floor from hell in a Tel Aviv hotel chain the night before Passover weekend kicks off. It seems as if every American who ever wanted to experience Passover in Israel all arrived today at the same time. And, they all decided to bring their kids and stay in my hotel. Since they clearly just arrived from the airport, their body clocks are still on U.S. time, which is either noon or 3 pm depending on where they came in from.

The kids must have drank a ton of coke on the plane, the kind with caffeine since dozens of them are running up and down the hallways screaming, laughing and pushing elevator buttons.

The other interesting thing about this holiday weekend in Israel is that items that are normally available suddenly disappear. For example, tea kettles are taken out of rooms since kosher rules dictate food and liquid availability over the next several days. That means that milk goes away, which isn’t really a big deal for me since I can drink my tea without it. There was no dairy on our buffet table tonight although the chocolate flan cake certainly tasted good enough to have cream running through its heavenly layered walls.

The kids are still screaming. Where are their parents I’m wondering but then I hear them yelling too. Time for the Bose headset and another blog post. Brasov . :-)

A Chat with JVP's Erel Margalit

by on April 16, 2008 at 5:00 am

Jvps_erel_margalit_4 JVP’s Managing Director Erel Margalit talks to our blogging group this week about start-ups and innovation in Israel.

Their Jerusalem outskirts office is not unlike a Silicon Valley-based VC office except that the printers and fax machines might be a tad older and like every other Israeli company kitchen, they’re well stocked with Nescafe instant coffee. The latter is an integral part of the culture here in the same way it was 20′ish years ago.

We learn about their DreamWorks-like initiative Animation Lab, which extends beyond a typical technology play. “The line is blurred between where technology ends and content begins,” noted Margalit. As the former head of MSN Israel, he has a background and perspective on digital rich content.

Erel and his team ‘get’ social media. We were introduced to three stealth mode companies and saw ‘on-screen’ demos. I can’t talk about them just yet, except to say that they’re dabbling in virtual worlds, interactive games, social networks and online video.

When asked about entrepreneurship and why there’s so much innovation coming out of Israel, Erel says, “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. So its much easier for us to take risks.”

JVP is currently the king VC in Israel, having launched between 20 and 40 companies, with most of their exits in the communications and media space. “We’re on our 5th fund,” he added. English to Armenian “The key is to make a few home runs in each fund.”

We got the impression that they’re on track and that the climate was ripe with opportunities. Eran continued to rave about the opportunities that Israel has over Europe and the states…..and why. “Silicon Valley is very engineering driven versus the rest of the world. Not having that as a major driving force gives us an opportunity.”

He sees other opportunities in Asia where they’re developing a lot of interactive content. During his last trip to China, he observed that 500,000 were playing online warfare games. In LA, it was all about broadcasting entertainment. In Europe, mobile continues to take a leadership role.

I captured the tail end of his interview on video – see below (also uploaded to Flixwagon.com). Click play to tune in.

if you’re wondering…

by on April 15, 2008 at 12:00 pm

…why all the blogs all the sudden, there are two reasons.

1. we got a new bus. THANK YOU ISRAELI GOV’T! we are not actually sitting on top of one another in sweltering heat. (although craig is still sitting in scoble’s lap….we’re not quite sure why*) most of us are just clacking away happily on keyboards.

[* may not be true. may be just inserted to see if valleywag has discovered my blog]

2. we are going to Jerusalem today!

i think that’s pretty much a dream for anyone of muslim, christian or
jewish faith whether they consciously realize it or not. i can’t wait
to see what affect it’ll have on me. in silicon valley, you almost
never hear anyone talking about religion. it really might be the only
taboo subject. it’s such a macho-intellectual culture and i think for
many entrepreneurs and techies admitting a belief in a higher mystical
power is almost a sign of weakness, naivety or even stupidity. (don’t
yell at me, i’m just telling you what i hear)

i’m not sure if i’ve made it a point not to talk about religion myself or i’ve just never been asked. either way it’s fair to say i don’t wear it on my sleeve, wave it like a banner or whatever other cliche you want to use. we’ll see if today changes that. true test: if i BLOG about it.

Israel: a country too far from Mike Arrington’s house

by on April 15, 2008 at 5:00 am

This headline is only a little in jest. But as I’ve gotten around to various tech companies here in Israel I’ve started noticing a trend: that the further away a tech area is from Silicon Valley the less respect that area will get. The headline is also a bit unfair to TechCrunch/Mike because he’s actually been to Israel and has a couple of writers covering the tech scene here, but if you’re a blogger and let the facts get in the way of a good headline you’ll never go anywhere.

I’ve noticed this when I visited MySpace: they were so excited when I visited because they say that tech bloggers never visit. I was thinking back to my own experiences. Yes, that’s true. Facebook employees regularly meet up with us at parties and dinners and conferences. We run into MySpace employees far less often. These personal connections turn into stories on blogs.

Same when I visited San Antonio. These were companies I never hear about in conversations in the valley. We don’t have personal connections to their employees. Ask yourself, have you ever heard of PerfTech? Kulabyte? Rackspace? Newtech?

Anyway, I’ve been all over to the world. Shanghai. Tokyo. Frankfurt. London. New York. Cork. Dublin. Hamburg. Geneva.

I’ve never seen the entrepreneurial spirit outside of Silicon Valley like I’ve seen here in Tel Aviv. The companies here are doing technology that’s deep, varied, and highly profitable.

Anyway, I’ll write more about this topic over the weekend, because right now we’re about to leave to see Jeruselem and meet with some Venture Capitalists to further understand what’s going on here in Israel.

In the meantime, go to TechCrunch and check out Fring’s new iPhone app. (Fring is headquartered here in Israel, and shows another trend that I’ve noticed here that Israel is WAY ahead of the United States in use of Mobile apps — another thing that’s surprising is how many iPhones you see here, even though there isn’t a single Apple store).

One other thing, Twitter has been where we’ve been having interesting conversations. It was amazing. The other day we were in a van between Haifa and Tel Aviv. Talking with Arrington back in California. Christineleu in China. GiaGia in London. All at the same time.

The advent of Twitter is one thing that’s bringing far away lands into the PR machinery that exists only in Silicon Valley.

I wish I had a month to spend here, so many startups want to get my attention, but I just can’t see them all. But there still is nothing better than meeting face-to-face over a beer to find out interesting stories about people, companies, countries.

For instance, last night several people begged me to write about the proposed Israel Censorship Law. Global Voices Online has already done that, but if it weren’t for being here I wouldn’t have known about the issues that they really care about.

Anyway, off to Jeruselem, stay in touch with us on my Twitter account.

Do you agree or disagree that people, companies, countries can get the respect and/or tech industry PR they deserve if they are far away from Silicon Valley?

T.G.: Bloggers, entrepreneurs, women

by on April 15, 2008 at 5:00 am

On Tuesday, had a chance to talk with a broader range of Israeli women bloggers and tech VCs and entrepreneurs. Some pictures in advance of real words.
hasass small.jpgmaya small.jpgladies lunch tel aiv small.jpggirlz luinch 2.jpg Brasov . peta dunia satelit

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