Archive for 'Israel'

A Month in Israel

by on February 20, 2009 at 12:52 am

Jeff Saperstein writes about his month in Israel; the War in Gaza here and his posts over a month period talk about tourist sites as well as his reflections about the region in general.

An excerpt here of what he says about Gaza:
“Gaza from a distance looks like any city and it is hard to comprehend how centers of population that are so close to each other can be so different and hostile. I joked to one of the Alumim kibbutzniks that when I return to the Bay Area I will be able to tell the difference between artillary shells and sonic booms should they happen in San Francisco.

But the joke does have a larger meaning. We do not worry when our children go to school whether they will be blown up in the school bus. When our kids leave home to university we do not worry they will be in harms way as the Israelis do when their children serve in the army. We do not have barbed wire fences around the perimeter of our communities as they do here in Alumim. We do not have security people checking our bags when we go to stores, malls and restaurants. In many ways every day Israelis are reminded that there are people who are always trying to kill them and their loved ones.”

Once upon a time, I lived on a kibbutz

by on June 12, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Returning to Israel after so many years was more than a rendezvous with nostalgia. My current life as a publicist, entrepreneur and blogger met the former me, a teenage girl with a pony-tail on an adventure that more than shaped the rest of her life.

This story is a very long one and not typical of my regular blog posts. For that reason, I’ve shortened the introduction – click on more if you’re interested in reading the entire piece. It’s a story of a journey back in time, back to Israel and the life I knew 23′ish years ago, hitching and living on the road and working on a far left Zionist kibbutz, a fact I didn’t know when I first arrived.

My first experience in Israel was a coming-of-age story in countless ways. I never saw Israel as a new country full of immigrants who went there to find a better life for many of the same reasons the oppressed and the misfits flocked to the States at the turn of the century.

Nearly all of my encounters during that trip so many years ago were with misfits — misfits who were on a journey to find themselves and each other. They came from nearly every corner of the world, had a wide range of belief systems and religions, and ranged from 17 to 70.

(more…)

Cathy’s Traveling Geeks wrap-up

by on May 21, 2008 at 12:00 pm

With the mental maelstrom sorted, I’m clear of mind enough to hammer out some final thoughts from my Kinnernet/Traveling Geeks 2008 adventure in Israel.

In the spirit of brevity (and clarity), I’m opting to embrace my not-so-inner-Virgo moon and clear out these last items in short order.

So fasten your seat belt, and perhaps keep a crash helmet nearby, as I whip through a series of powerful and impactful events:

Rogozin School
There is, at some point, a far more in-depth commentary from me about this visit. For now, however, I’ll defer to the words of my fellow TG, Robert Scoble because his truly touching post paints a lovely picture of our visit.

Peres Center for Peace
In December 2006, I had the pleasure of hearing Shimon Peres speak at LeWeb. He said that while governments might posture and make noise about peace, the truth is that it was up to the private sector to establish the infrastructure necessary to maintain and grow a peaceful society. That is what the Peres Center for Peace endeavors to do – bridge chasms between disparate groups by bringing the sides together to tackle common issues (education, agriculture, children).

Good Vision
Sadly I missed most of this presentation. As was the case with pretty much our entire week, we were running late. Based on an earlier version of our schedule, which showed Thursday afernoon open, I had arranged a series of meetings with entrepreneurs in Tel Aviv.

My TG colleagues who took part in these meetings each offered glowing reviews. But rather than try and paraphrase, I’ll point you to Renee Blodgett’s accounting of the visit.

Israeli Entrepreneurship – the Ladies’ Way
This trip to Israel brought with it several opportunities to meet a few of the powerful women rising in the ranks of this innovative community. Susan Mernit wrote a great post that captures the essence of how the woman who populate this incredibly aggressive and rapidly moving technology market manage to blaze trails while remaining utterly committed to forward movement of technology and in supporting other women in the market.

My last meeting finished up at about 7:00pm. The Traveling Geeks were to have one last dinner together, but unfortunately some pressing deadlines back in the States required that I work through dinner (since I’d spend the entire next day on the plane).

I sent the last email, got my bags pretty much packed, and that’s when I made a decision that, while perhaps not the most intelligent choice I’ve ever made, certainly was fun.

Our flight was to depart at about 8am. That meant getting to the airport by 6am. Which meant leaving the hotel around 5:15am.

“No problem,” I thought to myself. “I just won’t go to sleep.”

Oy.

While the tales of the evening are amusing, I have to think about whether or not they’re appropriate to share … (and of course if I have to think about it, that probably means the answer is that I shouldn’t).

But in any case … with the trip now in the rearview mirror and many adventures on the horizon, I conclude this last Traveling Geeks Israel 2008 post… and look forward to the future and more TG adventures!

The universe whacks me upside the head

by on May 19, 2008 at 12:00 pm

It’s been a month. More than a month, actually. On the one hand, the time has flown by. But even with the rapidly flying calendar pages a month can be a very long time.

Especially when you find yourself creatively constipated.

In my case it’s largely due to the fact that for the last several weeks (four weeks, to be specific) I could have sworn I was sitting on a large pile of what felt like five or six chewy blog posts.

That rather lumpy mass, however, was something else in disguise.

Procrastination.

Poor Valley Girl!

by on May 15, 2008 at 12:00 pm

In a busy day for tech news– with CNET getting bought, Carl Ichan is causing more troubles for Yahoo, and OF COURSE my book coming out officially– I hope someone will check out my latest Valley Girl column on BusinessWeek about Israel’s startup scene. As you know, if you read this blog, I spent a week in Israel in April and was a frustrating and enlightening experience. Sounds contradictory? Than it was an Israeli experience.

This was an incredibly hard column to write, because Israel is such a complex and contradictory place. At the heart of the column are a few questions for the tiny but very entrepreneurial country, which I think is at a bit of a crossroads: Will Israel always be Silicon Valley’s farm team or emerge as a tech hub independent of the Valley? Should it aspire to that? Can Israeli entrepreneurs make great Web entrepreneurs?

Take a look! Give my column some love!

Interview with Muhammad Khaldi in Khawalid

by on May 12, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Taken from JD’s site – video footage he shots in Israel when we were all there together in April.

Description here: a 3 minute 45 second chat with Muhammad Khaldi in Khawalid, a Bedouin Arab village in northern Israel, and his son Ishmael Khaldi, who is the deputy consul of the Consulate General of Israel to the Pacific Northwest in San Francisco. We had the talk during a visit to the Khaldi home by a group of 10 Innovation Israel bloggers from the San Francisco Bay Area. Both Ishmael and Deborah Schultz interpret Muhammad’s remarks from Arabic into English.

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Valley-Ho!

by on May 4, 2008 at 12:00 pm

If there’s one theme that I’ve thought about, talked about and written about the most over my career covering tech and finance it’s the debate of whether you need to relocate to Silicon Valley to be successful. In my case, there’s no doubt I’ve had a better career just by covering business in the Valley, so it’s hard for me to believe anyone who wants to profit from the startup ecosystem wouldn’t be more successful here. Over the years, I’ve read a lot of weak treatises that say Valley isn’t all that great, ultimately coming off either bitter or just naive, but here is a pretty nice piece arguing against Valley relocation. Although, I’m still not convinced.

The strongest point the writer makes is about the damaging affects of the temptation to bulk up on venture capital and not figure out a real business. There is a certain “Valley game” you can get sucked into that can cloud good judgment. Although, I think tying that to Web 2.0 is a bit misleading since the hottest Web 2.0 companies all bootstrapped themselves or lived on angel funding for most of their early days. And besides, really, isn’t knowing when to take money just a test of a good entrepreneur? Hell, I’ve been offered money to start a company before. It’s not access to cash that defines your worth, it’s the discipline to know if that’s the right thing for you and your business.

Per the point about it being harder to retain great people in the Valley, that argument can go both ways. Pro argument for the Valley: the Valley has more talent than anywhere else and they all know the costs and risks of being at a startup. Con: the best people always want to flock to the next hot startup. Personally, I think the latter is overstated. There are certain momentum seekers who will flock to the next pre-IPO name, but those are the people most entrepreneurs don’t want working for them, so actually that phenomenon can be a nice filter. After all smart people work at Mozilla, a company that has said it will never go public. Also, if startups are worried a hotter name will steal their coders, doesn’t that put a healthy pressure on startups to be the best they can. I just generally think competition is good for business. I guess it comes down to what you want: a nice business that might get acquired or to really build something big and lasting. If it’s the latter and you can’t make it in the Valley, are you really good enough to be a billion dollar company?

For good measure, here is a nice piece Evan Williams wrote about it earlier this year. As you’ll see he’s mixed too, but I think his story underscores the more practical point: There’s an undeniable correlation with being in the Valley and success, so if it’s easier why wouldn’t you just move? Evan also points out the social advantages of living in a place where there’s so much creativity and entrepreneurial spirit in the air. Indeed, that seems to be the part people outside the Valley miss. Because it’s one of those things you need to be around to understand. It is the norm to want to build something here– that’s incredibly powerful to entrepreneurs in other parts of the world who are used to feeling like outcasts or silly dreamers.

I’m thinking about this a lot today (while everyone else still seems to be obsessing about Micro-hoo!), as I finish up a column on Isreali entrepreneurs for BusinessWeek. I talked about this a lot over there: Whether all Israeli startups have to move their HQ to the Valley or not, so check out my column this week for more. Israel has benefitted greatly from this symbiotic relationship, but the question is whether it holds them back from being a true technology hub. One interesting note: the people who tend to argue you don’t have to move usually aren’t in the process of building a company. They have either already made their money (frequently, by relocating to the Valley) or are investors, attorneys or other members of the startup ecosystem in markets outside the Valley. In other words, there’s a logical argument that boosters of Atlanta, Austin, London or Tel Aviv can make, but when it’s actually your business and you’re the one trying to mitigate risk of failure, it’s another matter.

There’s something about it that’s like looking at a baseball team’s lineup in April. It could look like a killer team on paper, but somehow on the field they just don’t gel. A city could have every natural resource a startup needs, and somehow lack that cultural glue, support system or whatever you want to call it that is really the intangible reason people don’t leave the Valley once they are here. A lot about this in my book, and I’d love to hear thoughts from any readers once it’s out and I (hopefully!) have readers.

And with that hackneyed analogy, I am off to a Sunday baseball game! Any Israelis: send me some final thoughts before I file!

Israel Photo Collection

by on May 3, 2008 at 12:00 pm

I officially uploaded a sample of photos from my recent Israel trip. It was a hard choice to decide what to upload from a collection of more than 1,000 shots. A handful of these shots were taken on my very first trip to Israel now more than twenty years ago and I included them for giggles. Enjoy!

MIA Friday

by on May 2, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Apologies, dear readers. I have been MIA this morning. Pilates at 8 a.m. and then had to rush Mr. Vinnie to the vet for some issues you don’t want to know about….believe me. He’s going to be fine and actually got a gold star for losing another half a pound. The big fella — who is essentially Tony Soprano in cat form– is now under 20 lbs for the first time, since, um, he was a kitten, I think.

I also swung by the bank to deposit a very, very important check from Penguin. Important because it solidifies the fact that my book is indeed getting published in 15 days and important because it represents the down-payment on our new Victorian in the mission!! Yay!

So, as I get my late start to blogging, mosey over to TechCrunch and read this. Whether you care about technology because you are a rabid early adopter or a rabid stock investor, this is an important issue for you. I’ve only recently started to understand just how hard it is to move companies to the US– even from non-threatening places like the UK. (I mean what are they going to do? Charmingly mock us to death?) Between this and the H1-B Visa issue there’s just way too much of a disconnect between the Silicon Valley ecosystem that WANTS smart people with good ideas and the smart people with good ideas that support the Silicon Valley ecosystem.

Made worse by the fact that 50% of the congress doesn’t even have a passport.

Am I right?

Adam Sher’s Perspective on Art & Life

by on May 1, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Through fashion maven and start-up founder Daria Shualy, I was introduced to Israeli artist Adam Sher, who came to Israel when he was 19 from Russia after serving in the “Red Army.” He brought with him his animation style of art, where he has done an entire series of Disney characters in realistic form.

Adamsher_at_his_studio_in_southern_

In Russia, realism is much more popular than it is in Israel where artistic expression is much more free-form, a style he says he now prefers. He is now working on more abstract pieces. Of the pieces in his southern Tel Aviv studio, my favorite by far was this self-portrait painting he did of himself with his son.

Adamsher_and_his_work_in_his_stud_4

Adamsher_and_his_work_in_his_stud_3

I was able to spend time with Adam in his studio before leaving Israel earlier this month. Here’s the result of an interesting back and forth dialogue about his life, his ‘coming’ to Israel and how he paved the way for a career as an artist.

Renee: When did you know you wanted to paint? Was it a particular incident or did you always just know?
Adam: I started to paint at a very early age; I always hold a pencil or brush in my childhood memories . I grew up in small village in the Ukraine, where there were no conditions to develop my skills, nor was there any real support from my parents, so it was a hobby until later on.

With pressure from my family, (like a good Jewish boy) I chose to study medicine and after 4 years, I went to serve in the Soviet Army as planned. During my army service (that’s a different story?), we left. After moving to Israel in 1990, I went to college for graphic design and illustration studies and since then, I’ve been an graphic designer and art director.

I have a friend who studied in New York and took me to some of her classes. Here, she showed me what canvas and colors are and the rest is history?

Renee: You speak of traditional realism in Europe, particularly in Russia which is not so much the case in Israel I understand from you and also a friend of mine in Tel Aviv who is an art curator. What are your feelings about both and the value of both?

Adam: Traditional realism wasn’t really accepted here in Israel, maybe because the country is only 60 years old,. After WW2, realism was objected by new art movements. Israeli people tried to build a new society that ignored any tradition, thus influencing the art scene here?

I feel lucky that I didn’t study art seriously in Russia since they focus mainly on technique, and less on creativity.

I think that I’m still a “stranger” here, standing a bit on the outside of the local art scene. Most Israeli artists deal with these main themes: the Middle East conflict, the Holocaust and “self observation”.

I deal more with the aesthetics of average every day things that surround us. Here is what Israeli Maayan Shelef said of my work:

“Adam Sher takes an activist approach to art, initiating artistic events, exhibitions, and community activities. In addition to personal projects he collaborates with groups of artists with a similar vision. His creative process forms a circle; he documents the daily living environment and returns to it in the exhibition stage by choosing alternative spaces that are part of the everyday experience. Galleries alongside nightlife and leisure spaces, institutions and industrial areas. These spaces are like temporary homes for the paintings, as Sher believes that his paintings are meant to be hung in a living room. There they fulfill their conceptual purpose – a connection between the indoor and the outdoor that creates the urban aesthetics. His ambition is to communicate with the viewer in a basic, universal way. His painted world is not ideal or na?ve but sober. The magic and innocence that we find in this sobriety, is what makes us connect to his paintings so deeply.”

Renee: What do you most love about the more realistic work you have done so far?

Adam: I think that my most realistic work so far is the self portrait with my 2 kids (as you saw at my studio (as also shown above) I called it “Millstone” since being a father is a very serious responsibility but it’s the most expensive and important thing you have? after a year and a half break in painting, I went back to the studio and painted Millstone in two days.

My wife doesn’t like the name, but I think it’s honest. For me, realism is not just about a painting’s technique, but its also a method to express our feelings in the most honest way.

I LOVE THAT ANSWER.

Renee: What inspired your work with Disney characters and animation?

Adam: Below Israeli art curator Nir Harmat describes my exhibition “Happy Dead End” where I presented several large paintings of cartoon characters:

“Adam Sher’s embalmed images are realistically copied from miniature Disney plastic figurines found in a dump and bought by the pound. Sher grants new strength to these images. He removes them from their natural habitat and isolates them; taking them out of proportion to a full size enlargement and having them confront the viewer at eye level. In fact, this is a conversion of the real with the signifiers of reality. That is, the images receive autonomic power and the status of functional doubles.”

Renee: What is the best thing about being an artist in Israel? the worst?

Adam: I don’t think it’s that easy to be an Israeli artist because there’s more interest around politics and less on global issues……the artists who have different styles and ideas don’t have too many options to exhibit and sell their work.

Renee: What is the best thing about living in Israel? the worst?

Adam: I’m pretty happy living here. Even though it’s a small country, I feel very connected here, and part of the western culture without an obligation to any tradition (as in Old Europe) or the limitation of being over politically correct (as in the U.S).

The big minus is the ongoing chronic war with the Palestinians that corrupts all spheres of our life here and maybe our escapisms, which is many people’s answer to the situation.

More examples of his work below:

Adam_shers_artwork

Adam_shers_artwork_2

The_work_of_adam_sher_in_southern_t

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