Israel Matters! – January 2023

Israel – One of the Safest Places to Visit in the World!

This month we revisit a stubborn topic that always seems to surface whenever one talks about visiting Israel: how safe is it to go there? Many friends, family, and colleagues remain under the impression that Israel is just a dangerous place due to the constant risk of terrorism. So we are pleased to present a just-published comparative study of the risks posed to visitors across many popular travel destinations. The analysis was conducted by The Swiftest, a San Francisco-based start-up created by experts from the insurance and travel industry to better compare and purchase insurance. These folks focus their data analytics expertise on important societal and environmental issues, and have developed proprietary risk analysis tools to better understand the messages in the data they study. (more…)

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Israel Matters! – December 2022

The Israeli Election: Aftermath

Well, the Israeli election of 2022 is in the books, and here we are at Israel Matters to address the aftermath. It is fair to say that among many American (and European and everywhere-elsean and even some Israeli) commentators, the results have been reported as a seismic shift of Israeli voters to the right with the return of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Likud, his ultra-orthodox supporters, and the extreme right-wing parties Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) with their former Kahanist leader Itamar Ben Gvir and the Religious Zionism party led by Bezalel Smotrich. There is no question that many of the policy positions taken by these latter parties, ranging from bringing the judicial system under Knesset control to anti-LGBT measures to anti-Reform Judaism measures all the way to annexation of the West Bank and possible deportation of Arab citizens deemed anti-Israel, fly in the face of what one should expect from a liberal democracy. BUT, hold on. (more…)

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Israel Matters! – November 2022

Know Your Israeli Sports Teams!

Sports are a very big deal in Israel, and Israeli sports fans are very passionate supporters of their favorite clubs. The top sport in Israel without question is soccer (or kadoor regel in Hebrew, which literally is foot ball), but basketball (kadoor sal in Hebrew, literally basket ball) is a close second. Both soccer and basketball are played professionally in Israeli leagues which themselves follow the familiar European model of organized competition with a top flight league followed by secondary leagues with promotion and relegation taking place at the end of each season to keep the competition tight. There are also volleyball, handball, and even baseball, hockey, and American football leagues, though these are not close to the scale or skill level of the soccer and basketball competitions. (more…)

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Israel Matters! – October 2022

Split Decision – The 2022 Israeli Election

If it seems like you’ve seen an Israeli election column before in Israel Matters, there’s a reason for that: the May 2021 issue covered last year’s Israeli Knesset election. That election, which took place on March 23, 2021, took almost three months to resolve as the new government was not established and sworn in until June 13. Uh, that was June 13th of last year; the government lasted just over a year until the Knesset was dissolved on June 20 of this year. So, once again Israelis get to experience the highs and lows of their nearly-impossible-to-comprehend electoral system where parties (and party leaders) come and go amidst the horse trading that takes place as one or the other “bloc” attempts to secure enough seats to establish a majority in the 120 seat Knesset. (more…)

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Israel Matters! – September 2022

Ma Yesh b’Telivisia? (Which of course means “what’s on TV?”)

TV programming might seem a stretch for an issue of Israel Matters, but of course, here we are talking about what’s on Israeli TV. There was a time when there was only a single channel in Israel, and it was multipurpose – news followed by entertainment at night, kid shows in the morning, game shows and special features in the afternoon followed by an hour of Arabic and all of ten minutes of news in English, along with religious programming very early in the morning and late at night. But those days are gone, and Israelis have countless channels of their own to surf, not to mention international channels from Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, as well as some American channels and lots of Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. (more…)

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Israel Matters! – July/August 2022

Festival Fun in the Israeli Sun

It doesn’t seem possible that a country as small as Israel could fit so many different festivals in just the summer months! Everything from wine, to music, to films, to dance, to arts and crafts, Israel has a festival for you! And – most of the activities at every festival are free! Here’s a small taste of some of the festivals you can enjoy. (more…)

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Israel Matters! – June 2022

     How many of you remember Allan Sherman? His parodies of well-known songs were all the rage in the 1960’s, including “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah,” “The Streets of Miami,” and of course my favorite – “Seltzer Boy” where he sings: “Don’t bring me water, I rather have seltzer, ‘Cause water don’t bubble, And water don’t fizz, Water I hate it, ‘Cause it ain’t carbonated, But a glass of seltzer, On the other hand is!” (more…)

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Israel Matters! – May 2022

Between Pesach and Shavuot: Six Israel-Defining Days while Counting the Omer

TBS members are of course familiar with the major Jewish holidays. Indeed, as you read this you will have recently celebrated Pesach while anticipating the next major holiday of Shavuot commemorating G-d’s giving of the Torah to Moses and the Jewish people. The Counting of the Omer begins on the second night of Pesach, but during the six weeks from the end of Pesach until Shavuot there are six major observances that are by turns secular and religious, happy and sad, that characterize Israeli life while making a powerful impression on anyone who happens to be visiting the country. If you really want to feel part of the Israeli experience, these six weeks are hard to beat. (more…)

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Israel Matters! – April 2022

Israel is not Russia, Gaza is not Ukraine

At the time of writing this column, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is in full force with unbridled attacks on civilian populations in Ukraine’s major cities. With the exception of such noble countries as Syria, Belarus, North Korea, and Eritrea (known as the North Korea of Africa), the world recognizes Russia’s invasion for what it is: an undisguised power grab meant to throttle the aspirations of the Ukrainian population to remain a democracy and bond more closely with Europe. Indeed, as of this writing, Russia has threatened “Ukrainian statehood” exposing Russia’s intent to force Ukraine back into Russia’s sphere of influence. (more…)

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Israel Matters! – March 2022

Fill in the Blanks with Israeli Cities and Towns!

We are going to play a little game in this installment of Israel Matters. Below are a bunch of statements which require you to fill in the blank. In the column across are the names of Israeli cities, towns, and villages. You need to fill in the blanks using these names. Warning – while all the locations are real Israeli places, you might need some creativity to fill in the blanks! (more…)

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