Tel Aviv to open classrooms in city’s leading public institutions
By David E. Kaplan
Parents in Israel are in Corona virus panic mode with their kids returning to shool on the 1 September.
“Are the schools ready?” “Does the government know what it’s doing?” “Will schools close again?”
There are far more sensible questions than credible answers and being a Jewish state, grandparents feel obliged to share in the panic. After all, when the domestic alarm bells sounds, Saba and Safta (grandfather and grandmother) are the ‘First Responders’!
However, Israel’s “City of big ideas”, Tel Aviv-Yafo, has come up with some innovative ideas on meeting this challenge. Mayor, Ron Huldai, says “We have prepared for every scenario that we are expected to confront.”
What this means is that while it may be back to school, it might not be exactly the same school or the school as it once was.
What does this mean?
New and intriguing surroundings will welcome the schoolchildren, after the city’s education system adopted a series of creative solutions to enable in-class learning. To this end, the Tel Aviv-Yafo municipality has prepared for the return of almost 75,000 pupils to schools amid strict Health Ministry COVID-19 guidelines, including the opening of classrooms in a range of public buildings and spaces across the city.
It is a case of “and now for something completely different!”
To enable classes to be split into smaller “capsules for safer and socially distanced learning”, additional spaces have been secured at sites including Tel Aviv’s Cameri Theater, the Charles Bronfman Auditorium (Heichal HaTarbut), the Israel Music Conservatory and Tel Aviv University. One ‘sure thing’ during these “unsure times” is the certainty of no rain. So, taking advantage of Israel’s guaranteed sunshine this time of year, classes will also be taught in parks and other green spaces located adjacent to schools.
Work of Art
Smaller classes means requiring more teachers, so the Municipality came up the idea of utilising local artists and performers who have been impacted by the coronavirus to provide the additional teaching staff for the supplementary classes. Not sitting idle in the sweltering summer vacations, they have been undergoing training as educational support workers and are ready for the big day.
Sounding like gearing up for a Normandy landing, Ron Huldai, Mayor of Tel Aviv-Yafo said in a press release:
“The coronavirus outbreak hurled the entire world into a new reality and presented us with a challenge of an unprecedented nature. Given the experience of recent months, we have made special preparations for the opening of the new school year.
The schools of September 2020 will be unlike the schools that we have known to date. The coming year will bring new challenges, but there are also opportunities: to implement upgrades; to accelerate pedagogical and structural processes for which the time is now ripe; and to reexamine our educational premises. We have prepared for every scenario that we are expected to confront this year in the shadow of the coronavirus, and we are all hopeful that this year will advance us to unprecedented and different levels of ability.”
Such inspirational rhetoric during a global war against a disease, gives credence to the rumours that Tel Aviv Mayor, Ron Huldai, is mulling a run for Prime Minister. In a July 19 article in The Jerusalem Post, it was reported that he was facing increasing calls to enter national politics after 22 years as the Mayor of Tel Aviv and earlier careers as an IAF combat pilot and high school principal.
As a former “high school principal”, Mayor Huldai understands education at a grassroots level, which has helped him respond to the current pandemic crisis.
Out in the Open
In addition to opening classrooms in public buildings and institutions – all impressive landmark structures on the Tel Aviv landscape – infrastructure work has been carried out in 137 schoolyards across the city to enable or enhance outdoor learning, including greater provision of shade and artificial grass.
Tel Aviv has proved from its inception in 1909 to be a city that adjusts to change. Understanding that students returning to school might not be quite the same they were before the pandemic, has led to finding new methodologies to navigate the uncertain road ahead.
According to the press release, “All educational institutions in the city will dedicate the first days of the school year to personal and group conversations with pupils, placing an emphasis on enhancing their emotional and social skills.”
Explains Shirley Rimon-Bracha, Head of Tel Aviv-Yafo’s Education Administration:
“The past six months have presented educational teams in kindergartens and schools with management and educational challenges. We have translated all the lessons learnt and insights into optimal preparations for September.
Education in the city has undergone significant reform in recent years, and school principals are therefore relatively prepared to acclimatize to change, to adjust educational frameworks and to work with flexibility and creatively. I expect an interesting and educational year for us all, and I pay tribute to school and kindergarten heads for their exceptional effort to open the new school year.”
In addition to using public spaces, pupils arriving at over 70 elementary and middle schools on September 1, will be greeted by approximately 200 street performers at the school gates and adjacent public spaces.
The performances will fulfil two key municipal objectives: boosting the income of street performers and raising the morale of schoolchildren as they start an unfamiliar academic year.
That does not mean parents will still not worry.
Its embedded in Jewish DNA. As one writer once noted:
“Forget Murphy’s Law. Chances are his real name was Murphosky and his family taught him: “If anything can go wrong, it will.”
On the other hand it might not – Tel Aviv is ready.
While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves. LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs
As India discovered, Israel is leading the way with precision irrigation by getting to the ‘root’ of the problem
By David E. Kaplan
The UAE’s historic deal with Israel made the news like an earthquake broadcasting to the world and the people of the region that Israel is not an enemy but a friend and potential partner.
Its intentions are not to invade but trade.
And proving that the agreement has the potential to foster real co-existence between the peoples of both countries, Israeli pop star Omer Adam has reportedly been invited to perform in the UAE. Adam is one of Israel’s most popular singers, with his single -“Shnei Meshugaim” – viewed over 61 million times on YouTube.
Cultural encounters are always the proverbial “hechsher” – the absolute approval.
Even if there are those who refuse to recognise a transforming Middle East landscape, the UAE-Israel deal is a call to look to the future rather than the past. Only earlier this month, it was seen how to be a prisoner of the past can prove existentially devasting as Lebanon has so tragically discovered.
India, which publicly kept a distance from Israel until the late 1980’s, has long changed its position and is benefiting enormously from Israel’s expertise in so many diverse fields.
In fact, quite literally – in the “field”!
Israeli company Netafim signed this August, a $85 million deal to provide irrigation solution to 35,000 farmers in India. Founded in 1965, today the company specialises in end-to-end solutions from the water source to the plant root and offers a variety of irrigation and greenhouse projects. One of the world’s largest irrigation companies, Netafim produces drippers, dripperlines, sprinklers and micro-emitters.
Back to the Roots
Precision irrigation feeds the plant, not the soil. That is a big deal because delivering water and nutrients straight to the roots, the farmer not only reduces costs but also cultivates higher yields of healthier crops. This is why famers in India are turned onto the deal.
The agreement involves the construction of Netafim’s irrigation systems for three large projects that cover 66 villages on 123,500 acres (50,000 hectares area) in the state of Karnataka in southwest India. The two-year project will include technical and agronomic support for five years.
Netafim will also train the Indian farmers to operate the advanced systems.
Field of Dreams
The impact of this deal will lead to a wider range of crops being cultivated to include – onion, chili pepper, corn, peanuts, beans and sunflowers.
The name of the game is partnership, and to arrive at this deal, Netafim joined forces with the Indian Infrastructure company, MEIL (Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Limited), which together will executethese projects to fruit’ion.
This is the way to do business and help people regionally.
“Especially in these days of global crisis,” said President and CEO of Netafim Gaby Miodownik. “The uniqueness of these projects is in their community model, which along with local government involvement, enables a huge number of farmers and villages to improve their livelihoods. The Indian government has always been extremely supportive of the agricultural sector, and now more than ever this support is important for securing the economic stability of local farmers and food security in the country.”
Deploying NetBeatTM systems for digital farming, enables real-time control of the irrigation systems using cloud technologies and allows access from any mobile device. “We intends to expand the community irrigation project model to other countries characterized by a large number of small farmers,” says Miodownik.
Interestingly, despite my native South Africa distancing itself diplomatically from Israel, it paradoxically remains commercially engaged, notably in agriculture and hydrology.
To this point, Netafim is in the vanguard!
If there are some in the ruling ANC government proving cerebrally sluggish, not so the country’s president Cyril Ramaphosa who in October 2019, lauded Israel’s entrepreneurship at the Women in Business Conference saying:
“Israel is leading by leaps and bounds, and they are actually innovative in a number of sectors of the economy, in agriculture, in maritime, and a number of other areas. They have shown that they can lead, and we can learn a lot from what they do. I find this very interesting and would like to know more.”
Only a few months before Ramaphosa’s praise of Israel admitting that South Africa would benefit by closer cooperation, Netafim South Africa in June was the platinum sponsor of the 2019 SABI (South African Irrigation Institute) congress where the theme was ‘Climate of Change and Opportunity’. Addressing the Congress, Michael Esmeraldo of Netafim South Africa said:
“Modern farming is not always only about new technology, high-tech machines and computers. A modern approach is also about making more efficient use of the resources that we have available. We have to use water, fertilizer and other inputs efficiently to get optimal benefit per unit of input.”
“a treedoes not know how it receives water, it merely requires a certain amount of water daily depending on the phenological stage, age of the tree and the climate.”
What is important:
“is to find the right fit for each specific situation, in other words choosing the correct irrigation system that will work in synergy with the resources you have available.”
This is Israel’s expertise!
Yet again, South African commerce and diplomacy travel in opposite directions. The ANC government response to the Israel-UAE normalisation deal – whose main state opponents were predictably Iran and Turkey, both a threat to regional peace- was “one of concern”.
In a SAZF (South African Zionist Federation) press release, its national chairman, Rowan Polovin, exposed the absurdity of South Africa’s position on the deal following it being well received by respected Arab countries Egypt, Oman, and Bahrain as well as South Africa’s major BRICS partners, India and China.
Proving once again how his country is characteristically out of step on the world stage, Polovin wrote:
“We encourage the South African government, to show leadership through positive re-engagement with Israel in ways that would by no means diminish her support for the Palestinians.”
Noting that further normalisation deals are likely to emerge over the coming months between Israel and other Arab and Muslim states, he concluded: “South Africa should be ready to welcome and encourage these positive developments in the interests of peace and stability in the region.”
Rather than “a stab in the back” as described by some detractors of the deal, it is more like “a shot in the arm” in the pursuit of changing the landscape to improves the lives of all in the region.
Ask the Indian farmers using Israeli technology!
To take a page from Netafim’s history of success:
“We’re farmers first and innovators second. We started in 1965, in the Negev desert in Israel, trying to grow crops in desert soil. So we know what it’s like to farm in extreme conditions. That struggle taught us how to combine precision irrigation, agronomic expertise and relentless innovation to help farmers grow more of any crop, in any climate, with less.”
Learn from the experts.
While South Africa advocates a “pullback”, most of the world will be following India and the United Arab Emirates to “partner”.
While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves. LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs
In order to put up “The good Fight” we must boost our Immune System
By Lionel H. Phillips
In a 2012 article to understand the link between pandemics and what humans are doing to nature, disease ecologist and the president of EcoHealth, Peter Daszak asserted:
“Any emerging disease in the last 30 or 40 years has come about as a result of encroachment into wild lands and changes in demography.”
It is our obligation to help virus-fighting cells to function efficiently in keeping our body protected from bacterial and viral infections. This is what could be called the ‘second line of defense’.
Regular walks even in confined spaces
Nose breathing which helps filter and clean the oxygen
Keep fully hydrated.
It is necessary to note that the ‘first line of defense’ against these invaders are the skin and the membranes that line the entrances to the body. These entrances are the nasal passages, the eyes, and the respiratory and digestive tracts. This is why the CDC states that the first line of prevention is to wash your hands often and thoroughly as well as avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands, as well as why so many people are rushing to buy face masks.
The immune and lymphatic systems are two closely related organ systems that share several organs and physiological functions. The immune system is our body’s defense system against infectious pathogenic viruses, bacteria, and fungi as well as parasitic animals and protists. The immune system works to keep these harmful agents out of the body and attacks those that manage to enter. We will deal with possibly the most active of these defenses.
The lymphatic system is a system of capillaries, vessels, nodes and other organs that transport a fluid called lymph from the tissues as it returns to the bloodstream. The lymphatic tissue of these organs filters and cleans the lymph of any debris, abnormal cells, or pathogens.
The lymphatic system also transports fatty acids from the Intestines (the intestines are vital organs in the gastrointestinal tract of our digestive system). Their functions are to further assist in the digestion by absorbing bile and pancreatic juices, which will help the nutrients released from that food to enter into the bloodstream. The lymphatic system also transports fatty acids from the Intestines into the circulatory system.
Bone Marrow and Leukocytes
Red bone marrow is a highly vascular tissue found mostly in the ends of long bones and in the flat bones of the body. Red bone marrow is a hematopoietic tissue containing many stem cells that produce blood cells. All of the leukocytes, or white blood cells, of the immune system are produced by red bone marrow. Leukocytes can be further broken down into 2 groups based upon the type of stem cells that produces them: myeloid stem cells and lymphoid stem cells.
Leukocytes are the major cellular components of the inflammatory and immune system. While they only make up about 1 % of the blood in the body, leukocytes play an important role in protecting the body from infections/diseases caused by various microorganisms (e.g. bacteria, amoeba etc.) and other types of parasites such as filarial worms.
While essential nutrients are critical for the production and maintenance of key germ-fighting cells in the immune system, a balanced diet also has a strong effect on vascular function. The immune system is dependent on blood flow because the bloodstream is the route along which infection-fighting cells travel throughout the body to wherever they are needed.
Maintaining a well-balanced diet and keeping a healthy eating habit are your best assurance to keep the immune system functioning correctly.
Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins A and C. They also have phytochemicals that lend fruits and vegetables their colors. These food groups also contain antioxidants that promote the body’s built-in anti-viral and anti-bacterial functions. These nutrients help ensure that the lymphocytes can divide and reproduce properly in response to a virus, and that the neutrophils and macrophages that engulf and kill invading bacteria can do their job efficiently.
Maximizing the variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants can be achieved by eating up to six servings of fruits and vegetables per day. It is necessary to consume two different colors of vegetables and fruits with each meal, and one-third of lean protein.
Include in your diet a generous amount of protein to ensure production of more white blood cells to help combat the invading antigens. The building blocks of all the body’s cells, including the cells that power the immune system, are the amino acids found in protein. Protein and amino acids are essential in increasing immune cell proliferation. It has also been reported that one crucial amino acid called, arginine, is required to let the body know that it’s being attacked by an infection, so that all those good virus fighting cells can react more quickly in a second-line of defense against a human coronavirus. It is also claimed that Arginine increases your blood circulation when it comes to fighting viral infections.
According to WHO, coronavirus causes respiratory diseases. In short, COVID-19 virus begins to attack your lungs and two things can possibly happen – either it will end in your lungs or it can spread to other parts of your body, such as resulting in liver or kidney failure.
It is widely reported that once you have been attacked, it could take more than 12 months to fully recover.
Many Reasons to Drink Water Regularly Every Day
The most important items required for our Human Body Machine to function efficiently, is Fresh Air and Clean Water. Unfortunately, the majority do not consume sufficient of this most important commodity. Now is the time to improve, if there ever was one.
Now is the time to move beyond whether one likes or dislikes. WATER & MORE WATER IS THE ORDER OF THE DAY. Force yourself if necessary.
The various systems of the body use and store different amounts of water. It is imperative that every system works well, so that the other systems can also work in a healthy state.
Every system relies on the efficient functions of the other systems. So, if one system is not working well, other systems will be adversely affected.
Below is a listing of a few of the body systems that need and rely on sufficient water –
Water boosts your Immune System
Keeps you looking young and fresh
Helps to keep your Kidneys healthy
Gives you energy and helps avoid muscle and joint pains
Prevents Headaches and Lightheadedness
Improves the circulation of Blood
Helps your Muscles to remain in good condition – even stops them from Cramping
Important for your Digestive system – Avoids Constipation
Prevents Bad Breath and a Dry Mouth.
The percentage of Water in your various body parts are –
Flu-like symptoms with or without fever. At this stage it is hard to ascertain whether the coronavirus will continue to spread. It can stay dormant for at least 10 days before it goes to the second stage of attack. Hence why people are diagnosed with coronavirus can go past the thermal scanners at the airports without any early warning signs.
Many diagnosed with coronavirus will develop pneumonia in both lungs and this is usually accompanied by symptoms like shortness of breath, fever, cough and other forms of breathing difficulties.
Lung damage continues to build — which can result in respiratory failure depending on your health condition and age. In severe cases, you will witness coughing blood and other extreme conditions. Some may survive this stage or recover with permanent lung damage.
How does it Transmit?
When an infected person coughs or sneezes, coronavirus contained in micro droplets of saliva, mucus, or other bodily fluids can be easily transferred through skin contact (i.e. touch), kissing or airborne. So, if a person sneezes or coughs next to you, then you need to take extra caution by not touching whatever may have been on the receiving end, with your hands.
The immune system is a complex system made up of organs and vessel systems including a network of individual cells and proteins.
It is “highly intelligent” and keeps a record of every germ it has ever defeated, so it can recognize and destroy the germ in the future.
The main parts of the immune system are:
White Blood Cells, also called leukocytes or leucocytes, are the cells of the immune system that are involved in protecting the body against both infectious disease and foreign invaders.
Antibodies are a blood protein produced in response to and counteracting a specific antigen. Antibodies combine chemically with substances which the body recognizes as alien, such as bacteria, viruses, and foreign substances in the blood.
The Complement System which plays a critical role in inflammation and defense against some bacterial infections.
The Lymphatic System is a network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials. The primary function of the lymphatic system is to transport lymph, a fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells, throughout the body.
Bone Marrow is the spongy tissue inside some of the bones in the body, including the hip and thigh bones. Bone marrow contains immature cells, called stem cells. Healthy bone marrow and blood cells are needed in order to live.
The Spleen is an abdominal organ involved in the production and removal of blood cells.
Surely PREVENTION is as, if not more important, than CURE. It is never too late to Start.
Prevention is the age-old wisdom that never goes out of fashion, except for the fact that most fail to live by its importance.
There are non-invasive ways and means to assist us in living a healthy and energetic lifestyle. One of the many benefits is a stronger immune system.
Best wishes to all – Stay Safe.
Lionel H. Phillips D.O.
About the Author:
Lionel Phillips is a Doctor of Osteopathy (1975), an International Fitness & Health Instructor, Consultant and Lecturer. He has researched and designed ‘The Needs & Functions of the Human Body’ as an educational subject for inclusion in all School Curriculums World-Wide.
A past Federation Member and Israel Liaison Representative of IHRSA (International, Health & Racquet Sportsclub Association) and member of their world-wide “Panel of Experts”, Phillips is a recipient of the “Prime Ministers Award of Merit” (PM Menachem Begin).
Interested in keeping fit alone or together with the whole family?
Lionel Phillips’s website www.globalhealth-education.com which he launched in 2000 is a free site offering advice and explanations on the needs of The Human Body and how to cater to those needs.
Below you will find the link to website pages that illustrate and explain every movement.
The lights dim. The camera rolls. A roaring male lion fills the screen. All is quiet except for the sound of crunching popcorn, the shlurping of soda and the soundtrack of the movie starting on the screen.
90 mins of sci fi hell as we are glued, fixated and sitting on the edge of our seats. The credits roll, shoulders relax, and we hear a common sigh of relief. It is over. It was just a movie. It was not real.
Except it is.
It is real and we are living it, breathing it, experiencing it …….. every day and in every corner of our earth.
Covid-19. The corona virus that has spread its way across the entire globe and has changed our lives and our realities. It has brought with it fear, panic, distress, suicide, cruelty, dishonesty. It has reduced the world to latex gloves, a ridiculous amount of alcohol gel and all sorts of masks of varying types and qualities. It has crippled business and left many unemployed and unable to provide for their families. It has separated neighbourhoods, communities, families and people. It has left a trail of many dead.
What the hell is going on?
How on earth did this happen?
What does this mean now? What will this mean in the future? Will we ever understand it? What can we learn from it? How can we stop it? What can be done to prevent it? How do we flatten the curve? How do we kill the graph completely? How do we eradicate this virus from our world?
I am an observant Jew. I believe in G-d and I believe everything happens for a reason. But there are some things that I don’t think I will ever understand. And Covid-19 is one of them. Is G-d trying to tell us something? Is G-d punishing us? Is G-d trying to help us put an end to pollution and save our environment? Is this G-d’s way of culling, of controlling population? Is G-d giving us a lesson to learn? What is G-d thinking?
I am desperate to find some meaning, some understanding, some clarity in this terrifying chaos. And I keep replaying the idea that these emotions and questions are not just pertinent to now. History is overflowing with records of atrocities, of cruelties, of war, of disease, of death.
There are some incredible people out there doing amazing work. Giving of themselves, sacrificing time with their families, sleep, rest and so much more to do whatever they can to help. The medical teams are putting themselves at risk in order to help save those already infected. People are reaching out to others to support where they can, to donate what they can and help where they can. There is many a shining light amongst us, who make the choice to turn on their torch in full.
And yet, this feeling of loneliness is overwhelming. Overwhelming for me who has a husband and children with me at home, overwhelming for me who is surrounded by an incredible network of really amazing family and friends who are constantly in touch, supporting me and being supported by me. And still, I feel so alone. Days on end of not leaving the house, of very little human touch, of keeping distance. Zoom is still just a picture on a screen, WhatsApp video is just another variation on a different device. And as much as I am so grateful for this technology which makes a huge difference to our communication and our being in lockdown, it still does not replace human contact, human touch and face to face conversation.
I don’t know what the lesson to learn is, what the takeaway should be. And maybe I never will. But one thing Covid-19 has highlighted in bold with flashing lights is that we are us. There is no distinction. There is no discrimination. There is no privilege. There is no advantaged and no disadvantaged. Covid-19 does not care if you are black, white, yellow, green or purple. Covid-19 does not care if you pray to G-d, Hashem, Allah, Buddha, a totem pole, the Sun God or to nothing at all. Covid-19 does not care if you are straight, gay, bi-sexual or transsexual. Covid-19 does not give a damn if you have millions in the bank, are just getting by, struggling to put food on the table or living on handouts. Fame and Fortune mean nothing at the end of the day.
Covid-19 has humbled me.
Covid-19 has reinforced my belief that the only thing that counts is the way you behave, the way you conduct yourself, the way you treat others and the way you relate to others. Ego, arrogance, importance, high and mightiness is a waste of time, of emotion, of your time on this earth. We need to focus on what counts. On what brings value. On what creates meaning. And on what really makes a difference in this lifetime of ours.
is how we shine and make a mark on this world מצוות שבין אדם לחברו
Yes, too frequently! To the kitchen and sometimes a pitstop at the bar cabinet!
And for those in for a little more adventure, I hear:
“We, wife and I, are going away for the weekend; we just haven’t decided which room to move to!”
This is the “new normal” or as one headline so poignantly warned, “If your weekend felt normal, you are endangering us all.”
‘Social distancing’ and ‘washing your hands’ we are told is our “only hope”. With Corona accelerating, we have little protection other than our behaviour, which requires us to keep apart.
While people are unable to control events, they can control how they cope with them.
This is literally in their hands – both figuratively and literally.
With the entire Israeli public under strict lockdown, Lay Of The Land was intrigued how this boisterous and socially gregarious public was handling being cooped up in their homes.
“You have to keep going and keep busy,” advocates Pauline Borsuk, a senior citizen resident at the South African retirement home Beth Protea in Herzliya, Israel. “I keep engaged by phoning my brothers on WhatsApp in the States – Boston, Houston and Washington and my kids and grandkids in Israel. Then I go to pottery, walk and sit in the public areas of Beth Protea – keeping our two-metre distance of course, and have my hair done once a week. We can’t leave the place; we can’t receive visitors and we no longer have meals together in the dining room.”
So how is that managed?
“All the meals are now wonderfully packed and brought to our rooms. So we adjust; we manage. I was a professional social worker, so I understand what is required to cope. You have to keep going and do the best under these trying conditions. This is the way I think. I had a mother like that and a grandmother like that – it’s in my genes.”
And finally Pauline adds “don’t lose your sense of humour.”
So true as shown by the amount of time people globally are investing in the dissemination of humour through social media. A sense of humour is proving a strong line of defense in coping with stress.
A key element of jokes shared, mostly on WhatsApp is that they comically force you to look at the same situation in different ways.
With frequent references by politicians saying, “we are at war” and “fighting an invisible enemy”, I loved this one below comparing our efforts in this “war” to the “Greatest Generation” of WWII:
As far as keeping busy at home, people are proving imaginative and industrious, I called my Lay of the Land colleague, Rolene Marks to get her take what she is “up to” when she is not writing or broadcasting live and she did not allow me to even finish the question:
“Call back in an hour. I’m just about to start my on-line gym class on Zoom!”
This I was familiar with. My daughter Keren, a dance instructor is running five classes for her students on-line using Zoom and hopes to raise it to twelve classes. She has converted an upstairs spare room into a solo dance studio, “and it’s working well,” she says descending the stairway with a heavy sweat after an early evening class. “Great way to keep fit and keep up our spirits” she says. Without having to leave their parent’s homes, her students range in age from nine to eighteen years. It does come with some dangers. With a slanted roof in one section of her loft ‘studio’, a bump on the forehead was noticeable after one energised modern jazz session!
To see Keren perform with friend Lee in the local Hod Hasharon Park before it was closed to visitors due to Coronavirus:
Inspired by my daughter’s example, I have converted our lounge into a gym and removed an unpacked GymTrim exercise machine which I had brought from South Africa when I came on Aliyah in 1987. That’s a long time ago. Many times I considered getting rid of it. Which only gives credence to the adage – “Don’t throw away today what you might need tomorrow.” In this case, that tomorrow took over three decades to arrive – thanks to Coronavirus!
Reflecting on my native South Africa whose population only this week has been locked into their homes for a period of at least 21 days, the writer, Richard Poplak in his ‘Locked & Loaded – South Africa enters the Age of Corona’ notes that “home” is “a mutable term where some will sequester themselves in palaces, others in shacks. These inequities – long nurtured and time-tested – are the conditions in which any virus thrives. Can we beat Covid-19 when we haven’t figured out how to live without a plague.”
Over 700 cases in South Africa have so far been diagnosed and the future is uncertain.
My next call was to Manof, a community settlement established by South Africans in 1980 in northern Israel. Located on Mount Shekhanya in the Lower Galilee, about 30 km northeast of Haifa, Manof has a population of 862.
Only a few days earlier, some 197 of its residents came out of a 14-day period of quarantine after having attended a party celebrating the Jewish festivity of Purim where also attending had been a visitor from abroad later diagnosed as having Coronavirus. .
Fortunate in not having attended the party, Irit Kaplan escaped the quarantine. A psychotherapist, with a clinic near Nahariya, a coastal town in the north and nearly an hour’s drive away from Manof, the writer was interested to know how she kept her practice going.
“On the phone and on-line, I am at least managing to maintain about 70% of my work and that includes supervising my fellow professionals.”
And how has Corona affected her clients?
“A spectrum of reactions, all depending on the circumstances of the individual from a divorcee feeling more alone now than before to others anxious over their economic future. Also, with the children all confined in limited space, homes become pressure cookers.”
However, it was pleasing to hear from Irit that she had not “yet” encountered “any major fears, depression, acute anxiety or panic attacks as a direct consequence of the Coronavirus.”
An hour later, I called back Rolene calculating she must have finished her online Zoom gym session. She had, but she was about to start her online live ballet class. “It’s the only way to get through this Corona. One has to continue doing things that feel normal and structure your day meaningfully.” As an example, she cites her husband, who is in hi-tech and now working from home, “gets up in the morning the usual time, dresses the same way as if he was going to work, and ‘travels’ to the dining room where he has set up his office, sits in front of his computer and does a full day’s work.”
As for Rolene, “there are five of us in our gym class; we have a WhatsApp group, and we synchronize when to hold our classes. My ballet is with another group and if its Sunday, its Pilates.”
So Corona or no Corona, “we pursue our lives within the limitations imposed on us.”
Away from the cities and towns, Israel’s rural population living in its collective settlements are fortunate to have social infrastructures to cope with Corona.
“I think what is quite unique about Israel,” says Irit, “are our support systems across the country on our kibbutzim, moshavim and yishuvim. Already in place, these structures of support equipped communities to absorb the unforeseen Corona.” She explains that on Manof, “We have a committee for our seniors who are constantly phoned to see how they are doing and if they require anything from food to medicine. We have organised for provisions from our local store to be delivered to households by the youth of the moshav, who are all volunteers. On our internet network, people advise when going to the supermarket or pharmacy and offer to get for those who need anything. We also have a women’s WhatsApp group called “Who’s Got A Cup Of Sugar”. We are 135 in the group and help each in need. On an ordinary day, it might be “I have run out of baking powder, ginger or garlic, these days it is more in tune with the needs of coping under Corona and that includes, sharing jokes. Above all, we need to keep our spirits up.”
Israelis are used to keeping their spirits up as well as accustomed to staying at home and obsessively tuning into the news. Wars and constant terror have prepared and hardened this population.
This however is different.
How we should have listened to Bill Gates when he addressed the 2015 Ted Talks when he warned :
“If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war. Not missiles, but microbes.”
These days, it’s not to bomb shelters, sealed rooms or the stairwell Israelis scurry, sometimes in their pajamas. With Corona we have the luxury of staying put on our sofas.
As Dana Kesler noted with wry humour writing in the Tablet that when this is all over, Israel can expect “a post-coronavirus baby-boom plus a long line at the rabbinical courts to get a divorce.”
A baby-boom is good; in the meantime let’s get over the virus!
Cries from Australia’s wildlife heard in Jerusalem
By David E. Kaplan
Turn on the news on TV these days and the screen flares up in shades of bright orange, with men in protective fighter-fighting garb trying to douse roaring flames.
Australia is in the grip of one of its worst wildfire seasons on record with the human death toll standing at 27 and over 2,000 homes destroyed across more than 10 million hectares of land — an area larger than Portugal.
Caught in this nationwide inferno are Australia’s endearing but vulnerable wildlife, and it is estimated that already 1 billion wild mammals, birds and reptiles have perished. Blessed with a unique eco-system, many species however are now threatened with extinction.
Pictures of koalas with charred feet and kangaroos hugging their human rescuers have through social media and television brought tears to the eyes of people the world over. Many are responding.
The ‘cries’ of these animals were heard in the Israeli capital’s internationally renowned Jerusalem Biblical Zoo that is responding by donating veterinary medical supplies to be used in Victoria’s East Gippsland region.
The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo understands only too well the danger of animals facing extinction, which explains why the zoo’s primary focus is on species from the land of Israel mentioned in the Bible but roam no more!
The zoo projects this history revealing the animals that roamed this region at the time of the forefathers of the Jewish People.
While so many of the world-renowned archeological sites around Jerusalem are a reminder of what life was like in the ancient city, the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo – officially known as the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens – is a ‘living’ reminder of what animals roamed this region in biblical times.
One of the many in Israel watching the human and animal tragedy unfold on her TV was the Biblical Zoo’s International Manager,Rachael Risby Raz, who grew up in Melbourne, and who still has family living there.
Understanding with professional clarity the devastation befalling the flora and fauna of her native Australia, coupled with her position at the JerusalemBiblical Zoo meant that Raz was well placed for her response to be meaningful and effective.
She knew instinctively what the animals most urgently required and quickly put together “a wish list” of veterinary supplies that included: burn creams, milk formulas, teats for bottles, wound sprays, hydration concentrates, syringes, disinfectant, feeding bottles and more. She then followed up by launching a fundraising campaign to raise money to purchase the equipment online and have it sent directly to the rescuers on the ground. Within 24 hours of launching her appeal, she raised thousands of dollars as more and more heart-wrenching reports of the plight resonated globally.
“It went viral,” she told local media. “Even though we’re so far away – more than 6,000 miles – people are nevertheless so moved and stressed by what’s happening in Australia.”
According to the Biblical Zoo’s press statement, “The supplies will be purchased in Australia and sent directly to the volunteers on the ground,” notably the volunteers working with the East Gippsland Fire Wildlife Support Team.
Although over “6,000 miles” away, The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo felt what was unfolding was close to home as the zoo has a special section dedicated to animals from Australia. “We have a colony of kangaroos who, at the moment, are experiencing a baby boom,” said Raz, “as well as fruit bats which came from Sydney.” They had been rescued after they were injured “and we had a whole group of them come and they live here at our zoo.” The area dedicated to the Down Under also includes a cheeky kookaburra, a bettong, bearded dragons, blue tongue lizards and cockatoos. “This is why it’s probably extra distressing. I look out the window of my office and see kangaroos we know by name and love and then see pictures of their peers in Australia burned – it’s heartbreaking!”
While Raz understands that it’s going to be an uphill struggle and that “the situation is just beginning and going to have consequences that can go on for months, even years,” she sees hope in the overwhelming response from people so far removed geographically from the disaster. After all, these are people who have never even visited Australia and may never visit, but their hearts pour out for these defenseless animals.
In a profound sense, the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo was a ‘natural’ to respond.
Viewing the situation through a biblical prism, Raz asks “What is the role of the zoo?” and then answers herself that “the zoo is like a modern Noah’s Ark. The animals that we have here at the zoo are basically being looked after for the next generation.”
This sentiment is all too evident in the many animals that roamed in the region in the time of the Bible and today no longer do.
This is not something that should be allowed to befall the animals of Australia.
Elsewhere in Israel, Tel Aviv too is galvanizing support for Australia. Fashion model Abbiemay Doré, is one of thousands of Australian ex-pats residing in Israel. Originally from Wodoga, Victoria, the model is helping organize an Australian-themed trivia night at a bar in Tel Aviv to help raise awareness and funds.
While she reveals that she has “never really organized something like this before,” these are extraordinary times in Australia.
“Armageddon Is Here” have read headlines in Australia giving an indication how bad the situation is and how much worse it can still be!
While humanitarian groups like the Tel Aviv-based IsraAid are watching developments closely and considering about different ways in which they can be of assistance, on Instagram, Israel’s ‘Wonder Woman’, Gal Gadot asked her 34 million followers to donate to relief efforts down under. “Nature is so beautiful and powerful and fragile all at the same time,” she wrote. “I’m so devastated.”
“Devastated” is the operative word!
For Israelis the devastation is brought all the more home when one realizes that the area so far devastated is more than double the size of Israel.
From Wonder Woman to the wonderful people of Israel and around the world, may the collective support bring this tragedy to a speedy end and that the animals Down Under don’t themselves go down under.
The reality of the WhatsApp group chat is as simple as “you can’t live with it and you can’t live without it”.
As a mother, you have no choice but to be involved in a group chat for your child’s class because you cannot afford to miss important information about goings-on. This misinformation may result in an inevitable melt down when your child is the only shmendrik in a coloured shirt when everyone else is wearing white. So to avoid such calamities or worse, we join the group chats. BUT, this is only the beginning… make no mistake, it’s a trap.
Usually there is a group for the child’s grade with the teacher as a member and who is the one to send out any important information. However, there is another separate group just for the parents. It is more acceptable for the second type to have ‘chatter’ whereas the first group is meant for important notifications. This is not the case. It’s all too easy to pop out one quick message but when everyone gets going, before you blink, there are 47 new unread messages. One would think there is a crisis at the school only to discover that Moshe is having a birthday party, and everyone wishes him Mazaltov.
Moreover, this same child of yours probably does one or more extra murals and, of course, each activity MUST have a communal forum for information exchange. Gone are the good old days whereby your child came home with a letter pinned to the back of his or her shirt. I sometimes wonder if my children would actually be capable of relaying any information to me, then I fear that this simple skill might eventually disappear from humanity.
Some of things that are announced on these groups never cease to amaze me. Absolutely everything! Everything from school complaints to the weather, to the latest sale at the local grocery store, warnings of a strange dog running in the road and the all-time winning one was that so and so had found a worm in her rice! My great challenge is saying “who cares” in such a way that I don’t offend anyone!
This is just groups pertaining to one child. Bli ayain Hara, I have four children. The traffic flow of messaging in my WhatsApp is multiplied by four! I may as well be an air traffic controller. These groups by the way, could prove to be a real game changer for people considering having more children. This influx of messaging happens on all the groups, all day long. It becomes a lot to deal with when you are trying to manage a stressful life juggling many things all day long. The truth is that a mother has a huge pile on her plate that never seems to clear – much like the dishes in the kitchen sink. After one issue is sorted out, the next one reveals itself. This is most likely the reason the WhatsApp groups are so annoying – because they present the constant nagging cherry on top of a mountain of mental submissions.
What about the unwanted invitation to a group chat?
A friend of mine, Etana Hecht, has coined the term Whatsnapped. (Look it up on urban dictionary). This is where you are added to a group without your consent, and which you now find yourself serving a life sentence trapped within the wallpapers of the app. Exiting this group could label you a snob or stuck up. (Truthfully, I’m sure some would be jealous of the courage that would take). Leaving a group is scandalous and doing so may provoke questions and concerns and even the evil Lashon Hara!! This is not a road one wants to travel on, so we remain, like loyal participants, in the prison chat.
Let’s talk about the struggle IsRael! This, as an olah chadasha (new female immigrant to Israel), is the clincher! My WhatsApp incoming messages are all in a foreign language now – the writing is literally backwards! This is where ‘fast pace’ checks of instant messaging has become a thing of the past. And back and forth trips to google translate quadruple the time spent reading messages!
What once was a lovely ping on my phone indicating that someone, somewhere was thinking of me has now become trigger for anxiety, denial and the perpetual eyeball roll. Upon opening WhatsApp and seeing 57 unread messages no longer makes me happy. In fact, my stress levels shoot through the roof, my hands become clammy and my heart starts palpitating. And because of the Hebrew names and I have to consciously remind myself to check for which child (name in Hebrew letters / grade / extra mural activity (chug) the notification is intended. Furthermore, I think I’ll just mention at this point that the ‘google translation’ is a serious cause for trust issues. Sometimes when I see all the messages, I simply close the app, gently place the phone face down on the table and happily pretend I hadn’t seen anything. Out of sight, out of mind.
Based on a recent Facebook survey, I have put together a list of ‘code of conduct’ rules for group chat users:
Any group created must have an official permission request before adding a person. A strict ‘no offence but no thank you’ is to be widely acceptable without judgement!
All comments made must be beneficial to ALL members of the group, if not, Private message (PM) the person of interest.
Please think 5 million times before you post anything at all. Then reconsider it once more. Should you ultimately decide to send a message, use minimal wording.
We all know its cold out. This does not need to be a public statement on a group and if you haven’t yet put a jacket on your child in 8 degrees, no WhatsApp group message is going to make you a better mother.
Birthday party invitations are always welcome, individual RSVP’s however are not. Please PM these.
Unless you are handing out personal gift vouchers, we don’t care about the 20% sale at the local supermarket, and while we are on the subject, I really don’t know where to buy yellow plums this time of year.
At all times, keep to the topic relevant to the group. I was so busy trying to scroll past ‘how to repair a broken zip’ that I missed the part about the money which needed to be handed in for the school trip.
When your two year old gets hold of your phone and sends a cute voice note, just delete it.
(Optional) Appoint a group birthday person to wish the birthday lady a onetime wish on behalf of everyone. We all have good wishes for you, what we don’t have is 7 hours to sift through all the heartfelt messages. (That is what Facebook is for).
Finally, remember that we all love each other dearly but we do all run very busy lifestyles. We all agree that phone time should be kept to a minimum so that we can focus on more important things. So let’s try keep life as simple as possible for each other.
Gabi Crouse – Based in Israel, Gabi writes opinions in fields of politics, Judaism, life issues, current social observations aswell as creative fiction writing. Having contributed to educational set works and examinations, as well as interviews, Gabi will usually add in a splash of humour.
Israel may be a tiny country but its humanitarian outreach knows no bounds
By David E. Kaplan
Yes, we are all familiar with the line at the end of emails “Trees have feelings too, please don’t print this!”
It’s a reminder that “Paper doesn’t grow on trees” and we can all do our bit to help save our planet.
Some Israelis have opted to do more – a lot more and going to the heart of one the problem areas – the Amazon rainforest.
While the name ‘Amazon’ conjures up the immediate image as one the world’s most valuable companies, the threat to its namesake –hardly raises an eyebrow and yet, the ‘rainforest’ in South America is a crucial part of our life-support system, creating up to 20% of our oxygen.
Here’s why we need the world’s largest rainforest:
It’s also one of our best tools for keeping heat-trapping carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
All this resonated with the Israeli startup VeganNation that recently announced that it leased some 15,000 acres (60.7 square kilometers or 23.4 square miles) in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest for a ten-year period to protect the land from deforestation and wildlife poaching.
VeganNation is based in Ramat Gan, just outside Tel Aviv, with an office in London. Thomas says the startup employs approximately 20 people and works with 30 “ambassadors” across the world in places like Argentina, Brazil, India, and beyond, to spread its message.
“The Amazon rainforest might be located in Brazil, but its destruction affects us all, as climate change is a direct result of human activity and it’s in our hands to fight it,” said Isaac Thomas, the CEO and co-founder of VeganNation.
The startup also announced that it was partnering with four local soccer teams from cities near the entrance to the rainforest to raise environmental awareness. Thomas told the Israeli innovation news network, NoCamels, that “VeganNation is already a main sponsor of the teams – three men’s teams and one women’s team – and revealed that an additional four top-tier national teams are set to sign on to the initiative.”
Kicking For Eco-Goals
VeganNation’s initiative comes amid the devastating fires that have continued to burn in the rainforest since early August, releasing dangerous air pollutants into the atmosphere, severely damaging flora and fauna ecosystems, and endangering indigenous communities that live under the forest canopy. The fires are so intense that they can be observed from space.
“When we measure the destruction of the rainforest, we talk about football (soccer) fields as a unit, so we thought what if we use that same measure to save parts of it,” explained Thomas. To illustrate the point, the land leased by VeganNation covers over 5,500 soccer fields if we’re using the measure of large regulation-sized soccer fields of approximately 2.69 acres per field.
“VeganNation understands that promoting veganism is an important step towards fighting the global warming crisis and raising awareness through local environmental projects among the Brazilian community is key. Partnering with four Brazilian soccer teams further enables us toward our mission of working together to create a better world,” he says.
Thomas reveals that the initiative came about through his close connection with a family in the city of Manaus in Brazil that owns land in the rainforest and used to lease it to a US gas company . When the lease was up, Thomas proposed to the family to lease the land to VeganNation explaining that “it’s a win-win situation for everyone as we’re not polluting the environment.”
The Israeli startup raised capital through private investors and added celebrity vegan activists Jerome Flynn, of Game of Thrones, and actor and dancer Jenna Dewan, to its advisory board.
Thomas says VeganNation’s work in the sports world is of key importance and the startup is set to bring in “one of the top three football players in the world as an ambassador for sustainability.”
Environmental groups and researchers say the fires were started by humans at an accelerated rate probably by cattle ranchers and loggers looking to clear the land. The area of devastation in this year’s forest fires marks a 47% increase compared to 2018 according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research.
While deforestation had declined by 75% from 2005 to 2014 and Brazil was moving impressively toward a zero-deforestation policy, it started reverting back massively from 2015 onwards and now in 2019, it seems to have reached literally – a “devastating” peak.
Late last month, under heavy international pressure, and amid several public spats with world leaders rejecting aid offers, Bolsonaro finally issued an order to send over 40,000 troops to help fight the fires. Included in the global support are an eleven-member team of firefighters and rescuers from Israel to assist local authorities with search-and-rescue operations.
President Jair Bolsonaro who has good relations with the Israeli Prime Minister, accepted the aid from the Jewish state, which is understood to include 100 tons of fire-fighting material.
So, while Israeli firefighters will do what they can in the immediate term, the Israeli startup VeganNation is looking long-term – focusing on preserving Brazil’s home to 2.5 million animal species. Rainforest deforestation – which often takes place to raise and feed cattle for the meat industry – is one of the most important issues to tackle in the fight against climate change.
What also needs to ‘change’ are peoples understanding of the threat and this is where Israel’s VeganNation is looking to make a difference.
Its also about changing lifestyles.
Breath Of Fresh Air
Thomas exalts Tel Aviv as “number one in the world for vegan food,” having earned its title as the “vegan capital of the world.” Tel Aviv recently held the world’s largest vegan festival at the Sarona complex in June, attracting over 50,000 attendees. The city is home to some 400 vegan and vegan-friendly kitchens.
The Mediterranean diet, Thomas explains, “is naturally based on plants; there are salad bars everywhere in Israel. The basic Med diet is very complimentary to a plant-based lifestyle.”
Thomas met his co-founder Yossi Rayby while in Yeshiva (Jewish seminary) in Jerusalem some years ago. Rayby brought in Nati Giat and Shneor Shapira who all have a religious background, and some have maintained an Orthodox lifestyle.
“Judaism has a strong message that drives me toward making the world a better place, where we live in peace and harmony,” says Thomas.
Yes, its one thing putting out fires, but the real battle is to see that deliberate fires are not started in the first place.
Acknowledging that the Amazon rainforest creates up to 20% of the world’s oxygen – the Israeli startup VeganNation and the work it is doing is like ‘a breath of fresh air’.
I can just hear my late father reverting to Yiddish with “Voz iz dos?” on hearing about “co-working”. As a steel industrialist he knew all about a factory floor.
The actual use of the word “co-working” in relation to a shared office environment was first coined by Brad Neuberg in 2005. He was an intrepid entrepreneur with big dreams who created the first co-working space in San Francisco.
It was called the “San Francisco Co-working Space” and was open only two days a week – Mondays and Tuesdays – but sat empty for the first month as nobody had ever heard of a “co-working space” before.
Today, “Co-working Spaces” are the new normal with some 2.2 million people sharing office spaces worldwide. Co-working spaces have grown at an astounding rate of 200% over the past five years, with the number of co-working members estimated to rise to over 5 million by 2022 thanks to the huge increase in jobs offering remote working.
Freelancers, contractors and younger companies are choosing co-working spaces over home offices and coffee shops for a range of reasons, including the productive atmosphere, affordable rates, excellent software and good networking opportunities.
Israelis love it and it’s available – especially in the greater metropolitan Tel Aviv – all across the city.
Joining this trend but with the added gain of bringing VALUES to “a generation of instant gratification” is one of the founding enterprising institutions of the state – the KIBBUTZ.
Field Of Dreams
It should come as little surprise. Ideologically and conceptually there are similarities between the kibbutz – a co-operative Israeli farming community – and co-working in so far as shared working space in a collective and congenial atmosphere.
Both aspire to the common goal of increased productivity.
The Kibbutz was traditionally based on agriculture and although many of them have in recent years privatized and branched out to include industrial and high-tech enterprises, they still maintain an enviable community atmosphere hardly found elsewhere.
It is little wonder that Israel’s city dwellers flock to kibbutzim guest houses for weekend retreats and increasingly, young families from urban environments are taking advantage of kibbutzim that have opened up their land for private dwellings. These young couples with kids are opting to live in the countryside and take advantage of the kibbutz’s excellent communal services.
Come Gather ’round
Enter Gather – a new entrepreneurial project that aims to attract “remote workers” to Israel’s kibbutz communities.
A remote worker is someone who works outside of a traditional office. A company might have a team that is a mix both those that work on and off site.
In an interview with NoCamels.com, a news website focusing on Israeli innovation in technology, 30-year-old entrepreneur Omer Har-Shai, co-founder of Gather explains that while “the world has changed,” there’s a trend today “to be part of a community, to belong, and to find meaning,” and that “the idea behind the kibbutz is all the more relevant again.”
Har-Shai came up with the idea to tap into the unique potential of Israel’s kibbutz structure– with its onsite accommodation, mess hall, lush surroundings, community atmosphere, and WiFi – and create a connection with today’s digital generation.
Gather has put out a call for professionals from across the globe to come and stay, work remotely, and experience kibbutz life for a one-month period.
“Over 100 people – graphic designers, writers, freelancers, programmers, designers, bloggers, entrepreneurs and even full-time employees – have written to us so far,” says Har-Shai. “They are from all over the world: Canada, the US, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, different European countries.”
As a former South African, whose first enriching experience of Israel in the early 1970s was volunteering on a kibbutz – inspired by the ideology of the labour Zionist youth movement ‘Habonim’ – I look with keen interests if professionals in South Africans will be attracted to the project.
While once kibbutz communities across Israel attracted tens of thousands of volunteers from abroad, today only a trickle of 20-somethings still come to volunteer and experience the uniquely Israeli communal living style.
Har-Shai says he hopes Gather will revive that legendary kibbutz experience of the 1970s with the adaptations catering to the digital millennial generation.
While still enticed to the uniquely communal agricultural experience of a kibbutz, Har-Shai hopes that Gather will attract new participants “toting laptops and drones instead of shovels and hoes.”
Back To Basics
“The kibbutz experience is still a brand name,” says Har-Shai. “Kibbutzim have gone through economic and social transformations during the past four decades, but the unique atmosphere, scenic surroundings, and communal facilities still exist today. So, there’s really no need to reinvent the wheel, just make the most out of these wonderful communities that already exist.”
There are just over 270 kibbutzim peppered around Israel. In December 2019, Gather will launch its first cohort of up to 25 international professionals in a month-long programme on Kibbutz Kfar Blum, in the Upper Galilee’s Hula Valley.
This will be followed a month later when a second group of some 25 participants will move into guesthouse accommodations at Kibbutz Tuval, in the Galilee on a mountaintop overlooking the town of Karmiel.
That these two kibbutzim were selected resonates with the writer as both attracted over the years, members of the Habonim youth movement from South Africa. They were a hardy and ideologically passionate lot like the late Rona Baram (née Moss-Morris from Durban) who arrived in Palestine from South Africa in the mid-1940s as a law student and trained nurse. Rona had been a member of Habonim in Durban, and “by the time I was 15,” she told the writer in 2005 on the 75th anniversary of Habonim South Africa celebrated on Kibbutz Yizreel, “I was determined to make Aliyah and bear a child in the Land of Israel whose mother tongue would be Hebrew.”
Making her way to Kibbutz Kfar Blum that had been established in 1943 by her Habonim comrades, Rona recalled how “we rode in the back of a lorry carrying rocks for the approach road. I was lucky I came with my gumboots because the place was underwater, and the mud came to our knees. There were only a few buildings on the kibbutz and two families had to share a room.”
Asking how she felt about living in these conditions, Rona answered with a shrug:
“We came to build a country. No one promised us anything. We shared everything. Material things just didn’t mean anything to us then.”
Today it’s a different world where “material things” are paramount but nevertheless, the atmospherics of that bygone lifestyle and its concomitant values still have appeal and are at the core of today’s kibbutz revival.
“People want to travel, see new cultures, but they don’t necessarily want to quit their jobs and leave everything behind,” says Har-Shai. “Today, it is very easy to keep your job and see other places. There are digital nomads, freelancers, and remote workers who have the flexibility to work from anywhere. Even people who don’t usually work remotely can ask for a month to try working from another place.”
While the Gather project is geared to the 25-35 age group, “interest has also come from GAP year college-age students and people in their 50s,” says Har-Shai. “It’s not about age or being from a specific country. We’re looking for people who are open-minded and curious, people who are looking for this kind of experience.”
Here’s The Deal
It’s the vibe but without the socialism. While foreigners used to volunteer in return for accommodation and board, with Gather, participants pay a fee that covers accommodation and shared office space; daily lunch in the kibbutz Hadar Ochel (Dining room); access to kibbutz facilities, often including a swimming pool or tennis courts. Organised activities may include hiking, yoga, lectures and weekend trips to places including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Har-Shai reminds that participants in Gather’s kibbutz experience are not on vacation but to pursue their work with increased vigor in a highly motivated milieu. “They can sublet their apartments and come live in this community for a month. I think people will be more productive on the kibbutz. There is no traffic, no errands, you live on-site and walk three minutes to the office.”
Over and above impressive levels of productivity of people who work from home, a recent two-year study by Stanford University concluded that people who worked remotely were less likely to leave the company for other employment. The study found there was an overall 50% decrease in attrition among home-based workers.
Usually working out of a café in Tel Aviv, it was after working in Nitzana, a remote desert community and youth educational village in southern Israel near the Egyptian border, that “I decided to create a company that would help others work remotely and enjoy a truly Israeli experience at the same time.”
He found the combination of doing physical work on the settlement in the morning “and then on my laptop in the afternoon proved incredibly inspirational and productive.”
He believes that this environment increases productivity because participants will be living “a more balanced life, perhaps starting their day by working in the fields a few hours and eating breakfast in the main mess hall,” before pursuing their professional work.
Searching for the right kibbutzim to meet the needs of remote workers’ needs and finetuning it to a truly revived kibbutz experience for foreign professionals took two years.
Har-shai, who has experience in marketing, sales and business development, shopped around his proposal to 40 kibbutzim across Israel.
Almost all were open to the idea, however, “the two we’ve partnered with to start are both green and beautiful, but different from one another. Kibbutz Tuval is remote and quiet, while Kibbutz Kfar Blum is more traditional with a supermarket and a pub.”
As well as the amazing natural landscape that surrounds kibbutz Tuval, heaving with hiking trails, wildlife, and unlimited outdoor pursuits, it is well located for exploring the Western and Upper Galilee regions, within 40 minutes’ drive of Akko, Safed, Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee, Tiberias, as well as countless historic and religious sites.
“We’ll help each person find the kibbutz that is right for them,” says Har-Shai.
A third Gather location is planned in the Arava, the northeast strip of the Negev desert in the south of the country.
Har-Shai says, “We’re a private startup with no political agenda. I think that when people are living here for a month, they will see the real Israel. A diverse country, with different people; a beautiful country. It’s an interesting country. We’re offering a new approach for the age of Wi-Fi and remote work – living and volunteering on a kibbutz while keeping your day job.”
And while that “day job” feeds our addiction of our beloved technical appliances of computer and cellphone, seeing a tractor routinely pass by on the way to the fields is an enrichening reminder on the core earthy values of life.
*Should you want to spend a month with a group of inspiring professionals from around the world, as you live and work remotely on a beautiful Kibbutz in Israel visit https://www.gatheround.co/ to learn more.
Paradise for some, hell for others – Tel Aviv’s electric scooter craze
ByDavid E. Kaplan
You cannot escape them!
Walk down any street in Tel Aviv, and you’re most likely to be overtaken – not to mention overrun – by electric scooters. For many pedestrians – from young parents pushing prams to seniors strolling with extra care – a common opinionated exclamation:
“They’re a menace!”
Some may animatedly add an expletive before the word: “MENACE”!
Not so, says Yair who the writer briefly interviewed at a traffic light along Tel Aviv’s famed Dizengoff Street. “It’s a pain taking the car, getting stuck in traffic and then hassling to find parking; you can waste half your day!”
Adjacent to him on her scooter was his wife, Lucy, appearing notably pregnant.
Facing the reality that soon there will be three in the family, “I suspect this might all change very soon,” said Lucy with an all-knowing maternal smile.
For the most part, residents in Tel Aviv, are embracing electric scooters and their smart-phone rental systems, using them to zip along avoiding the heavy traffic. Tourists are catching on too.
“Julie, where have I caught you,” I asked my friend visiting from abroad. “On the way to the beach on a hired electric scooter,” she replied.
A few years ago, I would have been surprised – maybe even shocked.
It’s a lot quicker and cheaper than the alternatives such as a bus or taxi. “It’s so convenient and accessible” all users agree. The app on the phone informs where the nearest available scooter is located.
“It’s so easy; I go to the beach, I stop there, I use the app and that’s all. Also, its fun.”
Tel Aviv lends itself to this trend.
Tel Aviv had already adjusted to the two-wheel trend building bike lanes all around the city. The city has approximately 70km of marked bike lanes. Some of them are on sidewalks in the city and some are outside the city center, in the neighborhoods and parks.
The sunny weather, flat landscape and constant traffic jams make the scooters an appealing option.
There are now around 7,500 electric scooters available, in addition to the thousands of bicycles and electric bikes already on the streets.
Doing It My Way
The industrial designer who started it all is Nimrod Sapir, responsible for Inokim, the lightweight, folding electric scooter brand that’s taken Tel Aviv, and much of Israel, by storm. In Japanese “Inokim” means “speed” and Sapir is a guy on the move – and in a hurry!
As he told ISRAEL21c “I’m always cycling, rollerblading, roller-skating. It’s a personal thing for me; I always want to get to places quickly.”
Turned-on by the electric scooter way back in 1999, “still with the old batteries and antiquated motors,” he became hell-bent on creating a better product, and launched his first electric scooter in 2011 under the brand name MyWay. This was before moving on to partner with Israeli entrepreneur Kfir Ben Shushan in 2014, changing the brand name to Inokim and driving up sales.
Today, the folding e-scooter is shaping the future of urban transport.
The two other main brands currently operating in Tel Aviv are US Bird and German Wind.
Bird recently announced that about 250,000 people have used its app-based, dockless e-scooter-sharing service in Tel Aviv for more than two million rides since August 2018.
Bird Israel general manager Yaniv Rivlin says, “Israel was selected by the company’s managers as one of the first targets for expansion outside the US.”
Ben Shuhan is not deterred by the many competitors in the market. “Demand is much higher than supply, and we think it will increase. This is a supplementary transportation solution that more and more people are adopting. Today, the problem is finding an available or charged e-scooter for riding, especially near the railway stations, which are the places with the highest demand. Among the competition, it’s hard to find an e-scooter fit to ride in the afternoon. There’s room for more players.”
Why have electric scooters become so popular?
Sapir emphasizes “You need no skills – it’s easy to use, easy to ride, easy to get from place to place.”
This is why, he contends that scooters are still leading over other electric mobility options such as electric bikes and hoverboards.
Furthermore, “None of them are as safe as an electric scooter, where you hold a bar in your hands. That gives you a very great feeling of comfort and safety.”
Solution Not The Problem
Asked by, Globes that with Israeli sidewalks becoming increasingly crowded, whether the trend is sustainable in the long term, Ben Shushan replied:
“We’re trying to form as many partnerships as we can with several mayors. The municipalities can also profit and realize that we’re the solution, not the problem. In any case, we’ll work strictly according to regulations, so we also reached agreements with 500 businesses, including 150 parking lots in Tel Aviv, that we can use as stations for renting if we can’t leave them spread around the public space.”
To the question whether renting detracts from marketing e-scooters for sale, Ben Shushan, replied not at all.
“Since our competitors entered the market, our sales have grown by 30%. Awareness of e-scooters has only increased. Here, too, it’s a win-win situation for us.”
“We want to be in every big city in the world, focusing on businesspeople for transportation in downtown areas. You can carry it with you on the train or bus, or you can put it in your trunk and park your car outside the city for far less.”
Designed in Israel, Inokim electric scooters, are sold in 15 countries as a smart green solution for mobility in large cities.
Sapir has won several industry awards as the first electric scooter designer to overcome the tradeoff between performance and weight: Inokim scooters are not only attractive and robust but also quick-folding and lightweight.
“That’s why we stand out,” he told ISRAEL21c.
Apart from the three obvious factors for the electric scooter’s popularity in Tel Aviv:
quick arrival at destination
Sapir adds that the electric scooter is a perfect fit with the Israeli mindset. “Israelis are lazy about walking, always in a hurry and always trying to do too many things at the same time” – the ideal
candidate. And then, when you further add to this cauldron of personality traits that “Israelis are also very fast to adopt technologies or new trends,” it goes a long way to explain why electric scooters are so prominent on the country’s urban roads.
Its impact on city life is immense, Sapir notes.
“First of all,” he says, “I’d like to think it is reducing the four-wheeled cars in the city, and I believe it has. You can imagine that all the users of these electric scooters gave up other ways of transportation.”
Secondly, he’d like to believe that some people have even given up their private cars thanks to the scooters, “which they can easily fold up and carry on the train or bus and take to the office.”
The popularity, he contends, leads to the third observation, and that is the age ranges of users.
“Before, I would say it was 30 to 45, but now there’s no limit,” he says.
“Young people use it; old people use it — there’s really no limit.”
What’s the inventors favorite scooter route in the city?
“The tayelet from Tel Aviv Port to Jaffa. I always take my visitors there,” he says, referring to the city’s seaside promenade.
“It’s very unique,” he adds. “You have the city on your left and the beach on your right.”
In The Family Way
At a beachside restaurant, the writer coincidentally bumps into again Yair and Lucy enjoying a lavish lunch. Beside their table laden with food are parked unobtrusively their two electric scooters.
Methinks in a few months’ time, when they may be back at the restaurant, adjacent to the table will be in place of the two scooters – one baby pram!