Politics Schmolitics: US Presidential Elections, Israel/Jewish Elections Blog, Bush’s Visit to Israel

January 9, 2008
Image sourced from the City of Everett, Massachusetts

Israel Elections Blog

For some time now, I have been trying to decide whether to start a blog following the Jewish and Israeli issues in the 2008 US presidential elections. It would observe and analyze voters’ and candidates’ priorities, behaviors, and values on key issues of concern.

Therefore, I have two questions for you:

  1. Is this something that you add value to your life? Would you read it? Is it something you feel we need or that you would want to have?
  2. Would you be interested in collaborating on such a project?

Let me know. If I start one, I want to do it fairly soon while we are still just starting the primary season. As far as I am aware– and I have done significant searching– no blog like this exists, only bloggers posting intermittent posts and official news sources.

UPDATE! I have decided not to go in the direction of creating an Israeli/Jewish US elections blog. Since this posting, the JTA has released its Election Central 2008 website and the Jerusalem Post has made their election coverage much more complete, which accomplishes the same purpose, but with significantly more resources. President Bush’s visit to Israel has additionally spurred on more election coverage from the Israeli blogosphere.

The goal of any good blog is to find a yet unfulfilled niche and cover it as completely as possible to give your readers maximum coverage. My blog would no longer fit these criteria, so I am excited to be moving on to other great projects– but take note, I’ll be reading and listening. Thanks for your feedback for those who weighed in on this issue.

(Updated Sunday, January 13th, 2007)

Absentee Voting from Israel

To my American readers: a quick reminder that you most likely still have time to register to vote by absentee ballot in the primaries.

Click here to download a voter registration form (which needs to be faxed with a signature).

You can get more information on the specifics of your last state of residence from the Overseas Vote Foundation.

I try to keep politics out of this blog, but we need to think of Israel’s future relationship with the United States. It’s just a reality.

P.S. Absentee voting means no hanging chads.

President Bush Visits Israel


And lastly, President Bush has just arrived in Jerusalem and the whole city has shut down as a result. Here’s an excerpt of my Global Voices Online post.

“American President George W. Bush is arriving in Israel today and for once, English speaking Israelis have little to say. Views fall primarily into two camps:

  • Complaints about the short-term discomfort that high security will cause Jerusalemites in their daily routines
  • Concern about new rockets launched from Lebanon and ongoing attacks from Gaza hailing Bush’s visit

During his two-day stay, Bush’s primary purpose is to monitor and encourage the peace talks between the Israeli government and Palestinian Authority with the goal of establishing a Palestinian state in 2008. While in Israel, he will meet with PA President Mahmoud Abbas and later with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

President Bush’s last visit to Israel was in 1998, shortly before his first term as president.

The visit will cost Israel an unbelievable $25,000 an hour in security and force closings of all main streets for the next two days.”

Read more here.



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Israel Philanthropy Update: 40 Iranian Jews Arrive in Israel with Help of Jewish Agency

December 26, 2007


Welcome Home!
Photo by Temple Beth El (San Antonio, TX)

Forty new immigrants from Iran arrived in Israel yesterday, marking this year’s emigration from Iran at 200 (up from 65 last year). The newcomers will settle in the South where they will begin Hebrew language classes and begin making the transition to an Israeli way of life.

Donations from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews will help them start their life here, as each new immigrant will receive $10,000 on top of their aliyah benefits.YehudaAmichai

It reminds me of an excerpt from a Yehuda Amichai poem, “All the Generations Before Me,”

All the generations before me
donated me, bit by bit, so that I’d be
erected all at once
here in Jerusalem, like a house of prayer…

This post updates: “Iranian Jews Offered $10,000 Each to Come to Israel. Read the rest of this entry »

From Page to Screen: The 15 Richest Fictional Characters (According to Forbes)

December 24, 2007

A little bit of humor to brighten you day. Who are the richest of the rich fictional characters? From Scrooge McDuck to Lucius Malfoy, the answers may surprise you.

Here they are in all their literary glory:


  1. Scrooge McDuck, $28.8 billion
  2. Ming the Merciless, $20.9 billion
  3. Richie Rich, $16.1 billion
  4. Mom, $15.7 billion
  5. Jed Clampett, $11 billion
  6. C. Montgomery Burns, $8.4 billion
  7. Carter Pewterschmidt, $7.2 billion
  8. Bruce Wayne, $7 billion
  9. Thurston Howell III, $6.3 billionWillyWonka
  10. Tony Stark, $6 billion
  11. Fake Steve Jobs, $5.7 billion
  12. Gomez Adams, $2. billion
  13. Willy Wonka, $1.9 billion
  14. Lucius Malfoy, $1.6 billion
  15. Princess Peach, $1.3 billion

Pop Quiz: Can you match the correct billionaire with his/her information? Try your hand.


  • “Tongues continue to wag concerning —‘s longtime habit of keeping teenage boys as ‘wards,’ rumored rubber suit fetish”
  • This billionaire’s hosting habits have been marked as needing improvement: “Saudi Aramco delegation reportedly offended after being served lunch of “possum-fried critter” by provocatively attired —“
  • “Literally swims in gold coins for exercise”
  • “Descendant of Castilian royalty and British aristocrats owes fortune to quirky–and lucky–investment style: bought a swamp for “scenic value,” subsequently discovered massive oil deposit underneath; purchased mummified hand at flea market”
  • Upon having his mansion ransacked for the environmental disaster he brought upon his community, told his assistant: “I don’t believe in suicide, but if you’d like to try it, it might cheer me up to watch”
  • “Majority stockholder in Cisco Systems, primary investor in Facebook…invented robot maid, solid gold cellphone, e-mail spam engine….flew iceberg from the North Pole to — so friends could go skating”
  • “A convicted criminal and — prison escapee, miraculously managed to avoid being sent back to jail thanks to well-timed ‘donations’ to charities… In June, attempted to corner the global cauldron market”

(Answers below.)

Recommended ReadingGomezAdams

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:

And the answers to our pop quiz…. drum roll, please….

Read the rest of this entry »

Arab Literacy: Knowledge Transfer and Translation in the Arab World

December 9, 2007

KafkaOnTheShore Kalima

Into Arabic: Translation in the Arab World

Did you know that more books were translated into Spanish last year that have been translated into Arabic in the past 1,000 years?* That’s saying something serious about the cultural exchange between Arabia and the rest of the world.

So what’s the significance?

BrieferHistoryofTime Kalima

Thousands of books are published every year. Books– and the words therein– represent thinking, ideas, and conversation. Books in translation mark ideas and knowledge transfer across global cultures and communities. Without reading writings from other cultures, we can’t learn their thoughts firsthand, we can only speculate as to their thinking through their actions and policies.

If the Arab world is not translating books, it either means that their people are so proficiently multi-lingual that there is no need (the ultimate cultural connoisseurs) are they are not partaking in the exchange at all.

From common sense, we can legitimately deduce that no world culture today is sufficiently globally literate as to forgo translation.

(* Source. Pictured: Kafka on the Shore, A Briefer History of Time)

The Kalima Project

ArabRootsofCapitalism Kalima

A translation project in the United Arab Emirates is trying to change this. The Kalima Project, a government sponsored endeavor, recently announced that they will translate, publish, and distribute hundreds of books throughout the Middle East.

Terry Teachout of the Wall Street Journal asks us to think about what books we would want included to best portray American culture. I can’t help but thinking that’s a little like the question of what to bring to a desert island (seeing as I equate water and books with survival).

Here are the titles on Kalima’s to do list. The first 6 translations are:

Kalima encourages you to leave your suggestions for future translations (coming soon). I will also be interested in following their discussion board, which is currently under construction.

(Pictured: The Roots of Arab Capitalism)

Arab Literacy

FutureofHumanNature Kalima

Curious as to Kalima’s viability? According to a survey by the Next Page Foundation, 75% of literate Arabs are regular readers, with the most bookish among them hailing from Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

You may also be interested in reading about the Next Page Foundation’s Arabooks Iniatives, a translation project whose goals mirror that of the Kalima Project. Look to the link for the foundation’s surveys and findings.

(Pictured: The Future of Human Nature)

Read the rest of this entry »

Syria Says No To Facebook: Bloggers Talk Back

November 27, 2007

MiddleEast Satellite

In my continuing series to examine Facebook’s integration in Middle Eastern and Muslim countries comes the news: Syria says no to Facebook.

It is widely believed that the Syrian government’s blocking of Facebook is intended to shut down freedom of speech that might endanger the existing government.


Blocking websites and net applications is nothing new for Syria. Newspapers published from abroad are blocked for fear of the ideas they might contain.

But is it a knee jerk reaction for the West to criticize Syria in this way? At this point in world history, we have the incredible advantage of going to Syrian bloggers to find out what is the word on the street. How do average Syrians react to this development?

Opinions from the Syrian Cyber-Street

Here are some opinions from the street. The Jerusalem Post has collected the following feedback:

Ammar al-Qurabi, Head of the National Association of Human Rights in Syria:

“We have asked officials and they said Facebook could become a conduit for Israeli penetration of our youth, but the real reason for blocking the forum is because it provides for criticism of the authorities. Now there is an ‘Internet Political Crimes’ ward at one prison. Internet cafes have been required to limit their communications services.”

Dania al-Sharif, women’s rights advocate:

“Facebook helped to further civil society in Syria and form civic groups outside government control. That is why it has been banned.”

Mais al-Sharbaji, professional photographer and former Facebook user:

“They cut off communications between us and the outside world. We are used to this behavior from our government.”

Syrian Bloggers Speak

Tamara of MidEast Youth had this to say:


“The Syrian people are smart enough to make up their own minds about what is going on in the world. And from my point of view the Syrian government has little to fear of its people.

It is only with real freedom that the people can stand by their governments, and help protect their nation. Allow the Syrian people to be humanised, to be seen and to be heard, so that we can avoid another war.”

Golaniya asserts:

“My theory? I think the Syrian officials don’t have a thorough idea how Syrians are facebooking, I think they did not block Facebook–the-site, but the unfamiliar reaction to this site, the unknown consequences of this reaction that might be very much, uncontrolled!”

Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook in Turkey: What Makes Turkey #1?

November 22, 2007


In honor of Turkey Day, today I will be talking about why Turkey is the number one fastest growing network on Facebook.

Thanksgiving is primarily about two things: Turkey (or good food in general) and social networking (reconnecting with old friends and family and meeting new people). This entry is about the exact same thing: Turkey and social connections– on Facebook.

Recommended reading: “Israel Facebook Network Goes Viral: Cultural Reporting from the Front Lines” (I will be referring to it frequently in this entry as the basis for discussion and to determine what we know and what we don’t about Facebook networks and exponential growth.)

Fastest Growing Networks of Facebook: Turkey & Israel

As I wrote about earlier, Turkey and Israel are the number one and two fastest growing networks on Facebook. We deduced that Israel’s Facebook penetration depends on three primary factors:


  1. English literacy— even though Facebook is enabled for Hebrew and Arabic scripts, the menus, navigation, and applications beyond these insular communities require dexterity with the English language and alphabet both as a reader and writer
  2. Facility with technology— known worldwide for its technological expertise and the technological saturation of the population as a whole, Israel is considered a very adaptive culture and population
  3. Cultural role of social networking— Israel is widely acknowledged as a communal society where connections are key to social functioning. Facebook enhances and feeds into this inclination

What can we learn about Turkey and Turkish young adult culture that would lead us to similar insights? Let’s figure out what there is to know.

Facebook’s Turkey Network

Let’s examine the basics.

  • Facebook’s Turkish network at time of writing: 1,124,590*
  • Language: Turkish (distinct language, but written with Latin alphabet like English)

* It has grown to 1,129,750 by the time I publish some hours later. That’s a growth of 5,100+ over about four hours, higher even than Israel’s 1,700 for the same period of time. What accounts for numbers that high?

Read the rest of this entry »

Billionaire Jews: Bloomberg, Lauren, and Lauder Top Forbes’ List (it’s not who you think)

November 22, 2007


‘Tis the season to be ranking, tra la la la la, la la la la.

In keeping track of all the lists currently being released, I came across Forbes’ list of the “20 Most Intriguing Billionaire Heiresses.”

Gracing the list were three lovely young women who (theoretically) could show up in a shul near you. They are: Georgina Bloomberg, daughter of New York Mayor and possible presidential hopeful, Michael Bloomberg; Dylan Lauren, daughter of fashion king Ralph Lauren and owner of Dylan’s Candy Bar; and Aerin Lauder Zinterhofer of Lauder cosmetic fame.

Let’s take a brief look at our budding billionairesses.

A Brief Note on Family Names


  • Estee Lauder, grandmother of Aerin, was born Josephine Esther Mentzer. She married Joseph Lauter and they changed their names to Lauder before starting the company
  • Ralph Lauren, father of Dylan, was born to Fraydl Kotlar and Frank Lifshitz. His birth name was Ralph Lifshitz (pictured right)
  • As you can guess, the Bloomberg name remained the same

On a gossipy note, the stories of Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein, nee Richard Klein, are often compared as they grew up in the same era, same Bronx neighborhood, and of similar Eastern European Jewish backgrounds. Klein and ex-wife Jayne Centre had one daughter, Marci, who is 33.

Georgina Bloomberg


The young Ms. Bloomberg, 22, is well known for her love of horses. She is the founder of Riders Closet, an organization which collects and distributes used riding gear and equipment to collegiate horse lovers. Bloomberg is seeking a place on the 2008 Olympic team as a championship rider.


Emma, the elder Bloomberg daughter (who did not make the list), earned top honors at Princeton and went on to Harvard to do a joint masters in public policy and business. She was a key player in her father’s mayoral campaign.

Georgina Bloomberg’s net worth is $11.5 billion.

Read more about Bloomberg here and Riders Closet here and here.

Read the rest of this entry »