Friday, November 9, 2012

Opinion: On Eve Of GA, Time For Federations To Wake Up

Andres Spokoiny
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of one of the most influential books in the history of science, Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.” In addition to describing how new ideas overtake the old, the work also coined the term “paradigm shift,” which, to Kuhn’s dismay, became a sort of over-encompassing management buzzword.

But despite its overwhelming relevance, Kuhn’s lesson hasn’t been fully internalized, and the world of Jewish communal organizations is no exception.

According to Kuhn, scientists cling to ideas long after they should reasonably have discarded them: old paradigms resist dying. When scientists start to see “anomalies” in their models, they generally ignore or dismiss them. Even when an anomaly can’t be ignored, they find ways to explain them away in a fashion that ultimately keeps the old paradigm intact.

Over time, the “anomalies” pile up. Better measurements make evident more errors in the calculations. And scientists added more epicycles. Finally, Copernicus unveiled the truth: the geocentric paradigm itself was wrong.

Looking at the federation system on the eve of its major annual convention, the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, taking place in Baltimore this week, it’s obvious that anomalies are piling up. -- Andres Spokoiny, NY Jewish Week

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Can you learn creativity? Yes, says researches at Tel Aviv University

One of a series of photos shown to the schoolchildren.
(Photo courtesy of Prof. Nira Liberman)

‘Expansive thinking’ primes young minds to think creatively, according to an Israeli university study on children.

Kids can actually be taught to think creatively, according to a study by researchers at Tel Aviv University's School of Psychological Sciences. The key concept is "expansive" thought, where children are encouraged to think about distant objects and perspectives instead of those in their immediate surroundings.

It’s not hard to get kids thinking in this way, says Prof. Nira Liberman, who supervised the study of 55 children aged six to nine from Ra’anana and Ramat Hasharon.

Her psychology students Maayan Blumenfeld, Boaz Hameiri and Orli Polack showed half of the subjects a series of photographs that started with nearby objects and gradually progressed to more distant ones — from a close-up of the pencil sitting on their school desk progressing to a picture of the Milky Way galaxy. The other half was shown exactly the same photographs but in reverse order.

After looking at the photographs, both groups of children completed an abbreviated version of the Tel Aviv Creativity Test (TACT), in which they were given an object and asked to describe different possible uses for it. Points are given for the number of uses mentioned and the creativity of the use.

The children who viewed the series of photos from close to far away, the “expansive thinking group,” scored significantly better on all of the creativity measures, coming up with a greater number of uses and more creative uses for the objects. -- By Avigayil Kadesh, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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Holocaust denier Toben’s defamation case against Jewish leader is tossed by Australian federal court

A federal judge in Australia struck down a defamation case by Holocaust denier Dr. Fredrick Toben against a Jewish leader, Jeremy Jones.

Judge David Yates of the Australia Federal Court last week ordered Toben, a convicted Holocaust denier living in Adelaide in Australia, to pay costs in the case he lodged against Jones, a former president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.

Yates also ordered that the proceedings be stayed permanently, saying in his judgment that it was "an abuse of the court's process."

Toben claimed he had been defamed by a 2009 article written by Jones in the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council magazine stating that Toben was an anti-Semite.

The native of Germany was jailed in 2009 for contempt of a court order banning him from publishing anti-Semitic material on his website. He also had spent several months in prison in Germany in 1999 for denying the Holocaust.

Toben was declared bankrupt in September. -- JTA

Israeli 5-in-1 tool for rescuers creates design buzz

It wasn’t any rare Israeli earthquake, or his stint in the army as a tank commander, that inspired Tamir Niv to design a low-cost tool for digging survivors out from under the rubble.

It was two winters ago, when Japan was ravaged by a tsunami and America was facing some of its worst tornados on record, that Niv had his Eureka moment on how to invent a simple tool to save lives before and after emergency assistance arrives.

“It was the winter of many natural disasters,” 30-year-old industrial design student Niv tells ISRAEL21c: “I could see what was happening in the news and learn from it. Looking at all the images and reports from the US and Japan, I saw that many of the buildings were constructed from wood –– light construction. This is unlike in Israel, where everything is made from cement.”

This unlucky winter inspired him to fulfill a challenge — industrial design for a natural disaster – presented to his class at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. -- Karin Kloosterman, Israel21c

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Israel extends Daylight Savings Time

Israel's Knesset passed a bill extending Daylight Savings Time.

The bill, which passed its second and third reading Monday night, sets the change to Daylight Savings Time for the first Sunday after Oct. 1, making it 193 days a year -- 11 more than under its previous law.

Under a law passed in 2005, Israel is required to move to Standard Time on the Sunday morning before Yom Kippur, which falls anywhere in September and half of October each year.

Haredi Orthodox parties opposed the measure, saying that ending Daylight Savings Time before Yom Kippur makes the 25-hour fast easier since it ends earlier.

Israel this year changed back to Standard Time in mid-September, more than a month before the United States. -- JTA

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Israel Flying Aid Gives Food, Generators, Gas To Hurricane Sandy New York, New Jersey Victims

Roger Parrott, Jacob Parrott and Joel Leyden deliver a generator and
gas to a Hurricane Sandy New York victim. Photo: Rebecca McCann / INA
Israel Flying Aid, the Israeli global humanitarian organization which was first to land in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake, has been distributing large supplies of gas to hospitals, food, batteries and generators to Hurricane Sandy victims.

"We have many years of disaster relief experience," said Israel Flying Aid North American Operations Manager Moti Kahana.
"Israel Flying Aid, in having Israelis on the ground here in New York and New Jersey, have made Israel the only foreign nation to provide humanitarian assistance to the US during this disaster. We are working in coordination with FEMA, local police, the American Red Cross and Jewish communities in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut."

Kahana said that most of the efforts had been donated by Israelis living in the US and this enabled gas to be distributed to hospitals in New York and New Jersey.

Joel Leyden, an Israel Flying Aid Operations Specialist who was with the IFA in Haiti, has been working with the Greater Hartford Jewish Community to distribute both food and generators on Long Island.

"We had a convoy of food and generators move out of the Greater Hartford area early yesterday morning," said Leyden. -- Karen Levy, Israel News Agency

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Workers at Israeli daily Maariv walk off the job

The staff of Maariv has gone on strike for the first time in the Israeli daily newspaper's 64-year history.

The Hebrew-language paper was not printed Wednesday and its website NRG has not been updated since Tuesday evening, when the employees walked off the job.

The action comes following the newspaper's sale to Shlomo Ben Zvi, who the strikers say has violated the collective agreement he signed with them.

Ben Zvi said Tuesday that a percentage of the current employees would be absorbed into the new ownership's operation, but at a lower salary to be determined by new negotiations.

"Maariv's employees want to know how many of them will be hired and what the newspaper's structure will be," the workers said in a statement, according to the Globes business daily.

Ben Zvi called the strike a breach of the collective agreement.

The lead story on the NRG website deals with the employee strike. There is no mention of the U.S. presidential election.

Maariv, which has been critical of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing goverment, is the third most read Hebrew-language paper in Israel behind Yediot Achronot and Israel Hayom. -- JTA

Opinion: Lévy says Jews of Diaspora and Israel are under attack

Photo by Ariel Jerozolimski

Prominent French-Jewish intellectual says the Jewish people are facing a twin threat of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. -- Jeremy Sharon, Jerusalem Post

To read more, click here.

Young, Jewish and Going to Israel

Taglit-Birthright has given away 300,000 10-day trips, hoping to stir an appreciation of Jewish heritage. -- Naomi Schaeffer Riley, Wall Street Journal

To read more, click here.

Also see the Huffington Post article.

Also see the Jerusalem Post article.

FAA says Israel complies with international aviation standards, upgrades safety rating

The Federal Aviation Administration says Israel is now complying with international aviation standards and its U.S. safety rating has been upgraded.

The FAA said Thursday the decision to return Israel to the list of nations the U.S. says meet international safety standards was based on an FAA review in October of the country’s civil aviation authority. -- Associated Press, --Associated Press via Washington Post

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Worried about the Syria war, Golan Heights Druze seek Israeli citizenship

Photo: Ruth Eglash for USA TODAY)
They may officially pledge allegiance to Syrian President Bashar Assad, but with civil war raging just across the border and Assad's cruelty impossible to deny, some Druse on Israel's Golan Heights are finally turning toward becoming citizens of Israel. --  Ruth Eglash, USA Today

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Christian Arab youth come under fire over desire to enlist in IDF

Arab media and Arab MKs are waging a vicious smear campaign against a small group of Christian Arab youth interested in military or national service • Christian Orthodox priest excommunicated for "cooperating with the enemy." -- Danny Brenner, Israel Hayom

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Israel declassifies soldier’s account of killing PLO leader

Israel’s military censor authorized for publication the testimony of an army officer who said he killed PLO co-founder Abu Jihad in 1988.

Nahum Lev, the commander of the operation that ended in Abu Jihad’s death in Tunis, told a reporter for Yediot Achronot in an interview before his own death in 2000 that he had killed Abu Jihad, who co-founded the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Lev died in a car accident. The censor only recently lifted a ban on publication, and the interview appeared in last Friday's paper.

Israel never assumed responsibility for the attack on the house of Abu Jihad, whose real name was Khalil al-Wazir.

On April 15, 1988, a day prior to the operation, commando units were ferried to the Tunisian shore, Lev told Yediot Achronot.

Twenty-six members of the force were divided into groups. Lev was in the first group of eight that was designated to break into Abu Jihad’s house. The rest were to serve as reinforcements. They stopped a third of a mile from his home.

At the house, the break-in unit killed two bodyguards and a gardener on the premises.  

“It seemed like Abu Jihad was holding a pistol in his hand,” Lev said.

“I shot him with a long burst of fire," recounted Lev, the first religious officer in the elite commando unit Sayeret Matkal. "I was careful not to hurt his wife, who had showed up there. He died. The extra forces came and made sure he was dead.”

Abu Jihad was believed to have been the mastermind of several deadly attacks in Israel and to have helped coordinate the first intifada. -- JTA

Report: Bank account of Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem seized

The Israeli bank account of the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem was seized because of unpaid water bills, an Israeli newspaper reported.

Hagihon, an independent corporation established by the municipality of Jerusalem, imposed the seizure 10 days ago over a $2.5 million debt accumulated at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is under the church’s stewardship, according to a Maariv report on Friday.

Theophilos III, the Greek church's patriarch, is planning to write to President Obama and other world leaders to protest the seizure, the report said.

The municipality of Jerusalem has traditionally waived payment on water by the church out of recognition of its immense significance to countless of Christians all over the world and the tourist traffic it brings, the report by investigative journalist Kalman Liebskind said.

The first demand for payment came in 2004 and was ignored by the church authorities. Negotiations reached a deadlock, and Hagihon filed for repossession of the church’s assets.

The Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem, which is headquartered at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, has been unable to pay salaries to its clergymen and utilities because of the freeze, the report said.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is said to contain the place where Jesus was buried. -- JTA