Foto Friday – Wiki Loves Monuments Israel

Wiki Loves Monuments is an annual photo contest that spans 35 countries and provides valuable enhancements to Wikipedia articles about national heritage sites. Wiki Loves Monuments Israel is a photography contest organized by Wikimedia Israel, as part of the international competition. If you’ve got pictures to share, there are a few days left before this year’s competition closes on October 15, 2012.

The contest is sponsored by Piki-Wiki — a joint project of WikiMedia Israel, the Israel Internet Association (ISOC-IL) and the Center for Educational Technology (CET) as part of promoting the concept of free content on the Web — Google Israel, the Galitz School of Photography, the Israel Museum Information Center for Israeli Art and the Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites (SPIHS), which locates, restores and preserves heritage sites in Israel.

Beit HaTira (Castle House), Haifa. Photo by Dan Amr.

Amateur and professional photographers are welcome to submit pictures in accordance with the map below or by referring to an online list of national heritage sites in Israel.

View Larger Map

Images should then submitted via an upload wizard on Wikimedia Commons. A simple registration required but the site is in Hebrew, so you may have to use Google Translate to navigate.

The international contest offered an official contest Android app, available via the Google store, but it isn’t clear whether the app still works. Worth a try, though, if you have an Android smart-phone.

1916 Turkish railway bridge at Nahal Beersheva. Photo by Hayoun Rosenfeld.

The contest offers three prizes: First place: NIS 5,000, Second place: NIS 3,000, Third place: NIS 2000, plus a Crowd Favorite Award of NIS 2,000.

Talpiot Market, Haifa. Photo by Eric Neemann.

In addition, the 10 images that receive the highest score will be sent to international competition where they will be eligible for other prizes.

The winning 10 photographs will also be displayed in an exhibition at Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Center mall from November 14 to December 1.

Presidential limousine, Haim Weizmann residence, Weizmann Institute. Photo by Grey Elf.

Photos will be judged on the following criteria: overall quality (photo technique, composition, resolution); originality and last but not least, how useful the image is to the Wikipedia encyclopedia (low resolution images will not be considered).

Montefiore Windmill during renovation, Jerusalem. Photo by Baruch Gian.

The photos must be the work of the person uploading the image and must be uploaded under a free (Creative Commons) license, meaning that the author acknowledges that the image will be used for any purpose as long as proper credit to photograph is given and that the license allow use of images in Wikipedia and other projects of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Water tower at Beerot Yitzhak. Photo by Zev Rothkoff.

Historic images are allowed. For example, contestants may upload a photo of a heritage site that was taken by them in the 1950s.

The judges’ decision and awards ceremony will be held on November 12, and the decision on the international winners will be announced on December 21.

The photos will also become part of the Israel Museum Information Center for Israeli Art, which is responsible for documenting and cataloging information and works by Israeli artists.

So, join the world’s largest photo contest and help Wikipedia in the process! All the of the above images are in the running for the Crowd Favorite Award — click on this link to vote for your favorite.

There are still a few more days until the contest closes on 15th October. For any questions, contact the organizers at

Nostalgia Sunday – Good old Simchat Torah flags

All these new-fangled flags! (See Brian and David’s posts below). It’s enough to bring out the curmudgeon in any nostalgia buff. Although, in actuality, the images on Simchat Torah flags have always changed with the times — and with technology.

It’s easy to understand why: the delicate papercuts of 17th century Ashkenaz seldom survived the manhandling (or is that child-handling?) on the part of their owners, and so needed to be replaced and updated. This became even easier to do with the proliferation of print, although again, most flags fell victim to fingers sticky from candied apples or were burned up by the lit candles traditionally affixed to their masts.

For these reasons, very few early Simchat Torah flags exist. Fortunately, there are some intrepid archivists out there whose collections were presented last year at the Eretz Israel Museum in Ramat Aviv.

Erez Israel Museum exhibition of Simhat Torah flags

The formation of the Zionist movement brought about another change in Simchat Torah flags. According to collector Arie Reichman in an essay for NRG, a 1902 flag printed in Russia bore images of movement leaders Theodor Herzl and Max Nordau. Other themes included Jewish settlement and agriculture in the Land of Israel.

With the founding of the State of Israel — in particular following the Sinai Campaign of 1956, according to Reichman — images of Israel’s military began appearing on flags, reaching an apex after the Six Day War.

Some great examples from the collections of Arie Reichman and Dr. Haim Grossman, may be viewed on the excellent site and on my Nostalgia Sunday posting from 2008.

Israel’s plastics industry developed in the 1970s and with it came the “mutations”, as Reichman terms them: washable, reusable plastic flags that came in non-traditional shapes: circles and squares. Computer graphics gave rise to photo-montage imagery and inexpensive, safe-to-the-touch LEDs have replaced candles (as in the image above).

According to a 2010 interview with David Sela, expert in Israeliana as well as the owner and curator of, the newest wrinkle in Simchat Torah flags at that time were the Shas flags, decorated with images of the party’s political and spiritual leaders (available for purchase here).

Channel 10 interview with Davidi Sela,

So the new Masorti Movement and Tevel B’Tzedek ‘Shalom’ flags are part of a grand old tradition of adaptation. And who knows, with the print industry in flux and the rise of mobile computing, in a decade we may be waving our flexible screens aloft, Simchat Torah apps a-blazing, dancing alongside the parchment scrolls that do not change.

Bar Rephaeli makes Israel proud

October 4, 2012 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: A New Reality, Entertainment, General, Pop Culture, Technology 

Israeli model, Bar Refaeli has shown what’s important in the world – and hinted at a future as a talented comedienne – by recording a fake Kickstarter appeal to help her make a live sex tape.

The appeal appears on the Will Ferrel-founded comedy site, and it is indeed a hoot. The 27-year-old Refaeli straightfaces her way through the bit in which she explains she needs $10,000 for an HD camera to make her dream of an X-rated film. It includes lines like: “I would like to make a sex tape. A tape of me having sex with a dude. Sex in many positions for just a few hours,” and “I know what you’re thinking. Who would want to watch that? I’m not sure myself.” and “But maybe a small audience might want to watch me having sex. After all I’m really good at it.”

Adding to the hilarity is the tally shown behind her, which starts exploding with each risqué line. Men start appearing at her window with cash as she explains that with the proper donation, they could be candidates to share her bed. And when she opens the way for women to be her special one, the numbers go wild, reaching $925 million.

Refaeli joins a line of A-listers like actresses Eva Mendes, Charlize Theron and Eva Longoria who have also made fake sex tapes for the website. But enough description, enjoy the clip yourself and don’t forget to donate!

Foto Friday – The Seven Species

The biblical Seven Species (shiva’at ha-minim) are seven agricultural products listed in Deuteronomy 8:8 as typifying the bounty of the Land of Israel. There are two grains — wheat and barley — and five fruits — grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and/or olive oil, and dates and/or date-honey (silan), which is alternately interpreted as honey.

At Sukkot, the Seven Species are traditionally used as decorative motifs all over the Jewish world. In Israel, however, they are actually harvested at this season and, like all things Israeli, these ancient fruits of the land are being adapted to the modern world.

Wheat, for example. In 1906, on a trip to Rosh Pina, agronomist, botanist and underground Zionist leader Aaron Aaronsohn discovered wild emmer (Triticum dicoccoides), also known as “the mother of wheat” — one of the first crops domesticated in the Near East. To paraphrase Wikipedia, Aaronsohn’s discovery was an important one as emmer (also known as farro) can be grown in areas with poor soil providing countries around the world with the ability “to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development and support sustainable landcare”.

More recently, an Israeli evolutionary biologist has found hard evidence of global warming in the changes found in wheat and barley plants. On a more cheerful note, Israeli microbreweries are using wheat and barley to good effect… and according to Israel21c, they’ve brewed up Pomegranate Ale in time for the High Holidays, too.

Pomegranates have been the subject of medical research in Israel and their juice has been found to help diabetics; its antioxidant properties is also beneficial in skincare — as is olive oil.

Olives and olive oil are major agricultural products in modern-day Israel and related research ranges from biofuel generated from olive pit waste to using brackish water in growing olive trees to fight desertification to creating innovative olive oil-based nutraceuticals and food products.

The land flowing with milk and honey is also fighting the mysterious killer known as colony collapse disorder that has threatened the world’s honeybee population as well as researching bee and honey-related medical applications.

Although, in fact, the “honey” referred to in the Old Testament is apparently silan, a sticky-sweet syrup derived from dates. Cultivated in the region since time immemorial, Israeli agronomists were actually able to sprout a live date tree seedling from a 2000 year-old seed while medical researchers have discovered that eating dates can protect against atherosclerosis.

Figs have also been grown locally for millennia as proven by the archaeological finding of an elaborate ancient garden near Jerusalem that housed a wide variety of imported and domestic plants, including fig trees and grape vines.

Today’s Israeli wine is far cry from the rough stuff produced by the ancients, or the sugary carbonated swill produced here in the 1970s and early 80s, (glass of Fantasia, anyone?) Last year, Golan Heights Winery was the first Israeli winery to win a Gran Vinitaly Special Award as “world’s best wine producer”. Although Israel’s modern viticulture has roots in California wine country, Napa Valley and Sonoma County are now turning to Israeli technology for help.

As we sit in the Sukkah this year, lets look up at the Seven Species decorations and contemplate these modern miracles.

Olive image courtesy of the JNF-KKL photo archive. All other images: Wikipedia.

Apple’s new maps leave out Jerusalem

September 28, 2012 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Politics, Technology 

Google Truck maps out a city Modfos /

We’ve come to expect it from the BBC? But Apple? Maker of the beloved iPhone? The company that thinks different; that’s proudly inclusive of creativity and implies that, if we all just buy iPhones, we will usher in a grand era of world peace?

OK, maybe buying an iPhone doesn’t do all that. But it doesn’t help get us any further in the let’s-all-get-along direction when Apple leaves out Israel’s capital in the latest version of the company’s i-device operating system.

According to an article in JTA, “the map included in Apple’s new iOS6 operating system reportedly does not show Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” while every other country on the map has its capital listed. JTA further reports that the world clock included in the operating system “lists Jerusalem without an affiliated country.”

Oy, Apple, how have you fallen so far from my transient transistor tree.

The reason Jerusalem is even an issue for Apple right now is that in iOS6, Google’s Maps app has been dumped and replaced with Apple’s own home-grown version.

Apple’s new maps app has been praised for many of its features, but there is still a hill of bugs – and rightly so. As David Pogue points out in The New York Times, it took Google years of hand tuning and manual effort, plus adapting perabytes of data from third party sources, to result in the Google Maps we all know and love. Apple’s been at it for a much shorter time period.

“Let me be clear,” Pogue adds. “I have no doubt that Apple’s Maps app will get there….but I suspect that Apple has just realized the same thing I have: that we may live on a small blue planet, but digitally representing every road, building and point of interest is a task of almost unimaginable difficulty. “

I’m not trying to apologize for Apple; just because I have a nearly all-Mac and all iPhone/iPod household does not mean Apple should have let as hot a potato issue as Jerusalem’s capital slide through. A capital is not the same as a cul de sac. And, after all, it was only a month or so ago that the BBC’s London Olympics website left Israel’s capital blank.

(The BBC’s site has since been upgraded to read that Jerusalem is the seat of Israel’s government, “though most foreign embassies are in Tel Aviv.” The entry for Palestine says that its “intended seat of government [is] East Jerusalem. Ramallah serves as administrative capital.”)

Ultimately, the responsibility (as always) falls on us, the concerned consumers and advocates of fairness, to monitor, well, everything, for bias and discrimination and then to raise it to the highest levels. I’m sure Apple will respond appropriately and quickly although, as of the writing of the JTA article, the company had no comment.

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