Whale hears of tax breaks, returns to Israel

May 17, 2010 - 8:09 AM by · 2 Comments
Filed under: A New Reality, Environment, General 

Everyone’s coming to Israel, it seems – even a giant grey whale.

In what was thought to be the first time the giant mammal has been seen outside the Pacific in several hundred years, the lone whale was which sighted off Herzliya beach on Saturday, and is believed by scientists to have travelled thousands of miles from the north Pacific after losing its way in search of food.

“It’s an unbelievable event which has been described as one of the most important whale sightings ever,” said Dr Aviad Scheinin, chairman of the Israel Marine Mammal Research and Assistance Center which identified the creature.

“What has amazed the entire marine mammal research community is there haven’t been any grey whales in the Atlantic since the 18th century,” he told reporters over the weekend.

Scheinin said the mature whale, measuring some 39 feet and weighing around 20 tons, probably reached the Atlantic through the Northwest Passage, an Arctic sea route that connects the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and is normally covered with ice.

While thin, the whale appeared to be in good shape, said Scheini, adding that he thought it could survive in our waters indefinitely. He was unsure whether this indicates a trend, and more grey whales will arriving to our shores.

But if they once belonged here, and if they heard about Sunday’s decision by the Cabinet to provide a number of financial incentives, including tax breaks, to Israelis living abroad to return home, then we may start seeing an influx of grey whales very soon.

This Year I’m a Voter…The Next Mayor Election Vote for Me, Your Deputy Mayor

November 9, 2008 - 8:33 PM by · 1 Comment
Filed under: A New Reality, General, History and Culture, Israeliness, Life, Politics 

Our futureDid you know that Jerusalem has six deputy mayors? And each one gets paid NIS 35,000 a month. So now you are thinking, how do I become a deputy mayor? Me too. But it’s too late for us because the election for mayor and city council are just two days away and we’re not on any of the party lists so chances are that we’re not making a career change any time soon. But for those of us voting it is important to understand that we actually get two votes, one for mayor and the other for city council. It is on the city council that these deputy mayors will sit as part of the 30-something coalition and make the crucial decisions affecting me and you.

It is also important to know that while the deputy mayors are making the big bucks, the rest of the city council is doing volunteer work–that is, they are not making a penny, or shekel, if you will. As Shira at The Big Felafel informs us:

“While the two highest elected municipality positions, mayor and deputy mayor, are paid positions, the other 29 seats on the council are volunteer positions. The mayor’s salary comes from your taxes, has his/her hand most tightly around the budget and has the best chance of passing his/her policy decisions. But the council members are either a part of the mayor’s coalition, thus helping the mayor pass policy and allocate money, or they are a part of the opposition, with a unique opportunity of exposing the improprieties of the coalition to the public and leading a strong opposing stance to the ruling force. So both votes are extremely important.”

Like Shira points out, both of your votes are crucial and with just a few days before the elections these “volunteers” are campaigning down to the wire trying to get you to vote for them. This past Thursday Hitorerut-Yerushalmim (Wake up Jerusalem) and Jerusalem Will Succeed made one of their last hits on the campaign trail in an English forum hoping to inform Anglo voters and make them vote for their team.

The head of Wake up Jerusalem’s list, Rachel Azaria, stressed the fact that their party does not answer to anyone. They are the people and they answer to the people and no one else. This list is dedicated only to the residents of Jerusalem and therefore does not have an adjacent party in the Knesset that they must take their cues from. They are young and most of them come from careers in social change.

And while youth can mean a fresh start for the city, Naomi Tsur of Jerusalem Will Succeed holds that against them, for the usual reason of inexperience. Tsur, former head of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Jerusalem decided to make the switch to government after her long battle with creating a sustainable Jerusalem. She explained that their party comes with mayoral candidate Nir Barkat. And if he is elected he will need the support of his coalition to help him implement his policies, thus he will need people from his own party to be a part of the coalition since they already agree with everything he stands for. As far as the young and fresh thing goes, Tsur said they have a young person on their list, as well as other representatives, like a native Russian speaker, French speaker, two pensioners and an Ethiopian.

So as you head to the startup capital of the world’s technologically advanced polling system – placing a paper in an envelope inside a cardboard box – remember to vote for mayor and city council. You can find a list of all the city council choices on The Big Felafel.

Engineering Politics

October 29, 2008 - 12:21 PM by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: General 

ZIV-AV_small.jpgIt’s election time in Israel, so naturally, the thoughts turn to politics – or rather, politicians. Israelis have opinions on politics that run the gamut, from far left to far right. And that’s cool – it’s part of our “great mosaic,” to take a line from former New York Mayor Dinkins.

But politics and politicians are two different things. And no matter what differences Israelis have on how the country should be run, most of them agree in their opinions on the people who would like to run the country – specifically, been there, done that. I don’t think I would be expressing a specific political opinion if I said that all three of the major candidates for prime minister have had their turn at senior posts, including but not limited to Prime, Defense, Foreign, and Finance Ministers – and despite some small successes here and there, none can be said to have had a particularly stellar record at those jobs. Maybe it’s time for some new blood.

And I think I’ve found that blood – in the form of Dr. Amir Ziv-av, an engineer whose firm, Ziv-Av Engineering, has been in the forefront of inventing better ways of doing things in Israel for nearly 20 years. The company has designed everything from giant earth-movers to miniature electronics, and all sorts of projects in between.

But it’s Dr. Ziv-av – and his ideas on how engineering concepts can help save the country – that are the news here. According to Dr. Ziv-av, there’s a common denominator in the design of something as simple as a plastic chair and the design of something as sophisticated as components for jet engines (both of which his company has helped design) – “does it work? What are the specific things we expect this product to do, or not do?” For example, you expect a plastic chair to be somewhat comfortable, and not fall apart when you sit on it. “You simply design your product to fulfill those needs – usually there are ten or eleven basic ones – and you’ve got a product you can confidently offer to the public,” Dr. Ziv-av says. And what goes for plastic chairs goes for jet engines, education, and even politics; the principles are portable, and can be applied to almost anything.

Now how simple is that? Not to mention logical! But it seems that whatever government puts its imprimatur on becomes overly complicated and goes out of control; in so many areas, it seems as if those implementing the ill-fated policies just didn’t think things through. How could they not have seen disaster coming? It’s not just “hindsight” – like engineers, politicians have to be aware that policy creates change, and a good engineer – or politician – anticipates those changes, and learns from mistakes. And while the engineers Dr. Ziv-av trains do that very well, our politicians don’t.

There are reasons for that, says Dr. Ziv-av – too numerous and complicated to go into here (watch for the full article elsewhere on 21C!). Suffice to say that Dr. Ziv-av is a breath of fresh air – a successful scientist and businessman who has come up with a “whole life” theory, applying scientific and engineering principles to spheres where few have thought they could apply. That, to me, is the mark of an exceptional mind, a social philosopher who has something important to say to the rest of us. I’ve already begun my personal campaign to convince him to run for something (he hasn’t agreed as of yet).


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