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Of course the world is flat

Posted By Benji Lovitt On January 28, 2008 @ 9:19 am In | No Comments

It’s a global world, and Israel’s right at the heart of the action.In 2005, Thomas Friedman published The World is Flat, documenting globalization and a world in which divisions such as geography are becoming increasingly irrelevant. While I’m an admitted Friedman fan and devotee, there is one thing I plan to ask him next time we talk:

This is news? Globalization smacks me in the face when I walk into the office at 9am on a Tuesday.

Boss: “Benji, did you hear who Tila Tequila chose?”

Me: “One… must… have… coffee… and two… what’s a Tila Tequila?”

Not ‘what’ …who? Tila Tequila is the star of MTV’s hit reality show A Shot at Love and I just realized one of two things: either globalization has hit Israel with full force or I’m further removed from MTV’s target demographic than I thought.

Yes, at some point, our little country the size of New Jersey went from two TV channels to a heck of a lot, including everybody’s favorite music channel and all the trash it can fit into a 24 hour schedule. And the delay that once existed between a show’s original broadcast and its arrival to Israel? It’s over before you can say 24: Season 7.

What’s that? Your Israeli cable provider isn’t showing Two and a Half Men How about Slingbox? This baby hooks up to a TV and sends a signal to a computer anywhere in the world with an Internet connection. Boom, you’re watching your favorite show, no problem!

When we think of globalization, we often think of technology. And make no mistake about it… it’s here. Which technology? Processors? Biotech? Yes, but try again. If you said Facebook, you win.

In the biggest invasion since the Beatles made American girls scream on the Ed Sullivan Show, Facebook took Israel by storm this past year. The social networking site expanded from 18,000 members in June to 340,000 at the writing of this article, staggering growth given the population of this country. Now the question is who isn’t on Facebook. Member of Knesset (Kadima party) Yoel Hasson is (I just wrote him.) My boss, my editor, and my roommates are. I know the Syrians aren’t, having been banned by their government. (So how do they waste time at work?)

The Israelis immediately added their own unique flavor to the proverbial Facebook stew, creating third-party applications like IsraPoke and Facts of Israel. Have you installed Superpoke which allows you to pinch, tickle, or throw sheep at your friends? Download IsraPoke and throw garinim (sunflower seeds) at the ones you love the most.

A few years ago, my reaction to the Facebook invasion might have been something to the effect of ‘how cute, the Israelis are using our website’, as if the Internet, all its toys, and American culture in general inherently belonged to America and was given to Israel on loan. In 2008, it’s clear that these things belong to no one, and the divisions between cultures and what belongs to whom will only continue to blur.

How else to explain that more of my friends in Israel have joined Facebook than in Atlanta, my old place of residence? Or that my co-workers sing Run DMC songs from when they were still in diapers? Maybe globalization should stop IMMEDIATELY.

Well, maybe not immediately. I don’t know if I’m willing to give up Skype, the software that allows me to video chat with my parents. With just a click of a button, I can watch my mom and dad turn into the Costanzas, trying to figure out how to turn the camera on while their voices rise (along with my blood pressure.)

The connection isn’t great but I’m not willing to pay the $30 monthly fee for a Vonage voice-over-IP line (VOIP) and the US number that comes with it. I do however have a new landline which makes cheap outgoing calls to the States through HOT, the company that also provides me cable. Of course the calls aren’t really through HOT, they’re through 014, the company I pay for my long-distance service which sends the calls through the cable company’s bandwidth. Still with me? Good-please explain to me what I just said.

I may not understand how my phone calls work but I do understand that olim (immigrants) have it easier here than ever before, at least in terms of adjustment to the new culture and distance from their loved ones. Between online social networking, the amount of cheap communication options, and the omnipresence of EVERYTHING around the world, things look pretty globalized to me. It’s a flat world and Israel’s right in the middle of it. Not a bad place to be, is it? See, Tom, I didn’t even need to buy your book.

Now if you’ll excuse me, the new season of American Idol is playing on Star World.


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