Olympic dreams dashed
A New Reality,Entertainment,Israeliness,Life,Profiles

Olympic dreams dashed

Swimmer Jonathan Koplev was really excited to take part in the upcoming Olympic Games. He radiated with anticipation when talking about the opportunity to represent Israel on the world stage.

So, when headlines broke early this afternoon that Koplev had just undergone emergency surgery, it was with regret that we updated our Olympics news coverage section with such a disappointment.

The 20-year-old Haifa native had just been crowned European Champion in the 50-meter backstroke and was hoping to carry the momentum into London.

As part of our Olympics coverage, ISRAEL21c profiled 13 of the 38 athletes in short video clips. Koplev was one of our first profiles.

We caught up with him at a swim practice at Wingate Institute – Israel’s National Center for Physical Education and Sport in late June. We watched him and his fellow senior swimmers crisscross the pool over and over again. It was cheerful to see the athletes flash smiles almost every time they finished a set of laps.

When Koplev finally got out of the pool, we asked him to stick around for a bit and assist with our video series. Whereas some of the other athletes excused themselves, Koplev happily helped out. He was charming and in high spirits.

“Representing my country is a dream come true,” he told ISRAEL21c, meaning every word. “I’m just so proud to wear the national shirt.”

And the Israel Olympic Committee was proud for Koplev to wear blue-and-white. He was being touted as one of the Israeli Olympians set to break into the top rankings.

At last week’s Israel National Swimming Championships, however, Koplev pulled out of his race due to stomach pain. Last night he was rushed to hospital. By this morning he was already recovering from an appendectomy.

Though optimistic from his hospital bed that he may still join the Israeli delegation as they head out to the Olympic Games on Thursday, hospital officials were more realistic that Koplev’s run for gold would have to wait until Rio de Janeiro.

The average recovery time from appendectomy is six weeks. The Olympics are in 12 days.

“It will take him a few days to recuperate, we don’t want to say anything that will tempt fate,” Noam Zvi, president of the Israel Swimming Association, told Ynet. “Sometimes athletes recover miraculously, and we hope this will be the situation for Jonathan Koplev as well.”



Onliners Chapter 4: “The Conflict”

While last week’s Onliners vlog focused on pickup lines and embarrassing moments, in Chapter 4 exchange students Pascaline Wagemans from Belgium, Simon Baaske from Austria and Danielle Gershon from the United States take on a serious topic: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Professional diplomats, they’re not. But since the whole point of the video blog, according to producers Students For Israel, is to provide an unbiased look at the “real” Israel through the eyes of visiting college students, it’s only fair to ask how the situation affects them.

For Simon, who’s studying at Beersheva’s Ben-Gurion University, that means missile attacks in the night, while for Pascaline, who lives in Tel Aviv, the conflict has little apparent impact at all.

Says Pascaline: “I invite all of you to come here to see the reality as it is … talk to the people in order to really understand.”

Not a bad piece of advice.

Onliners vloggers
Blogging,Education,History and Culture,Life

Onliners Chapter 3: Funny stories

Anyone who’s got an embarrassing/funny story about their first time in a foreign culture will relate to the experiences described in the third installment of Onliners, the Students For Israel vlog following exchange students Pascaline Wagemans from Belgium, Simon Baaske from Austria and Danielle Gershon from the United States.

The three stars of Onliners are posting a new video every week during the three-month summer semester in an effort to provide an unbiased, minimally edited glimpse into the “real” Israel through the eyes of visiting college students.

Pascaline was on the receiving end of a typically Israeli pickup line as she got off a bus. Simon’s big “oops” moment happened during a walk through a Negev village, while Danielle’s first humiliation was during a cab ride, when the cab driver yelled at her and threw her out of the taxi.

Onliners team
A New Reality,Blogging,Education,History and Culture,Life

Onliners, Chapter 2: “A good shocker”

“I have to be honest: I didn’t know a lot of about Israel the first time I came here,” says Pascaline in the second five-minute episode of Onliners, entitled “Israel?! Seriously?” She candidly reveals that her first trip was simply to follow her Jewish now-ex-boyfriend, and she found Israelis to be rude, loud and difficult. “This is exactly what I started loving here because it made me more assertive.”

If you recall from last week’s blog, Onliners is a new vlog produced by Students For Israel under the banner of the National Union of Israeli Students.

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The group of 23 Israeli college students chose Pascaline Wagemans from Belgium, Simon Baaske from Austria and Danielle Gershon from the United States — all studying at Israeli universities this year – to answer a question in a weekly video during the three-month summer semester to present an authentic youthful perspective on the “real” Israel.

This week’s question: “Why Israel?”

Danielle, who expected sand and camels on her first visit at age 12, says it was “a big shocker; a good shocker” to discover how developed Israel actually is. She decided then and there to come back for college.

As for Simon, he always has to explain to friends back home – and to Israelis, too — why he chose not only Israel (“a land of mystery”), but Beersheva in the south – not the most hip and happening area. An international relations student, he says he wanted to immerse himself among real Israelis to better understand daily life outside tourist venues.

Will Pascaline cross the line between assertive and obnoxious? Will Danielle continue her love affair with Israel? Will Simon get bored and hot in the Negev? Stay tuned.

The Cupola. Photo by Mel Brickman
Art,Entertainment,History and Culture

Lights in Jerusalem

My friend Barbara and I were standing at Jaffa Gate facing the Cupola – an 82-foot-high domed structure by Italy’s Luminarie De Cagna – at the magic moment when night fell and its 63,000 electric candles came alive with tiny points of colored light.

It was opening night of the Jerusalem Festival of Light in the Old City, the fourth such event to bring international and local light artists’ sculptures, performances, projections and displays into the inimitable atmosphere of the ancient neighborhood.

Many people go for four nights to explore each of the four routes – orange, blue, green and yellow. Barbara and I opted for orange (my favorite color) and spent the next two hours on foot taking in some pretty awesome spectacles in the pleasant night air.

Rosoni de Cagna’s street lights.

Rosoni de Cagna’s street lights.

Our route was, cleverly, sponsored by the Orange wireless communications company, which presented a show called “Clear” in Batei Machase Square, an area of the Jewish Quarter built in the 19th century. The show featured colossal projections on the Rothschild House, which functioned as an Arab officers’ school between 1948 and 1967 and now houses an elementary yeshiva. The show was accompanied by a guy in heavy gloves playing a giant musical instrument called an Earth Harp. The strings were attached to a rooftop way over yonder above our heads.

At one point a reporter approached to ask our impressions of the free event. I told her that it brings a refreshing and fun perspective to a part of town that I might not otherwise care to explore at night. The normally dark cobblestoned alleyways were animated with polyglot tourists enjoying the colorful installations and pulsing music. Festival-goers were expected to number about 250,000 despite the fact that the Israel Opera Festival was going on at the same time.

My evening ended with an outdoor performance on light and electricity by Mayumana, a quirky high-energy Israeli modern dance troupe. Snaking my way back to Jaffa Gate to catch a bus home around 11:00, I discovered that this was when the crowd was truly starting to arrive. It was going to be a long and lively night in Jerusalem.

Mayumana in action. Photo by Ron Birn

Mayumana in action. Photo by Ron Birn

Some other things you can see through June 14:

  • Ocubo: A Portuguese interactive virtual “ball game” where participants control the weather.
  • Key Frames: The French group Laps used LED light pipes to create more than 60 characters, animated by choreographic light and music.
  • – Cathedral: Developed by Raoul Hurwitz from Estonia, this installation was made entirely out of salvaged old windows.
  • – Light Benches: A project of the German architect Bernd Spieker, these illuminated benches invited passers-by to rest and take in their surroundings.
  • – Faces of Jerusalem: The German artist Jan Ising’s three-dimensional exhibit presents a collection of projected photos of the people of the city, taken by Ising and Bartosh Navarra during April.
  • – The Enlightened Magic Circus: A magical journey through the Christian Quarter featuring 10 illuminated circus scenes that the German artist Nicola Dicke painted using her own special technique on slides.
  • – Shadows Story: Inside the Cardo, a restored Roman marketplace in the Old City, Israeli artist Adi Paz-Faingold presented a light-and-shadow version of “Hansel and Gretel.”
  • – Afterlight: A Dutch creation in the Cardo using dynamic photographs projected on the wall that created optical illusions accompanying an animated journey into the human brain.
  • – Pitaya: A floating display of pollen and jellyfish made entirely out of plastic pipes and lit with LED bulbs, Pitaya hung in the air above the audience.
  • – Dragons and other animals illuminated by innovative light technology by the Mystorin Theater Group celebrated the Chinese Year of the Dragon.