Tel Aviv in ’60 Minutes’
A New Reality,Entertainment,History and Culture,Israeliness,Life,Pop Culture

Tel Aviv in ’60 Minutes’

Tel Aviv is the talk of the blogosphere this week, following CBS reporter Bob Simon’s declaration that the White City is “the” place to be. The segment on 60 Minutes fielded thousands of “likes” – and numerous criticisms – for showing off Tel Aviv’s young and hip population, its high-tech creativity, its liberal attitudes and its party scene.

The piece opens with Simon explaining the title of the segment ‘From Fear to Fortune: Tel Aviv’s Attitude.’ According to Simon, this is a city “bordered on all sides by danger” where residents “have learned how not to worry about tomorrow.”

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai tells Simon that Tel Aviv is “an island of sanity in this country.”

He and the American reporter set off to the beach and bike along the city’s boulevards.

Other talking heads in the piece include deputy mayor Asaf Zamir (interviewed outside a bar with drink in hand), journalist Gideon Levy, high-tech entrepreneur Yossi Vardi, actress Noa Tishby and TV personality Gal Uchovsky.

The 60 Minutes piece doesn’t really say anything new about the city. It serves up all the previous cliches with an added time warp back to the late 1990s.

On the plus side, it does show off some of Tel Aviv’s attributes to a wider audience.

In January, Tel Aviv was crowned one of the world’s most creative cities for its high-tech ingenuity. In this report, Vardi tells Simon that the city “has more high-tech startup companies than anywhere outside Silicon Valley. It is so far ahead of the curve, you can barely see the end of it.”

In Simon’s opening monologue about Tel Aviv, the name of the city is featured under a large rainbow. Earlier this year, Tel Aviv was chosen World’s Best Gay City.

And though the almost 12-minute segment focuses on the lighter side of this beach city, the CBS team gets a bit mixed up when politics are added to the mix. Perhaps the funniest line in the piece is when columnist Levy says, “There is no political debate in Israel, there’s no political debate about anything.” The next frame shows him walking around the social protest tents in Tel Aviv’s financial district (which makes me wonder if the film editors thought he was at a regular campsite).

Levy goes on to say that people don’t talk about politics because it “spoils the party.” But anyone who has ever lived in Israel – or even visited – knows that Israelis love talking politics, love a good argument, and wouldn’t call it a party if there was no opinionated debate.

A few other slip-ups: Tel Aviv is not Israel’s largest city, as Simon would have you believe; A majority of Jewish-Israeli mothers (and fathers) do not happily embrace the fact that their children are gay, as Uchovsky and Tishby will have you believe; and not all Israelis are drafted into the army at 18 – that’s what the Tal Law controversy is all about.

Yes, Tel Aviv is a great holiday destination. Yes, Tel Aviv is a fun city. Yes, Tel Aviv has a vibrant arts scene. Yes, Tel Aviv has a booming high-tech community. And yes, Tel Aviv is known as a bubble.

But watching the report, this Tel Aviv resident felt like it was an outsider’s view of the city as he would like it to be. For good and bad.

Shop-A-Fada logo


In the face of increasing calls to boycott Israeli-made products, a group of Israeli businesspeople is launching “Shop-A-Fada,” and its spokesman is none other than the legendary Israeli basketball-star-turned-goodwill-ambassador Tal Brody.

On a promotional video, Brody says the campaign is intended to “fight back against those who think that they’ll be able to destroy Israel by waging economic warfare.”

The provocative (and likely controversial) campaign name was chosen to evoke “the passion and unity of the Palestinian intifada” of the early 2000s, but the project is claimed to be entirely apolitical.

“This is an initiative which all friends of Israel, Jew and non-Jew alike, need to embrace,” Brody said in a statement. “The time has come to show our enemies that as resolved as they are to practice hate against us, we’re equally committed to come out in unwavering solidarity for Israel.”

The initiative is in response to a step-up in boycott campaigns in places like Britain, which Brody says “aren’t statements of solidarity with the Arab world, but literally economic attacks on hard-working Israelis and Palestinians and deserve a united global response.”

Case in point: SodaStream, a frequent target of boycotts, employs Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs, Palestinian Arabs, Bedouins, Russian and Ethiopian immigrants as well as Darfurian refugees at its plant in Mishor Adumim over the Green Line. CEO Daniel Birnbaum has opened the factory to “social audits” so that representatives of wary European retailers can see that all 650 employees are protected by Israeli labor law and receive social benefits and a hot meal daily. The Israeli minimum wage they receive is four times higher than the Palestinian minimum wage.

The team behind Shop-A-Fada owns and operates, the largest online purveyor of Israeli gift items. CEO Arik Barel says many overseas supporters of Israel want to counteract anti-Israel boycotts, and this allows them to do so with that most potent of weapons, the pocketbook.

Five percent of all sales before June 15 are to be donated to American Friends of Magen David Adom.

Will Shop-A-Fada hit its mark, or fade into history as a well-intentioned shopping fad? Either way, it never hurts to buy blue and white.

Injured personnel carrier
Behind the scenes at ISRAEL21c

Agilite credits ISRAEL21c for new customers

On April 8, we posted Rescue me, Israel style about a revolutionary alternative to a stretcher made by Jerusalem-based Agilite.

The patent-pending, trademarked IPC (Injured Personnel Carrier) is sewn from high-tensile military strength webbing or seatbelt material, weighs three-quarters of a pound and folds down to just 10 inches. Yet it can bear 5,000 pounds and enables a rescuer to carry someone on his or her back, leaving the rescuer’s hands free.

Search-and-rescue teams, hikers, militaries and emergency medical responders are among the eager markets for the IPC, which was invented by IDF veterans originally from England the United States.

Recently, Agilite founder Elie Isaacson wrote to tell us that the exposure on ISRAEL21c led to new customers.

“We have had several distributors contact us, including from Britain and Nigeria, who saw the article and are becoming IPC distributors!” Elie told us.

We’re happy to get the word out about Israeli innovation, Elie.

(Don’t) Push the red button
A New Reality,Blogging,Entertainment,Pop Culture

(Don’t) Push the red button

It’s 1997, and Men In Black‘s Tommy Lee Jones tells Will Smith: “Don’t touch the red button.” Which, of course he does, because who can really resist a red button?

Fast forward to 2012, and Belgian ad agency Duval Guillaume takes the ‘red button’ theme to a new level. To promote the launch of a new cable channel in Belgium, they create a brilliant viral video campaign featuring – you guessed it – a red button.


Without giving too much away, a red button is placed on a podium in the middle of a typical Flemish town square. There’s a sign that reads “Push to add drama” pointing at it.

Curiosity eventually overcomes passersby and once the button is pressed bystanders unsuspectingly find themselves in an action-packed Hollywood scene.

Sirens. Gun shots. Police. Laughing bystanders. An outstanding ad campaign.

Which brings us to the Israeli connection. Spoof video artist Roman Buchatsky and his brother Vitaly are surfing the web when they come across this video. “In a flash of a second,” he tells ISRAEL21c, the idea of a parody came to them.

‘A DRAMATIC SURPRISE ON A QUIET SQUARE – ISRAEL’ starts off the same way. But anyone who has lived in Israel will immediately find the original wording of the advertisement not quite in synch with life here.

No one needs to push a red button to add drama in Israel.

“It is not hard to notice that drama and action are part of our daily experience, whether it is on the news or on the street,” says Buchatsky.

In the Israeli send-up, the ‘quiet square’ has been replaced by bustling Magen David Square in Tel Aviv. Bystanders don’t take the bait so Buchatsky presses the red button.

Talkbacks to the Israeli video were quick to come. While many offer kudos, the anti-Israel/anti-Zionist comments are prominent as well.

“We are all human beings and we all want peace,” Buchatsky tells ISRAEL21c. “It doesn’t matter what our political views are, how observant we are or what our religion is, we all want to raise kids in a safe place, with good neighbors and live in dignity. I didn’t intend to talk about justice, politics or the price we have to pay to achieve peace. We only want the same things that every person in the world wants.”

And that is no drama. Unlesss someone pushes a red button.

Baby in diaper
Behind the scenes at ISRAEL21c

ISRAEL21c gets results for Israeli inventor

Two years ago, ISRAEL21c reported on an all-natural superabsorbent polymer (SAP) invented in Israel that can help people lose weight safely, grow crops with less water and dispose of diapers without harming the earth.

Until our story appeared, the maker of this novel material, the Kiryat Gat-based Exotech Bio Solutions, had been unable to raise enough capital to make sufficient SAP for interested manufacturers.

“We needed help being discovered,” co-CEO Mendy Axlerad told us when he called with an update – and a big “thank you” earlier this year.

Because that’s just what we provided.

As a result of ISRAEL21c’s article, entrepreneurs in Europe and South America contacted Axlerad, and are now building factories to produce the unique Israeli product.

“A company from northern Portugal contacted us asking for a sample, and after we sent it, they said, ‘If you had a partner, would you build a factory?’ They came to visit us and we signed an agreement to build the first factory in the world to produce our SAP,” says Axlerad.

“We expect to start production in seven to nine months from now, making 5,000 tons per year.”

Managers of a German company also saw the ISRAEL21c piece and contacted Axlerad. In a few months, their facility will start producing Exotech’s SAP and transfer it via pipeline to a new diaper factory next door.

“Nothing like this exists anywhere else,” Axlerad told us with pride. “The raw material will move in a fully ecological way to produce the finished product.”

ISRAEL21c congratulates Exotech on these achievements.