You got chocolate in my wine! No, you got wine in my chocolate!

Wine and chocolate at Tishbi

I’m a big fan of wine tastings. And an even bigger fan of chocolate. So when I had the opportunity to visit the new Tishbi tasting center, which combines both wine and gourmet imported French chocolate, my interest was piqued. Moreover, my palette was proud of yet another Israeli innovation, not so much hi-tech this time, but palpably pleasing nevertheless.

The Tishbi winery has been around since 1984 and is run by the family of the same name, which is committed to keeping it small and boutique.

Winemaker Golan Tishbi was the one to come up with the idea of mixing wine and chocolate. The new tasting center, which was opened earlier this year, has been a word-of-mouth success, bringing in more than 40,000 visitors so far.

Tishbi takes its wine and chocolate seriously. Once in the tasting room, you settle into a standing station around a wooden bar. In front of you are three glasses and a rectangular box with six pieces of chocolate. Each chocolate is paired with a specific wine to bring out the flavors in both.

The glasses are of different sizes: the larger the glass, the more of the wine’s vapors enter your smell receptors, changing the overall sensory experience. I didn’t notice it so much, but I’m sure the late Israeli dean of wines Daniel Rogov would have.

For each chocolate, Tishbi instructed us to break off a piece and let it rest on our tongues. Taste it, feel it, let it melt, he beseeched us. It was hard not to bite, but then I was never very good with lollipops either. Once the tongue is thoroughly coated with chocolate, you drink in the wine. Let it float over the chocolate, Tishbi implied.

We then had a choice: let the wine carry the chocolate down, like a wet pill, or take them in one after another.

After a few moments of contemplation, it was on to the next wine and chocolate pairing. We learned the difference between “Manjari” chocolate from Madagascar and the Caribbean “Caraibe,” as well as the percent of cocoa inside (up to 85%, as decadent as they come).

At NIS 30 (less than $10) for a 45-minute gastronomic and oenological indulgence, it’s worth the gas to huff it up to Haifa (Tishbi is on the way, in the picturesque village of Binyamina). And if you need to chill out afterward and let the wine settle, Tishbi has a nice dairy restaurant right next door. But go for the apple pie – enough chocolate for one day!

There’s more about Tishbi and other delights in Israel’s Carmel region in this article.


Tel Aviv named one of the world’s most creative cities

Tel Aviv's Waze makes the list

The Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail has named Tel Aviv one of the world’s most creative cities. Tel Aviv shared the honors with London Sydney, Stockholm and Shanghai. The article itself is a whopping 21 pages; Israel takes up the first four.

The “award,” if you can call it that,” was bestowed on Israel by the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto. The institute ranks cities but what it calls “The Three T’s” – technology, talent and tolerance.

The article focuses on several Israeli startups which have either raised a lot of money or been sold for even larger amounts. The authors (there are five of them) pointed to PicApp and PicScout, which sold for a combined $20 million to Indian and American buyers, respectively; cellular company Provigent which was snapped up by U.S. chip maker Broadcom for $313 million; and Snaptu which Google bought for $70 million.

Companies on the list that have raised significant funding include (over $5.5 million) which makes face recognition technology that is used by more than 30,000 developers, and Waze, which we covered in-depth in Israel21c. Waze was singled out for both the amount raised ($67 million) and number of users (8 million in 45 countries).

Waze makes a free crowd-sourced GPS navigator app for mobile devices; the company claims it is used by one out of every three Israeli drivers. Waze made headlines overseas this past summer when it was used to provide real-time traffic information during the Los Angeles area’s super-hyped “Carmegeddon” (a driving apocalypse precipitated by the weekend shut down of the city’s major freeway).

Why is Tel Aviv so creative when it comes to startups? The authors cite Israel’s mandatory military service and the resulting informal atmosphere. Says starup CDO Neal Naimer from Woojer, “In Israel, personal relationships aren’t all that relevant to business. Israelis will do business with you within five seconds of meeting you. In fact, there’s virtually no small talk at meetings. Nothing. Zero. They’re very direct.”

Read our coverage on Waze here.

Dan Senor, co author of Start-Up Nation.

ISRAEL21c to sponsor Dan Senor at Berkeley confab

‘This is just another example of the partnerships ISRAEL21c likes to form in communities to help show the “real” Israel,’ says president Amy Friedkin.

ISRAEL21c was proud to be counted among the sponsors of “Israel through the High-Tech Lens,” a two-day interdisciplinary conference held February 1 and 2 at the University of California-Berkeley. The conference was sponsored by the Berkeley Institute for Jewish Law and Israeli Law, Economy and Society Program on Jewish Law.

The event brought together more than 35 Israeli and US business leaders, scholars and policy-makers to discuss business, legal, economic and social aspects of Israeli high-tech — models of tech-sector investment, green-tech trends, legal challenges to US-Israel business collaboration, global corporations’ involvement in Israel, labor-market diversity, cross-border collaboration in the Middle East and high-tech entrepreneurship.

ISRAEL21c sponsored a session led by Dan Senor, co-author of the bestselling Start-up Nation.

“This is just another example of the partnerships ISRAEL21c likes to form in communities to help show the ‘real’ Israel,” says ISRAEL21c president Amy Friedkin.

She met the institute’s director last summer and agreed to support the idea of a campus event focusing on Israeli innovation and technology. During a subsequent brainstorming session at the institute, she offered to approach Senor about participating.

“They’d been trying to put something together for a long time, since Berkeley is always seen as a seat of anti-Israel sentiment,” Friedkin explains. The institute’s members counter that image through graduate school-level programs designed to reveal the true face of Israel. Earlier this academic year, for instance, an Israeli Supreme Court justice came to Berkeley as a scholar-in-residence.

Ten diverse sessions at the conference explored two key themes, “Challenges and Opportunities of Local and Global Dynamics in the Israeli Technology Sector” and “Past Experiences, Present Trends and Future Directions — Lessons from the Past and Challenges for the Israeli Technology World in the 21st Century.”

Some of the other speakers were Intel executive vice president David (Dadi) Perlmutter, California Israel Chamber of Commerce executive director and UpWest Labs co-founder Shuly Galili, co-founder and CEO Gil Hirsch, Google Israel R&D center director Yossi Matias, and Anat Binur, founder of MEET (Middle East Education for Technology).

Art,History and Culture

365 days of inspiration in new app

Israel365 app

Got an iPhone? Love the diverse and often dazzling landscapes of Israel? Enjoy a bible quote every now and then? Then a free iPhone app from a newly minted immigrant, Rabbi Tuly Weisz, should keep your fingers swiping in inspirational bliss.

Weisz’s app, Israel365, is a visual calendar of sorts. Each day has a different picture and quote from the bible. The quotes are in English and Hebrew with transliteration. And that’s it. Nice and simple. Well, not quite: If you want to dig deeper there’s also a Hebrew lesson based on the passage. But most people will probably just look at the pictures.

Which is absolutely fine, because they’re really quite pretty. Weisz assembled some 30 Israeli photographers who donated their pictures to the app. Inspiration aside, the app is also a form of subtle advertising  (if you like what you see, you can contact the photographers and Israel365 takes a 50% cut).

Weisz says he got the idea after reading that, when Herzl was considering establishing the state of Israel in Chicago, a Christian pastor named William Blackstone set out to visually illustrate the connection of the Jews to Israel, not Africa, by underlying every passage referring to the Promised Land in the bible.

Weisz was fascinated and did the same thing. “I couldn’t get over the fact that [references to Israel were] on nearly every page,” he says. Before you could say Holy Sand Dune, Weisz had made aliyah, launched a non-profit called “Teach for Israel” (it connects rabbis back in the States with their local Christian Zionist communities, something Weisz was already doing as a congregational rabbi in Ohio), and found an enterprising software developer who could get the app out in time for the beginning of the 2012 calendar year.

Weisz has big plans for Israel365, including versions that will run on the Android and other mobile platforms, along with the addition of more languages. “Since the content is limited to 365 bible verses and the bible already exists digitally in other languages, this should be very do-able,” he says.

The app is officially published by the United with Israel organizations, which calls itself “the world’s largest pro-Israel social community with nearly 900,000 supporters on its Facebook page alone.

You can get a preview of the app here.


Radio Free Nachlaot celebrates its second birthday

Steve and Lorelai from Radio Free Nachlaot

Jerusalem’s Radio Free Nachlaot turned two this month. The Internet-only radio station, whose slogan is that it broadcasts from “an undisclosed location somewhere deep in the heart of Nachlaot” plays a mix of Grateful Dead (and Dead-inspired) music, mixed with Shlomo Carlebach and Torah talks “24/6” (the station rests on Shabbat).

Except on Wednesday nights, when the station’s founders, Anglo immigrants Lorelai Kude and Steve Levine, give me a chance to rock out.

Since August, I’ve been on the air playing everything except for the Grateful Dead. Whether that’s the latest indie rock (think of the improbably named New Pornographers or Death Cab for Cutie – hey, maybe there is some Dead on my show); classic 70s pop (be honest: you can never hear too much of “Amie” by the Pure Prairie League); or melodic grunge (Spock’s Beard or Smashing Pumpkins), come 7:00 PM, I’ll be spinning the tracks for two energetic, eclectic hours.

Running a radio station these days is a far cry from my stint as a DJ during college. Internet stations like Radio Free Nachlaot can now gain a worldwide following without the need for expensive transmitter towers, FCC licenses or ever expanding libraries of LP’s and 45’s.

In fact, there are no more records (or CD’s for that matter) at all. All you need is a computer, a one-time purchase of a broadcasting software program, a virtual stack of MP3’s, a decent microphone, and somewhere in the vicinity of $99/month for streaming bandwidth and, voila, you can be heard beyond the 10 mile radius that was my audience in 1983.

Moreover, you can even broadcast from a laptop in your bedroom (which Steve and Lorelai do in the wee hours of the night when shlepping to the main studio in Givat Shaul would be insomnia inducing).

That freedom is great, but computerization takes some of the fun out of DJ’ing – instead of cue’ing up two records and artfully mixing them together, now the software handles all the segues between songs – and frankly, most of the time, a lot better than a human being would.

Radio Free Nachlaot joins Rusty Mike Radio as the two main English-language Internet stations beaming out of Israel. The stations are unusual in that they feature real people behind the mic’s; most other Internet stations are either pre-programmed or custom-driven by the individual listener (see Spotify, Pandora and

The truth is, it’s somewhat of a miracle I got the gig at all. When Israelity colleague David Brinn made the initial shidduch, Lorelai’s first interview question for me: “So what’s your relationship with Jerry” (referring to the Grateful Dead’s late Jerry Garcia)?” I sheepishly replied that I had none and then proceeded to wax nostalgically about The Buzzcocks and The Tubes.

On its two-year birthday, Radio Free Nachlaot is averaging about 2,000 listeners a week, split almost evenly between Israel and the U.S., although there are also listeners from some 95 other countries. Lorelai told The Jerusalem Post’s Gil Zohar earlier this year that “considering we’ve never spent an agora on advertising and rely only on social media and word of mouth, that’s tremendous.”

You can listen from the station’s website or via iTunes Radio (it’s under the world/international category). In addition to my decidedly eclectic show (past playlists are here), there are programs featuring jazz, soundtracks from musicals, “homegrown” Israeli rock, and live broadcasts on Sunday nights that have featured the likes of Lazer Loyd from Yood and Yehuda Katz from Reva L’Sheva.

And let’s not forget the “9 Days of Jerry” broadcast in August to mark the birthday and yahrzeit of Jerry Garcia. Because at the end of the day, my show notwithstanding, Radio Free Nachlaot will live – and die – with the Grateful Dead.