Matza zombies heading to a screen near you
Israeliness,Movies

Matza zombies heading to a screen near you

It’s a plotline tailor made for the next Israeli entry into the Oscars: IDF soldier holds down menial job and shirks responsibility wherever possible. When he meets the girl of his dreams, he is set upon by ruthless enemies and must overcome his conflict-avoiding tendencies to save both country and his true love.

There’s just one twist: zombies.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kIdCwnhH9w&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]

Poisoned” is a new film by Didi Lubetzky that aims to be a “coming of age” slash Zombie comedy cult classic. According to the film’s synopsis, the protagonist, Danny, is the son of a legendary Israeli war hero. But the lazy Danny serves as an assistant custodian in a remote base that’s home to an elite combat unit. When his high school crush, Maya, arrives to deliver vaccines to the soldiers, she mistakes Danny for one of fighters and shows an interest in him for the first time.

But the vaccine turns the soldiers into flesh-eating zombies who kill everyone in sight. The uninfected Danny must save the day.

The film began as an idea that Lubetzky had as a student at Tel Aviv University Film School. It’s mostly self-financed and was influenced by other zombie comedies such as “Shaun of the Dead.”

But, this being Israel, social parody is never far behind. So to give “Poisoned” an even more Israeli twist, it all takes place on Passover. “Why is this night different from all other nights?” the film’s promo material asks? Zombies at the Seder, of course (and don’t give me any the lip about my Seder being so boring, all the participants turn into zombies anyway).

Happy Pesach to all you matzah-munching zombies. I wonder what’s for dessert?

Israel and US partner for prosperity

What in the world do graphic design, agriculture technology and legal services have in common? They are three examples of a wide-ranging and growing catalog of professional services that Israeli companies are providing to American businesses and consumers.

A new web site from The Israel Economic Mission and Israel Export Institute has organized and categorized these services. The website, Professional Services from Israel (http://professional-services-israel.export.gov.il) is part of a larger effort to build awareness of the ways American and Israeli businesses and consumers are working together as partners in prosperity.

On the web site, Israeli professional service providers are grouped into twenty eclectic and divergent categories. Their services are marketable for both business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) applications.

Zohar Peri, Economic Minister to North America with the Israel Economic Mission to the US, says that there are many situations where turning to Israel for professional services makes the most sense for Americans.

It would be easy to label it as simply outsourcing for the sake of saving a few dollars, but that would not be accurate, Peri says. ?It?s not just about cost,? he told ISRAEL21c, noting that other countries ? India, for example ? are better known for their cheap labor. ?It?s really on the basis of quality.?

Jonathan Jarashow agrees. As founder and president of H. Crimson, a custom publishing agency in New York, he has been responsible for the publishing of over 100 million custom magazines, brochures and calendars over the years. This May, Jarashow together with his Israeli partner Eli Kazhdan, introduced Jerusalem Design, an Israel-based model of his American company.

?We [at H. Crimson] have been encouraging our clients to try [Israeli design] and they have been very pleased with the results,? he says.

Israel has the highest ratio worldwide of engineers in the workforce and the highest ratios in the world of university degrees and academic publications per capita, Peri says, while Israel?s reputation as a haven for innovation, creativity and know-how makes it a natural choice for many Americans seeking a fresh perspective on their projects.

But does outsourcing to Israel cost American jobs? Yes and no, says Kazhdan, who draws upon his previous experience as Israeli government as chief of staff of the Ministry of Industry & Trade, as well as chief of staff of the Ministry of Interior in considering the polemic. Kazhdan contends that, by cutting costs without sacrificing quality, businesses that choose to outsource to Israel can seize a competitive edge, allowing them to grow and expand faster and ultimately add more domestic jobs in other areas.

?There is no doubt that in the era when the world is flat, in Tom Friedman’s terms, there is a constant movement of jobs from one part of the globe to another, capitalizing on the competitive advantages of different areas and countries,? Kazhdan told ISRAEL21c.

?Having said that, I should note that successful outsourcing does not merely transfer work from the US to Israel, but rather uses Israeli skills and expertise to ramp up the business in the United States. When Jerusalem Design cuts costs for US?based customers – without compromising on quality, the US customer is then able to build up his or her core business faster in the US than s/he would have been able to do otherwise.?

Given Israel?s booming high tech industry, it should come as no surprise that the most popular kind of professional services that Israel currently provides to Americans involve technology, such as software development and testing.

Less obvious is Israel?s emergence as a choice for various legal and accounting support services. The reason for this curious development, Peri says, lies largely in American and other Anglo expatriate communities that have arisen in Israel over the years.

?These [professionals] are people who were accomplished in their field and moved to Israel. They know the conditions, the language and legal and accounting systems.?

This close familiarity with American thinking goes beyond the immigrant community, however, notes Peri.

?Many Israeli-born engineers and professionals studied in America and have American degrees,? he says.

In addition to offering high quality, there is another advantage for Americans to consider Israeli professional services: the Israeli workweek.

Since the Israeli workweek begins on Sunday, when most American businesses are shut, there is a day of productivity that can be gained that would otherwise be wasted.

?What most people don?t realize at first is that it is really two days of productivity that are gained, not just one.? The second day, Peri points out, is Monday. Since Israel is seven hours ahead of the eastern United States, when American businesses are just arriving at work, Israeli businesses have had practically a full day?s head start to get even more done.

The Internet allows for near-instant transmission of data, rendering the physical distance between Israel and the United States less relevant, while advances in airfreight shortens the distance for non-digital media.

This dynamic has opened doors to American-Israeli collaboration on projects that used to be strictly local affairs, such as printing.

?Americans are surprised to find that Israeli graphic arts and printing is on a very high level, and with the advantages of the Israeli work week along with overnight shipping, they can get projects done even faster than they could have locally,? Peri says.

Israel?s professional services are truly a partnership with America. Many of the companies listed in the Web directory have opened American offices including some American staff and all have American representatives.

The benefits that Israeli services provide are keeping American businesses competitive in a crowded global marketplace, Peri says. It?s a win-win situation for American businesses and consumers and Israeli service providers alike, filling a niche and a need that would otherwise be vacant, to the detriment of both countries.

Peri likens Israel?s professional services offerings to a very specialized store catering to special needs as opposed to a wholesaler looking to undermine the local economy.

?We are a boutique, not a supermarket,? he says.

Israeli news sites now requiring ad reading – what’s a news junkie to do?

Which link do you click to get rid of the ad?

I understand that there’s no choice. But do they have to be so darn annoying?

In the last few months, two of the three main online Israeli news sites I visit have instituted advertising techniques that are particularly invasive…and there doesn’t seem to be any way to turn them off.

Haaretz was the first to get the revenue-building bug. When you visit the English language site, you are first treated to a full-page ad. There is a “close” button so you can quickly skip it, or the advertisement automatically disappears after a few seconds. The ad only appears when accessing the home page.

While the Haaretz ad slows down my access to the site (and I should point out that I have never once clicked on the link), The Jerusalem Post’s technique is downright infuriating. The Post uses the same style of pop over ad, but it appears every time you open any page of the site, not just the home page. To make matters worse, for some of the ads, there is a deceptive “close” link that would open the ad itself (the real “close” link was above it).  That strategy at least appears to have been removed in the last week or so.

The third main English language news site from Israel, Ynet (the online version of the Hebrew daily Yediot Ahronot), has thus far withheld the temptation to force readers to suffer through the opening commercials.

Now, I know that the online news business needs to change – the revenue models have never been sustainable on display ads alone. And Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post are hardly the only sites trying to figure out how to stay afloat. The New York Times in March announced the imminent launch of its new web revenue scheme – subscriptions will be required for heavy web clickers (free if you subscribe to the print edition) and the fees are hefty by online standards, starting at $25/month. The Wall Street Journal online has required subscriptions since its inception, as has The Economist. New business models for publications delivered on tablet devices like the iPad are also in the works.

Naysayers claim that a newspaper requiring a subscription fee is shooting itself in the foot; that savvy web users will just move on to the next free site. Does that make the enforced pop over ad the better bet? Here’s an idea: why not give me a choice and allow me to pay a small amount to avoid the ads? I might not do it, but at least then I’d feel like it was my decision.

In the meantime, I’m slogging through the ads. But note to The Post and Haaretz – I’m visiting Ynet a whole lot more these days (oops, I hope no one at Yediot is reading this post!)

ISRAEL21c brings Israel home to Rochester, New York

How does a small but solid Jewish community get people to understand and know Israel beyond the typical news cycle headline fare of conflict and stalled peace negotiations? If you are Mona Kolko, chair of the Executive Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester’s Community Relations department, and Isobel Goldman, its community relations director, you engage enthusiastic leadership with lots of creative energy and you place a call to ISRAEL21c.

Mona knew that there was one address to go to where the real face of Israel gets focus – ISRAEL21c. So, earlier this year, Mona contacted Amy Friedkin, president of ISRAEL21c, to explain to her what the Rochester community wanted to do – present a picture of the real Israel – its dynamism, its atmosphere of possibility, and the rich creativity and energy found in its people.

Amy immediately sent them the web link to an important new book, Start-Up Nation, and urged them to get in touch with its two authors, Dan Senor and Saul Singer and bring them to Rochester to speak to the community.

Energy was flowing. Dan Kinel, a new recruit to the Rochester Community Relations Executive Committee had recently and enthusiastically agreed to chair the community’s Speakers Series. Recognizing the opportunity before him, Dan began to turn what was a Jewish federation event for the Jewish community into a Rochester-wide event sponsored by local and nearby businesses and academic centers and now set on drawing an audience representing all of greater Rochester.

Among the sponsors of the event were the University of Rochester’s Technology Transfer Office, Harter Secrest & Emery LLP, Rochester’s largest law firm, Hi Tech Rochester, Rochester’s preeminent organization dedicated to assisting entrepreneurial business ventures, and Greater Rochester Enterprise, the community’s business development advocate.

With Dan Senor secured for the Rochester speaking engagement, his co-author, Saul Singer, agreed to an on-air interview with Rochester’s largest talk radio station host – a program that reaches 25,000 listeners.

Some 750 people attended Dan Senor’s talk in person last June. Many of these attendees were business people, entrepreneurs, inventors and others interested in technological and economic transformation. The community buzz that followed continues to pay off in a more positive word of mouth about Israel by people whose word of mouth matters.

What is the important lesson learned by the Rochester Jewish community experience? Take risk. Try a new direction. And give ISRAEL21c a call if you want great ideas for presenting Israel effectively.

How to be an informed consumer of olive oil

Israel’s 2010 olive harvest is shaping up to be the best in years. Here’s how to enjoy it.

Olives for olive oil

For good olives, you need to go to a good shop.

For everyone who loves olives as much as I do, I have very happy news: the 2010 olive harvest in Israel is sizing up to be the best in years. Now, everyone who knows me, knows that I can jabber for hours on a topic I love, so against my nature, I must try to get to the point. So this will be a short tutorial about how you can become an informed consumer of both olive oil, and olives.

Let’s face it – pure olive oil ain’t cheap. And if a deal looks too good to be true, it undoubtedly is. Here’s how you can test to make sure your olive oil is 100 percent pure, and not a mixed blend, or worse yet, that old Middle-Eastern trick of cheap soya oil colored with spinach juice to give it a beautiful bright green glow.

Take a glass of water. Add a spoonful of your oil to the glass.

All the oil should remain in one unbroken pool- not break up into different globs or separate droplets on the surface. This test is fully accurate, and is used by every professional to test for purity, and requires no expensive or fancy equipment, either.

I am lucky to have a very good friend, Yomi Levi, who just happens to be one of the top experts on olives in Israel, and during a chat over Turkish coffee, he told me about the many variables which can determine the quality of the oil. Best olive oil is of course, cold pressed, with a very low acidity content- 0.2ph being the very best, up to 0.8.

Only buy oil with quality certification

Higher than this means that the oil was extracted using chemical or heat processes, which increases the acidity, and decreases the quality.

And you should ONLY buy Israeli olive oil with the quality certification guarantee stamp, this ensures the quality has been checked carefully, under strict standards.

He also reminded me that to maintain the health benefits of olive oil, to NEVER heat it above 35C, and never to fry with it.

Now, in order to get really top-flight olives, you must have top-flight olive guys, and in my case that is Yomi and his brother Eitan and their shop, Maadanya Yom Tov, at 43 Levinsky Street, in Tel-Aviv. It has been here, started by their grandfather and dad, in the same location since 1947.

Here, you can find many varieties of olives, from artisan-grown Syrian, Tassos, Kalamata, Atlas, Bar Nea, and many others, which they personally select, and they travel themselves to the orchards to oversee the harvest every year.

They also have lots of special items from all over the world, and they always have time to share their enthusiasm and their knowledge about olives and other delights, with their clients and friends. Visiting the shop is like going on a mini holiday with my favorite brothers.

And if you feel like an olive-fueled adventure out of town, you can visit the Galil Olive Harvest Festival, meet Druze and Jewish olive growers, and even press your own olive oil! It’s on until Nov. 6.

Use a truly top grade olive oil as you would use herbs, or salt – to add the perfect finishing touch to a dish.

The most common types of olives grown in Israel for oil, are Syrian, which have a pleasantly bitter, spicy flavor, and Bar Nea, which are more delicate and refined.

Using olive oil to enhance your foods

In Greece, which is one of the world’s largest olive producers, there are centers where merchants can go and choose olives from hundreds of different varieties, and taste how different amounts of salt, oil, or spices, can affect the finished product, and order their choices prepared exactly as they desire – assisted by tasters and curing experts with the training and skills of a Sommelier.

I can’t leave without giving you a few tips about using top grade olive oil to enhance your foods. Take organic lemons, carefully peel them, making sure to remove all of the bitter white pith, then blend with extra virgin olive oil in a blender, let sit overnight, and strain. Use to finish grilled, raw, or roasted fish, or for all types of vegetables.

Gently heat fresh crushed rosemary in olive oil, let it sit overnight, strain, and use for marinating and finishing all types of meats, especially lamb, and grilled fruits and veggies.

For shrimp and other seafood like crab and lobster, also for delicate raw white sea fish (like locus, bass, musar, etc) dishes: Split a fresh vanilla bean, add it to a bottle of olive oil along with a star anise, let infuse for a week. Drizzle seafood with this right before serving.

And most useful of all: Before going out drinking, drink two tablespoons of olive oil, this prevents you from getting, ahem, “too tipsy”, and also prevents hangovers.

So enjoy the olive harvest, and experiment, taste, and experience for yourselves this precious culinary treasure!

Chef Rima Olvera

Rima Olvera is a well-known chef working in Israel.

Rima Olvera writes about food in Israel in her blog Chef Rima’s Notes.