baby
Life

Outbrain’s baby step is giant leap for preemies

New father Amit Elisha, VP of Products at Outbrain, recently blogged about how the Israel-founded company – which provides the content discovery platform underneath the covers of leading news websites – donated a few lines of code that could ultimately save little lives.

Aviv Elisha was born prematurely in February and spent 98 days in an Israeli hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). His parents quickly learned that the worst nemesis of fragile preemies is infection. NICU doctors and nurses spend much of their time on painstaking procedures to avoid passing germs to the newborns.

Amit writes that just before his son came home, a sign appeared on the NICU door asking for any computer-savvy parents to make themselves known to the charge nurse.

“I volunteered and spoke to the Director of Neonatology about the sign. He explained that ‘days with no infection’ is one of the most important key performance indicators for the NICU. He asked if I would be able to write a script that could count the number of days since the last infection and be reset with a click of a button. … What they really needed was software that could track the three different forms of infections while also highlighting the total number of days since the last incident.”

An Outbrain programmer named Uriel wrote the code, and the application was installed at the hospital and even mentioned at a conference about infection prevention.

Amit reports that each Outbrain employee gets $300 a month to promote content of his/her choice.

“Giving back to the community is one of Outbrain’s core principles. Our first dollar in revenue was shared with a charity organization. One percent of our founded equity is being donated to Tmura, The Israeli Public Service Venture Fund. We have donated traffic to help non-profits during disasters, provided food for families in need, helped save a few whales and Bluefin tunas and we have ‘Meatless Tuesdays’ every week. We are blessed with the ability to amplify content and write beautiful code and I’m proud and thankful that we were able to use these abilities to help other premature babies end their journey in a place where they belong … home.”

Now that’s a dad you can be proud of, Aviv!

Matkot at sunset (Photography by Shutterstock.com)
Israeliness

Matkot are in full swing

The game of matkot is like Marmite. You either love it or hate it.

Considered Israel’s unofficial national sport, it’s a game in which two or more players hit a small ball back and forth using paddles. The game is a combination of paddleball, ping pong and squash. It gets its name from the paddle called a matka. Pluralised, it’s matkot.

In a country brimming with assertiveness, matkot comes with an interesting twist: It is a completely non-competitive beach game.

Fans of the game take to the country’s beaches throughout the year but especially in summertime. There’s no shortage of players – beginners to professionals – whacking a black rubber ball along the seashore.

Any time of day or night, beachgoers can hear the tic-tac-tic of the ball being hit.

Even the travel section of The New York Times recently dedicated a page to the matkot phenomenon in Tel Aviv.

Matkot is like Marmite.

But not everyone is pro-matkot. Like the fermented yeast spread, matkot evokes a polarized “love/hate” reaction.

The game can be dangerous to other beachgoers. Errant balls often hit innocent sunbathers.

And this prompted two local filmmakers from Tel Aviv to create a satirical short documentary on “the noisiest ball game in the world.”

“The beach could’ve been a fun place. But actually there is no beach, just matkot,” they bemoan in their film.

But like any good Israeli invention, this sport has crossed borders. Israeli travelers have already introduced the game to other beach cultures and people in Australia, Thailand and Brazil are fine-tuning their swings.

With the London Games upon us, it’s too late to add matkot to the sports lineup. But a group of veteran matkot players at Gordon beach in Tel Aviv told ISRAEL21c that though they hold international contests, they won’t be satisfied until matkot is an official Olympic sport.

Rio de Janeiro, are you listening?

(Photography of “Matkot at sunset” by Shutterstock.com)

Israeli Olympians
Behind the scenes at ISRAEL21c,Profiles

ISRAEL21c Olympian clips ON AIR

Who is Israeli sprinter Donald Sanford’s hero? Which Israeli swimmer grew up in the desert? And which Israeli athlete spent over two years in hospital?

All the answers are in our new video series that introduces fans to Israel’s leading athletes. The project is called iMMERSE and it’s a joint initiative between the iCenter and ISRAEL21c.

With just a week to go before the 2012 London Games officially open, the media and bloggers are going all out in serving up the latest tidbits on the athletes participating in the Olympics.

The 13 athletes profiled in the iMMERSE series is the largest collection of Israeli Olympian biographical videos available.

ISRAEL21c's video of Neta Rivkin on IBA News.

Two television stations – IBA News and JLTV – have both picked up the series and are now broadcasting the clips to their audiences.

IBA News, Israel Television’s English broadcast, kicked off the series on July 17 with judokan Ariel Zeevi. The newscast will run one video each evening up to the beginning of the Games.

JLTV, a 24-hour TV network delivering Jewish-themed programming in North America, will air the iMMERSE videos as part of its regular program, Israel Today.

A number of other news websites have also linked to the project.

So, even if you’re not in London for the actual event – you can get to know the blue-and-white Olympians through your computer screen or television at home. It’s like a front row seat with nobody blocking the view.

SWU Haifa team
Education

Learn. Lead. Innovate.

Three Muslim students from Azerbaijan, a handful from India, one from Turkey, and a hodgepodge of other budding young entrepreneurs from universities such as Oxford, Princeton and Cornell have registered for the Israeli student-led “Learn. Innovate. Lead” (LIL) Conference, scheduled for August 13-16 in Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Registration closed yesterday, and though the organizers haven’t quite raised the full $3,000 needed – they’re doing it via the crowd-funding site Jewcer – they’re confident the event will happen.

“I think we will make enough money because there is no other choice,” says University of Haifa student Roni Yore. “About 50 people have already bought tickets, so there is no way we will let it not work.” Pledge categories range from $5 to $100.

LIL logo

She and a group of students from her school and the Technion Israel Institute of Technology (shown above) cooked up the startup tour as part of their work with Stand With Us, an international campus-based Israel advocacy network.

“Since a lot of us are studying engineering, we decided to approach it from the technical side of Israel,” says Roni. “We are tired of the negative image Israel gets on the international news, so we decided to fight it with what we think is the best feature Israel has to offer.” Planned since March, the event’s been publicized through the usual social network channels.

Roni promises “lectures by big shots like Yossi Vardi and Moshe Kaplinsky,” and new-business tours including a “very cool tour of startups on Rothschild Street” in Tel Aviv.

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.”

Indeed.