Israeli flag at Olympic Village

A capital crisis

By fifth grade most schoolchildren know the capitals of the world. So, when the BBC independently divided Jerusalem and earmarked ‘East Jerusalem’ as belonging to Palestine (which, it notes, is not recognized as a modern state), it made sense why Israel took offense.
In fact, a student who checked into the BBC website for geography information three weeks ago would have found that East Jerusalem is the capital of yet-to-be-declared-an-official-state Palestine. A click over to Israel, which the BBC admits is a recognized state, and the same student would have found that Israel is the only country in the world without a capital city.
Although slight adjustments have been made – East Jerusalem is no longer being called the capital of Palestine but rather the ‘intended seat of government’ – Israel is still lacking a capital.
So, the Israeli Olympians took part in a video titled, ‘Viral Response to BBC’s Map: Olympic Team Salutes to Jerusalem.’

Last week, the Prime Minister’s Office turned to the BBC to get Jerusalem listed as its capital on the British network’s Olympic Website but was refuted.
And so, according to the BBC, Israel is a country with its ‘seat of government’ in Jerusalem. But to make sure the broadcasting company is not accused of taking sides, heaven forbid, that remark comes with the stipulation that “most foreign embassies are in Tel Aviv.”
The Olympics are supposed to be about sportsmanship and fair play. At least the Games are being conducted outside the BBC’s studios.


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

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

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

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.