Saturday, July 27, 2013

An Avian Spy In The Sky? Not Really!

Poor kestrel! It was happily flying over the Turkish province of Elazig when it was captured by villagers in Altinavya. Its crime? It was wearing a bling ring with the text “24311 Tel Avivunia Israel.” The villagers deemed the bird to be a feathered Israeli spook and promptly handed it over to the local authorities.
Scientist the local Firat University initially deemed our feathered friend to be indeed an “Israeli Spy” until tests, including X-rays, showed that the poor kestrel was just a bird – no microchips or hidden tracking or transmitting devices anywhere in or on its body.
Turkish authorities decided that he did not pose any national security risk and decided not to press charges. The lucky bird was allowed to fly off.
This isn't the first time that a bird was suspected of spying for Israel. Sudan suspected a vulture that was captured in the Darfur region of spying for Israel. According to Egypt’s El Balad, the bird of prey was equipped with a GPS chip and solar-powered equipment that enabled it to take pictures.
The evidence brought against our avian spook was a logo tagged to its leg, which convinced Sudanese security officials that the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was spook central.
Also Saudi Arabia does not rust vultures to be just birds. Authorities captured a griffon vulture suspected of being part of a “Zionist plot” - based on GPS transmitter on its leg bearing the name of Tel Aviv University,
Israeli researchers tried to explain that young vultures are often tagged with a GPS chip to monitor what happens to them for scientific research. Needless to say, it fell on deaf ears.
Poor birds of prey - they now know how Dreyfus must have felt....

Sunday, April 22, 2012

You Can Now Google The Streets of Israel

It took quite some time, but you can now finally (if you want to) get a street view of Israel's main cities. For now, the popular Street View service is limited to the country's three largest cities.
It will give you insight into  ordinary life in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa. Needless to say, due to security issues, areas around several sensitive sites (e.g., military headquartersand the PM's residence) are blurred out.

Google Street View was held up in Israel due to concerns that images of its streets could be used by terrorists. The Islamic Jihad militant group in Gaza for one has boasted that it used Google Earth to aim rockets at Israel.

In August 2011, after a panel of government ministers met for six months to draft security guidelines, Israel announced it had reached an agreement with Google.

Israel is the first Middle Eastern nation to display its cities and streets online. Iraq's National Museum is also available on Street View.

Images show typical street scenes, including bicycles chained to the gates of apartment gardens in Tel Aviv, tourists sunbathing on Haifa's beaches, and the crowded Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem's Old City.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said that militants know the city well even without the Google service.
He also stated that other urban military installations (e.g., the Pentagon outside Washington) were also was left off Street View.

However, not all Israelis are happy with Google Street View. Retired Lt. Col. Mordechai Kedar, who served for 25 years in Israeli intelligence, thinks that he service would be a boon to militants seeking to attack Israel. "They will use it daily," Kedar said. "Every day Street View is online, it's causing damage."

Google Israel's country manager, Meir Brand, said additional cities will soon join Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa, including Beersheba, Nazareth and Eilat.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Logos in Hebrew

Once you live in Israel, you will see that global brands, such as Coca-Cola, have their logo in Hebrew lettering. “Translating” a brand so it keeps its instant recognition is not easy.

To illustrate how difficult it can be, let’s have a look at the Carlsberg logo.

At first glance, it looks like the Hebrew lettering is amazingly similar to the Latin one. However, the Hebrew logo tries to stay a bit too close to the Latin glyphs.

First of all, the L has almost no the horizontal line at the top, while the curve at the bottom is too pronounced. In this case, flipping the B to stay faithful to the design guidelines did not quite pay off.....

The first Reish (reading from the right) could also be mistaken for a N (Nun), while the second one (with the leaf on top) is so stylized that is could easily be read as a B (Beit).

That said, the logo has been in use for the past 20 years and is easily recognized by consumers. (Located in Askhelon, Carlsberg has been in Israel since 1992, and produces Carlsberg, Tuborg, and Malty. It also imports Guinness, Weihenstephan, Baltika and Kilkenney).

Consumer brands tend to “localize” their brands. Coca-Cola, Fanta, Ariel, Knorr, and AEG all have created Hebrew logos. Other brands, such as IBM, prefer their logos to remain in Latin characters, no matter the native tongue of their target audience ....

Local brands, such as Tara or Tnuva, , have their logos in Hebrew. Just check out the supermarket close to you - the designs are amazing!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

IT'S FANGA TIME!!!

Thursday 8 December 2011

Yad Lebanim Hall

(147 Ahuza Street, Raanana)

9:30pm

Hillary Sargeant & FANGA Band

(click above to see highlights of last year's show)

will light up the stage like never before!

Meet the Faces of FANGA!

Shai Bachar (USA)- Keyboards/ Musical Director
Tomer Cohen (IL) - Woodwinds
Jamale Hopkins (USA) - Drums
Royn Iwryn(IL) - Percussion
Gabriel Polak (IL) - Guitar
Yogev Glusman (IL) - Bass

BACKGROUND VOCALS:
Naama Cohen (IL)
Talia Kliger (IL)
Jacqueline Fay (IL)

FEATURING:

Eyal Ganor (IL) - Contra Bass

Yankale Segal (IL) - Oud

Nii Adzah Ananag (Ghana) - African Drums

Naama Cohen (IL-Season 9 Kokav Nolad ) - Soloist

Fanga ! Experience from Hillary Sargeant Fanga on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A letter from an Israeli Reserve Soldier Stationed at the Border with Egypt

My name is Aron Adler.


I am 25 years old, was born in Brooklyn NY, and raised in Efrat Israel. Though very busy, I don’t view my life as unusual. Most of the time, I am just another Israeli citizen. During the day I work as a paramedic in Magen David Adom, Israel’s national EMS service. At night, I’m in my first year of law school. I got married this October and am starting a new chapter of life together with my wonderful wife Shulamit.


15-20 days out of every year, I'm called up to the Israeli army to do my reserve duty. I serve as a paramedic in an IDF paratrooper unit. My squad is made up of others like me; people living normal lives who step up to serve whenever responsibility calls. The oldest in my squad is 58, a father of four girls and grandfather of two; there are two bankers, one engineer, a holistic healer, and my 24 year old commander who is still trying to figure out what to do with his life. Most of the year we are just normal people living our lives, but for 15-20 days each year we are soldiers on the front lines preparing for a war that we hope we never have to fight.


This year, our reserve unit was stationed on the border between Israel, Egypt and the Gaza Strip in an area called “Kerem Shalom.” Above and beyond the “typical” things for which we train – war, terrorism, border infiltration, etc., - this year we were confronted by a new challenge. Several years ago, a trend started of African refugees crossing the Egyptian border from Sinai into Israel to seek asylum from the atrocities in Darfur.

What started out as a small number of men, women and children fleeing from the machetes of the Janjaweed and violent fundamentalists to seek a better life elsewhere, turned into an organized industry of human trafficking. In return for huge sums of money, sometimes entire life savings paid to Bedouin “guides,” these refugees are promised to be transported from Sudan, Eritrea, and other African countries through Egypt and the Sinai desert, into the safe haven of Israel.


We increasingly hear horror stories of the atrocities these refugees suffer on their way to freedom. They are subject to, and victims of extortion, rape, murder, and even organ theft, their bodies left to rot in the desert. Then, if lucky, after surviving this gruesome experience whose prize is freedom, when only a barbed wire fence separates them from Israel and their goal, they must go through the final death run and try to evade the bullets of the Egyptian soldiers stationed along the border. Egypt’s soldiers are ordered to shoot to kill anyone trying to cross the border OUT of Egypt and into Israel. It’s an almost nightly event.


For those who finally get across the border, the first people they encounter are Israeli soldiers, people like me and those in my unit, who are tasked with a primary mission of defending the lives of the Israeli people. On one side of the border soldiers shoot to kill. On the other side, they know they will be treated with more respect than in any of the countries they crossed to get to this point.


The region where it all happens is highly sensitive and risky from a security point of view, an area stricken with terror at every turn. It’s just a few miles south of the place where Gilad Shalit was kidnapped. And yet the Israeli soldiers who are confronted with these refugees do it not with rifles aimed at them, but with a helping hand and an open heart. The refugees are taken to a nearby IDF base, given clean clothes, a hot drink, food and medical attention. They are finally safe.


Even though I live Israel and am aware through media reports of the events that take place on the Egyptian border, I never understood the intensity and complexity of the scenario until I experienced it myself.


In the course of the past few nights, I have witnessed much. At 9:00 PM last night, the first reports came in of gunfire heard from the Egyptian border. Minutes later, IDF scouts spotted small groups of people trying to get across the fence. In the period of about one hour, we picked up 13 men - cold, barefoot, dehydrated - some wearing nothing except underpants. Their bodies were covered with lacerations and other wounds. We gathered them in a room, gave them blankets, tea and treated their wounds. I don’t speak a word of their language, but the look on their faces said it all and reminded me once again why I am so proud to be a Jew and an Israeli. Sadly, it was later determined that the gunshots we heard were deadly, killing three others fleeing for their lives.

During the 350 days a year when I am not on active duty, when I am just another man trying to get by, the people tasked with doing this amazing job, this amazing deed, the people witnessing these events, are mostly young Israeli soldiers just out of high school, serving their compulsory time in the IDF, some only 18 years old.

The refugees flooding into Israel are a heavy burden on our small country. More than 100,000 refugees have fled this way, and hundreds more cross the border every month. The social, economic, and humanitarian issues created by this influx of refugees are immense. There are serious security consequences for Israel as well. This influx of African refugees poses a crisis for Israel. Israel has yet to come up with the solutions required to deal with this crisis effectively, balancing its’ sensitive social, economic, and security issues, at the same time striving to care for the refugees.

I don’t have the answers to these complex problems which desperately need to be resolved. I’m not writing these words with the intention of taking a political position or a tactical stand on the issue.

I am writing to tell you and the entire world what’s really happening down here on the Egyptian/Israeli border. And to tell you that despite all the serious problems created by this national crisis, these refugees have no reason to fear us. Because they know, as the entire world needs to know, that Israel has not shut its eyes to their suffering and pain. Israel has not looked the other way. The State of Israel has put politics aside to take the ethical and humane path as it has so often done before, in every instance of human suffering and natural disasters around the globe. We Jews know only too well about suffering and pain. The Jewish people have been there. We have been the refugees and the persecuted so many times, over thousands of years, all over the world.


Today, when African refugees flood our borders in search of freedom and better lives, and some for fear of their lives, it is particularly noteworthy how Israel deals with them, despite the enormous strain it puts on our country on so many levels. Our young and thriving Jewish people and country, built from the ashes of the Holocaust, do not turn their backs on humanity. Though I already knew that, this week I once again experienced it firsthand. I am overwhelmed with emotion and immensely proud to be a member of this nation.

With love of Israel,

Aron Adler writing from the Israel/Gaza/Egyptian border.

Monday, November 07, 2011


Hillary Sargeant & FANGA Band 2011 Concert!!!

performing a mix of Caribbean & Middle Eastern Grooves, Soul, R&B & World Music!

This year we are putting on a BBB (Bigger, Brighter and Better) Show

at

Yad Lebanim Hall, Raanana

on

Thursday 8 December, 2011 - 9:30pm

Click here to listen to the whole EP, Trilogy of FANGA - FREE !

**************************************************************************

If you were at last year's show at Reading 3, Tel Aviv you know you don't want to miss this year!

So be sure to call me early to get your ticket.

Tickets: 052-882-0202; 052-881-7500

Price: NIS 120

(buy 2 and you pay NIS 200.)

Thanks again Debra for your continued support and please pass on the word to your friends......you won't want them to miss it this time!

Neshikot,

Hillary

P.S. To watch FANGA 2010 Show be sure to click here.

FANGA!

www.fanga-music.com

Sunday, March 06, 2011

God's Own Official Guide to Locating Everything...how the internet started

By Morris Ellis*

A revelation with an Incredibly Big Message (IBM): Well, you might have thought that you knew how the Internet started, but here's the TRUE story....

In ancient Israel , it came to pass that a trader by the name of Abraham Com did take unto himself a young wife by the name of Dot. And Dot Com was a comely woman, broad of shoulder and long of leg. Indeed, she was often called Amazon Dot Com.And she said unto Abraham, her husband: "Why dost thou travel so far from town to town with thy goods when thou canst trade without ever leaving thy tent?"

And Abraham did look at her - as though she were several saddle bags short of a camel load, but simply said: "How, dear?"And Dot replied: "I will place drums in all the towns and drums in between to send messages saying what you have for sale, and they will reply telling you who hath the best price. And the sale can be made on the drums and delivery made by Uriah's Pony Stable (UPS)."

Abraham thought long and decided he would let Dot have her way with the drums. And the drums rang out and were an immediate success. Abraham sold all the goods he had at the top price, without ever having to move from his tent.To prevent neighbouring countries from overhearing what the drums were saying, Dot devised a system that only she and the drummers knew. It was called Must Send Drum Over Sound (MSDOS), and she also developed a language to transmit ideas and pictures - Hebrew To The People (HTTP) - but this success did arouse envy.

A man named Maccabia did secrete himself inside Abraham's drum and began to siphon off some of Abraham's business. But he was soon discovered, arrested and prosecuted - for insider trading. And the young men did take to Dot Com's trading as doth the greedy Horsefly take to camel dung. They were called Nomadic Ecclesiastical Rich Dominican Sybarites, or NERDS.

And lo, the land was so feverish with joy at the new riches and the deafening sound of drums that no one noticed that the real riches were going to that enterprising drum dealer, Brother William of Gates, who bought off every drum maker in the land. And indeed did insist on drums to be made that would work only with Brother Gates' drumheads and drumsticks.

And Dot did say: "Oh, Abraham, what we have started is being taken over by others."And Abraham looked out over the Bay of Ezekiel , or eBay as it came to be known. He said: "We need a name that reflects what we are."And Dot replied: "Young Ambitious Hebrew Owner Operators." "YAHOO," said Abraham. And because it was Dot's idea, they named it YAHOO Dot Com.

Abraham's cousin, Joshua, being the young Gregarious Energetic Educated Kid (GEEK) that he was, soon started using Dot's drums to locate things around the countryside.
It soon became known as God's Own Official Guide to Locating Everything (GOOGLE).

And that is how it all began.; despite the claim of rapper Al Gore Rhythms...

(image courtesy of www.g-dcast.com)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

About Israel

(Allegedly by the Israeli humorist, Efraim Kishon)

  • Israel is a country surrounded on all sides by enemies, but the people's headaches are caused by the neighbors upstairs.
  • Israel is the only country in the world where the coffee is already so good that Starbucks went bankrupt trying to break into the local market.
  • Israel is the only country in the world whose soldiers eat three sets of salads a day, none of which contain any lettuce (which is not really a food), and where olives ARE a food and even a main course in a meal, rather than something one tosses into a martini.
  • Israel is the only country in the world where the leading writers in the country take buses.
  • Israel is the only country in the world that has a National Book Week, during which almost everyone attends a book fair and buys books.
  • Israel is a country where the same drivers who cuss you and flip you the bird will immediately pull over and offer you all forms of help if you look like you need it.
  • Israel is the only country in the world with bus drivers and taxi drivers who read Spinoza and Maimonides.
  • Israel is the only country in the world where reservists are bossed around and commanded by officers, male and female, younger than their own children.
  • Israel is the only country in the world where "small talk" consists of loud, angry debate over politics and religion.
  • Israel is the only country in the world where inviting someone "out for a drink" means drinking cola, coffee or tea.
  • Israel is the only country in the world where bank robbers kiss the mezuzah as they leave with their loot..
  • Israel is the only country in the world that introduces applications of high-tech gadgets and devices, such as printers in banks that print out your statement on demand, years ahead of the United States and decades ahead of Europe .
  • Israel is the only country in the world where everyone on a flight gets to know one another before the plane lands. In many cases, they also get to know the pilot and all about his health or marital problems.
  • Israel is the only country in the world where no one has a foreign accent because everyone has a foreign accent.
  • Israel is the only country in the world where patients visiting physicians end up giving the doctor advice.
  • Israel is the only country in the world where everyone strikes up conversations while waiting in lines.
  • Israel is the only country in the world where people call an attach√© case a "James Bond" and the "@" sign is called a "strudel".
  • Israel is the only country in the world where there is the most mysterious and mystical calm ambience in the streets on Yom Kippur, which cannot be explained unless you have experienced it.

Saturday, January 09, 2010


Working life in Israeli High-tech

Working in Israel is different – especially from working in Europe. The working week consists of 45 hours – depending on the industry you work in, it translates to a 5-day working week of 9 hours. Most companies provide food – the fridge is stocked with fresh vegetables, cheese, and humus. There are also cookies and bread. Company kitchens boast a water cooler, microwave and toaster. If you are lucky, your company also provides a card for purchasing lunch from various restaurants. (You still have to pay one-third and income tax over the two-thirds that the company pays).

In Israel, especially in high-tech, employees are highly skilled and highly motivated. Almost all of them (myself included) have two Master degrees. Oliem need to realize that having an MBA is almost mandatory to get to senior management levels.

Especially in high-tech, the culture is heavily influenced by the Israeli army. Since everyone in Israel joins the army at the age of 18 and leaves the army 3 years later (2 years for women), the ethos of army life translates into business life. The army experience shapes the future employee work ethic and attitudes. Outside of Israel, employees are given a task and see it as a task; however in Israel, it's a mission. Every task is taken with the utmost seriousness, and “white nights” are no exception - employees in the Israeli office will not go home until the task is done.

High-tech in Israel is product/invention driven. Especially marketing is the stepchild – not really considered to be a serious asset for the company. Many CEOs and VPs know that they might come across as rude, pushy and aggressive. The language is to blame for it – there is no “I would if I could, but I cannot, so I wouldn’t”-nuances in the Hebrew. There is only a present, past and future tense and an imperative. Due to the culture and the political situation, Israelis are high gear. This often confuses business partners abroad, who like to mull over questions and decisions.

Applying for a job in Israel is an interesting event. LinkedIn is a favorite tool for HR managers to scout for talent. Since it’s a small country, networking is important – most jobs are not even posted, but filled throught personal recommendations. Recruiting companies (there are a lot of them) are highly active and will send your resume on, sometimes without even interviewing you. Once you are invited for an interview, you will be asked about your salary expectations. This is the tricky part – apart from the salary itself, you have to state if you want a car (valued at around NIS 3,000), kerens, lunch, vacation days, and any other extras that you want to claim. The best way is to quote a salary margin.

Especially in high-tech, there is a high turnover rate. Due to companies or collapsing or being taken over, the average working life in a high-tech company is 2 years. If you want job security, your only option is to work for the government where you will have job security but a very low salary. In high-tech, companies and managers give their employees lots of opportunities to explore new ventures, improve skills, and to come up with new initiatives. From personal experience, working in Israel is fulfilling, exciting and dynamic.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Corporate hijinx

(This article was translated from a Hebrew comedy sketch written by comedian Barak Kesar about working at the above major high tech company.)

Look at what we’ve come to…
Look at the cleaning lady, hanging around with an “I will always have a job because there will always be dust” face. Just wait until the soap bubble you’ve been living in bursts; let’s see how you deal when the prices of bleach go up.
Now we’re down to 4 work days…

On Sunday morning my little boy picked up the phone and called the kindergarten teacher to tell her he’s not coming.
Teacher: “Why?”
Son: “Couldn’t find an arrangement for Dad. At least I managed to send Mom off to the mall.”

At first it’s confusing, you don’t know if it’s Saturday or Sunday. The only way of checking is the oven. If there’s a pot of jachnun in there, it’s Saturday.
And if we’re canceling days, why Sunday? Why not Thursday, save us the expenses of the Shabbat dinner while we’re at it.

Things are rough everywhere, not just in high tech.

The beggar at the intersection told me that due to the crisis he’s been forced to increase his work week to 8 work days.
If we were factory workers, we’d at least see some action, lock the gates, burn some tires. In high tech, what’s there to do? Burn the DiskOnKey? Block the entrance? Most of us work from home anyway.

Ever since the “It’ll be OK” commercial for Bank Leumi has been on the air, I’ve been panicking, hysterically! There’s nothing more terrifying than an Israeli telling you “don’t worry, it’ll be ok”.
There are lots of people out there looking for jobs with Bachelor’s degrees, Master’s degrees, 10 years of experience, but between us, there’s only one thing anyone needs to work for my company: an Indian citizenship.

Heartbreaking to see everything going over to India. I hope the financial tsunami doesn’t get there. Personally I prefer to hope that a real tsunami gets them, the one with the waves, the jellyfish, the Thai people.
It’s like in Thailand you see all the good farmers run away to Israel, or the Chinese who don’t have any more construction workers left because they’re all here.
And not only do they take our jobs, they also make sure to mess with our future generation’s brains as they go to Goa after the army, only to come back in a dolphin-like state.

Sometimes I feel like going there and opening an El Gaucho restaurant, on purpose, with a picture of a cow spinning on a shawarma skewer.

My company has creative methods to increase efficiency.

In order to get you to arrive earlier to work, they lower the number of yogurt cups in the kitchenettes. If only they knew how much valuable time I waste by chasing the last yogurt cup instead of working…

If you get to work at 9:00, you’re done for. There’s no chance you’ll find yogurt. At 8:30 you stand a shot, but that includes frantically running through all the kitchenettes on all floors.
And it’s not just the yogurt, it’s the bread rolls too. A few years ago they’d give us sandwich rolls, then they cut down on roll size, then they just brought in empty rolls. Tomorrow they’ll give us flour, water and a recipe.

And at lunch? There’s a million conditions: if you took a cold meal ticket, you’re entitled to a salad but not to dessert or a hot side dish, and God forbid you should also take a soup.
In general, cold meal eaters have an identification mark – the special tray. You have a special tray – then… No Soup For YOU! Wait – what if it’s a cold soup? Does that count as a cold meal?!
Since the food reforms I’ve been continuously paranoid. I keep imagining the caterer yelling at me through a microphone: “Company inhabitants, you are in the dining room, please act accordingly.”

Yesterday I was caught red-handed… with a cold tray… and a lukewarm chicken. Fortunately, I had stuffed the rice in my pocket. Is it me, or do they have to put in less effort for food in Survivor?

Now they’ve put a limit on mileage too. They’ve installed a green box in the car, sort of like a black box on a plane. (By the way, if the black box is made of material that is crash-proof, why not make the entire plane out of the same material?)

There are new stickers on the back windshield. Instead of “How’s my driving? Dial…”, it’s now “Am I driving? Dial…”

Today my company’s name is synonymous with “feel sorry for me”.

Every time an article comes out about another round of dismissals at the company, there’s an obligatory scene with the neighbors.
The neighbor comes over, feeling out the vibe: “Hey man, is everything ok? I’m not used to seeing you at 8 o’clock in the morning. What happened? Didn’t feel like going to work today, or they didn’t feel like having you come in?” Or- “I’m sending you something to your work email account, are you still checking it?”

A second neighbor: “Oh man, I saw the company sticker on your car, I didn’t know you worked there… If you need anything, I know someone at JobMaster, I can get you a good price for the subscription fee and you’ll pay the first installment only after getting fired.”

I’m waiting at a red light, in the car next to me is some guy from a competitor – now there is some sort of covert discussion with those standing next to you at the traffic light – he gives me the look of an Indonesian watching the tsunami hit Thailand, a look of “I survived, good luck to you.” The guys from that company have already taken over all the staircases in all the buildings, without leaving us any places to clean.

I come in to work, the hallways are empty, no one dares to walk around. If someone says Shalom to me, I start to think: “Wait a minute- was that his final farewell? What can I take from his office?”

Or maybe it will be he who’ll say sometime later: “I can’t believe it, I only said Shalom to him this morning.”
And in general, whenever more than two people are looking at you as you’re walking through the corridor, they probably know something. And every conversation starts with “Have you heard who”?

“Have you heard who got fired? Shimshon, the guy walking around here earlier with the yogurt.”
“You don’t say, wait… he had yogurt?! Which room is he in?”
The ways of notifying people have grown sophisticated too.

One guy was asked whether he’d opened the “Mamon” (business) paper on Saturday. He answered: “No. Why”? They told him: “You should, they’ve got some good classifieds in there…”
There was one VP who was really nervous before “the talk”.
“We’ve called you in to let you know that we’ve arranged an office for you.”
“An office in the corner building?”
“Close, the unemployment office.”

I heard one guy who was told: “Listen, if they call you from “Big Brother” or “Survivor” and ask you to participate in their next season, tell them you’re available.”
Women, however- are covered.

Once, when there were wars, you’d know that after 9 months there’d be an increase in the number of births. Now, it’s the same thing. Every round of dismissals triggers a baby boom.
There’ll be a song about it in a few years: “We are the children of the high tech crisis 2009”.
Pregnancy. Your anti-dismissal pill. 100% proven success rate.

In a few years the kid will ask you:
“Mommy, did I come into the world by mistake?”
And you’ll answer, “No honey, Mommy was on the chopping block at work”
“And my seven brothers and sisters?”
“What can I say honey, they had my number, I had to dodge the boot quite a bit.”

Today, getting pregnant is like getting immunity.
Even a single woman I know pulled out a positive pregnancy test stick and shoved it in my face. I told her: “Saral’e? You’re religious!”
She told me: “I did a Shabbat at the kolel, everything included, the Rabbi said that all means are kosher.”

There are also the fakers. One woman comes in for the talk with a huge belly.
“What’s that”? They asked her.
“Pregnancy!” she answered.
“From whom? (bedding maker) The “Fried Brothers”?
“No, why?” she asked.
“Because the corridor is covered in goose feathers, you have a hole in your pillow.”

A friend of mine told me that his wife won’t let him sleep! “I have to get pregnant, I have to get pregnant”. Eventually, he ended up getting fired for coming to work exhausted.
I said to him: “you should have told me, we could have done shifts. What does it matter, pregnancy is pregnancy.”

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Jews on the Moon (a fable) by Janet S. Tiger

One of the great traits of us Israelis (and Jews in general) is our talent to survive. The Greeks, the Romans, the Incas, the Aztecs - they came and went. I got from my friend Martin the following fable, and didn't know who wrote it. The author Janet S. Tiger contacted me, so I can properly credit her. Janet, chapeau! And now the fun starts.....

The Jews settled the moon in 2053, just about five years after the end of the Islamic Wars of the 40's, where the Middle East, and Israel, of course, had been obliterated by nuclear weapons.

The two million Jews remaining throughout the rest of the world - less than 100,000 total in all the Islamic countries - banded together and purchased the dark side of the moon, which no other companies or people wished to colonize. Great transports were arranged via the 62,000 mile space elevator and the Space Shuttle and every Jew on Earth - including anyone who claimed any Jewish heritage whatsoever - left to go to a place where no one could blame them for anything.
The Earth rejoiced - happily rid of all Jews. There were huge parties throughout all of Sweden and the rest of Europe, Africa, Asia, South America, and North America. (Now known as the Northern Alliance of Islamic States after the United States was taken over peacefully in the elections of 2040 by a predominantly Muslim Congress and President, who immediately passed amendments making Islam the main religion of the United States and the world.) After the last Jew entered the elevator, (a David Goldstein, 62, formerly of New York), the Earth was officially declared Judenrein, by Hans Ibn Hitler, a great, great-grandson of Hitler who had been raised in Brazil and hidden by Nazis until this precious moment.It was not an easy move for the Jews but, in some ways, it was no different than all their moves of previous eras.
Some former Israelis, (still alive because they were out of Israel when the bombs dropped), claimed that the moon was easier to deal with because there were no Extremist Muslims. Of course, this precipitated a huge argument with some Jews, who felt not having the Radical Muslims nearby was not enough challenge. Other Jews argued that taming a wilderness with no atmosphere, plant or animal life and freezing temperatures was enough challenge. And yet other Jews argued that arguing was counterproductive. It came as no surprise to anyone that for the two million Jews, there were eventually one million synagogues. (With the other million Jews not joining.)
It was also no surprise that within just three years, the Jews had created a controlled environment that allowed for fantastic plant and animal growth and production. The transports, which had been called the Arks, had also carried two of each animal and plant (remember, Noah), and through the ingenuity of the Jews and cloning, there were now many new species which sped up production of food (cows with six udders, chickens with four legs and so forth.)The population had rapidly increased and, due to the amazing collection of scientific and medical minds, most diseases and even aging had been reduced to nil.

There was even a ministry of communication with Earth consisting of the remains of Hollywood producers and movie makers, who sent back to Earth portraits of life on the moon. Of course, it had been decided when the Jews first got to the moon - based on six-thousand-year history of people being jealous of Jewish accomplishment - that all news coverage of the moon's population would be 'movie-ized' to show only horrible things. The film industry, led by Jordan Spielberg, went to great lengths to fabricate news clips to show Jews barely surviving in the harsh lunar habitat. Artists and engineers labored to cover over the vast environmental successes with illusionary domes showing massive areas of wasteland - just in case anyone from Earth ever sent a spaceship with cameras to see what was going on.
But no-one ever did, and the years passed rapidly. One decade, then another. Bar Mitzvahs, weddings, brises, all celebrated under the artificial world that the Jews had created - not only had it not been that bad, but by the end of the century, some Jewish authors were calling the moon colony - 'Eden 2'. Of course other Jews disagreed. In fact, much time was spent on disagreeing. There were even contests for arguing but, in general, there was peace. Anyone who threatened the peace was forced to officiate at a contest with people arguing about why that person was wrong. The contests would go on for days, (sometimes weeks) until the troublemaker begged for forgiveness. (Many penalties on the moon were similar to this, and were extremely effective.)

Back on Earth, life disintegrated without the Jews. There was a return to Middle Ages thought - only the current religion du jour was valid - all others were kept legislated into poverty until a war erupted and the positions changed for a few years.Another amazing anomaly appeared when there were no longer any Jews on Earth - anti-Semitism actually increased to monumental proportions! Famous orators explained this simply by saying; "I don't have to have a gun to be afraid of having my brains blown out." Additionally, without the presence of the Jew, the world developed incredible evil that had no release. (Previous evil had always focused on the Jews).
One Rabbi on the moon actually said G-d spoke to him and said that he, G-d was about to destroy the Earth because everyone on the Earth was evil. The Rabbi begged him to reconsider, and bargained that if there were 1,000 good people left on Earth, G-d should spare the planet. G-d then told the Rabbi, "Hey, I was through this before with Abraham and Noah and I already know the answer because I'm G-d."
People laughed at the Rabbi, but then, one day, while all the lunar citizens were going about their business, an enormous series of explosions was seen on the Earth. Everyone on the moon stared at the distant fireballs that seemed to engulf the blue planet that was once their home. Although there had been great anger at being forced to leave the Earth, the true spirit of Judaism was always present on the moon, and no one had wished ill on to their former home. As in the tradition of the Seder (when the wine is spilled because the Egyptians perished and we do not rejoice fully when even an enemy has died) when the Jews saw what was happening, they began to weep and pray, and watch what was to be the final news broadcast from Earth.
The horror of the apocalypse was videotaped by cameras until all electricity was ionized by the new electron bombs. Entire countries were wiped away in the blink of an ion exploding. And then came the final transmission from the nation that had started the entire mess - it was a desperate headline screamed by a hundred dying newscasters. Their rant continued until it was just blackness.
What were they saying? As the Jews watched, some gasped, others cried, and a few even laughed. For the last words of the disappearing civilization were a condemnation.
"The Jews have caused all our problems - they left us here to face the mess they made."
"If the Jews hadn't taken all the best scientists and engineers, we could have defeated our enemies."
"Our enemies are the Jews! Kill all the Jews."
It took a little while, but the electronics experts pieced together what had happened on Earth during its last days Anti-Semitism, which had grown stronger and stronger since the Jews had left, had reached its pinnacle, and all the countries of the world had decided to launch a massive attack on the moon.
The attack had been coordinated by the United Nations and, although all the missiles had been launched properly, there was some sort of glitch in the targeting system, resulting in all the weapons colliding in the upper atmosphere and showering the Earth with a deadly rain of nuclear fire, electronic destruction and a generally bad day. The mistake triggered the military response of all the nations - (who all had nuclear weapons by then -plus a few other horrid toys) and the result was truly an Armageddon. The Jews on the moon went into a period of deep mourning. The Orthodox rent their clothing and there were mass counselling sessions.
And then, about one week after the BIG DAY, as it was now called, a presence was detected heading towards the moon. Had one of the missiles escaped? Were the Jews doomed after all?
The leaders checked with the defence experts - no, this was not a missile, it was an old-style spacecraft, like the ones used in the early seventies. As it approached, the laser defence was trained on the craft. Debates raged as to whether the craft should be destroyed or allowed to get close enough to communicate with.A message from the ship came just in time. It said, "We are the last representatives from Earth - two from each country and we come in peace."
Some Jews rejoiced that there were survivors, others demanded isolation or death of the approaching group. The Rabbi who had had the vision of earth's destruction told the leaders that G-d wanted them to have a chance, so they were allowed to circle the moon. When told they could have a section of land to themselves to farm and repopulate, the Earthlings were upset. They told the Jews that they should be allowed to live with the Jews and have all the same privileges - because, after all, in Judaism, the stranger is given the same rights and privileges as the citizen.
Upon hearing this, the leaders went to the Rabbi with the visions, and he offered to guide the visitors to their new home. The leaders allowed him to give the instructions for landing. Of course, not trusting the Rabbi, the commander of the ship didn't listen to his advice and instead crashed into a lunar crater.
And so we have the final days of the history of the planet Earth, which have been generously shared with us by the Jewish colony of the 453rd Solar System of the M Galaxy. Although the Earth is currently uninhabitable, the head engineer of the Jewish colony on Mars tells us that Venus will be fully colonized by the year 2120, and with continuous replanting, Earth will once again be ready for Jews returning from other planets in the year 2136.
An interesting side note - inside the wreckage of the rocket with the survivors from Earth was a specially marked package that had survived which included the following words:
"Once there was a great planet named the Earth. And there were many peoples on this planet, and they all existed peacefully with each other, except for the Jews Wherever there were Jews, there was trouble. Jews brought dirt and death and hatred and strife. They were finally banished from our planet, only to take with them many great inventors and scientists and doctors, leaving Earth with nothing. We have decided to destroy the remnants of the Jews, and since the first attempt failed, we are the last chance for Earth. Whoever shall find this will know the truth - It was all the Jews' fault."
This panel has been saved and is on display at the Earth Memorial Museum at Rivka Crater, NW, for all travellers who wish to see the remains of a civilization that did not understand the words - "he who blesses the Jews, is himself blessed, he who curses the Jews, is himself cursed"' Shalom.
Credits: "May We Please Have the Moon"? by Janet S. Tiger, copyright 11/15/2003. All rights reserved.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Sic Transit Gloria Socialista

My friends, it’s official – I am a Likudnik. Oy, my grandparents (socialists of the Old School) and my great-grandfather (who campaigned for a Labour Safety Law) are for sure spinning in their graves. But you see that’s what this country does to you. It’s very nice to discuss the Situation in the Middle East from your comfortable Italian designer soft leather armchair, enjoying a nice glass of Merlot wine while nibbling on some Roquefort cheese, but it’s a different story when you are under attack. And don’t get me wrong – under attack we are here in the Holy Land. Not only by the Grad missiles (or the Grad 2.0 that will be hitting my little town within the next two years – mark my words) from Gaza, but also from the international media, that justify any anti-Jewish/anti-Israel opinion or statement – no matter how warped. So after voting moderate left-wing for two decades or so, I am now officially a hawk. Damn, it really feels good!

Voting in Israel is an Event – celebrated with an official national holiday. Yep, you don’t get time off for moving apartments, but you do get time off for voting, which will only take up to 30 minutes or so of your time. Needless to say, it’s a brutal waste of money in my opinion. When I made alyah 12 years ago and got the invitation to vote, I was convinced that I would get a secret code or something like which would enable me to vote via my cell phone. Or at least via Internet! But no, high-tech Israel (where even pumping gas with your company car is fully automated – courtesy of the Israeli Dalkan system), voting will take you back to the time of the British Mandate. You see, this is how it goes.

You go to your local voting station, which is a school or community center in your neighborhood, No need to check the street number – just go where there are heaps of people loudly discussion politics. You can recognize the different supporters by their T-shirts/caps/promotional garb on their illegally parked cars. Don’t make eye contact – just head for the entrance door. Once you are inside, you have to figure out where to go. The invitation should have a number, unless you didn’t receive it, in which case you call the “Moked” (the hotline) and ask. Don’t try to go by something as simple as the first letter of your family name – it wouldn’t fly. OK, now you are inside and you walk up to a table with 3 people – think American Idol jury without attractive people like Paula Abdul. The triumvirate (m/f) has huge ledgers in front of them that any ship captain from the time of Sir Francis Drake would have been proud of. One takes your identity card and the other two try to find you in the ledger. The previous time I voted, they could not find me under the D, although both my given and family name starts with that letter. After 20 minutes, I was located under “Dayan” - although I have no connection to that illustrious family at all. Once identified, you are sent to the voting booth itself, which is a carton box around an old rickety-rack table. I was afraid to sneeze and bring it all tumbling down. On the table are little pieces of paper (see photo) with up to three Hebrew letters on it. I felt like an idiot – I was used in Europe to vote using an interactive computer touch screen (I still vote for the national and European Parliament – trying to keep the radicals out). You vote by putting the Hebrew letter(s) piece of paper that represents your favorite party in an envelope that you then place in the secured voting box (that looks like a recycling bin – how fitting!). Only then do you get your identity card back and are you allowed to leave. My fitness trainer is one of the polling station people in her neighborhood, so I am looking forwards to her stories. Counting votes is done by hand, under the beady eyes of the different party representatives. I don’t envy her – it will be mayhem all around. (But it does pay well!) It’s good that she used to be an Olympic weightlifter – tempers flare and fists fly.

The elections tomorrow will quite likely be a Likud victory with Netanyahu as the new PM. I would be happy about that – Bibi is an economic genius and the Likud has some good people on list, not in the least BennyBegin (son of the late Menachem and one of the few truly honest and truthful politicians). Our country and the Western world need a strong Israeli government – for all our sakes and our democracies.

So there it is – after several generations of peace-loving socialists, I am the first polictial hawk in my family. Please don’t tell my sister – she is whipping up a gourmet meal in her safe Euro 25,000 designer kitchen in Europe…..and still voting Labour!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Living the high life in Tel Aviv

Last weekend, I was having coffee with a friend who is active in one of the olim societies here in Israel. He told me that he met two new immigrants (mother and daughter) who announced that they want to live in a spacious seafront apartment in Tel Aviv North. Both of us burst into Homeric laughter. Don’t get me wrong – we were not making fun of the ladies, just of their native dream…..

Tel Aviv is not only one of the most expensive cities in Israel (and in EMEA), but also ranks 14th on the Mercer’s Cost of Living 2008 list. For comparison, New York ranked 22nd…….The survey compares more than 200 goods and services in 143 cities around the globe. Well, you get the picture, don’t you?

The neighborhood that the ladies prefer can be compared to me wanting to live in the Upper East Side of Manhattan – unless you have a few millions to burn, not quite feasible. Cost of housing is high all over Israel, with only places like Sderot as an exception (for obvious reasons).

The country is small to start with, and most jobs are concentrated in the Tel Aviv – HaSharon area. Yes, you can find a job in the Haifa area or Jerusalem, but your salary will be substantially lower. The majority of your salary will be gobbled up by your rent or mortgage, with car and petrol expenses being the second major cost factor. This doesn’t bother the rich and mega-rich. They buy up real estate like it’s a monopoly game.


British billionaire Ephraim Shahmoon bought no fewer than nine apartments in the TreeTop Towers in Tel Aviv, followed by two more flats in Yoo Towers forking out a total of NIS 60 million (The average apartment goes for less than NIS 1 million) .

Billionaire heiress Shari Arison, who among other things owns the controlling interests in Israel's biggest bank, Hapoalim, and in the development company Property & Building. She lives in an apartment in Bavli, Tel Aviv and owns a penthouse in Gindi Holdings' "G" project in Tel Aviv.
Local entertainer Eli Yatzpan owns an apartment in Hamashtela, in North Tel Aviv, another one in the Manhattan Project in Park Tzameret, Tel Aviv, and a third one in nearby Pinkas Street.
Builder Alfred Akirov owns duplex apartments in several of his own projects, including in the Opera Tower on the Tel Aviv shoreline and in the TreeTop Towers.
Diamond baron Benny Steinmetz owns a double penthouse in Yoo.

If you think that this is unfair, just read on!
These real estate collectors, Israeli and non-Israeli, don’t even live permanently in Israel, and don’t bother to rent out their properties. They prefer to just let them sit there empty, managed by asset management companies. It’s their safety net against the rising tide of anti-Semitism and a nice pied-√†-terre for family occasions and the High Holidays.

If you want to live the high life in Tel Aviv, make sure to have a high income – Euros preferred……..

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Fun in the sun – Israeli style

Israel is hot – as a country and during the summer.
Funny enough, Sabras always seem to be surprised when the heat strikes.
It’s a phenomenon I also witnessed during winter, when it rains. And during Pesach when they cannot buy hametz. And when….. OK, let’s stop here; it will be too boring to go into details. But you get my drift.
Before the summer starts, there are heat waves (called hamsim or sharaf) that I see as a warming-up exercise for the sizzling summer. In the years I have been here, one always strikes during Pesach, which throws all of us in a slight panic due to the food poisoning risk at the seder.

But I diverge. Let’s go back to our current summer.
Going to the beach here is a health hazard – in more than one way.
For starters, Israel has one of the highest levels of Melanoma skin cancer in the world – only Australia and New Zealand have more patients. This doesn’t stop my fellow Israelis from happily exposing their scantily dressed, chubby bodies (m/f) to the baking sun.

Forget about reading a novel or dozing off – the ice cream (or Artik as it is locally known) seller will happily shout “ARTIK” while plopping through the sand on his Naots (aka Jezus Nikes) or Crocs. The chances that your sun-lotioned body and/or food items and/or novel or news paper will thus get sand on it are 100%, not in the least since the A-man will pass you at least every 15 minutes.

Once you get up and decide to stroll along the flood line (or to wash off the sand that is sticking to your body), your life is in real danger. Sabras invented their own version of a recreational ball sport, called matkot. It’s played with big sized racquets, making the same annoying plock, plock sound as ping-pong bats do. The ball whizzes past your head (if you are lucky) or hits one of your body parts (more likely). When this happens, don’t expect an apology – you will get the “you are a freyer (m) or freyerit (f)” look – so you proceed at your own peril.

The brave ones that survived the matkot onslaught (driving with Danica Patrick is safer, trust me!), and are now dipping into the waters of the Mediterranean. But be careful, there are strong riptides, whirlpools, and undertows – hence the many lifeguards you see. They may not look like Baywatch babes, but they do know their business.

So now you are relaxing in the warm water, the sun shining down on you. Hey, what’s that stinging feeling?! Yep, you have been touched by a medusa (not to be confused with the Gorgon Medusa) - a nasty jellyfish. These medusot (plural of medusa) make our lives a living hell for several months.

All that excitement must make you hungry, so you need some nourishment.
There is no lack of (comfort) food in this part of the world – no matter what you are looking for, you will find it. Depending where you are, don’t be surprised to find beach restaurants that serve treife food such as shrimps in our Jewish State. And there are lots of soft drinks, beers and wines to wash it down with.
Israeli restaurants are noisy and smoking is prohibited. But don’t be surprised if you see someone happily puffing away on his/her cancer stick. You have to handle this the Israeli way – if you are also a smoker, light one up yourself; if not, create a stir. You have to threaten the owner that you will report him and he will have to pay a knas (fine). Trust me; this is far more effective than starting a conversation with the smoker, especially if it’s a 30-year old woman looking like Donatella Versace or Iggy Pop.

Leaving a tip is a tricky business – service is in general mediocre compared to Europe and the US. The reason is simple: waiters and waitresses in Israel are often students and not professionally trained graduates from IHTTI.
In case you are in doubt if tipping is required or not – just check your bill and you will see one line (at the bottom) aggressively highlighted by a yellow text marker. No matter how poor your Hebrew is – the message is clear: 10%-15% is expected. Humor doesn’t work – I once told a rude waiter that my tip was “give better service”. I came perilously close to receiving a head wound, so be warned my sweetie (or motek, in the local lingo).

Talking about lingo - one of the fun things of being exposed to any gathering of more than 4 Israelis - you will hear multiple languages. On the beach, in restaurants, in the street (and last but not least in the office!) – your fellow Israelis are happily yapping away in Hebrew, Russian, French (especially in Netanya and Ra’anana), Spanish, English (by the “Anglos”) and a plethora of other languages. The lingua franca is Hebrew (or English if you deal with monolingual Americans) that is routinely slaughtered by olim chadashim and vatikim (new and seasoned immigrants) alike -myself included!.
It says a lot about the flexibility of the Sabras that they still are able to figure out what the Hackensack we are trying to say – no easy feat!

So if you want fun in the sun – go ahead, but don’t tell me I didn’t warn you!
And don’t forget to drink lots of water and put on heaps of sun block (o dear, do I sound like a Polish mother?!)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Who was Harry Bingham and why is he getting a stamp?

Hiram (or Harry) Bingham, IV was an amazing human being.
He came from an illustrious family.
His father (whom the fictional character Indiana Jones was based) was the archeologist who unearthed the Inca City of Machu Picchu, Peru, in 1911.
Harry entered the US diplomatic service and, in 1939, was posted to Marseilles, France, as American Vice-Consul.

The USA was then neutral. President Roosevelt's government ordered its representatives in Marseilles not to grant visas to any Jews, since the administation didn't want to annoy Marshal Petain's puppet Vichy regime.
Bingham found this policy immoral and, risking his career, did all in his power to undermine it.
In defiance of his bosses in Washington, he granted over 2,500 USA visas to Jewish and other refugees, including the artists Marc Chagall and Max Ernst and the family of the writer Thomas Mann.

He also sheltered Jews in his Marseilles home, and obtained forged identity papers to help Jews in their dangerous journeys across Europe.
He worked with the French underground to smuggle Jews out of France into Franco's Spain or across the Mediterranean and even contributed to their expenses out of his own pocket.
In 1941, Washington lost patience with him.
He was sent to Argentina, where later he continued to annoy his superiors by reporting on the movements of Nazi war criminals.
Eventually, he was forced out of the American diplomatic service completely.

Bingham died almost penniless in 1988.

Little was known of his extraordinary activities until his son found some letters in his belongings after his death.
In 2001, Harry Bingham was portraited in the movie "Varian's War".

After fifty years, Bingham finally got the recognition he deserves.
A few months ago, Secretary of State Colin Powell gave a posthumous award for "constructive dissent" to Bingham, finally and officially recognizing him as a hero.
A stamp honoring this amazing man can be purchased at any US postoffice.

Bingham is now been honored by many groups and organizations including the United Nations and the State of Israel.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Let me guess, you always thought that the Western Wall is Jewish, correct?
And that our Kotel is a remaining wall of the Second Temple?

Surprise: according to Dr. Hassan Khader, founder of the popular Al Quds Encyclopedia, “Jews have no historical connection to the Western Wall, which is actually the "Al-Buraq Wall."


In case you wonder what or who “Al-Buraq” was – it’s the name of Muhammad’s horse (the one of prophet fame).

According to Khader’s Grimm’s fairytale, the Al-Buraq Wall was similar to a space station location - the landing pad of Al-Buraq.
After landing safely, M. tied his horse to the wall.
I wonder if that was done to prevent the stallion from flying off again?
That’s the trouble with winged mammals - just check with Harry Potter if you don't believe me.

With a blatant disregard for historical timelines, Dr. K. goes on claiming that the Israelis arrived 1,400 years later, conquered Jerusalem and made the wall into their special place of worship and pray.
He happily went on stating that the first Jewish connection to this site started in the 16th century.

Needless to say, this academic Peter Pan believes that Islam has “ancient roots” to the location.
Well, anything dating from the Middle Ages is not considered “ancient” in the Middle East.
The fact that the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 and Mohammed was born in 570 doesn’t seem to bother him at all.

Unfortunately, Khader is not the only creative history writer.

According to Kamal Hatib, vice-chairman of the Islamic Movement, the Al-Aqsa Mosque was built by angels before King Solomon built the First Temple.
According to Hatib, the temple was therefore built outside of Jerusalem, due to lack of space.
The discrepancy of 1,400 years is not addressed.

Let’s faces it, it’s not easy getting the worksheet of angels to contradict these history hooligans.

There are Islamic scholars who disagree.

A former senior leader of the Waqf said that he believes that the first and second Jewish temples existed and stood at the current location of the Al Aqsa Mosque.
He based this on stories passed down by Al Aqsa custodians for centuries from generation to generation indicating the mosque was built at the site of the former Jewish temples.
According to him, most of the first guards of Al Aqsa were Jews.
Needless to say, once he made his beliefs known, he was promptly sacked.

In my humble opinion, Mr. Mahmoud Abbas should use his state-run TV station to broadcast outlines of peace proposals.
If he is more interested in TV fiction, creating an Palestinian Sesame Street program would be a better option…and Al-Buraq can replace Big Bird!