September 28, 2007

What will become of this blog?

Where did it come from?

My first blog was called "Joseph in Cambodia", and basically that was the story: Joseph's trip there. Even though I was working, I was basically a tourist visiting a foreign country.

The present blog which you're reading received the name "What's Next" when I knew that my next destination would be Israel but I didn't want to disclose it yet (as my parents didn't know my plans).

But it turns out that there is an other good reason for not having a kind of "Joseph in Israel" title. Here, there is much more to the story than a trip. I'm not a tourist here, it turns out I have really moved here, however smoothly I went from the status of "Tourist" to that of "Working Tourist" and from there to "Temporary Resident".

In a way, this explains why there's less to tell in this blog than I expected: I'm not reacting to things on a per-event basis and the important evolutions and choices are so personal that I hesitate to write about them on this public space.

How will I manage to write about them in the form of a public blog? Let me try my hand at this exercise of writing such a personal story while keeping some privacy.

Learning how to become an Israeli

The Zionist ideology required in the past from immigrants to all but forget their original culture (including their mother tongue! - see Nurit Aviv's Misafa Lesafa). Since I knew that this had been relegated as a thing of the past, I thought that one could immigrate today without having to force onto oneself any change of culture. That was a mistake. Although on more subtle level, I still need to learn how to become an Israeli. To be impolite and aggressive is an important part of it: if I am too polite or too gentle, I will not be considered a real Israeli. I was explained that politeness is not just an free bonus of life in society and that it actually places a distance between people which doesn't exist in the Israeli society. For the better of for the worse, I can't keep French politeness and be an Israeli. If I'm too gentle, I won't get consideration either, aggressiveness is an essential part of life here.

From the religious point of view there are also important things which took me months to understand. I'll write about this soon (בלי נדר, bli neder of course!).

From an ideological point of view, it is very subtle. I realize how the point of view of the mainstream Israeli society gets inside me slowly. It's in everything: the news and media obviously, the way people refer to the "rest of the world" (in Hebrew, one syllable: חו"ל, chul), where and how people travel : if you live here, you're immersed into an ideology and slowly forget how most of the rest of the world, this famous chul, thinks about Israel. I realize that I get influenced against my will. Is my mind more easily influenced than an other's? Lacking definite opinions? I just can't help my primary source of information be the that the broadcasts of the Israeli radios (Kol Israel and Galei Tsahal).

Temporary conclusion

Two things are happening at the same time.

First, the one which obsesses me. I chose to face the challenge of being happy in a sedentary life: a desk-bound job, an apartment and living in a place where I have good reason to be involved in political and social issues. My life here is much less of a "carpe diem" than in Cambodia and I can't explain exactly why.

The second thing, is that "integration" is something much broader than I expected. It is about finding a compromise between adopting a society's ideology, way of life, codes and one's own values, habits and freedom.

My intuition is that the explanation to the first problem is in the second: belonging somewhere is the hardest challenge I could face, because I was raised to be always independent of the society I lived in. It is a radical change for me. I consciously chose to face it when I left Cambodia, but it's not easy.

I treat my anxiety with regard to both problems by setting milestones on my way to integration, as well as having other projects like learning Arabic, writing this blog or photography.

Underneath this idea to integrate is a wish for my children, if I have some one day, to grow up in a society to which they belong.

Talpiot Industrial Area

A word of explanation: The Talpiot Industrial Area is today more of a commercial area than an industrial one. Shopping malls, furniture stores, car repair, Some parcels are yet undeveloped or neglected.
From Friday, a couple of hours before the sunset, till Saturday, about half an hour into the night, the place is completely deserted, all businesses closed for Sabbath. A seemingly abandoned synagogue in a prefab next to car bodies, a sculpture indicating a phone number and a lone black cat populate the place at these hours.

September 17, 2007

חופשת קיץ - My Father my Lord

My Father My Lord a.k.a. Hofshat Kaits (חופשת קיץ), by David Volach.

'Profound and deeply moving...'

From the Variety review (excerpts)
Set in a contemporary Israeli ultra-Orthodox community, "My Father My Lord" unfolds in a self-enclosed universe blessed with fleeting epiphanies but overshadowed by immutable, incomprehensible laws.

Helmer-scribe Volach knows this world from personal experience, having been born into an ultra-Orthodox family of 19 children and having lived and studied in such a Hasidic cocoon until the age of 25.

The atypically small family of the revered Rabbi Eidelman (Assi Dayan) consists merely of his wife Esther (Sharon Hacochen Bar) and his young son Menahem (Elan Griff). But whatever the family lacks in size it more than makes up for in warmth, each member expressing a wealth of interrelationship and affection in every glance.

Rabbi Eidelman bestows the same bemused fondness upon his wife and child as he displays for his beloved books. Esther lights up every time she sees her son, radiating a joy that is positively palpable. Menahem, a dreamy imaginative child, happily climbs all over the synagogue, watching his father teaching or observing a dove nesting outside the window, entranced with the wonders of nature and protective of all living things.

If family members speak more eloquently with their eyes than with their tongues, such perfect harmony can thrive only in silence. Once Menahem starts to innocently question his father, the rabbi turns into an autocratic oracle of the Word, and the Word sounds the death knell for all curiosity, variety or change.

A photo of painted tribesmen becomes an artifact of idolatry and must be torn up. A devoted dog crouched by its dying mistress' side is summarily denied a heaven, a soul or any importance. And, in accordance with an obscure passage from the Torah, a mother bird is shooed away from her chicks [...].

In failing to accord any importance to the phenomenological richness of nature or the immediacy of the moment (according to the rabbi, the whole universe exists solely to serve the observant Jew), Eidelman turns away from his son, unwittingly letting him die.

'... but a bit too "art house" for my tastes'

Although the Variety review praises "[the picture] which deservedly snagged Tribeca's best pic prize, [and] combines great emotional accessibility with the sheer exoticism of a totally alien culture, making it an arthouse dream", I think that the slighlty overdone sophistication in the camera movements and the editing were a distraction from the contents of the movie.

I recommend it warmly, though.

Thanks to the IMDb reviewer, MitchB-6, who coined the phrase 'Profound and deeply moving, but a bit too "art house" for my tastes'. As you can see, I borrowed everything from others for this review ;-)

Green Line

"After which war was the Greeen Line drawn:
  • Independence War
  • Six-Day War
  • Yom Kippur War"
Yesterday night, in the 1 vs. 100 game, Israeli version.

The main contestant says "It looks falsely like a tricky question, I will not fall into the pit, I will answer the obviously true answer: the Six-Day War!"

I was taken aback but that was nothing until the answers of the public came up: 80% of "the mob" got it wrong! I don't know exactly how many were left at that round, but I can testify that 71 people in the mob gave the wrong answer to that question!

My flatmate's explanation: Before 1967, the Green Line was the [de facto] border, there was no other side of the Green Line for the Jews... Since the Six-Day War, though, there are two sides to the Green Line for the Israelis, with plenty of discussion about the interpretation of the line, whether to settle across it or not, etc.!

I've noticed that even outside of Israel, people tend to talk about "the borders of 1967" to mean "the pre-1967 borders", i.e. the 1949 Armistice lines, but that's the paradox of the situation of the Palestinians: most of them would be glad today to return to the borders that no Arab country accepted back in 1949...

September 10, 2007

Where maths and politics meet

"Want to understand robust fits? Analyze the Florida 2000 presidential vote..."

That's indeed what Mathworks, the editor of Matlab suggests in the documentation of their Curve Fitting Toolbox!

September 09, 2007

Luz II in the news

I wrote so far very little about the progress we're making at Luz II, because I never know exactly what information is public and what is confidential.
An article appeared last week in the Israeli business daily Globes which will give you the good news without my taking any risk... read in English (also below) or in Hebrew online.
California sunshine suits Luz II solar power station
The company has filed the first application for construction of a solar power station in California since 1989.
Merav Ankori 6 Sep 07 15:20
BrightSource Energy Inc. has filed an application for construction with the California Energy Commission to build a 400 megawatt solar power field in the Mojave Desert in southern California. The application costs $10-20 million and requires the filing of a detailed plan. This is the first application to be filed in California for a solar plant since 1989.

BrightSource Energy subsidiary Luz II Ltd. is the reincarnation of Luz, the world’s largest solar energy company in the 1980s. In 1984-91, Luz built nine solar electricity generation stations in the Mojave Desert, which are still in operation, producing 354 megawatts. Luz went bankrupt in 1991.

Now, as Luz II, the company is back in business. The company is developing next-generation solar power technology in an effort to leapfrog its rivals, Solel Solar Systems Ltd., Israeli-Spanish company Ener-T Global Ltd. and others, which use technology derived from Luz.

Luz II founder and chairman Arnold Goldman told “Globes”, “No one except us has filed an application for construction for a solar park in California since 1989. This is not only because of the heavy financial investment, but also because it’s necessary to finalize a nearly complete plan that includes peripheral matters, such as emissions and the organization of the solar park.”

Luz II needed to raise capital not only to finance the application for construction, but to finance activity from the moment it was founded in 2004. The company has held a seed and two financing rounds to date. Goldman and a group of British angel investors invested $1 million in the company in its first 30 months of operation. In October 2006, the company raised $16.5 million at a company value of $49.5 million, after money, in a financing round led by VantagePoint Partners and Draper Fisher Jurvetson of the US. Both funds manage about $5 billion. JP Morgan and a large US energy company were secondary investors in the round.

In May 2007, Luz II raised more than $30 million, including $10 million from existing and small investors, and the rest from a major US investment bank. The purpose of the round was to enable the company to open negotiations for the sale of its product in the US. The application for construction in California is one of the results.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on September 6, 2007

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2007

September 07, 2007

Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks

I was told that I need to go to the theater to improve my Hebrew. So I went. I realized too late that the play was the translation of a Broadway show. Indeed it was good for my Hebrew but I was disappointed not to get my usual education on the complexities of the Israeli society at the same time. "Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks" is a light comedy which is not really worth a review, at least in its Israeli production.

Miracles of technology

"Hello everybody!" A webcam made its way into my home...