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Friday, 14 September 2018

Israeli travel startups excel in int'l tourney

tourism, vacation  image: Shutterstock

Four Israeli companies have reached the semifinals of the 1st UNWTO Startup Competition.

Last June, UNTWO, together with Globalia, the leading tourism group in Spain and Latin America, announced an international competition for tourism startups. More than 1,000 companies from 132 countries applied for the competition. The Israeli startups, which are members of the Israel Travel Tech Startups (ITTS) community, will take part in the semifinals, which will be held in Budapest.
One of the Israeli startups, Pruvo, founded in 2016, monitors the price of a room ordered in a hotel. Pruvo's service issues an alert if the price of the room falls, enabling the customer to reorder the room, thereby saving money. The company assumes that the price of most hotel overnights will fall over the time between ordering the room and arrival at the hotel. Pruvo adds that the service, which it provides after the customer

who ordered the room sends the company an email, has saved customers a total of $1.4 million to date. Pruvo's service is available in seven languages. In addition to Israel, the company operates in Portugal, Italy, and Latin America.
The second Israeli startup to reach the semifinals is SeeVoov, which offers a platform for planning trips through videos highlighting dozens of destinations around the world. This not merely watching a clip in order to become acquainted with the destination; the trip can also be planned, with sites marked for visiting and a hotel room and a flight to the destination can be booked. The trip can be synchronized with a special app. The company's founders are CTO Yosi Golan and CEO Asaf Toker.
The third Israeli startup, Howazit, serves 2,000 organizations in 24 countries, including airlines, such as Singapore Airlines; hotels, including the Intercontinental hotel chain; retail chains like Dominos Pizza; ecommerce websites; etc. Howazit's platform emphasizes the important element of service and the connection between the company and the customer. The platform makes it possible to immediately solve problems encountered by customers, while facilitating insights about their preferences. The data stored by the system are utilized to broaden the connection with consumers using online digital means.
The fourth and relatively new startup, Refundit, began with a pilot in several countries, among them Belgium and Slovakia. Refundit streamlines and expedites the process of obtaining a VAT refund for tourists in accordance with the policy of the countries they visit. The company asserts that of the huge sum of €26 billion in VAT refunds to which tourists are entitled in Europe, 90% is not refunded, mainly because of tiresome bureaucratic and procedural difficulties. Refundit offers a VAT refund procedure through an app and full digitization of the process for 9% of the refund. The company's founders are Waze cofounder and former president Uri Levine, Refundit's chairperson, and Stockton cofounder Ziv Tirosh, the company's CEO.
ITTS founder and corporate open innovation expert Itai Green said, "The community is very proud of its representation beyond all proportion in the competition. This achievement comes on top of other achievements by the community's entrepreneurs in the past two years. They have won prizes and international recognition that are making to the startup nation into a travel tech nation, too."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on September 13, 2018

Glasgow leaders agonise over a streamlined future

September 14, 2018

'The community has shrunk but we still have the infrastructure of a larger community'

    Surveying  the spacious synagogue interior of Newton Mearns Hebrew Congregation, David Links says it has a capacity of 500 — “enough to hold everyone who comes to shul in Glasgow on Shabbat”.
    The 72-year-old Newton Mearns life president recalls that at the time of his barmitzvah in 1959, the city was home to five Jewish bakeries, nine kosher butchers, a Jewish poulterer and half-a-dozen delis.
    Now provision for kosher shoppers is restricted to a solitary deli and some specialist sections in major supermarkets.
    Mr Links also remembers growing up in a city of 13 synagogues. A process of closures and amalgamations has reduced that number by more than half. As well as Newton Mearns, there are now just Giffnock and Newlands, Glasgow Reform and the city centre Garnethill, plus a Lubavitch congregation.
    The last Scottish Census suggested a Glasgow Jewish population of under 4,000 — the community numbered 16,000 in 1960s’ heyday. The true current figure could be as much as 50 per cent higher, given the estimates of Jews who did not state their religion on the Census form and the arrival of a number of Israeli families.
    But even the most optimistic slant on numerical strength cannot disguise the dilemma encapsulated by Mr Links. “The community has shrunk but we still have the infrastructure of a larger community.”
    That infrastructure includes a highly regarded Jewish primary school, Calderwood Lodge, which in 2017 moved to a shared site with a Catholic school in Newton Mearns, bringing it into the heart of the Jewish community. The timing was apposite, given that in recent years there has been a migration from Giffnock to Newton Mearns, a few miles away.
    Major communal charities are represented in the city, as are the Zionist youth movements and Maccabi, and there are three welfare organisations. 
    Yet the only current rabbi among the mainstream Orthodox and Reform communities is the long-serving Moshe Rubin at Giffnock and Newlands.
    Newton Mearns recently lost its popular minister Rabbi Eli Wolfson, who had served from the beginning of 2015. Mr Links and fellow life president Sydney Barmack say a key factor in his decision to move to Manchester was his children’s long-term Jewish education.
    “We were sorry to lose him and he was very sorry to go.” The shul is now “looking for a couple who do not have the problem of children’s education, or whose children have been through education. We want a rabbi who will put their heart and soul into it — like Eli Wolfson.”
    Newton Mearns has a membership of 430 adults. Giffnock and Newlands remains the largest with more than 650 and is located on a site also housing a Lubavitch-run restaurant and the offices of a number of organisations.
    Ex-chair Jeremy Freedman and treasurer Bernard Cohen insist the congregation is vibrant, with all daily services attracting a minyan and a range of social and cultural activities. Attendances are sometimes swelled by tourists stopping off in Glasgow en route to whisky tours.
    “We have just formed a choir called the Bimah Boys,” Mr Freedman reveals. “Don’t ask their average age.
    “Rabbi Rubin is a very big asset to us — and to the whole community.”
    Like their Newton Mearns counterparts, the Giffnock and Newlands leaders can look back on an era when shuls were full to overflowing. “When we were kids, I remember having to stand at the back at Yomtov,” Mr Freedman reminisces.
    Both the Newton Mearns and Giffnock and Newlands leaders acknowledge the inevitability of a merger on both practical and financial grounds. Discussions have been held periodically for years. From the Newton Mearns side, the considered response is that “progress is slow”. At Giffnock and Newlands, the question prompts sighs and raised eyebrows.
    Mr Cohen stresses that a merged shul does not have to be on the Giffnock site. Mr Freedman makes the point that a move to Newton Mearns would mean a two-mile walk each way for around 20 core shomer Shabbat congregants.
    But the need for streamlining goes beyond synagogues and a group of Glasgow leaders are working towards a  blueprint for the future, which Glasgow Jewish Representative Council co-president Nicola Livingston hopes will be put up for discussion within six months.
    The group has the unenviable task of coming up with a plan “that everyone can sign up to. We are trying to move things along but it is crucial that we get it right. Some of the buildings are no longer fit for purpose.” 
    Meanwhile, there is no evidence of a halt to the drift of young community members to London, Manchester or other larger Jewish centres, even if the absence of tuition fees in Scotland is an incentive for them to remain for university. Yet many parents argue that the migration of the young can be a positive.
    Sue Faber is operations manager at Glasgow Maccabi, which she describes as experiencing “a slight upsurge”. She has a son in Golders Green and says she would rather he lived in North-West London and found a Jewish partner than stayed in Glasgow and married out.
    Whereas a post-Yom Kippur “after the fast dance” once attracted hundreds of young people, Maccabi is this year hosting an “after the past” event. Those brought up during the community’s halcyon days can dance the night away to the sounds of 70s’ disco.
    While they are in Glasgow, the young do play their part. A successful summer scheme this year at Maccabi was led by volunteers involved by UJIA through its educational activities in Scottish schools.
    UJIA’s Joanna Hyman cites the partnership between Calderwood and an Israeli school and the participation of a dozen Scottish teenagers in Israel tours this year as evidence of the community’s Zionist credentials.
    There is even younger participation at Glasgow Reform — Scotland’s only Reform congregation — where one of the most popular activities is a “tots Shabbat”, which is not restricted to families belonging to the 190-member shul.
    Linda Wolfson — a maternal and child health adviser to the Scottish Government, specialising in nutrition — brings policy and strategy expertise to her role as co-chair, alongside Richard Townsend.
    She reports an influx of young families and returning members. Israelis bring their children to shul on Shabbat and the congregation can call on “some really experienced service takers” among the membership.
    Good relations are maintained with the Orthodox synagogues. “Lots of Reform members keep very kosher homes,” Ms Wolfson notes. “And the community is too small to have all your friends in Reform or all your friends from the Orthodox.”
    Going forward, the key questions “are how we support the elderly population, how we bring in and support younger members and how we provide a community for people who don’t want to be terribly religious”?
    On these and wider matters, “the issue is how do we make our voice heard? But for our size we are very noisy.”
    Israel has its own man in Glasgow, JNF leader Stanley Lovatt, who serves as honorary consul. He fields requests on issues such as passport renewal from Scottish-based Israelis, promotes trade and deals with correspondence from critics of Israel.
    For example, “I often get letters complaining bitterly about what is happening in Gaza. I feel obliged to reply to everyone. I just tell them the Israeli point of view.”
    Although heartened by the support of many non-Jews for Israel — “a large number attend JNF events” — the hostility of others is inescapable.
    In November, Scotland will host Israel at Hampden in football’s new Uefa Nations League and JNF is organising a package including dinner at Giffnock and match tickets. Mr Lovatt is hopeful of a take-up of 200 but adds: “We are bussing them in and out for safety’s sake.” 
    Figures from the Scottish Government and Crown Office on charges for hate crime for 2017/18 include 21 antisemitic incidents (the number for the previous year was 23). Thirteen were for threatening or abusive behaviour.
    Ephraim Borowski, director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC), says that while reassuring that the numbers are down slightly, “it remains a matter of concern that Jews are 30 times more likely than others to be targeted for their religion.
    “The strapline of Police Scotland is ‘keeping people safe’. But it’s really about keeping people feeling safe — to keep wearing a kippah in the street or to keep a mezuzah on their door.”
    The Glasgow welfare network incorporates Jewish Care Scotland, Newark Care (offering “residential, nursing and palliative care within a Jewish environment”) and Cosgrove Care, supporting those across the age spectrum with learning disability.
    At Cosgrove, chief executive Heather Gray says it supports more than 30 Jewish clients. But this represents only a small fraction of the Cosgrove caseload, another indicator of the diminishing community.
    But the charity remains committed to promoting Jewish values. “New staff receive awareness training on Jewish culture and way of life. We retain that ethos and build Jewish family values into how we work within the wider community.”
    Cosgrove is working with young Jews “who will need lifelong support — and we will be there for them”.
    Assessing the future, Mrs Livingston adopts the glass half-full approach.
    “There is no doubt people are leaving but we’ve also got people coming here — families from throughout the world.
    “Some people are coming back to be closer to family or because they can’t afford to live in London.”
    She adds that the investment of East Renfrewshire Council in the Calderwood building “has given the community confidence.
    “Glasgow is an attractive place to live. We have a good infrastructure, an involved community, good value housing, a wonderful school and a good quality of life.”
 When Sammy and Vicci Stein first manned their weekly city centre Glasgow Friends of Israel stall some three years ago, “we thought we would be in for trouble”.
But with a message of “peace for both sides” and a mission to “combat intimidation, hatred, violence and delegitimisation”, the Saturday stall is influencing local opinion.
“When people ask why I am not in shul, I say ‘this is my synagogue’. We also talk about antisemitism,” Mr Stein explains of his Buchanan Street pitch. “Many of those who advocate are Christian. Our strength is the fact that we are not a Jewish organisation.”
A variety of literature is available to passers-by and numbers at the stall rise as congregants and visitors leave the Shabbat morning service at nearby Garnethill Synagogue. The Steins also highlight the social aspect and say they have made a number of good friends through the venture.
Born in Tel Aviv in 1946 — “I say to people I was born a Palestinian and they don’t understand” — Mr Stein emphasises the benefits of dialogue.
“We do get people who scream and shout and call us names. But we don’t get a lot of trouble. The majority don’t know what is going on in the Middle East and are prepared to learn — Israel’s dilemma on one side; the plight of the Palestinians on the other.
“They are also surprised that Christians are advocating.”
The Friends are well supported by the Jewish community. “People tell us, ‘I’d be scared to do what you do so let me give you some money

UJS President Hannah Rose quits Labour over antisemitism

I did not join the Labour Party to watch racism against Jews make headlines every single day. I joined to aid the plight of refugees in Europe and tackle the mental health crisis in our youth. These are causes that the Union of Jewish Students will be championing during my Presidency, following my election on a mandate of social justice and representation. These are the causes that are meant to also drive the Labour Party, but instead it seems more concerned with a battle between internal factions, rather than fighting for the very values it was founded on.
The party’s complete inability and lack of political will to tackle antisemitism, whether malicious or simply misguided, has rendered itself a shell of what Her Majesty’s Opposition should be.

Hannah Rose quits the party amid a string of allegations which the community claims have not been tackled by Labour

My Jewish Values Led Me To Join Labour - Being Jewish Now Gives Me No Choice But To Leave

As president of the Union of Jewish Students, I cannot continue to watch racism against Jews make headlines every single day

This blog is an unedited version of a letter sent to the general secretary of the Labour Party, Jennie Formby, on Wednesday 12 September
Dear Ms Formby,
It is with sincere regret that I write to you today to resign my membership of the Labour Party.
My position as the President of the Union of Jewish Students means I cannot, in good faith, continue as a member of a political party which has deliberately and recklessly allowed antisemitism to emerge, and even more concerningly, flourish. I commend the efforts of many Jewish students who stay and fight for the party I still wish I could call my political home. However, both in my personal and professional capacity, I cannot give support or succour to a party which its own MPs consider to be institutionally racist.
The period between the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, and the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, is traditionally a period for reflection and repentance. We look back at the past year, and forward to the year to come, and consider how we can better ourselves and the world around us. After a summer of rampant antisemitism in the Labour Party, a constant string of headlines and a debilitating online conversation surrounding Jewish people in this country, I have arrived at a point where I cannot see my future in this party.
However, I must take this opportunity to thank those who are speaking out against the severe and widespread problem of antisemitism. Most importantly, Labour Students, who have been allies of Jewish students for decades, and today is no different. These people are the true anti-racists.
The Jewish community stands united in opposition to antisemitism. It does not stand in opposition to one political leader, or one political party. Like so many others in my community, I do not leave the Labour Party because my politics or values have changed, rather because the Party has made clear through its actions that I am not welcome. Words mean nothing when the actions of so many speak louder.
I will continue to fight for a just and equal society, where racism is challenged and no citizen is left behind. However, I now know that the Labour Party is not the place where this battle is fought. My Jewish values led me to join the Labour Party, and now my being Jewish leaves me no choice but to resign.
Yours sincerely,
Hannah Rose
Former member, Hertsmere CLP and Bristol Labour Students, and president of the Union of Jewish Students



At the Met’s blockbuster show opening this weekend in New York, the French painter’s ethnographic and orientalizing gaze on a precarious people

Long before his death and canonization, Eugène Delacroix—currently the subject of a massive retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan—was a semifictional, heroic character, created in some large part by the artist himself. In a famous photograph, he cuts a figure as striking as any in his paintings, eyes narrowed dramatically, right hand tucked in his jacket à la Napoleon, mouth curled downward in a comical display of seriousness.
A key chapter of Delacroix’s self-made epic was his 1832 trip to Africa, for which he paid his own way on a ship full of French diplomats in exchange for a chance to see a continent as alien to the average European as Australia. While the rest of his cohort haggled with the sultan of Morocco over the terms of a peace treaty, he faced a bigger challenge: talking the Muslim women of Tangier into removing their veils so that he could draw them.
Like many a frustrated diplomat, he began by asking politely, then resorted to bribery, and finally, when all else had failed, espionage. Riding through the countryside one day, he noticed two Arab women washing their clothes in a streambed. When one of them (the prettier of the two, so the legend goes) removed her clothes to bathe, Delacroix began surreptitiously sketching. After a few minutes, she noticed she was being watched and cried out for her husband, who chased the Peeping Tom all the way back to the city gates, waving a gun. That, at least, is the anecdote that appears in Raymond Escholier’s three-volume Delacroix biography from the 1920s, the work that cemented its subject’s status as the quintessential French romantic.
Delacroix only spent half a year in North Africa. But in the following decade he’d revisit this period again and again, translating hastily scribbled notes and sketches into scores of vast, coruscating images of a foreign civilization. Yet most of the women who appear in these images aren’t Muslims, but Sephardic Jews, who’d made up a small fraction of the Moroccan population since their expulsion from Spain in 1492, and who—since their faith didn’t require them to wear veils—were more convenient models. Delacroix sketched Jewish brides, Jewish mothers, as well as Jewish musicians, cooks, children, attendants, civil servants: in all, a significant chunk of his output overseas.
If Delacroix himself was a strange blend of myth and truth, the same could be said of his impressions of North Africa. In his 1978 book Orientalism, Edward Said accused Delacroix of misrepresenting the people of Morocco, perhaps unconsciously, as fearsome, exotic “others;” seeing them as his culture had trained him to see them. For a long time, this is more or less the way art history departments have taught the Moroccan paintings—as products not only of Delacroix’s keen eye and steady hand, but of 19th-century Europe’s wild imagination, as well.
Yet Delacroix’s North African paintings are gentler and more intimate than his paintings of fiery Arabs and snorting horses—for once, you sense that he’s approaching his subjects as a guest, not a spectator. This may have something to do with the Jewish friends Delacroix made during his time abroad, or with the Jews’ status in North Africa—there, as in Europe, they were regarded as refugees in a foreign land. At the same time, the images of Moroccan Jews can seem unique and surprising because Delacroix himself was surprised by them—instead of ready-made pictures, rooted in Orientalist myths, he’d stumbled upon something genuinely, unignorably new.
When you consider France’s relationship with North Africa in the early 19th century, two things jump out: how fascinated everybody was with an enchanting, faraway place called “the Orient” and how little anybody knew about the people who lived there. Parisian bourgeoisie afflicted with “Egyptomania” packed their homes with scarabs, miniature obelisks, and, if they had the means, mummy dust (said to cure insomnia, venereal disease, and pretty much anything else), unaware that these things were mysterious to living Egyptians, too. In 1852, Delacroix’s rival, Ingres, delighted connoisseurs by painting a Turkish bath full of buxom women waiting to be ravished; having no way of visiting Turkey, he copied figures from his earlier works, many of which he’d modeled off of alabaster statues.
Orientalist fads said very little about Egypt or Turkey and a lot about post-revolutionary French society’s boredom and sexual frustration. They also bespoke France’s rise as a global superpower. In 1798, the year of Delacroix’s birth, Napoleon Bonaparte led his army into North Africa, sailing aboard a ship called L’Orient; he brought back stories of pyramids and sphinxes calculated to whet his country’s appetite. The following decades saw an explosion of interest in Egypt and the exotic “other” that, per Said, “obliterated the Oriental as a human being,” smothering him under mounds of kitsch and smut.
Napoleon, always the shrewd propagandist, had made a point of bringing a team of scientists and artists to Africa, and Delacroix appears to have played a roughly similar role in the diplomatic mission to Morocco, his presence signaling that this was a “civilized” visit, not a conquest. Already a notable painter by his early 30s, he cultivated an influential group of friends who—just a few weeks before the ship was scheduled to sail–persuaded Count Charles de Mornay to bring Delacroix to North Africa. The peace treaty de Mornay would establish between his country and Morocco lasted a few years, broke down with the outbreak of the Franco-Moroccan War, and eventually shrank into a tiny footnote in the history of French art. Delacroix’s Moroccan work, on the other hand, became so thoroughly intertwined with Europe’s perception of North Africa that when Henri Matisse sailed there in the early 20th century he said he found the vistas “exactly as they are described in Delacroix’s paintings.”
In describing his journey, Delacroix, like Matisse, was quick to bring up his own profession. The Spaniards he glimpsed at Gibraltar had been plucked straight from a Goya canvas; the beautiful fabrics of Tangier were fit for a Rubens painting; the African sunsets evoked Veronese; the proud Arab people put David to shame. Peculiarly, Morocco itself looked “like the age of Homer,” a reservoir of artistic tradition that could quench a young artist’s thirst for inspiration.
Eugène Delacroix, ‘Mort de Sardanapale,’ 1827. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
He’d thought of the Orient in these lofty terms long before he’d arrived. For his 1822 version of “The Death of Sardanapalus,” he showed the doomed Assyrian king reclining on blood-red sheets, drinking in the glorious destruction around him. Painting these kinds of scenes, which showed the ancient Near East in all its “barbaric” passion, was for Delacroix a way of revitalizing Western art, of traveling back in time and accessing Mediterranean culture before it had hardened into neoclassicism. Sailing to Morocco was the natural next step—not because of his fascination with Moroccan society in particular but because of what a Moroccan aesthetic might add to his own work.
Delacroix came to Morocco looking for “color” and “energy.” By his own account, he found them almost as soon as he’d gotten off the ship. What he also found, inevitably, were actual non-Western people, going about their daily business—and this, as trivial as it seems, was revolutionary for European painting.
Instead of recycling his own copies, like Ingres, Delacroix drew from real life, walking through the streets of Tangier with a green leather sketchbook and often filling dozens of pages in a single day. Squeezed in between the sketches, endless notes detail what he saw: what the people of Tangier were wearing, what names they gave, what they seemed to be talking about, how they reacted to being drawn. These jottings are practically works of art in themselves—expressionist renderings of a struggle to learn everything there is to know about a foreign place. Even for a master draftsman, drawing wasn’t enough.
In his sketches, Delacroix was forced to give the people of North Africa what earlier Orientalists had refused them—an everyday life, unrelated to Europe’s fantasies. The same could be said for many of the paintings he completed after returning to Paris. Next to his Orientalist fever-dreams of the 1820s, “Jewish Wedding in Morocco” (1841) feels like a long, easy sigh—notice how, by choosing not to paint the climactic union of bride and groom, he clears room for humble details like the children’s faces peeking over the balcony or the pile of shoes in the foreground (and for all its artist’s rhapsodizing about the vibrant North African color palate, it’s remarkable how much of the canvas is taken up by the yellowish-gray wall). Where “The Death of Sardanapalus” is a kind of frantic juggling act, where only Delacroix’s intense concentration holds everything together, this wedding could drift on forever, with or without the painter.
Delacroix attended many intimate Jewish gatherings during his time in Morocco, and mined them for striking images. This wasn’t only because Islamic tradition made his interactions with Arab women comparatively difficult (though it undeniably did); in Tangier, Delacroix had a friend on the inside, a Jewish guide and interpreter who knew the city well enough to escort him to the right places. His name was Abraham Benchimol, and it’s likely that on Feb. 21, 1832, he invited Delacroix to attend the wedding of his daughter, Préciada—the same ceremony the artist would later immortalize in “Jewish Wedding in Morocco.”
Benchimol was a man of great importance to the French colonial apparatus, but little prestige. He had the miserable job of lending money to visiting civil servants, and, if his conversations with Delacroix are any indication, the crown almost never reimbursed him For much of his time in North Africa, Delacroix stayed with Benchimol and his family; during this time, he befriended Préciada, as well as Benchimol’s wife, Saada, both of whom take up many pages of his sketchbook.
Eugène Delacroix, ‘Saada, the Wife of Abraham Ben-Chimol, and Préciada, One of Their Daughters,’ 1832. (Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
One of Delacroix’s finest watercolors features Préciada dressed in her bridal gown and jewelry, sitting stiffly upright while Saada leans over her chair. The faint curl in the older woman’s lip might signal amusement (with the awkward stranger drawing her portrait?); a raised eyebrow suggests she’s a little intrigued, too; the dark circles under her eyes make her seem profoundly weary—it’s been years, after all, since she went through the ceremony her child is about to embark on. In his images of Moroccan Jews, Delacroix moves back and forth between these two sorts of figures: one coldly ornate as a glass doll, the other calm and unpretentious, the bearer of an inner life she has no intention of divulging.
In public, Delacroix knew from his conversations with Benchimol, Moroccan Jews had to abide by the religion of their adopted country. This knowledge surely informed his art: Shortly before he left Tangier, Delacroix witnessed a Jewish woman walking by a mosque. In his sketchbook, he described the episode in great detail: Following Muslim custom, she removed her shoes as she passed the holy building, put them back on again, and disappeared into the crowd. But Delacroix was less interested in the status of the Sephardic community than in the Sephardic woman’s feet. They were utterly “charming,” he wrote, the most charming features “that nature bestowed on Venus”—and on and on and on, with the same quivering awe that Stendhal reserved for the entire city of Florence.
At moments like this, you want more from Delacroix. You want him to connect the dots in his sketchbook, and pay a little more attention to the Jews’ wavering status in North Africa instead of salivating over their bodies. Delacroix was, of course, an artist, not an ethnographer, and his emphasis on the glittering, fetishistic part over the whole was a part of his talent. His phenomenal eye for detail—Saada’s lip, say, or the shoes at Préciada’s wedding—led him to fashion scenes of great nuance and sociological insight, but there were also moments when he allowed himself to become so overwhelmed by the greens of a woman’s skirt that he forgot almost everything else about her.
The intermittence of Delacroix’s interest in the lives of Moroccan Jews is especially frustrating because of what was happening to Jews in his own country. Shortly after his coronation, Napoleon declared Judaism a state religion. He also annulled all outstanding debts to Jewish creditors, bankrupting France’s most powerful Jewish families with a stroke of the pen. The same year de Mornay allowed Delacroix to accompany him to Africa, Jews were granted full equality under French law; one year after the mission’s return, the Guizot Law, which required all French children to attend public school, began its slow obliteration of Jewish culture. The “Jewish Question”—in effect, whether the Jew would be treated as citizen or subhuman—was the first great moral challenge for French state after 1789, and it responded with a mixture of sincerity, bluster, and laziness.
For “Liberty Guiding the People” (1830), probably the most famous painting he ever completed, Delacroix showed the embodiment of the French Republic leading a band of heroic democrats against the tyrannical throne. Throughout his life, he celebrated the Enlightenment and the values of liberty, equality, and fraternity. This, in theory, might have led to some interest in the lives of the Sephardic Jews he encountered in Morocco, but his record is spottier: As is often the case with artists, his aesthetics tend to trump his politics.
Not that the two didn’t sometimes align. “Arab Players,” first displayed at the Paris Salon of 1848 (and on view in the Met exhibit), shows a big, boisterous crowd, of the kind Delacroix would sometimes see while riding around the Tangier countryside, gathered around a minstrel show. Arabs, Jews, and Berbers standing shoulder-to-shoulder, united by their love for the entertainment. This vision of racial equality in Morocco borders on the utopian, all the more so because Delacroix painted it in a year when Jews all over Europe were lobbying their governments for citizenship, and when it sometimes seemed that the Enlightenment would never quite be able to live up to its promises. It’s admirable, and surely no coincidence, that Delacroix, the rare Frenchman who’d spent time alongside the Arabs and Jews of Morocco, painted an Orientalist work in which the West looks beyond its ken not with condescension or fear, but envy

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Israel Aerospace to build space drone

IAI is teaming with Effective Space to build small spacecraft and will also invest in the Israeli startup.

Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) (TASE: ARSP.B1) and Effective Space , which pioneers last mile logistics in space, today announced that they have signed a term sheet for technical and financial cooperation. Under the terms of the agreement, Effective Space will appoint IAI as the primary contractor of its Space Drone spacecraft, while IAI will work to complete the necessary approvals for equity investment in Effective Space.
The agreement come after more than a year of cooperation, during which both companies have been jointly working on the Space Drone spacecraft design.

Effective Space is developing a small spacecraft to extend the life of satellites in orbit, based on the vision to provide logistics services in the rapidly growing space economy. To this end, it has developed a patented technology for rendezvous and docking to satellites in space through a small spacecraft called Space Drone.
The company’s first contract, signed in 2017 with an international satellite operator, will see two Space Drone spacecraft launched in 2020 to extend the life of two existing satellites, and is expected to generate revenues of more than $100 million.
"This partnership is an excellent example of the added value in the connection between IAI - Israel's largest aerospace company - with startups and the world of innovative technologies and business entrepreneurship,” said Nimrod Sheffer IAI's CEO. “IAI's vast experience and its expertise in the development and manufacturing of small, light and fast satellites, and the innovative concept of Effective Space, has the potential for significant business activity."
“IAI is globally recognised as a leader in the development and construction of commercial satellite technologies, and in particular, those with high performance and a small form factor,” said Arie Halsband, Founder and CEO, Effective Space. “IAI’s intention to directly invest in Effective Space is a strong endorsement of our SPACE DRONE™ programme and an indication of the potential return for investors from this new era of logistics in space and in-space robotics. For both strategic and growth investors, logistics in space is a new and exciting opportunity.”
The design of the Space Drone spacecraft is a result of decades of experience in the field of small satellites. ‘Phase One’ services will see the spacecraft dock with existing satellites in Geosynchronous Earth Orbit that are reaching the end of their normal life expectancy. The SPACE DRONE™ spacecraft will provide station-keeping and attitude-control, relocation, deorbiting, orbit and inclination correction, and is capable of providing up to 15 years of overall life-extension service.
Effective Space, founded in 2013, has raised $15 million to date.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on September 12, 2018


Jewish Prophecy
Illustration by Yoseph Savan based on The Zohar



“In the return of the Lord with the tribes of Zion, we would be like dreamers. Then our mouth would be filled of laughter and our language a song of joy. And in the nations they would say, ‘greatness the Lord has made for them’.” (Psalms 126:1-2)
King David writes again about the Jewish final redemption and the Messianic era. Let’s note that all Jewish prophecies are written in the past tense for two reasons.
Once the Jewish prophets receive their messages from God, they narrate them as something revealed to them. Therefore they refer to them as what already took place, yet will be fully manifested in the future.
The other reason is that God already declared the purpose of His creation since He made it. Hence the final redemption is at our reach as soon as we become fully aware of it.
This total awareness is achieved by allowing goodness to conduct our discernment, mind, thoughts, emotions, feelings, speech and action, for goodness is the ruling principle in God’s creation, and it is destined to prevail in human consciousness. However, it is up to us to initiate the constant awareness of goodness in what we are, have and do.
Let’s reflect on the first sentence of these two verses. God and the tribes are returning together, and that action implies a time and space that once existed. They left with the dispersion of the children of Israel in exile among the nations. The psalmist is referring to the return of the lost tribes by the will of God as the Jewish prophets later confirm.
We have pointed out often that Zion is the bond that unites the Creator with the people of Israel as the tribes of this connection. Also that the tribes of Israel represent the positive creative potentials in all aspects, dimensions, facets and expressions of human consciousness. These are the talents and skills inherent in the diversity of our individual potential.
We can be artists, builders, merchants, farmers, shepherds, warriors, gardeners, judges, healers, teachers, scientists, spiritual guides, care givers, cleaners, writers, wood gatherers, facilitators, administrators, etc., whose lives are ruled by positive creative expressions in whatever we do. The common denominator of our diversity must always be goodness.
The tribes of Zion are certainly the tribes of Israel gathered together by God in their return with Him, with a new consciousness to be manifest in the Messianic times. We call it the Messianic consciousness because it is a collective quality that will be shared by the people of Israel with the rest of the nations, when the latter fully accept that Israel is the chosen people to fulfill God’s will in the world.
King David characterizes this new consciousness where only goodness reigns with its typical qualities, “laughter” and “joy”, for it can’t be less than that. Actually, these are more effects of goodness than its causes.
It’s relevant to remark the participation of the nations in the advent of the Messianic times. As we indicated before, they must recognize the goodness of Israel’s contributions to the world as their first step to partake in the coming final redemption. The last sentence of the second verse confirms this premise.
In this context, the “greatness” mentioned by the psalmist is the goodness the Creator commanded the children of Israel to share with the rest of the world.
It is the same goodness that in the final redemption all humankind will share by the hand of Israel, as the Creator established in His Torah and through His prophets.


If the Lord does not build the house, in vain its builders labor on it. If the Lord does not guard a city, in vain a watchman wakes.” (Psalms 127:1)
Our Sages say that God is the place of the world, and the world is not God’s place. This conception encompasses the purpose of God’s creation, for all comes from Him and sustained by Him. In that regard, the place as the reason for the world to exist is God. Hence we depend on Him and not all the way around.
With this premise we approach the quoted verse. If God’s doesn’t give us a reason for His creation, how can we make anything of it? The “house” here represents what He gives us to make something out of it, and that is goodness. We live in vain if we have a life without meaning.
If we disregard goodness as the cause and purpose of God’s creation, what can we build with anything different from it? The “house” also means our consciousness, and is our duty to build it from that of which the Creator also sustains us. Again, if there is no goodness, what can we build?
We also have mentioned that “mountains” and “cities” represent strong beliefs and ruling principles or ideas by which we conduct our thought, mind, emotions, feelings and instincts. If these are not sustained on God’s ways and attributes, how can we sustain them? In conclusion, we are vain, meaningless and irrelevant passers-by in this world if we have a life absent of what really matters.
“May the Lord bless you from Zion, and see in goodness Jerusalem all the days of your life.” (128:5)
God’s blessings come out of our connection and bond with His ways and attributes. As long as we keep this awareness permanently, goodness flows in every way we approach the moments and circumstances we face every day.
Jerusalem once more is pointed out as the highest level of consciousness, completely free from anything different from goodness. In this sense, Jerusalem is the place in and from which we want to live in this world.
“Turned back and ashamed will be those who hate Zion.” (129:5)
Anything alien to goodness leads us to our falling down to the negative traits and trends of ego’s fantasies and illusions. The verse can be understood in another way. At some point, those who demise and reject goodness will realize the destructiveness of their predicament, and in their shame eventually turn back to it.
All the prophetic references about “returning” or “turning back” are related to regaining the awareness that living in goodness is what truly matters.


“We come to His sanctuaries, we bow at His footstool. Arise, O Lord, to Your sanctuaries, You and the ark of Your might. Your priests clothed with righteousness and Your loving ones singing of joy.” (Psalms 132:7-9)
Our Sages refer to the Temple of Jerusalem as God’s footstool, where the majesty of His goodness rests and touches the world. In this context, the Temple is where His “sanctuaries” are, and these are indeed His ways and attributes. Their sacredness is such that they are actually sanctuaries for us to meditate, contemplate and to dwell in.
When we allow God’s ways to inspire us in every mode, we pray to Him to take charge and turn us into vessels, worthy enough to keep up to His goodness, in order to make it ours to be, to have and to manifest it. This is the way God “arises” in us.
We have to call our Creator to dwell again in the sanctuaries of the Temple He once built in us, and for us to bond permanently with Him. This bond is the “ark of God’s might”, understood as the covenant that He sealed forever with His people.
The priests represent our connecting good traits that establish the bond, and these are good as long as they remain loyal to their ethical ways, mentioned here as righteousness, for they must be righteous as part of what goodness is.
God’s “loving ones” (the term is usually translated from the original Hebrew as “pious”) are the complementary qualities for being righteous, for they go hand in hand when true love is given. A loving action is expressed in the same way a joyful song is chanted, as we will see it in the next verses.
“For the Lord, He has chosen Zion for a seat for Him: ‘This one of My eternal rest, here I shall dwell because I desired it. Her provision I have blessed and shall bless. Her needy ones I satisfy with bread. And her priests dressed of redemption, and her loving ones singing of praise. There shall soot the vine for David, I have prepared a lamp for My anointed one’.” (132:13-17)
These verses reaffirm what Jerusalem and its Temple are for the Creator in relation to His eternal bond with Israel. The psalmist remarks the city of God as the vessel where He bestows His sustenance for the world.
This is the reason for His continuous blessings to her, and those who keep it sacred for Him. These are the priests that represent our best traits and qualities in the highest level of our consciousness, for these are the means through which we find our redemption.
Here redemption is called the vine of David, which represents the Messianic consciousness, destined to prevail for eternity. It is also the lamp that will enlighten all aspects and expressions of life, all dedicate to pursue the endless knowledge of our Creator.


Like the dew of [mount] Hermon that comes down on the hills of Zion. For there the Lord commanded the blessing of life for eternity.
(Psalms 133:3)
Mount Hermon is the highest peak in the land of Israel, and symbolizes another of the elevated positive traits and qualities of goodness, joining the ones that surround Zion, our connection with God.
In this bond, He bestows goodness for all as His blessing for life, eternally. The verse reiterates that the highest and most sublime traits, “hills” and “mountains”, particularly those around Zion, are inherent to her as the vessel of God’s love.
“Bless the Lord all servants of the Lord that stand in the House of the Lord in the nights. Lift your hands in sacredness and bless the Lord. May the Lord bless you from Zion, who made the heavens and the earth.”(134:1-3)
Those who stand in the Temple of Jerusalem in the nights are its guardians and watchmen. King David invites them to evoke His protection, for which they bless Him, knowing that He cares for them as they care to share the source of goodness that His house is.
The action of sharing is represented by the lifting of their hands, by which we receive goodness and give it. This becomes a sacred action, for all related to goodness is certainly sacred due to its Source.
“Praise the Lord. Praise the name of the Lord. Praise Him servants of the Lord. [Those] standing in the house of the Lord, in the courtyards of the house of our God. Praise the Lord because goodness is the Lord. Sing to His name because He is pleasant.”(135:1-3)
We truly praise the name of God by emulating and manifesting His ways and attributes, His “Name”, by which we know our bond with Him. Hence we are His servants to do what He wants from us. Thus we “stand in His house and its courtyards”.
We also praise Him for His goodness that is pleasant to us. Reciting and singing His praise are an individual or collective token of our constant exercise of living in and for goodness, as He wants us to.


“Blessed is the Lord from Zion that dwells in Jerusalem, praise the Lord.” (Psalms 135:21)
Once again, the psalmist proclaims God’s presence in Jerusalem. He blesses Him, for He is the Source of all blessings. In this awareness we praise Him forever.
“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat and also wept when we remembered Zion.” (137:1)
In prophecy, the psalmist evokes the children of Israel’s exile in Babylon, where they lamented their estrangement from the house of their God. The remembrance of Zion was all they had, hoping to return to their permanent bond that will be fully fulfilled in the Messianic era.
“For there [in Babylon], our captors requested from us words of song. ‘Sing for us the songs of Zion’.”(137:3)
The captors of the Jewish people are aware of the qualities inherent in Israel’s spirituality. The nations can recognize them in the praises to their God. They know that these songs are a soothing balm that harmonizes thoughts, emotions and feelings, something unique to the traits of goodness all the nations covet. Yet, to subject them to their materialistic attachments, obsessions and addictions.
Ultimately, in Israel’s final redemption, they will appreciate goodness in its ethical and moral principles, aimed to elevate the dignity they owe to the human condition in this world. The fact that they recognize the beauty of the “songs of Zion” is a first step to later embrace the essence that makes these songs the way they are.
The “songs” that Israel sings are pure praise of the traits and attributes of goodness, when it manifests in life, making it an exultation of God’s love.
“How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign soil? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her skill. Let my tongue cleave to my palate, if I don’t remember you; if I set not Jerusalem above my greatest joy.” (137:4-6)
God’s song is also Israel’s, therefore it must be sung for each other, and no one else; neither in a place other than His house. In the name of the children of Israel, King David wonders about the aberration of trying to bond with God’s love out of His Promised Land, Jerusalem, and the Temple, the place of His dwelling.
This bond is referred here as God’s “song”. Hence forgetting Jerusalem is equivalent to forget our Father in Heaven, which means to live without the goodness represented by the ‘skill” of the right hand. The same goes for our speech, for without God’s goodness in our thoughts, words are meaningless. These verses reveal why Jerusalem is the greatest joy, for His loving kindness dwells in her.