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Vying to be the first Israeli-British MP in the U.K.

Posted on:
September 1, 2013
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Alon Or-Bach.

A self-described ‘Londoner above all else,’ Israel-born Alon Or-Bach aims to represent Labor in Margaret Thatcher’s old seat of Finchley and Golders Green.

Alon Or-Bach ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to attractiveness in a politically-correct environment. He’s young, an immigrant, Jewish, progressive, tech-savvy and gay, all of which may serve him well as he seeks to be selected as a parliamentary candidate of the British Labor Party. On the other hand, he is hoping to run in the north London constituency of Finchley and Golders Green, currently held by the ruling Conservative party and, no less importantly, for 33 years the constituency represented by Tory icon, the late prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

This is probably the most “Jewish” area in all of Britain, so a guy with a name like his would surely have a fighting chance here? But, many of those Jewish voters are Orthodox Jews and neither Or-Bach’s political nor personal orientation will be their cup of tea. Did we mention that he’s also Israeli?

British Jews have been heavily involved in politics for generations. They have served in all senior offices of state, including prime minister (though Benjamin Disraeli was baptized at twelve so he may not count), the current leader of the opposition and at least 20 Jewish members of parliament, which is about seven times their proportion in the general population. Moreover, it was only last month that four more Jews were made members of the unelected House of Lords. But if Or-Bach wins the vote at the local party branch on Sunday evening, he will have a chance of being the first-ever Israeli-British MP.

Not that his Israeli roots – Or-Bach immigrated with his family to Britain at the age of four – are the first thing you notice upon meeting him. That would be his age; he just turned 30 and looks even younger. But before you say he seems absurdly young to become a parliamentarian, it’s clear from his opening sentence that he is already a consummate politician, which is hardly surprising since he joined the Labor Party at 16, which means he’s been involved in politics half his life. He supported the party even earlier but says that the experience that motivated him to join was being called a “foreigner” in a history class at his secondary school.

He is eager to emphasize particularly his experience as a local campaigner and promises to fight in parliament mainly on issues of transport, living standards and education. Despite the fact that the Conservative Party currently holds the seat with a sizable majority, he believes that the economic slowdown and the Cameron government’s austerity plans will cause a shift. “The crunch will be living standards,” he says. “Finchley and Golders Green may be characterized as affluent areas, but there are a lot of people who are hurting and struggling here. That’s what the next elections will be about.”

The hopeful candidate has been endorsed by a number of the trade unions which are influential within the party. How does Or-Bach feel about the fact the unions have also supported boycott motions against Israel? “I have a lot of shared values with the unions,” he says. “But I will call them out on things I disagrees with.” In general, he tries to avoid controversial foreign policy issues and keep his campaign local, but says “you can have legitimate concerns about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and you can debate the issues without making people feel uncomfortable.”

His campaign highlights the fact that, like many Londoners, he was born abroad, but he doesn’t see himself as a spokesman for the country of his birth. “I always felt I have different bits of identity and above all I’m a Londoner. But I always have that connection to my Israeli part, to being born in Tel Aviv, to my Hebrew which is especially good when I’m talking about food. It’s a part of me.” He doesn’t feel that his Israeli part has ever been an obstacle to him in politics, “but you do hear crass opinions sometimes and I take the opportunity to educate people about how complicated a place the Middle East is.”

Like many secular Israelis living in London for a long time, Or-Bach hasn’t felt the need to join a synagogue though he insists he sees himself as part of the Jewish community.

And he isn’t worried about Golders Green’s Haredi voters turning against him: “Above all I think that people vote on bread and butter issues and they will judge me on my merits.”

Source: Haaretz.com

VIDEO: BSD ‘In the streets of Israel’

Posted on:
July 15, 2013
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Following on from last year’s epic Living for the City series, the BSD crew of Kriss Kyle, Mike Taylor, Dan Paley and Alex Donnachie, complete with BSD’s in-house filmmaker Dave Sowerby, escape the wintry misery of the UK to hit up the rails of Israel.

British Telecom selects Israeli firm to secure accounts

Posted on:
July 2, 2012
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Israel’s Cyber-Ark Software chosen to monitor and secure communications giant’s privileged accounts

International communications giant British Telecom has chosen Israel’s Cyber-Ark Software to monitor and secure its privileged accounts, Yedioth Ahronoth reported. The deal is estimated at several million shekels.

As a large communications services company, providing a range of products to a vast number of business and consumer customers, BT’s infrastructure is complex and broad – covering numerous business units and many geographical regions. BT required a single solution, standardized across the global organization that could easily scale, as required.

This solution needed to complement BT’s existing security services, providing its rapidly expanding customer base with proven privileged access management.

Israeli company Cyber-Ark is the leading global information security provider for protecting and managing critical applications, identities and sensitive information

Founded in 1999, the company employs 200 workers and recently raised $40 million with the help of the JVP venture capital fund and Goldman Sachs.

Cyber-Ark CEO Udi Mokady said that BT’s choice is a reflection of the high level of security his company offers.

Gadi Tirosh, a partner at JVP, said: “This is further proof that Israel is a leading force in the cyber protection field.”

Source: Ynetnews.com

It got Arty (Glee) walking now helps Paralysed Claire Lomas finish London Marathon 16 days after it began

Posted on:
May 9, 2012
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Remember this ?

Well, now read this, a real life miracle!

32-year-old is greeted by crowds of supporters as she becomes first to finish marathon in bionic suit

A paralysed woman has become the first person to complete a marathon in a bionic suit.

Claire Lomas finished the London Marathon 16 days after the race began. The 32-year-old said she was “over the moon” as she completed the 26.2-mile route, which she started on 22 April with 36,000 other participants.

The former chiropractor was in tears as she became the first person to complete any marathon using a bionic ReWalk suit at 12.50pm on Tuesday.

Hundreds lined the streets as she made her final steps to complete the race. Three mounted members of the Household Cavalry gave her a guard of honour as she crossed the finishing line on the Mall.

Lomas, a jewellery designer who was left paralysed from the chest down following a horse-riding accident in 2007, said: “There were times when I questioned whether I would make it when I was training.

“Once I started, I just took each day as it came and every step got me a step closer.”

A spokeswoman for the mounted regiment said the riders were there to give Lomas “extra support because she is passionate about horses”.

Lomas will not appear in the official results and did not receive a medal when she finished as competitors have to complete the course on the same day to qualify for a medal, organisers said.

But a number of marathon runners decided to donate their own medals to Lomas. Jacqui Rose, from Southampton, who contributed her medal along with about 12 others, said: “She has epitomised what I thought the London Marathon was all about.

“That medal, when you have completed it and gone through all the pain of it, symbolises that achievement of what you have gone out of your way to do for charity.

“For her not to have got one ridicules what the marathon was all about.”

Holly Branson, daughter of the tycoon Richard – whose company Virgin sponsors the race – was at the finish line waiting to give Lomas the Virgin trophy for endurance. The company hands out the award annually.

She said: “She has done the most amazing job. It was so emotional when she crossed that line. Tears welled up in my eyes and everyone was cheering.”

Lomas, from Eye Kettleby, near Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, raised more than £86,000 for Spinal Research, a charity which funds medical research around the world to develop reliable treatments for paralysis caused by a broken back or neck.

She said: “When I was in hospital I saw a lot of people with similar injuries to me and a lot worse.

“I have had tremendous support since my accident which I am so grateful for. Some don’t have that. Some people lose the use of their arms as well. A cure needs to be found.”

She walked about two miles a day, cheered on by her husband, Dan, her parents and her 13-month-old daughter, Maisie.

Lomas said she was now going to write a book and “spend some good time with Maisie”, adding: “Then I’ll think of something else daft to do.”

A number of celebrities have also lent their support by walking a mile alongside her, including the TV presenter Gabby Logan and her husband, the former international rugby star Kenny, and the TV presenter and adventurer Ben Fogle.

Lomas broke her neck, back and ribs and punctured a lung when her horse Rolled Oats threw her off as she took part in the Osberton horse trials in Nottinghamshire in 2007.

The £43,000 ReWalk suit, designed by the Israeli entrepreneur Amit Goffer, enables people with lower-limb paralysis to stand, walk and climb stairs through motion sensors and an onboard computer system.

A shift in the wearer’s balance, indicating their desire to take, for example, a step forward, triggers the suit to mimic the response that the joints would have if they were not paralysed.

Source: The Guardian

VIDEO: Fashionistas Trinny & Susannah in Ad for Israeli Credit Card

Posted on:
March 4, 2012
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London makeover ladies Trinny and Susannah were here last year, telling Israelis what not to wear in their ever-so-subtle manner — not — which is why Israelis probably liked them.

Now they’re featured in an Isracard commercial by ad agency Bauman Bar Reuveni showing off their Hebrew — “Tagidi lo!” (Tell him!) and offering puns onkenyon (which can mean a canyon as well as a mall):

Boyfriend: “Just three hours and we’ve crossed the canyon.”

Girlfriend: “It will take us no more than three hours to cross the canyon” — said with a smirk.

Laugh if you will, but the ad is one of ten competing for the dubious honor of being named the most sexist advertisement by WIZO, the Women’s International Zionist Organization.

Are Trinny and Susannah worried? Probably not.

Source: Times of Israel

Homeland’s debt to Israeli TV

Posted on:
February 25, 2012
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Channel 4’s latest US hit is based on one of the many TV success stories produced by Israel. Would you watch both?

Last Sunday Homeland debuted on Channel 4, attracting overnight ratings figures of more than 2 million and a clutch of impressive reviews. Much has been written about the latest US import, a labyrinthine terrorism drama from the writers of 24. But while you will have read all about Homeland’s awards haul and Claire Danes’ triumphant return to the small screen, that the show is based on an Israeli series called Hatufim (Prisoners of War) has been less well reported.

Now UK audiences will be able to judge for themselves just how good the Israeli original is when it comes to Sky Arts in May. The series will follow hot on the heels of another Israeli drama In Treatment (BeTipul), the original Hebrew version of the hit HBO series of the same name, which gets underway on Sky Arts on Monday.

Hatufim and BeTipul are Israeli TV’s big international success stories – but they’re far from the only Israeli shows finding an international audience either in their original form or as an English language remake. There are a slew of Israeli shows being adapted by major US networks including sitcoms such as Life Isn’t Everything, police procedurals in the form of HBO’s The Naked Truth and the much-touted NBC murder-mystery Pillars of Smoke, while in Britain, David Mitchell’s topical quiz show The Bubble was adapted from an Israeli idea.

It’s part of the unlikely rise of Israeli television; an industry that only got its first commercial channel in 1993. “Israeli dramas are very much driven by auteurs, by people who have their own unique story and own unique voice to tell it,” says Avi Nir chief executive of Keshet Broadcasting, the programme makers behind Hatufim. “They provide an antidote to American television, which is usually more commercial … It’s a different way of making a show. Hollywood is much more of an industry, but in Israel our shows are slowly, carefully and originally tailor made.”

The shoestring budgets that Israeli programme makers work with have also played their part in this surge of creativity. Hatufim for example, was shot for $200,000 an episode, a fraction of the budget its US counterpart. The result is that Israeli producers put a stronger emphasis on storytelling, while financial constraints have seen programme makers work in more creative ways. The effects can be seen in the stripped-back settings of shows such as In Treatment, which like police procedural The Naked Truth, stages almost all of its action in a solitary room.

While fuelling creativity, the lack of financial investment has also taken away an element of risk. Without massive financial outlay there is arguably more freedom for writers to experiment with what is conventionally expected from small screen dramas.

At its heart however, the boom in Israeli broadcasting comes down to the quality of the programmes that are being produced. Lucy Criddle, the Sky Arts acquisitions manager, says: “It wasn’t our intention that we were looking at Israeli drama, it was really that the quality of the drama stood out for us. We watched BeTipul and Hatufim and we just loved them. They’re both powerful pieces that are utterly compelling and most importantly they’re high quality TV.”

It has been difficult to miss the recent boom in Scandinavian drama on British screens – but it appears that Denmark may not have cornered the market in classy subtitled imports. BeTipul in particular will offer a strange viewing experience for fans of In Treatment. Unlike Hatufim, which was more of an inspiration for Homeland, the HBO drama is an almost like-for-like remake of the Israeli original. As a result it’s impossible to watch either show without comparing and contrasting it with the other.

With the rise of foreign language remakes and imports, watching a show twice is a phenomenon that is becoming increasingly common – and at times original shows can end up overshadowed by a strange sense of deja vu when watched after their English language remakes. But what’s striking about these Israeli series is the quality of the storytelling which has translated seamlessly from original to adaptation. For viewers that means they are essential companion pieces – testament to the quality of programming that the country is currently producing.

Source: The Guardian