Monday, March 16, 2015

Israel 2015 Observations

I wasn't originally planning on going to Israel with the kids this year. The NFO was taking them for our nephew's Bar Mitzvah, but a few factors-most notably that I didn't want to miss being there with them—led me to make a last minute decision to attend.


I'm glad I did.


This was my 10th or 11th visit to Israel and every time I go, I learn something new about the country.


While taking the kids to places like the Western Wall, Yad v'Shem (the Holocaust Memorial Museum), Mt. Herzl (the military cemetery), the Mahane Yehuda market, or just walking down Ben Yehuda (the main drag in Jerusalem) is always exciting and meaningful, the point of these trips is to instill a sense of connectiveness-to build the connective tissue, if you will, between my kids and the Land of Israel.


Our goal is to have them understand that this place is not just another place. It's a special place for them and a part of their identity. As parents, you always wonder if you are making the impact you hope to make.


We do our best and I suppose time will tell.


But what strikes me in Israel in 2015 is much of what strikes me every time. The "bizarro world" that is sometimes the country and the Middle East.


This week is an election which could have huge ramifications for the future of the country and the region.


  • How big is the Iranian threat?
  • Will a united Arab list and a potentially larger than average Arab turnout be a determining factor in the election? (I find this particularly ironic given the charges of "apartheid state" that are leveled at the country.
  • The never-ending discussion about how to be both a Jewish country and a democracy.
  • How to maintain the ongoing economic miracle/"start-up" nation/technology hub that has resulted in a country where GDP per capita is going to soon exceed that of France. Yes, France.
  • And a whole lot more.


It's not a perfect country. Never will be, but it's a country based on an ideal and a belief…that the Jews have a right to their own country and that, when all is said and done, Jews need a country where the primary raison d'etre is the defense of people's right to live as Jews.


I hope my kids walked away with that.


And I just wish all of the haters could take a step back and walk through the streets of Jerusalem or Tel Aviv or wherever and see how the country functions. How people are just trying to live their lives and do better for their families.


They would be blown away to see that…and they'd be really blown away to see Arabs walking amongst the Jews in these same places with no fear at all, no reason to be afraid, accepted for who they are.


Then they might ask themselves, "would a Jew be able to walk around as a Jew in many Arab countries with no fear whatsoever?" They can't do it in Sweden or Paris, after all…which proves the very point.


Israel, despite being nearly 68 years old is not guaranteed. It's a daily struggle and every moment is infused with a sense of urgency, a sense of life-or-death consequences that few others places or people in the world have. There's an unspoken tension that just exists. There are shelters, there were (and will be, unfortunately) air raid sirens. There are soldiers carrying guns, security checkpoints at malls, metal detectors, and profiling.


Those aren't disappearing anytime soon, I'm sad to say. Maybe never.


There's the irony that being outnumbered nearly 150 to 1 is the root cause of the country's competitive advantage.


But it's all this, the living in a pressure cooker that creates not just innovation, but also a heighted joie de vivre that can't be understood by an outsider. Nor can it be understood fully by someone who is unfamiliar with Jewish history.


Hopefully these trips will help our kids see this and understand their place in it.


Road Warrior Street Cred

In reality, it's not something about which to be super proud. Proving your road warrior toughness is, well, maybe a sign of misplaced priorities.

Yet, with not so many accomplishments to tout, I submit for your consideration the current itinerary in which I am currently engaged.

Sunday evening, March 8th

  • train from DC to NY Penn Station, arrive at 11pm


Monday evening, March 9th

  • train from NYC back to DC, arriving home at 10:30pm


Tuesday morning, March 10th

  • Leave home at 7am for a 9am flight from DCA to Toronto with entire family.
  • Sit in Toronto airport for 6 hours. Fortunately, there's wi-fi and kids have iPads.
  • Depart Toronto at 5pm to Israel.


Wednesday, March 11th

  • Arrive in Israel at 9am. Get car and drive to Jerusalem. Stay in Israel for 4 full days.


Sat. night, March 14th

  • Leave Israel at 10:55pm, flying to Newark.


Sunday morning, March 15th

  • Arrive in Newark at 4.30am

  • The baggage door on the plane won't open, so we all wait by the carousel for 90 minutes (we can't go through customs w/o our bags). A huge line amasses. Fortunately, I have Global Entry and get my own line.
  • Go to United Club, where I take a shower and drink the 2nd of what will be multiple coffees.
  • Take shuttle from C gates to A gates for 8:55am flight to Austin.
  • Get on the plane, only to find out that there's a maintenance issue and we have to deplane.
  • Then, we have to change gates, so we take the shuttle BACK to C gates for a new plane.
  • That plane, eventually, leaves Newark at 11.55 (3 hours late).
  • Arrive in Austin at 3pm local time (roughly and hopefully as I'm writing this while on the plane)
  • Oh, by the way, I have brought 2 HUGE bags back with me to try and make things easier for NFO and kids when they fly back from Israel w/o me. (Needless to say, one of them-the one I needed-didn't make it to Austin in time)
  • Attend Sprinklr SXSW party

Monday, March 15

  • Leave Austin around noon and fly (via Houston) back to Reagan National where I will wait for about 4 hours and meet up with family returning from Israel via Toronto. They will have a 4-5 hour layover and get in around 11pm.
  • Take family home and hopefully help get them settled.


Tuesday, March 16

  • Home. Yay.


Wednesday, March 17

  • 8am flight from Dulles to Seattle. Arrive in Seattle at 11am local time. Give presentation at 4.15pm local time.


Thursday, March 18

  • 8am flight BACK from Seattle to DC. Arrive home around 5pm.


So, when all is said and done, we are looking at:

  • 8 days
  • 8 airports
  • 4 time zones (where a night was spent)
  • 3 countries
  • 2 continents
  • 2 train stations


And let's not talk about next week!



Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Bizzaro World of Israeli Elections

It strikes me as very interesting that Israel is accused of being an "apartheid  state" and yet, the elections next week could be determined the turnout of the Arab vote and the positions of the Arab parties.

Even more so, the leader of the Arab parties says they are fundamentally against the existence of the State in which they are members of Knesset (parliament).

Can you imagine a party in the US running for seats in Congress and saying "we don't believe in the Constitution or the bill of Rights. We're just running in order to get more power and have ppl pay attention to our unique demands."

Just bizarre.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

More on the End of College as we know it...

Another nail in the coffin.

Now more evidence...this time from the NY Times.  Thanks to Tom Siegman for this one.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Book: This will make you smarter

Recently, I've been making my way through a compilation book of scientists who were challenged to answer the question of "what 1 scientific idea should people know that would make them better off?"

The book is called:   This Will Make You Smarter: New Scientific Concepts to Improve Your Thinking (Edge Question Series).

The essays are about 2-3 pages long and, for the most part, really good.

Two that stood out for me are:  The Pessimistic Meta-Induction from the History of Science which essentially says that in each era, people think they are at the end of modernity, having figured it all out, and that everyone beforehand were ignorant. Yet, 85% of what we think of as "truth/fact" will be proven to be false at some point. Stay humble

And  Self-Serving Bias  which essentially says that we aren't nearly as open-minded as we though (which we knew), but reminds us that we are always looking for things to confirm what we think is the right thing.

Just wanted to pass these along.