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NEW YORK LEADERSHIP SCHOLARSHIP CAMPAIGN A SMASHING SUCCESS
We met our goal! The $12,000+ collected during our scholarship campaign is transforming the lives of deserving young Tel Aviv University students.
Students like Michael Talelai of Russia, whose father died when he was eight and whose mother suffers from mental illness. Despite these challenges, he is a promising biology and psychology student in his freshman year.
And Smadar Gilad, who despite a difficult family life has been doing volunteer work with children with difficulties since the age of 15 — work which has led her to pursue a degree in social work as well.
And Mayan Kol, who needed to take a telemarketing job in order to pay for her university expenses as she pursued a degree in social work.
Thanks for helping us meet our goal — and stay tuned for details of next year's campaign!
A VISIT TO MY ALMA MATER
by Orna Stern
It took almost 30 years but it was worth it.
When I was last in Israel, I joined a group of friends of Tel Aviv University for a specially arranged alumni tour on April 16, 2012. The grounds looked familiar — but it all looked bigger. More buildings. More students. The university seems to expand.
We visited the Segals Garden for Zoological Research and heard Prof. Amir Ayali talk about the different species and the bat colony. I graduated in 1981 in Statistics and minored in genetic mathematics, and I never knew about this treasure just across the street from the math building.
We met the university president, Prof. Yossi Klafter, and had lunch with current students. We heard about the amazing new programs in environmental studies, and the construction of an ecogreen building for the Porter School.
The tour ended with a visit with Dr. Yechiel Elkabetz, who is doing groundbreaking work with neural stem cells. Yechiel charmed us with stories of his youth as the child of Morrocoan immigrants and a sister who is a famous Israeli actress.
The university raised funds to recruit him from New York's Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
It was a special day. I have great memories from my days at the University, and the visit reminded me what a great place it was — and still is.
LINKS OP-ED: ALUMNI SPEAK OUT
Google Is More Powerful than the Gun
By Dan Katzir
An award-winning Israeli filmmaker, Dan Katzir's first film, Out for Love ... Be Back Shortly was narrated by Sasha Baron Cohen, and aired on multiple stations and the HBO network. He is currently producing a film in collaboration with Willie Nelson's production company, Luck Films.
Unless you've been on another planet for the past few weeks, you've heard about the amazing Cinderella story of a short Youtube video called Kony 2012.
This amazing video reached nearly 80 million viewers in just two weeks. It showed that the power of the Web and social media have completely changed the rules of the media game for the twenty-first century. When a video is powerful enough, it will be shared by everyone — and it doesn't matter who created the content.
I discovered this video after a friend's mom forwarded it to her children and they forwarded it to their five friends. I was one of them. I posted it to my Facebook page where it was shared by another five friends ... and ka-boom! Eighty million viewers and growing. Celebrities tweeted about it, and even Congressional politicians from both sides of the aisle started discussing more seriously how to get involved.
In the past, only a small group of content gatekeepers had the power to choose what would be seen on TV — and what would then get the prime time public's interest. In today's fast-moving world, though, our own friends have much more influence on what we see than the heads of any television networks. Who would have thought that a short film about the leader of a terrorist group responsible for child hijacking and sex trafficking in Uganda would reach five times the number of viewers of American Idol, a ratings monster that has millions of dollars for marketing and advertising?
In our modern online world Google has become far more powerful than the gun. After all, in Egypt Google helped topple a 30-year regime, and many believe that the Arab Spring would never have happened if it weren't for Facebook and Youtube.
These changes are having the largest impact in the Middle East, where so many regimes have fallen. That's creating new challenges for Israel — as well as new threats. Many of Israel's supporters and friends are trying to figure out where to focus next — on Iran, Syria, Al Qaeda, or elsewhere.
I suggest there's a new danger just as dangerous as the others: The danger of losing the online battlefield.
In my judgment, the most important court today is the court of online public opinion. Israel's most effective way of defending itself is to raise online support worldwide. Sadly, many Israeli politicians don't understand that the rules of the game have changed. We live in a world where most young people don’t trust the news — and feel that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are much more honest observers of what's really going on.
All over the world, young people trust their local Jon Stewarts or Youtube more than any other news source. In such a cynical and jaded world — where people don't even believe traditional news sources any more — films and videos are a very important way for a society to convey its ideas, its cultural and moral beliefs, its perspective on the truth, and its attitude towards freedom.
With this new way of storytelling, Israel can get a lot of international support. And for anyone who mocks art, saying it's limited in its ability to influence anyone, just think about the Obama campaign and Shepard Fairey's brilliant poster of Obama — the monumental graffiti-like image in blue and red that made history and erased doubts about the Democratic candidate. Great images like the Shepard Fairey illustration — which got a huge viral boost online — can change the nature of any campaign.
Ironically, although Israel's government isn't fully aware of the changing media landscape, our filmmakers have scored huge international successes.
In recent years Israel's film and TV industry have begun a new love affair with the world. Israeli films are regularly screened in large film festivals like Cannes and Sundance. Israeli films have been nominated for the American Academy Awards, and Israeli TV shows have been purchased and Americanized. One of them, Homeland, even won a Golden Globe award this year and brought a lot of positive press to Israel's increasing status as a new gold mine for ideas and stories.
What's amazing about all this is the small budgets with which both Israel's film and TV industries operate. Despite this, they've become worldwide leaders, competing with projects that have 10-20 times the funding behind them. I can’t really explain why Israel's politicians don't fully understand the power of modern media. After all, we live in a world where more and more people have smart phones and can access videos everywhere. The demand for video content will grow. Israel must use its limited resources not just to arm itself with military equipment but direct some of its resources to help its cinema and TV industry, especially now that it has world-class filmmakers at its helm.
Our universities and our government must realize the power of cinema and TV and put more focus, more energy, and more resources into this small but quickly emerging industry, which is poised to make the kinds of phenomenal leaps Israel's high tech industry already has. The high tech industry would never have been as successful without the help and focus of both our government and our universities.
For years people said that Israel's film and TV industry had no chance of competing in the international TV and film landscape because the budgets in Israel are so tiny. Theoretically they were right. But, as always, Israel's ingenuity has managed to compensate for lack of resources.
"If you build it, they will come," whispers the voice in Field of Dreams. I hope that Israel will realize the potential of this industry and help the film and TV community truly build this dream into a much bigger and more powerful reality.
I would love to know your thoughts — and feel free to write me on Facebook.