June 11 is Pride Day in Tel Aviv, and Israel’s party capital was packed with great, gay events. But I doubt any of them was as much fun as the one I found myself at a couple of months ago.
It all started with a lame LGBT picnic in a downtown park, right next to Tel Aviv’s gay and lesbian resource centre. I arrived with my friend Mimi, a lefty dyke, and her five-year-old son Boaz, to find a rainbow flag and a small band of bored-looking Jewish queers. It was just hours before my only Friday night in Tel Aviv, and I was determined to find the best party possible.
One of the fags at the picnic, a young guy named Zohar, said he and a friend were planning to check out a gay Arab party. I asked him what that meant but he said he didn’t know – he’d never gone to one before. He gave me the address and encouraged me to check it out.
Hours later, after primping at Mimi’s, I handed the address to a cab driver. He didn’t have a clue where it was and neither did I. After all, I was a tourist in Israel. As I told my friends back home, I was there “to see what the fuss is all about.”
I was about to find out where the fuss was on that Friday night. The cabbie had to stop three times to ask for directions, until we finally came upon a warehouse district. Finally, upon hearing the address, a guy said, “That’s the gay party around the corner.” He didn’t look like he was involved with it but he didn’t look like he minded it, either.
“Do you think it’s all right if I go?” I asked.
“Yeah, of course,” he said.
I was a bit suspicious, since he pointed toward a dark alley. But when the cab turned, we suddenly found what I was looking for: gay men. And these weren’t just any gay men, they were the most beautiful group of gay men I’ve ever seen in my life.
There were about 50 guys, mostly wearing dark T-shirts and jeans, milling about and (in some cases) making out. Most of the guys had dark, tanned skin, dark brown eyes, thick black eyebrows and amazing physiques.
I heard music, which I followed into a large warehouse space. The entrance had a banner announcing the name of the host organization: Al-Qaws (Rainbow) for Sexual and Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society. A gorgeous guy at the entrance asked for 30 shekels ($8) and stamped my hand.
Inside, the party was sensational. There were about 200 sweaty guys – all around a massive bar – and just about everyone was shaking their hips, flailing their arms and belly-dancing to loud Arabic pop music. There was no border between the dancefloor and the rest of the party. The whole space was a dancefloor, with guys (many of them shirtless) moving to the beat in groups of three or four, singing along and switching partners between songs.
In the centre of it all, on top of the bar, was a drag queen dressed in a white wedding dress, enthusiastically lifting her skirt. And on a riser right behind her was Zohar, the Jewish guy I met at the picnic. He was there with another guy I saw that afternoon. At first I thought they were boyfriends, but they were so friendly with so many other guys around them that I couldn’t figure out if they were part of a twosome, a threesome, or a moresome. One thing’s for sure: they were having a wicked time.
At the end of the night, when everyone spilled out into the alley, I asked Zohar how many other Jewish guys were there. He shrugged and said he didn’t know. For him, it didn’t seem to matter. Then I found the organizer, a guy named Raafat, and asked for his estimate of the Jewish/Arab mix. Again, he shrugged and said he wasn’t counting. The party, he told me, was open to everyone.
When I got back to Mimi’s place, she and her partner Dana were still awake. They were fascinated, but not entirely surprised. In Israel, they admitted, Jews and Palestinians don’t often travel in the same social circles. But when it comes to the gay community, they said, there are a lot more connections than you might think.
Municipality advancing plan to turn central city into Israel’s new tourism Riviera. ‘As far as tourists are concerned, there is no different between a hotel located on Tel Aviv’s coast or on Bat Yam’s coast,’ official says
The Bat Yam Municipality is advancing a grandiose plan to turn the city into Israel’s new tourism Riviera. Three new hotels are being built along the Bat Yam coast, and the municipality has decided to allot five more plots for hotels in different areas across the city.
Erez Podemski, assistant director-general for development and strategy at the Bat Yam Municipality said Wednesday, “Some 2.6 million foreign tourists who visit Israel see the shoreline from Herzliya to Bat Yam as one metropolitan bloc, and as far as they are concerned there is no different between a hotel located on Tel Aviv’s coast or on Bat Yam’s coast, apart from the price and service with which Bat Yam can compete successfully.”
The three hotels being built are Bat Yam Beach and Bat Yam Sun by entrepreneur Yehoshua Gutman, and another hotel which will be called temporarily Top Ben.
All three four or five-star hotels will include about 300 rooms and large areas for commerce and conventions. The estimated cost of construction is NIS 240 million (about $62 million), excluding the price of the land. Bat Yam currently has only 530 hotel rooms.
By jamming the biochemical machinery of sperm, an Israeli professor has created a new pill that could finally place the responsibility of birth control with men.
The female birth control pill, commonly referred to as ‘The Pill,’ is not 100 percent effective, and some women’s bodies don’t react well to the extra hormones. Now, finally, a new birth control option for men is in the works, which would allow partners to share the responsibility, and let guys be in control of whether or not there will be any surprises in the procreation department.
Prof. Haim Breitbart of Israel’s Bar-Ilan University authored a breakthrough paper in 2006 describing how sperm survive in the uterus. Now the biochemist is taking those findings and using them against sperm. He’s developed a number of novel compounds that have no affect on male sex drive, but succeed in impairing the reproductive ability of the sperm. If all goes according to his plan, a new male birth control pill could be on the market within the next five years, he tells ISRAEL21c.
So far, the new pill dubbed the Bright Pill (a play on Brietbart’s name) has been tested on animal models in a pre-clinical setting, and has been found to work wonderfully on mice. “What we found is that by treating the mice with our molecule we can get sterility for a long period of time; in the lower dose, about one month, and in the higher dose we found three months of sterility.
“Later on the male mouse can become fertile. It’s reversible,” he promises.
Provided in pill form, but also tested as an injection, the male birth control solution was administered in two treatments over three days: One day on, one day off, one day on. In the larger dose group, it took about a week until the effects manifested themselves, but most importantly, the treatment does not appear to in any way affect the sex drive or the sexual behavior of the mice who received it.
“The mice behaved nicely, they ate and had sex”
“The mice behaved nicely,” Breitbart reports, “they ate and had sex; they were laughing, and everything, so all I can say is that we couldn’t see any behavioral side-effects – all their sex behavior was retained, which is a very important consideration for human men. A man who takes this pill could also be sexually active later on and have children.”
Rather than undergo an irreversible vasectomy, a man could sterilize himself for short periods, suggests Breitbart – probably one to three months depending on the dose. And, unlike the female pill, the male pill wouldn’t have to be taken every day.
Scientifically speaking, the effects of the male pill would be highly specific, meaning men would likely experience fewer side effects than do women who go on the pill. Careful not to reveal any of his trade secrets, Breitbart will divulge that the male pill is based on techniques in bioinformatics and microbiology and shows no sign of attacking any cells other than sperm cells.
Referring to the groundbreaking paper that he published in the journal Genes and Development, Breitbart says that the Bright Pill jams the sperm’s biochemical machinery. Disproving textbook science, he showed in the seminal paper that mature sperm cells synthesize new proteins in the uterus where they reside for up to three days or longer until fertilization of the egg takes place.
“We thought that since sperm can survive for three days or even longer, that there is another hypothesis: The sperm should renew their proteins because in order to get energy they need new proteins,” he tells ISRAEL21c.
In the mature sperm, messenger RNA (mRNA) is produced by DNA in the sperm’s nucleus and it is this mRNA, which directs protein synthesis in the sperm, Breitbart’s lab showed. In his breakthrough he describes how mitochondrial ribosomes are active in synthesizing nuclei-encoded mRNA proteins. This led to his realization that if he could stop protein synthesis in the sperm, they wouldn’t manage to survive in the uterus.
The Jewish stamp of approval
“We thought we could use this method to develop a male contraceptive,” Breitbart relates. Sperm are produced in the testes and then move to the epididymus, which is like a holding tank, and there can stay for a few days before encountering a female.
“If we can use a molecule which will inhibit the synthesis of certain proteins in sperm development, and it will stay in the sperm when it goes directly to the epididymus, we increase its chances for high efficiency. So far we know this works in mice,” he says.
The Bright Pill would have to be taken a week in advance, which should encourage deliberate, planned, safer sex. And it should be well received by religiously observant Jews. According to Jewish law, castration of any animal – human or non-human – is forbidden; not to mention that ‘spilling seed’ or ejaculating outside the female body is not permitted.
Also, for Jewish women who are allergic to the pill, the Breitbart solution provides more freedom in family planning, says the professor.
The Bright Pill is being submitted for a patent through Bar-Ilan University’s tech transfer company BIRAD, and Breitbart will continue his current studies for another year before moving on to primates. Working with his research associate Dr. Yael Gur, who is currently in the US, the two are seeking a $10 million investment to enable them to move on to the next stage of clinical advancement.
Support Kulanu Toronto by marching with us in the Pride Parade on Sunday, July 4th!
1. Visit the Kulanu Toronto booth before the march (between 10-12pm) to purchase a Pride T-shirt. Booth located just north of Wellesley on the west side of Church.
2. All marchers to line up for the march at the corner of Bloor and Jarvis, Section F9, by 12:15pm. Look for the Israeli flags and Kulanu Toronto banner.
3. Make sure to bring hats, water bottles, sunscreen, sandwiches, lots of water and your Jewish pride and enthusiasm.
4. The march starts officially at 2pm and ends at approximately 4pm.
5. Kulanu Toronto is excited to have a DJ leading their marching contingent this year! Come sing and dance to Hebrew music as we parade down Church Street!
For questions and to RSVP to march, please contact Kulanu Toronto’s executive director, Justine Apple, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Link to live feed here
Featuring famed musicians and academicians, IDC station is breaking new grounds and quickly forming a name for itself
Radio programming in Spanish, English and Hebrew set a new station apart from the rest. Featuring famed musicians and academicians after only a month of broadcasting, this station is breaking new grounds and quickly forming a name for itself.
This past month, the Sammy Ofer School of Communications in conjunction with the Raphael Recanati International School launched a website featuring Spanish, English and Hebrew programming for a unique radio station.
The channel, IDC Radio 106.4 FM, is operated by students and staff from the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya and is under the educational radio of Israel Radio. Offering a range of academic panels, sports, humor, and news among other topics, the channel seeks to enlighten listeners.
“We have programming on bars, sex, drugs (without the drugs of course) and rock and roll, and then we have Amnon Rubenstein – so there’s light and academic. We promise that it will always be intelligent whether it’s light or hard core,” Guy Eitingon, director of content development and business initiatives, told Ynetnews.
With this objective in mind, the students and staff work together to bring to fruition shows such as, “I-Spy,” the stations most highly rated show in English, in which five American girls discuss their perspectives on life in Israel, their trials and anecdotal language accidents all with a wry sense of humor. Or their Spanish programming, “2 x 2″, featuring one Hebrew and one Spanish speaking host playing off the language barrier as they focus on Spanish and Latin American culture and music.
The Spanish host’s alter ego Wilson el Kriminal, performs on the show with his guitar playing Reggaeton. The Israeli-Spanish fusion duo has interviewed artists with Latin American, Chava Rosenberg and Spanish influence, David Broza. The Spanish and English programming are played on Saturday to serve as a model for an “International Saturday” to counter other radio stations programming centered on “Shabbat Ivrit” – the Hebrew Shabbat.
The station does not steer away from politics or hard hitting news either. In fact quite the opposite, with a vast array of student perspectives from upwards of 70 countries in the B.A. and M.A. programs in English at the IDC; the channel has hosted shows on Jewish Inspiration as seen through a Chinese girl’s eyes as well as Christian Arabs.
President of IDC radio, Uriel Reichman told the students and staff that when addressing the Arab-Israeli conflict they should have a non-defeatist attitude, saying “don’t be kooters” (don’t whine and nag). Rather, the station’s approach is to debate and discuss, but in the end propose possible solutions.
IDC radio runs commercial-free on a very low budget, according to Eitingon. The broadcasts are part of the academic curriculum and all the hosts and guests volunteer their time.
Chief Editor and Director of Programming Ayelet Triest says, “Everyone is just enthusiastic about it and I think everyone falls in love with it. I think that’s what’s special about radio – when you fall in love with it you just do it. We have students who have graduated and they are still coming, a year and a half later they are still here.”
Israeli engineering students target problems with pollution and fuel in Nepal, in a project that’s creating better engineers and possibly better human beings.
Inspired by a lecture from Bernard Amadei, a US engineer from Colombia University who founded Engineers Without Borders, a group of 30 Israeli engineering students decided to open a chapter and a goodwill project of their own last year. They are now working through Engineers Without Borders to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollution in Nepal, while providing a much-needed source of energy.
After piggybacking on the efforts of an American project there, the Israeli undergraduate and graduate students found a way to make their own impact on one of the biggest local issues in Nepal: Women in their 40s suffer from severe respiratory problems caused by the local cooking fuel. The country is grappling with deforestation as wood is harvested for fuel for cooking, while animal and human waste continue to pollute Nepal’s abundant waterways.
Combining their engineering skills with their desire for social action, the Israeli students and their supervisor Prof. Mark Talesnick from the Faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Technion – Israel Institute of Science designed an easy-to-construct anaerobic (without air) digester. It is a composter for all kinds of waste (including human excrement) that transforms its byproducts into biofuel for cooking gas.
They developed a prototype in Israel and then carried it on their backs from the plane to the village in Nepal. Today, there are about 40 such digesters in place thanks to their help. They hope that their solution, where a reusable Styrofoam frame is used to cast dome-like digester structures in the ground, will be modeled and developed by Nepalese contractors to alleviate the pollution and fuel problems.
Tons of water, not a drop to drink
“Nepal has tons of water but you can’t drink it,” Talesnick tells ISRAEl21c. “That’s because it’s polluted from both human waste and animal waste. They have no energy, no natural sources of fuel. Stuck between the Himalayas and India, they cut down trees which results in soil erosion and deforestation.”
It’s the indoor cooking with firewood that causes respiratory diseases in Nepalese women when they are only 40 years old, he explains. “We wanted to build something to deal with this issue. While anaerobic digesters are not new to the east – there are about 200,000 in India, Nepal and China, it’s difficult for people to use them and build them,” he says.
And it’s hardly surprising that there’s initial resistance to the idea, as the system is fueled by human waste, animal waste and food compost. “It’s hard to get used to the idea that you are going to cook on shit,” the professor says bluntly.
Another challenge is teaching the locals to build the composters effectively. Normally built by children, first a four-and-a-half foot pit, spanning seven-and-a-half meters, has to be dug. Next the kids build the walls, cover the pit with soil and cast a concrete slab over the construction. When the concrete hardens, they dig out the framework for the digester, which is a time-consuming and difficult process.
Better engineers and better human beings
“It’s hard work and sometimes dangerous so we came up with a way to build a strong, light and reusable form,” Talesnick explains. The Israeli students put their heads together to engineer the reusable frame that can be used every four days – which is the length of time it takes for the concrete to harden.
According to Talesnick, the project includes all the aspects of engineering – evaluation, identification of problems, planning and implementation, and knowledge transfer. “The students taking part in this project will not only be better engineers, but also better human beings,” he says. “This is not just a challenging engineering activity, but also – and perhaps more importantly – an important educational activity.
“We started working in Israel and tied up with a group from Colorado working in Nepal on something else. We piggybacked on their project to come up with a project of our own,” continues Talesnick, originally from Kingston, Ontario, who earned his engineering degree at the University of Toronto, and his two later degrees at the Technion in Israel.
The Israeli-made solution is now working to benefit a village of up to 4,000 people in East Nepal.
“We changed the construction process to make it easier for them to build digesters,” he tells ISRAEL21c, noting that the students opt to participate as an extra-curricular activity, but a joint Colombia University-Technion summer school course will cover some of the issues involved in this special social action project.
Now looking to bamboo
The six Israeli students and their advisor were able to travel to Nepal recently to install the new composters thanks to generous funding from three Israeli bodies, including the Ted Arison Family Foundation. However, the money was all spent, and the project is currently on hold.
Still committed for the coming four years, Talesnick promises that next semester the students will engage in a new chapter of the project: A way to construct the framework for the digester from local materials, like bamboo, that can be found in the jungle.
Always learning from experience and attempting to move forward, Talesnick admits that, “The way we did it was not completely sustainable,” and stresses that he is a civil engineer who tries to incorporate sound environmental principles in every project for which he consults.
He is currently working on developing the biofuel, bioreactor idea for Israel’s Bedouin population, along with local partners including Ilana Muellem from the Arava Institute. Under his supervision, his students are building a world-class field lab to test the safety of any byproducts that will come out of the reactor, such as the compost.