The ten-day tour, slated for May 2013 and open to only 100 participants, combines the standard stopping point for a Christian-based visit to Israel based on the life of Jesus – Nazareth, Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, a cruise on the Sea of Galilee, and the option of being baptized in the Jordan River.
But, for just under $4,000, what might make Elvis fans bay like a hound dog in excitement will be the special guests slated to accompany the tour - Joe Moscheo and Terry Blackwood of the Elvis Imperials and Bill Baize, all of whom recorded and toured with Presley as gospel backup singers in the 1960s and 70s.
And course, for many, the highlight of the trip will be a visit to the Elvis Inn at Neve Ilan, the garish Israeli restaurant/shrine to the King, replete with a larger than life statue in its parking lot.
One reason Presley earned the title ‘The King’ was his ability to arouse primal and prurient rock & roll impulses with his gyrating hips and his smoldering sensuality, and then turn around and sing the chaste, faith-based gospel music of the Lord. That latter aspect is the peg for faith-based Elvis fans, according to Joe Amaral, the president of Israel Theme Tours, a Toronto-based tourism company which is organizing the Elvis tour together with Elvis Presley Enterprises, the official Nashville-based entity created by The Elvis Presley Trust to run his estate and manage Graceland, his legendary palatial home.
“Elvis loved gospel music - he won three Grammy awards for his spiritual recordings,” Amaral told The Jerusalem Post this week in a phone call from Toronto. “Israel was someplace that Elvis always wanted to visit, as a Christian and a religious person – it was the land that gave birth to his faith. But he never got there.”
Amaral, a seasoned tour operator who has led over a dozen tourist pilgrimages to Israel, explained that he began developing the idea of a celebrity theme tour to Israel after leading his last group the country in January, which included a friend from Nashville, Brian Mayes, a veteran PR veteran, publicist for EPE, and Amaral’s soon-to-be partner in Israel Theme Tours.
“I knew how connected he is in the world of entertainment and I said, ‘wouldn’t it be really cool to do a tour of Israel with a celebrity headliner? It would be the trip of a lifetime for the participants and it would draw media attention to Israel,” said Amaral. “Before I knew it, Brian was on the phone and within a few days was getting some great responses. Between my connections in Israel and his connections in the entertainment industry, we both bring something to the table.”
Amaral and Hayes decided to limit the number of the participants on their tour to 100 to enable as much interaction with the celebrity host as possible. And in preparation for next year’s Elvis tour, they’ve booked their first two packages for later this year – the Howie D Backstreet tour in September featuring Backstreet Boy Howie Dorough, and a tour the following month with contemporary Latin Christian pop singers Jaci Velasquez and Nic Gonzales.
But it’s the Elvis tour which is rousing the most response, the result of the fanatical following still enjoyed by Presley 46 years after his death in 1977. For several years, EPE has been organizing Elvis cruises which have attracted thousands of fans, but according to Amaral, the organization was in the process of phasing them out when he and Hayes suggested the idea of the Holy Land tour.
“They loved it from the beginning and within a matter of weeks, we received the approval from their highest level,” said Amaral, adding that any usage of Presley’s name and persona must receive the company’s endorsement.
Signing on the three Elvis backup singers proved to be the tipping point for the venture, providing a magnet for Presley fans hungry for any inside connection with their hero that may emerge from rubbing shoulders with Moscheo, Blackwood and Baize.
“These were people that knew Elvis on a personal level, they were with him night after night on tour,” said Amaral, adding that tour participants will have steady access to the performers.
“They’re going to perform in a boat on the Sea of Galilee – imagine that, to be one of a few dozen people listening to them sing gospel songs in the place where Jesus did so many things. That’s a high point of the tour.”
Panel discussions with the performers will take place in the evenings, and Amaral predicted that impromptu performances will take place throughout the tour, sometimes even with Israeli performers.
“We know that there’s an Elvis impersonators’ event on his birthday each year at the Elvis Inn, and we hope to meet Elvis fans in Israel,” said Amaral. “What a cool opportunity for the Israeli Elvis fans and for the people coming fro the US and Canada to meet each other and talk about their common love.”
They may end up talking about religion as well, because it turns out that Christianity wasn’t the only faith with an Elvis connection. According to the 1998 book Schmelvis: Searching for the King’s Jewish Roots, there are numerous Jewish-Presley connections. His maternal great-great grandmother, Nancy Burdine, was a Jew, he always wore a Chai pendant; he put a Star of David on his mother’s headstone; and his tremelo vocal style may have been influenced as a teen by hearing his upstairs Memphis neighbor, Rabbi Alfred Fruchter, sing cantorial music.
But whether the banter is about religion or music, Amaral said that the ultimate goal is not only to expose Presley’s gospel roots and their origins in the holy land, but to show the participants about modern-day Israel.
“The important thing in all of our theme tours is that Israel wins, that it’s seen as a viable – and normal – tourist destination. Not only are you seeing celebrities and amazing historical sites, but you’re also experiencing a vibrant, modern culture as well.”
Elvis would surely say ‘amen’ to that.
Elvis’ Imperials members Joe Moscheo and Terry Blackwood, and Bill Baize, former member of JD Sumner and The Stamps!
May 12 – 21, 2013
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Multinational cosmetics firm L’Oreal and UNESCO have named a Weizmann Institute biologist working in the field of probiotics, commonly referred to as beneficial bacteria, “Europe’s top young researcher.” For her work in researching probiotics to treat disease, Dr. Naama Geva-Zatorsky will receive a two-year $40,000 postdoctoral scholarship.
During the past three years, young Israeli women have been able to apply for the program, which began 14 years ago and aims at promoting research among women starting out their scientific careers. There are only 15 annual fellowship winners around the world.
Among the members of the Israeli judges’ panel who selected her to compete with others in Europe are several senior Israeli women scientists, including Israel Science Academy president Prof. Ruth Arnon, Nobel Prize for Chemistry laureate Prof. Ada Yonath, Ben-Gurion University president Prof. Rivka Carmi (who is also a renowned pediatrician and geneticist) and Prof. Ephrat Levy- Lahad, head of the medical genetics department at Shaare Zedek Medical Center.
L’Oreal Israel CEO Nava Ravid said her company regards helping young women scientists as vital to their work. In the last century, 95 percent of all Nobel laureates have been men, she said.
“The world needs science, and science needs women, especially now,” she added.
Science and Technology Minister Prof. Daniel Herschkowitz said Geva- Zatorsky is living proof of the scientific power of Israel and the rising force of women in science. He said he hoped this was one in a chain of top prizes that she would receive for her work.
Knesset women’s lobby chairman MK Rachel Adatto, a physician by training, said the winner is an example of the growing number of Israeli women who contribute to science.
“I hope that her research will lead to an improved quality of life in Israel and in the world,” Adatto said.
Geva-Zatorsky arrived on Wednesday in Paris to receive her award and discuss her work, which aims at using “good bacteria” to treat diseases from gastroenterological disorders and diabetes to immune disorders and cancer. She noted that the body contains 10 times more bacteria than human cells, adding that “the bacteria that grow in the body from birth have a vital influence on our bodies and our health.”
Story via JPost
Dana International was named among World’s Best-looking Transsexuals. The Israeli superstar is leading the list with the American RuPaul and the recent Canadian beauty contest drop-out Jenna Talackova
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The Parisian Solveig, who ranks no. 29 in Britain’s DJ Mag Top 100 DJs list for 2011, is one of the numerous co-producers of the queen of pop’s latest effort, ultimately responsible for 3 tracks which made to the record, including the first single“Give Me All Your Luvin’”, featuring Nicki Minaj & M.I.A.
The Tel Aviv born Nissim has been a standout figure in the world wide DJ scene, having done highly praised remixes for such artists as Beyonce, Britney Spears and Madonna herself. In Israel he also known for discovering local pop diva and world transsexual icon Dana International. “It’s a dream come true for me, to get such an estimate from someone like Madonna, who’s always up to date with what’s happening in the music world,” said Nissim in an official statement, “She has always been ahead of her time and knows how to reach a variety of audiences”.
In related news, veteran Israeli hard rock band Ha’Yehudim (The Jews) have also been confirmed today as the local warm up act for Guns N’ Roses’ July 3rd concert at Hayarkon Park in Tel Aviv. While tickets for Madonna’s premiere concert of her tour were on high demand and cleared the way for a second date added last week, it still remains to be seen if Axel Rose’s troupe would be able to fill up their venue.
“Israel can win the battle for survival only by developing expert knowledge in technology,” said the great scientist Albert Einstein in 1923. He had come to the Jewish homeland to plant a palm tree in his capacity as the first president of the Technion Society.
The following year, what is now the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology opened in Haifa with 17 students — 16 men and one woman.
But the hard work of Einstein and many others toward founding Israel’s first modern university had been years in the planning. “The Technikum” was meant as an alternative for European Jewish youth who were denied opportunities for technical studies in their native countries. This dream of establishing and maintaining a basis for Jewish industry got its tangible start on April 11, 1912, with the laying of the Technion cornerstone.
Now one of the premier technology institutes in the world, the Technion is in the last few months of its centennial celebration. And it has been a banner year for the institute. Prof. Dan Shechtman became the third Technion faculty member to win a Nobel Prize, and the Technion was chosen from many other applicants to found an applied science and engineering institute in New York City in tandem with Cornell University.
To kick off the year-long celebration last April, the Technion produced a short film highlighting its origins and major accomplishments, says Danny Shapiro, the university’s public affairs officer.
Full story via MFA
Israel is also a hotbed of cleantech entrepreneurship. According to a new report from the Cleantech Group and WWF, Israel is the second most innovative country worldwide for cleantech. (Denmark ranked first). “Coming Clean: The Cleantech Global Innovation Index 2012” finds that Israel leads the world in creating cleantech companies and has produced a disproportionate number of high-quality firms.
Israel Cleantech Ventures (ICV) is the leading cleantech venture capital firm in Israel. To learn about Israeli cleantech innovation and ICV’s strategy and investments, I spoke with the firm’s three founding partners: Jack Levy, Meir Ukeles, and Glen Schwaber.
Q: Israel is often described as the “Start-Up Nation.” Why?
A, Jack Levy: Per capita, we have by far the most start-ups, particularly in cleantech. Although Israel is 60-plus years old, the country’s private sector is really young. Its roots are in the 1980s and 1990s. A lot of the dynamism in the economy really comes from that. Another driver is the military experiences that young people go through, which gives them great responsibilities, great opportunities, and a can do attitude. But the driver that is most important and hardest to replicate is cultural, the perspective that failure can be one step along the way. America shares that perspective, but there are plenty of other cultures where a fear of failure keeps very talented people from taking risks or leaving larger organizations to start enterprises. Israel has a risk-taking culture. A lot of it comes from the fact that the downside is not as strong. If you fail, you’ll try to learn from that failure and keep going. People won’t hold your failure as a strike against you.
Q: In what areas is Israel strongest in cleantech innovation?
A, Meir Ukeles: At Israel Cleantech Ventures, we focus on areas that make sense in Israel for venture investing. Generally these are areas where Israel has very strong roots, in traditional energy and water industries. Israel is a dry country with a lot of sunlight and, up until recently, no domestic fossil fuel resources. Not surprisingly, technologies for solar, water efficiency, water treatment, water reuse and, in the last 10-15 years, desalination, have pretty deep roots. Call that one bucket.
The second bucket are startups that draw on technology innovation and intellectual capital out of what would be called traditional technology industries: semiconductors, power electronics, communications, and wireless in particular. There has also been some innovation in energy storage, a lot of which over the years was funded by or benefited from research and development done in the military and in the defense establishment and then, in the last 20 years, has been a hotbed of more traditional venture-backed, for-profit activity. There is a lot of innovation that comes from those roots and finds its way to the biggest problems of our era: resource efficiency, resource imbalances, and the environmental footprint of consumption.
The third bucket is from pockets in which Israel’s traditional industrial base has a lot to contribute. Chemicals are one area where there is a lot of competence, some of which flows to the water industry. Other aspects go to agritech and green fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides.
Q: Are you seeing more dealflow in agritech? Are you becoming more excited about agritech?
A, Jack Levy: The answer to both questions is yes. The underlying business drivers and the reasons to be excited about sustainable agritech are quite clear. Agritech gets to the heart to what people think about when they think about cleantech: doing more with less. Growing more with less, with marginal land or with marginal water. Increasing yields or designing into seeds the crop protection chemicals that you otherwise need to distribute in old-fashioned and potentially problematic ways. These are massive global opportunities.
Israel has already established itself as a strong source of innovative technologies, both in terms of gene discovery for plant genomics and for breeding. The agronomy community in Israel has been very strong. We have seen large multinationals get active in the Israel market, not only partnerships, but also with acquisitions. Syngenta and Monsanto have consummated acquisitions in Israel. That leads to a virtuous cycle of talent that gets exposed to the ways that these companies work, that stays in Israel and comes back here. Agritech is also an area, like solar and like water, on which the academic community in Israel has been focused for decades. All of this makes Israel very fertile, no pun intended, for agritech startups. We are definitely seeing an accelerated pace for the number of companies we are looking at in this area, with strong, experienced entrepreneurs.
A, Meir Ukeles: We are very interested in the meeting of distributed intelligence technology. Think of the intelligence that you have resident in your smartphone. We are interested in the meeting of that with the needs of modern agriculture. The opportunities to unlock the flow of information offered by the modernization of communication infrastructure is very exciting in terms of what that can offer to the agriculture market.
Full story via Forbes