OK folks, time to take a break from all the heavy stuff. Iran, Shmiran, is what I say! Instead, let’s do one of my favorite things: A roundup of fun, interesting links from the internets. (What’s also nice? I started this post a few weeks ago, and every few days, I came across another story or link that I just had to include. The lesson: There’s good stuff and good people out there, even if they don’t always make the headlines.)
So what am I liking on the Jewish web these days?
This kid: Ethan Metzger explains “Jewish brainwashing” during a poetry slam in the Bronx. (Also, Fun Fact: I used to teach at the school Ethan attends! Yes, Funner Fact would have been if I had taught Ethan, but hey, you take what you can get.) He eloquently and passionately answers an uncomfortable question that plagues many of us who grew up Orthodox: “Aren’t you just doing all this religious stuff because your parents make you? Aren’t you brainwashed? You didn’t choose to keep this lifestyle or to observe these commandments. It’s just because your parents told you.” Etc. etc. And while I could paraphrase his answer for you, I think it’s well worth the less-than-three-and-a-half minutes to listen to Ethan slam it.
Also making the rounds on YouTube: The multi-talented doctors and nurses at Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem. It’s a video promoting hygiene and good health through effective handwashing, but while that may sound super boring, I promise you the video is anything but. Israeli medical professionals rapping and breakdancing in a hospital? How could that not be fun?! The video is in Hebrew, but when it went viral (ß get it?) they added English subtitles so even more people could appreciate its awesomeness.
Sometimes, I like to visit the guys and girls over at Israel21c for some inspirational articles that make me hopeful about the future of humanity:
So, you know, just another regular old day in Israel. Go to work, drink some coffee, transform the lives of the visually impaired. OrCam, a company whose mission it is to restore functionality to the blind and visually impaired, just came out with a device that helps people read and see. Using artificial intelligence and complex algorithms—in other words, “science” and “math”—the device identifies thousands of everyday objects and transmits them to the wearer’s ear via a voice system. The device helps people with visual impairments do daily activities that would be otherwise impossible, like read a newspaper, wait for the bus (and know when the right one comes) and count out exact change.
Then there’s these guys, an Israeli startup called IonMed, who have developed a way to close incisions without stitches or staples. The idea, in short (very short) is to use cold plasma and basically weld that incision shut. In addition to getting rid of scarring, the plasma promotes healing and reduces risk of tissue infection. The product is still in the testing phase, but when it receives FDA approval, it will literally change people’s lives.
Then there’s the news from Israel’s “startup nation,” which is becoming so routine it’s almost boring. First, Google bought the Israeli navigation company Waze. (The story made some very nationalistic waves when the company refused to sell if it required relocating to California. In the end, they are keeping their offices in Israel.) Then Facebook scooped up Onavo, which does something complicated involving “analytics” and “optimizing.” Not sure what that means, but you go, guys! This purchase is also significant because it represents Facebook’s first office in Israel. And the latest purchase is Soluto, a company that helps manage computer issues remotely. It was bought by an American company Asurion Corporation. (Fun Fact: Former CEO of Soluto is Israel’s current Minister of Economy and Commerce Naftali Bennet.)
From the war desk: A little-known fact about the current civil war in Syria is that while Israel is staying firmly out of it (because we’re sort of officially at war with them), Israeli doctors have treated hundreds of wounded Syrians. Less severe cases receive treatment at Israel’s field hospital in the Golan Heights, while doctors bring the more serious cases to Israeli hospitals in Nahariya and Safed. A recent first was when a Syrian woman gave birth in an Israeli hospital. The woman realized she was in labor but was without access to a hospital. She traveled to the border and the Israeli soldiers, seeing that she was in terrible pain, transferred her to Ziv Medical Center in Safed, where she delivered a healthy baby. She spoke warmly of the care both her and her baby received, saying, “I really don’t feel like I’m in an enemy country; everyone is helping me and caring for me.”
Next up on Happy News: silence. Specifically, the Sound of it. These Hasidic brothers are making the viral rounds on a popular Israeli singing contest. Whether or not two traditionally garbed Hasidim singing Simon & Garfunkel qualifies as “kiddush Hashem/sanctifying God’s name” is up for debate, but there is no arguing that it is certainly fun to see stereotypes come crashing down. Also, they are really good.
Finally, this: You decide – happy or depressing? This picture has been getting a lot of attention lately. A young man fell asleep on the subway, nodding off on the shoulder of a slightly older man. The second guy didn’t push him off, wake him up or move away. He simply let him sleep because he said he knew what it felt like to be exhausted at the end of the day. For sure, the gender and dress of the two men—a be-hoodied young black man and a kippah-wearing Jewish man—is adding to the viral-ness of this picture. The question: Is this a “Isn’t the world such a wonderful place where simple acts of kindness like this can happen?” or is it a “How low have we sunk, as a human race, when someone doing a very simple act of kindness—in fact, the kindness was more in his not doing anything—makes us all teary eyed? And that what we would have rightfully expected the guy to do was push the sleeping kid off, looking disgusted or disturbed?” What do you think?
Well, that ends our latest segment on Things Aren’t So Bad! Next week we will be back to our regularly scheduled program of wondering about stuff and overthinking things.