Monthly Archives: December 2007

Reporting from Israel: December 17

We said goodbye to the kids and are looking forward to their safe return home in June. Our driver is waiting to take us to the airport and luckily we do not need to mount the suitcase on the roof of the car again. On the way to the airport, I chat with him about life in Israel. He tells me that two of his kids serve in the Israeli army and he knows that there will not be peace in his lifetime.

Final Reflection:

1. Time with family is precious.

2. Life is too short. Try enjoying each every moment.

3. Engage in conversations with people. You will discover some amazing wisdom.

4. Take time to observe and reflect. That’s when most of the learning and appreciation may take place.

5. Education is key to our future and probably the key to reducing hatred among nations.

6. Technology knows no borders, helps create and establish communities, makes staying in touch seamless and if used well can greatly increase efficiency and effectiveness.

7. We often take things for granted. Gas prices, Choices, Life style, discretionary time, freedom, relationships, peace and health to name a few.

8. Wars are asinine.

9. Life is great.

Signing off,


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Reporting from Israel: December 16

Today is our last day in Israel and we started by visiting the gorgeous Yemin Moshe neighborhood overlooking the old city of Jerusalem. It is one of my favorite places to visit in Jerusalem. Located next to an artists colony hosting some of Israel’s best and most creative artists I find there is something serene almost magical about this place. I can’t help but take many pictures and videos of this place:

And the birthday girl again, my daughter Sharon:

I couldn’t help but also post this next picture depicting a rainy day in Jerusalem (the only one we had this week) with a creative blue umbrella (plastic bag) covering this guy’s hat.

We had dinner with the kids at the fabulous Moroccan Darna Restaurant which was a great way to wrap up this marvelous week.

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Reporting from Israel: December 15

After a relaxing Friday with my family in Jerusalem, I drove today to Haifa to see one of my closest and best friends that I grew up with in Israel. I spent the day with Eitan, his amazing family and several friends he invited. We greatly enjoyed our time together and the great authentic food that his wife Ronit prepared. We all got to share some old stories and even some new ones.

As we started to reminisce about the time we were playing together in a band (over 30 years ago) Eitan said: “why won’t we go downstairs and have a little jam session?” His son built a beautiful recording studio in his house where we all escaped to for the next several hours and really brought out some great memories.

The fingers did not move as fast, but we still sounded pretty good. That’s me on guitar and my friend Eitan on the drums:

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Reporting from Israel: December 13 (Videos)

As I noted in my previous post, here is the video I shot with my new Flip Video gadget of the singer / seller I met at the Jerusalem open market. What a great guy, great soul and great voice:

And just some additional sounds and smells from around the market:

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Reporting from Israel: December 13

Thursday turned out to be another great day. I first got together for breakfast with my good friend Dov Gordon from The Gordon Group whom I met online several years ago when implementing Alan’s Forums, the great online community we’ve created for International consultant writer and speaker, Alan Weiss. Dov and I discussed business ideas in general and strategy in particular. Dov has this unique and very smart ability to analyze and dissect a topic and turn it into a great and practical learning experience. What also fascinates me about him is his courage to have moved to Israel and conduct most of his business in English.

I then met my family at the Jerusalem open market (Mahane Yehuda) to do some shopping. It is an amazing place bustling with interesting people. The great smell of the fresh food and its sight is just amazing and tempting. I found myself having this immense craving to taste most of it:

We came across this amazing Halvah (Sesame Candy) store with every possible flavor available. It was just too hard to resist the aroma and temptation created, especially when we were offered to taste it. We purchased several kilos to take back to the US with us:

This next store had amazing spices and tea of all kind. I thought I already figured out their tricks and was prepared to say no. “Here try some”, said the nice man at the store. Who am I to argue? I found myself purchasing another $200 worth of stuff I probably did not need, but I couldn’t say no:

Although the fruit was quite appealing, watching the seller stand there with a cigarette and ashes dropping was not:

The cakes at this store were to die for. I watched my daughter buying there and what struck me was the fact that the seller has his hand covered with protective plastic yet he never took it off when picking up the cakes and exchanging the money. Oh well, it tasted too good to worry about it:

Perhaps not the most sophisticated method of transportation but it was quite effective to transfer the bread on the cart to the stores:

The open market was a place where several suicide bombers previously attacked and killed many shoppers. You would not know or feel that, walking the streets of the market today. But suddenly, at one place of the market, we see a huge crowd of people gathering watching something with great interest while taking pictures with their cell phones. When i asked one of them what is going on, he tells me that they found a suspicious suitcase. I don’t get it. What is it that intrigues people to put themselves in harms way for a quick thrill? Luckily it turned out to be nothing and we returned to our shopping spot.

I observed so many interesting people doing their business:

Among them was even this Jerusalem beauty selling at her clothing store:

And of course my own family beauty, my wife, daughter and son-in-law:

I met this awesome guy and started a great conversation with him. He immediately cut up some fruit for us to taste:

He then told me that he loves to sing so I put him to the test. I took out my new Flip Video gadget and started to record. (See my next post to view it)
He did not believe me that this amazing gadget is a video camera, so I let him watch his own recording and promised him that I will upload it onto YouTube:

We had to say goodbye to this marvelous place and as we were walking out of the market we saw this young kid selling Israeli jelly donuts. Ok, so I had to get just one.

The best part of the day is the fact that it is my daughter’s birthday today. Her neighbor from across the hallway, stopped by with a sign she prepared saying Mazel Tov and welcome Mom and Dad. She was so sweet and also brought with her some flowers and balloons to hang on the door. You guessed right, she made us all take part in helping her hang up the sign on the door and decorate it.

We had a great time and after a terrific dinner we went out to an amazing dessert place to further celebrate. We had everyone sing Happy Birthday in Hebrew and English and as you can see, my daughter is enjoying watching her husband singing. Happy birthday Sharon:

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Reporting from Israel: December 12

Just before crossing the streets from the newer parts of Jerusalem towards the old city, we stopped at a toy store where we bought the games Monopoly and Taboo in Hebrew. As I was talking with the store owner, he wanted me to take a look at an error of advertising in one of the magazines he gets. How did he even know that I am interested in such things for my blog? Notice the correct date for the trade show on the front cover of the magazine while on the back cover it is off by a year. I guess that 50% accuracy is not that bad, but than again, paying your marketing department 50% what they deserve, is not that bad either.

(Click on images to enlarge)

(Front cover)

(Back cover)

The young lady who was helping us pick out the games, decided to give us a discount since she seemed to like us. She was probably in her twenties and to my amazement she then took out a calculator and while struggling to figure something out, looked at the storeowner and asked frustrated: “how much is 10% of 157?” This actually happened on two different occasions at two different stores. Although the majority of Israeli citizens believe in great education, this proved to me the importance of a good education.

Many thousands of years of history are contained within the walls of this fascinating city. We walked towards Jaffa gate in the old city staring at the ancient walls, various religious places and the tower of David

(Ancient walls)

(Religious places)

(Tower of David)

We entered the colorful Arab market where storeowners hustle to negotiate their deals. “Make me a great offer,” said one, while another yelled: “How much do you want to pay for this?” It is common and almost expected to hear the seller name a price and the “negotiation game” begins.

(My daughter Sharon engaged in tough negotiation)

(My daughter and wife with Adnan, the store owner, displaying the new wall hanging addition for the Barr family)

We then took a sharp right turn and entered the area of Roman ruins called the Cardo followed by some great Israeli shops.

(The Cardo)

I went to visit one of the friendly storeowners I met last year who greatly impressed me. A devoted Orthodox Jew, (pious), who has great love and passion for his religious studies, life and people. Since it was my daughter’s friend who originally sent me there, I walked into the store hoping to be recognized for the connection and said:
“Do you know who sent me?”
“God of course” he said.
We chatted for a couple of minutes when I asked: “So how is business?”
Unexpectedly he replied: “It depends”
“Depends on what?” I said.
“On the person of course” he answered.
Curiously I asked him to articulate further.
“Look it” he said, “God may grant you success and at times even put you to the test. It all depends what you decide to do with that wealth, how you use it and how much you share and give to others that makes the difference.”
I delightfully purchased something at his store, listened to his wisdom while he was talking with several other visitors and thanked him for the meaningful few moments together.

We then entered the Jewish section of the old city, walking towards the holiest site of the Jewish people, The Western Wall.

(Old city streets)

(Dome of the rock and the western wall)

(The western wall)

On our way out, this sign caught my attention. It lets people know this week’s biblical portion, when exactly the Sabbath begins, when to light the candles and when the Sabbath ends. It also lets people know that any question they may have about Jewish laws, there are Rabbis standing by to answer those questions. Just make sure you don’t call these numbers during the Sabbath.

(Sabbath sign)

It’s amazing how busy the restaurants are during the day as well as quite late at night. A common site in the majority of restaurants is a security guard standing at the entrance and checking for weapons. I am not sure what kind of a deterrent this is to a terrorist, but it seems to make the visitors and perhaps the restaurant owners feel better. This country loves to party and I was glad to take a part in it and get my tasty Israeli Latte having my choice between the hopping coffee shops of Café Hillel and Café Aroma. Interestingly, all restaurants charge a small fee on their bill (2 Shekel = 50 cents per person) for their security guard.

I decided to take some night shots of Jerusalem before calling it a day. Actually an outstanding day!

(Old city at night)

(Old city at night)

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Reporting from Israel: December 11

Today we decided to drive to Tel-Aviv where each Tuesday there is an amazing art show at the center of the city in a neighborhood called Nachclat Benyamin.

Since you probably already know my love for playing the guitar, I could not resist this great piece of “a guitarist” artwork, made out of forks and spoons, of which I became the proud owner:

(Guitar player)

I struck up a great conversation with this retired teacher who left his teaching position of 30 years to start carving wood faces. We discussed the challenges of making ends meet as a teacher in Israel, and his love and passion for his new profession while being able to live quite well now. It was interesting to hear him quote some of my favorite Mark Twain quotes in Hebrew. This time nothing was lost in the translation:

(Teacher becomes a wood carver)

(Wood carving work)

We walked around, engaging in some great conversations with the artists while investing in the local economy. We then sat down for a tasty lunch of Israeli sandwiches, salads and coffee. Did I mention yet that Israel probably has the best coffee I have ever tasted? Perhaps a close second may be the one I had in Italy several years ago:

(Hafuch Chazak or Strong upside down coffee or simply a latte)

I then ran into an Arab woman who was baking Pita bread. It looked and smelled so awesome, but I just had my lunch. When she noticed me taking her pictures she demanded I buy some of her bread as well:

(Arab woman baking Pita)

(Arab Woman demanding I buy the Pita)

When it comes to clowns, they seem to be able to speak a universal language. This clown was walking around mesmerizing the kids with his stories and making balloon animals:


I met Iris, an artist, who makes beautiful stained glass. The Chanukah dreidels caught my attention among the coasters and lamps she makes. It was a good financial day for Iris and I have a lot to carry back now to the U.S.

(Stained Glass)


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Reporting from Israel: December 10

We rose early in the morning to rent our car and began our journey north to Haifa (the city where I grew up in). It is Hanukah this week, and we saw many cars with a Menorah, (candelabra) mounted on their roof, broadcasting the holiday message.

(Menorah on a moving car)

It only took me several minutes to adjust to the Israeli driving style. It is road rage on steroids here. If you are familiar with the chicken game, it is naturally played here by the majority of drivers. When drivers put on their left turn signals, for example, it is their way of saying “watch it buddy, I am pulling to the left lane whether you like it or not.” I guess I felt back at home thanks to my early driving training when growing up in Israel, which also helped make the drive to Haifa take less than two hours.

(Haifa Bay)

We first visited one of my wife and daughter’s favorite clothing stores – Flowers, located at the top of the Carmel mountain.

(My daughter, Sharon, trying on an outfit at Flowers)

We then continued to visit my father who is at an independent living facility in the city of Naharia, located by the Mediterranean Sea and 40 minutes north of Haifa. It is a beautiful and growing city which unfortunately was in the news last year when it was bombed quite heavily with Haifa during the war with Lebanon. As we were entering the city, I noticed the welcome sign. In Hebrew it said: “The city for those who love life” yet in English it was translated to say: “The city for fun lovers.” Since I moved to the U.S. 29 years ago, and in my quest to constantly improve my language, I am always fascinated with colloquialism. I got to reflect on some of the “cute” language mistakes I make at times and forgave the one who wrote the sign.

Great visit with my Dad and we even got to entertain him and his friends, the wiser generation, singing some songs of Chanukah. We immediately gained new friends and fans, as I realized how easy it is to impress the older generation when you simply give them love combined with music.

(Me, my Dad and my wife)

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Reporting from Israel: December 9

I am always amazed with the aviation technology of planes in general and especially the Boeing 777, lifting 283 passengers, the crew and luggage while traveling at an average speed of 550 mph from one side of the world to another.

After 9.5 hours in the air, we touched down at the Tel-Aviv airport and were greeted by my daughter and son-in-law who are studying this year in Jerusalem. They arranged for a private taxi driver to take us to Jerusalem. Since one of our suitcases was too large to fit in the trunk, the driver started to mount it on the roof of his newly purchased Mercedes. “Here, catch the rope on the other side” he yelled. I immediately realized, that I was just volunteered to help and suddenly recognized the great responsibility placed on me to correctly secure my own suitcase. What if it flew off the roof? What would I be able to even say to him? I believe my rope tying technique sucked out all the remaining oxygen from that poor suitcase. It was a beautiful day in Israel, great scenery and we were finally on our way. “Do you like my new car?” asked the driver. “It’s great” I replied, while my hand is reaching out of the window to check that the luggage is still perched securely on the roof of the car.

We made it safely to my kids’ apartment in the beautiful Rechavia neighborhood of Jerusalem. After a brief siesta we were on our way, the four of us, to explore the streets of this beautiful city, the work of great artists while experiencing the savory, culinary delights.

(Click on images to enlarge)

Homes in Rechavia neighborhood

Homes in Rechavia neighborhood

Jerusalem homes overlooking the old city

Jerusalem homes overlooking the old city

Jerusalem across from the old city

Artist work on Ben Yehuda Street

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Meeting Walt Mossberg

It is 3PM on Saturday, December 8, and my wife and I are getting ready to board the plane from Newark to Tel-Aviv to take us to our vacation. Standing right next to me is Walt Mossberg, the great technology columnist for the Wall Street Journal and his wife. I introduced myself, told him I am a big fan and we started to chat for about 15 minutes.

Walt tells me that he is on his way to deliver a speech in Tel-Aviv. I ask him about his interview of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, what must it have been like and how he was able to get the two of them in the same room and so well behaved? He talked about that special moment and said that the excitement in the room was unbelievable that many of the people in the audience had tears in their eyes.

I gave him some pointers about traveling in Israel, the four of us started to board business first while Walt and I are now discussing the iPhone. My wife (jokingly) asks us if we wish to sit together? I was just about getting ready to answer as both wives look at each other, smiled and got to override our decision.

Be back soon reporting from Israel,


p.s. the entire interview of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs is available on iTune

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