Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Top firms latch on to Israeli tech boom

As detailed by Viva Sarah Press of Israel21C, it's become a well-documented fact that Israel stands toe toe toe with the Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 firms in Silicon Valley, Calif., when it comes to developing next-generation technologies and applications.

Israeli ingenuity in connected devices, wearables, perceptual computing and robotics is one of the hottest commodities the country's innovators have to offer.

Over the past month, Microsoft has just about closed its biggest deal on record, acquiring the cloud security company Adallom for a reported $320 million. If it indeed goes through, the purchase will be the largest ever completed in Israel by the American multinational. While Adallom's headquarters are in Palo Alto, Calif., its development centre is in Tel Aviv.

A logical acquisition for Microsoft, Adallom is the security firm that exposed the flaw in Microsoft's Office365 server following a hack in December 2013.

Similarly, and almost exactly a year after Facebook acquired Oculus and its headset the Oculus Rift, a popular virtual reality gaming headset, for $2 billion, the Facebook division has now bought Israel's vision specialist Pebbles Interfaces. It's reported the deal is valued at $60 million.

It appears Mark Zuckerberg's social media powerhouse will try to takes its users' experiences to the next level. On the homepage for Pebbles Interfaces, the Kfar Saba-based team wrote the following: "For the last five years, we've been focused on building a technology that extend human behaviour, enabling simple and intuitive interaction with any consumer electronic device."

According to a report from Ynet, Facebook is likely to now open "a VR development centre in Israel and benefit from abundant local talent in the field."

From the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology to the University of Haifa, there is most certainly no shortage.

Summer concerts: R&B icons take over Tel Aviv

Top musicians come from around the world to give concerts in Israel, mostly in Tel Aviv, and every year the number is increasing!

Leonard Cohen, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Paul McCartney are just some of the big names who have given concerts in Israel in recent years.

This summer’s concerts are all about R&B with performances by such artists as Chris Brown and Mariah Carey.

More than 10,000 people gathered Monday night at Live Park in Rishon LeZion to see Chris Brown, one of the most popular rappers in the world. Brown, 26, gave the audience a show full of energy, and played many of his big hits including Turn Up the Music and Yeah 3x, as well as several cover versions, among others, of songs by Michael Jackson. Sometimes the brightly lit stage was transformed into a New York rap club, with the appearance of more than a dozen dancers.

Mariah Carey, one of the most celebrated singers in the world, is also coming to Live Park next month to give her first-ever concert in Israel.

The gig comes less than two months after Carey made her first visit to Israel, with boyfriend James Packer, an Australian businessman who reportedly is a friend of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The couple had a “pre-engagement spiritual meeting” with an unnamed religious leader meant to advise them on whether or not to marry. Most famous for her five-octave vocal range and 18 No. 1 singles on the Billboard charts, Carey will make $500,000 for her first concert in Israel.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Hilarity for Charity bar mitzvah for James Franco

We've been tracking stories of the business world's elite spending exorbitant amounts on bar/bat mitzvah parties for their sons and daughters, which often feature celebrities making special appearances.

We've also brought you similar reports of celebrities re-committing or reconnecting to their Judaism through the ceremony.

In 2012, David Arquette and Drake both grabbed headlines, and last year, Lisa Kudrow's son avoided an all-out lavish affair by "becoming a man" in a drive-by bar mitzvah.

Apparently it's now James Franco's turn in the spotlight.

Good friend Seth Rogen, who has worked with Franco, 37, on half a dozen films since first meeting on the set of TV's Freaks and Geeks in 1999, is planning to officially initiate Franco into manhood with the traditional right of passage. It's scheduled to take place during the annual Hilarity for Charity variety show at the Hollywood Palladium on Oct. 17.

The Hilarity for Charity fund was founded four years ago by Seth and his wife, actor and screenwriter Lauren Miller Rogen, to raise money and awareness for Alzheimer’s disease.

Actors and comedians such as Paul Rudd, Aziz Ansari, Sarah Silverman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and even Montreal Canadien P.K. Subban have performed at past benefits.

If it'll be anything like Franco's comedy roast or the spoof's of Kanye West's and Kim Kardashian's shenanigans, like their Bound music video, you know it will be a laugh-out-loud affair.

Rogen has said he may also hire a mohel and add to the occasion “a live bris for James.” Mazel Tov!

Tickets to the event are available for sale starting Aug. 11 from Hilarity for

Details on the broadcasting of the ceremony have yet to be announced.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Ivanka Trump extolls her conversion to Judaism

Donald Trump – American business tycoon, reality TV star, author and investor – may be making headlines for hateful speeches criticizing Mexicans and John McCain while running for America's top job, but Ivanka Trump is making headlines for a far more positive reason.

Extolling how fulfilled she is after having converting to Judaism in 2009, when she tied the knot with businessman Jared Kushner, Trump told Vogue magazine in a recent interview, "It's been such a great decision for me... I really find that with Judaism it creates an amazing blueprint for family connectivity."

Trump, 33, and Kusher, 34, are proud parents of two small children, Arabella, 3, and Joseph, now almost two years old.

Trump classifies her observance level as modern yet traditional: the family keeps kosher and observes Shabbat. From sundown Friday until sundown Saturday, they fully unplug from the world. "We don't do anything except play with each other, hang out with one another, go on walks together," she says. "Pure family."

As it states in Pirkei Avot, "Who is rich? He who is content with his lot," and when a family takes the time to truly be together, disconnected from all distractions, there is perhaps no richer unit in the world.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Ashton Kutcher remodels home with Israeli app

While his earnings from Two and a half Men can provide much more than just a comfortable lifestyle for wife and new mother Mila Kunis, after production wrapped last winter Ashton Kutcher's mom got some attention, too.

Having invested in the home design website of the Israeli-created company Houzz, the Hollywood actor and producer once again stepped in front of cameras as the new face of its interior designing app.

Residing in Los Angeles, Kutcher, 37, believed it was time to renovate the childhood home that he built with his step-father at the age of 13 back in Iowa. In time for mother's day, Kutcher's mom was gifted with an updated basement for when the grandchildren come to visit.

For the man who portrayed Walden Schmidt, a billionaire internet entrepreneur on Two and half Men, it's a logical fit that Kutcher would use the latest technological tool to get the job done. According to, 7 million interior design gallery photos are browsed by more than 25 million visitors each month.

Having documented the project, watch as Kutcher explains how he came to realize his vision for the space.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Olympian sheds clothes for ESPN The Magazine

Taking her team to gold at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, then captain of the U.S. women's gymnastics team, Aly Raisman is once again being honoured.

Joining a host of other female athletes for ESPN The Magazine's annual Body Issue, Raisman poses for a tasteful pictorial on rings and on a balance beam, albeit entirely without her clothes.

What does the perfect physique of an athlete or more precisely a gymnast look like? "I don't think there is one" she says. Clearly keeping up with her workout regiment, Raisman adds her muscular physique is on the bulky end of the spectrum for gymnasts. You can tell by her poise, she's more than comfortable with her appearance.

Hailing from Needham, Massachusetts, at the summer games she also took home gold for her routine on the floor and a bronze for the balance beam.

Proud and upfront about her Judaism, many will recall her golden Hava Nagila performance in the 2012 finals, which had the crowd and audience watching at home, clapping along.

Raisman's rabbi, Keith Stern of Temple Beth Avodah in Newton Centre Massachusetts told the New York Post "Neither she nor her family explicitly sought to send a message. But it shows how very integrated her Jewish heritage is in everything that she does."

Hoping to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, she'll then be 22 and the oldest member of the team. No doubt her fans will chomp at the bit to see her repeat.

Lead singer of U2 pays tribute to Shimon Peres

Treating fans to both classic tracks from yesteryear and current hits alike, Irish rock band U2 did not disappoint. Regarded as one of the best selling music artists of all time, they performed for a sold out audience of 20,000 at the Air Canada Center in Toronto earlier this week.

Having flown to Canada for the primary purpose of taking part in an economic conference, former Israeli president Shimon Peres was invited to attend the concert as a special guest. Not only did Peres take in the concert, he met the band backstage.

U2 lead singer Bono paid a special tribute to Peres prior to playing One in the final encore and it's clear they share a mutual admiration for one another. Bono had this to say of his fellow laureate of Nobel Peace Prize,

"In a region where the loudest voices are often the bellicose ones, we understand, president Peres, that you have tried to be the voice of reason, and you've dedicated a lot of your life, all of your life, to try and bring peace in this really dangerous region."

"We wish that you, who worked so hard for that incredible Oslo Accord, that you don't give up on the two-state solution. At age 92, we know we can count on you."

Hear these words, at 17:40 in the clip below:

Backstage according to reports, Peres reciprocated Bono's praise equally calling him "a voice for hope and peace."