Or-Tal's Writings

entrepreneur/mother/education revolutionist/high tech addict



The Linkerview: Abusing the Holocaust Memory

Last week my friend, Vincent Mespoulet, a history teacher in France and the founder of “Hors Les Murs” (School beyond Walls, an international online education community), posted a link to a Le Monde article on his wall. It was a news item dealing with the Jewish orthodox demonstration in Jerusalem, which used the yellow star of David as a tool to express their feelings: “A demonstration shocks Israel”, the title read.

Why did you post it, Vincent?

“To share information among my friends. I have many contacts who are interested in Israel and Palestine. Many are also interested in feminism and the status of women around the world. The topic of women has raised special interest during the current Arab revolutions. The French media publishes many articles about it. But while we are used to finding articles in European media about extremists in Islam, we are not used to hearing about such extreme behavior in Judaism. From here it sounds exactly like in Saudi Arabia.”

In what way?

“Oppression against women is an impact of religious extremist behavior. But we have to remember the fundamentalism around the world isn’t another word for “Islam”. This article shows that fundamentalism can happen everywhere and is not specific to a single religion. Intolerance can be found everywhere. Religious fanatics are trying to re-live religion as it was thousands or hundreds of years ago. They have to realize this is not possible. Take the Egyptian female blogger who published her own nude photos to defy fundamentalism in her own country.”

But you have another interest in this story.

“Yes, I am a history teacher. As a history teacher these images where especially shocking for me. The German where shocked, and the Jewish community in Germany was ashamed. It is a cheap use of the Shoa (the Holocaust) for propaganda. Commercializing the Shoa whether of propaganda or any other use is unacceptable anywhere in the world. I would think in Israel too. It is hurting the memory of the Shoa.

When you see these people in Israel protest this way you think they are not only mad, but  they don’t know history. Don’t they learn history in schools? These people don’t really understand what had transpired then. To use the Shoa this way is shocking when used by anyone, more so when used by Jewish people in Israel.”

Could you work out the connection between the topic of the demonstration and the Holocaust visual?

“Not really. There is no connection between their rights to discriminate against women and the Shoa. There is just a fantastic connection in their minds. Unfortunately such small groups of extremists gather strength through this sort of propaganda. I would think your country needs a big debate on how history is taught throughout the country. I think people outside Israel wouldn’t dare instrumentalise the Shoa, especially in Europe. Sometimes you encounter a very small group of a few provocators that might attempt this. But to construct a full demonstration based on it… It’s all a matter of education.”

Mars, Venus and the Social Networks

I’ll start by saying this is good news. But Pete Cashmore on Mashable wants an explanation. “Are women just more social in general, or is there some other explanation? ” he asks, in response to the “Chicks Rule” new statistics published on Information is Beautiful.
To sum it: equal numbers of men and women use sites like LinkedIn, YouTube and DeviantArt. However in more social websites it looks like men are outnumbered. These are sites like Twitter, Facebook, Ning, Myspace, Friendfeed, Flickr, Bebo and more. In fact, of the leading social web sites, Digg is the only male dominated.

The thing that surprised me when I read this was how I rarely use Digg as opposed to most of the other web sites.

Had to dig into those networks to try and figure it out. With some I am already familiar. I am a heavy user of facebook, linkedin, twitter and ning.
Some of them I know but am not using very frequently. Some required new registration. After looking deeper into more of them I got the “Digg” answer.

But first I took out an old book of mine. I never read it through. I sort of got the gist of it from the first 20 pages. This is the famous “Men are from mars, Women are from Venus”, by John Gray. Reading only the chapter titles might produce the explanation Cashmore is looking for.

Chapter 2: Mr. Fix-it and the Home Improvement Committee
Chapter 3: Men go to the caves and Woman talk

Now think social networking: Really, if we apply the Venus-Mars motto, Social Networking is clearly a feminine phenomena.

First of all it’s talk. Away with the caves! Gray didn’t use the term “gossip” – because he referred to the different methods-of-unburdening that men and women use. Still, gossip is one way to do it. And social networks are institutionalized sharing and gossip establishments. Interesting enough, lots of men who use social networks actually use it to talk out, release frustrations and – going back to chapter 2 – try and fix things. Like opinions. However the feminine “home improvement committee” is a lot more dominant in social networking than the “fix-it” and the conversation between the two approaches improves communications by both men and women.

Going back to the Digg website I find the answer. Sorry folks, not enough conversation, not enough communications, not enough interaction nor socializing. It’s mainly a digging place for me, and less a fishing place. More a cave then an invitation to talk.

Happy Birthday, Shaii!

Been inspired to write something a little more personal today. It’s a special day today. It’s my oldest daughter’s 15th birthday. It’s on this day, 15 years ago, that I became a mom, and my husband became a dad, and together we officially became a family, family with child.

In three weeks we will be marking our 23rd wedding anniversary. A wedding is also a life changing event. But it’s not the same as having your first child. And it takes years to realize just how much a life changing event this is.

Beyond experiencing joy and pride over the little person emerging, an adult responsibility is revealed and takes over. A new grasp of reality is happening. My father’s stories, which he told us when we were kids, so full of humor and wit, about his childhood adventures in war struck Europe and all of his solo travels all done before he was 10 years old, suddenly took a turn. The full responsibility over the lives we have created is still not sinking in even 15 years later.


Different parents have different perspective of their responsibility towards their generated next generation. I always had a tendency to take things seriously.

And so, over the past 15 years, and a total of 3 kids, I’ve assumed responsibility for their health and manners, well being and education. I’m responsible for the set of tools with which they will set off to meet their adulthood. Until they are capable of it, it is still my responsibility to make sure they learn how to eat balanced meals and behave well and get that promising education.

Shaii, 15 years old today, has 3 years to high school graduation. I think I’ve done pretty well with her. She knows how to learn. She was born curious and will probably always be. This makes her an open and friendly girl, who never gets bored. She will make the most of every environment she’s in.

I still wish, though, that I could do more for her, and for my boys, and for all learners, to make that education work better for all types of learners and for the march forward.

Happy birthday, Shaii.

Beware the Social Networks!

About 12 hours ago “The Mail Online” has published an article titled: “Social websites harm children’s brains: Chilling warning to parents from top neuroscientist“.

The top neuroscientist quoted is Lady Susan Greenfield. She is an amazing 59 year old woman and a specialist on the physiology of the brain, a professor at the department of pharmacology at Oxford university in the UK.  A serious, serious academic.

I am dedicating this post to her achievements and to the Ada Lovelace day, and to this pledge.

I had to read the article several times to try and understand what she is saying. After all, she is a top neuroscientist. You can’t simply dismiss what she says. Being a mother of 3 children – I want to know.

I am already poisoning my kids with un-organic food, we live in a polluted city, there are cellular antennas in the neighborhood, not to mention their personal mobile phones. Am I doing some more damage to their brains by letting them have a Facebook account??

Anxiously I was looking for scientific hints in the article. The research conducted… the methods and subjects… anything to learn a little more. But the most scientific reference I found was: she “believes repeated exposure could effectively ‘rewire’ the brain”.


The article quotes her saying “Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Bebo are said to shorten attention spans, encourage instant gratification and make young people more self-centered” and then adds the quote “My fear is that these technologies are infantilizing the brain into the state of small children who are attracted by buzzing noises and bright lights, who have a small attention span and who live for the moment.”

Last month, the same lady, who is a member of the house of lords said “I often wonder whether real conversation in real time may eventually give way to these sanitized and easier screen dialogues…, in much the same way as killing, skinning and butchering an animal to eat has been replaced by the convenience of packages of meat on the supermarket shelf,” arguing that exposure to computer games, instant messaging, chat rooms and social networking sites “could leave a generation with poor attention spans”.

Well, hello and welcome to E V O L U T I O N.

Indeed not all evolutions do well for the specie. Think Mammoth for instance. Perhaps we are doomed.

But, does this mean we have to exclude all new media and stick with the old ways? Is preserving the current wiring of the brain more important than developing and arriving at new, yet unknown, places?

Here is something to think of. My 9th grader told me about her new History text book. Text books are rarely noted or gaining any sort of comment from a teenager. But she actually pointed out that this is a rather good book to study from. The book’s uniqueness is by adding several different fields of information into each page. Allowing the students to follow the main text while absorbing other types of information, some are minor others are accented.

When I encountered this fantastic presentation by Sarah “Intellagirl” Robbins – things fit. I already wrote about it here.

I am not a scientist. But I believe that Lady Susan Greenfield is right. The young brains do go through some re-wiring. Sarah Robbins is right too. Students today are capable of handling a lot more information then students in the past. Call it “poor attention spans” if you like. I actually think it’s rich attention span.

I know that my Kids find it easier to absorb and process several sensory and information sources at once. They are certainly more successful at it than most adults I know and I believe they are better at it then I was as a student. Excuse me for not crediting social networking or penguin club with these achievements. I give most of the credit to the environment they are growing into and the future they are naturally preparing for.

Some of the many comments made to the article on “The Mail” try to dismiss everything as an oldie attacking the younger generation. Which makes you wonder really, about how society related to various media changes in the past century, or better yet – from print, through phones, to mass and digital media.

Still one question remains: can we really fight it, or should we find a way to use it to society’s advantage?

Invest in the life of a deserving entrepreneur

“…anybody in the world can invest in the life of a deserving entrepreneur…”.
This quote belongs to, third place winner of the “membersproject“. That’s the “American Express” project, offering an initial investment of up to $1.5 million, in a world changing project, chosen by visitors’ votes. My favorite was this 3rd place. The idea is so simple and so beautiful it simply brought up a smile.

Entrepreneurship occupies me a lot so I visited web site. When I looked at the entrepreneurship categories I couldn’t find any mention of hi-tech. But then, there is also no mention of Israel… The rate of entrepreneurships per capita in Israel is extremely high. We look at entrepreneurs differently here. But it’s not like all we have here are hi-tech entrepreneurs. We also have the grocery shops, the farmers, craftsmanship and more. But hi-tech entrepreneurship occupies so much interest, offers so many jobs and rolls so much money, that it tends to over-shadow all other entrepreneurships. is not interested in hi-tech entrepreneurships. There are plenty of angels, funds and organizations that are more than willing to invest in hi-tech. The idea of is to offer struggling entrepreneurs, mostly from developing countries, who want to establish or expand their businesses, a loan to help them achieve their goal. In some cases “struggling” is an understatement and the loan could well turn into a donation that may help a family survive a few more weeks or months. The cleverness of their idea is that the loans, or donations, are small sums, made by private people, who want to make a difference. The risk is 25$ per lender, per loan. If the business does succeed, the loan can become profitable for the lender. Kiva promises to check the proposed businesses and also to offer training or mentoring to the entrepreneurs.

This idea is really exciting and I can understand their focus. But if we are talking about private people making a change with small sums, there are several more deserving territories of investments. Bear in mind that entrepreneurs, where ever they are, whatever the entrepreneurship, are struggling. Take a look at the dictionary definition: “the owner of a business who attempts to make money by risk and initiative”. Stress “risk”.

The first territory I would embark on is women entrepreneurship.
I don’t want to seem that chauvinist. In an ideal world there shouldn’t be a female category. I don’t particularly enjoy women-only events, for example. I find them too limiting. But then again, this is not an ideal world, and women do deserve the special attention and unique opportunities.

Just recently I heard about the beautiful TechAviv program, from the founder, Yaron Samid. The plan offers fresh Israeli hi-tech entrepreneurs the chance to learn from the veterans and get a substantial support. The plan requires, however, that you leave Israel, your home, friends and family, and travel to the US for several months. Interesting idea. Certainly not for mothers or married women. Women, as a complete gender, are underestimated as entrepreneurs. That’s in spite of the fact that they are not less inventive or capable of men and excel at multi tasking and passion. To be fair, I must make a distinction between married or mothers and unmarried, non mothers. The latter, being free from family obligations, are more flexible. However, comparing a single woman entrepreneur and a single man entrepreneur, at the same age, nobody can claim they are looked at with the same respect, trust or appreciation.

So I found myself looking for women entrepreneurs at Most of the projects I have seen seem strange to me, an Israeli entrepreneur, especially as I was looking for women entrepreneurship. One example is an entrepreneurship of a woman who is asking for a loan so she could buy scraps for her husband’s scrap yard. Another entrepreneur was looking for a loan to finance her kids’ school fee and the building of her house. Great idea, not exactly a business, though. If really intends to make a difference and claim to send mentors and guides to these countries, they should begin by explaining the idea of making a profitable business. The idea of asking for baksheesh, schnorr, scrounge seems clear enough by now.

“Isn’t it?”, I asked Liat Vardi, a woman entrepreneur of women entrepreneurship. Liat has established, some 5 months ago, the f5-Refreshing Women Venture, and its goal is to inspire women, help get professional advice and support, as well as networking. The f5 is a group that meets once a month for lectures and networking. “Kiva, in a way, was an inspiration of mine,” she agreed, and I filled with hope.

That question popping

Business partnership is a lot like a marriage. I have made that observation in my earlier posts. I decided to look for a partner for my startup idea because I felt that in order to advance I need complementing skills. However, pretty early during that search I understood that it won’t work. You can’t just post an ad “wanted – partner” the same way you are looking for an office manager. I dropped the whole search and decided to walk as long as I can by myself.

It is rare to find a business “kindred spirit”, but recently it felt like I did. Exchanging thoughts and ideas felt like we were feeding each other. I thought a partnership is the way to go. We can both reach higher and faster, each with her own startup idea, if we work together.

So I popped the question. She feels the same way about our cooperation but the way from here to anything that looks or smells like partnership is a long long way.

shake handsFor a couple of days I was really excited, like in most beginnings. But at the same time, beginnings can be threatening. Each of us has her own idea to promote, her own startup to kick forward. It’s not going to be a joint venture, it could, at best, be a sisterhood, where each of us helps the other fill in the blanks. No sisterhood business model exists that I know of. Are we going to set off a new thing?

Can we really create a model of mutual professional assistance (none of us can afford to pay for the other one’s services), based on trust and camaraderie and shared vision in the better world we are going to create with our startups idea??

The sequence: getting back to work

Getting back from a vacation when you are an independent consultant is something else. You pick up at your pace. Men have a different pace than women. In the women’s paces you need to count some family paces too. Meaning, a woman business owner is responsible for getting her whole family back on track. The man will simply kiss good bye and get into his office, for as much over time as needed to get to his full speed.

Getting back in August is even trickier. It seems like half the world is on vacation. Companies, institutions, government entities – are all out of the office. This is perhaps a better time to return, because you can really build it up slowly. But it is the worst time to be back if you want to pick up at exactly the same speed you left. Frustration seeps in your mind each time another phone call remains unanswered.

But honestly, this quiet zone forced on you is not a bad thing. It is the best time to review your business plans, your communications schemes, do the web site update, schedule events, go over the long long list of to do items.

One of the more important things to accept is that your real getting back from a vacation will happen when the rest of the world returns. That usually happens in September. So take a deep breath and be happy for the relaxed pace of getting back to work. You will have the rest of the year to be stressed.

Quoting an entrepreneur…

Internet entrepreneurship is a tricky thing. You really can’s say what will work and why. All this talk about a bubble really isn’t relevant to the actual businesses. Some may flourish in spite of a bubble, and others may hang their failure on a so called bubble.bubble

Bubble or no bubble, here is an inspiring bubble: quotes!
My friend and colleague, and an inspiring serial entrepreneur, Maya Elhalal launched earlier this month. I think its potential might be unpredictable.

The site offers an endless number of quotes of famous people. Quotes are friendly, inspiring, amusing, easy entertainment. They can serve as a useful tool of expression and communications. Speech writers use quotes a lot. Students can use quotes in their papers. Quotes can be used as a reference; one can lean on a quote of a famous person or celebrity, while writing a letter, a message or request.

While searching the site you immediately run across a favorite quote. What will you do with it? Copy and paste? Where to? Obviously, the option of saving it under your user name on the web site is welcome. And so you register, an immediate simple registration, which assures the Quotesdaddy site that you are going to be a returning customer.

Researches may show that quotes appeal to older and wiser web users. Scholars will enjoy it and other people who do not find quotes intimidating or overshadowing. Let’s just say it is not the usual hang about for teens who are still searching for their own voice. But, here is a different prospective on the subject: teens enjoy quoting each other and their teachers. Tag it under fun or funny. These are not the same type of quotes, but what it you could save your own collection of quotes too? And choose who to share it with? Over the years you can enjoy the growth and maturing of your collection of quotes. Not to mention creating your own quotes, quoting yourself…

Third time first grader

About a month ago I took my youngest son, five years and a half, to register him to school. Come September this little child, with his wide round eyes and soft, long, golden curls, will enter the school gates for the first time as a student.

The boy, very happy and confident about it, is looking forward to it. As for his mother, that’s me, well… that’s a totally different story.
I am trying to recreate the first grade experience I went through with my two eldest children. Both seem to have survived the first grades pretty well. But nothing helps. This one is my eternal baby.

Last year this smart kid said he didn’t want to “move up to the older group” of the nursery school. “Why should I?”, he asked me, “They are facing too many demands and assignments. I prefer to stay with the younger children and play most of the time”. I was the happiest proudest mom when I heard that. “If he isn’t ready for school”, I said to his nursery teacher, “I will be more than glad to let him play for another year. That’s a passing opportunity”. Of course the nursery teacher was surprised. She then said OK, but knew better. Shortly after the beginning of this year it was clear that Yonatan is ready for school.
That doesn’t mean that his mother is ready for him going to school. I cannot imagine him spending 5 hours a day in a classroom without games and toys. It’s hard to think of him going out to play in that horrible, dry, concrete yard. It is impossible to picture him with a school bag on his back, let alone a full school bag. It seems to me that walking him to school and back won’t be enough. Does thinking it make me that nagging, over protective, ridiculed mother?

Important: The Photo/Video below is an advertisement. Do NOT click unless you want to be taken to the advertiser’s page!

In: dependant woman

If you are a woman, around 40, and god forbid you have a husband and kids – you can kiss the job hunt goodbye.

This is of course somewhat generalized. There are exceptions. However, I have found that out about 5 years ago, and I wasn’t even 38.

After several years of juggling between freelance and employee positions, I have arrived to a decision. I will become the boss of me. An independent woman.

It is amazing to discover the difference between a freelance, pen for hire, and a consultant, an independent outsource. It has been a year since I made that change and began calling it “a business”.

And as businesses often go, the beginning can be tedious, hopeful at times and discouraging at other times. I think I probably made every possible mistake in the book and I go on making more mistakes every day.
The first mistake was the illusion that I am going to become an independent woman:

Sorry girls. Independent women, married, with kids, do not exist in reality. Not even the virtual reality. We are always dependent on something, or people are dependent on us, which, of course, doesn’t let us become really, well… independent.

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