The Peres Center for Peace and Innovation today recently eleven women from a diverse range of backgrounds and communities with its inaugural Medal of Distinction, ahead of International Women’s Day on 8 March. The award, which will be granted annually to mark International Women’s Day, honors the outstanding contribution of women making significant contributions in key positions and in a variety of fields.

The Medal of Distinction recognizes women who are breaking glass ceilings in their fields and serving as role models for women and girls in Israel and around the world. Harnessing the words of Israel’s former President Shimon Peres, “You are as great as the cause you serve,” the citation for the award honors leaders who “open doors” and create new opportunities for other women, contribute to gender equality and diversity in the workplace, and work tirelessly for a better world.

At a ceremony recently at the Peres Center, the Medal of Distinction was presented to recipients in the presence of Efrat Duvdevani (Director General of the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation), Prof Tsvia Walden (Board Member, Peres Center for Peace and Innovation and daughter of Shimon Peres) and Chemi Peres (Chairman, Peres Center for Peace and Innovation and son of Shimon Peres).

The following women became the very first recipients of the Peres Center’s Medal of Distinction: Baroness Ariane de Rothschild, Dr. Orna Berry, Julia Zaher, Lili Ben Ami, Maysa Halabi, Hana Rado, Ruth Polczak, Yuvi Tashome-Katz, Professor Shulamit Levenberg, Shirin Natour-Hafi and Dr. Yael Gold-Zamir.Baroness Ariane de Rothschild is a French banker and philanthropist. She is responsible for the Edmond de Rothschild Foundation’s support for projects dedicated to supporting art and culture, health and research, environment, social entrepreneurship and intercultural dialogue, directing funds annually for such initiatives.

Dr. Orna Berry is known as the “first lady” of Israeli high-tech.  She is a scientist, high-tech entrepreneur, and senior executive in Israel’s science and technology sectors. She was the first woman to make an exit when she sold her company Ornet, which she founded for the European Siemens Corporation in 1995. Berry was also the first woman to serve as chief scientist in the Ministry of Economy, and one of the first women to run a huge multinational R&D center when she headed EMC-DELL.

Julia Zaher is an Arab-Israeli, Christian entrepreneur, as well as the owner and CEO of the Al-Arz factory.

Maysa Halabi is a Druze entrepreneur who founded the Lotus project, which trains religious Druze women in software development and assists them in joining global high-tech companies. The program is carried out in a dedicated center in the northern town of Isfiya, enabling the women to work remotely. The first 14 graduates of this program have been recruited and are currently working in leading companies such as Amdocs, Broadcom and Orbit.

Shirin Natour-Hafi is the Principal of the first Arab public high school in the city of Lod. The school is located in the “Railway” neighborhood, known for its low socio-economic profile and high crime rates. When she entered her position in 2009, the school had 150 students, and today there are 7,711 students enrolled in grades 7-12. In 2013, Shirin was chosen as a member of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders, a selective cohort of young professionals from all over the world. In 2020, she received an honorary PhD in philosophy from the prestigious Weizmann Institute.

Yuvi Tashome-Katz is an Ethiopian-Israeli entrepreneur and social activist, with extensive experience in training and community work. She worked as an instructor at the Mandel Institute for Leadership and also worked with the Green Network, an organization that strives for environmental and social change. In 2005, she co-founded the Friends in Nature Association, which aims to form tight-knit communities of young adults, led by successful Israelis of Ethiopian descent, serving as role models to their peers. In light of her activism, in 2011, Yuvi was selected to light a torch in Israel’s Independence Day state ceremony on Mount Herzl. In the same year she also received the Prime Minister’s Award for Entrepreneurship and Nonprofit Innovation.
Hana Rado is a leading businesswoman and social entrepreneur. In 2012 she founded “McCann Valley”, a digital media agency in Mitzpe Ramon with the aim of creating attractive jobs in Israel’s remote periphery. In 2017, Rado led the establishment of “Spring Valley”, a digital solutions hub in northern Israel.

Ruth Polczak is a high-tech entrepreneur, as well as the founder and CEO of “Fincheck”, a fin-tech company that enables users to make informed decisions about their expenses, loans and finances. She is also the founder and chairwoman of the board of “She Codes”, an Israeli community of over 20,000 female programmers, engineers, and entrepreneurs. The organization has set the goal of integrating as many women as possible in the high-tech industry, ultimately aiming to reach 50% female representation in high-tech within a decade.
Professor Shulamit Levenberg is an Israeli scientist and Dean of the Technion’s Faculty of Biomedical Engineering. She is the head of the university’s stem cell and tissue engineering lab as well as a wife and mother of six. Her areas of work include stem cell differentiation toward tissue vascularization, stem cell 3D organization into composite tissues, use of degradable polymers as scaffolding for cell organization, and 3D tissue bioprinting. She developed a groundbreaking network of blood vessels in muscle, heart, pancreas and spine tissues, which improves tissue function after transplants. The development is expected to allow, for the first time, a paralyzed body to regain the ability to walk. 

Dr. Yael Gold-Zamir is the first Israeli, ultra-Orthodox woman to graduate from medical school and one of the few tech entrepreneurs in her community. She is the founder of “Embryonics,” a startup that harnesses AI technology to improve the chances of success of in vitro fertilization. Her data-driven solution is 20% more accurate in predicting successful fertility treatments (positive prediction), compared to dozens of senior embryologists. At the same time, the company's model was able to achieve 30% better results in predicting which fetus would not lead to a successful pregnancy (negative prediction). 
Photo by Elad Malka

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Elections are looming for Israeli. In the run up to the 2021 Israeli legislative election, various organizations carry out opinion polling to gauge voting intention in Israel during the term of the 23rd Knesset. 

The date range for these opinion polls is from the previous election, held on 2 March 2020, to the present day. Due to the political deadlock which resulted after the previous election, and the possibility of a fourth consecutive snap election, polling for the 2021 election started 10 days after the previous election. The election is scheduled on 23 March 2021. No polls may be published from the end of the Friday before the election (19 March in this case) until the polling stations close on election day at 22:00.


Israel's prime minister has postponed a historic visit to the United Arab Emirates because of "difficulties" in co-ordinating his flights over Jordan.

Benjamin Netanyahu was due to fly to Abu Dhabi on Thursday to meet its crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed.

But his office said authorities in Jordan held off granting permission to use its airspace for several hours.

The move "apparently stemmed" from the cancellation of a trip to Jerusalem by the Jordanian crown prince, it added.

On Wednesday, Prince Hussein bin Abdullah had planned to visit the Al-Aqsa mosque, which is part of the hilltop complex known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount and for which Jordan is the custodian.

But the royal delegation turned back at an Israeli-controlled border crossing as a dispute emerged about the number of armed bodyguards travelling with the prince, according to Israeli media.

Mr Netanyahu's office said there was "a dispute over security and safety arrangements at the site".

The BBC's Tom Bateman in Jerusalem says that, in what appears to amount to a deliberate snub from the Jordanians in response, there were then problems in co-ordinating Mr Netanyahu's flight through Jordan's airspace for his planned trip to the UAE.

The moves amounts to a significant diplomatic stand-off, he adds.

Mr Netanyahu's office said Jordan later offered to open its airspace to his plane, but that it was too late and the trip had to be postponed.

There was no immediate comment from Jordan's government on the overflight request.

But state TV quoted Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi as saying that Prince Hussein had cancelled the visit to the Al-Aqsa mosque because Israel had sought to change the programme in a manner Jordan considered harmful to the right of Palestinians and other Muslims to worship at the site.

"The crown prince did not want to allow Israel to impose restrictions on Muslims," he added.

media caption(September 2020) Donald Trump on Israel-UAE-Bahrain deals: 'We mark the dawn of a new Middle East'

Jordan was only the second Arab state to officially make peace with Israel, in 1994, and relations have sometimes been rocky.

Mr Netanyahu's trip - which would be the first official visit to the UAE by an Israeli prime minister - appeared to be intended to give him a political boost before Israel's general election later this month.

The UAE is one of the four Arab countries that signed US-brokered agreements with Israel to establish full diplomatic relations last year. The others were Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.



The second episode of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) philanthropic initiative “FIDF LIVE,” broadcas trecently focused on International Women’s Day and highlighted the history of women in the IDF.

Joining the episode was Staff Sgt. (Ret.) Shir Peled (37), the first woman to serve as an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) combat soldier in an Israeli counter-terrorism unit. The role of Nurit, played by actress Rona Lee-Shimon in the Netflix hit Fauda, was inspired by Peled’s IDF service. 

In addition, the episode showcased a virtual base visit of the Combat Intelligence Corps featuring Lone SoldierSgt. Oran, originally from San Francisco.  Also taking part in the episode were Lone Soldiers Pvt. Alexa from Los Angeles who serves in the Kedem Battalion of the IDF Home Front Command’s Search and Rescue Brigade, adopted by FIDF’s Baltimore Chapter as part of FIDF’s Adopt a Battalion; and Cpl. Kylie from New Jersey who serves in the Tavor Battalion of the IDF Home Front Command’s Search and Rescue Brigade, adopted by FIDF’s Westchester and Connecticut Chapter.

The FIDF LIVE platform, hosted by American stand-up comedian and author Joel Chasnoff, is a high-level production broadcast experience which provides an alternative to in-person experiences and brings awareness of FIDF’s cause and activities to a broader audience. FIDF LIVE airs on FIDF’s website every other week at 8:30PM ET.

One of the main objectives in introducing content through this platform is keeping the community’s connection with Israel alive and thriving. FIDF has always been a bridge between Americans and Israelis, and so this virtual experience continues that tradition in a novel way, serving as the place for everyone who loves Israel and wants to stay connected and in the know. As long as its supporters are unable to physically gather at FIDF’s events and galas, travel to Israel on FIDF’s missions, visit soldiers on IDF bases, or meet them in the United States, FIDF will be providing exclusive virtual access to content that cannot be found anywhere else.


​The Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature is pleased to announce that acclaimed novelist Nicole Krauss is the recipient of the newly created 2021 Sami Rohr Inspiration Award for Fiction. The $36,000 award will be presented at a virtual ceremony in June. 

The Inspiration Award, introduced this year to mark the 15th anniversary of the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, recognizes a well-known author whose books have made a valuable contribution to Jewish literature and who will serve as a role model to Fellows of the Sami Rohr Jewish Literary Institute. Since its inception in 2007, the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature has focused on recognizing emerging writers at the outset of their career as fiction or nonfiction writers.

“I’m so grateful and touched to be the first recipient of the Sami Rohr Inspiration Award Prize for Fiction,” said Nicole Krauss. “As a writer, I have never understood my own relationship to inspiration, or even what inspiration truly is. But despite that uncertainty—or because of it—it is deeply moving to think that my books have inspired others. There is nothing more rewarding than that.”

Krauss is the author of the international bestsellers, Forest Dark and Great House, a finalist for the National Book Award and the Orange Prize. The History of Love won the Saroyan Prize for International Literature and France’s Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger, and was short-listed for the Orange, Médicis, and Femina prizes. To Be a Man, her first collection of short stories, was published in November 2020.

Her first novel, Man Walks Into a Room, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book of the Year in 2003. In 2007, she was selected as one of Granta’s Best of Young American Novelists, and in 2010 she was chosen by The New Yorker for their “Twenty Under Forty” list. Her fiction has been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper’s, Esquire, and The Best American Short Stories, and her books have been translated into 37 languages. Nicole is the first Writer-in-Residence at the Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute at Columbia University. 

"Fifteen years after establishing the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature in celebration of our father's 80th birthday, we are delighted to present Nicole Krauss with the 2021 Inspiration Award for Fiction," said George Rohr. "We are certain that she will be a source of great encouragement to a new generation of emerging Jewish writers." 

 “It’s thrilling to have Nicole Krauss join the SRP family,” said Debra Goldberg, Director of the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature.  “We are confident that her exceptional books will continue to inspire current and future Sami Rohr Fellows as well as readers all across the world.”

About the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature
Inaugurated in 2007, the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature honors the legacy of Sami Rohr, who enjoyed a lifelong love of Jewish learning and books. As the premier award of its kind, the Prize recognizes the unique role of contemporary writers in the examination and transmission of the Jewish experience. The $100,000 Prize is awarded, in alternating years for non-fiction and fiction, to an emerging writer who demonstrates the potential for continued contribution to the world of Jewish literature.


Due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s limits on travel and large scale in-person gatherings, NCSY, the Orthodox Union’s flagship youth movement, has transitioned its signature Torah learning mega-event, Aspire: Yarchei Kallah, into local in-person study for smaller groups, as well as larger national virtual sessions this year. More than 2,000 teens and educators joined the programming, dubbed “Aspire: Yarchei Kallah On the Go.”

In late January, teens signed up to either choose their own chavrusa or have NCSY pair them with a partner for the learning event. They also selected the books they wanted to study. The organization then sent them the texts ahead of the Feb. 15 opening session held virtually with hundreds of the participants. The text options included Artscroll’s Chumash Sefer Shemot, Artscroll’s Gemarah Mesechet Brachot, NCSY’s Koren Siddur, Praying with Fire and Mesillat Yesharim.

Teens joined from 26 U.S. states and 5 Canadian provinces. Following the launch event, they partook in different challenges with prizes to keep them engaged in their learning with their partner, including posting a 30-second summary of something they learned to social media, an essay contest about what the program meant to them, and more.

In prior years, NCSY’s annual event was held in-person as a week-long Torah-learning retreat for hundreds of teens during the December public school break. “While there is no true substitute for the immersive experience of the classic Yarchei Kallah retreats, it was inspiring to see how NCSY’s leadership team was able to pivot a program so focused on a physical atmosphere of unity and in-person learning into one that engaged with more teens than usual and for an extended period of time,” said Orthodox Union Executive Vice President Rabbi Moshe Hauer. “We recognize the commitment of everyone who made this possible, the teens who dedicated time to learn and the staff that worked diligently and endlessly to make the experience a success.” 

“Our goal this year with Aspire: Yarchei Kallah was to take advantage of our needing to use a virtual platform by opening the program up to a wider audience than ever before,” said NCSY Education Director Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin. “Where prior to the pandemic we were limited by capacity restraints, travel costs and a teen’s ability to devote a full week to the program, this year we were able to open the event up to teens everywhere and impact even those who might have limited available time to devote each day to learning.”

Founded in 1898, the Orthodox Union, (OU), serves as the voice of American Orthodox Jewry, with over 400 congregations in its synagogue network. As the umbrella organization for American Orthodox Jewry, the OU is at the forefront of advocacy work on both state and federal levels, outreach to Jewish teens and young professionals through NCSY, Israel Free Spirit Birthright, Yachad and OU Press, among many other divisions and programs.

       2-8 Nissan, 5781                                              March 15-21, 2021 -- THE JEWISH OBSERVER, LOS ANGELES--645th Web Ed.



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