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November 11, 2011

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PAGE 16A 5 i .......................... HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NE ,WS,: NOJEMBER "i'1., 20i1 Apartheid-era division00 linger inJewish community By Moira Schneider CAPE TOWN, South Africa (JTA)--When anti-apartheid activist Lorna Levy first be- came involved in politics as a student in the late 1950s, she remembers being the target of host.ility from the Jewish eotnmunity in tier native South Africa. In the 1960s, she and her husband, Leon, made their mark as trade unionists at a time when black trade unions were not recognized and the government viewed attempts at unionizing with extreme suspicion. "As soon as they took any action or had any activity, they would be arrested and harassed," Lorna, a former union organizer, remem- bers. In 1963, Leon was de- tained by the notorious South African security po- lice. The couple eventually left for London, where they lived in exile for 35 years. "My parents had quite a rough time, they were ostracized" by the Jewish community, Lorna_recalls. "My various relatives, when they visited London, never looked me up. I know that it really hurt my father, who By David Rosenberg The Media Line The head, and only, offices of ChatVibes, an Israeli start- up company, consists mainly of three desks, four laptops and a white board occupying a small, dark room in need of paint and a decorator in s small, non-descript build- ing on Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard. "This is the biggest meet- ing we've ever had here," says Uri Schneider, the company's director of social media, as he squeezes in a handful of visiting journalists. Across the room chief executive of- ricer Gilad Carmi and chief technology' officer Justin Alexander wave a hello. The other employees, described as a "tech guy" is somewhere else, which is just as well as there isn't any obvious place for him to work. When Tel Aviv residents call their hometown 'the city that never sleeps,' they mean drinking and dancing. But a new unit of the Mayor Ron Huldai's office, Tel Aviv Global City, wants to add a new - element to the city's night- had been very good to his sisters and their children." At one point, Lorna served as the go-between between Nelson Mandela and his then-wife, Winnie, when Mandela was in hiding from the police in the 1960s. Lorna, who returned to South Africa in 1997, three years after the end of apart- heid, recalled her apartheid- era experiences in an inter- view after last weekend's conference in Cape Town on apartheid and South African Jewry. Called "Cape Conference 2011: TransformNation, Confronting our History, Embraciffg our Responsibil- ity," the conference exam- ined the effects of apartheid on the Jewish community and how the community has adapted to post-apartheid South Africa. ,The forum was organized by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, the community's umbrella body. The confab not only brought up some painful episodes from the country's past, but also showed how old resentments between the Jewish community and early anti-apartheid activists still linger today. Under apartheid, the Board of Deputies main- tained a stance of political non-involvement. In reality, anti-apar theid activists were marginalized or worse. In 1983, anti-apartheid activist Howard Sackstein was a Jewish student leader at the University of the Wit- watersrand. He said he found himself under threat not only from the authorities--he was shot at by riot police, tear-gassed and chased by police dogs--but also from the Jewish community. When the leadership of the Board of Deputies placed ads in a national newspa- per supporting a proposed tricameral parliament that made token provision for a role for those of mixed race and Indians-- but excluded blacks--Sackstein recalls publicly opposing the posi- tion and being threatened with withdrawal of funding from his university group. In 1985, when a large Johannesburg synagogue invited Cabinet minister and then-chair of the state security council Pik Botha to be the guest speaker at its 50th birthday celebrations, Sackstein and others met with the synagogue commit- tee and rabbi and asked that the invitation be withdrawn. "The chairman said to me, 'Why don't we just get you detained so you'll miss your final exams and spend the next six months in jail?' "Sackstein recalled. "When the rabbi said, 'You can't speak to a fellow Jew like that,' he said, 'Well, we have an alternative: Why don't we just get your head smashed in?' " Sackstein accuses the community's leadership of suffering a "catastrophic moral failure" during apart- heid. University of Cape Town sociologist Deborah Posel said that whites, including Jews, need to acknowledge the ways they benefited from apartheid and compensate for them. "There is still a tendency amongwhite SouthAfricans, including Jews, to deny our complicity with apartheid," Posel said. "As Jews, we need to confront this and think about how to respond in ethi- cally appropriate ways, and to compensate for our his- tory of material advantage." After apartheid ended, the bridge building between the organized community and former activists began. Today, said Wen@ Kahn, the Board of Deputies' national director, the board is seeking guidance from the activists on many issues. But she ac- knowledges that there is still "a long, hard road ahead." Many of the Jewish stu- dents who led in the struggle against apartheid left South Africa some time ago be- cause they felt there was no future here. "One of the lesser sins of apartheid was that it took our children away from us," said veteran community leader Mervyn Smith, president of the African Jewish Congress. "Think of what our Jewish community would have been like with them here." Large-scale Jewish emi- gration during the apartheid years left South Africa's Jew- ish community with some serious problems today. It is a relatively old community, and the financial burden of caring for the elderly often falls on the local commu- nity. Families are split up around the world, with many members having immigrated to places like Australia'and Israel. Owen Futeran, a former chairman of the Board of In quest for cool, Tel Aviv turns to tech ogy for the early detection of viruses in chickens. Upstairs, 6Scan (two desks, three employees and 2  others in California) is conducting beta testing of anti-hacker technol- ogy designed to protect small. websites. "We moved here two months ago. We've been around since April and just closed an investments," says its 26-year-old CEO, Nitzan Miron, who acquired his tech skills serving in the army. "Peoplewho comeout of mili- tary units are good hackers." Israel established itself as a high technology center, popu- larly known as the "Start-up Nation," over the last two decades. As the country's business center and biggest metropolitan area, Tel Aviv is already home to most of the nation's start-ups. Rothschild Boulevard itself was home to LabPixies, the first Israel start-up to be acquired by Googie. Last month, another Rothschild start-up, The Gift Project, was snapped up by E-Bay. But the city has bigger plans--to combine cool tech- nology with coolness all life--start-up entrepreneurs working all hours writing business plans and computer code. The goal is to turn itself into the high tech center not just of Israel but all of Europe ,in 10 years. And, as unlikely as it seems at first glance, ChatVibes is just the kind of business the city aspires to attract. Despite its modest offices, the company is an infant tech powerhouse. It was the first to develop a video chat add-on to Facebook and even though Facebook itself has since introduced its own video chat, ChatVibes is still going strong. Schneider says it's the second most popular Google Chrome extension and its Facebook page grew by 282,500 "likes" to pass two million last month. The company is cash-flow positive and the founders" turned down an offer for a major investment because they wanted to keep their com- pany in Tel Aviv. Elsewhere in the same building, another company called Faunus (four desks, five employees and two ceramic chickens by a coffee urn) is developing technol- around--to attract hip, young entrepreneurs who live, work and party in TeiAviv and make it a world-class city in the leagues of New York, London and Shanghai. "What we realized was that Tel Aviv's relative advantage is in the fusion of technol- ogy and innovation," says Eitan Schwartz, describing the city's strategy. He has the tech-sounding title of direc- tor of international content for the Tel Aviv Global City initiative. "If we want to be a global leader in one sector, it's probably going to be that." If the city's restaurants and clubs aren't enough to lure them, the municipality is embarking on plans to offer tax breaks for start-ups, free designated areas, hand-holding for new busi- nesses and hosting confer- ences that bring the global industry's leaders to the city. Indeed, this week the city was holding a combination tech conference and festival, five days of spectacles, seminars and networking in the city's trendy Jaffa Quarter. Another key element is lobbying the national govern- ment to create a special visa that would allow foreigner en- trepreneurs to come to the city to start up companies. Indeed, spicing the Israeli tech scene is a critical element to the plan, a way of boosting the city's cosmopolitanism and inject- ing new talent, says Avner Warner, who is in charge of Global Tel Aviv's international economic development. That last element is a tall order. Privately, officials told The Media Line that govern- ment officials are wary about letting in people who might take away jobs or compete for investment capital with lo- cals. Warner adds that Israel's location in the Middle East could also deter Europeans and others from settling in Tel Aviv with iPads and market- ing plans. Days ago, rockets launched by Palestinian militants based in the Gaza Strip rained down on Israel's south, including the coastal cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon. On Nov. 2, as Global Tel Aviv officials were detailirg their plans, the headlines were talking about Israeli plans for a military strike on Iran. "There are many barriers to overcome. We Can't do anything about the security barriers, so we just have to ignore them," admits Warner. But, he adds, in terms of per- sonal security, the city is safer than many urban areas in the U.S. and Europe. "The streets of New York are less safe than the streets of Tel Aviv" He was speaking at a branch of the Tel Aviv municipal library house in the Shalom Meyer Tower at the bottom end of Rothschild Boulevard. A relic of the pre-Internet era, it is being given new life as a place for budding technology entrepreneurs to get started with the help of the city. Books and magazines are still there, but a large new space will be ready next month for 28 people whose business plans are little more than an idea in their head. If they pass muster with an admissions committee, they get to use the facility for three or four months, giving them access to desk space, Internet, a confer- ence room, networking events and, perhaps most important of all, a place to bounce ideas and worries with others. "You'll have a peer group of people going through similar things, similar dif- ficulties, like fundraising," says Warner. The idea of keeping the city's high tech entrepreneurs close to each other extends beyond the walls of The Library as the new space is called. Tel Aviv is focusing its high tech thrust on a small part of the city, starting at Rothschild Boulevard and spreading south to the Shalom Meyer Tower and Jaffa, an area dubbed the Tech Mile, although Deputies, said the legacy of apartheid-era South Af- rica's cozy relations with Is- rael still reverberates today, harming Israel's reputation in the post-apartheid era among South Africa's people and government. The outgoing vice chair- man of the Cape Board, Rael Kaimowitz, says the current government led by Jacob Zuma of the African National Congress is no friend of Israel. "AltJnough the official policy is a two-state one," he said, "we see on a regular basis a bias towards the Pal- estinians, largely due to the historic relationship of the African National Congress and the Palestine Liberation Organization." Claudia Braude, a re2 searcher and editor of "Contemporary Jewish Writing in South Africa: An Anthology," said at the conference that "The people who really could counter the Israel-apartheid anal- ogy are precisely the anti- apartheid Jews who fought the struggle but who have this massive family quarrel going down with the Board and are not going to be seen to be associating with this." it is more like technology Square Mile. It is the oldestpart of Tel Aviv, an area filled with 1930s-era Bauhaus apartments and older structures gradually being restored as well as steel- and-glass office towers. One of the newest ventures to take advantage of the city's heightened interest in things digital is TechLoft, which opened in September as a place where entrepreneurs with start-up ideas in their heads can get started. There is room for 70 of them over two floors in an office building on the city's Nahmani Street. For a fee amounting to just $250 a month, they get desk space as well as conference rooms, an "aquarium" for brainstorming and basic of- rice services. Speaking from a deck designed for parties and other events just off one of TechLofts' two working areas, Gilad Tuffias, one of TechLofts' two founding partners, says they have held 10 networkingevents in the first two months. The idea of creating a seedbed for entrepreneurs is nothing new in the U.S. but it is new to Israel and may have more relevance in a country where few people have a ga- rage to house their start-ups or even a spare room at home. "We understood the need for entrepreneurs starting the journey ofturningan idea into a reality for a place they can work out of," says Tuffiasl "In- stead of being in a coffee shop orathome, they canworkwith other entrepreneurs." TechLofts doesn't expect to earn a profit from providing o(fice space and services, but if hopes to earn money from making micro-investments of $50,000 to $250,000 in the most promising of the start-ups that settle in at the facility. They will supplement their cash investment with sponsoring time in Silicon Valley for the entrepreneurs and introducing them to future investors.