Sunday, November 18, 2012

Rockets from Gaza targeted at Tel Aviv

Thanks  everyone who has reached out to see how we're doing.  As you might expect, the US media paints a less than accurate picture of the experience here.  Here's what I understand of my personal experience so far:

In general, most of the rockets from Gaza are short range, only able to make it 40km, which is less than half the distance from there to Tel Aviv. However, the Iranian's have supplied longer range missiles to Hamas which has allowed them to reach Jerusalem and Tel Aviv a few times in the past few days. We have had 4 sirens here in Tel Aviv, one per day the past 4 days. (Just finished my morning visit to our bunker here, so hopefully that's it for today).  We know the drill, which is to go to our bunker immediately until the siren ends. It is only a couple minutes. We have heard the boom (like fireworks) each time, near the end of the siren. No one has been hurt up here as the IDF moved one of their 4 Iron Dome trucks up to our region (these are counter-missile technology, in which rockets intercept and explode the incoming rockets in the air so no one on the ground gets hurt). This costs $50,000 per use, so you can imagine how expensive it is for the IDF to defend citizens this way, but it seems to be the only thing that doesn't draw international criticism. I have a new appreciation for how Israel is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Doing nothing is not an option, because the rockets just keep coming, and there would be many more casualties here, but anything they do to defend us against the attacks is getting them criticized by international media.

Thanks to the Iron Dome, I feel relatively safe/"normal" or whatever you might call it.  I heard, however, that 40% of the people living further south have moved up to friends and relatives homes in Tel Aviv or further north.  And I know a number of women who's husbands have been called into reserve duty, especially the women from my pre-natal yoga and birthing classes, making this a particularly hard time for them. 

As for me, I have 3.5 weeks to go until my due date on 12-12-12. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

News from Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv from the air
Well, off to a slightly slower start than planned after that first post last week.  We took a mini vacation to Kos, Greece over the weekend for 3 nights.  I feel spoiled that with a one hour flight we can do that, but glad to take advantage of the opportunity, as that will be the last time I get on a plane for a few months, now that I am going into my 3rd trimester of pregnancy.  That is a whole additional topic for discussion which I will hopefully get to - my experience with healthcare here in Israel (spoiler alert:  they have excellent quality care, and the US has a lot to learn about taking care of ALL it's citizens).

I have also started a few posts with thoughts on my year in the environmental studies program, and will have to get back to that soon.

But I know at least a few Americans have asked me what the news is on the ground here regarding Iran.  I admit that I don't keep up on the media reports.  I'm not sure there's anything reliable in them anyway.  What I do hear comes from Israeli's.  It is definitely on everyone's mind, but I wouldn't say there is panic.  But concern is real, and it's based on news such as designated shelter announcements on the radio.  In fact, the hospital that we go to, Tel Aviv Medical Center, has reported that within days (maybe hours?)  they can sterilize and operate additional facilities out of their underground parking levels.  People have a (false?) sense of security in the bomb shelters we all have (ours is directly in our apartment, while older buildings have shared rooms, usually in basements).  There is a fair amount of speculation as to whether Israel will try to bomb the nuclear facilities in Iran.  If they do so, it will require the bunker-busting bombs from the U.S.  Of course, the U.S. official position is that they don't support such action.  So who knows what is happening behind closed doors.  In the meantime, life goes on more or less as usual here.  The consensus I hear from the Israeli's I know is that everyone hopes nothing happens - they don't want to start anything, and they hope Iran doesn't start anything.  Sounds good to me.  Let's all put our energy into constructive projects - there are plenty of great opportunities, starting in our own communities.

Monday, August 13, 2012

School is out!

Last Thursday I turned in my last paper, for my last class, for the inaugural year of the International Masters in Environmental Studies at the Porter School at Tel Aviv University.  Our graduation ceremony is this Thursday evening.  Then it is on to new things for me.  One of those new things will be an attempt to re-commit myself to blogging.  I have plenty of content from this year of study to share.  Please let me know if you want to hear more or less about anything in particular as I jump back in.

The top photo is of the Dan David building on campus, where I spent at least 10 hours per week in classes (we generally spent about 16-18 hours per week in class all year). This is a bare-bones building full of classrooms for a variety of programs with those old style desks that are attached to the chairs.  But at least it wasn't portables!  When we were lucky, we got upgraded to the Gilman building, the temporary home of the program, while they wait for the first LEED certified building on campus to be built for the program (scheduled to be completed next year).  

The lower photo is a set of signs as you enter campus from the security gates, with the Gilman building in the background.  This photo was taken back in March.  The Iris is the official flower of the University.  By the time such flowers were blooming in the U.S., these had come and gone. 

Can you read the signs?  With the addition of their many new english language programs, the university has additional work to do in the communications department.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Winter storm winds are picking up

The winds picked up on yesterday.  Apparently my olive tree and basil thought they were a sail.  

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Solar bus stops in Tel Aviv

These solar powered bus stop information boards are starting to pop up around Tel Aviv.  I don't know much about them, but by making them electronic, I imagine they will have more timely information for riders.  It's a great idea for a city in the middle east!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Red Sea Corals

At the tail end of our trip to Petra, Jordan in October we spent one night along the Jordanian section of the Red Sea shore.  Mom and I took a boat tour with a see through seating level below the water line.  It was a fun way to see the coral reefs, including a sunken ship and an old American tank that was placed there specifically to try to encourage new coral development.

On our drive back to town, we talked to the staff of the company and it turns out they are involved in the preservation of the corals, as well as running their tourism business. 

Below is a summary I wrote following the speaker at the first class meeting on November 3rd. 

During our first seminar, Eugene Rosenberg, Dept. of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology at TAU provided us an overview of his lab’s research into coral bleaching.  He shared with us the three anthropogenic factors contributing to coral reef deterioration – 1) water pollution, 2) over fishing, and 3) seawater temperature increases.  He elaborated on the impact of temperature increases which correlated with a loss of endosymbiotic algae every summer from 1995-2002.  

However, since then, his team has not been able to isolate V. shiloi, the bacteria studied and understood to act as an infectious disease for the O. patagonica coral found in the eastern Mediterranean.  This discovery led to development of his coral probiotic hypothesis.  The importance of this finding is that it shows that coral, like all other plants and animals, live in a symbiotic relationship with a set of bacteria.  This combination of host and microorganisms is called a holobiont.  The bacteria are more rapidly adaptable to changes in the holobiont’s environment than the host is.  Over time, the type and quantity of bacteria that joins the host impacts the overall function of the holobiont.  In this case, the coral acquired beneficial bacteria that killed V. Shiloi. 

It is only in recent decades that the ability to study bacteria that are “viable but not culturable,” (VBNC) has become possible.  New techniques like this have increased our knowledge, and yet we are only at the beginning.  For example, Professor Rosenberg shared the history of knowledge on bacteria in the human gut, believed to have about 100 types in the 1970s, and now known to have at least 40,000.  In addition, he stated that these bacteria hold 200 times greater genetic material than we, as the human host, do.  It is also important to note that the holobiont is not just the sum of the genetic material of the host plus the microorganisms.  The symbiotic relationship enhances the adaptability and survival of the collective group.

His findings are significant because he has extrapolated the coral probiotic hypothesis to the hologenome theory of evolution.  This theory has far-reaching, cross-disciplinary implications, from human health, to social structures, and just about every topic under the umbrella of environmental studies.  It has the potential to change the way we view relationships between species, from the Darwinian focus on competition, to that of cooperation.