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Pardes Yehuda: June 2008

Sunday, June 29, 2008

I feel I never told you the story of the

It's now a fact, ghosts are real--at least the Global Host Operating System, the brainchild of Inc, a 2006 start-up with an interesting ideal. On the surface of things, what, Inc is attempting to do is "develop the Global Hosted Operating System, the world's only true Web Operating System." But beneath the surface of this company lies a progressive vision based on collaboration and co-existence.

The company has a simple, yet provocative, vision:
"to provide a free fully functional Virtual Computer, on the Web, so that every person in the world can do any computing at any time, any place, on any budget."
In that spirit, the provides a word processor and spreadsheet program, applications and games. Much like Google has challenged Microsoft with their new free Office Suite-style package, provides a means for consumers to avoid financially supporting corporations. This would be good enough, but there is more.

The company is founded on an interesting philosophy. According to their website, "Windows, MAC and UNIX are all successors to operating systems that were designed in the 60’s, 70’s and 80's, long before the Internet was even dreamed of." Well that's a great point that never even crossed my mind! All of our software is constantly catching up to technological advancement. We have been limiting our capacity by not exploiting the wireless nature of the Internet to its fullest. Internet communication has allowed people to break cultural, diplomatic and economic boundaries like no other media has. is implementing that spirit of cooperation into their work. And it does not stop at the software...

Perhaps the most inspiring and impressive aspects of is not so much the background of the company, as the background of the individuals who made it.

These men and women are Palestinians and Israelis. This company does seek to help the world collaborate, share and cross boundaries. These people have experience in collaborating, sharing and crossing boundaries that many of us cannot fathom. In their own words:
The team is itself a rare Palestinian-Israeli collaboration. Ghosts go through walls and the very first wall that goes through is the 425 mile concrete barrier that Israel has built in the West Bank between itself and the Palestinians and which physically divides the team into two. However the Internet and collaboration between human beings transcends all physical boundaries.
The team is led by Founder and CEO Zvi Schreiber, a British-born Israeli; is his third Israeli start-up company. He describes as a "consumer service," as opposed to his other two projects which were "business ventures." The company's director is Tareq Maayah, a US educated Palestinian who was on an advisory board to the Palestinian Ministry of Post and Telecommunications. The company itself itself is made up of 40 Palestinians and Israelis who desire to provide free computing for the world and peace for their communities.

Perhaps the most important facet of their company is the Peace Foundation. According to their website:

The GhPF is founded on firm beliefs that
  • The silent majority of Palestinians and Israelis want peace.
  • That personal and commercial cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians can overcome nationalistic animosity.
  • That supporting independent economic development for Palestine is preferable to aid and is the key foundation for peace.
  • That all peoples in the region should have access to technology skills to overcome the digital divide and allow future prosperity.

  • Their website is not yet developed, but based on what they've been able to do with their web-based Operating System, I'm sure it will be an impressive digital feat. This is an endeavor we should all be supporting. We should use their FREE web-based operating system (I wrote this post on their word processor!) and support their peace initiative.

    Read more!

    Saturday, June 28, 2008

    All who are hungry, come and eat...

    This famous phrase from our Haggadah (Passover ritual book) highlights an aspect of Jewish culture that is all but lost in our 21st century. In the ancient Jewish world there were two institutions to ensure that all were fed: the tamchui, the communal meal plate; and the kuppah, the communal fund. Today these institutions have been replaced by the occasional soup kitchen and fund raising campaigns, but the replacements do not provide the same service as the original.
    Yet, there are those acting now and creating a model of an alternative to the profit-driven food market.

    We are in a world of soaring food costs largely propelled by the increase in the cost of oil which is the foundation of shipping food around the world. As costs rise, individuals like you and me can feel it in our pocket books--and if you'd made serious changes, in your belly too.

    Let's play a game. We're going to imagine a wonderful place, a restaurant that could only be the product of dreams. Imagine a place that serves fresh, organic, local foods; where the menu is never set but constantly changing based on the whims of the chef and the availability of the local farmers' market. Imagine that at the end of your scrumptious meal, you get your bill, and the total reads "Pay what you'd like!"

    Impossible, you think! Unlikely, you dismiss! I retort, it is possible and it is real, and what's more... you have two options!

    The SAME (read: So All May Eat) and the One World Cafe's are two examples which I have encountered of people making a real difference in the availability of fresh, organic, local foods and reasonable prices (unless you choose to pay an arm and a leg!). Both feature similar concepts: No set menu, no set price--the only thing set is that you're sure to get delicious, nutritious, fresh, organic and local food. They will also take your labor as payment, instead of money. Like in the old TV shows and movies; can't pay or the meal? Wash some dishes instead!

    SAME Cafe is located in Denver, CO and was founded by Brad and Libby Birky, the One World Cafe, founded by Denise Cerreta, is located in Salt Lake City, UT.

    I have never been to either of these places (as I've never been to Salt Lake City and not been to Denver in years and years) but I will make a point to go if I find myself near either of them. What they provide is not just delicious food at the price you want to pay; they also act as a model for ways to provide sustenance and support and not be profit driven. That being said, according to their website, One World has experienced steady growth since their opening. Support them with your money, support them with your love and prayers, support them however you can. One thing is sure, these two places are a dream come true!

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    Friday, June 27, 2008

    Eli Rogosa is saving the world

    Eli Rogosa, founder of

    You know those people that you meet just for a moment, and you know that not only have they had a profound effect on you in that brief encounter, but you recognize the greatness of their ideas and their endeavors and are immediately humbled by the knowledge that the Holy One blesses the world with such special souls... In the early emergence of New England spring I encountered Eli Rogosa for one of those brief, special moments.

    I was visiting the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in northern Connecticut to attend a retreat for rabbinical students sponsored by PANIM; an INCREDIBLE and sacred place, and a holy and blessed organization--definitely follow those links. I pulled up to the remote retreat center, snuggled away in the warm (in spirit) and welcoming green New England mountains, after a wonderful day sharing coffee with a man I'm honored to call mentor and friend, Bob Meagher, and tromping through the pine forests of Hampshire College. So I park my car and begin to timidly wonder around the area looking for someone who looks as if they know where they are. I happen upon two sweet women from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, who were attending the same retreat and also appeared as if they had no idea what was going on. We introduce ourselves and jump into a successful game of Jewish geography (an easy game when you make up only a tiny fraction of the population). When two wise women swagger up, clearly familiar and comfortable with their surroundings. The taller, a grey haired woman who carried her confidence like a brilliant shawl, leaned to the shorter, a woman who struck me as a stalk a grain--ancient and firmly rooted, yet light and dancing in the wind (I would soon understand why I was feeling such things)--the taller leaned to the shorter and said softly, "Shall we ask them how their retreat is going?" They approached the three of us, who clearly looked a bit uncertain and admittedly not wholly comfortable. We immediately began chatting after polite introductions and explanations of the newness of the environment.

    The women explained to us that they had been doing a matzah baking retreat (Passover was just around the corner); in those two minutes I learned more about matzah then I knew there was to learn. For example, the original matzah was made from emmer, an ancestor of wheat, now all but extinct--it is much tastier, more nutritious and gluten free. And thus I was introduced to one woman who is saving the world. Eli Rogosa.

    Eli Rogosa is the founder of the Heritage Wheat Conservancy, she spends her time saving us from evil people like these folks .

    How is this one woman saving the world? Simple. She is saving the foundation of our food. Eli travels the world collecting ancient grains and assuring that they survive amidst the rise of genetically engineered foods, the literal copy-writing of foods, and the global food crisis that is upon the world.

    Why is her work so important you ask? Food is at the center of it all. When certain entities seek to submit others to their power, they lock up the food supply--it is an old story, as old as centralization and urbanization (if not older...) Our own consumer culture is one in which is are completely removed from our food supply and production. We go to the store, or restaurant, and purchase food already neatly packaged and sometimes prepared. We have no knowledge of where the food comes from, no honor for the people involved in growing, picking, transporting preparing and packaging those foods. We hardly even have an awareness of the person stocking or bagging our groceries! We have allowed corporations to erase our knowledge of nutrition and food, replacing our ancient memories with fabricated food pyramids and calorie counts. All we need to know of food is within our collective sacred conscience. Eli is reminding us of that.

    According to Eli's website,
    The Heritage Wheat Conservancy is a grass-roots initiative by and for traditional farmers to conserve the heritage wheats best adapted to our organic fields. All profts from the sale of our wheats support our conservation farms in Maine, Palestine and Greece. Heritage wheats are well adapted to the organic fields of traditional farmers, have the highest capacity for stable yields in weather extremes of climate change and are rich in flavor and nutrition.
    To give you an idea of what Eli does, I had asked her to answer a few questions for me, via e-mail, so I could have some more information to share with people, because I am so excited by what she is doing. Her response was that she was too busy keeping up with all the 112 rare varieties of ancient wheat she had saved in the Middle East and Europe and was planting for spring.

    Eli's work saving ancient grains in the Middle East has brought her toward other sacred work as well. Beyond perhaps most any other region in the world, the Middle East needs lots of positivity and lots of healing. Eli has helped create real means for peace in the Middle East.

    One of the foundations of the philosophical approach which has dictated Shimon Peres' approach to the peace process has been his belief that if the Israelis and Palestinians have shared economic interests, they would be more likely to work things out. Eli, and a group she helped establish, the The Israel Seed Conservancy (read about it here), is a grassroots collective of Arab and Jewish farmers to save traditional knowledge and grains. Shimon Peres has the right idea, but the wrong commodity. The answer is not in sharing the financial resources, the future peace of Israelis and Palestinians is recognizing their shared food resources.

    At you will find great information that will explain more about the incredibly holy and important work that Eli is embarking on. In addition to wonderful information you can also purchase ancient grains and donate to the Conservancies.

    The safety of our food supply is at risk. The key to our future is in the work that Eli Rogosa is doing. Thank you, Eli.

    Read more!

    Ode to Ode

    There are two magazines that I read--one to scare me and one to make me feel better. The one which I read to make me feel better is Ode Magazine.

    Ode is one of the few publications dedicated to promoting good news. You can't describe their magazine better they they did:
    "Ode is a print and online publication about positive news, about the people and ideas that are changing our world for the better."

    The magazine started out in the mid-90s in Rotterdam, the Netherlands by Jurriaan Kamp and Helene de Puy. Four years ago they moved to San Francisco and began publishing in English. I was introduced to this positive publication by the person who has introduced me to most of the positive things in my life a couple of years ago.

    My absolute favorite thing about Ode is that it covers a diverse array of news that you wouldn't find in a magazine like Newsweek or even Utne Reader or Mother Jones. Mainly because of its international scope, but primarily because of its dedication to positivity.

    Just give a quick glance at the table of contents of this month's issue. There's articles about practical solutions for global warming, non-toxic cancer treatment, an interview with the inventor of the defibrillator (the heart machine, you know... from ER and Grey's Anatomy "ready... clear!"). This is all in addition to their fabulous regular columns from the likes of Paulo Coelho (brilliant author of the Alchemist, one of my all-time favorites; and I recommend everything else I've read by him, too.)

    I like this magazine so much I tend to read each issue two or three times. Read it. Highly recommended. Sure beats the fear-mongering newspapers (not that I don't read those, too...)

    Read more!