Israel

Original Article Published on The BabagaNewz

Is Israel behind the worm that is wreaking havoc on Iran’s nuclear program?

It is 2:00am and the room is dark, lit only by the screen of his laptop. While the rest of the city sleeps, he is wide awake, programming. It’s a test of skill, a quest for power. He wants to see if he can do it, if he has what it takes to penetrate a secure network and spread a computer virus throughout the world.

Or maybe he is a she. The sun shines brightly in the afternoon sky as she works to create a worm that will wreak havoc in Iran’s nuclear power plants. For her, it’s all in a days work. She was trained by an Israeli intelligence unit for just such a mission. Many lives millions of Israeli lives depend on her unit’s success.

Or maybe the hacker is someone else entirely.

SPREADING STUXNET

Worms and viruses are forms of malware, or malicious software. They are designed to access a computer system without permission in order to harm the data or performance of the computer whether it belongs to an individual, a company, or a country. Worms use computer networks to send copies to other computers on the network. They are the ones who raid your e-mail address book and send messages to all your friends.

The creator of a worm known as Stuxnet whether similar to one of these fictional sketches or not is responsible for much destruction. The worm, first detected in 2009, has spread through computers in Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Russia, and Iran. Sixty percent of the computers world-wide infected by Stuxnet were in Iran, including a command module at an Iranian nuclear facility. The fact that so many Iranian computers were infected suggests that Iran is the real target of the malicious virus. It’s pretty clear based on the infection behavior that installations in Iran are being targeted, explained Kevin Hogan, Senior Director of Security Response at Symantec.

But who is doing the targeting? Where did the worm come from and why does it target Iran? Only the real programmer knows for sure who produced this nearly untraceable, imperceptible worm. But, at the moment, many fingers are pointed at Israel.

WHY SUSPECT ISRAEL?

The Stuxnet worm is slowing down Iran’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons by sabotaging its computers. The United States and Israel are top Stuxnet suspects because both countries openly admit that they want to undermine Iran’s uranium enrichment plant. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran, has repeatedly said that the Jewish state will die, and many perceive his speeches as calls to destroy Israel. Israel wants to prevent Iran from having the weapons to do just that.

In addition, Israel has emerged as a top suspect because of a possible link to the Purim story. One of the files in the Stuxnet code is called Myrtus, which some security experts believe is an allusion to Esther, the well-known queen of King Achashverosh. In Megillat Esther we learn that Esther had two meaningful names: And [Mordechai] had reared Hadassah, she is Esther¦ (Esther 2:7). The name Esther means hidden. The name Hadassah, on the other hand, comes from the Hebrew word hadas, or myrtleone of the plants also used in the four species of Sukkot since her complexion was olive green like myrtle leaves. In addition, the Purim story took place in Iran.

Although Myrtus, as used in the Stuxnet worm, might simply refer to the myrtle, a plant important to many cultures in the region, some are fairly convinced of the Esther/Hadassah/Myrtle/Myrtus connection and its implication of an Israeli link. Yossi Melman, a reporter for Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, told the New York Times that he suspects Israel was involved. Others, including Shai Blitzblau, an Israeli information security expert, doubt that Israel had a hand in spreading the worm. Blitzblau computer warfare company studied the worm extensively and he is convinced that Israel had nothing to do with Stuxnet. For now, at least, this case remains unsolved.

THE JEWISH VIEW

In the Purim story, Haman plotted to annihilate the Jews. Instead of accepting their fate, however, the Jews staged a successful pre-emptive strike against Haman, his ten sons, and the people in Achashverosh kingdom who were out to kill. This was clearly an act of self-defense against a rodef (an attacker who presents a clear and direct threat to human life).

Judaism permits people to defend themselves against an unjust pursuer of human life a rodef and even kill the rodef to save a human life when no other way to save innocent people is presented (Shemot 22:1 and Sanhedrin 72a). Although Jewish law does not allow the destruction of someone else’s property for no reason (including someone else’s computer system), such destruction would be permitted to save the life of a human being.

If Iran is in fact developing nuclear weapons in order to wipe out Israel, then the State of Israel has the right to protect its citizens from nuclear annihilation, if need be, by killing the people who are constructing these weapons of mass destruction, and certainly by inflicting damage to property of those who are seeking to kill its citizens. Indeed, Jewish law maintains as do most legal systems that while one cannot kill innocent people to save the life of other innocent people, one may damage the property of innocent people to save human lives. Even if innocent computers were destroyed by the Stuxnet virus, that would be permitted to save the lives of innocent people.

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Original Article Published On The Jerusalem Post

Israelis Gony Goldstein, Raz Moyal and Dana Kamyshev recently enjoyed a week-long United States tennis adventure. The three young tennis players, representing Israel Children’s Centers, were invited to the United States to play in tennis exhibitions in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and in various towns in Long Island, New York. On their last day, they sat in the first row at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, cheering for their favorite home grown hero, Israeli tennis champion, Shahar Peer!

The three young Israel tennis players cheered on Peer in her match against Jelena Kostanic Tosic of Croatia. Yaalah, Kadima, Shahar Shahar Peer! they shouted from the stands. When Peer was down 3-2 in the second set, a very confident Raz said, Shahar will beat her; you will see. Raz was right. Despite some early serving difficulties and missed volleys, Peer rallied to beat the slicing Kostantic Tosic 6-4, 7-5. Shahar is my favorite, said 13 year old Dana, who plays in a competitive tennis program at the Tennis Center in Haifa. “I like her strong character – she doesn’t give up! I remember once she was down 5-0 and came back to win. Dana, who was born in Russia and speaks Hebrew, Russian and English, shyly told Dash that she is one of Israel’s top ten players in the 14 and under age group.

Gony, age 9, lives in Tel Aviv and plays regularly at the Israel Tennis Center in South Tel Aviv. The trip was her first time in America. It is so much fun to be here. Everything here is so big! While Gony diplomatically stated that she loves Peer and male Israeli player, Dudi Sela, she was quick to add, I also love (Andy) Roddick, (Maria) Sharapova, (Nikolay) Davydenko and Venus Williams! Gony was initially spotted by the same coach who recognized Peer’s potential. She has even had a hit on the court with Peer. Her coach said that, Gony is a very special young girl who really enjoys training. Most importantly, she tries her best in every lesson. Gony is very clever on the court and she is already proving to be a great athlete. Gony, a fairly typical nine year old who also loves to sing, dance and play with animals, started playing tennis at age six and plays five times a week.

For Raz Moyal, an 11 year old boy from Ofakim in the south of Israel, this visit was his third trip to the United States. He has three brothers, aged 15, three and six months old, and came once to celebrate his brother’s bar mitzvah. Los Angeles is my favorite place! We stayed in a great big house and it was lots of fun! passionately follows his favorite team, Beitar Jerusalem. Above and beyond all of that, however, it’s clear that tennis is by far his favorite pastime. I started playing when I was seven and a half, he said. Raz’s father knew it was time to introduce Raz to tennis. My brother was playing and I was sad that I didn’t get to play. One day, my dad asked, Do you want to go? I did and I loved it! Raz thinks of the tennis center as a second home. The Tennis Center is like a kibbutz, where everyone knows everyone.

It is like a family where we can all hang out together, on and off the court, and enjoy our friendships. When asked who his favorite player was, the smiley youngster said he loves Peer but added, I also love (Rafael) Nadal. He is short and a lefty like me, and I look like him! People call me Nadal! Raz enjoys tennis so much that he and his dad came up with a special plan when the Ofakim courts were closed during the Gaza War. When we couldn’t go to the center and play, it was like someone came along and ripped our hearts out, Raz said. His father saw how sad and upset Raz was, so they jumped the fence and played! Don’t tell anyone. I don’t want my Dad and me to get in trouble. I love my Tennis Center.

There are 14 Israel Tennis Centers across Israel, from Kiryat Shmona to Beersheva. The Israel Children’s Centers are more than just places for 9,000 young Israelis to learn the game. It is actually the largest social service organization in Israel and the largest tennis school in the world! According to Israeli Development Associate, Yoni Yair, who was also one of the groups chaperones, The Centers are very special and provide a warm family environment for thousands of kids all over Israel. They are safe places for meeting new friends, getting an education and keeping the kids off the streets. Our tennis centers are safe places that help kids to grow up right. While Yair and the rest of the staff are all delighted by the success of some of the centers tennis players, he noted that, “Tennis is simply the vehicle that brings the kids to the tennis centers. While in America, the young tennis players were also accompanied by Coach Ron Becker and Israel Children’s Center Executive Director, Jeff Dannick. They returned home to Israel shortly after the Peer match.

Will Gony, Raz and Dana be the next Dudi Sela or Shahar Peer? That is hard to know, but one can be certain that they will grow up to be lovers of tennis and wonderful human beings.


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Original Article Published On The Jerusalem Post, Newspaper Articles

On a sunny Sunday this past June, world No. 17 Shahar Peer joined mayor of Akko and other dignitaries to celebrate opening of coastal city’s new Israel Tennis Center.

On a sunny Sunday this past June, world No. 17 Shahar Peer joined the mayor of Akko and other dignitaries to celebrate the opening of the coastal city’s new Israel Tennis Center. The day concluded with an exciting exhibition game between Peer and 19-year-old Ofri Lankri, one of Israel’s up-and-coming tennis players.

The day was a celebration for Israel Tennis Centers throughout the country, long known for their programs geared toward children at risk and with special needs, and for strengthening coexistence between young Jews and Arabs.

The 14 Israel Tennis Centers totaling 178 tennis courts from Kiryat Shemona to Yokneam also strive to promote and develop world class Israeli tennis players.

They serve as the training ground for the next generation of Shahar Peers, Dudi Selas, Andy Rams, Yoni Erlichs and Harel Levys.

The Jerusalem Post recently caught up with Ram at the Pilot Pen Tournament in New Haven, Connecticut, and with Sela and Peer at the US Open in New York, to shine some light on the recent progress among Israel’s future tennis superstars.

Ram, who has focused on his doubles game recently, sees a tremendous gap between the generation of Amos Mansdorf and the generation of Erlich, Sela, Peer and himself.

We played at the Israel Tennis Centers for many years, he said. I played in Ramat HaSharon. We are in the process of building the next generation of Israeli tennis players. It will come, and there will be Israeli tennis.

While Ram is somewhat hopeful about Israel’s longterm tennis future, Sela and Peer are less optimistic.

There is nobody behind us, Sela said, going on to blame the lack of young upand- comers for the fact that many of the coaches have left for overseas.

Sela did acknowledge several young Russian-born Israelis, however, seeing promise in 14-year-old Valeria Patiuk (currently world No. 330 for juniors) and 15- year-old Igor Smilansky (No. 747 in the world). But he is not sure whether Israeli will produce world-class players in the near future.

Peer agreed, saying, unfortunately, there is not much coming up. I just know one girl who is 14 [Patiuk] that they are talking about her, that she’s pretty good.

But Peer offered a partial explanation for what appears to be a somewhat dim future for Israeli tennis.

You know, we are a very small country that were trying to invest in sport, but we have other things to take care of, she said.

Every ten years comes a new player… I hope in the future we will have some good players.



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Original Article published on The Jerusalem Post

Our American correspondent goes one on one with Israel’s first NBA player

He is a rock star! Sacramento Kings assistant coach Mario Elie said as he watched from the side of the court at New York City famed Madison Square Garden. Rookie Omri Casspi smiled as he signed pictures, jerseys and even Israeli flags for loyal Jewish and Israeli fans. I’m excited to be part of Omripalooza! commented another fan. When Casspi began addressing the pre-game crowd on Jewish Heritage Night, thousands began chanting, Omri Casspi! He patiently answered the questions which he has been answering in stadiums across the country: What is it like being the first Israeli in the NBA? Who are your heroes? Do you miss Israel?.

Casspi, 21, has had a very successful rookie year. The handsome, good natured forward from Yavne has become a true star and fan favorite on and off the court. He averages 11 points, five rebounds and one assist per game, scored a career high 24 points against the Phoenix Suns, and participated in the Rookies versus Sophomore game and the HORSE competition at the 2010 NBA All Star Game.

Casspi had a great night against the Knicks. At the post-game press conference, Casspi was flocked by American and Israeli reporters. One noted the irony: 18 points – CHAI – for number 18 in the purple Kings jersey!

Casspi’s Jewish Heritage Tour continued recently in New Jersey, against the Nets. Or Rujdera was lucky enough to be visiting the States from Netanya and came to the game with his father. Or, decked out in his bright purple #18 Sacramento Kings jersey wasn’t at all disappointed by Casspi scoring only two points, seconds before the final buzzer. The seventeen year old was proud that he and his friends get up at 4am in Israel twice a week to watch Casspi play. Just a few short years ago, Casspi himself was waking up at 4am to watch his hero, Michael Jordan, play basketball!

Casspi was born into a sporting family and began playing basketball at an early age. He played for several local teams and at age 13 moved to the Maccabi Tel Aviv youth team. At 17, Casspi turned pro, playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv. In 2009, Casspi was drafted in the first round (23rd overall) by the Sacramento Kings, signing a three year contract worth $3.5 million.

The Casspi family is very close and very athletic. His brother, Eitan, lives and travels with him while in the States. His sister, Aviv, 16, is a serious basketball player for Elitzur Holon and may even make it to the WNBA. His father, Shimon is a great tennis player and mother, Eliana, was a competitive basketball player herself. They take turns coming to the States to watch Omri play!

Casspi understands what it means to represent Israel and the Jewish People. I feel great pride being Jewish and Israeli, and a lot of responsibility. I feel happy being Israeli and Jewish every time I step on the court. At the end of the season, he will return to Israel and play for Israel’s National Team.

Casspi is truly blessed; he is a talented athlete surrounded by supportive family, teammates and fans. And he is a true mentsch! We have high hopes for Casspi as he continues to be Israel’s ambassador around the world.

Do you miss Israel?
I miss home. My family and friends are there. But I have gotten used to living in the States; it is pretty comfortable now.

Do you ever feel affected by the current political situation between the US and Israel?
I’m reading and trying to be as connected as possible. However, I’m mostly focusing on basketball.

What is your current relationship with Maccabi Electra?
They are my friends and it was my home for over 8 years.

Tell us about your sister, Aviv, and her hopes for the WNBA.
She is 16 and plays for Elitzur Holon. She is very talented. We pray for her. You never know!

Who are your mentors at the Kings?
Francisco Garcia (#32, a guard) has really shown me the ropes.

What has been the biggest adjustment playing in the NBA?
Getting used to the athleticism, physicality and nightly games.

You have worn lots of different numbers so far. Now you are wearing #18…
I wear #18 because it is symbolic to our Jewish community. It means life. I plan to wear it from now on!

Tell us about your army service.
Army service is an important part of growing up in Israel. I did it, my brother did it, my father all my friends. I was a sports counselor for three years. I taught, refereed and played. The army really helped me. It was a good experience.

What does it mean to you to be the first Israeli in the NBA?
It is a great honor. I am trying to be the best player and the best example I can be.

Favorite Jewish holiday?
Chanukah. I love sufganiyot!

Did you celebrate your bar mitzvah?
Yes, at home in Israel. I went to my local synagogue on Shabbat, read Torah, everything. We took a family trip to the States, which is when the Nike Commercial was filmed.

Other sports you love?
Soccer and tennis.

Favorite food other than hummus?
Italian pasta, chicken, pizza.

Shoe size?
13. At games I usually wear black Nike’s with a white swoosh.

Favorite movie?
Currently Avatar. In general, Lord of the Rings.

Favorite music?
I love Israeli music Shlomo Artzi, Eyal Golan, Muki.

How did you spend Yom Haatzmaut?
I was at home in Israel with my family and friends having a barbecue!

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