A Sukkot Picnic with Natan Sharansky

Yesterday was the 34th anniversary of the refusenik Natan Sharansky’s release from Soviet prison. In honor of the occasion, Burton Caine recalls his 1974 visit to Moscow, where he met Sharansky for the first time at the apartment of Vladimir and Masha Slepak—then the epicenter of Soviet Jews’ struggle for freedom. During the same trip, he attended a picnic in a birch forest, organized by the Slepaks in honor of the holiday of Sukkot:

Soon all gathered for the holiday prayer. I was handed a small Israeli siddur . . . and asked to chant the kiddush . . . . Only after we returned home and my photos were developed did we notice that in two of my pictures, Anatoly Sharansky [as he was then known] was included.

Suddenly, the mood changed. A hush fell over the crowd and all frivolity stopped. The soccer game ended, and children ran to the nearest adult. We were stunned. What was happening?

The answer was immediate: the KGB had arrived, albeit disguised as peasants, wearing rough boots and carrying huge sticks. They pounded the ground, pretending to search for mushrooms. Of course, their purpose was to instill fear. On previous occasions they had severely beaten refuseniks, and at least one in our group that day still hobbled from a broken leg previously inflicted by KGB thugs. Immediately, the siddur was taken from me and handed to Eliahu Essas, a student expelled from the Moscow synagogue yeshiva when he applied for an exit visa to Israel. He chanted the prayer in Hebrew with translation into Russian to prevent the accusation that he was making an unlawful speech.

Three years later, in the frigid December of 1977, I returned to Moscow on behalf of Anatoly Sharansky, who had been imprisoned on the charge of espionage for the United States, a crime punishable by death.

Read more at Tablet

More about: KGB, Natan Sharansky, Refuseniks, Soviet Jewry, Sukkot

Despite the Toll of War at Home and Rising Hostility Abroad, Investors Are Still Choosing Israel

When I first saw news that Google wasn’t going through with its acquisition of the tech startup Wiz, I was afraid hesitancy over its Israeli founders and close ties with the Jewish state might have something to do with it. I couldn’t have been more wrong: the deal is off not because of Google’s hesitancy, but because Wiz feared the FTC would slow down the process with uncertain results. The company is instead planning an initial public offering. In the wake of the CrowdStrike debacle, companies like Wiz have every reason to be optimistic, as Sophie Shulman explains:

For the Israeli cyber sector, CrowdStrike’s troubles are an opportunity. CrowdStrike is a major competitor to Palo Alto Networks, and both companies aim to provide comprehensive cyber defense platforms. The specific issue that caused the global Windows computer shutdown is related to their endpoint protection product, an area where they compete with Palo Alto’s Cortex products developed in Israel and the SentinelOne platform.

Friday’s drop in CrowdStrike shares reflects investor frustration and the expectation that potential customers will now turn to competitors, strengthening the position of Israeli companies. This situation may renew interest in smaller startups and local procurement in Israel, given how many institutions were affected by the CrowdStrike debacle.

Indeed, it seems that votes of confidence in Israeli technology are coming from many directions, despite the drop in the Tel Aviv stock exchange following the attack from Yemen, and despite the fact that some 46,000 Israeli businesses have closed their doors since October 7. Tel Aviv-based Cyabra, which creates software that identifies fake news, plans a $70 million IPO on Nasdaq. The American firm Applied Systems announced that it will be buying a different Israeli tech startup and opening a research-and-development center in Israel. And yet another cybersecurity startup, founded by veterans of the IDF’s elite 8200 unit, came on the scene with $33 million in funding. And those are the stories from this week alone.

But it’s not only the high-tech sector that’s attracting foreign investment. The UK-based firm Energean plans to put approximately $1.2 billion into developing a so-far untapped natural-gas field in Israel’s coastal waters. Money speaks much louder than words, and it seems Western businesses don’t expect Israel to become a global pariah, or to collapse in the face of its enemies, anytime soon.

Read more at Calcalist

More about: cybersecurity, Israeli economy, Israeli gas, Israeli technology, Start-up nation