Israel TED

Last week we were lucky to be invited to TEDxTelAviv, yet another new innovatory event based upon the famous TED conference which I have been going to, on and off, for over 15 years.
TED was founded by one of the most creative people I ever knew, Richard Saul Wurman who called himself an Information Architect and wrote many innovative books (I still use his remarkable travel guides). Chris Anderson, a very successful entrepreneur and philanthropist acquired the conference in 2002 (the year I met met my wife at TED) and amazingly outdid Wurman with innovations, making TED an international institution while adhering to the original rules: exceptional speakers or performers with important and/or entertaining subjects and presentations, on stage for only18 minutes with no Q&A, and speakers must mingle with attendees. For many, the payoff comes from intense networking! All TED receipts beyond costs now go to Anderson’s charities. TED’s website has much more information, with hundreds of videos of the presentations, many or most from famous personages.

(Elsewhere on this blog I’ll describe my own experiences designing new functions into conferences, from small to humongous).

As if this the original TED design was not enough, it expanded in 2009 into TEDx which allows anyone or any team showing suitable moxie and financial wherewithal to manage a close copy of TED. These events can take place anywhere in the world, but absolutely must adhere to a rigorous set of rules which maintain TED’s design integrity. There are already hundreds of such events every year.

TEDxTelAviv (visit online at, the first TED in Israel with another one planned for Jerusalem later this year, was amazing in its professionalism. In its first year out of the box it was managed and serviced by enthusiastic and extremely capable volunteers (it takes a large crew to pull this off), it was a one-day affair run in beautiful Jaffa which borders on Tel-Aviv, and was sold out quickly which led to multiple simultaneous screenings around the country. I’ll mention a few of the speakers and their topics:

  • Hedy Schleifer, a clinical psychologist and teacher was extremely intense and moving, speaking about the art of dialogue in relationships. The audience went wild and tweets began pouring in.
  • Pablos Holman, a very successful ex-hacker and super salsa dancer, described  what his Intellectual Ventures Laboratory is developing, such as a fission reactor which is powered by nuclear waste. At the end, he danced with a beautiful professional partner.
  • Karen Tal, principal of a unique school of 800 students which is designed to integrate underprivileged Jewish Israelis, Arab Israelis and children of immigrants and refugees from many different countries, was extremely inspiring and was followed by marvelous singing by the school’s enthusiastic and musical young chorus.
  • Shimon Steinberg, entomologist, mass produces billions of bugs which are shipped throughout the world to destroy agricultural pests.
  • Yair Tauman, a mathematician and professor of economics, with a great sense of humor demonstrated how to apply game theory in auctions and in business decision-making.
  • A fabulous rock singer, Asaf Avidan, with his cellist counterpart Hadas Kleinman, who perform worldwide, overwhelmed all of us with their unique musical variations not to speak of their musicality.
  • Shimon Schocken, An Israel computer science professor who also taught at NYU and Harvard, told the heartbreaking but elevating story (with photos) of how he arranged with an Israeli prison to take a group of 10 incarcerated juvenile delinquents on full day mountain biking trips, weekly! Only in Israel!
  • Chemical engineer Issac Berzin, a world-famous chemical engineer, entrepreneur, and CEO of Element Cleantech in the U.S., named by Time magazine as one of the hundred most influential people in three different categories in 2008. He spoke about research on seaweed eating up carbon emissions which ends up producing renewable energy.

And so it went. Sixteen 18-minute presentations, preceded by breakfast, followed by an energetic party, dancing and all, and luckily we were invited to a private dinner the evening before with several of the speakers and other guests.

There were many highlights to our trip, this was certainly one.


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