Mixing Personal and Business In Israel

I’ve been told by my American friends and family that one keeps ones personal life outside from ones business, meaning one simply doesn’t mention whats happening in ones personal life while “conducting business.”. It always seemed a bit cold to me, since what happens with ones family does in fact affect our “business…”


It was August  2012, when I was invited to Jerusalem to present my work to a company that was looking for a new website. I arrived late morning and was shown the board room where I started to set up my computer and was looking for the monitor cord to hook it up to the projector, when I heard in the hallway someone mention about an attack on the Egyptian border. Well my son was on that border in a combat unit, meaning he might be involved.


I stopped with the preparations and went straight to the internet to learn about the attack. At this point people starting entering the board room, the CEO, marketing people, business development, it was to be a full room. I looked up at them and mentioned that I heard there was an attack on the border, the CEO confirmed it. I told them that my son was there on the border and if they wouldn’t mind I would like to take a few minutes to find out where exactly the attack occurred. I had spent many many hours on that very border, knew where my sons patrol area was so I just need a bit more info on where exactly the attack took place.


The marketing woman ask me which unit and if I knew the exact area, while I was giving her the information, I noticed that a map of the border area appeared on the wall, which made it even easier to show. The business development guy was on the phone asking someone for some details. Its seems that half of the room were making phone calls asking their friends, army buddies etc what they knew. It turns out the CEO was an F16 pilot, the marketing woman was active in the reserves in the south, the Business Development guy was from the commandos…..In about 10 minutes It was clear that the attack was not in my sons immediate area and that larger forces were already moving in the area (these guys had good connections). This meant that my sons unit would probably not be directly involved unless there were additional attacks in a different area (always a possibility).


At any rate, once we cleared up that, and I was a bit more relaxed,  I returned to connecting my computer to the projector and to start my presentation. Israel is a personal place and it was obvious to everyone in that room that before I started my presentation I needed to know about my son  (just as they would, in a similar situation) and everyone did what they could to help. It was a good feeling that here in Israel somethings are simply more important than business….and I got the job.

Meeting My Daughter in the IDF

It was 2009, my daughter, had started her army service and I knew the beginning was going to be difficult. She was raised as a princess (I plead guilty) and was to get the shock of her life. Though we taken camping trips before, canoed in Northern Canada, spent time in the mountains of Northern Italy, the conditions of the army were a whole different world. Adding to that being yelled at, and punished by someone who is only a few years older than yourself was going to be a difficult period.


During this period, I also found myself in the reserves. I decided to take a day and visit my daughter, not on “visitors day” or during some ceremony but in the middle of the basic training. Given that I was one of the older guys in my unit, I knew there wouldn’t  be a problem with taking the day. One of the officers secured for me a pass to her base (one of the larger ones in the south that I had spent many many many days on).


I really wasn’t worried about not being able to see her, or by having one of her officers telling me “I can’t, ” this is the IDF, a “family” oriented army.  I arrived after about an hour driving,  parked my car and entered the base. Though the base was large, I knew where her tents were and within a short walk of 10 minutes I arrived. Nobody was there, I looked at my watch and noticed that it was 12:30, which meant they were probably having lunch. I decided to do this the “respectful way.” I could have just walked straight to the cafeteria and found her there, but I decided to go to her officer and “ask permission.”


Her officer I presumed was in the little “room” next to the tents. The door was closed so I knocked. A young officer opened the door. I asked her if she was Karen’s commander. My American accent made it pretty clear that I was probably her dad. She answered yes. I told her that I took a few hours off and I came to see her. She looked at me and I could see that she wasn’t really sure what to do, so I decided to help her. I mentioned that I just came from training (that was obvious given my uniform and weapon) and that I managed to get away for a few hours. She mentioned that, Karen is in the middle of basic training and as I must know discipline is very important here. At this point I couldn’t help but smile. The girl in front of me may be an officer in the army and I may be just a sergeant in the reserves, but she is also a 20 year old girl, and I”m old enough to be her dad. I gave her the “dad” look, the one that is slightly condescending that says, ” I know more than you.” I said that its better that as an officer you know that I ‘ll be seeing my daughter rather than not knowing of my visit. She really didn’t have a choice. I promised it would be short, just a few minutes. At that point she understood she really didn’t have much of a choice, she relaxed (maybe she thought of her own dad visiting her), gave me the cute smile of a 20 year old and told me which cafeteria she was in.


I arrive at the cafeteria and enter the main lobby area where I saw two female soldiers (sergeant and a corporal). It was clear that they were her commanders as the way their ranks were nicely sewed on their sleeves and not stuck on with  a bobby pin (see karens pict above with her own stripes held on with a bobby pin- classic IDF.


Again I really don’t need their permission, but I did think I would give them the chance to decide how best to do this. So I approached one of them, confirmed that they were responsible for Karen’s unit and mentioned I had already spoken to their lieutenant about seeing my daughter.


They spoke a few minutes among themselves obviously trying to decide how best to handle this situation. They asked that I wait and they will bring her out. The cafeteria is pretty big with many soldiers all over the place. I could see the “girls” at the far end and that they had called Karen out. I could also see the anxiety on her face. No one likes being called out in basic, it is never anything good.


When she exits the eating hall and sees me…..(see the movie below). Moments us Dads live for.


Zionisim: The hairdresser, the salesman, the prostitute

It was 2012 and I received an emergency call up. It seems the government had had enough of the rockets coming out of gaza and decided to do something about it. So I went to my closet, filled up the my bag with amy uniform, socks etc and drove down south to the base.  There was quite a lot of activity going on, but it wasn’t hard to find my unit (mobile phones…). The days were busy as we got organized, hunted down equipment, trained, etc.  The officers were especially busy as they had quite a lot to learn and prepare for in a short time.


One of our officers had a meeting in Tel Aviv and needed someone to drive him as he was exhausted,  I was chosen. He actually wasn’t much company as he slept all the way. We arrived at the meeting and I had a few hours to kill (we guessed at between 2-4).


The Haircut  🙁

I had a car so I decided first of all to get haircut (my wife was complaining about my hair, and actually longer hair in a helmet is not that comfortable). I drove north a bit a found a nice fancy mall in north Tel Aviv. I was pretty filthy having been  training in the desert, and as I approached the “salon” I felt slightly out of place. I looked in, wasn’t sure, but the guy waved me in, so I entered.  I sat in the nice wide chair, and really didn’t know where to place my weapon. I didn’t want to put it on floor nor did I want to place it out of my sight, so I held it under the “cape,” while he cut my hair. It felt like I was in some kind of action movie. He asked me about where I was, where I was going (it was rather obvious he understood little) and then he went into a 20 minute monologue about how he would like to go down to the front where everyone is training and give everyone a haircut, how we deserved it, how its the least he could do for those of us who are willing put our lives on line (such a cliche). I’m thinking ok, so at least I’ll get a free haircut out of all of this. He finishes up, I look in the mirror and the haircut is good, but  I’m still filthy. I reach down to the small pocket on my leg where I keep my wallet, and I’m expecting him any minute to tell me to keep it, but he doesn’t and I pay him his 60nis. So much for those free haircuts that we “deserved.”


The Salesman  🙁

Next stop, a camping/army supply store. Before we left I asked if anybody needed anything and was rewarded with quite a list. Seems the emergency call up (zav 8) meant many forgot to take some basics: socks, batteries, headlamps etc. I go north to the nearest store. The store is empty and I give the salesman my list. And he asks, which unit I’m in, that he wished that he was going and other small talk,  he then mentioned that there will be a special discount price for me and the guys in my unit. (I’m thinking ok, now were talking). We put everything on the counter he adds them up and then comes the special price – 5%.  Thats it? just 5%. We’re going to war and thats all we get is 5% off?


The Prostitute  🙂

Finished with my list, I call up the officer for a time estimate, 2 more hours. I’m getting tired and I do have a 2-3 hour drive back down south. There is a hotel in North Tel Aviv, along the beach but far from the crowds. with a big field next to it and large parking area (Tel Baruch). I used to play tennis there. I figure I could go there, park and take a nap for an hour or two.


I arrive and its pretty empty. In the field I could see a few cars moving around and a few prostitutes walking up to them. I get out for some fresh air and to asses the situation, one of the girls (a bit older) walks over to me and asks me for a cigaret. I don’t smoke and it was clear that I wasn’t interested. She looked me over and unlike the hairdresser, and unlike the salesmen, it was clear she knew exactly where I was going nor did she ask. She said that I should stay safe, not take chances and that she appreciates what I’m doing…and then she offered me a “freebie”. I had to smile.  Though I turned her down, just the fact that of the three people I met, she was the only one that didn’t say much, gave me a feeling that she cared and offered me a real “price break.”  I felt like showing her how much I appreciated her few words and her offer and asked if she needed a ride anywhere, she answered that I could give her a ride home, which I did.


Well I’m not really sure Ben-Gurion was right.

Quoted in the book “The Billionaire’s Apprentice” by Anita Raghavan is David Ben-Gurion’s reported comment,

“When Israel has prostitutes and thieves, we’ll be a state just like any other.”
Quoted in the New York Times’ review of the book June 30.



Where to Secure the Laptop?

When laptops finally came out, a lot of pressure was taken off of me. I could now just stay in touch with my clients while in the reserves, and in fact continue to do the work. The pace would be slowed down but at least the flow will not have stopped and for those graphic emergencies I could now take care of them myself instead of handing them off to someone else (including my competition sometimes).


However, very quickly I discovered a new problem I had not considered. My laptop was very valuable and at the same time, fragile. It was not made to be bumped around too much, didn’t like sand, its battery life wasn’t that long and its was vulnerable to being stolen when I wasn’t looking. When we were static on a base for a few weeks I could always store it in the communications room where there was always somebody to watch it, when I had to leave to a patrol or something. but when we are on the move during training? Hell, I didn’t even know where to put it to protect it. There maybe coffee cup and ammunition holders in those armored personal carriers but no laptop holders.


However I did solve the problem: I simply left the computer in my car….and stayed in the 1990’s.

Mobile Scrolling vs Desktop Clicking

This post is for those who actually use their websites for commercial reasons, what I do. And since I design those very websites I thought that perhaps its time for a short interesting lesson  on the differences between the mobile and desktop (laptop).


To begin with, on mobile our preference is to scroll, its faster and more natural than opening up a menu that covers part of the mobile screen and looking for something. On the desktop, our hand is one the mouse so we are “ready to click” ready to open up the menus on top.


I have attached two screen shots, one of my mobile which has a simple screen with a single click to send the user, where I want them to go (if your one of those 50% who are now on mobile, this is the page it goes to).


You’ll notice that on the mobile image here its more “business like” the space is at a premium so I get right down to the relevant information of who I am, whereas on the desktop, I get to “play” with my cool graphics to “show off.


If your interested in me taking a look at your site and its mobile version, obviously get in touch with me.


Marketing via the IDF Reserves

I had a client in New York for a quite a few years (until they were bought out). The company was Jewish owned and many of the employees were also Jewish. They actually looked to work with an Israeli graphic design company and found me on Google. We spoke on the phone several times, and I did some small work them (data sheets). So far so good, they had some larger projects in the pipeline and for this they wanted to meet me. There was a professional conference coming up where the owners would be attending here in Israel, so this would work out easy enough.


Of course I also had milluyim during their conference. It really wasn’t much of a concern as I knew I could easily take the hours anyd meet my clients in Tel Aviv where their conference was. I might be a bit dirty and not dressed properly, but given that they were Jewish Americans who were also Zionists, I figure this would make the meeting that much easier.


A few days before they arrived we spoke on the phone, and as we arranged the time, I explained that I will becoming from the reserves and might be a bit dirty. The owner asked me a few more questions about my service, I assumed that it was just simple curiosity and being polite I was surprised when he told  me he would rather meet me outside of my base,  but I agreed.


The time of the meeting came and I met them at a restaurant at the gas station a few kilometers outside of that big base in the Negev. I started to explain more about my work as a designer, my experiences, my knowledge, my clients, but the owner was more interested in my service both in the regular army and in the reserves. First I put it down to the simple fascination of an American Jew who had had no connection to the army at all (he was close to my age, so I understood that very well). His questions were getting however a bit more specific, like hours we sleep, the food, etc. I asked him what’s going on. He told me that his son will soon be coming to Israel as a “lone soldier” and he was worried. I couldn’t help but smile it reminded me of that ridiculous decision of mine to do the same so many years ago, except I didn’t tell my parents of my plan.


So we spoke, I told him of my own service (ok I left out a few things, like my lack of Hebrew and how much trouble I got into because of it.). I told him of the people in the army, the Druze, the Bedouin, the Christians,, how it feels to take an active part in the defense of Israel. I mentioned that every time I do the reserves I take a financial “hit” but its more than worth it. I told him of the resourcefulness of the the soldiers and their motivation (and skipped over some of the realities like having ones batteries go dead on some equipment on a mission with the backups being almost dead.) I just told him what it meant to me…


In fact we barely spoke about my design work but I knew the job was mine.


and I also promised to look after his son, which I did.

Working with Relative and Friends….

So what do you do when one of your relatives or friends comes along and asks you to do some work for them? How do you charge? From my point of view the idea is to somehow come out of the work with both parties feeling good.


A good example of this, is how I helped this young lady get in to Veterinarian School. She asked for my help several times with her research presentations and since she is my daughter I had to find a way that would work for both of us.


I chose the method of  “drop everything, put my clients on hold” and whatever she needed I would do”, which seemed to work for her.


but I will continue later as to working with the other relatives and friends..

Logo Design

Time to tell a secret, how logos are designed. There are those that spend $100,000 on a logo as did Steve Jobs for his NEXT logo and others that just pay $35 (Nike). The logo for all of the emphases that is put on it while the designer is getting the “brief”, doesn’t really mean that much. Its the marketing that comes with it that really makes the logo worth something. The two obvious examples are both Microsoft and Apple. Microsoft is simply the name using italic letters with a few nuances, and Apple, well anybody know what the connection of an apple is to computers and why it has bite taken out of it?


There is one thing that is needed however, inspiration, something to get the design juices flowing. Afterall its is design and no matter what you come up with you still have to sell it to the client.


One example a few years ago…..I had a logo to design, the client’s company was multilayered and that was the brief. So I sat down in my office and sketched a few things, checked out google for some ideas and really didn’t come up with anything that I really liked. And really that’s what designing a logo is all about, something that we like. Forget “the list”, this is when the client comes along and says their logo must show”



  1. strength
  2. forward thinking
  3. sensitivity
  4. attention to detail
  5. technology friendly
  6. eco friendly


The longer the list is, the less it will be understood, after all the logo is for many many different people and we all interpret things differently especially complicated symbols. It really comes down to, at best either a single idea the represents the company or just a cool graphic that everyone likes or at least what the boss likes.



That said I was a bit stuck on this design and anyway I had to go to back to the reserves.  I took my sketch pad hoping that something good will come out of this little diversion. Well on one of the patrols there were 3 of us in the jeep, the Bedouin tracker (in the pict he is the one that is sleeping with his feet up, naturally) and another american who was having a hard time fitting in… I was inspired. We were three “layers” that are the interlocking “wheels” that became the basis for the logo (don’t try to figure out how I got there, my brain doesn’t work in a linear fashion).

So that gave me the structure, but I still needed color. It happens that we also had a patrol not on the border but in the Negev and there the colors of the red rock are “awe inspiring”


The client loved the idea and so it became his logo. Granted you may have a hard time going from the top two picts to the logo on the bottom, but the process of inspiration is not simple.


And I have a new page on my site, and there you can find a few logos that I designedclick here

Saving the IDF’s Code Map – with a Playboy Magazine

This is under the heading of “life in Israel” and has nothing to do with me being a freelancer, but its a story that must be told. This is an event that will never be confirmed or denied by anyone in my army unit, (while sober).


Many many years ago my friend Jon in the States would send me a Playboy Magazine before my reserve service. He usually outlined the particular articles that were of particular interest to me. And this tradition went on for many years, those in my unit always enjoyed when I read the articles to them. 🙂

This time it was to be different, I would not get a chance to read those articles, fate had something else in store for us


As we finished up our short training period we went to our various positions on the border, soon a call came out over the radio to bring “Steve’s Material” to a certain outpost. No details in the message, but it was clear something “serious” had occurred and we all knew what he meant by “Steve’s Material”. What it was we couldn’t possibly imagine.


After some brief searching, (it seems that some guys were anxious to read the articles and took the magazine even before I had a change to read anything), the magazine was found. Apparently as the soldiers at this outpost were doing their duty and learning the area using their map, a gust of wind blew it over the border to the Egyptian outpost a few meters away. A coded map is pretty serious stuff and the office in charge, calm as he was, wanted his map back. He tried his best to get it back but nothing seemed to work. Finally he had an idea, the Playboy. The call went out over the radio.


The Playboy was soon delivered by our second in command to the outpost. The centerfold was opened up as proof of the material, a deal was made and an international incident was prevented. I was saddened by the fact that I would not have  a chance to read such wonderfully written articles, but I understood that sometimes we have to make sacrifices for our country and if Ms June could prevent an international incident, then I can only be glad that I could be a part of that.


This was not written up in any “incident” report, but there are those who will swear by it and some of the officers involved remain active today.

The Registered Letter….

Ever get a note that a registered letter is waiting for you? Up to now I would receive notices of registered letters either from the Army or from Tel Aviv (for a parking ticket). On the notice its always written where it was from, so I usually knew what was waiting for me.

but not this time….it was from Jerusalem. I took the notice from my Post Office Box on Saturday, that gave me a full 24 hours to wonder who and why. As far as I was concerned there weren’t that many options. I hadn’t been in Jerusalem for over a year, so that ruled out parking tickets. Perhaps some bureaucracy is sending me some form to fill out? That seem like a long shot. Jerusalem is the capital of the country where the govt sits, so that means the govt is looking for me and the only reason to send me something like that is the Israeli Internal Revenue Service.


Now as all firms I have an accountant for taxes, but like the insurance you never really know if they are any good until you need them. I assume my accountant is up to date on the tax laws, fills out the various forms properly and in time…and then I sign on  the bottom knowing full well that I have no idea if what he has been doing for the full year has been correct or not. I assume so, but still one never really knows.


My Saturday was hardly a day of rest.. Sunday morning comes and I’m first in line at the post office. I give Shimon (the clerk) my notice, he looks through the registered  letters, finds mine and says ” Spinner, your in trouble (ok, my heart just stopped), and then he finishes the sentence, its from the police (my heart starts working again). Its from the police :),  whatever they want from me, it can’t be that bad, I haven’t robbed anybody, killed anybody, run over anybody…). I open it up and its a speeding ticket taken from an automatic camera. I paid the fine happily…


I’m sure there is as phobia for letters from the Internal Revenue Service world wide, perhaps there is a therapy group I should join. After that little experience, I realized that I prefer getting shot at, then getting letters from gov’t.