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Alix Billinkoff







 
WINNIPEG'S ALIX BILLINKOFF: MY EXPERIENCE INTERNING AT ISRAELI START-UP OMANOOT IN TEL-AVIV

Omanoot.com – Spotlighting Israel Through the Arts

By Alix Billinkoff, Tel-Aviv , January 26, 2011

[Editor's note: Omanoot is an Israeli start-up that aims to promote Israel through the arts.  On its website, www.omanoot.com, surfers can access Israeli films, music, visual art, and literature.]

On my first day at Omanoot, I had no idea what to expect.  I had been in Tel Aviv for less than a week and was still struggling to get settled. I had no cell phone, no bank account, and no air conditioning, but what I did have was an internship.

After graduating from the University of Manitoba this summer, I decided to take some time off to travel and figure out what I wanted to do with my Business Degree.  I found Omanoot on a website for English speakers living in Israel and thought it would be the perfect way to spend my time while living in Tel Aviv.  Although I went into this internship knowing nothing, over the past four months I have gained valuable skills and work experience and a greater appreciation for the arts and Israeli culture.

Omanoot is an Israeli start-up that aims to promote Israel through the arts by making these resources accessible to people all over the world.  On its website, www.omanoot.com, surfers can access Israeli films, music, visual art, and literature. Currently, Omanoot offers approximately 70 short films and documentaries that visitors can stream for free, as well as trailers for well-known Israeli feature films and actor and director profiles.  Music, literature and visual art sections are soon to follow.  Omanoot also has a nonprofit branch, Omanoot.EDU which provides lesson plans to Jewish schools in the Diaspora, and organizes trips and programs focusing on learning about Israel through the arts for visiting groups.

Edoe Cohen (CEO and founder) came up with the idea for Omanoot while studying at Columbia University. This was right after the second intifada and Israel was being portrayed very negatively on campus.  After friends asked him to get involved with hasbara and advocacy, Cohen found that the arts were a great way to bring people together.  After sitting in class all day, the majority of students would much rather attend an Israeli rock concert than listen to another lecture.  Many Birthright participants feel the same way. When they come to Israel, they fall in love with the culture, not the politics. Omanoot.com is the perfect tool to keep people interested and exposed to Israeli culture when they’re not in Israel. It’s also a great way for non-Jews to learn about a side of Israel that isn’t often portrayed in today’s media. Although Omanoot does consider itself a “Zionist 2.0 impulse” not only Jewish artists are featured on the site. The organization believes it is important to showcase all the different cultures and religions in Israel, and although Omanoot does not support material that is outwardly anti-Israel, it does not shy away from artwork that is, at times, critical of the country.

Omanoot is completely volunteer run and it is truly amazing to see how many people have devoted their time and energy to making this organization run successfully. However, it is easy to understand why so many young adults are willing to work for free when you hear about the opportunities they’re given at their internships. Bloggers can spend their time attending art related events in Israel, interviewing artists at Tel Aviv cafes, and planning monthly Omanoot events.  Interns with educational backgrounds can write lesson plans for Omanoot.EDU and be in contact with local filmmakers to get their information straight from the source. 

I began my internship as a website writer, composing film pages for the main website. After a few weeks, I was then given the opportunity to learn how to upload the pages I was writing straight to the website myself. Now as the Webmaster and Office Manager, I continue to upload pages to Omanoot.com, train and recruit other interns, and help out with business related jobs around the office. Omanoot has taught me so much about marketing, human resources, social media and management. I’m confident that the skills I’ve already learned here will help me as I begin my career and I’m excited to see what else I will discover as I continue to work here.

 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


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