Sep 29, 2022
JERUSALEM WEATHER
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Mark Zuckerberg at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, February 22, 2016. (catwalker / Shutterstock.com)

On Thursday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg held a video conference announcing that his company will be rebranding and will soon be called “Meta”. The announcement coincides with the reading of the Torah portion called “Chayei Sarah” (the life of Sarah) which is commemorated with special events and prayers in Hebron, where the Matriarch Sarah is buried, which is ironic considering that in Hebrew, “Meta” literally means, “She died.”

“Right now, our brand is so tightly linked to one product that it can’t possibly represent everything that we’re doing today, let alone in the future,” Zuckerberg said.

The new branding includes a new ‘like’ logo and will cover Facebook subsidiary technologies. The change is in preparation for plans for a “metaverse” virtual reality platform which Zuckerberg claims will reach over a billion users over the next decade. The metaverse, he says, will be a place people will be able to interact, work and create products and content in what he hopes will be a new ecosystem that creates “millions” of jobs for creators.

It should be noted that the term “Meta” is used in Hebrew as a transliteration of the English term. Zuckerberg, who is a fan of classics, explained that the word “meta” comes from the Greek word “beyond.” The company’s social media network will still be named “Facebook.”

Zuckerberg is Jewish and, in theory, should have been aware that jews around the world are reading the section of the Torah called Chayei Sarah (חיי שרה) this week, so named because it begins with the verse in Genesis describing the culmination of Sarah’s life and her burial:

Sara‘s lifetime—the span of Sara‘s life—came to one hundred and twenty-seven years. Genesis 23:1

It is in this section that the Torah describes the purchase of the Machpela, the double cave in Hebron, and the adjoining field from Ephron the Hittite. Approximately 30,000 Jews are expected to flood the city this Shabbat to celebrate the first acquisition of land in the Jewish homeland.

A record was set on Chayei Sara in 2019 when 45,000 Jews arrived at the site. The festivities were cancelled last year due to pandemic restrictions.

The Machpelah is the burial site of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rivkah, Jacob and Leah, and, according to Jewish tradition, Adam and Eve. Over the cave stands a large rectangular enclosure dating from the Herodian era. the city was conquered by Israel in the 1967 defensive Six-Day War and liberated from an illegal occupation under Jordan.

“Today we are seen as a social media company,” Zuckerberg said. “But in our DNA we are a company that builds technology to connect people.”

Facebook is investing heavily in the future of virtual reality (VR) even though the 5G technology necessary to make it a reality for consumers is not widely available and current cellular phones will be unable to use the 5G network when it does become available. Utilizing the full extent of 5G applications will require using special VR equipment including headsets. To this end, Zuckerberg acquired Oculus, a producer of VR technology, in 2014 for $2.3 billion in cash and stock. Today, 10,000 Facebook employees, or 20% of the entire Facebook workforce, are working in the Reality Lab division developing VR technology. This is a large investment of manpower as Facebook’s non-advertising revenue in the December quarter in 2020 was only $885 million or about only 3 percent of the total revenues.
Facebook is currently mired in a controversy dubbed “Facebook Papers” by the media. Frances Haugen, a former product manager at Facebook, revealed tens of thousands of internal documents revealing critical internal issues concerning the prevalence of hate speech, incitements to violence, and false news on the platform that contradict claims the company has made to the public.