IRREPRESSIBLE HI-TECH guru and Internet entrepreneur Yossi Vardi, who is also mentor to initiators of many start-up ventures, chaired a media panel at the Facing Tomorrow conference in Jerusalem last week. With his usual buoyant informality, he conducted conversations with people in the audience as well as those on stage. Among the panelists was Google co-founder Sergey Brin, who was on his third visit to Israel. Recalling Brin's second visit in 2003, for Shimon Peres's 80th birthday, Vardi said that on the way to the airport, together with Peres and former Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev, they had stopped off at the Shevah Mofet school, which has a large Russian-speaking faculty and student population and very high academic standards. Students of the school had that year taken seven out of 10 places in the Mathematical Olympics. When this was told to the Russian-born Brin, his response was that his father would want to know why they hadn't taken the other three places. The moral of the story is that one must never get complacent about success but must keep striving. Indeed, that's what Google is doing, and although Brin was in Israel for only a couple of days, he found time to talk to some Israeli companies about alternative energy and was particularly impressed by what Ormat is doing. Brin is playing his cards close to his chest and gave no hint as to whether Google will be investing in Israel beyond its current operations here. Also on the panel were News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch, Yahoo president Susan Decker, former Yahoo CEO Terry Semel and Maurice Levy, chairman and CEO of the Publicis Groupe. It was Decker's first visit to Israel, and the fulfillment of a promise that she had made to herself. When she turned 40, Decker and some of her closest friends made lists of 10 things they wanted to do over the next decade. Decker's list included a visit to Israel. Decker presented some mind-boggling statistics about the Internet: 12 percent of US newlyweds met on-line last year; 1.3 billion people are attached to the Internet every month; 9 trillion e-mails are sent annually in the US; there are 200 million blogs in the world - and growing; 500 million users come to Yahoo's site every month. NETAFIM, WHOSE clientele can be found in more than 100 countries, is about to add Mongolia to its list. Sanjaasurengiin Oyun, Mongolia's Oxford-educated minister of foreign affairs, at a luncheon meeting during the Facing Tomorrow conference, said the Mongolian delegation, led by President Nambar Enkhbauar, had visited Netafim and was extremely impressed by the drip irrigation system; it planned to introduce it to Mongolia with the aim of producing more and better crops with less water. HEALTH IS a matter of major concern to philanthropist Sammy Ofer. It's not just his own health that concerns him but also that of others, including people he's never met. It will be remembered that Sammy and Idan Ofer, through the Israel Corporation, which they control, set up a NIS 35 million fund to pay for expensive, life-saving medications that are not included in the health basket, and which enable people suffering from life-threatening illnesses to receive medications they could not otherwise afford. More recently, Sammy Ofer donated $25m. to Haifa's Rambam Medical Center and $7m. to Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, after having previously donated $45m. to Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital. Now, he and Idan Ofer, through the Israel Corporation, are donating $1m. to be used for medical equipment that will benefit some of the survivors of the earthquakes in China. ZIM Shipping, which is also an Ofer operation, will assist in the logistics of transporting the equipment. The funding will be incorporated into an aid package organized through the Foreign Affairs Ministry in coordination with the Chinese ambassador and the Israel Embassy in Beijing. One of the Chinese employees of Israel Chemicals, which is a subsidiary of the Israel Corporation, was vacationing in his home town, where he had gone to celebrate the birth of his son. When the earthquake struck, they were in their house, which collapsed. They disappeared and have not been found. Representatives of Israel Chemicals in China are maintaining contact with the family. Idan Ofer said responding to China's tragedy could be Israel's finest hour. A strong demonstration of solidarity with the Chinese people, who are mourning their loved ones, by doing everything possible for the injured and the homeless is a responsibility that individuals and business enterprises must take upon themselves, he said. BEGRUEN ISRAEL, Tuesday tonight will host a dinner on Tel Aviv's elegant Rothschild Boulevard to celebrate the laying of the cornerstone for Meier on Rothschild, the luxury residential tower on the corner of Rothschild and Allenby. Even though it is a Begruen development, it has been named in honor of its designer, world-famous American architect Richard Meier, who shares the view of the Begruen family, which controls Begruen Holdings, that architecture is an art form. The elegant tower, when completed, will reflect that philosophy. In line with the international flavor of the project (not to mention that apartments are already being marketed abroad for as much as â‚¬3.5 million, Begruen Israel has brought in internationally renowned Italian celebrity chef Alfredo Russo to do the culinary honors at tonight's dinner. Russo's gourmet creations have graced some of the most prestigious tables in the world. The gradual re-gentrification of Rothschild Boulevard in the heart of Tel Aviv is restoring the once stately street to its former glory, albeit in a most updated fashion. Some of the grand buildings of the early 20th century stand in solid splendor alongside trendy modern architectural creations - a mix of commercial and residential premises with banks, offices, restaurants and coffee shops mingling with apartment blocks. Meier on Rothschild is close to shops, synagogues, the Habimah Theater and the Mann Auditorium; it's also within easy walking distance to the beachfront. ALTHOUGH THERE have been several business and academic delegations coming to Israel from Australia, until now there has not been one from Western Australia. Next week Australian Ambassador James Larsen will welcome the initial Western Australian delegation, headed by the state's Chief Scientist Prof. Lyn Beazley. AMONG THE honorees who will next week receive special citations at the gala dinner within the framework of the annual meeting of the Shenkar College Board of Governors, will be Nadia Swarovski, of the famous 113-year-old Austrian enterprise Swarovski Crystals. The company's products have a worldwide following, including in Israel. Swarovski Crystals has been associated with a number of creative projects at Shenkar, and a spectacular fashion show featuring the designs of Shenkar students promises to be a more glittering affair than ever before because the creations will be adorned by crystals from Swarovski.