The Jewish and Israeli blogosphere – that is – the virtual world created by self-published web-logs, called blogs, has mushroomed in recent years and now has its own annual awards.

The blog phenomenon has changed the face of Israeli and Jewish media, as Federation-owned papers or Israeli news agencies influenced or run by the government no longer have a monopoly on information.

Critics note that blogs lack accountability, but the annual Jewish and Israeli Blog (JIBs) Awards at least allow blogs to be rated by blog-readers in accordance with their evaluation of their published material.

Israel National Radio interviewed “Akiva” from the Mystical Paths blog – the lead site operator of the 2007 JIB awards – who says the awards function to provide recognition for bloggers.

“Bloggers invest a lot of their time in their blogs,” he said. “For some people this is a passion. They spend hours a day writing and interacting with their readers to put up interesting stuff. A lot of that related to Israel, a lot of that relates to Judaism – from all perspectives. And they are very excited to say ‘Hey, someone thinks I’m doing something good – someone appreciates it.’”

Akiva says that while some bloggers receive much feedback through comments, others, with less interactive readership or without comments enabled, get their only feedback through the JIBs. “This is a chance for them to say ‘Someone out there thinks I’m doing something good.’”

The site operator says there have been many people contacting him in recent weeks complaining that they were not nominated. “There are lots of great blogs out there,” Akiva says, “but unfortunately, we didn’t pick ‘em. We asked people who they would like to vote for and had open nominations.”

Any reader, or even the bloggers themselves, were invited to submit nominations via the JIB web site. The nominations for each category were compiled, with multiple groups created in some categories to accommodate the sheer number of nominees. At the end of the preliminary voting, only the top blogs in each group in each category were advanced to the finals.

The number of Jewish and Israel-related blogs (in English) is around 1,200, Akiva says, “with 400 really active, with readers and everything.”

What is the secret to successful blogging? “It is about finding a niche where people want to hear what you have to say,” Akiva says. He concedes that blogs examining scandals in the Jewish world are some of the most popular “because everyone loves reading about problems,” but points out that most of the blogs that have reached the finals are about personal Jewish experiences and positive messages about Israel.

Several of Arutz-7’s own blogs, as well as some authored by Arutz-7 staff, have made it into the final round of JIB voting:

Fundamentally Freund – Arutz-7's first blog, by Michael Freund - Best Overall Blog (click to vote), Best Jewish Right-Wing Political Blog (click to vote) and Best Israel Advocacy Blog (click to vote)

Tamar Yonah – Israel National Radio's long-running star broadcaster - Best New Blog (click to vote) and Best Jewish Right-Wing Political Blog (click to vote)

Israel Beat - Israel National Radio's famed host of Jewish Music show The Beat, Ben Bresky – Best Jewish Music Blog (click to vote), Best Jewish Podcast: Jam Session (click to vote) and Best Jewish Podcast/Audio/Video Blog (click to vote)

Eishet Chayil - Israel National Radio show host Malkah Fleisher's blog - Best Cooking Post (click to vote)

Kumah – Arutz-7 News Editor Ezra HaLevi, Israel National Radio Program Director Yishai Fleisher, Radio Host Malkah Fleisher, Correspondent Gil Ronen, Radio Host Ze'ev Orenstein and Photography Contributor Pinchas Orbach and others - Best Group Blog (click to vote), Best Contribution / Jewish Blog that Made a Difference (click to vote), Best Slice of Life in Israel Blog (click to vote), Best Designed Jewish Blog (click to vote), Best Israel Advocacy Blog (click to vote), Best Jewish Humor Blog Post: Becoming a Real Israeli (click to vote) and Best Jewish Religious Blog-Post: The Shabbat Candle Ladies (click to vote)

Israel Perspectives - Israel National Radio Campus Radio talk-show host Ze'ev Orenstein's long-running political commentary blog - Best Jewish Right-Wing Political Blog (click to vote)

ADDeRabbi - Arutz-7 Latest News Correspondent Elli Fischer's long-running blog - Best Jewish Religious Blog-Post: Ball-Playing Rabbis (click to vote), Best Torah Blog Post: Why God Chose Abraham (click to vote), Best Jewish Picture or Video Post: Sukkot on Campus (click to vote) and Best Jewish News-Post: The RCA Conversion Scandal: What's the Real Issue? (click to vote)

Point of Pinchas - Arutz-7 photography contributor Pinchas Orbach - Best Jewish Photo/Graphics Blog (click to vote), Best Series: Only in Israel (click to vote), Best Jewish Picture or Video Post: "It Shall Come to Pass": 7 NBN Summer 2007 Flights (click to vote) and Best Jewish Personal Blog (click to vote)

Additionally, two Arutz-7 live-blogged photo essays cross-posted on the Kumah blog are in the finals for Best Jewish Live Event Coverage Blog-Post: Vineyards Uprooted, Trees Destroyed, Media Silent Because They Were Planted & Tended by Jews and We Return to Homesh! Ben Bresky's photo coverage of the Jam Session that took place in Arutz-7's studio was advanced to the finals in that category as well. (click to vote)

Polls close on May 16 at 10 PM US-EDT.