News Highlights April 2010

 

The First 100 years

The year 2010 is the hundredth anniversary of the establishment of Kibbutz Degania, which was the first kibbutz to be established in Israel.

President Shimon Peres opened the official centenary celebrations. Shimon Peres paid tribute to the contribution of the kibbutzim to the development of Israel.

A book will be published during the centenary year highlighting kibbutz life and the contribution of kibbutzim to Israeli society during the first 100 years.

The kibbutzim formed the backbone of the country before Israel gained independence in 1948 and during the first few years after independence. There was an experienced infrastructure in place because of the kibbutzim and many notable persons from kibbutzim took part in the political and defense organizations as the new state came into being. The kibbutzim were also the bread basket of Israel providing a large percentage of the country's food needs.

The kibbutzim formed a large part of Israel's economy and even today nearly ten per cent of the country's economy is derived from kibbutz enterprises.

The Power of Nature

The world was brought to its knees by an erupting volcano in Iceland.

Since the beginning of 2010 the world has witnessed catastrophic earthquakes as the rifts in the earth crust widen due to seismic reactions. The world stands still and can only pick up the pieces when the seismic activity slows down.

Several floods have also shown mankind that nature rules on our planet.

We can advance science for our own use but we are powerless when nature decides to flex its muscles through earthquakes, floods and volcanic eruptions.

The huge ash clouds that drifted across Europe from the volcanic eruption in Iceland virtually controlled the skies, as hundreds of the world's aircraft were grounded.

Hundreds of thousands of airline passengers were stranded at airports throughout the world as aircraft were unable to take off from or land in many countries in Europe. Also products that are imported or exported by air were grounded, thereby affecting world trade.

We are no match for nature and can only wait until the earth settles down and gets back to just providing us with a safe planet to live on.  

China Flexes its Muscles

Once again China has shown the world what it is capable of achieving.

Nearly 200 countries have pavilions at the Chinese Shanghai Expo exhibition.

In China, countries of the world have the opportunity to set aside their differences and show the world what they have to offer in technology, industry, agriculture and services.

The Israel pavilion occupies an area of 2,000 square meters and highlights Israel's historical and present contribution to the world.

The halls at the pavilion include examples of Israel's major contributions in the fields of medicine, technology, industry, education, telecommunications, agriculture and services.

The pavilion also includes a green area where technology allows the trees to talk to visitors in Chinese and in English.

The Exhibition allows the Chinese people to see what the world has to offer and a total of 100 million Chinese visitors are expected to visit Expo Shanghai during the next few months.

 Brain Science

Scientists around the world are studying the complex operations of the brain and how it functions both physiologically and behaviorally.

Israeli scientists are also taking part in the Blue Brain Project whose main objective is to understand exactly how the human brain works. Thousands of scientists and their assistants around the world, together with a super computer, will try to crack the code to understanding the most complex mechanism in the world – the brain.

While there have been major advances in understanding and treating the physiological functions there is still a long way to go in understanding the behavioral operations.

As one Israeli scientist stated - any major breakthrough in mastering the behavioral operations of the brain will be equivalent to the industrial revolution of the twentieth century.

How do we generate feelings and creativity? How does the thought process work? How can we stop the degeneration of the brain with age? Can we improve or change the way a brain operates?

The new approach is to create a model of the animal brain that can respond to various medical tests needed to carry out the desired research. Scientists are moving away from the type of research that causes ethical problems, when animals have to be killed in order to study their body mechanisms to make advances in medical science.

Volunteer Programs

Volunteers come to Israel to learn about Israel and about kibbutz life as well as meet other volunteers from Europe, North and South America, Africa, Asia and Australasia. Many of the volunteers are good ambassadors for Israel when they return to their home countries.

The Givat Haviva center of the Kibbutz Movement is an important location for learning and understanding the challenges facing Israel, as it tries to form at least economic and political ties with its neighbors.

The Foreign Ministry is sponsoring a two day seminar for volunteers during 2010 as the Kibbutz Movement celebrates the first hundred years.

Volunteers are also taken to the Green Line and the security fence to see the geographical realities of Israel related to the surrounding countries and the Palestinian territories. Volunteers often remark that they are surprised how small Israel is. They have noted that with such wide international news coverage of Israel, people think that the country is quite big. The reality is that Israel is about half the size of Switzerland.

The Givat Haviva center of the Kibbutz Movement strives to promote understanding between Israelis and Palestinians in addition to providing information about Israel and the kibbutzim.

Statistics

There is a positive trend in the growth of the combined population of the kibbutzim which now accounts for 1.7 % of the total population of Israel. Approximately half of the kibbutz population in the country is below the age of 30 while 88% are below the age of 65.The positive statistics are largely the result of the absorption of several hundred families during the past few years.

The vast majority of kibbutzim have opted for privatization, thereby largely abandoning their long held socialist doctrines. Only 27% of the kibbutzim still cling to the old communal system whereby income is shared equally among the members.

On the economic front more than 40% of the kibbutzim earned an annual profit of more than 100,000 shekels per member. The profits are derived mainly from industrial, agricultural and service industries.    

International Writers Festival

The international writers' festival took place in Jerusalem and several writers from other countries attended this important event on the literary calendar.

This year's event also coincided with the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the first residential areas outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. Due to overcrowding in the Old City, Jewish families decided to establish the new residential areas in 1860. This year's writers' festival was held in one of these new areas.

The festival gives readers the opportunity to meet the writers of some of the books that they read and often to learn about the sources of inspiration that resulted in the books.

Writers mingled not only with readers, but also with critics and the media.

The exhibition is an opportunity to show another side of Israel and the huge amount of literature emanating from many reputable writers.

 

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