News Highlights September 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.

The official ceremony was attended by The President of Israel, Members of Parliament, senior officers of the Defense Force and leading figures from the business community.

As part of the celebrations the kibbutzim organized a treasure hunt and thousands of people were active in searching for the treasure, especially as there were big prizes on offer including a new car and air tickets for a journey around the world.

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.

Volunteer returns to Israel as Composer

A volunteer has written an interesting orchestral and choral work which is derived from the Bible and expresses Israel's special connection to The Almighty.

Esther Upham is an American Christian who decided to volunteer for two years in Israel and get a feel for the special atmosphere that exists in the Holy Land.

The piece consists of 15 songs and stresses the Covenant made by God to the Land of Israel and the Jewish People.

It is fitting that such an important piece of music was performed in Jerusalem on the festival of Succoth and at a time when there is growing anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiments throughout the world.

The selections from the Bible were chosen from a Christian standpoint. One movement concentrates on The Messiah and draws from the same Bible extracts as Handel's Messiah.

Several soloists accompanied the orchestra and choir in the expression of this major musical work entitled 'Ahava Mitgala" (Love Revealed).

The South African Boycott

South African political elements have launched a campaign to block a potential cooperation between Ben Gurion University in the Negev and Johannesburg University.

Nelson Mandela was awarded an honorary doctorate by Ben Gurion University in 1997. In his acceptance speech he made the following statement:

"In Ben-Gurion University of the Negev we have a center of excellence which represents the best in the traditions of the Jewish people: a sense of mission; internationalism; and inventiveness."

According to Ben-Gurion University, the joint research project with Johannesburg University would search for solutions for water contamination in a reservoir near Johannesburg, a move that they say would directly benefit residents of the area and would help improve the welfare of the South African people in that area and elsewhere.

More than 200 academics from many South African universities have signed the petition that states that Israel is an apartheid state. These claims are totally false and stem from ignorance and prejudice. Israel is the only genuine democracy in the Middle East and grants equal study and other rights to all its citizens regardless of race, creed or color.

The Peace Talks Stutter

Israelis and Palestinians are having another try at finding the right formula for a two state solution.

On the table is the State of Israel including certain sections of the West Bank that are close to the Green Line. In exchange for these areas the idea is to increase the size of Gaza by adding an area from the Negev that will be equal in area to the sections of the West bank acquired by Israel.

Israelis and Palestinians both claim Jerusalem as their capital city.

One of the requirements for continuing the negotiations is for the freeze on building in the West Bank to be reinstated. The Government would likely fall as some parties in the current coalition would probably vote against .However the main opposition party has offered to support the government's proposal for a reinstatement of the building breeze.

On the Palestinian side the government of Abu Mazan only represents the West Bank as Gaza is ruled by the Hamas with its leadership resident in Damascus.

The general feeling is that the situation and the complexities of a multitude of political views on both sides will make it almost impossible to come to an acceptable agreement. Nevertheless the Middle East is known to be full of surprises and from such uncertainty some progress could be made.

Kibbutz Companies Make a Comeback

The financial results of Kibbutz companies listed on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange show a continuing upward trend over the results of the previous year.

It would be wrong to say that kibbutz companies are inching their way forward after the devastating economic decline of the past two years. Instead these companies are making a real comeback by increasing operating profits by at least double digit percentages every quarter when compared with 2009.

Notwithstanding the continuing uncertainty in several markets throughout the world kibbutz companies that are listed on the stock exchange continue to rebound from the effects of the downturn.

A kibbutz metal company has succeeded in landing a large project destined for the Palestinian Authority.

The Kibbutzim on the Lebanese Border

The kibbutzim form a buffer on all of Israel's borders. Since independence the borders of Israel have been protected by the kibbutzim and by the Defense Force. Hundreds of kibbutz members go about their daily lives just a few meters from the borders with Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, The West Bank, Gaza and Egypt.

People on these kibbutzim have spent their whole lives working their fields, maintaining their factories and making investments for the future, all this within a stone's throw of the recognized international borders.

On weekends tens of thousands of Israeli's make their way to the many picnic spots that are very close to the international borders while often including a visit to the nearby kibbutzim.

The kibbutzim on the Lebanese border have successfully met many challenges over the years as that region has seen some tough battles.

Now the President of Iran has announced his intention to visit his soldiers on Israel's Northern Border and to look into the kibbutzim from there and beyond.

Notwithstanding the presence of UN troops on the border, Iran's Southern Lebanese Hezbollah army is allowed to take positions on Israel's northern border while Israel's Defense positions, which include the kibbutzim and the army look on and guard the border against any potential enemy threats.

 Two Months Underground

33 miners in Chile have spent two months underground while waiting to be rescued.

The ordeal has again reminded us how powerless mankind is when the earth shifts. However  these miners have also showed us how mankind can cope in adversity nearly a kilometer underground in a relatively confined space.

It is a lesson of the power of the mind and the body to overcome what seems to be impossible odds.

The team work and cooperation of the miners while underground together with their communications and logistic connections with those above ground is an example to everyone in the world -  what mankind is capable of when faced with such adversity.

All countries can learn from the Chilean government's handling of a relatively major emergency.

Sport

It should have been a showpiece for the world but India disappointed the world and itself by not being ready for the Commonwealth Games.

The games were in danger of been moved to another country but the President of India sent in more than a thousand workers to the Olympic village to finish the work and clean up the place just in time for the arrival of the first athletes from countries affiliated to the British Commonwealth of Nations.

China had shown that it was perfectly capable of staging a major world sporting event with the Olympic Games. South Africa had shown that it was capable of hosting the World Soccer Cup. Even Israel has successfully hosted several Hapoal and Maccabi Games.

The kibbutzim are very involved in sport including soccer, basketball, cycling, cricket and rugby. A Kibbutz affiliated basketball team is now in the top basketball league and has shown its grit by holding its own against other more fancied teams.

A kibbutz is organizing a 62 kms marathon for mountain bikes in the Menashe Forest. Several of Israel's top cyclists live on kibbutzim.

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