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News Highlights December 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.

The Kibbutz Movement is also planning a special reunion trip for past volunteers. They will stay and eat at different kibbutzim and hear about and see the changes that have occurred in the kibbutzim since their days as volunteers.

 

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 established 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 Reunion

A volunteer union will be held in June 2011 for the many thousands of volunteers who have worked on kibbutzim.

Former volunteers will be given the opportunity to see how the kibbutzim and Israel have changed and also to renew old acquaintances.The reunion program will include many sites in the country as well as the kibbutzim and also a visit to the kibbutz where the volunteer lived and worked.

Volunteering on a kibbutz is a tradition that thousands of people from all over the world have undertaken from the establishment of Israel until today. 

Kibbutzim accept volunteers between the ages of 19 and 35 who want to live and work on a kibbutz for up to six months. Once on kibbutz a volunteer will work in exchange for room and board and a small amount of pocket money. There is generally great camaraderie amongst the volunteers, who come from all over the world.

No One is above the Law

The Israeli legal system proved yet again that no Israeli, regardless of his standing in society, is above the law.

Government ministers, members of parliament and senior officers in the Defense Force have been convicted and sentenced in the past to jail sentences for serious crimes.

Three years ago the then President of Israel, Moshe Katsav was forced to resign as he was accused of several cases of rape. Ordinary Israelis were stunned and embarrassed that the most senior person in the country was accused of a very serious crime.

After President Katsav's resignation he hired the most expensive lawyers to defend him and he was even offered a plea bargain, which he rejected.

The guilty verdict handed down by the Tel Aviv District Court in the trial of former president Moshe Katsav may turn out to be a landmark ruling in the long fight waged in Israel over the past few decades against male violence towards women.

The three judges ruled unanimously to convict Katsav on two counts of rape with which he was charged.

 

Members of the public have been on both sides of the spectrum in this case. Some think that a former President should not be formerly charged as this looks bad in the eyes of the world.Others believe that he should serve his jail sentence as this will be a lesson for all male violence against females in Israel and also show the world that Israel's justice system is fair.

Ex President Katsav and his expensive entourage of lawyers have decided to appeal the verdict to the Supreme Court.

Where Jesus was Baptized

The site where John baptized Jesus along the shores of the Jordan River will permanently open to the public with a special ceremony in January.

Until now, those wanting to be healed by the same waters in which Jesus was blessed have had to coordinate their visits with the Civil Administration for Judea and Samaria.

Although Jesus was born in Bethlehem, his spiritual birth took place at this spot next to the Jordan River.

With an eye to transforming the baptismal spot into a major tourist attraction and basis of regional cooperation, Israel has invested millions of shekels in upgrading the site.

The opening falls on the date when Greek and Russian Orthodox Christians make an annual pilgrimage to the site to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany marking Jesus' baptism.

A Government Minister told reporters that it could be marketed as part of a spiritual route that included other religious sites in Jordan and the Palestinian territories.


The Government's Birthright Program

“My government will  more than double its investment in Birthright  over the next few years. We will invest more than $100 million in Birthright,” Netanyahu proclaimed. “Together with private donations, we can increase the number of people to 50,000 a year.”

Studies conducted on behalf of the organization show that the visits have had a profound effect on participants.

For instance, Birthright participants are more likely to become members of a synagogue when they return home, marry within the community and give their children a Jewish upbringing than those who have not taken part in the program.

“Birthright passed an unbelievable benchmark: over 250,000 have come here since the program began,” Netanyahu said. “All of you should take pride in Birthright and I take pride in having been the first Israeli Prime Minister to start funding Birthright.”

One group currently on Birthright is from the Brazilian city of Manaus, with a Jewish population of about 1,000 and is located on the shores of the Amazon River about four thousand kilometers  from Brasilia.

“I feel more connected to the religion now,” said one participant about the effect the trip has had on her. “I have a better comprehension of what the religion is about.”

Army Service

In recent years the army has had to cope with the fact that fewer people actually serve in the fighting arm of the Defense Force. Service in the army is not as attractive to young people as it once was when the country was at the development stage.

Once it was an honor to serve in the fighting forces and most employers would not even employ people who  did not serve.

The fastest growing section of Israel's population ,The Haredim, are exempt from military service, which creates a situation where the onus on the rest of the population is much greater than it once was.

The Prime Minister's Office Friday announced that it will submit a proposal to increase the number of Haredim drafted into the Israel Defense Force (IDF).

The proposal is expected to follow the recommendation of Chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi to double the number of Haredim in the IDF within four years. According to the draft resolution, the IDF will recruit 2,400 Haredim under the Tal Law in 2011.
The number of Haredi draftees will be increased by 600 each year until the number reaches 4,800 in 2015.

 

The draft will also propose that the IDF prepare various combat units to absorb Haredi soldiers. In order to meet this goal, the government will allocate NIS 130 million a year for a new recruitment framework.
Ashkenazi told parents of newly drafted soldiers that "those who do not serve must be made to feel ashamed."

He said, "Haredim can also join the military and they must be made to do so."

 

Gas Find

Israel's latest natural gas find could make Israel a natural gas exporter.

The past two years have seen the discovery of two massive offshore energy deposits in the Mediterranean Sea.

Gas should be used to bring about energy security. Israel currently derives half of its electricity from coal which it imports. In time Israel could eliminate coal and use its gas.

There has been a major argument over who should benefit from the profits of the gas reserves. Some of the investors believe that the shareholders should be the ones to benefit. Many others have suggested that the ordinary citizens of Israel should be the major beneficiaries of these significant finds that belong to the country.

There have also been arguments over whether the gas should be exported at all.

As the debate grows over gas, the Israeli government is implementing a plan to increase energy self sufficiency through another of the country's natural resources - sun. It has begun to abolish the red tape that has stopped solar energy projects from getting off the ground.

Mickey Mouse comes to Haifa

Disney has announced that it is to open a theme park in Israel.

The Walt Disney Company, which has amusement parks in the US, France and Hong Kong, is planning to open another in Haifa in 2013.

The park, which will cover 20 acres of land near the Carmel Tunnel, will be home to a 25-screen cinema complex, shops and other entertainment facilities.

The project is expected to cost about a billion Shekels.

The Haifa Mayor said: “This plan expresses confidence in our plans to turn Haifa Bay into a thriving business area.”

 

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