News Highlights January 2011


The First 100 years

The year 2010 was 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 Kibbutzim have changed considerably since the early days when they were largely all communal, communist type societies.

The vast majority of today's kibbutzim have opted for a form of capitalism accompanied by widespread privatization. Relatively few kibbutzim have retained aspects of the old style communal society.


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.

International Holocaust Memorial Day

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon spoke at a synagogue in New York City, in the presence of various Ambassadors from around the world, during Shabbat services.   He used the occasion to state that “We can never tolerate anybody who denies the Holocaust,” calling it “the darkest chapter in history.”

It is commendable that an organization like the United Nations has finally recognized the Holocaust for what it was, and set aside a day for international remembrance of the world’s worst international crime. The fact that a representative of Germany was present in the synagogue for the observance speaks volumes to how far the world has come since the unspeakable crimes by a single-minded dictator who was driven solely by his all-consuming hatred of the Jews.

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova also marked International Holocaust Commemoration Day by laying a wreath to Holocaust victims at the Paris Shoah Memorial.

 In 2006, the United Nations recognized January 27 – the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz – as the day for the international community to mark the Holocaust and remember its victims, primarily the 6 million Jews killed during the worst anti-Semitic massacre in history.

 A native of Bulgaria, Bokova has often expressed pride at that country’s protection of its Jewish community from deportation.

The memorial’s President, Eric de Rothschild stressed the role of the UNESCO operational partnership in the promotion of Holocaust education and research.

The Israel Defense Force
The IDF is the central icon of Israeli culture. It stands for security and dedication to nationhood, personal sacrifice, and morality. It often makes room for handicapped individuals who do not meet its physical demands, but wish to serve in order to affiliate with IDF and Israeli society. Individuals who evade service may find themselves not chosen for desirable positions or other opportunities later in life.

 The IDF has a its own police, investigators, and courts that deal with charges of abuse, as well as other infractions likely to arise in a military with several hundred thousand young adults, as well as older reservists. Activists often criticize their leniency. In recent months the IDF was not lenient in dealing with two generals who were found to have lied about what started out as modest irregularities. Both allowed family members to drive civilian-type vehicles owned by the military, and then claimed that they themselves were responsible for accidents that occurred. They were dismissed from service on the ground that the IDF does not tolerate falsehood.

At the top of the IDF pyramid is the Chief of the General Staff. He is the commanding officer with a rank equivalent to an American Lieutenant General (three stars). Personal morality as well as military qualifications are among the criteria for choice and assumed to adhere to the individual during his time in office.

The IDF has lots of women recruits and officers, some of whom have reached high office and public prominence, but only males have been appointed to the position of Chief of the General Staff.

Democracy in the Middle East

The Middle Eastern countries other than Israel have been ruled by dictators for generations and nobody thought that democracy could ever take root in the region.

Who would have thought that the general population would rise up against President Mubarak? Who would have thought that such an uprising would succeed? It is quite likely true to say that nobody would have thought that such an uprising, which started in Tunisia, could turn the whole region upside down in such a short space of time.

The question for all is whether this really is an uprising by the ordinary people in search of democracy and better conditions and opportunities for them and their families.

Is it that simple or is it an orchestrated move by extremists to take control of the countries in the region as has happened in Lebanon?

Protests are now sweeping across the region in many countries and it will take some time for the dust to settle before it can be determined in which direction the Middle East is moving.

The Jerusalem Prize

British novelist and screenwriter Ian McEwan has refused to listen to calls from anti Israel groups that have questioned his decision to accept this year’s Jerusalem Prize.

"I’m for dialogue, engagement, and looking for ways in which literature can reach across political divides," says McEwan.

The author said he was for finding out for himself, “and for dialogue, engagement, and looking for ways in which literature, especially fiction, with its impulse to enter other minds, can reach across political divides.”

McEwan added: “As for the Jerusalem Prize itself, its list of previous recipients is eloquent enough. And includes Bertrand Russell, Milan Kundera, Susan Sontag, Arthur Miller, Simone de Beauvoir.

McEwan is on the list of the greatest British writers since 1945. Other awards he has received include the Booker prize, the Whitbread novel award, the Somerset Maugham prize and the German Shakespeare prize

New Palestinian City

The West bank area is developing economically and readying itself for a future Palestinian state.

A new city, the city of Rawabi is being planned. Although it has not made it to conventional atlases or a prominent mention in international media, the project is moving ahead.  

 The city of Rawabi was the center piece in a discussion on prime time television. The guest was Bashar al-Masri (or Massar), a Palestinian American and offspring of a prominent Nablus clan. He heads Massar Industries, a real estate development concern with a track record in several countries. His current project is building the new city of Rawabi midway between Ramallah and Nablus. It is a joint venture with a company owned by the government of Qatar, and is meant to house 40,000 people.

Israelis of various persuasions blessed the venture as advancing economic development in the West Bank.

The new project will create many jobs in the area and a better future for West Bank residents wishing to be part of the project and also perhaps to live in the new city.

Strangers No More

Strangers No More is a short documentary film about a school in Tel Aviv where children from forty-eight different countries and diverse backgrounds come together to learn. The film follows three students as they struggle to adjust to life in Israel and slowly unveils their stories of hardship. Strangers No More was shot on location at the Bialik-Rogozin School in Tel Aviv. It is produced and directed by Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon of Simon & Goodman Picture Company, whose films have received four Academy Award nominations and three Emmy Awards.

Strangers No More premiered on September 24, 2010 at the Laemmle Theatres Sunset 5 Theatre in West Hollywood, California. The film will screen at the Museum of Tolerance International Film Festival in Los Angeles. It will also screen in cities worldwide through the Shorts International Oscar Nominated Short Films 2011 program. On January 25, 2011, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Strangers No More as being nominated for the 83rd Academy Awards for the Best Documentary Short Subject category.

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