News Highlights February 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 and the kibbutz movement are actively involved in Israeli society and just recently the kibbutz movement decided to support the union of social workers in their drive for a minimum living wage. Salaries of social workers are so low that thousands of social workers live on a salary that is below the minimum Israeli salary. The support of the plight of the social workers is just one example of the kibbutz movement's continuous involvement in Israeli 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.

Two Oscars for Israel

The 2011 Academy Awards revealed two surprises from an Israeli point of view. The daughter of Israeli gynecologist Avner Hershlag was awarded the best actress award. Her grandfather Jerusalem Economics Professor Hershlag's parents were wiped out by the Nazis in Auschwitz. Natalie Portman is a worthy winner of the coveted Oscar for best actress.

The second Oscar was awarded to the film "Strangers No More", a short documentary film about the Bialik-Rogozin School in Tel Aviv.  

Children from nearly fifty different countries and different backgrounds study at this school. The parents of these children are among the approximately 300,000 migrant workers who have arrived in Israel, some with government permission and others illegally while looking for a better life.

The film follows three students as they struggle to acclimatize to life in Israel and slowly reveal their stories of hardship in coping with life in Israel.

Regional Cooperation

Givat Haviva is presently hosting the fourth group of students from overseas down the difficult path of both the Arabic and Hebrew languages, with the main focus on spoken Arabic, as well as Middle East studies, contributing to the community and getting to know the peoples of Israel.

The students, ranging in age from 20 to 40, are making waves not only in their daily contact with Jewish and Arab communities in the Wadi Ara area, but have become the center of attention since media exposure to their message of everybody learning from each other was picked up by the media in Israel and abroad.


A discussion around one table centered on the misunderstandings and hard feelings caused by different dress  codes, body language and communication.

They open our eyes to a totally different world and we in turn are hopefully allowing them to see into ours.  They also give us a sense of importance in wanting us to help them with their Arabic language and we are just simply learning so much from each other.

A round of applause echoed around the classroom, the atmosphere full of a sense of fun and anticipation of more - a special lesson of sharing and joint participation that so many others in the region just do not believe possible. 


Change in the Middle East

The young generation across the Middle East are tired of been ruled by dictators and are pushing for a new beginning with democratic elections. It is hoped that the uprisings by the ordinary people are in search of democracy and better conditions and opportunities for them and their families.

The protests in the many Middle Eastern countries is expected to gain momentum and to take several months even years before it will be clear in which direction the Middle East is heading.

It is important for Israel that the peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan are honored and that the new developments open up opportunities for peace with other nations in the region including the Palestinians.

The rest of the world is standing by and watching developments as the ordinary people struggle to unseat the dictatorial regimes in the region. Countries have been concentrating on evacuating their citizens from the Middle East and not becoming directly involved in any conflict in the region.

The Rescued Chilean Miners Tour of Israel

“Trees symbolize life, and we received our lives as a gift,” said the Chilean miner who planted a tree in Israel.

The rescue of the Chilean miners who were trapped deep underground for 69 days was watched and cheered by the whole world.  A mission of 26 of the 33 trapped miners, accompanied by their families, is now visiting Israel and has planted olive trees – the symbol of hope and life.

“Trees symbolize life, and indeed we have received our lives as a gift,” said Omar Reygades, who was one of the trapped miners.  “When we were stuck down there, we never imagined that one day we would be so famous that we would visit Israel and many other places around the world.  But it’s important to remember that we’re not the real heroes.  Those are our families who went through such a tough time.”

At the ceremony, a spokesperson said, “The people of Israel were totally gripped, watching breathlessly throughout your struggle for life.  Together with people from around the entire world, Israel’s citizens prayed for your welfare and we are now so happy to see you whole and healthy and here in Israel".

Also at the ceremony, the director-general of the Ministry of Tourism, stated that the planting of trees is an ancient tradition in the Holy Land, and also represents over 100 years of green activity by KKL-JNF.  “Israel actively cultivates the environment, on behalf of its citizens and also for the benefit of tourists who visit here,” he said.  In his warm greetings to the guests, he remarked that the planting of these trees is a modest way of paying tribute to the miners’ courage and of honoring nature as well as humanity. 

UN Finally Agrees to Hear the Israeli Side

The United Nations Human Rights Council finally agreed to appoint a judicial panel to monitor the Goldstone report. South African judge Richard Goldstone only interviewed Palestinian victims of the war and now the UN finally understood that Israeli victims must also be given a chance to air their experiences.

A resident of the Israeli city of Sderot was alive to testify by video Wednesday before the United Nations judicial panel because the rocket that fell two meters behind her on a Sderot street failed to explode.

“My life flashed before my eyes. I thought I was dying,” she said.

People from Ashkelon and Sderot spoke via a video hookup with a three member judicial panel appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council for monitoring the implementation of the Goldstone Report.

Israel believed that the Goldstone Report was biased against it. It refused to cooperate both with the fact finding mission lead by South African judge
Richard Goldstone who wrote the report and with the UN Human Rights Council panel charged with monitoring it.

The people wanted to talk with the panel because the world has ignored the plight of tens of thousands of Israelis who have been attacked by Palestinian launched rockets for close to ten years.

“It is very important to tell our story so that they can see that there are two sides,” said a resident. The majority of the people in Israel and Gaza are not interested in politics. “We want to get up in the morning and take care of our kids,” she said.

She takes medication to stay calm and rarely goes outside. She is just one example of the thousands of Israeli's who have been mentally or physically injured by ten years of rocket bombardment from Gaza.

She said she dreams of the day when she will feel safe enough to laugh again.

“My children do not even remember the last time I laughed. They do not even remember what it sounds like,” she said.

“I believe and I hope that the UN will know not to equate a democratic nation like Israel with the terror organizations that operate in Gaza,” one resident said.

DNA and Criminal Cases

A new invention by Israeli scientists looks deeper into DNA to show with certainty whether or not a suspect was at the scene of a crime.

Israeli scientists have found a way to identify DNA, that would otherwise be inadmissible in court, when it comes from a sample of multiple people.


A new technique developed at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem by a professor and his student takes the uncertainty out of DNA samples, when more than one person's DNA fingerprint is in the mix.

Expected to cost $100 to $200 per test, the new technology is a combination of bioinformatics and computation biology. The actual strategy was built on the basics of molecular biology using a lab on a chip.

It requires pinpointing the rare and unusual parts of a suspect's DNA, rather than reading the DNA to test a mixture to see if the suspect is present or not.

Almost every cell in our bodies contains DNA. It is the genetic material that tells our cells how to work. Although 99.9 percent of human DNA is the same in each and every one of us, the professor is interested in the very minute parts of the 0.1 percent that are unique.

If all points of the rare DNA are in the suspect and the mixture as well, there is strong proof that the suspect was at the scene.

The new invention looks deeper into the sample to establish with a very high level of certainty whether or not a suspect's DNA is in a mixture of up to 10 people.

The team can show beyond a reasonable doubt whether or not the suspect was in the sample. The professor predicts that with the right investment, the technology could be developed into a product within a year.

Revolt in Iran is Possible 

Iranian Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi said an Arab-style popular revolt would come soon to her country, driven by poverty and the fierce oppression of critics by its Islamic rulers.

But Ebadi, a defense lawyer for Iranian dissidents who has lived outside Iran since 2009 but has close family still there, said human rights campaigners wanted the transition to happen peacefully and avoid a Libyan-style bloodbath.

"As to what will spark that fire and when, it is difficult to predict. But I can say with certainty that it won't be long in coming," she said.

The lawyer, who has been traveling around the world to urge foreign governments to freeze assets of Iranian leaders and bar them from entry, said the economic situation in her country was dire. "People are getting poorer every day," she added.

She said she was told by others in the human rights movement, many of whose leaders were arrested after the disturbances and jailed for long terms, to stay outside the country and promote the movement's cause at the United Nations.

"We are trying to ensure that whatever happens in Iran, it is without bloodshed. We don't want street fighting and civil war. We are doing our utmost to ensure that whatever happens is peaceful."

Ebadi, whose husband and sister have both been detained in Tehran and then freed after being barred from leaving the country, said she had been threatened with reprisals by the Iranian government if she did not stop her activities.

"But I am not going to stop," she added.

She said she was disappointed with European governments that maintained strong trade ties with Iran.

"Does that mean you forget about human rights if you get a nuclear agreement?" she asked. "My message to European governments is: do not help dictators."


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