News Highlights March 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 attracted more than 2,500 new members during the last few years. There are 273 kibbutzim (including 16 religious kibbutzim) with a total population of 124,000 of which 17% are under the age of 18.


More than half the kibbutzim have adopted a privatization or semi-privatization model, where members receive income according to their salaries. A percentage of each member’s gross salary goes toward community expenses and to supplement the income of members earning less than the minimum amount set by the kibbutz. The new kibbutz system practices various forms of privatization, with a greater emphasis on individuals and families.


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.

Regional Cooperation

The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria’s annual Spring Council Meeting was held in Jerusalem for the first time.

 Zoo managers heard about conservation techniques from their Israeli hosts and held marketing and management sessions led by various country representatives.

One conservationist spoke about Israel’s efforts to preserve the Eurasian otter, as well the Galilee blind cave dwelling prawn, which lives in an underground spring underneath the church where Jesus fed the masses with fish and bread.

“The birds and wildlife have the power to get people together,” he told the group, noting that Israel is strategically located at the junction of three continents. Migrating birds know no boundaries.

It was noted that there a variety of shared projects between scientists and conservationists in both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, such as a current joint effort of using barn owls for pest control in farming fields. In the past year, 400 farmers from the PA and Jordan came to Israel to learn about the use of owls and why they are essential to successful farming.

The PA has decided to make owls a national project – they are now planning 1,000 nesting boxes for the next four years together with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

The Ministry of Education has a website to track the birds; students from Israeli schools joined in the project, followed by pupils from Palestinian schools and are able to communicate with each other electronically.

“It is easier to collaborate with countries over conservation projects rather than politics" said the head scientist of the Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority. “It is easier to agree on what is good for plants and animals.”

The Israeli Air Force is playing its part by coordinating its flights so as not to disturb bird colonies.

Gas Supply

The Egyptian petroleum company wishes to change the price retroactively to 2008 but it still requires approval by Egypt's Supreme Court.

Egypt will review natural gas contracts with other countries, including Israel and Jordan, which could boost its income from the sales by $3-4 billion.

Israel gets 40 percent of its natural gas from Egypt under an arrangement put in place after the 1979 peace agreement.

Opposition groups have long complained Egyptian gas was being sold to Israel at preferential prices and that the contract with East Mediterranean Gas (EMG), which supplies Egyptian gas to Israel violated regulations.

The government had insisted the deals were done on commercial terms but this review may be a sign it is giving in to public demands for a study of the deals.

In February 2010 the Egyptian Supreme Court annulled a previous ruling banning the export of Egyptian natural gas to Israel, saying it has no jurisdiction over cases of this kind which involve state sovereignty.

However, the court still demanded that the government set a mechanism to determine the amount and price of natural gas it plans to send abroad after national market needs have been met.

Egypt’s military-backed interim government slashed its forecasts for economic growth and investment after a popular uprising toppled its president, disrupted industry and scared away foreign tourists.

Egypt has been boosting gas production but most of the increase covers increased domestic demand as electricity consumption surges in the country of 80 million people.

Petroleum Minister Abdullah Ghorab said last month that Egypt was trying to amend gas export deals with a number of countries, particularly Israel.

He said media campaigns and public disapproval of gas exports were sufficient basis for negotiating greater benefits for Egypt.

Egypt is a modest gas exporter, using pipelines to export to Israel, Jordan and other regional states. It also exports via liquefied natural gas facilities on its north coast,

Egyptian gas started flowing to Israel through a pipeline for the first time in May 2008 under an agreement signed in 2005 for the supply of 1.7 billion cubic meters a year over 20 years.

The Druze Culture

In the Druze village of Usfiya on Mount Carmel are seven houses with a feature quite uncommon in Arab houses - a kosher certificate on the wall.

The houses host groups of visitors who come to experience authentic Druze hospitality.

The experience allows for visitors to gain a more intimate look at the Druze community - members of a secret religion that is an offshoot of Islam, Druze number around 100,000 in Israel.

The idea behind the kosher Druze hospitality is to share food and hospitality and knowledge about the religion and beliefs.

In these homes there many young students from the village who share with the guests their own point of view about the Druze religion, their beliefs, conflicts Druze have, the status of women in the Druze community and many other things.

Usfiya has a population of 24,000 people. The village dates from the 16th century when the Druze arrived in the area, and the modern village was founded in the 18th century.

In 1930, the remains of a fifth century Jewish town – Husifa – were found there.

The finds included an ancient synagogue with a mosaic floor with the words “Shalom al Yisrael.” The town gets its name from this ancient town.

The kosher Druze  tour can also be combined with a tour of the cobblestone streets of the old town, where the town seal with the words “Shalom al Yisrael” is painted on tiles plastered on the stone walls of buildings hundreds of years old.

Sometimes when people come here and talk to the Druze, they learn about the conflicts that Druze have as young Israelis and young Druze. They learn about how they fit in with the society.

If I had known then what I know now

Judge Goldstone has finally understood his grave error of ignoring evidence from Israel and only considering evidence presented by the extreme Islamic regime "Hamas".

Justice Richard Goldstone wrote - “If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”

How tragic that Goldstone so misstated facts in the first place as to have produced a report that has caused such irreversible damage to Israel’s name.

The truth that Goldstone now claims to have discovered only after he filed his malicious report of the IDF and of Israel – was readily available to him at the time.

The evidence left no doubt that the IDF – far from deliberately targeting civilians; the bitter accusation at the heart of Goldstone’s report – was doing more than most any military force has ever done to minimize civilian deaths, even as it sought to destroy the terrorist infrastructure and pick out the terrorists who had been firing relentlessly into Israel’s residential areas.

Only now, 18 months after he submitted his incredible accusations against Israel, has Goldstone brought himself to acknowledge what a fair-minded investigation would have established from the start – that the IDF emphatically did not seek to kill civilians in Gaza. As he now puts it in the simple phrase - “Civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.”

Unfortunately, Goldstone’s “reconsideration” will not get the publicity or have the impact that his original, baseless report against Israel drew.

The hollow Goldstone now writes that “I had hoped that our inquiry into all aspects of the Gaza conflict would begin a new era of evenhandedness at the UN Human Rights Council, whose history of bias against Israel cannot be doubted.”

Given that “history of bias” at the council, one can only wonder, yet again, why Goldstone consented to do its dirty work for it, to such devastating effect.

Goldstone's investigation has had a toxic effect everywhere in the world on the second battlefield – in diplomatic and legal forums, in the media, on university campuses. He poisoned Israel’s name.

An apology just isn’t good enough. The very least he owes Israel is to work from now on to try to undo the damage he has caused.

The Day of Atonement -Yom Kippur - came early this year for Richard Goldstone. His show of penitence has come far too late.


A Conflict with Jordan

Jordanian authorities are demanding that Israel return  ancient artifacts that could rival the importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls, saying they were smuggled out of the country and are now in the possession of a Bedouin farmer in the Galilee.

The artifacts are a group of around 70 metal books each with between five and 15 leaves and bound by rings made of lead.

A resident of a Bedouin village in northern Israel maintains that the codices are an heirloom that have been in his family for generations.

Jordanian authorities have attributed great significance to the artifacts. The director of Jordan’s Department of Antiquities said that they could be the most important discovery in the history of archeology.”

A British expert on religious archeology said the books could be “a major discovery of Christian history.” “It’s a breathtaking thought that we have held these objects that might have been held by the early saints of the Church,” he said.
Authorities in Jordan said they would “exert all efforts at every level” to have the artifacts returned to their country.

Material evidence of early Christian communities in the Holy Land is virtually nonexistent.

The codices contain messages in Hebrew and ancient Greek, all written in undeciphered code.

It has been reported that carbon dating showed a piece of leather found with the books to be just under 2,000 years old, placing it in the same time period in which Jesus is believed to have lived.

Palestinian Independence 

Palestinians are ready for statehood, according to a report to be presented to major aid donor countries in Brussels by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

He was expected to present facts and figures to show how the Palestinian Authority has used hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign assistance over the past two years to create justice, education, energy, health, water, security and housing services.

"I believe that our governing institutions have now reached a high state of readiness to assume all the responsibilities that will come with full sovereignty.

Palestinian leaders have said they aim to ask the United Nations General Assembly in September for recognition of statehood on all of the territory Israel took in the 1967 Six Day War.

The PA leadership is going ahead with clear signs of international encouragement. The number of countries that recognize Palestine as a state has risen this year to 110, more than half the membership of the United Nations.

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund last week praised the performance of the PA, saying in separate reports that it was well-positioned to run an independent nation.

Fayyad said his government had connected all Palestinian residential areas, including remote ones, to the electricity grid, and paved and fixed 2,250 km of streets.

Overseas readers are invited to provide us with feedback regarding our monthly news bulletins.