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News Highlights June 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.

A reunion took place in June for all those who volunteered on Kibbutzim throughout the years. At the reunion volunteers shared the memories from the past and saw the changes in Israel and in the kibbutz movement.

Some kibbutz volunteers have become well known personalities in their countries of origin while many of those who remained on their kibbutz have had successful lives and became professionals in many fields.

Life on the kibbutzim is changing. About three quarters of all kibbutzim have moved away from the original purely collective style of living whereby all income and resources were shared for the benefit of the whole community.

The majority of today's kibbutzim are more in line with any small town in the country, where each family cares for its own needs and where the local council provides the minimal municipal needs required by the community.

The Supreme Court has made it easier for Kibbutz members to own their own home. It is now possible for an apartment to be transferred into the name of a member by paying a tax equivalent of less than 4% of the value of the land. However if a kibbutz member wishes to sell the apartment then a further land tax equivalent to one third of the land value will have to be paid at the time of sale.

 

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

Syria

Russia and China are keen to keep President Assad in power and are not prepared to allow the UN Security Council to bring him to court for crimes against the Syrian population.

The slaughter of the protesters by the Syrian defense force has drawn criticism and Amnesty International has asked for the Syria President to be investigated for crimes against humanity.


Advanced weaponry for use by the Hezbollah is stored in Syria. Intelligence agencies are worried that Hezbollah might try to transfer the advanced weaponry it maintains on Syrian soil if it feels that President Assad is about to be deposed.

It has been reported that the majority of the weapons are distributed in densely-populated urban areas including the southern city of Homs and cities near Damascus.

Also according to the report, Tehran and Damascus are worried that Israel might order an air strike on one of their convoys should they try to transfer the weapons across the border.

Hezbollah is believed to have stored other advanced arms in Syria – including long-range rockets – as part of its logistical deployment along Israel’s northern border.

Israel’s main concern is what Syria will do with the advanced missiles and extensive chemical weapons held by Assad’s military and the question of whose hands they would fall into in the event that his regime falls. Since Israel’s bombing of the nuclear reactor Assad was building in 2007, Syria has put a stronger emphasis on chemical weapons and nonconventional warheads.

At the moment, the Syrian military is believed to still be in full control of its assets and troops, although some low level soldiers have defected to the opposition.

West Bank Barrier Moved

Israeli troops have begun to dismantle part of the controversial West Bank barrier near the Palestinian village of Bilin, four years after a court ordered it to be re-routed.

Palestinians have protested weekly for years at Bilin, which they say lost half its land to the barrier.

The protests often ended in violent clashes with Israeli troops.

Israel says the barrier is a necessary security measure.

Israel began building the proposed 720-km (430-mile) barrier in 2002 after a wave of Palestinian suicide bombings originating in the West Bank.

In 2004, the World Court at The Hague issued an advisory ruling that the barrier was illegal and should be removed where it did not follow the Green Line, the internationally recognized boundary between the West Bank and Israel.

Four years ago, Israel's High Court ordered the government to re-route the barrier, saying it encroached too much on Palestinian land in Bilin, where it cuts some 3km (2 miles) into farmers' fields.

The Israeli military says a new concrete barrier has been erected near Modiin , in place of the section of the barrier being removed.

A local commander  said the re-routing would restore about 140 acres of land to the Palestinians. He said about 50 acres would remain off-limits to them due to security concerns.

Palestinians gave a cautious welcome to the move.


Alternative Energy

Israel imports 270,000 barrels of petroleum per day of oil and needs 50,000 of that for routine military operations.

To create oil from shale – which is dark sedimentary rock containing hydrocarbons – workers must drill as far as 400 meters down to reach the shale a spokesperson explained.

Surrounding the production pipeline, the company must also drill a ring of heating wells, which gradually heat the rock to 300º C and thereby transform it into lightweight oil.

In this pre-pilot phase, rather than using heaters, the company is removing pieces of shale for analysis in Ben- Gurion University laboratories.

A spokesperson said –"It’s hard to believe that from a rock like this you can make an oil of such high quality. Not only is shale oil a much cleaner alternative to crude, it’s also a matter of “energy security".

In another project , a joint venture between three US energy giants is making its first non-American and first water-related investment by providing funds for the project which works on using wastewater to generate electricity, the firms announced.

The group of financiers are collectively called Energy Technology Ventures, comprised of General Electric, NRG Energy and ConocoPhillips, focuses on “the development of next-generation energy technologies,” and looks for innovation particularly in the US, Europe and Israel, according to a statement.

The technology uses naturally occurring bacteria in an “electrogenic bioreactor” that treats wastewater and uses the waste to produce electrical power in the process, the company said. Currently, conventional wastewater treatment consists of two percent of global power.
The company is about to start its pilot phase, and is installing its technology this week in the Maayan Zvi wastewater treatment facility near Zichron Yaakov, where wastewater will also be imported from a number of factories in the area.

The Dance of Buddha

Korean monks, dancers and musicians give the audience a taste of Nirvana.

Nirvana, a dance show from Korea, will tour Israel for the first time, after being presented in nearly 50 countries. The show, which is based on ancient ritual Buddhist dances, will be presented in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Herzliya and at Karmiel’s open-air theater as a part of the traditional dance festival. About 90 artists – dancers, Kodo drummers and musicians performing on other traditional instruments – will appear on stage.

The art of dance is very popular in Korea. Children are taught dancing in school from an early age, and about 50 of the country’s universities have dance departments, where classical, modern and traditional dance are taught and developed. Every city has a dance company of its own, in addition to the Korea National Ballet Company.

Buddhist dance is deeply rooted in Korea’s rich past, in its culture and history.

“Nirvana is not just another ethnic dance show but a religious dance that is performed on stage. For ages, this dance has been used to explain and teach people the philosophy of Buddhism. UNESCO added it to the World Heritage cultural treasury two years ago.

“We are a very old country with a very long history,” a monk said with a smile. “Buddhism has been here for two and a half thousand years, and it is not just a religion; it is our philosophy, our lifestyle. Granted, you can find Roman Catholics and Protestants among us, but Christianity came to our shores only 100 years ago and has not really changed our
mentality.”


New International Airport

The government will soon decide where Israel's new international airport will be located. The pressure is on for the Megiddo council area and the Yizreel valley as the area between Kibbutz Megiddo and Kibbutz Hazorea is one of the two sites favored by the Israeli Government notwithstanding the great opposition presented by more than 40 kibbutzim and moshavim.

The other location is situated in the Negev desert near Beersheba and there is much less opposition to establishing the new international airport in a relatively under-populated area that fewer agricultural and green areas than the area considered in the north.

Many analysts believe that it is much more logical to locate the proposed international airport in the south which is already connected by a good rail service and would be a boost for the local economy. Others argue that the location in the north is more favorable as it is connected to the center of Israel by the road 6 toll highway.

The Modern Kibbutz

While the kibbutz movement has gone capitalist in many respects, it has not gone all the way over to a system of every man for himself. One quarter of kibbutzim still give their members equal salaries, although this minority is shrinking. And the majority that give differential salaries have a model of social democracy, which means high progressive taxes to prevent large income gaps, maintain good community services, and ensure a generous "safety net" for the aged and handicapped.

The kibbutzim have long started to be run like a business. From a narrow focus on farming and heavy industry, they began building housing projects, shopping centers, amusement parks, guesthouses, banquet halls, and any activity that might make a profit. Kibbutz families became budget-minded consumers, making their own decisions on what furniture to buy and where and when to go on vacation, instead of having such decisions made by committee.

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