News Highlights July 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.

The Government has recently taken a grave decision from a local agricultural point of view. The decision to allow the importation of cheap milk products from other countries could seriously damage the Israeli milk industry and put the livelihoods of thousands of families in jeopardy. The Kibbutz Movement called an emergency meeting to discuss the problem and ways to confront the government.

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

A number of countries have started to question the slaughter of the protesters by the Syrian Army and have called on the Syria President to hold free and fair elections.

The demands of protesters include the resignation of President Assad, an end to the killings and torture, equal rights for Syria's ethnic groups, and political freedoms, such as freedom of press, speech and assembly.

More than 2,000 protesters have been killed, perhaps tens of thousands injured, and thousands detained. The use of deadly force has been condemned by several countries, the Arab League and the United Nations.

As protests continue, the Syrian government is using tanks and snipers to force people off the streets. Water and electricity have been shut off and security forces are confiscating food. Soldiers who refuse to fire on civilians are executed by the Syrian Army and Iranian revolutionary guards.

 

The Syrian government has denied all the claims.

 

Egypt

On the first day of Hosni Mubarak’s trial representatives of all political movements in Egypt rejoiced. They welcomed the justice and the triumph of the people of Egypt over corruption and abuse.

A member the Muslim Brotherhood's Supreme Council, stressed that this was not vengeance but a public display of justice and a clear warning to all those who rule Egypt in the future.

A member of another political party declared that this was an enormous step forward on the way to the construction of the new Egypt about to rise on the basis of democracy, freedom, justice and the respect of law.

The big question is what “new Egypt” is going to emerge from the events of the Revolution. How will they tackle the problems relating to tribal groups and religious doctrines?

Will the country be willing to go to the root of the problem and to tackle the main obstacles to its progress? This will be a painful and prolonged process with difficult conflicts.

Israel

Hundreds of thousands of people marched in cities throughout Israel to protest the continuing drop in living standards and the extreme difficulty of making ends meet.

In one day alone, about 300,000 Israelis staged marches over the rising cost of living.

The largest protest was in Tel Aviv where police said at least 200,000 people were on the streets, while another 30,000 marched in Jerusalem.

In one of biggest waves of protests in decades in Israel, demonstrators are demanding government action to reduce the cost of housing and food.

Some protesters have also set up camp in city centers.

If the Israeli government was hoping this extraordinary movement of middle-class protesters was losing momentum and direction, the message from the streets of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other cities across the country is that they are not giving up.

The high cost of housing, childcare and even some basic foods has driven many Israelis to despair in a country with high prices but relatively low salaries.

Thus far, Prime Minister Netanyahu has promised to reassess his government's priorities and make housing more affordable. But, until they see more immediate and concrete proposals, thousands of protesters say they will remain camped out in the heart of Tel Aviv.

The protesters have been inspired by social uprisings in the Middle East but instead of seeking political change are demanding that the government take action over the soaring cost of living.

Israelis perform their mandatory military service, work and pay high taxes but still don't earn enough to make ends meet. They work so hard and cannot afford a quiet life and always have to struggle.

Israel's annual economic growth is relatively healthy, averaging 4.5% since 2004, and in the same period unemployment has fallen from about 11% to 6%.That is the macro economics situation, but when examining the micro economics situation it is clear that the middle class have become poorer and the poor driven to poverty. The tycoons with the backing of the government have taken nearly all the cherries off the cake.

The protesters claim this growth has failed to benefit them and there is growing public anger over perceived social inequality, injustice and official corruption.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to reassess his priorities and to bring down prices of housing and consumer products.

Palestine

The Palestinian Government has announced its intention to ask the United Nations for recognition of the State of Palestine as an independent country.

However in the negotiations with Israel there are key issues outstanding such as: mutual recognition (The new Palestinian Government does not recognize Israel's right to exist), borders, security, water rights, control of Jerusalem, Israeli settlements,

Many attempts have been made to negotiate a two-state solution, involving the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside an independent Jewish state. As recently as 2007, a majority of both Israelis and Palestinians, according to a number of polls, prefer the two-state solution over any other solution as a means of resolving the conflict. Moreover, a considerable majority of the Jewish public sees the Palestinians' demand for an independent state as just, and thinks Israel can agree to the establishment of such a state.

The United Nations General Assembly will probably vote overwhelmingly in favor of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. That is how they voted in 1947 but until today nearly all Arab and Moslem countries and most Palestinian parties have rejected Israel's right to exist.

In the end a swop of territories will probably take place whereby Israel retains some of the West Bank next to Jerusalem and Kefar Saba and Palestine receives an equivalent size territory in the Negev next to Gaza. The issue of Jerusalem itself remains a real problem as it is claimed both by Israel and Palestine as a capital city.  


A Day in a Forest

A new KKL-JNF project offers groups of tourists from all over the world a unique and exciting experience: working as a forester for one day.

The Forester for a Day project will allow visitors to work alongside KKL-JNF foresters, carrying out hands-on maintenance tasks, getting to know the country, learning about nature and making their own personal contribution to the upkeep and development of the forest.

During their visit to Israel tourists will enjoy the memorable experience of a day’s work in the forest, at the end of which they will be presented with a certificate in recognition of the contribution they have made. Forester for a Day project will also connect people with nature. It will strengthen ties with all communities worldwide and allow visitors to interact directly with the countryside around them as they work in the forest. And, of course, the forests themselves will benefit from the loving care they will receive.

The volunteer foresters will undertake a variety of tasks essential for forest conservation: pruning and removing low branches that speed the spread of flames when fires break out; cutting paths, to prevent fires from spreading; and removing pruned material, which can catch fire.


The Director of KKL-JNF’s Tourism Department and one of the project’s initiators opened the project and explained that it is designed to offer tourists a new type of activity, which will enable them to form a real bond with Israel.

 

Pensioners volunteer for IDF

Several volunteers, many of them over 60 landed at Ben Gurion airport to volunteer to help the Israel Defense Force. 

 
The volunteers, both Jews and Christians, said they received a sense of fulfillment from their physical contribution, adding that the satisfaction was far greater than giving financial donations to Israel.

  

Their help took the form of logistical aid, and most volunteers are placed on non-combat army bases.

 

Some men and women volunteers who wish to be on the borders receive military training and serve alongside young soldiers on the borders of Israel. One volunteer soldier aged 64 from the USA who did his volunteer duty alongside the fighting soldiers said that it was a really satisfying experience and that he would definitely return next year. 

The program began in 1982, in the wake of the first Lebanon War. Since then, volunteers have arrived in Israel every year to help out.

 

 An 82 year-old volunteer, said he had no problems with the physical nature of the task. When he told family and friends of his service, they were amazed.

 

Several resident Israelis also serve as volunteers in the IDF.

 

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