News Highlights September 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.
On the political front the new leader of the labor party could assist the party to again become a major force in Israeli politics. This new development and also the push for social and economic justice in the country could push the labor party to the forefront of Israeli politics.
Life on the kibbutzim is changing. 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.
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 kibbutz movement has recommended that kibbutzim pay a pension to its members equivalent to 40% of the average wage in Israel and not to charge municipal taxes above 20% on this income so as to allow pensioners to receive an amount of money that will assist them to meet their monthly commitments.
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.
Israel’s 10th Nobel Prize was awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to Prof. Dan Shechtman, a materials science scientist at Haifa’s Technion - Israel Institute of Technology.
His discovery in 1982 that atoms in rigid crystals can be packed together in unusual ways led to the development of extremely strong materials from metal surgical tools and razor blades to diesel engines, and as protective coatings and metal alloys. The quasicrystals do not rust or become oxidized and have almost no surface friction.
In the early 1980s he was amazed to discover in an electron microscope that the new crystal he had discovered was symmetrical and could be turned around five times without looking different; this was considered “impossible” according to existing theory.
Shechtman was turned down by the Journal of Applied Physics, which claimed that his discovery “would not interest physicists. Experts in the field said that he was talking nonsense.
He wrote an article for Physical Review Letters, which aroused much interest and controversy among physicists and then chemists and mathematicians.
Today, hundreds of synthetic materials with the unusual structure have been produced. Conferences on the subject are held annually, and more than 40 scientific volumes have been published in the field.
President Shimon Peres called Shechtman to congratulate him.
“Your win is promising and gives hope. There are not many nations who have won so many Nobel Prizes. You have given the State of Israel a wonderful gift,” he said.
“This is a big day for Haifa, a big day for the Technion and for the State of Israel. The State of Israel needs your Nobel Prize; you are the 10th Israeli to achieve this.
The president stressed that three of the 10 Israeli Nobel Prize winners are graduates of the Technion, and that this is a badge of honor for the Technion and for higher education in Israel.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu thanked Shechtman in the name of all Israeli citizens, saying that the win “reflects the intellect of our people. Every citizen in Israel is happy today and every Jew in the world is proud.”
Education Minister Sa’ar called Shechtman’s achievements “a source of great pride for the higher education system and the entire State of Israel.” Sa’ar told the Technion scientist that “the future of the State of Israel will be ensured by research on the highest level.”
Haifa Film Festival
The 27th Haifa International Film Festival at the Haifa Cinematheque will feature the best of current Israeli and international cinema and will also spotlight films outside the mainstream.
The Independent Cinema Program features Circumstance, an Iranian film production about a lesbian romance in Tehran. The award winning film could not be made in Iran so was filmed in Lebanon. Openly critical of the Iranian establishment, it tells the story of a relationship that develops between female cousins when one young woman goes to live in her aunt and uncle’s house after her own parents get into trouble with the government.
Another award winner, Project Nim, will be shown in the program. It tells the story of a complex and tragic experiment on a chimpanzee that was taught sign language.
Stephen Marshall’s documentary Holy Wars is a look at two religious extremists, one an American Christian, the other an Irish Muslim.
Dark Horse. is a story about two misfits who find each other. John Sayles’s Amigo is a period drama set in the Philippines during a war with the US.
Other programs present the best in New Polish Cinema and New Asian Cinema. One highlight of the Asian Cinema list is Zhang Yimou’s latest film, Under the Hawthorne Tree. Based on a best-selling Chinese novel, it tells of forbidden love during the Cultural Revolution. The director himself served in a labor camp during the Cultural Revolution.
The East of the West program presents 12 films from some of the best directors in Russia and other former Soviet countries.
New International Airport
The Ministry of Tourism announced plans to open a new international airport in the Negev about 30 kilometers north of Eilat.
The airport will be named after the late Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, and will replace existing airports in Ovda and Eilat.
The airport will feature a light rail that will transport travelers to Eilat.
The new airport will help encourage travel and simplify access to one of Israel's most beautiful and inspiring regions. It will also create jobs for the kibbutzim, moshavim and towns in the area.
The cost of building the new airport is expected to be about NIS 1.5 billion ($442 million) and construction is expected to last three years. It is estimated that 1.5 million people will pass through the new airport each year, three times the current passenger flow at Eilat's airport.
A spokesman for the Transportation Ministry said that the proposal stemmed from “an urgent national requirement to set up an additional international airport in Israel, one which will complement Ben Gurion International Airport.”
The number of passengers passing through Ben Gurion Airport, in the center of the country, increases by 3 to 5 percent each year, Transportation Ministry data shows.
In 2010, eleven and a half million international passengers passed through Ben Gurion Airport, and a further seven hundred thousand passengers traveled in or out on domestic flights.
Before settling on the Negev, the government originally considered building the airport in Megiddo in the north of Israel. That plan met with stiff resistance from nature conservationists and residents of the area.
In conjunction with the new airport initiative, the government will consider other plans to further the development of Eilat's inner city, including transferring Eilat's port to another location, clearing its southern beach strip, adding hotels and providing a railway line to and from the city.
The huge demonstrations in Israel against the lack of economic justice caused the government to take immediate steps to rectify years of neglect of the general Israeli population. Over the years the government mainly concentrated on making Israel a complete free market economy where mainly tycoons could reap the benefits of economic growth.
The government passed the Trajtenberg Committee’s report on sweeping socioeconomic changes. Although it does not go far enough it is widely regarded as a first step towards restoring some of the economic benefits to the general population.
The government will have to introduce major reforms to correct the injustice in Israeli society which was created during the last 15 years, whereby the country was hurriedly changed from one which provides good social benefits and opportunities for its citizens to one which caters for the super rich business tycoons who in essence have taken over the Israeli economy and ensured that they mainly benefit from economic successes.
The ordinary citizen has been put into a position whereby he can no longer afford housing, education and health facilities and in addition has been hammered by high food, transportation and other prices.
The uprising in the Arab countries has shown citizens of the world that they ,in effect, have the power to change things and demand their rights and benefits.
The uprising against extreme capitalism as practiced in many countries including Israel is being challenged by the citizens who want their share of the growing economy.
The uprising has even extended to the doyen of extreme capitalism, the U.S.A. where citizens have started to demand their share of the economy. The billionaires who control the US economy and many aspects of government have laughed off the protest so far but many expect the ordinary US citizens to get the upper hand in the coming months.
After the discussion of Palestine as an independent state by the United Nations and the impending prisoner swap between Israel and Palestine it is hoped that it will lead to the start of negotiations to determine boundaries and also increase the cooperation between Israel and Palestine.
Abu Mazen's successes at the UN left the Hamas largely on the sidelines. However the general atmosphere in the Middle East has created a situation that encourages more flexibility and dialog.
The result has been an agreement between Israel and the Hamas for an exchange of prisoners, that is approximately 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for one Israeli prisoner, namely Gilad Shalit.
There has been an atmosphere of euphoria in Gaza and also in some areas of Israel. On the other hand many Israelis have questioned releasing terrorists who are responsible for killing thousands of Israeli's in buses, restaurants, hotels and elsewhere. Also Palestinians in the West Bank are concerned about the shifting of the limelight away from their recent achievements at the UN and giving Hamas much needed publicity.
The Quartet consisting of Western nations and Russia have urged Israel and Palestine to use the momentum to drive the peace process forward and arrive at an agreement for two states living side by side.
There are signs on both sides that the atmosphere is right for the parties to take advantage of the situation and finally come to an agreement based on two states living side by side in a new Middle East.
It won't be easy with all the anti Israel sentiment in the world but in the end it will be up to Israelis and Palestinians to determine their own destiny.
Open door for future scientists, inventors
Because of the lack of interest in science and engineering on the part of Israeli university students, President Shimon Peres, came up with the initiative of creating a national project that would encourage gifted and outstanding students to opt for technological and scientific studies.
The president’s concern was rooted in the fact that Israel’s major achievements in agriculture, industry, medical equipment, defense and other spheres are all based on scientific and technological innovation that has proved to be Israel’s greatest asset.
He is concerned that if the drive for meeting the challenge of creating new scientific and technological solutions to a variety of problems lessened, Israel would lose the respect that its inventiveness has won in the world.
He said that although Israel is a small country it has produced several great scientists including Nobel Prize laureates.
The enthusiasm was there, but the money wasn’t until Peres approached philanthropic groups and individuals.
These groups were asked to prepare a four-year program for students to study in optimal conditions until they completed 12th grade and went on to institutes of higher education in combination with their army service.
A trial program was launched with a summer school for 50 students in July 2009. The experiment continued in conjunction with several universities, institutes and colleges, and the program was officially inaugurated at a ceremony at the President’s Residence attended by the scientists and inventors of tomorrow, industrialists, academics, philanthropists, representatives of government and the next generation of gifted youngsters.
He was encouraged by the impressive commitment of youngsters who have already participated in the project. Some of the youngsters involved have barely reached double digit ages, but most were aged from 14 to 16.
The courses are open to all gifted Israeli high school students regardless of creed or ethnic background.
Christians pray for Jerusalem
Local and international Christian leaders met in Jerusalem for the Global Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem, an annual gathering dedicated to the city.
The Jerusalem gathering will be joined by millions of Christians from some 300,000 churches in 175 nations around the world that are registered to participate. Many underground churches in nations such as China, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates are also taking part and a pastor from a church in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, will be praying in Jerusalem.
Many more millions of Christians will be watching the broadcast.
By hosting a local event in the city where God put his name demonstrates, to the Jewish people first and to the world, that Christians are praying for Israel and the Jewish people.
The organizers maintain that Christian support of Israel is critical at the time.
The Israeli people can be encouraged that millions of people around the world are praying for them, a spokesman said.
Some Christian Arabs are also taking part in the event, including one from Bethlehem who will lead one of several prayers. For the first time, a Catholic priest will join a mostly evangelical line up of Christian leaders in prayer for Jerusalem.
“The clear message is that any person who believes the Bible must respond to the admonition in Psalm 122, Psalm 137, and in Isaiah 62 where it tells us first we need to pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” a spokesman said. “The hour is urgent. We are living in a time when what happens to Jerusalem has an impact and makes a difference to us. It will impact our lives on one level or another.”
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