News Highlights October 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.

Recently a kibbutz was awarded a contract to supply natural bread and baking ingredients for a leading supermarket chain.

Givat Haviva, a Kibbutz Movement institution, has been awarded a two year grant by the US Agency for International Development. The grant will assist projects to improve relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel.

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 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.


No person is above the Law

 Israel again showed the world that it is a truly democratic country where the law is upheld for serious crimes. No person is above the law in Israel and proof of this was showed during the trial of a former President of Israel. President Katsav was accused of rape while still President of Israel and had to resign from the most senior position in the Israeli government to face trial.

The Supreme Court rejected the appeal by former President Moshe Katsav. The three judges upheld the decision by the Tel Aviv District Court in March 2011 to convict Katsav on two counts of rape and other sexual crimes and sentence him to seven years in prison.

The three judges of the Supreme Court said that their verdict was unanimous on two counts of rape and they rejected the defense claims to quash the testimonies of the rape victims.

Ex Israeli President Katsav will begin serving his prison sentence on December 7.


Aid for Turkey

El Al Israel Airlines cargo planes loaded with prefabricated homes for Turkish quake victims landed at airports in Turkey.

An official from the Israeli Embassy in Ankara, told news agencies that the homes were ready to use and contain material necessary for a family.

At first Turkey said it could handle the disaster alone, but later the Turkish government put out requests to countries, including Israel, for emergency materials, including prefabricated homes, tents and containers.    

Israel, whose relations with Turkey are at rock bottom immediately said it was launching an airlift of supplies. Israel's help for Turkey is a purely humanitarian gesture, both countries said, playing down their troubled relations.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry announced that 12 countries including Israel sent aid to Turkey.

US Senate Prayer

  A British chief rabbi was invited to deliver the prayer as guest chaplain at the opening of the new session of the United States Senate.

The prayer is usually performed by the chaplain of the United States Senate, though occasionally guest chaplains, recommended by senators, are invited to deliver the session’s opening prayer in his place.

In the prayer, which was composed especially for the occasion, the chief rabbi said the world must “honor the dignity of difference.”

“Sovereign of the universe, who created all in love, teach us to love all that is good and beautiful in this world. “Teach us to honor the dignity of difference, recognizing that one who is not in our image is none the less in your image; never forgetting that the people not like us, are still people – like us,” states the prayer.

The prayer goes on to bless the members of Congress, and to ask God “and guide their deliberations, that they may govern this great nation with wisdom and justice, grace and compassion.”

The Chief Rabbi of Britain, Jonathan Sacks, said it was a great honor to deliver the prayer.

He added - “At this fateful moment in the human story, bless us that we may be a blessing to others.

Guide the nations of the world to honor you by honoring one another. So that by reaching out in love, we may turn enemies into friends, and become your family on earth as you are our parent in heaven.

“Beloved God, bless the members of this United States Congress and guide their deliberations, that they may govern this great nation with wisdom and justice, grace and compassion, bringing honor to your name, and your blessing to humankind.”

The New Berlin

When shoppers in New York, London or Paris see kosher food in their supermarkets, it's just one specialty product. When the same thing happens in Berlin, it's a statement.

Berlin's Jewish community, wiped out by the Holocaust, has been steadily growing since Germany reunited in 1990. Thousands of Jews have moved in, synagogues, schools and shops have opened.

This was the center of darkness and evil, where the Nazis planned the extermination of Europe's Jews, and now you can go into a normal supermarket and there's a sign that says kosher.

The Nazis failed. Where do you find Hitler and Eichmann now?  In history books.  Where do you see Jewish life in an open way - on the streets of Berlin!

Starting in 1989, Jews from the former Soviet Union began arriving in Berlin. Young Israelis started settling here in the mid-1990s. Now there are an estimated 30,000 Jews in the city, but nobody knows for sure because not all of them are registered with the established communities.

"We always try to have different products from around the world," explained the supermarket manager, who is not Jewish and describes kosher food as "a bit multicultural, a bit exotic."

The kosher products - everything from wine, beer and cheese to chocolate-covered matzo bread and frozen steaks and chicken nuggets - have interested curious non-Jewish shoppers and brought in several hundred new Jewish customers, he said.

The manager's biggest problem is not customer acceptance or rejection, but logistics. Almost all his kosher products come from other countries, mostly Israel, Poland, France, Belgium and Britain, and ordering small shipments can be expensive and unreliable.

People buy kosher food for various reasons.

Hebrew for Ambassadors

Ambassadors from all over the world filled the auditorium at a hotel in Tel Aviv.  They came to participate in a unique "Hebrew Taster and Israeli Culture" event, hosted by the International Hebrew Learning Center and The Ambassadors' Club of Israel.

The purpose of the event was to gather together the foreign ambassadors in Israel, provide them with an enjoyable experience learning basic useful Hebrew expressions, and to give them a taste of the local culture.

This Hebrew taster and Israeli cultural event was extremely beneficial as most of the ambassadors in Israel speak only their mother tongue and English.

According to the founder of The Ambassadors’ Club of Israel, “ambassadors should make an effort to learn the local language, because through the Hebrew language they can better understand Israeli culture.” 

The Ambassadors' Club of Israel is an independent, non-profit organization, which aims to provide Heads of Foreign Diplomatic missions in Israel with a forum, where they can meet in an informal atmosphere with Honorary Consuls who represent more than 100 countries, as well as with leading Israeli figures from various sectors in society.

Through the professional guidance of teachers, the ambassadors mastered short dialogues, as well as learned to read Hebrew words.  There was laughter, Hebrew learning, and most of all the collaboration and the genuine will to get to know each other better was apparent.  
 A spokesperson said: "We want to share our language with you. It will make you to feel at home in Israel. Modern Hebrew language makes the connection between ancient times and historical events with current vibrant and dynamic life in Israel."

Regional Cooperation

The Union for the Mediterranean is a partnership of 43 countries from Europe and the Mediterranean. The 27 member states of the European Union and 16 Mediterranean partner countries from North Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans. The Union aims to promote stability and prosperity throughout the Mediterranean region.

The areas of cooperation of the Union for the Mediterranean are

  • Politics and Security
  • Economics and Trade
  • Socio-cultural
  • Justice and Interior Affairs.


In addition to these four areas of cooperation, the 43 Ministers of Foreign Affairs identified six concrete projects that target specific needs of the Euro-Mediterranean regions.

  • De-pollution of the Mediterranean. This includes access to drinkable water, water management, pollution reduction and protection of the Mediterranean.
  • Maritime and land highways. The purpose of this project is to increase and improve the circulation of commodities and people throughout the Euro-Mediterranean region by improving its ports, and building highways and railways.
  • Civil protection. The civil protection project aims at improving the prevention, preparedness and response to both natural and man-made disasters.
  • Alternative energies: Mediterranean solar plan. The goal of this project is to promote the production and use of renewable energies. More specifically, it aims at turning the Mediterranean partner countries into producers of solar energy.
  • Higher education and research: Euro-Mediterranean University.  The 43 Heads of State and Government agreed that the goal of this project is to promote higher education and scientific research in the Mediterranean.
  • The Mediterranean business development initiative. The purpose of the initiative is to promote small and medium-sized enterprises from the Mediterranean partner countries by assessing the needs of these enterprises, defining policy solutions and providing these entities with resources in the form of technical assistance and financial instruments.

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