News Highlights November 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 kibbutz recently sold its share in a natural medicine company and received a large premium over its original investment. This is a continuation of the trend whereby Kibbutz companies are sold off by kibbutzim.

A record fruit harvest was recorded in Israel in 2011 totaling 690 thousand tons. This figure excludes the citrus harvest. The harvest included 140,000 tons of bananas, 105,000 tons of apples and 70,000 tons of avocados. 

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.

 

Tel Aviv Fashion Week

 

Tel Aviv and Milan are twin cities and Israeli designers will soon be given a chance to show their creations in Milan.   Some notable designers from Milan attended the recent Tel Aviv Fashion Week and have put Israel back on the world fashion map.

The Milan fashion designers were very impressed by the creativity of Israeli designers, and by the quality of creativity of young designers. In future some of these designers will be given the opportunity to show their fashions as part of a guest collective at the Milan Fashion Week.

It will not only enable young Israeli designers to absorb something of the fashion world outside Israel, but it will also expose people who might not come to Israel to the broad perspective of Israeli creativity.

The Ministry of Tourism is a major partner in the venture and brought 60 leading international fashion and lifestyle journalists to Israel to not only cover the fashion week but to tour the country and see how different it is to what is portrayed on television screens back home.

This is in line with the ministry’s new focus on lifestyle and niche tourism.

Apple to set up Israel Development Center


Apple Inc. has decided to open a development center in Israel focusing on semiconductors, the first R&D venture for the company outside the United States.

The decision was made even before the company entered into talks to acquire Herzliya based flash storage solutions provider Anobit Ltd.

Although Apple is a global innovation leader, the company is a relatively small investor in R&D. The producer of the iPad and iPhone invested $2.4 billion in R&D in 2010, which was only 2% of its revenue, much less proportionately than other high-tech companies.

Apple's deployment of R&D activities is in line with this policy and the company has only one technology development center, which is at company headquarters in Cupertino, California. All activities outside of company headquarters revolve around marketing, sales and support. Strategic development is carried out at home. The planned Israel center will therefore be the company's first such center outside of its California headquarters.

The Israeli CEO is scheduled to spend several months at Apple headquarters in California before returning to Israel to begin activities at the Apple Israel development center. He will soon begin hiring staff suitable for the US Company's planned areas of activity.



A Trip to Mars

 

Nasa has launched a rover vehicle that will take eight and a half months to cross the vast distance to its destination Mars.

It is expected to land on Mars in August 2012, and will check out Martian soils and rocks for any signs that current or past environments on the planet could have supported microbial life.

The rover is equipped with tools to brush and drill into rocks, to scoop up, sort and sieve samples and will try to make first definitive identification of carbon rich compounds.

By the time the rover was ejected on a path to the Red Planet, it was travelling at 36,000 Km's per hour.

Nasa received a first communication from the cruising spacecraft about 50 minutes after lift-off through a tracking station in Canberra, Australia.

Controllers will command a course correction maneuver in two weeks to refine the trajectory to the Red Planet.

The rover - also known as the Mars Science laboratory (MSL) - is due to arrive at the Red Planet in early August 2012. Then, the hard part begins - landing safely.

One senior space agency official this week called Mars the "Death Planet" because so many missions have failed to get down in one piece.

The Americans, though, have a good recent record and they believe a new rocket-powered descent system will be able to place the rover very precisely in one of the most exciting locations on the planet.

Looking for Life

Astronomers have confirmed the existence of an Earth-like planet in the "habitable zone" around a star not unlike our own.

The planet is about 600 light-years away and is double the size of Earth, and has a temperature of about 22C.

The Kepler space telescope identified the planet and it was confirmed by other telescopes in orbit and on Earth. The earth like planet is the first to be formally confirmed using other telescopes.

The newly identified planet Kepler 22-b lies at a distance from its sun about 15% less than the distance from the Earth to the Sun, and its year takes about 290 days. However, its sun puts out about 25% less light, keeping the planet at a temperature 22C and that could support the existence of liquid water.

The telescope made three sightings of the new planet confirming its existence.  The space telescope has sighted many new candidate planets. The total number of candidates spotted by the telescope is over two thousand of which more than two hundred are approximately Earth-sized.

The results suggest that planets ranging from Earth-sized to about four times Earth's size - so-called "super-Earths" - may be more common than previously thought.


Regional Cooperation

The government recently confirmed that it will spend approximately NIS 10 million on a project for an eco-farm for the Negev Bedouin community. Other funds will come from donations and the total cost is expected to reach 22 million shekels. Project Wadi Attir will create an ecological community that combines Bedouin traditional values with modern renewable energy technology and farming techniques.


The Negev and Galilee Regional Development Ministry took the lead from the government’s side, and in cooperation with the Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry and the Authority for Economic Development of the Arab, Druze and Circassian Sectors in the Prime Minister’s Office, approved the project.
The Development Minister stated: “The project will leverage knowledge and integrate it with traditional Bedouin values, and will bring economic development and improve the welfare and quality of life of the Bedouin population in the Negev,”  “As part of strengthening and empowering the various populations of the Negev, we decided to support the ecological farm as a project that highlights the benefits of Bedouin society and its unique contributions to the area. I am certain that the farm will inspire other similar projects that will provide hundreds of jobs in the Negev.”

 Organic meat and dairy products will be cultivated from sheep and goats, which will benefit from new grazing practices and modernized herding techniques. Farmers at the ecological village will use soil enhancing techniques, while a woman’s training program for raising and preserving indigenous vegetables will empower women and improve family income. In an attempt to achieve self-sufficiency, the community will also have compost sites, biogas, and “cutting-edge approaches to renewable energy production, recycling and arid land conservation,” according to a video about the project.


Climate Research

 

A Swiss team has calculated that about three-quarters of the global warming since 1950 has been caused by human influences.

A second report says glacier loss in parts of the Himalayas is accelerating.

And an international research group has confirmed that emissions have increased despite the global financial crisis.

At the talks in Durban, the main task facing ministers and their negotiating teams was to reach agreement on issues such as speeding up emission cuts, saving forests and helping the poorest countries protect themselves against climate changes.

Action that helps cope with the effects of climate change includes construction of barriers to protect against rising sea levels and conversion to crops capable of surviving high temperatures and drought.

But a number of important countries including China, India and the US are not persuaded.

Even if those discussions do begin soon, other nations such as Japan and Canada say their existing targets on cutting emissions by 2020 will not be amended. The biggest polluters in the world The United States, China and India are not prepared to be part of any agreement to reduce greenhouse emissions.

Their main conclusion was that it is extremely likely that at least 74% of the observed warming since 1950 has been caused by man-made factors.

A spokesperson said: "Every one of us needs to change our behavior, business needs to change their investment patterns.”

During 2010, emissions grew by 5.9%, they calculate - more than compensating for the fall of 1.4% seen in 2009, when the recession caused a dramatic downturn in developed countries (although not in the developing world's industrial giants such as China).

Governments have pledged to keep warming below two degrees to avoid the most dangerous aspects of climate change such as widespread water stress and sea level rise, and increases in extreme climatic events.

Fridge Trade-in Program


The Israeli Government is financing up to 60 percent of 25,000 new refrigerators for low income people, to encourage higher-efficiency appliances use.  

About 900 people across the country traded in their energy-guzzling refrigerators for new ones on the first day of a program through which social welfare clients can buy 25,000 heavily subsidized fridges.

The lines in stores stretched out the doors on the first day of the National Infrastructure Ministry program, said Eddie Bet Hazavdi, energy conservation expert manager at the ministry’s energy conservation department, during a press conference in Tel Aviv.

The state is financing up to 60 percent, or NIS 2,000 worth, of 25,000 new refrigerators for low income people, to encourage all Israelis to use higher-efficiency appliances that curb both spending and pollution. Eligible consumers can visit a ministry website (www.mni.gov.il/mekarer), provide their ID numbers and afterward buy their new fridges from one of the stores listed on the page.

In February, a similar, but slightly less subsidized opportunity will be available to the general public – who will be able to replace their fridges with 50,000 new ones at a subsidy of 30%, a price that includes a three-year warranty, transportation of the new fridge and evacuation of the old one for scrapping, ministry director-general Shaul Zemach explained.

Available for purchase are three models from Samsung, two from LG and one from Beko.

“We are inaugurating the first large project, one among many, on Israel’s route toward energy efficiency that will by the end of this decade reach 20% efficiency. That’s the goal, and we have today simply translated our virtual program into something that is practical,” National Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau said.

The fridge swaps are expected to bring an average annual savings of NIS 600 to each family, and by 2020, a total savings of about NIS 1.08 billion nationwide, according to the ministry.

Also beginning in February, 10,000 air conditioners will be available for trade-in to disadvantaged populations at a 40% subsidy, Zemach said. That same month, the entire country will be able to buy 1.5 million fluorescent light bulbs at a significantly reduced cost of NIS 20 per three-pack. The ministry officials said they hoped that television converters, washing machines and electric boilers would soon follow.

Refrigerators were the logical first choice in appliances, as they are constantly in use.

The minister said that he expects the program will bring significant economic benefits, particularly to lower income families, as well as reduce Israel’s carbon footprint.



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