News Highlights April 2012
The Second 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.
96% of the kibbutzim pay pensioners the pension basis or more. 80 communities pay more than 3 400 shekels a month, representing 40% of the average wage. Seven communities do not meet the pension base of 3,401 shekels a month.
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. Kibbutz enterprises diversified over the years and now cover almost every type of business.
The Agriculture Ministry announced that after five years in the making, an Israeli dairy farm has been set up in Ho Chi Minh City, in South Vietnam.
The Agriculture Ministry noted that while the average Israeli drinks approximately 900 glasses of milk a year, his Vietnamese counterpart drinks only 70.The dairy farm aims to assist in advancing the Vietnamese dairy industry, which has been experiencing a local boom. The Israeli Agricultural Ministry noted that milk has become a main ingredient in Vietnamese' diet only in the past few years.
The Ho Chi Minh facility, which includes Israeli-made equipment and technology, will serve as a demonstration center, by which Israeli experts will train Vietnamese on various industry technologies.
The training will include, apart from machinery specifics, advanced safety standards, veterinary guidelines and management practices.
Muslim, Zionist and proud
To grow up around the constant barrage of hatred directed at Israel has a massive effect on an individual’s own opinions.
In the words of Kasim Hafeez, a British Muslim and former Islamist:
I experienced the high levels of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel activity taking place on British university campuses, because I was the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel activist.
Growing up in the Muslim community in the UK I was exposed to materials and opinions at best condemning Israel, painting Jews as murderers, and calling for the wholesale destruction of the "Zionist Entity" and all Jews.
By the time I had reached 18 I was completely indoctrinated to the fold of radical Islamism. My hate for Israel and for the Jews was fuelled by images of death and destruction.
So what changed? How could I go from all this hatred to the great love for and affinity with Israel and the Jewish people? I found myself in the Israel and Palestine section of a local bookstore and picked up a copy of Alan Dershowitz’s The Case for Israel.
I decided to buy it, content that I would shortly be deconstructing this propaganda piece, showing that Israel had no case and claiming my findings as a personal victory for the Palestinian cause.
As I read the author's arguments and deconstruction of many lies I saw as unquestionable truths, I searched despairingly for counter arguments, but found more hollow rhetoric that I’d believed for many years. I felt a real crisis of conscience, and thus began a period of unbiased research. Up until that point I had not been exposed to anything remotely positive about Israel.
Now, I didn't know what to believe. I'd blindly followed others for so long, yet here I was questioning whether I had been wrong. I reached a point where I felt I had no other choice but to see Israel for myself; only that way I’d really know the truth. It was a life-changing visit.
I did not encounter an apartheid racist state, but rather, quite the opposite. I was confronted by synagogues, mosques and churches, by Jews and Arabs living together, by minorities playing huge parts in all areas of Israeli life, from the military to the judiciary. It was shocking and eye-opening. This wasn't the evil Zionist Israel that I had been told about.
After much soul searching, I knew what I had once believed was wrong. I had been confronted with the truth and had to accept it. But I had a bigger question to confront, what now? I’d for years campaigned against Israel, but now I knew the truth.
The choice was obvious: I had to stand with Israel, with this tiny nation, free, democratic, making huge strides in medicine, research and development, yet the victim of the same lies and hatred that nearly consumed me.
Doing this is not easy and that’s something that has become very obvious. I have faced hostility from my own community and even some within the Jewish community in the UK, but that’s the reality of standing up for Israel in Europe today. It is not easy, and that’s what makes it so necessary.
When it comes to Israel, the truth is not being heard, the ranks of those filed with blind hatred continue to swell, yet many have not been exposed to the reality, away from the empty rhetoric and politically charged slogans they are so fond of.
We can change this situation but we need to be strong and united. Israel is not just a Jewish issue - it’s about freedom, human rights and democracy, all the values that Western nations cherish. It’s also about trying to be a light among nations.
Kasim Hafeez is a British Muslim and former Islamist who is now a proud Zionist and stands with Israel.
He runs www.theisraelcampaign.org and has a blog on this site. He is also on the advisory board of StandWithUs in the UK.
Since it was published in 1923, The Prophet by Lebanese writer Kahlil Gibran has never been out of print. The classic has been translated into more than 50 languages and is regularly on international bestseller lists.
Although practically ignored by the literary establishment in the West, lines from the book have inspired song lyrics and political speeches.
The Beatles, John F Kennedy and Indira Gandhi are among those who have been influenced by its words.
"This book has a way of speaking to people at different stages in their lives. It has this magical quality, the more you read it the more you come to understand the words," says an interfaith minister in New York."It is not filled with any kind of dogma, it is available to anyone whether they are Jewish or Christian or Muslim."
The book is made up of poems, delivered as sermons by a wise man called Al Mustapha. He is about to set sail for his homeland after 12 years in exile on a fictional island when the people of the island ask him to share his wisdom on the big questions of life: love, family, work and death.
Gibran was a painter as well as a writer. He mixed with the intellectual elite of his time, including figures such as WB Yeats, Carl Jung and August Rodin, all of whom he met and painted.
He painted more than 700 pictures, watercolors and drawings but because most of his paintings were shipped back to Lebanon after his death, they have been overlooked in the West.
In Lebanon, where he was born, he is still celebrated as a literary hero.
His style, which broke away from the classical school, pioneered a new Romantic movement in Arabic literature of poetic prose.
"We are talking about a renaissance in modern Arabic literature and this renaissance had at its foundation Gibran's writings," says Professor Suheil Bushrui, who holds the Kahlil Gibran Chair for Values and Peace at the University of Maryland.
In the Arab world, Gibran is regarded as a rebel, both in a literary and political sense. In his writing, he raged against the oppression of women and the tyranny of the Church and called for freedom from Ottoman rule.
Vidal Sassoon was a craftsman who changed the world with a pair of scissors.
Due to poverty his mother placed Sassoon and his younger brother in a Jewish orphanage, where they stayed for seven years.
Sassoon was an ardent Zionist and was very involved with projects for Israel. He also constantly fought against those who advanced anti-Semitism.
At the age of 17 he became a member of a British Jewish underground organization. It broke up what it considered Fascist meetings in London. Newspapers referred to him as an "anti-fascist warrior-hairdresser" whose aim was to prevent extreme right wing movements from spreading "messages of hatred" in the period following World War II.
In 1948, at the age of 20, he joined the Israeli Defense Forces and fought in the 1948 Israeli War of Independence. During an interview, he described the time he spent with the Israelis as "the best time of my life," and recalled how he felt:
When you think of 2,000 years of being put down and suddenly you are a nation rising, it was a wonderful feeling. There were only 600,000 people defending the country against five armies, so everyone had something to do.
Vidal Sassoon, hair stylist and fashion world pioneer created a natural look in the 1960s and built a multimillion-dollar business. Sassoon began marketing his name, styles and cutting techniques in a worldwide line of beauty salons, hair-cutting schools and later, related lines of hair products.
"If you get hold of a head of hair on somebody you've never seen before, cut beautiful shapes, cut beautiful architectural angles and she walks out looking so different - I think that's masterful," he said.
In 1950 he won his first hairdressing competition, and four years later at age 26, opened his first shop in fashionable Bond Street in London's West End.
His short style was a vast contrast to the teased, brutal styles of the 1950s, and by 1963, he had created a short, angular cut on a horizontal plane.
Apart from hairdressing interests, he set up the Vidal Sassoon Foundation to help the needy in educational pursuits both in Israel and abroad.
Drummer Ziv Ravitz kept the energy flowing fast and furious at the concert by German pianist Florian Weber’s Minsarah Electric trio, and he appeared as a guest in Germany based Israeli pianist Omer Klein’s solo show.
Other gigs of particular note included a highly entertaining show by the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra from Norway, and a performance by the quintet of British pianist Kit Downes, who recently played at the Levontin 7 club in Tel Aviv.
Meanwhile, the Lighthouse trio, of British-based Israeli drummer Asaf Sirkis, pianist Gwilym Simcock and saxophonist- clarinetist Tim Garland, performed material from their latest release for the German ACT record label, and the mostly Dutch-based Levantasy quartet, with Israeli oboist-shofar player Yoram Lachish, also drew an enthusiastic response from the audience.
In the evening too there was frontline Israeli interest, with American-based reedman Oran Etkin leading a quartet of players from France, Mali and Guinea, mixing West African-based output with jazz, blues and klezmer.
The most exciting development, of local interest, is that Israel will be the partner country of Jazzahead 2013, which means the first evening of the event will be devoted to the artists from Israel.
“Israel is a melting pot of many different cultures of the world which has created one of the most interesting music scenes, not only in Europe and the Near East, but in the world,” said Jazzahead artistic director Ulrich Beckerhoff.
“This fact will, in 2013, be presented to the world by Jazzahead, the most important jazz event in Europe.”