News Highlights July 2012


The Second 100 years


After many years of declining numbers Israel's kibbutz movement is staging a revival, with many potential members wanting to join the unique form of collective living.The total kibbutz population of about 143,000 is the highest in its 102-year history. More people are now joining kibbutzim than leaving and the addition of working-age adults and young children is helping to redress the balance of an ageing population.

Most kibbutzim have implemented reforms so as to become commercially viable. Privatization with differential incomes and home ownership has increased the attractiveness to newcomers reluctant to commit to pure communal principles.

Increasing numbers of families are attracted to kibbutz living by the quality of education, environment, space and security. The kibbutz enterprises also provide thousands of job opportunities.

Some kibbutzim are major date producers and Israel is the world's number one exporter of certain high quality dates with 30% of these dates traded in international markets coming from Israel. Nearly 600,000 thousand palm trees grow in Israel and yield nearly 30 thousand tons worth over 400 million shekels annually.

A new fertilizer plant is being built in the Jordan valley and is expected to produce 20,000 tons of fertilizer annually.

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 and account for about 8% of Israel's economy.




Some US Congress members are sponsoring a bill that would ensure recognition of the plight of the nearly one million Jewish refugees displaced from Arab countries since Israel's War of Independence in 1948.

Their bill in the US House of Representatives also would recognize other displaced populations, including Christians from countries in the Middle East, North Africa and the Persian Gulf.

The legislation specifically calls on the Obama administration to pair any explicit reference to Palestinian refugees with a similar reference to Jewish and other refugee populations.

“The suffering and terrible injustices visited upon Jewish refugees in the Middle East needs to be acknowledged,” said a representative of the group. “It is simply wrong to recognize the rights of Palestinian refugees without recognizing the rights of nearly one million Jewish refugees who suffered terribly at the hands of their former compatriots.”

 “Jewish refugees who were forced to flee Arab countries and Iran endured unimaginable hardships,” the group representative stated. “Their plight has been ignored by the United Nations, other international bodies and many responsible nations. Any comprehensive Middle East peace agreement can only be credible and enduring if it resolves all issues related to the rights of all refugees in the Arab world and Iran, including Jews, Christians and others.”

 “We want to ensure that the United States makes the rights of Jewish refugees from Arab nations a priority in multilateral discussions about the Middle East conflict," said a spokesperson. "Any time refugee issues are discussed in the context of the peace negotiations, the rights of Jewish refugees need to be given their proper place.”

Justice for Jews from Arab Countries has been pushing the issue for many years and was instrumental in obtaining a House resolution on the matter in 2008. The resolution noted that for any “comprehensive Middle East peace agreement to be credible and enduring, the agreement must address and resolve all outstanding issues relating to the legitimate rights of all refugees, including Jews, Christians and other populations displaced from countries in the Middle East.”

A similar resolution is being considered by the US Senate.


Karmiel Dance Festival

A 25th anniversary is cause for celebration. This year’s program includes the usual mass dances and jazz competition, as well as several important guest performances.

Singer Achinoam Nini has prepared a special production, Ray of Light, in honor of the festival, featuring a group of talented young dancers.

The Remangar Flamenco Company will premiere a new work entitled Time of the Butterfly. In addition, recently having burst onto the Tel Aviv scene, the Irish Dance Company of Israel will show choreographer Yair Werdyger’s The Magic of Ireland.

The Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, who are used to the green environs of the region, are gearing up to premiere an unusual evening. Though the company has a long history of performing works by international artists, in recent years the lion’s share of their works have been by artistic director Rami Be’er.

The international guests include CIA Brasileira de Ballet of Brazil, Guangdong Modern Dance Company of China, Ballet Metz of France and Pittsburg Dance Theater of America.

CIA Brasileira de Ballet is an unusual company in the Brazilian cultural landscape. Though dance is a prevalent form of expression in Brazil, prior to the founding of this troupe in 1967, there was no professional ballet company in the country. The ensemble is the brainchild of Jorge Texeira and is dedicated to fostering talent in young, underprivileged dancers.

While in Israel, CBB will perform three works: Don Quixote, Raymonda and The Brazilian Suite.

The Guangdong Modern Dance Company is a slightly younger ensemble. Now celebrating its 20th season, GMDC is under the artistic directorship of Pun Sui-fai. For its Israeli engagement, the company has prepared a mixed program entitled “Between Body and Soul.”

The evening consists of three works: Voice After and Mountain and Water by Liu Qu and Touched by Xing Liang. All three pieces display the fluid, gentle movement vocabulary for which the company has become known internationally.

Ballet Metz will present “Scheherazade,” an evening in three parts. All three works are by ballet master Patrick Salliot. Daphnis et Chloe is the story of a tragic love triangle. Scheherazade is the tale of a young girl who gets ensnared in a dramatic fantasy and is an excerpt from One Thousand and One Nights.

This festival will mark the Pittsburgh Dance Theater’s first visit to Israel. The company has gained momentum in recent years, drawing new choreographers to contribute to its diverse repertoire of classical dance. The three-part program includes works by legendary ballet master George Balanchine, American ballet star Dwight Rhoden and modern dance icon Mark Morris.

Israel’s best and brightest folk dancers will be present throughout the festival to perform and teach dances both old and new.

Regional Cooperation

A new NIS 10 million regional cooperation project involving renewable energy in the Eilat- Eilot region aims to strengthen cross-border relations with Jordan as well as aid regional development.

The Israeli Government approved a program for the Eilat-Eilot region for renewable energy with a budget of over NIS 10 million, from which NIS 4 million will go directly to cooperation projects, a joint statement from the ministry and the regional council said.

“The ministry uses all of its resources possible to promote projects; this project is just one of them,” A spokesperson said. “We want to be pioneers in all fields and with joint forces and by means of regional cooperation we will use the natural treasures of the Arava and channel them into today’s emerging technology.”

The Eilot Regional Council will lead efforts toward regional cooperation, to stimulate work together on renewable energy along the southern border with Jordan and thereby provide a catalyst for development in the area, according to the statement. Research bodies will come together from both sides of the border, including students and professors from both Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.

The goal is to make the laboratories a “hub” for renewable energy development, working on innovations in bio-energy, bio-fuels, hydrogen, solar energy, meteorology and more.

Meanwhile, the program will also involve a feasibility study for the establishment of a thermal-solar power station.

“The establishment of a center for laboratories like this is a milestone of utmost importance in the transformation of the Arava into the ‘Sun Valley’ of renewable energy in Israel,” said Udi Gat, mayor of Eilat- Eilot, who emphasized the importance of bringing leading researchers from Israel and Jordan together over cooperative projects.

“We believe that these laboratories will be at the cutting edge of the alternative energy field in Israel and will join all other solar plants, international conference, greenhouse technologies, training centers and tourist centers being built these days in the Hevel Eilot and Eilat regions as part of the real revolution that is occurring in the region,” Gat said.


New Medical facility

Ten hectares of state land on the southeastern edge of Safed have been set aside for the permanent campus of the Galilee Faculty of Medicine.

A government ministerial committee approved the request this week by the faculty – which is owned and run by Bar-Ilan University.

BIU director-general Haim Glick reported that an additional 4 hectares will be allocated later for the campus, which is being constructed overlooking The Sea of Galilee and is due to be completed in six years.

The Faculty of Medicine has signed cooperation agreements with a number of hospitals in northern Israel, including the Poriya Medical Center near Tiberias, to upgrade equipment and facilities used by students in the clinical phase of their studies in local hospitals.

“What is happening in the Galilee is a miracle,” said a spokesperson. “We were sent to carry out a holy mission of developing the Galilee and advancing medicine. We feel a powerful experience through brainstorming and cooperation, all aimed at advancing and improving the faculty of the medical faculty and health in the entire area,” he added.

Poriya director-general Dr. Ya’acov Farbstein thanked BIU for its major investment in his hospital to improve conditions for medical students during their years of clinical work.

“I have no doubt that the medical school will boost the Galilee, which will also build a scientific center including complex medical industries".

Israel-Palestine Economic Agreement

The signing in Jerusalem of an economic agreement on behalf of Israel and the Palestinian Authority by Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is not without significance.

The agreements, meant to improve on the 1994 Paris Protocol that has governed economic relations between Israel and the PA since then, are designed to fight tax evasion and smuggling and facilitate bilateral trade.

According to a Finance Ministry statement, the arrangements that will go into effect on January 1 “will introduce mechanisms that better facilitate the movement of goods between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and that support both parties’ efforts in reducing illegal trade and tax evasion. The arrangements will further assist in enhancing the Palestinian tax system and thus aid in strengthening the economic base of the Palestinian Authority.”

The sides also agreed that a pipeline would be built “for the safe and exclusive transfer of petroleum products” from Israel to the PA.

The EU’s Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton applauded the agreement. She issued a statement saying she “warmly” welcomed the accord, and said it was “an important step forward in promoting Palestinian economic development and further improving economic relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”

Over the last few years Fayyad has been busy trying to build up the PA’s institutional and economic capacity so that it is ready for statehood.

Economic issues are not the only area where the two sides have found room to cooperate.

Both Israeli and Palestinian security officials acknowledge close, effective security cooperation between the sides.

There is intelligence sharing and mutual security assistance. There are regular meetings at the brigade and division level between officers.

Since Hamas is a threat to both the PA and Israel, there is cooperation in fighting it.

Money talks. If only the political echelons could now just follow the money.


Medical Breakthrough

After eight years of intensive work, a team of Ben-Gurion University scientists has overcome the “blood brain barrier” that prevents drugs from passing into the brain and reaching specific targets to fight disease.

The system of synthetic nanoscale structures, called V-Smart drug delivery technology, also allows oral medications to pass through the tissue of the intestinal wall and other biological membranes; thus, the Beersheba researchers hope that injectable-only drugs for a variety of diseases could eventually be made in pill form.

The breakthrough technology, which uses microscopic, bubble-like membranous structures known as vesicles, was developed by the interdisciplinary team of emeritus Prof. Eli Heldman of the university’s clinical biochemistry department, Dr. Sarina Grinberg of the chemistry department and Dr. Charles Linder of the Avram and Stella Goldstein- Goren Department of Biotechnology Engineering.

A New York biotech company, Lauren Sciences, has signed a licensing agreement with BGU’s technology transfer company BGN Technologies.

Articles on the technology have been published by the Negev-based team in the Journal of Controlled Release, the Journal of Chemistry and Physics of Lipids and the Journal of Liposome Research, among others.

Despite great advances in therapeutic drugs, the problem of unwanted side effects remains a serious obstacle to treating patients. Most adverse effects are the result of a drug’s interaction with locations in the patient’s body that are not relevant to its medicinal action. But if an effective delivery system can make medications more available at target locations, the amount of harmful side effects is much reduced.

The V-Smart delivery system could be especially relevant to diseases of the central nervous system, from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s to multiple sclerosis, and neurological complications of HIV, as well as brain cancers.

The blood brain barrier was meant by the body to keep poisons out of the brain by separating circulating blood from the brain’s extracellular fluid in the central nervous system. It occurs along all capillaries and consists of tight junctions around the capillaries that do not exist in normal circulation.

A spokesperson said:“Our system is much better because it doesn’t break the blood brain barrier,” “It also has great stability, can target where the drug will be sent and releases the encapsulated drugs in a controlled manner at the target site.”

The BGU scientist said the team was also working on a delivery system for use in specific parts of the brain for Parkinson’s disease.

“So far, the delivery system has been shown to work,” he said. “But it still needs a lot of development. I estimate that in six months we can persuasively prove that the system works.”

“We hope that the success of these projects will improve these patients’ lives,” he said.

London Olympics


In sports, as in life, there is an eternal cycle intertwining the old and the new.

Every career has to end at some stage, but while 
one athlete declines, another blossoms, as was clearly evident at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Israel is not known as a sports powerhouse in the world, but nevertheless several sportsmen and sportswomen produced world class performances including those in swimming, sailing and gymnastics who reached the finals and were therefore ranked in the top eight in the world.

Although Israel had better successes in Sydney and Beijing where some athletes won medals, the London games was reasonably successful by Israeli standards, although no medals were won.

The Israeli Olympic Committee  asked the International Olympic Committee and the games organizers led by Lord Coe to announce a one minute's silence at the beginning of the games  for the fortieth anniversary of the massacre of eleven Israeli athletes at the Olympic village during the Munich Olympic Games.


The International Olympic Committee and Lord Coe said that they do not see the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Olympic games as an Olympic tragedy but solely as an Israeli problem. Nobody wishes to identify with a purely Israeli problem at such an important event and the fact that the incident took place at the Olympic Games was a coincidence and not related to the Olympic Games. Furthermore about one third of the athletes at the games are Moslems who are competing at the games during Ramadan and we have to schedule the events so as to allow them to eat according the religious traditions of Ramadan. That is an Olympic responsibility. The games organizers were not willing to upset so many Moslem athletes by remembering the massacre of only 11 Israeli athletes.

The Paralympics are due to take place in London at the end of August and the world will be witness to the monumental challenges facing physically challenged athletes from many countries around the globe. Israel has numerous world class athletes at these games and is expected to take some of the medals.

A Cardboard Bike

An Israeli inventor makes surprising use of unexpectedly durable material to build bicycle

According to Newsgeek, Gafni started working on the unconventional bike after learning of a man who had built a canoe using unexpectedly water-resistant material.

"I went home and it sort of disturbed me. This canoe made out of cardboard was sitting in the back of my head... and it suddenly struck my mind; 'Why not make a bicycle out of cardboard?'" Gafni said in a short documentary made by filmmaker Giora Kariv.

He went on to say that he spoke to three different Israeli engineers who all told him the same thing – "It's impossible."

But Gafni decided he was not giving up, and with the support of his wife he decided to pursue the unusual endeavor.

He embarked on a lengthy research about cardboard uses and eventually found that by applying the principals of Japanese origami, he could increase the weight-bearing capabilities of the cardboard by almost three times.


After several prototypes, he was able to develop a frame that was not only waterproof, but capable of carrying riders weighing up to 220 Kg.

"It's going to be a game-changer in the bike world," Kariv predicts. "Like Henry Ford who made the car available to anybody, this bike is going to be cheap and available to any child in the world, including children in Africa who walk tens of kilometers to school everyday."


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