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