News Highlights September 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.

Back in 1952 Ben Gurion asked a dairy worker to get permission from his kibbutz to take up the position of Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Defense. The dairy worker was just 29 years old but Ben Gurion believed that he was important for the country. The worker approached his kibbutz and a vote was held at a general meeting whether or not to allow a kibbutz member to work outside the kibbutz. That was the way the kibbutzim operated in those days.The members of Alumot voted in favor and the dairy worker, Shimon Peres, was granted leave to serve the country as Deputy Director General of Defense. Shimon Peres was instrumental in building Israel's Defense industry including its nuclear capacity. He also served in numerous ministerial posts including that of Prime Minister. He is of course Israel's current President.

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.

International Cooperation

As the Syrian situation worsens considerably, especially for civilians, several international companies are providing civilian aid.

Syria has been searching for ways to supply drinking water to its beleaguered population who often have to rely on water trucks as more and more water is contaminated due to the escalating civil war in the country.

Syria has finally agreed that Israel Chemical Corporation can supply the war torn country with badly needed water purification tablets as long as the tablets are supplied from the Israel Chemical Corporation manufacturing facility in Ireland and not directly from Israel.

The parties to the Syrian conflict do not wish to be seen to receive even civilian aid from Israel as the countries have never had any diplomatic ties and are official still at war, although no war has been fought for almost forty years. 

France boosts security for French Jewish sites

French president Francois Hollande promises to fight terrorist threats after shooting at Paris synagogue, which is part of a wave of ant-Jewish attacks in France.

It was reported that the shots fired at the synagogue in a suburb of Paris, were fired just hours after the city’s chief prosecutor gave a news conference detailing the arrests of suspects in the recent bombing of a Jewish store.

Elite police units have been carrying out operations in the Paris region, Strasbourg and the Mediterranean cities of Nice and Cannes in connection to an incident in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles, in which two men threw a grenade into a Jewish kosher supermarket, wounding one and causing minor damage.

In one of the Strasbourg raids, a suspect, identified as a 33-year-old Muslim convert, was shot and killed after he opened fire on police.

French police have meanwhile arrested an eleventh man whom they say may have been connected to a domestic terrorist cell of alleged jihadists, suspected of involvement in the bombing of the supermarket in Sarcelles.

Police are still searching for a twelfth suspect.

A spokesman for the Jewish community told French Radio: "There is a highly noticeable resurgence of anti-Semitic attacks and aggression."

France's Jewish community has been on edge after a series of attacks in recent months. In the worst incident, three Jewish children and a rabbi were among seven people shot dead in March by an al-Qaida-inspired gunman who had attended a combat-training camp in Afghanistan.

Clean Up Day in Israel 2012

Clean Up Day in Israel was a hive of activity, with 189,000 participants from 153 districts all around the country enthusiastically pitching in to keep Israel clean.  

KKL-JNF led Israel's Clean Up Day activities in consideration of the Jewish and Muslim religious holidays, making Israel the first country in the world to usher in Clean Up the World Day 2012. Clean Up Day activities were sponsored by JNF USA and JNF Australia, making Clean Up Day in Israel a true international effort.

 

Clean Up Day in Israel 2012 was launched with a bang at the main opening ceremony in Switzerland Forest near Tiberias, in the Galilee. The ceremony was attended by KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler, Tiberias Mayor Zohar Ovad, Deputy head of the Australian Embassy Luke Davies, and popular TV personality Tal Musari. They all rolled up their sleeves and joined hundreds of school children and IDF soldiers in cleaning the forest.

 

An additional clean up day ceremony was held at the community forest of Rahat, a Bedouin city in the Negev. The ceremony was attended by Rahat Mayor Faiz Abu Sahiban, Director of KKL-JNF's Southern Region Ami Uliel, and KKL-JNF board members. Together, a buzzing crowd of 430 Jewish and Bedouin school children and soldiers worked to make Rahat Forest beautiful.

 

Hundreds of elementary, middle school and high school students took a break from their studies and went out to clean the parks, streets, and public spaces of Eilat. Another 200 primary school children cleaned up KKL-JNF's Holland Park in Wadi Simhon, after which they enjoyed a series of educational activities at Timna Park, with KKL-JNF's Youth and Education department

Leave your wallet at home – pay by cell phone

The bill hasn’t been paid yet!  It’s the part of any outing that is least enjoyable and often comes when we have little patience left.

An innovative new payment system might mean you never have to wait for a bill again. MyCheck, an Israeli start-up founded in March 2011 and recently backed by Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli, is a mobile payment application, designed to enable customers to pay the bill using their smart phones at any point during the meal.

The first step is activating the MyCheck app and a list of nearby places that accept MyCheck will pop up. Upon selecting your venue and entering a pre-determined password, the system will generate a random 4-digit code that you will give to the waiter or bartender. From that point on, you will be able to see your tab at any point and pay the bill whenever you wish, with no need for further interaction with anyone.

The app is designed to deal with common situations: it allows splitting the bill with an unlimited number of people and also adding a tip. Once the payment is absorbed in the system, and the transaction has gone through, the server will see a “paid” message on their point of sale and the client will automatically get an email receipt, so that every transaction can be followed easily.

According CEO Shlomit Kugler, who co-founded MyCheck along with Tal Zvi Nethanel, Erez Spaz and Asaf Talmor Wertheimer, their app can integrate with restaurants and bars’ existing POS (point of sale) systems. Adapting the app to integrate with any system may mean a lot of hard work for the people at MyCheck,  but it saves the trouble of training employees to use a new program.

It is a completely different payment experience

The company states that MyCheck is protected with the highest possible levels of information security mechanisms. The credit card information is stored on MyCheck’s secure servers and information is never shared with, or transferred to, any merchant.

MyCheck can also help avoid unpaid bills MyCheck with its default option automatically charges the account if after three hours of inactivity, or at closing time, the tab is still open. An electronic receipt will then be received via e-mail.

The app is currently available only in Israel but they will soon be launching the app in both the US and the UK. The MyCheck website is already up and running in both countries and the app is available for free download.

Zvi Nethanel revealed that while the start-up is currently focusing on businesses such as bars and restaurants, they eventually aim to tackle over-the-counter businesses, such as gas stations, taxis and eventually, give people the option to leave their wallets at home.

A year of Your Life


A year of your life. That’s how much time Israeli company Parko estimates you will spend looking for parking. Two Israeli entrepreneurs, Tomer Neuner and Itay David, decided it was about time to solve the parking problem with Parko, a new mobile application for street parking.

Parko is a community-based mobile app that automatically identifies parking spots that are about to become available through a unique algorithm and is able to navigate users to available spots efficiently.

The inspiration for the company came from Neuner’s personal frustrations with city living: “Living in Tel Aviv is completely awesome except for one thing – parking. The more you do it, the more you hate it,”

Indeed, in Israel’s bustling metropolis, it takes on average 24 minutes just to find a parking spot.

The system knows about parking spaces – before they even get vacated

Itay David, the company’s CTO, has designed breakthrough learning algorithms that use information from nine sensors found in a typical smartphone, combined with statistical algorithms that learn both from the Parko network and from each individual user’s habits.

When looking for a spot, Parko’s unique map has icons for parking spots that will become available and the timing of when they will become available. Parko sends departing parkers a push notification asking them to confirm whether or not their spot will become available. Other parking apps rely on users to remember to notify the system before leaving their spot. Parko, however, is different. “We make the process semi-automatic. The person on his way to leave a parking spot doesn’t need to do anything except confirm what Parko already knows.”

Parko, which will soon be available on iPhone and Android, also has incentives to keep users loyal to each other and to the application. “We are rewarding our users for sharing spots with prizes and real money. There will be coupons for free coffee, and larger rewards like a free car wash.” The company already has sponsors that have agreed to provide these prizes. Neuner said “Only people that share spots can get spots. It’s about giving and receiving.”

The company was first unveiled a few weeks ago, when it took first place out of 80 companies in the Israeli Mobile Challenge by Google. So far, the company estimates that it already has 3,000-5,000 initial user signups. Israeli short-term car rental company Car2Go pushed out an email to all subscribers about Parko and its capabilities.

The company is in the middle of closing a seed round of funding, and seeks to raise $500,000 before launching in the next few weeks in Tel Aviv. After that, the company plans to expand overseas to Europe and the United States. “There are 700,000 cars every day in Tel Aviv and 5.5 million cars every day in Paris. That shows you the potential for our application,” says Neuner.

 

Packaging

 

In the Eilot Regional Council, large orange bins are joining the green garbage collection vessels on the streets, making the council Israel’s first authority to begin putting the terms of the country’s new Packaging Law into action.

The law, passed in January 2011, calls upon manufacturers and importers to take comprehensive responsibility for treating all packaging waste that they introduce into the Israeli market. As such, they must report and pay for every ton of packaging and work with the packaging recycling company Tamir to collect all packaging parts for recycling from local authorities. Eilot is the first such authority to work with Tamir to get the requisite orange recycling bins on the ground.

The Tamir Corporation will be collecting all packaging waste from the orange bins in a “streamline” framework, under which the customer will not be required to separate the different types of packaging, according to the council.

Tamir CEO Kobi Dar said he expects to see several other local authorities and cities joining Eilot in implementing the packaging waste collection system, which he feels will “enable residents to join in the environmental revolution and influence our future and our children’s future.”

Meanwhile, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan noted that he was particularly proud that an authority in the country’s South was “leading the implementation of Israel’s environmental revolution.”

“In the coming year, tens of thousands of additional families across the country will join in the green revolution and will throw product packaging into the orange bins,” Erdan said. “Together we will transform all of our garbage into an important economic resource.”

The new orange bins are simply one indicator of the emphasis the Eilot Regional Council places on environmental issues, its chairman stressed.

Hamas abusing Palestinians in Gaza

A Report accuses Hamas forces of making arbitrary arrests and trying civilians in military courts; 'Gaza authorities should ensure that justice system respects Palestinians' rights,' the report says.

An international rights group said that Hamas security forces in the Gaza Strip commit rampant abuses against Palestinian prisoners, including beatings with metal clubs and rubber hoses, mock executions and arbitrary arrests, and urged the Islamic militant group to swiftly reform its criminal justice system.

Human Rights Watch documented a long list of abuses that it said Palestinians in Gaza endure under the justice system run by Hamas, which has ruled for the past five years.

"There is ample evidence that Hamas security services are torturing people in custody with impunity and denying prisoners their rights," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director for the New York-based group. "The Gaza authorities should stop ignoring the abuse and ensure that the justice system respects Palestinians' rights."

In its report, HRW alleged that such practices were not limited to suspected political offenses.

It cited one man, identified only as a lawyer named "Y'' for fear of reprisals, who said he was arrested for fraud by Hamas police who ransacked his office and confiscated his passport, client files and other items.

"Y," who denied the allegations, described being tied to a bed and beaten with a rubber hose and metal clubs and forced to drink bleach that along with other forms of torture made him lose consciousness, according to the report.

He told HRW he woke up in a Gaza hospital where interrogators continued to beat him and then bound his hands behind his back and tied them to a window until his body was partly suspended off the ground for several hours.

The report said that many Palestinians who were tortured were too scared to complain, fearing retribution by Hamas. It also said hospital officials often refuse to release medical records of torture victims to avoid them being used as evidence. 

The report also accused Hamas police of making random arrests without warrants and sometimes holding family members as a pressure tactic. People are often detained without charge and denied access to lawyers and family, according to HRW.

It also criticizes the Gaza justice system for trying civilians in military courts. 

The report also mentions the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank makes arbitrary arrests as well and subjects detainees to torture.

Human Rights Watch urged Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to reform Gaza's criminal justice system to end arbitrary arrests, ensure that civilians be tried in civilian courts only, that he vow to ban torture and make other amendments to protect human rights.

Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007 after street battles with the Palestinian's Western-backed secular Fatah party. Since then the Palestinians have been split between Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah, which governs the West Bank.

Security and Defense

The office of Lt.-Col. Amichai Segal at battalion headquarters in the middle of the northern West Bank, is surrounded by rocky, hilly agricultural country. Palestinian villages and towns and Israeli settlements sprawl out around the military base.

Segal projects a quiet confidence as he discusses his battalion, which may very well hold the key to the biggest domestic issue dividing Israeli society: the call to draft Haredi citizens to the Israel Defense Forces.

“This project is more important than integrating secular and religious people. It's a national project of the first order, and I was able to influence it as battalion commander,” Segal says, speaking a week before he is due to complete his term as commander.

One of six battalions in the Kfir Brigade, the seed for Battalion 97 was planted in 1999, when a charity began operating in the haredi community, in conjunction with the Defense Ministry and the IDF’s Personnel Branch, to draft haredi soldiers.

The result was the creation of the battalion, which today is made up of Haredi soldiers, who serve for 16 months; national religious draftees, who are in the battalion for two years; and foreign volunteers, who spend 14 months in active service.

The religious soldiers are able to serve here because of the unique conditions offered to them. There are no women on base, eliminating modesty issues that arise in nearly all other IDF bases.

“During the day, there are several prayer and Torah study sessions,” Segal says. “This is the uniqueness of the battalion. It safeguards this way of life in the IDF.”

“A religious scholar won’t see women in a yeshiva, but he will see them on his way home. Similarly, on base, a soldier won’t see women here but he will see them after leaving the base,” Segal explains.

The battalion is also an outlet for the Haredi men who are not cut out to spend their entire lives studying in a yeshiva.In the battalion, they begin to rebuild their confidence. We do not give up on them. The commanders believe in their soldiers. As a result, parents have thanked us for giving their sons a sense of purpose.”

Instilling yeshiva “drop-outs” with a new sense of self-worth is a gradual process that involves discipline, professional training and, finally, the carrying out of active duty missions. With time, the soldiers’ identification with the state grows too, Segal says.

Next month, the battalion will take part in a brigade-wide exercise on the Golan Heights as part of a new emphasis by the IDF to get West Bank infantry forces ready for swift deployment to the northern or southern fronts.

Sipping from the Fountain of Youth

While it’s debatable whether most people would want to live to their 120th birthdays or beyond, it seems that medical discoveries and innovations – some of them Israeli – will significantly reduce the prevalence of chronic diseases in the coming years, from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s to diabetes and cancers. Nanotechnology, stem cells, organ replacement, more effective drugs and disease prevention will, according to some futurists, make the world a more crowded.

Mankind – at least in Western countries – has come a long way, as average life expectancy was around 45 at the beginning of the 20th century; by now, it has nearly doubled, thanks to improved medical care, antibiotics, vaccinations, better food and water supplies and prevention.

 “Aging has indeed been forced on the human race until now,” writes the author. “But a careful examination of current Israeli research discloses that we are on the edge of a significant jump in lifespan and that there is a real potential that in a few years, the Western world will have the ability to delay dramatically the pace of aging.”

He quotes Dr. Gary Sinoff of the gerontology department at the University of Haifa’s faculty of social welfare and health sciences as saying that instead of declaring a person “old” based on his or her chronological age, one should instead ask the person to fill out a two-part questionnaire with a total of 18 questions. They include whether he/she feels insecure going down stairs; has a problem driving; has to turn up the TV or radio to hear; avoids leaving the house for social encounters; has changed eating habits and lost weight; forgets finishing tasks or where he/she left objects; suffers from restless sleep; has trouble reading even with glasses; takes more than eight different medications, including food supplements; and is in regular contact with his/her family.

Ben-Shaul personally interviewed Prof. Moussa Youdim, the senior, Iranian-born Jewish neuropharmacologist at the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology who developed rasagiline (Azilect) – a drug that millions of people around the world take to slow the development of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

Maintaining good health and early screening for disease will be prominent in medical treatment of the future. The family physician will use robotics and computers before deciding on diagnosis and how to treat.

One’s personal genome will be combined with pharmacology to produce effective pharmaco-genetic care. And it won’t be science fiction, says Ben-Shaul, when nanotechnology creates a microscopic device that will “sail” through the bloodstream and catch and kill cancer cells, clean up cholesterol, test high sugar levels and find other dangers before they cause damage. Israeli scientists are prominent in this field as well.

Extended lifespans will bring never-dreamed-of benefits, but is the world prepared for them? Retirement, leisure time, housing, food supply and many other aspects will be greatly affected.

The author ends the book with a chapter on psychology, depression and narrative gerontology. Individuals who live way beyond what they expected will need help to cope emotionally. They will need a future-time perspective instead of seeing their soon-approaching end. A biological and psychological age will replace their chronological age, and the best way to deal with this, Ben-Shaul concludes, is with “narrative treatment,” in which the individual maps out his past life and his future, open-ended expectations.

A longer life could be a dream for some and a nightmare for others – depending on how it is lived.

Tel Aviv signs Bike Charter

“We are aiming to encourage cycling in the city and transform bikes into a legitimate transportation mechanism that is friendly and green, which will be used as an alternative to private vehicles,” Hilda said. “With a tremendous investment and hard work over the course of the past decade, we have developed an infrastructure, the service Tel-O-Fun and a network of bike paths in the city at a scope that stands alone in the country. The Charter of Brussels is an official stamp of our intention to continue to develop Tel Aviv-Yafo as a city that is bike friendly.”

The city’s main goal in signing the charter is to change the transportation lifestyle of Tel Aviv and encourage more people to use bicycles for transportation when traveling around the city, according to the municipality.

The Charter of Brussels was the result of the Belgian capital’s 2009 Velo-city Conference, which has already led to dozens of cities ascribing to the document. Encouraging cycling contributes to developing “livable cities, efficient urban transport, less congestion, less traffic noise, healthy physical activity, road safety, clean air, fighting climate change, saving fossil fuels and sustainable tourism,” the preamble to the charter states.

By signing the charter, cities commit themselves to setting a target of having 15 percent of travelers moving about on bikes by the year 2020, as well as reducing the risks of fatal bike accidents by 50% for the same year. In addition, committed cities must improve their bike parking and implement an “anti bicycle theft policy,” and initiate projects to encourage cycling to school and work.

The cities should also create more sustainable tourism by investing in measures to upgrade their bicycle tourism availability and cooperate closely with bike user and retailer organizations, the police, infrastructure administrators and other stakeholders, according to the charter.

Data from a recent survey shows that approximately 14% of Tel Aviv-Jaffa residents use bikes as their primary means of transportation to work or school, about 50% more residents have started using bikes as their primary method of transportation in the past two years and about 83% perceive Tel Aviv as a “bicycle city.”

Israel for Bikes is now promoting a bill that is slated to undergo a second and third Knesset reading in the coming months, which would call for the regulation of bike paths, bike parking spaces and showers in the work place, economic incentives for cycling to work and campaigns to increase cycling safety.

This bill will enable, if approved, many Israeli cities to join Tel Aviv.

UK cultural boycott of Israel

Poll shows clear majority of British citizens do not agree with cultural boycott of Israel.

The British and other countries cultural boycott of Israel does not make any sense, as all Israel's citizens are free to participate in any cultural activity. The bad press that Israel receives throughout the world paints a gloomy picture of a country with discrimination on the scale of the former apartheid South Africa.

People who actually visit Israel are surprised how different the country is compared to that depicted in the international press.

A new poll conducted by YouGov for the Jewish Chronicle of Britain showed that a clear majority of British citizens did not agree with a cultural boycott of Israel.

The poll highlighted the fact that less than one out of five people objected to Israeli cultural productions being presented in the United Kingdom. Even more, three-quarters of the population had no issue with British counterparts performing in Israel.

The survey was conducted in the wake of a rash of several public outbursts against Israeli cultural presentations across the United Kingdom.

Disruptions were seen at several performances including those of the Habima theater company when it performed at the Globe, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in London, and protests at the appearance of the Batsheva contemporary dance group when it performed at the Edinburgh International Festival.

The statistics gleaned from the new poll contradict British anti-Israel activists who have suggested that the majority of Britons would support a cultural boycott of Israel and consider Israel to be in the same pariah category as Apartheid South Africa used to be.

International artists who continue to perform in Israel despite pressure include Sir Paul McCartney, Madonna and Rihanna.

Statistics about Israel

Here are some positive facts about Israel.

 

Relative to its size, Israel has the world's largest immigration
Israeli birth rate is the highest in the Western world.


Israel occupies the second place in the number of new books per capita.
The technology used by NASA to send video images from Mars' b was developed by two Israelis.
System - operating "windows-XP" was largely developed by Microsoft Israel.

Microsoft's only development outside the U.S. is in Israel.

Israel has developed amazing hydrology methods that allow the growth of crops in arid areas. Israel shares this information with numerous countries and peoples.

 

Israel holds the world record cotton crop per acre (245 kg). Global average is 35 kg only.
Israel is the only country in the world that entered the 21st century with an increase in the number of trees in it.
Israel has more museums in proportion to its population than any other country.
Drip irrigation is an Israeli invention that saves water significantly worldwide.
Israel leads the world in the number of scientists and technicians.


Israel has the highest percentage of personal computers.


Israel sent 120 doctors to tsunami-affected areas in Asia, as well as 82 tons of medical supplies and humanitarian aid.

Israel's economy is larger than that of all its neighbors combined.


Israel produces more scientific papers per capita than any other country in the world.
Israel is one of eight countries in the world that can launch satellites into space.
85% of the trash in Israel is treated in a friendly environment.
Proportionately more Israelis hold registered patents than citizens of other countries.
Airlines from around the world come to Israel to study how to create maximal safety arrangements at airports and on flights.
In recent years Israel's per capita income has exceeded the per capita income of the UK.

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