News Highlights February  2013




         1.  The Next 100 Years.

2.   The Israelis.

3.   Interfaith Cooperation.

4.   Haredi Draft.

5.   Dr. Fischer.

6.   IDF Cyber Defense.

7.   Eilat Railway.

8.   Drunk Girls.

9.   Oxford University Vote.

10.   Yityish Titi Aynaw is Miss Israel.



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 employ volunteers from around the world. There will be a volunteer reunion trip in June. The fun filled tour will take you back to the kibbutz, with visits to many interesting and exciting Israeli attractions. Visit, eat, smell, walk in the kibbutzim, go rafting on the Jordan River, hike in the dramatic desert, float on the Dead Sea, enjoy spectacular sound and light shows, sail the Sea of Galilee and much, much more. Share all those unique moments with your fellow past volunteers from around the world, who will bring back the special spirit and laughs of past days and memories.

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.

The Israelis – Salim Joubran

Salim Joubran was born in 1947 and is a judge on the Israeli Supreme Court. He has served as a supreme court justice since 2003, and became a permanent member on May 2004. Joubran is the first Arab to receive a permanent appointment in the Supreme Court.

Salim Joubran was born in Haifa to a Christian Arab family of Rûm Greek Orthodox and Maronite Catholic origin.

He graduated from the Terra Santa School of the Franciscan Order in Acre. He earned a law degree from Jerusalem's Hebrew University, and entered private practice as a lawyer in 1970.

In 1982, Joubran left private practice after 12 years to accept an appointment as a judge on Haifa's Magistrate's Court, where he served for 11 years. In 1993, he was appointed to Haifa's district court, and served in that capacity for another 10 years, following which he was elevated to the Supreme Court first as a temporary and then as a permanent judge.

On 10 November 2011 Joubran, one of three Supreme Court judges deciding the fate of Israel’s former president, Moshe Katzav, upheld his conviction for rape.

Joubran was a lecturer at the Law Faculty at the University of Haifa. He served as governor of Israel Rotary (dist. 2490) and chairman of the Zeltner Fund for legal research sponsored by Rotary Israel and Tel Aviv University.


Interfaith Cooperation

There are on-going interfaith encounter groups, or centers, that bring together neighboring communities across the country.  Each center is led by an interfaith coordinating team with one person for each community in the area.

The goal of this group is to develop into a “mini-community” that exemplifies the desired relations of mutual respect and friendship while respecting and reinforcing the unique identity of each community. These groups then act as models for the surrounding community of how multiple faiths can live side by side in peace while becoming growing islands of coexistence communities.

The backbone of the groups’ process is the monthly session of joint study. Dedicated to one theme each time, these sessions usually open with a short presentation followed by joint study and discussion of the beliefs, practices and sacred texts of the respective traditions.

There are also womens groups. In these encounters, Muslim, Christian, Druze and Jewish women study topics of relevance to women from the perspective of the different religions.  Not only is interfaith study is used as a vehicle  for understanding, acceptance and respect for the “other”, but also as a way to deepen awareness of one’s own religion.

The encounter is a source of strength and empowerment for women to recognize their shared values and struggles. Through monthly meetings and shared religious celebrations and conferences, WIE groups create a sacred space of trust, harmony and support during difficult times.

The Youth Interfaith Groups ,YIE, is a special place for young adults to have interfaith encounters with their counterparts of other faiths.  These encounters are run by young people, for young people.  Similar to the general groups and the WIE groups, the YIE groups also develop into “mini-communities” that seek to induce the desired change in the larger society.  The YIE also acts as a gateway for young adults to join the interfaith encounter process.

The Israeli-Palestinian dialogue,IPD, holds regular interfaith meetings and conferences in cooperation with Palestinian organizations, with the objective to build peace between the two nations on a people-to- people level.  Because they take an inter-religious, non-political, approach we are able to engage in the process people from all parts of the political spectrum in their respective societies.  Even if there is violence, these meetings are carried on cautiously, in carefully selected locations.

Haredi Draft

Two of the most senior Haredi Rabbis in Israel, Aharon Leib Shteinman and Shmuel Auerbach, have both declared over the past two days that there is “no room for compromise” on the issue of Haredi enlistment.

Their pronouncements came after reports last week that Shteinman, the spiritual leader of the Haredi community, was not opposed to the principles of one particular plan for increasing Haredi enlistment to national service programs that had been presented to him.

In a public pronouncement printed in Haredi newspapers on Wednesday, Auerbach wrote that he was joining the call for prayer against “the decree to uproot the Torah,” and initiatives to “harm” the status of yeshiva students.

 “No compromise is appropriate in this issue in order that Torah should not cease among the Jewish people,” the Rabbi wrote. He added that being present in the framework of the army “causes great spiritual danger, may God have mercy, and this is the opposite of what we teach our children.”

He said that the government should not disturb the Haredi community on this issue “because it is the essence of our existence and purpose in life and if it is taken from us it would be the greatest travesty, if we would not be able to fulfill the will of God.”

Shteinman specifically referenced what he called the appropriate age for a young Haredi man to study Torah, saying that beginning to learn at an older age is not conducive to producing outstanding Torah scholars.

Some recently proposed plans for Haredi enlistment, including that of Yesh Atid, mandate a universal draft at age 18. The community’s spiritual leadership is loathe to agree to such terms since they feel that the Haredi identity and commitment to an ultra- Orthodox lifestyle is far weaker at this young age. They fear that entry into the army at a young age would lead many young Haredi men away from the community.

Dr. Fischer

American pharmacy shoppers have been buying Dr. Fischer’s products for years – they just didn’t know it. Major chains including Rite Aid, CVS and Duane Read have sold the Israeli entrepreneur’s products under their own generic brands, with only a line of white lettering reading “Made in Israel” ever hinting that the product was made by Dr. Eli Fischer.

“We made Purell wipes for Purell before Pfizer bought them,” says Fischer, who founded the company with his wife, Dvora, in 1965.

Having built up its US product sales to millions of dollars annually over the course of 10 years, Fischer Pharmaceuticals decided it was time to emerge from behind the generic packaging.

“If you have a brand, it’s harder to undercut,” Fischer says, “so we decided to develop our brand in the United States.”

Though it will continue selling a wide range of products, such as sunscreen and vitamins, through US retailers using generic branding, the company has begun marketing some of its eyecare products under its own name.

Key among them is an eyelid wipe that, due to its sterile hydrating formula, does not require washing, one of Fischer’s proudest recent innovations.

“We, by chance, understand both eyes and wipes,” he says, adding that keeping eyelids clean from debris, pollen, allergens and bacteria can be an important preventive measure against eye complications and deterioration of eyesight. “Eye hygiene is as important as dental hygiene.”

Fischer should know. He was a member of the research team that developed the glaucoma drug EPPY, once the leading treatment for the disease, and worked as a research assistant to Nobel Prize winner Dr. George Wald, who discovered the important linkage between vitamin A and vision.

Fischer, 77, was born in Czechoslovakia and immigrated to Israel with his family when he was three, on the same day the German army entered Prague.

He studied biochemistry and microbiology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and earned a doctorate in pharmacology at the University of California Medical Center and a fellowship at Harvard.

The company employs 700 people and has facilities in Bnei Brak, the Galilee and Tzrifin. It has expanded to five main production areas: children’s products, sunscreen, cosmetic treatment, toiletries and nutritional supplements.

The bronze-colored bottle of their Ultrasol sunscreen, a staple at beachside kiosks as well as pharmacies, exemplifies their pharmaceutical philosophy.

“Everything is anti-aging, even shampoo,” Fischer says. While any old bathroom soap could clean your hair for the short term, he says, repeated use would start to take its toll on your hair and scalp. The products they create, whether sunscreen, shampoo or vitamins, are designed not to aggravate cells’ natural deterioration but prevent it.

“Aging happens in the whole body, not just the face,” Fischer says. “But you can slow down the process.”

In addition to exporting two daily shipping containers each to Europe and the US, the company also has a healthy presence in Palestine, where its products are marked in English, Hebrew and Arabic.

“Peace, we must say, is also good for business,” says Fischer, a proud peace activist. “If there’s peace, we’ll sell 10 times as much.”


IDF Cyber-Defense Control Center

After two years of planning, the IDF introduced its cyber-defense control center into service in recent days. The development comes as senior army sources involved in cyber-defenses reported a dramatic rise in the capabilities and scope of attacks on the IDF’s digital infrastructure, ranging from state actors to amateur hackers.

“Few countries have this kind of [defense] ability,” one source said on Tuesday. “This is a part of the IDF’s readiness to ensure continuity of conventional operations. This continuity is based on cybersecurity.”

The control center will be staffed by 20 soldiers, and will enable the army to monitor all attempted virtual attacks. It will stay in close touch with the government’s cyber-defense system, called Tehila (the Hebrew acronym for “Government Infrastructure in the Internet Era”).

The center will also be in touch with the Shin Bet’s (Israel Security Agency’s) Information Security Authority, which is responsible for securing the nation’s energy infrastructure, financial markets, communications networks and transportation sector against hostile cyber-attacks.

“This is a nerve center for defense. It has impressive command capabilities,” the source said.

“It will be operational 24/7,” he added. “The world of attacks is changing rapidly.”

He conceded that 20 soldiers are insufficient in light of the threats, but said more soldiers were being trained to join the center.

The training involves a unique simulator that enables recruits to train in fending off cyber-attacks.

“It’s like a flight simulator, and to my knowledge, it is the first of its kind in the world,” the source said. “There has been an increase in the number of cyber-attacks.

“In this world, time has no significance – an attack can be launched immediately – and neither does distance. The attacker can be anywhere,” the source said.

“Two years ago, even my most pessimistic evaluations didn’t lead me to believe we’d be facing the challenges we’re seeing today,” the source continued.

“Our enemies are not stupid. They’re determined, and want to cause harm wherever they can.”

Eilat Railway

The Southern District Committee for Planning and Building approved the final leg of the future Eilat railway, choosing an eastern corridor alternative proposed by the Transportation Ministry.

Deciding on the missing piece of the railway, which will be capable of speeds between 220 and 260 kilometers per hour, the committee reviewed three routes from Dimona to Hatzeva – the eastern path of the Transportation Ministry and Israel National Roads Company, the western route of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) and a third central route.

The committee approved the eastern route due to its engineering feasibility, low cost, minimal safety risks, low environmental impact and an operational convenience that will allow for the use of many trains, the Interior Ministry said.

The decision comes about two months after the committee approved the two other sections of the train route – from Beersheba to Dimona and from Hatzeva to Eilat.

“The project will bring a blessing to the factories of the South, which account for a large and meaningful component of Israeli exports,” Transportation Minister Israel Katz said, noting that there would be significantly fewer large trucks on Road 90 once the train begins operating.

With a rail link to connect the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, the country will see a swifter passage of goods to both Europe and Asia and a resultant strengthening of international relations, Katz said. In addition, the rail will improve tourism to Eilat and significantly reduce air pollution levels, he added.

“For the project, a social contribution is of top priority for the 700,000 people living in southern Israel,” Katz said.

Work on the Eilat railway, which will involve six planning firms, will include a 240- km. passenger route and a 260- km. freight route, the Transportation Ministry said. In addition, the plans involve eight operational stations, four cargo terminals and five new passenger stations – in Dimona, Sapir, Ketura, Ramon and Eilat, Israel National Roads Company CEO Shai Baras explained.

In addition to shifting the 60-km. section between Dimona and Hatzeva southwest, the alternative proposed by the INPA called for digging tunnels that researchers said would leave the surface of the desert nature untouched. This option, the INPA stressed, would reduce the need for 50- meter-high ramparts to elevate the train line, land bridges and flattening of open spaces.

NGO to Rescue Drunk Girls


Volunteers at the NGO Learn and Live, which aims at keeping at risk girls in Israel out of abusive situations, will be patrolling in downtown Jerusalem as holiday festivities take place in the city’s main squares this weekend.

Some 25 trained volunteers divided into small groups will be in the streets offering assistance and guidance to young girls celebrating, drinking heavily and even taking drugs.
The organization’s staff will be driving girls who are at risk of getting into problematic situations to two tents set up for the occasion: one downtown Jerusalem where they will be offered a safe place to rest and have a warm drink, and a second one in the Baka neighborhood where they will be able to spend the night before receiving a breakfast and bus fare home in the morning. 

Patty Kupfer, who has been organizing the project for the past two years at Learn and Live explained that drunk female teenagers are sometimes lured away by men who later abuse them. In some of these cases, Kupfer said, the girls follow men where they are then trapped. Learn and Live has rescued girls from these situations many times in the past.

“They are not capable of making a conscious decision, and they follow strange men. They don’t even know who they are with,” she explained, “I can't tell you how painful it is, when you go down to Ben Yehuda street or King George in Jerusalem and you see 14 year olds falling over their feet. All teenagers make mistakes but we don’t want them to do something stupid that would affect them for rest of their lives.”

“They don't realize what they are getting themselves into. You think you're going out to have a good time on holidays and party with a bunch of kids and it turns into a disaster when you lose your free will because of drugs or alcohol,” Kupfer added, “And the wolves are out there, Jewish and Arab, they are out there."

Learn and Live operates in 32 cities across the country in three areas of activity: prevention, rescue and rehabilitation. The organization provides the girls with shelters they can stay in as well as meetings with counselors who help them get their lives back on track after having suffered abuse. The NGO also runs a hotline they can call for emergency help.

“Saving a girl from a horrific situation, it feels like you've saved the world,” Kupfer said, “I'm a mother and that's someone's daughter. It makes you think, if this were my daughter, I'd thank god someone is helping.”

Last year, Learn and Live rescued 21 girls from problematic situations only on the night of Purim.


Oxford University Vote

A controversial motion at Oxford University calling for a boycott of Israeli institutions and goods was unequivocally defeated by students on Wednesday.

Students at the prestigious university voted against the motion at Oxford University Students’ Union (OUSU), with 69 votes against, 10 for and 15 abstentions. A margin of seven to one.

Oxford University’s collegiate system is made up of 38 colleges and six private halls founded by various Christian denominations. Each college has a “junior common room” that votes at the OUSU. The number of votes each college has is determined by the size of the college.

The motion called for the OUSU and National Union of Students to join the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, known as the BDS movement, against the Jewish state.

The motion also called on the union to “conduct research into higher education institutions’ contacts, relations, investment and commercial relationships that may be implicated in violating Palestinian human rights as stated by the BDS movement.”

The decision was hailed by the Union of Jewish Students who called on students to constructively engage with Israel, its ideas and people, rather than chose to boycott.

“It’s encouraging to see that this vote reflects a student body who are willing to discuss the complexities that exist within Israel and do not see boycotting it as a viable option or avenue to discuss the conflict,” UJS campaigns director Judith Flacks said.

Eylon Aslan-Levy, whom MP George Galloway refused to debate with last week on account of him being Israeli, said: “Tonight Oxford students showed that their commitment to intellectual freedom is unshakeable. In rejecting calls for a boycott against Israel, we demonstrated resoundingly that we want Oxford to continue to cooperate with Israeli academics, trade with Israeli businesses and -yes- debate with Israeli debating societies.

“I hope that other British universities will follow Oxford's lead in standing up against divisive attempts to hinder academic cooperation and progress,” he added.

“Oxford's students have made it absolutely clear that applying double standards to Israel is wholly unacceptable,” Henry Watson from Magdalen College said. “Oxford's Student Union emphatically refused to endorse a boycott of the only liberal democracy in the Middle East: it decisively repudiated the BDS movement and its anti-Semitic cheerleaders, by a margin of seven-to-one.

Miss Israel


Yityish Titi Aynaw, a 21-year-old from Netanya, was chosen Miss Israel 2013. She is the first Ethiopian-born contestant to win the title.

Aynaw, who came to Israel with her family when she was 12, was entered into the competition by a friend, and had no previous modeling experience.

She said during the competition that she hoped to go into modeling “to change attitudes to dark-skinned models. I’d love to become the first Israeli (TV) host, the Tyra Banks of Israel.”

Interviewed on Thursday, Aynaw, who served as an officer during her military service, said her integration into Israeli society had been greatly eased because she had been “thrown into the deep end” in the state school system, “and I learned to swim”. She also said she hoped “to represent all Israelis” as Miss Israel, rather than specifically championing the cause of Ethiopian Israelis. She said it would be an honor to represent Israel on the international stage, and that she thought it would reflect well on Israel to have an Ethiopian-born beauty queen.