Highlights March 2013
1. The Second 100 Years.
2. The Israelis.
Wailing Wall Battle Continues.
– Academic Boycott of Israel.
10. Peak Hour Drivers to Pay Higher Tax.
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.
There were many good intentions at the meeting between Israeli tourism
promoters counterparts from Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, held in the
Jordan Valley. According
to the vision, the South Jordan area tourist infrastructure will contribute to
peace and good neighborly relations.
All guests were from communities including kibbutzim in and near the Jordan
Valley, on both sides of the river. The meeting was devoted to a display and
update of each other's projects and programs on both sides of the border.
The conference was also devoted to promoting cooperation and cross-border
tourism in the southern Jordan Valley, and was attended by tourism promoters
from accommodation and attractions in the valley. The meeting included a visit
to the island of peace, including an explanation of the restoration of the
historic train station in the area.
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
The Israelis - General Orna Barbivai
General Orna Barbivai is the IDF's
first-ever female Major General She is commander of the Manpower Directorate.
Her rank is the IDF’s second-highest, directly reporting to the IDF chief
of general staff. General Barbivai has served in the IDF for 30 years, devoting
her entire army career to the directorate.
She is the second woman to serve on the Chief
of Staff’s General Staff.
General Barbivai has a Bachelor’s degree in humanities from Ben
Gurion University and an MBA in Business Management from the University of
Derby. She is a mother of three.
Barbibai described the different populations serving in the IDF, and noted that
“the Army consists of diverse and often polarized populations, because it a
reflection of society. Nevertheless, the motivation and desire to serve and
reach command and combat positions are among the highest we have ever known.”
from the IDF’s military duties, General Barbibai described the processes of
filling gaps in the education of recruits. “About 10-15 percent of enlistees
get to complete their 12 years of education while in the military. Moreover,
the entire “Makam” (Hebrew acronym for Center to Advance Special Populations)
involves recruits who require support and care during their service”
to Israel’s youth, Barbibai presented an optimistic position. “I firmly believe
that we have quality youth, and that the education system helps our youth
arrive in the army as an active and assertive population.”
to the head of Military Human Resources, local municipalities and schools show
a willingness to let the military into their classrooms.
impression is that there is a great desire to receive the army. After all,
eventually the youth will reach recruitment age, and facilitating dialogue and
discourse is good for them.”
In an effort to support the possibility of achieving
regional peace by beginning with cooperation on a shared natural resource,
representatives of two local organizations sent US President Barack Obama a
“road map” to Middle East peace that starts with water.
Because of the Palestinian Authority’s “dire need” for water, Israel’s
increased water supply due to desalination and the joint need between the two
to cope with untreated sewage, the issue of water could serve as a catalyst for
generating a future overall peace agreement, the road map said. Encouraging an
agreement on water issues could therefore only benefit both populations.
Forming such an agreement would help generate trust between two contentious
groups and “give hope to both peoples that a diplomatic solution to their
conflict is possible,” the authors said.
A water agreement could be the “urgently needed win-win” for the two sides by
mapping out the water rights of each group, the road map said.
The accord itself would be based on principles of economic efficiency, social
equality, ecological sustainability and practicality, the authors wrote. An
ideal accord would mandate the creation of a Bilateral Water Commission, which
would replace today’s Joint Water Committee and make decisions on delivery of
shared water and removal of sewage, as well as rates of water extraction.
Within the commission would be an Office of Science Advisors made up of
professional staff from both sides that could provide recommendations to the
In addition to the Bilateral Water Commission would be a Water Mediation Board,
which would be able to take action if the commission is unable to accept a
decision drafted by the Office of Science Advisors, the authors explained. Both
the commission and the board would have equal numbers of Israeli and
Palestinian representatives, plus one member from outside the region, they
“We would have liked to see the president of the US launch the negotiations
over water and invite the two sides to come to Washington,” a spokesperson
First and foremost, such a road map to peace has a capacity to be more
productive than the Oslo agreement because it is final rather than temporary.
“It creates a precedent that we can reach a final agreement and in the process
shows that there are partners to the process on both sides, and that a mechanism
would be put in place that builds trust between the two parties – which is very
much the missing link.”
the four public health funds are called “kupot holim” (“ill funds”) in Hebrew,
too many of the insurers are still convinced that their most important
responsibility is to treat rather than prevent illness. But Kupat Holim
Meuhedet, the third largest health fund, and its director- general Prof. Asher
Elhayany are now taking health promotion so seriously that its new approach
promises to be a revolution in Israeli healthcare.
Meuhedet regards Haredi families, who constitute 40 percent of its Jerusalem
members (and to a much lesser extent, Arab families) as a source of significant
profits. The National Insurance Institute – not the health funds – covers all
delivery costs in hospitals, and these families are younger and healthier on
average than non-Haredim. Thus more Haredi members means higher profits for the
health funds. As the predecessors of Meuhedet were founded in Jerusalem, the
health fund is very strong in the capital, thus giving Meuhedet much incentive
to seek out more ultra-Orthodox members.
“There are poor people in the center of the country and rich people in the
north or south, in places like Kfar Vradim or Omer. There are many residents of
Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, for example, who are economically disadvantaged, but we
don’t get compensation for treating their more serious medical conditions,” he
said. “There never will be enough money for health systems, but we can run the
health system better.”
“We are not going to wait until the customer gets ill; we will help him to
follow a healthful lifestyle every day of the year. I always thought that we
should do all we can to prevent people from having to go to hospitals. It can
take years to be profitable, but the long run it will save.”
“In Canada, there are two provinces, Ontario and British Columbia, from which
Israel can learn. Residents on average live 9.8 years longer with a high
quality of life and only one year of dependency on others before they die. In
Israel, residents live longer than in many other countries, but the average
number of years of dependency is 10! The Canadian provinces put a lot of effort
into health promotion.”
“We need to determine each member’s health identity and then carry out
Even though Meuhedet is a veteran health fund, most of its members are
youngish. There are only 70,000 of pension age. In Rehovot alone, however,
there are 4,200 older members.
“We screened all of them who regularly visit the clinics. We found that some
are hospitalized again and again for health failure, for example. We found most
didn’t follow the doctors’ orders on taking medications. We sought out
volunteers from Yad Sarah who assisted them and made sure they take their
medication and follow other advice.
Overweight and obesity costs the country abut NIS 10 billion a year in medical
costs and disability. A recent State Comptroller report found that 44% of
adults aged 18 to 64 and 69% of Israelis over 65 suffer from overweight.
Encouraging exercise and teaching proper diet can reduce that figure. The
health fund has also managed to get more members to get flu vaccinations in
both the center of the country and the periphery. This immediately reduces the
costs of treating patients who develop complications of the flu and have to be
“Next year, the 20th anniversary of the National Health Insurance Law will be
marked. It will be time to conduct a reassessment. The government made changes
that hurt implementation of the law. Out-of pocket payments by residents have
grown, and state subsidization of healthcare has declined. We must think about
what residents need.”
He noted that the more people agree to pay privately to get the healthcare they
need, the more the Finance Ministry believes that it doesn’t have to increase
public funding for health.
“But this can’t go on, and the basket of health services has to invest more in
health promotion and disease prevention.”
A website dedicated to providing educational resources on
Jewish culture to teachers and educators in Israel was launched this week at
the residence of the British Ambassador.
Tarbut IL, the brainchild of the Posen Foundation in conjunction with the
Shalom Hartman Institute, the AVI CHAI foundation and the Center for
Educational Technology, was unveiled with the goal of “deepening pluralistic
discourse in Israeli society in general and in the State education system in
Israel in particular.”
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post before the event, Daniel Posen explained
that there was a dearth of resources for the study and teaching of Jewish
Despite this, he maintained, the demand for cultural knowledge of the Jewish
people is huge.
“The culture of Judaism and the Jewish people, which is thousands of years old,
is fascinating, but many people are not interested in its religious trappings,”
“Our job is that of a service provider for those who don’t find any interest in
expressing their Judaism because they’re not religious.”
The purpose of the new website therefore is to strengthen knowledge of the
history and development of Jewish secular culture, improve the image and
relevance of such in Israel and provide a virtual home for the discussion, teaching
and study of Jewish culture.
Some of the educational fields covered by the website include Jewish ethics,
social justice, models of Jewish identity and secular, traditional and
religious attitudes towards the relationship between morality and religion in
Information on Zionism and Israel-Diaspora relations as well as the various
affiliations in the Jewish world can be found on the site.
Speaking more broadly about the foundation, Posen explained that large parts of
the secular Israeli public are “educationally impoverished” about Judaism and
the culture of their people.
“The secular majority have to find ways to bring Jewish education to
themselves,” he said.
“The majority of secular Jews have never been interested in rituals, so for
those who combine intellectual interest with some cultural practices this is
simply another avenue to explore for people who are not interested in
structured Jewish organizations.”
“The attempt here is to capture the interest of those who have never been attracted
to the religious aspect of Judaism.”
Yair Lapid, the new Minister of Finance has expressed strong
opposition to a potential merger between Israel Chemicals and a Canadian
natural resource firm that has shares in the Israeli company.
Israel Chemicals, the firm responsible for the majority of mineral extraction
on the Israeli side of the Dead Sea, has three categories of shareholders:
Israel Corp., which owns 52.30 percent, Potash- Corp Agricultural Society Ltd.
– held by Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan, Canada – which holds 13.85% and
members of the public and other institutions who own 33.85%.
The Canadian firm is now considering bidding for the remainder of Israel
Chemicals that it does not yet possess, according to Bloomberg News. Such a
move, it was stressed, could cause severe environmental implications to the
Dead Sea as well as harm the region financially.
“The completion of the merger in question without finishing the process of
establishing a national policy for managing natural resources would lead to the
real endangerment of economic, social and environmental interests of the
Also the delisting of the shares on the Stock exchange
would seriously affect Israel's economic standing in the world as the company
accounts for 20% of the weighted index calculation of Israel's economic
stability as seen by foreign investors.
An outline of the investment plan in question indicates that such a deal could
lead to a significantly increased amount of potash production by foreign
parties and thereby inflict added environmental damage upon the Dead Sea
region, the minister argued.
Likewise, if the Canadian firm gains a majority hold on company shares, as an
international company it could transfer the bulk of production to Jordan, where
labor costs are cheaper.
Such a situation could damage the livelihood of thousands of Israeli families.
“As we know, PotashCorp holds a global monopoly in potash production and can
influence the prices of potash internationally against the interests of Israel
by exploiting its resources.”
For decades, Israel Chemicals has been mining minerals from
the Dead Sea and has caused enormous damage to its environs – decreasing the
basin’s water level and harming the area’s natural ecology.
Because an expanding financial agreement with Potash- Corp could only expose
Israel to further such risks, as well as social and environmental
ramifications, the government must first conduct a thorough examination of the
country’s potash and phosphate resources, as well as create a unified policy on
natural resource management before proceeding with any merger.
An Israel Chemicals representative did not address the implications of a merger
with, or acquisition by, a foreign company, but touted the company’s
“In the last three years, [ICL] invested over a billion shekels in that field,
an investment that allows it to operate according to the most stringent
standards in the world and even higher,” the representative said, adding that
the continuously dropping water levels in the sea were a result of Israel and
its neighbors diverting 1.5 billion cubic meters of water annually for other
The company reiterated the fact that it is the largest employer in the Negev
and contributes NIS 12 billion to Israel’s GDP, facts that make its fate
The Canadian Potash Company did not respond to requests for comment.
The Wailing Wall Battle Continues
Rabbi of the Western Wall said he "can live with" a plan presented by
Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky for a permanent egalitarian
prayer section at the Western Wall.
Sharansky briefed the Rabbi of the Western Wall and the Holy Sites of Israel on
the plan before he left Israel to present the plan to Jewish leaders in New
"This re-division of the area does not match my worldview, as I believe
that there should be one site of prayer according to the place's customs, but
we can live with this solution the Rabbi said.
The proposal, first reported by the Forward on Tuesday and later shared
by Sharansky with The New York Jewish Week, would turn an
archaeological site adjacent to the main Western Wall plaza into a permanent
place of egalitarian worship.
Egalitarian prayer is now allowed at the site, near Robinson's Arch, but only
at specific times. Under the proposal, the plaza would be expanded to encompass
the additional prayer space, which is at the southern part of the Western Wall.
In a short statement released after Tuesday's meeting, Sharansky did not
divulge any details of his plan.
"One Western Wall for one Jewish people," Sharansky said. “In this
way, the Kotel will once again be a symbol of unity among the Jewish people,
and not one of discord and strife.”
Jerry Silverman, CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, who attended
the meeting, refused to go into detail about Sharansky's proposal, saying it
had yet to be presented to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for approval.
Women's prayer at the Western Wall has been a contentious issue for years. Anat
Hoffman, director of the Reform movement's Israel Religious Action Center and
head of Women of the Wall, has led a campaign aimed at permitting women to
recite prayers in a women's minyan at the Kotel. Orthodox groups have vigorously
opposed such an accommodation, saying it constitutes a violation of Jewish law,
and Sharansky's plan likely would face stiff opposition from Orthodox groups.
Initial responses from non-Orthodox Jewish leaders mostly supported Sharansky's
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, told The
Jewish Week that the initiative represented a significant step toward
“respecting and protecting the rights of non-Orthodox Jews."
Hoffman was quoted by the Forward as saying the plan was not “everything
we were hoping for” but still “a dramatic change, and it will make history.”
Ireland - Academic Boycott of Israel
Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) has become the first educational trade union
in Europe to adopt a boycott of Israeli academia.
At its annual congress, the TUI voted unanimously for an academic boycott of
Israel, “including the exchange of scientists, students and academic
personalities, as well as all cooperation in research programs.”
It also calls on the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, to “step up its campaign
for boycott, divestment and sanctions against the "Apartheid" State
of Israel .
“This is an historic precedent, being the first such motion in Europe to
explicitly call for an academic boycott of Israel. We congratulate the TUI and
call on all Irish, British and European academic unions to move similar
motions.” A spokesperson said.
He said it was “nonsense” that boycotts stifle academic principles.
“Undoubtedly apologists for Israeli "Apartheid" will complain that
such motions stifle academic freedom, but this is nonsense.
The motion also instructs the executive committee of the union to conduct an
awareness campaign amongst TUI members on the need for a full boycott,
divestment and sanctions against Israel.
The TUII claims that the so called Apartheid practiced by Israel is far worse
than the Apartheid that was practiced in South Africa.
truth is that there is no constitutional separation of any people or groups of
people in Israel in any field. Israel is the only true democratic country in
the Middle Eastern and practices integration of all people in Israel in the
social ,work and education fields.
is illegal to practice any type of racial separation or Apartheid in Israel.
Anyone who even tries to practice any type of segregation or even
discrimination is immediately taken to court.
are thousands of Arabs in very senior positions in Israel's academic
institutions, work places, political bodies and the Israel Defense Force.
Israel and Palestinian accept the two state solution, Israel for Israelis
(including Arab Israelis). This does not make Israel an Apartheid state as
there are in practice two separate countries which are accepted as such by the
United Nations. The General Assembly of the United Nations recently approved
the Palestinian State.
the fact that some buses carrying Palestinian workers into Israel are not
allowed to pick up Israelis on the way is not Apartheid. It was done solely
because some Palestinian extremists took advantage of the situation and blew
themselves up next to Israeli passengers. This action was taken to protect
people from suicide bombers.
decision in Ireland is another example of the complete ignorance of people
Israel Air Force is in the middle of a technological revolution that is
creating a digital network in the skies, a senior IAF source said.
As the Middle East continues to be afflicted by instability, radical terrorist
organizations grow on Israel’s borders and Iran moves forward in its nuclear
program, these new technologies could prove decisive to the outcome of future
In the past, IAF aircraft dropped munitions on targets and returned to their
bases, relying on radio communications and traditional sensors. Today, however,
the jets and helicopters exchange data with a host of sources, from other
aircraft flying with them, to ground forces, the Navy and intelligence
services, and all in real time.
“We can communicate directly with other platforms... This acts as a force
multiplier,” the source said.
“Plane A can tell Plane B what it is seeing in flight, and report all of this
back [to IAF headquarters or airbases],” he added.
“It’s like a pack of leopards on a hunt. They work together in a network, not
Israel relies on the IAF as its primary response force to national security
“The strategic challenges facing Israel are enormous, and continue to form the
most complex obstacle for Israel,” the source said. Due to its ability to
operate anywhere, as well as its accuracy, versatility and firepower, the IAF
remains the best-suited force to respond, he added.
The trend toward network centric warfare is being driven by the air force’s
Information Communications Technology branch. This shift is also the main
reason that Israel chose the F35i to become its next fighter jet.
“The F35i was chosen not because it is the fastest or because it can carry the
most munitions, but because of its network capabilities,” the source explained.
“All of the information is available to it. It knows what threatens it, its
current situation, and the status of fellow aircraft. It is a network entity,”
But the Air Force hasn’t been waiting for the F-35i’s arrival to construct its
own network. Rather, it has spent the last decade installing these technologies
on current aircraft, meaning that today, combat helicopters and squadrons of
F-15s and F-16s are integrated with the rest of the military.
As a result, the source said, so much information is available that it is a
challenge not to overload the pilot. “He should get the information he needs,
when he needs it, where he needs it,” the source said.
Computers on-board the aircraft, together with ground stations, process the
information for the pilot during the sorties.
“The network adds a layer… we’re sending and receiving data because the
operational need dictates this,” the source said.
drivers to pay higher tax
Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Transport are to publish a
tender for a smart meter, which may be installed in all vehicles in Israel. The
purpose of the tender is to develop a monitor that can guarantee the user's
privacy as far as driving habits are concerned.
ministries are considering replacing the current tax system, which levies a
uniform tax on new cars and on fuel, with differential taxation based on the
driver's travel patterns.
example, drivers who use their cars during peak hours in metropolitan Tel Aviv
will be charged a higher amount of tax at the end of the month than drivers who
use their cars during off-peak hours in the periphery. The new tax method is
intended to reduce traffic congestion, save work hours, and reduce government
spending on transportation projects.
month ago, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Transport initiated a
pilot, Going Green,
to test the new method. Several hundred participants, out of the 1,200
participants needed for the assessment, have already signed up. During the
two-year pilot, each participant will receive up to NIS 25 for each trip not
taken. Changing driving habits will enable the participants to save up to NIS
10,000 over 18 months. To test the change in driving habits, each car will have
a meter installed to monitor driving patterns. There pilot's organizers will
provide a contractual commitment that the data will not be transferred to third
a transportation planning source admits that "without a full solution to
the privacy problem, we cannot even think about implementing the new tax
method." He added, "We want a system which will not notify Big
Brother about where a vehicle is located, but in which the device will make the
calculations, and allow the car owner to delete data after use."
sources noted however that protecting the privacy of travel patterns was
becoming irrelevant in view of the progress in web-based location systems and
software such as Waze.
tender for developing the system is in the preparation stage. Sources involved
in preparing the tender predict that it will be published within two months,
and that a prototype will be developed within a year. No decision has yet been
made about the options for financing the product's development, or what rights
the developers will have.