News Highlights April 2013

 Contents

1. The Second 100 Years.

2. The Israelis.

3.    Israeli Cities.

4.   Ammonia Tanker.

5. Arab Peace Initiative.

6.  IDF Vocation Centers.

7.   Workers Share of National Income.

8.   Azerbaijan and Israel.

9.   Exhibit Honors Muslims Who Saved Jews.

10. Jacob's Ladder Festival.

 

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.

 

Agricultural output in 2012 was approximately 29 billion shekels, 60% from crops and 40% from livestock. Of this amount, the agricultural net revenues last year were about 4.9 billion compared with 6.1 billion in 2011.

 

Average income per farmer the last year was approximately     377, 000, a decrease of NIS 85,000 from the previous year .In 2012 the farmers received 17% of the total revenue of the product sold, a significant reduction compared to previous years: 22% in 2010 and 20% in 2011. The difference is due to lower average prices of fruit, compared with 2011, and a decline in export s.

The Farmers' Association of Israel associates the decline in profitability to several factors:

1) Abundant fruit production during summer  2012, which created a dramatic drop in prices and profitability.

2) The decline in prices in the European markets of carrots and potatoes.

3) The crisis of foreign workers and the absence of some 4,000 employees on average during the year 2012.

4) The increase in the prices of water, fertilizer, fuel and electricity by 10%.

5) The worsening terms of trade for the last two years. 

 

The Secretary General of the Israel Farmers Federation said the business results paint a very serious picture. We see a clear decline in the profitability of farmers every year. If this trend is not stopped, then farming will decline.

 

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 – Ishmail  Khaldi

 

Ismail Khaldi was born in Khawaled, a village near Haifa. He is the third of eleven children. He lived in a Bedouin tent until the age of eight. He walked the six kilometers round trip to attend school and tended flocks of sheep. He said his family's ties with its Jewish neighbors go back to the days of the early Zionist pioneers from Eastern Europe who settled in the Galilee region in the 1920s.

Khaldi earned a bachelors degree in political science from the University of Haifa and a master's degree in political science and international relations from Tel Aviv University. He served in the Israeli Ministry of Defense, Israel Police, and in the Israel Defense Forces as a political analyst.

Khaldi initiated a project called "Hike and Learn with Bedouins in the Galilee" that has brought thousands of young Jews to Khawaled to learn about Bedouin culture and history. He said these encounters inspired him to become a diplomat.

Khaldi began working for the Israeli Foreign Ministry in 2004.] In June 2006, he was appointed to serve in San FranciscoCaliforniaUnited States. In August 2009, Khaldi was appointed policy advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Khaldi said there is still a long way to go before the Bedouin minority achieves full equality in Israel but the situation is improving, and more Bedouins are graduating from high school, entering universities and getting better jobs than ever before. "There are differences in tradition and religion between us, but at the end of the day we are all Israeli citizens". He considers himself a proud Bedouin and regards a Jewish state as beneficial to his community. He says it is through the alliance with Israel that the Bedouins have begun to transcend the isolation created by their nomadic traditions.

 

Israeli Cities – Tel Aviv-Jaffa

In 1910 David Ben Gurion and others founded the new city next to the old city of Jaffa. Jaffa means beautiful. Jaffa is one of the oldest cities in Israel, for legend has it that it founded by Japheth, one of the three sons of Noah.

Jaffa was the port used by King Solomon to bring the cedars of Lebanon to Israel for constructing the first Temple.

In the book of Jonah it is stated that the prophet Jonah sailed from Jaffa, only to be tossed overboard and swallowed by a whale.

After the decline of the Roman Empire the Moslems and later European Crusaders revitalized Jaffa, which then declined until the 19thcentury when the Turks ruled there. From then on Jaffa increased its population dramatically, so that it was extremely crowded at the beginning of the 20th Century. It was then that the Jews of Jaffa decided to build a new city next to Jaffa. They called the city Tel Aviv which means Hill of Spring in English. .

In 1916 the Turks who then ruled in Israel evacuated Tel Aviv. However, one year later the British invaded Israel after the Turks were defeated in the First World War on the side of the Germans.

In 1948 Tel Aviv was declared the capital of Israel when David Ben Gurion proclaimed the re-establishment of Israeli independence on May 5 of that year. At that time, Tel Aviv had a population of 200,000. in 1949, Jerusalem was made the capital of Israel again. Jerusalem was the  capital of Ancient Israel for over 1000 years. One year later, in 1950, Tel Aviv and Jaffa were merged and became one municipality.  

Today, greater Tel Aviv includes a number of suburbs like Holon, PetachTikvah, Bat Yam, Bene Barak and Ramat Gan, so that the greater Tel Aviv has about 1.5 million people.

Tel Aviv has the highest standard of living of any city in Israel. It is the New York of Israel in that it is the commercial and financial center of the country. Tel Aviv is also the industrial center of Israel, where textiles, clothing, chemicals, metal working, motor vehicles and electronic equipment are produced.

Tel Aviv is also the seat of the Stock Exchange and the Diamond Exchange. The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra has its home in Tel Aviv as does the Habimah National Theater and the University of Tel Aviv. There are several skyscrapers in Tel Aviv  between 40 and 70 storeys high. There are also several museums in Tel Aviv and the home of David Ben Gurion is there.

Ammonia Tanker

Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz demanded that Finance Minister Yair Lapid allocate the necessary NIS 70 million to transfer Haifa’s ammonia tanker to the Negev Desert in the South.

Peretz said the NIS 70m would be critical to evacuating the Haifa ammonia plant and bringing it to a much safer, less populated region in the South.

The 17,000-ton ammonia tank became an increasingly hot subject after a Texas fertilizer tank exploded last month, but it has long plagued the country’s environmentalists as a potential threat to the Haifa Bay region.

While the government decided last year that the plant must close and move to an unpopulated portion of the Negev by 2017, Peretz declared two weeks ago that he would not renew the plant’s license after 2016. As his ministry will be coordinating and leading the evacuation of the container, the NIS 70m. budget is essential to establishing the necessary infrastructure in the Negev and encouraging developers to build the plant, according to Peretz.

During his meeting with Lapid, Peretz also attacked the Finance Ministry’s intent to cut the greenhouse gas emissions reduction program from the future budget. Peretz called such a move “ridiculous,” noting that just because the country had cleaner natural gas, it did not mean a program for monitoring greenhouse gases was no longer necessary.

“I can understand budgetary claims, but it is difficult to hear claims stating that there is entirely no need to clean the air,” Peretz said, noting that reducing greenhouse gas emissions actually benefitted the economy.

Under the program, the Environmental Protection Ministry provides support to 208 greenhouse gas emissions projects, totaling NIS 106m., the ministry explained.

Among these projects are improvements to air conditioning systems in hospitals and hotels, intelligent lighting systems in local authorities, and replacement of electric boilers with solar-powered systems.

These projects are expected to lead to a reduction of 450,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually by 2020, equivalent to the amount of pollution that a city the size of Herzliya generates from electricity consumption each year, the ministry said. In total, these changes would bring an annual savings of NIS 100m.

“Eliminating Israel’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions will first and foremost damage the credibility of the State of Israel toward its commitments to international forums,” Peretz said earlier this week. “Apart from the damage to international credibility, this will cause great damage to both municipal and industrial systems.

Arab League Peace Initiative

 

The Islamist Hamas's leader in the Gaza Strip has rejected a revised Middle East peace initiative put forward by the Arab League, saying outsiders cannot decide the fate of the Palestinians.

In meetings this week in Washington, Arab states appeared to soften their 2002 peace plan, acknowledging that Israelis and Palestinians may have to swap land in any eventual peace deal.

The United States and the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank praised the move. But speaking to hundreds of worshipers in a Gaza mosque, senior Hamas official Ismail Haniyeh said it was a concession that other Arabs were not authorized to make.

"The so-called new Arab initiative is rejected by our people, by our nation and no one can accept it," said Haniyeh, prime minister of the Hamas government in Gaza.

Hamas refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist and claims all the territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River as rightfully Palestinian. It never accepted the Arab plan which was first presented in 2002.

The modified version was announced by Qatar's Prime Minister and Haniyeh's comments represented a rare public disagreement between Hamas and one of its main supporters.

The rich Gulf state has pledged over $400 million to fund housing projects in the Gaza Strip, which Hamas seized from the rival Palestinian Fatah faction in a brief civil war in 2007.

"To those who speak of land swaps we say: Palestine is not a property, it is not for sale, not for a swap and cannot be traded," Haniyeh said.

Haniyeh said the rival Palestinian Authority, headed by Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, was to blame for inspiring the softer Arab position because it accepted the need for land swaps with Israel.

Any peace moves will have to confront the fractured Palestinian political landscape with Abbas holding sway over parts of the West Bank and Hamas firmly entrenched in Gaza. Repeated attempts by the two sides to secure a political reunification of the two territories have failed.

 

IDF Vocation Centers.

 

Seventy percent of the Haredi men who graduate from the IDF’s Shachar Orthodox service program enter the workforce, a study released by the Economy and Trade Ministry’s research arm showed.

More than 1,000 Haredi men have graduated from Shachar, which was developed in 2007 by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the IDF’s Human Resources Directorate to help integrate Haredi men through a military technology framework, helping them gain professional experience and fill knowledge gaps.

“Integrating the Haredim into Israeli society is no longer a fantasy,” Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett said, welcoming the study results.

In 2012, Bank of Israel Gov. Stanley Fischer said only 40 percent of Haredim were employed, a situation he said was unsustainable.

Bennett promised to invest NIS 70 million in Haredi vocational guidance centers in places such as Bnei Brak and Jerusalem.

“The Haredi public wants to work, but we have some responsibility as well. We have to work hard so the Haredi public will have somewhere to work. This is our most worthwhile investment,” he said.

Although the majority of the graduates found work on their own after being released from the IDF, the essential need for direction, information and professional guidance still exits.


According to the study, which included 270 graduates of the program and was conducted two to four months after they were released from the army, the average monthly salary for Shachar alumni was NIS 6,250. More than a quarter were working in banking or finance.

Just over a third of those surveyed said they had encountered some opposition from family or friends to joining the army, and a quarter had themselves at one point opposed service.

That opposition, they said, had more to do with concerns about maintaining their Haredi lifestyle, and not ideology.

Of those surveyed, the main motivations listed for entering the program were to improve skills for the job market and serve the country.

Just over a third said their relationship with the secular public improved after the army program.

 

Workers' Share of National Income

 

While employers’ share of the national income grew in 2012, workers’ share remained the same as it was in 2011, 62 percent, according to a report.

The report shows that while their share remained stagnant in 2012 and was significantly lower than it was 10 years ago – 67% – workers did benefit from job growth and the continuing decline of unemployment, which stood at only 6.9% last year.

According to the study, employees should have earned, on average, an additional NIS 10,924 in 2012, which is equivalent to NIS 910 per month.

Between 2002 and 2012, national income grew by 46%, workers’ income increased by 35% and employers’ income grew by 160%.

The data also showed that employers’ participation in funding social benefits for their employees is lower than in most developed countries.

The study also revealed that in 2011, 25.8% of employees in Israel received a salary defined by the OECD as low. The country’s lowest earners include 34.7% of Israeli women, 34.3% of the Arabs living in Israel, 34% of people who lack a high school diploma and 26.8% of the country’s immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

“What this data means is first of all that our economy is an economy with relatively low salaries,” Dr. Shlomo Swirski, one of the researchers who issued the report said.

“When we talk about average, we also include Israel’s successful hi-tech industry for example, where the average wage is double the average wage of the rest of Israeli society,”  he said.

“It’s nice, but hi-tech really only constitutes some 13% of the country’s economy, so looking at the average is not representative.”

“If we want a higher living standard and higher salaries, we need to expand the hi-tech industry,” Swirski stated.

“For that, we need to improve our education system, which today does not produce enough hi-tech workers.”

Israel also has the highest rate of poverty among OECD countries.


Azerbaijan and Israel

Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov visited  Israel to discuss security and bilateral issues.

Azerbaijan is halfway through its two-year term as a rotating member of the United Nations Security Council. Azerbaijan, which was part of the former Soviet Union, borders Iran, and its population is mostly Muslim.

“Israeli-Palestinian issues are always a subject of discussion at the council,” he said, adding that it was important to be in touch with both Israeli and Palestinian officials.

Azerbaijan might be a small country, but it wants to increase its influence, he said, by improving ties with both Israelis and Palestinians.

“We are looking forward to expanding our cooperation with Israel on a bilateral level,” he said. His country, he added, has a history of tolerance and a long-standing Jewish community.

“We are a very strong bridge between Europe and Asia, and between cultures.”

Israel’s ambassador to Azerbaijan Rafael Harpaz said that the two countries have a very close relationship. They have enjoyed diplomatic relations since 1992.

Israeli leaders have visited Azerbaijan, and many Israeli companies are active there in industries including telecommunication, agriculture, medical technology and energy, Harpaz said. Israel also imports oil from Azerbaijan, he added.

There are some 30,000 Jews who live in Azerbaijan, including a remote community in the mountains that dates itself back to the Babylonian expulsion, he said.

“It has zero anti-Semitism,” Harpaz said.

Mammadyarov met Israeli and Palestinian officials during his visit to the region.

 

Exhibit honors Muslims for saving Jews from Shoah

 

A new London exhibition will showcase the role Muslims played in saving Jews during the Holocaust, the BBC reported this week.

The Righteous Muslim Exhibition, launched at the Board of Deputies of British Jews in Bloomsbury, will feature photographs of 70 Muslims who hid Jews from the Nazis, alongside their stories and detailing their acts of heroism.

These 70 Muslims were recently added to Yad Vashem's list of "righteous among the nations" detailing those who risked their lives to protect Jews during Nazi Germany’s reign of terror.

Among those listed in the Righteous Among the Nations are Muslims from Albania, Bosnia and Turkey.
In Albania, Jews were not victims of the Nazis because of a national code of honor called “Besa,” a desire to help those in need, even those of another faith or origin.
Fiyaz Mughal, director of the charity Faith Matters and 
co-author of the accompanying booklet The Role of the Righteous Muslims told the BBC: "These communities were dispersed in the aftermath of the Second World War, and as the older generation passes away these stories will be lost."

He said to the BBC: "One of the main drivers of the project is that there are some small sections in Jewish communities who are trying to rewrite history and say that Muslims overwhelmingly helped the Nazis.

"And on the other side, there is a small section of the Muslim community who do not want to talk about the Holocaust for the sake of not wanting to build up an empathy with Jewish communities.

"That is unacceptable, because factually it’s untrue."

Rabbi Natan Levy, the exhibition co-coordinator, told the BBC that the program provides a "unique bridge between the two communities, so that they can celebrate together, remember together, and not be driven further apart.

"There was a lovely moment when Fiyaz and I came together and quoted the same line from our respective scriptures: ‘whosoever saves a single life saves the entire universe’," the BBC reported.

Jacob’s Ladder Festival

The annual festival lasts for three days and will offer a mix of bluegrass, country, folk, blues, rock and pop music.

There will be quite a few familiar faces and voices on show over the weekend with Canadian outfit The Abrams Brothers returning to delight the crowd. Singer, guitarist and mandolin player John Abrams and brother James, who plays fiddle, guitar and mandolin, and sings, will be backed by vocalist-percussionist Cam Giroux and bass player, banjo player and singer Jason Mercer.

Mikey Pauker will come at his audiences from a very different angle. The Los Angeles-based musician has been conveying a spiritual message through his music for the past three years through a prism of pop, folk and contemporary Jewish music.


Elsewhere on the non- Israeli side of the program, Marc Black will offer his somewhat quizzical combination of Americana, folk and rock- seasoned folk music, while American singer- songwriter folkie Randall Williams will bring his polished classically trained instrumental skills to his emotive gigs.

Then there’s an American acoustic guitarist-singer named Freebo, who has one the most impressive CVs of any artist to have graced the Jacob’s Ladder Festival stage, with names like Neil Young and blues artist Bonnie Raitt in there.

Meanwhile, Jason Feddy feeds off artistic explorations that come from a whole different world – culturally and geographically.

Music was very much an escape for the young Feddy. “I learned to play guitar in Habonim [Jewish youth movement]. I was fat and awkward and from what was then called a ‘broken home,’ which was unusual in British Jewish communities in the 1970s. Singing – a natural gift – and playing a bit of guitar was a good way to make friends, and meet girls, without having to reveal much of oneself,” he says.

Feddy promises to serve up a highly entertaining program for the Jacob’s Ladder audiences, with original scores from his new CD.