News Highlights February 2014


Contents

 1. The Second 100 Years. 

2. The Israelis.

 

 3.  Israeli Towns. 

4.  Israeli Kibbutzim.

 5. Gas Deal with Jordan.

 6. Salt War.

 7. Tax Breaks.

 8. Israeli Electronics to Protect U.S.A Border.

 9. Palestinians Centralize Electricity.

 10.Lockheed Martin to open Beersheva Facility.

 

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 privatized kibbutzim or the relatively few unique collective communities.

The total kibbutz population of about 143,000 is the highest in its 104-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.

All kibbutzim are facing a major housing shortage as the government has frozen all building projects on kibbutzim. The whole kibbutz movement is fighting for equal building rights for  kibbutzim as enjoyed by Israeli towns, however the Israel Lands Authority has refuses to move even one millimeter on this issue.

Hundreds of posters were hung throughout the country, the media is full of articles and stories on the subject  and  a conference was held with the participation of heads of regional councils , CEOs of economic organizations , kibbutzim , members of youth movements and many victims of the freeze policy of the Israel Lands Authority.  

"We hope and believe that the Israel Lands Authority and government offices will take advantage of the opportunity to reach a permanent agreement with us" said a spokesperson.  

There is another battle with government authorities. More than 7,000 objections were sent on behalf of the residents of regional councils of Carmel and Megiddo against the plan to build onshore gas facilities.   

The government's Planning Council said : "This is an important and responsible decision and takes into account the needs of public health and environmental protection alongside the promotion of natural gas absorption . This is an important step to economic and strategic importance to the country of Israel. "

However the building of the gas facilities will be an environmental nightmare for many kibbutzim 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 economy.

The Israelis – Professor Hossam Haick  

Professor Hossam Haick, a Christian Arab, is an icon in the scientific and academic world, and oversees dozens of scientists around the globe from his office at the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology. In 2008 he was included in the TR35, a list of the world's top 35 young scientists created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's journal Technology Review.

In March 2010, the French government made Haick a Knight of the Order of Academic Palms (Chevalier dans l'Ordres des Palmes Academiques ), which Napoleon Bonaparte established in 1808 to honor social and scientific pioneers, and which is among the world's oldest civilian accolades.

Haick spends most of his time working on an "electronic nose" to detect several types of cancer in their early stages. His goal is to detect cancer at an early enough stage to give the human body a better chance of beating the disease. This could be one of the biggest scientific breakthroughs for Israel and the world.

An article in the journal Scientific American explains how Haick's electronic nose works. The nose contains a system of tiny sensors. When a patient breathes into the device, the molecules in his breath bind to the sensors, which then transmit the data to a computer chip. The chip analyzes the substances by means of neuron network algorithms, and identifies them based on templates. If they match a particular type of cancer that the chip has been programmed to recognize, it presents the diagnosis.

The Technion has great faith in Haick and his research. Haick's labs employ 27 researchers and 14 technology developers. His team has registered 17 patents so far.

"I brought together researchers from all over the world based on their talents. An Indian researcher, a Romanian researcher, a Singaporean researcher, a German researcher, Arab researchers, Jewish researchers, both Orthodox and secular. The sole criterion for any researcher who works here is talent, and the researchers work in complete harmony. It goes to show how beautiful scientific work is. Science can include different people under the same umbrella. There are no barriers between people."

Haick was born in Nazareth in 1975. His father, a Technion graduate, is a lecturer in machine engineering, and his mother is a housewife.

After graduating he went to the California Institute of Technology, where he completed another postdoc in nanotechnology and materials science. It was at Caltech that he began gaining experience in developing chemical sensors and nanodevices. That was when offers started coming in from universities around the globe, all hoping to recruit him as a researcher.

"The Technion approached me, like other universities abroad. I had to get back to them with an idea for potentially relevant research. That was when I got the idea of researching disease diagnosis through breath tests with sophisticated sensors. In the end I chose the Technion, which offered me excellent conditions, although I also had good offers from other universities including the University of California, Berkeley.

"I wanted to return to Israel. My wife, who works as an engineer at the Health Ministry, and I were both raised in families that believe in contributing to your society. I understand the brain drain phenomenon, but I personally opted not to remain abroad. I want to stay in Israel and contribute to society. It pains me to see Israeli scientists who go abroad and don't return. It's a pity. There are many scientists who do not get a chance in Israel, because there are no openings. A scientist cannot switch to another profession. If they were to ask me, I would add new jobs at the universities to keep attracting Israeli scientists, and to bring them back to Israel."

 

Israeli Towns – Beersheva

Beersheva is the largest city in the Negev desert of southern Israel. Often referred to as the "Capital of the Negev", it is the seventh-largest city in Israel with a population of 205,588.

Human settlement in the area dates from the Copper Age. The inhabitants lived in caves, crafting metal tools and raising cattle. Findings unearthed at Tel Be'er Sheva, an archaeological site east of modern day Beersheba, suggest the region has been inhabited since the 4th millennium BC. The city has been destroyed and rebuilt many times over the centuries.

Tel Be'er Sheva, an archaeological site containing the ruins of an ancient town believed to have been the Biblical Beersheba, lies a few kilometers east of the modern city. The town dates to the early Israelite period, around the 10th century BCE. The site was probably chosen due to the abundance of water, as evidenced by the numerous wells in the area. According to the Bible, the wells were dug by Abraham and Isaac when they arrived there. The streets were laid out in a grid, with separate areas for administrative, commercial, military, and residential use. It is believed to have been the first planned settlement in the region, and is also noteworthy for its elaborate water system; in particular, a huge cistern carved out of the rock beneath the town.

 

Four new shopping malls are planned. The first, Kenyon Beersheba, will be a 115,000-square meter ecologically planned mall with pools for collecting rainwater and lighting generated by solar panels on the roof. It will be situated next to an 8,000-meter park with bicycle paths. Another mall will be a Farmer's Market, the first ever in Israel. The market will be an enclosed, circular complex with 400 spaces for vendors, and it will be surrounded by parks and greenery.

A new Central Bus Station is planned for the city. The station will be a glass-enclosed complex also containing shops and cafes.

In recent years, some $10.5 million has been invested in renovating Beersheba's Old City, preserving historical buildings and upgrading infrastructure. The Turkish Quarter is also being redeveloped with newly cobbled streets, widened sidewalks, and the restoration of Turkish homes into areas for dining and shopping.

In 2011, city hall announced plans to turn Beersheba into the "water city" of Israel. One of the projects, "Beersheva beach," envisions a 7-dunam facility opposite city hall. Other projects include new fountains near the Soroka Medical Center and in front of the Shamoon College of Engineering.

The city is undergoing a major construction boom, which includes both development of urban design elements, such as water fountains and bridges, and environmental development such as playgrounds and parks.

Beersheba is one of the fastest-growing cities in Israel. Though it has a population of about 200,000, the city is larger in size than Tel Aviv, and its urban plan calls for a population of 450,000–500,000. In 2010, the National Council for Planning and Construction approved a master plan with the goal of increasing the population of Beersheba and its metropolitan area to 1 million by 2020.

The largest employers in Beersheba are the municipality, Israel Defense Forces, Ben-Gurion University and the Soroka Medical Center. Numerous electronics and chemical plants, including Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, are located in and around the city. A large high-tech park is being built near the Be'er Sheva North Railway Station. A major Israel Aerospace Industriescomplex is located in the main industrial zone, north of Highway 60. Three industrial zones are located on the southeastern side of the city – Makhteshim, Emek Sara and Kiryat Yehudit – and a light industry zone between Kiryat Yehudit and the Old City. A high-tech park is located near Omer. A Science Park funded by the RASHI-SACTA Foundation, Beersheba Municipality and private donors was completed in 2008. In addition, Elbit Systems is planning to build a research and development center in the city, which will employ 100 workers.

Beersheba is the home base of the Israel Sinfonietta, founded in 1973. Over the years, the Sinfonietta has developed a broad repertoire of symphonic works, concerti for solo instruments and large choral productions, among them Handel's Israel in Egypt, masses by Schubert and MozartRossini's "Stabat Mater" and Vivaldi's "Gloria." World-famous artists have appeared as soloists with the Sinfonietta, including Pinhas Zuckerman, Jean-Pierre RampalShlomo MintzGary Karr and Paul Tortelier. In the 1970s, a memorial commemorating fallen Israeli soldiers designed by the sculptor Danny Karavan was erected on a hill north-east of the city. The Beersheba Theater opened in 1973. The Light Opera Group of the Negev, established in 1980, performs musicals in English every year.

The Negev Museum of Art reopened in 2004 in the Ottoman Governor House, and an art and media center for young people was established in the Old City. In 2009, a new tourist and information center, Gateway to the Negev, was built. Landmarks in the city include Abraham's Well and the old Turkish train station, now the focus of development plans. The Artists House of the Negev, in a Mandate-era building, showcases artwork connected in some way to the Negev.

Beersheba is twinned with twelve other towns and cities.

 

Israeli Kibbutzim - Alumim  

The kibbutz was established in 1966 as a border settlement with Egypt by Bnei Akiva members. Its land had belonged to the Religious Kibbutz Movement since the 1940s and was previously farmed by kibbutz Be'erot Yitzhak, which was relocated as a result of its destruction in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.

Over the years other Nahal groups joined the kibbutz, as well as groups of immigrants from World Bnei Akiva. The largest groups from abroad came from the United Kingdom. Today Alumim has about 140 members, in around 70 families. About 20% of the membership are immigrants from the UK.

The children from Kibbutz Alumim study up to ninth grade at the Regional school Da"at at neighbouring  KIbbutz Saad. HIgh school they study at different schools arround the country though many at The KIbbutz School at Yavne.

Alumim is based on agriculture and tourism. Alumim has maintained the classic kibbutz collective life style. Each member receives an allowance based on his or her needs (size of family, age of children etc.). The allowance is not connected to the occupation of the member. There are no monetary incentives for any form of work. Chores such as serving in the dining hall, guard duty at night, milking the cows at the weekend are done on a rota basis. They produce and sell carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes and other organic products as well as avocado, chickens, and peppers. The kibbutz guest house has 22 self-contained apartments.

Gas Supply Deal with Jordan

The partners in the Tamar natural gas field off Israel's Mediterranean coast have signed a deal to sell at least $500 million of gas over 15 years to two Jordanian companies in the first deal outside of Israel.  

Under the agreement, Tamar will supply 66 billion cubic feet to Arab Potash and its unit, Jordan Bromine – a joint venture with US Albemarle – at their facilities near the Dead Sea.

 

Jordan is hungry for gas after  numerous attacks on a pipeline in the Sinai peninsula that has halted supplies from Egypt.

 

Tamar, discovered in 2009, is estimated to hold more than 280 billion cubic metres of gas. It began production last year and has already signed a number of lucrative deals in Israel.

The field came on line months after Egypt halted gas supplies to Israel.

After a lengthy and heated debate, the government last year decided to allow 40 percent of its natural gas reserves for export. It is using gas as an opportunity to improve relations with its neighbours including Jordan. It is also thought Israel could ultimately sell gas to Turkey, although ties between the two countries have been frosty over the last few years.

 

The nearby and much larger Leviathan field last month signed a 20-year, $1.2 billion deal to supply gas to planned a Palestinian power plant once Leviathan starts production in 2016 or 2017. Leviathan is estimated to hold some 540 billion cubic metres of gas, enough to supply Europe for a year.

 

Tamar and Leviathan were the two of the largest gas finds in the past decade and overnight turned Israel into a gas exporter.

 

Tamar's sales to Jordan are expected to start in 2016 once minimal required infrastructure has been completed.

 

"This deal will pave the way for additional export projects which could enhance regional cooperation as well as provide additional supply to the domestic market and enhanced security of supply through development of additional reservoirs and infrastructure," said Lawson Freeman, Noble's Eastern Mediterranean vice president.


Government Launches War on Salt

New program initiated by Health, Education and Culture ministries to obligate food manufacturers to significantly reduce amount of sodium chloride in their products.

Do you like your food salty? Well, you may soon have to add salt to many products you buy in the supermarket. A new program initiated by the Health, Education and Culture ministries will obligate food manufacturers to significantly reduce the amount of sodium chloride in their products.

 

 

The new program is based on the link between excessive consumption of salt and different diseases. A high salt intake may increase a person's blood pressure and raises the risk of experiencing a stroke, heart diseases, blood vessel diseases, renal failure and other medical conditions.

 

The recommendations inIsrael for sodium intake for adults is about 1,500 milligrams a day, and the maximum consumption limit is about 2,000 mg a day, which is the equivalent of a teaspoon. People suffering from heart diseases, elevated blood pressure, kidney diseases and other medical conditions must limit their salt intake even more.

 

For children, the recommended salt intake is even smaller. Children aged one to three should not consume more than 1.5 mg a day, children aged four to eight should not consume more than 1.9 mg a day, and children aged nine to 13 should consume up to 2.2 mg of salt a day.

 

Surveys conducted in recent years revealed a high salt intake in Israel: Children and youth consume 12.2 grams of salt a day, while adults consume 8.9 grams a day.

 

The three ministries' plan is to reduce the daily national consumption of salt by 3 grams by 2020. The plan's steering committee is working to reduce salt intake through education and by lowering the levels of sodium in processed food in cooperation with the food industry.

 

According to the plan, in the next two years the quantity of salt will be reduced by up to 10% in many types of food. Dairy products (soft cheese and cottage cheese) and salads (hummus, tahini and eggplant with mayonnaise) will lose up to 2.5% of their salt. The amount of salt will also be restricted in soups and casseroles.

 

Sauces and dressings will be less salty too: In ketchup, mayonnaise and light mayonnaise, the amount of salt will be reduced by 5%; soy sauce and teriyaky sauce will lose 10% of their salt; sweet chilli sauce and Thousand Island dressing will lose 5% of their saltiness. The amount of salt will also be reduced in soy sausages (5%), processed schnitzel, chicken and turkey cutlets, chicken sausages (10%) and pastrami (10%).

Popular salty snacks will soon have a different flavor. The salt intake in peanut snacks, chips, pretzels and crackers will be reduced by at least 5%, while the amount of salt in pizza, bourekas, cakes, biscuits and butter cookies will be cut by at least 6%.

 

The amount of salt will also be limited in canned food, nuts and seeds, jahnun (Yemenite pastry) and puff pastry.


Tax Breaks for More Than 400 Communities

New list released by Finance Ministry doubles the amount of communities eligible for tax benefits, focusing on low-income, border-area communities.

At least 400 Israeli communities will be eligible for tax benefits starting January 2015, according to new criteria approved by the government. The Finance Ministry will officially publish on Sunday the list of communities, which had been obtained in full by Yedioth Ahronoth.

 

Finance Minister Yair Lapid will oversee the doubling of the number of eligible communities, 210 of which are new communities who have never been eligible for benefits before. The emphasis in the composition of the list was the distance of the community from Israel's center and its proximity to the borders with Syria, Lebanon, or the Gaza Strip.

 

The Knesset must still approve the list, though the criteria were approved last week by the cabinet. The new list includes communities in the Golan Heights, the Arava (southeast Israel) and Bedouin encampments in the Negev. Few settlements qualified for benefits – their entries were limited to those within the Jordan Valley, Kiryat Arba, and nine small settlements south of Mt. Hebron.

 

The major settlements, like Ariel, Ma'ale Adumim, and Giv'at Ze'ev were not on the list of 400. Representatives of the many communities which were not included in the list are expected to oppose the new measure, and petitions to the High Court of Justice are likely.

 

The Alawaite village of Ghajar, which straddles the Israel-Lebanon border, will receive tax benefits, even though its land is not wholly in Israeli territory and is considered a Syrian-Lebanese village.


For the first time, the list of tax break recipients includes military bases.

 

The level of benefits for the communities has yet to be determined. It is possible that the communities which had already been on the list will have their benefits reduced because of the rapid swelling of the list. Several communities which have outperformed expectation and improved their socioeconomic situation were dropped from the list.

 

Israeli Electronics to Protect US Border

Defense company Elbit Systems won the Department of Homeland Security contract to deploy surveillance systems along the Arizona border.

Israeli defense electronics company Elbit Systems said the US Department of Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection (CBP) awarded its subsidiary a contract to deploy border surveillance technology in southern Arizona.

 

Known as the Integrated Fixed Tower contract, it includes a base period quantity and options that CBP may exercise over several years. Currently, CBP awarded the base period quantity for a portion of the $145 million total contract amount, to be implemented over one year, Elbit said on Sunday.

 

"Arizonans have been waiting more than a decade for the Department of Homeland Security to place the needed technology along our border to support the Border Patrol and fully secure our southern border," US Senator John McCain of Arizona said in a separate statement.

 

"If this technology is developed, integrated and fielded correctly, these Integrated Fixed Towers in southern Arizona, coupled with the tremendous work of the Border Patrol, will give our agents the ability to detect, evaluate, and respond to all illegal entries crossing our border."

Palestinians to Centralize Electricity Sector

With plans to construct four new high-voltage substations, Palestinians take step towards energy, economic independence. Goal is to produce more electricity, lessen dependence on Israel, says Palestinian deputy prime minister .

Palestinians are set to announce a new program to reorganize their electricity sector, which will enable costs to go down and local production to increase. Four new high-voltage substations are under construction at a total cost of $90 million in two phases, and are meant to streamline operations.

  

“The new established company, the power transmission company (PETL), will be in charge of all of the transmission network, and will also be the sole buyer from all of the suppliers – from Israel, Jordan, Egypt and any new power generation companies,” Dr. Mohammed Mustafa, Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister told The Media Line. “There will be one buyer of electricity on behalf of Palestine and they will have to do the financial and technical arrangements.”

 

Almost all of the electricity for the West Bank’s 2.5 million Palestinians comes from Israel. Mustafa says there are 230 separate collection points where electricity is taken from Israel.

 

 Both because of transmission losses and the fact that the electricity grid is not maintained, there are significant losses of power. The four new substations are expected to save the Palestinian Authority millions of dollars a year, savings that will eventually be passed on to the consumer.

 

In the Gaza Strip, there is a direct line from the Israel Electricity Company, which provides the electricity. Gaza needs 350- 450 megawatts per year. It gets about 120 megawatts from Israel, and 20 megawatts from Egypt. Gaza’s own power station is supposed to provide 140 megawatts, but only manages to produce 80 megawatts per year.

 

Most Gazans have gotten used to electricity blackouts of up to 12 hours per day. The situation in Gaza has deteriorated further because Egypt has destroyed hundreds of smuggling tunnels that used to provide cheap gasoline. Many gas stations in Gaza have shut down.

 

Palestinians also say that they see centralizing their electricity, and eventually producing more of their own as a step toward independent statehood, and a way of showing the international donor nations that they can be fiscally responsible and run their own state.

 

“We don’t have to be 100 percent independent but we should have a capacity of at least 50 percent,” Dr. Samir Abdullah of the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute told The Media Line. “That will also give us more leverage when we come to bargain with Israel, which charges us a high price for electricity.”

 

He said that if there is a shortage in Israel, such as during this year’s early winter snowstorm, Israel cut the supply to the Palestinian Authority in order to provide for its customers in Israel first. Becoming more energy independent will also ensure a constant supply, he said.

 

Dr. Mustafa says that Palestinians currently spend some $2.5 billion dollars (about a quarter of the total GDP) on the energy sector, with $700 million going to electricity and the rest for petroleum and gas products. Beyond building these new substations,

 

Palestinians hope to produce more of their own electricity. That is the reason, he said, that the PA has signed a deal to buy natural gas from Israel, once the large Leviathan gas field becomes operational.

 

“The idea is to increase our production capacity in Palestine and reduce our dependency on Israel,” Mustafa said. “We believe that if we get the natural gas we can increase the capacity of generation in Gaza, finish the power plant in Jenin and build a third one in Hebron.

 

The total capacity would be at least 1,000 megawatts which is half of our needs in the next ten years. That is a significant step forward and it would lead to a reduction of cost to business users and customers by 30 or 40 percent.”


Lockheed Martin to Open Beersheba Research Center

American global aerospace, defense, security, and advanced technology company Lockheed Martin, maker of Israel's F-16, F-15 and F-35 fighter jets, announced that it will open a research and development center in Israel in partnership with American IT storage company EMC.

The new center, which will be introduced Monday at the companies' stand in Tel Aviv at the Cyber Tech 2014 conference, will be built in the new industrial park in Beersheba, focusing on cyber defense solutions.

The two companies announced that they want to develop plans for cloud computing and big data analytics in the cyber field. The spokesperson said the park in Beersheba will provide an ideal infrastructure for the two companies to cooperate with industrial researchers, Ben-Gurion University, start-up companies and leading venture capital funds.

Orna Berry, EMC Israel's corporate vice president, said the entrepreneurial and academic communities are offering a unique combination of skills.

EMC has two research and development centers, one in Herzliya and another in Beersheba. With over 700 employees, its research activities will focus on next-generation technology that EMC says it must develop to address the challenges and opportunities in the world of information technology.

 

Lockheed Martin's presence in Israel has been confined to aviation and security so far. With the new center it is expected to increase its realm of activities, which will include more technological work.

 

John Evans, vice president of international engineering and technology, said the company's plan is to extract the great abundance of innovation that Israel and its universities have.

 

Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs about 115,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. Its 2013 sales were $45.4 billion.