News Highlights March 2014



     1. The Second 100 Years.


 2. The Israelis.


 3.  Israeli Towns.


 4.  Israeli Kibbutzim.

     5. Who Controls Israel's Ministries?

     6. Israel to use Jordanian Private Port.

     7. Israeli Food in  Gaza Supermarkets.

     8. El Al Ambassadors Project.

     9. Israel Russia Open Skies Deal.

   10.Knesset hosts OECD Conference.

   11.Israel-Palestinian Tourist Venture.




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.

For more than 20 years there have been attempts to regulate construction and growth on kibbutzim . In recent years there has increased difficulties and construction was suspended several times due to various government claims. The kibbutz movement will not accept collective punishment . We will work together to ensure proper and fair conduct .
The kibbutz movement wants to be at the center of development and construction . The housing crisis severely affects the younger generation 's chances to build a life and we want young families to be able to build a life on kibbutzim. The kibbutzim wish to build tens of thousands of apartments which will both create affordable housing for our children and for the many thousands who seek to join a modern day kibbutz.

An Arrangement must be found to allow construction , development growth , employment and decent living hundreds of kibbutzim across the country. We did not ask for favors but rights . To do this we need to remove the bureaucratic obstacles created by the government.

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 – Ehud Barak

Ehud Barak was born in 1942 in Kibbutz Mishmar Hasharon. His parents were founder members of the kibbutz. His mother passed away on the kibbutz last year at the age of 100. Hi paternal grandparents were murdered in a pogrom in Russia. His maternal grandparents died in Treblinka concentration camp.

Barak earned his bachelor's degree in physics and mathematics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1968, and his master's degree in engineering-economic systems in 1978 from Stanford University, in California.

Barak joined the Israel Defense Forces (I.D.F.) in 1959. He served in the IDF for 35 years, rising to the position of Chief of the General Staff and the rank of Rav Aluf (Lieutenant-General), the highest in the Israeli military. During the Yom Kippur War, Barak commanded an improvised regiment of tanks which, among other things, helped rescue paratrooper battalion 890, commanded by Yitzhak Mordechai, which was suffering heavy losses in the Battle of the Chinese Farm.

Over the years Barak took part in several dangerous missions and was awarded the Medal of Distinguished Service and four Chief of Staff citations (Tzalash HaRamatkal) for courage and operational excellence. These five decorations make him the most decorated soldier in Israeli history (jointly with two other soldiers).

On 7 July 1995, Barak was appointed Minister of Internal Affairs by Yitzhak Rabin. When Shimon Peres formed a new government following Rabin's assassination in November 1995, Barak was made Minister of Foreign Affairs (1995–96). He was elected to the Knesset on the Labor Party list in 1996, and served as a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Following internal elections after Peres' defeat in the election for Prime Minister in 1996, Barak became the leader of the Labor Party.

In the 1999 Prime Ministerial election, Barak beat Benjamin Netanyahu by a wide margin.

In 1999 Barak gave a campaign promise to end Israel's 22-year long occupation of Southern Lebanon within a year. On 24 May 2000 Israel withdrew from Southern Lebanon.

In 2001, Barak called a special election for Prime Minister. In the contest, he was defeated by Likud leader Ariel Sharon, and subsequently resigned as Labor leader and from the Knesset. He left Israel to work as a senior advisor with United States-based Electronic Data Systems. He also partnered with a private equity company focused on "security-related" work.

Barak returned to politics and  In January 2011 formed a breakaway party, Independence, which enabled him to maintain his loyal Labor's MK faction within Netanyahu's government, and prevented the departure of Labor party as a whole from Netanyahu's coalition-government. Labor previously threatened to force Barak to do so. After Barak's move, Netanyahu was able to maintain a majority of 66 MK (out of 120 in the Knesset), previously having 74 MKs within his majority coalition.

In February 2011, Barak attended a ceremony at the UN for the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. Barak told the UN General Assembly: “an independent, strong, thriving and peaceful State of Israel is the vengeance of the dead. On this day, when we remember the six million victims, let us also remember two lessons: first, ‘the Holocaust – never again.’ And second – an independent, strong, thriving and peaceful State of Israel is the vengeance of the dead.”[


Israeli Towns – Nahariya

Nahariya was founded in 1935 and was intended to be an agricultural village, but the residents soon realized that agriculture was impractical and chose to focus on tourism, taking advantage of the natural surroundings and beaches.

Nahariya became a development town in the 1950s. The town became a home to many Jewish refugees from North Africa, the Middle East and Europe. During the 1990s, the city absorbed a significant number of immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Nahariya experienced a construction boom.

Due to its geographic location, 10km down the coast from Israel's border with Lebanon, Nahariya had been a frequent target of cross-border terrorist attacks. During the 2006 Lebanon War in July–August 2006, Nahariya sustained a barrage of several hundreds of Katyusha rockets launched by Hezbollah from southern Lebanon. As a result, the city suffered multiple civilian casualties and 5 fatalities. Significant damage was also inflicted on property and physical infrastructure. Nahariya's economy suffered a major blow, as two-thirds of the city's population had to evacuate, with the rest spending weeks in bomb shelters.

Nahariya is home to some of Israel's leading entrepreneurs: the Strauss, Soglowek and Wertheimer families. Successful private sector industrial enterprises founded in Nahariya are the Strauss dairy company, Soglowek meat processing company, and Iscar—the high-precision metalworks and tool-making giant, which was recently purchased by Berkshire Hathaway for US $5 billion.

Sderot Ga'aton, the city's main boulevard, runs east-west from the Coastal Highway junction to the sea, and is divided down the middle by the Ga'aton River. Shaded by the thick greenery of towering eucalyptus trees and lined with numerous shops, boutiques, open-air cafes, restaurants and ice cream parlors, Sderot Ga'aton is Nahariya's main tourist attraction and its central business and entertainment district. The beach area is an attraction in its own right, with a public park, a waterfront promenade, two public beaches, several hotels, a small marina and a lively nightlife in the multitude of beachfront cafes, bars, restaurants and nightclubs.

Following Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 many ex South Lebanon Army soldiers and officers who fled from Lebanon settled in Nahariya.

Nahariya has 22 schools with 7,541 students, which are divided into 15 elementary schools with 4,074 students, and 7 middle and high schools with 3,467 students. In 2001, high school (12th grade) matriculation rate in the city was 56.5%.

Nahariya Hospital, located on the outskirts of Nahariya, three kilometers (1.9 miles) from the city center, serves half a million residents of the western Galilee, from Karmiel to the coast. During the 2006 Lebanon War, the hospital was hit by rocket fire that destroyed an outer wall and eight rooms.


Israeli Kibbutzim – Bet Alfa


The kibbutz lies between the Jezreel Valley and the Beth She'an Valley in the Lower Galilee. To the south and west are the steep slopes of the Gilboa mountain range. 2.5 km southwest of the kibbutz runs the security wall separating Israeli territory from the Palestinian Authority. On the Palestinian side is the village of Fakua.

In the 6th century there was a Jewish settlement here, of which the synagogue has been found.

The kibbutz was founded on November 4, 1922 by Hashomer Hatzair pioneers. At first, the pioneers suffered from very severe operating conditions in the swamps and malaria was widespread.

During the Arab riots of 1929 the kibbutz was attacked and its fields destroyed. When in April 1936 the Arab uprising broke out, the Arabs again set fire to the surrounding fields.

On 1 April 1948 the kibbutz was attacked by Arab mortar fire. After the 1948-49 war, the Gilboa Educational Institute was established in the northern part of the kibbutz. The institute, which served as a school for the surrounding area, offered boarding and had an array of sports facilities and workshops enabling professional training. At the end of 2003 the institute was closed and the complex of buildings has since been used for various educational courses. During the Israel-Hezbollah war in 2006, the kibbutz took in evacuees from the border villages that had been under rocket attack by Hezbollah terrorists from southern Lebanon. After the war an absorption center for Ethiopian immigrants was set up here. Some 600 people are offered boarding, Hebrew language courses, and are prepared for integration in the Israeli society.

The kibbutz dairy was the first one in Israel to use robotic milking technology.

Who Controls Israel's Government Ministries?

Has the Government's privatization policy gone too far? The government is outsourcing not only services but also policy formulation and decision making to private bodies, raising the question -  who runs the country?  -

Private bodies are growing increasingly involved in almost every aspect of governmental activities and in almost every government ministry, a new report claims, pointing to massive privatization efforts by the government.

The report  by Sarit Ben Simhon-Peleg and Amir Paz-Fuchs for the Chazan Center for Social Justice and Democracy in the Van Leer Institute, raises concerns about who in fact controls the government and detailed both the privatization processes and the possible dangers.

"A close review of the recent year (2013) revealed that privatization, especially outsourcing, continues to be promoted past the point of no return, without advanced planning regarding which fields should be privatized and without the proper public transparency," the report claims.

According to the paper by the prestigious Jerusalem think-tank, the process of privatizing risks spinning out of control and poses a serious risk to the government's ability to rule.


"Governmental ministries are loosing their professional abilities and the relevant knowhow by transferring them and key positions to private bodies, without developing proper regulation."  

 In the Justice Department, the responsibility for formulating tenders, laws and directives for government ministries have all been privatized.

The controversial biometric database project being spearheaded by the Interior Ministry as an alternative to ID cards, was formulated, established, regulated and supervised by an independent consultant.

In education, the number of payments parents must pay for private programs has grown in 2013. In addition, a new national private school was green-lighted, despite the fact the only few parents can afford themselves to pay the tuition.



The transportation ministry has undergone massive outsourcing in recent years, the most recent of which includes the outsourcing of key managerial responsibilities.

The Interior Security Ministry has published a tender for "overseeing strategic planning." Privatizing this field will give private bodies access to sensitive information pertaining to security. This also raises the concern that the ministry will be depleted from professional knowhow, in addition to allowing a private body a large role in decision making and policy formulation.

In the field of labor and welfare, the process of screening potential candidates for the state employees has passed onto a private company.

Health services for schoolchildren are continually outsources and passed onto the private contractors while the rights of the school nurses are being trampled on.

A key investigator role in charge of formulating policy for securing health facilities has been outsourced within the office and thus an external advisors know holds a key position in a body charged with oversight over the entire ministry and its facilities. 


And what do the researches at Van Leer recommend? Firstly, adequate manpower must be enlisted into government service, in a bid to strengthen the ministries professional capabilities. In addition, the general recommendation was keeping planning and policy formulation within the ministries, as well as conducting discussions regarding privatization policy and making them openly available to the public. 

Israel to use Jordanian Private Port of Aqaba

The Port of Aqaba has been privatized and its operation has been taken over by APM, a subsidiary of the Danish shipping giant MAERSK. The port is actually split into three separate ports - general cargo, containers and phosphates. Its total capacity is about 30 million tons of goods per year, compared to 20 million tons in the port of Ashdod and 24 million tons in Haifa port.

The Depth in the Red Sea port allows Jordan to receive ships of up to eighteen thousand containers. Israeli ports can only receive ships with a capacity of up to ten thousand  containers.

The Port of Aqaba is particularly relevant for export to the Far East and Asia, as it saves precious passage through the Suez Canal. Aqaba port has other important advantages: the first is the price. Companies are willing to ship Israeli containers to the Far East for $ 150 per container, compared to $450 to $500 per container charged by Israeli ports to those destinations. The second advantage is the reliability of the service as it is not unpredictable as often happens in Israel due to disputes , and the third - the possibility to export goods through the port to Arab countries in general and the Gulf states in particular.

Israeli Food in Gaza Supermarkets

Cookies, coffee, soap and even hummus  are just some of the Israeli products one can find on the grocery stores' shelves in Gaza, written in Hebrew just like the ones in the nearby Israeli retail chains.  

Apparently, beneath the surface of the daily military tensions between Israel and the Gaza Strip, there is a meaningful economic relationship. In 2012 the value import of Israeli products to Gaza stood at NIS 1.3 billion ($375 million), including not only water, gas and electricity, but also food and cleaning products from well-known Israeli companies such as Telma, Willifood, Osem and Tnuva, which brings substantial tax profit to Israel.

  A Tnuva importer in Gaza reports that every day, 200 tons of the company's products arrive to the Strip and sent to about 1,700 different stores. The most popular products are milk and cream.

However, the high demand for Israeli products doesn't only stem from comfort and proximity; in fact, Gaza is a captive market as Israel controls the formal movement from and to the strip, so it is easy for Israeli companies to control its market.

Though there are many difficulties and barriers in forming financial relationships with businessmen from the Gaza Strip, Israel is making an effort to ease the sanctions on the agriculture sector in Gaza. Only a month and a half after Operation Pillar of Defense, Israel invited 30 Palestinian farmers from Gaza to attend an agriculture exhibition in Israel.

During their Palestinian farmers' visit, they made contact with Israeli companies that provided them with new technologies and advanced methods to pass the international export standard. "Our interest is to export Israel our products, we focus on the business benefits, and not politics," said Ahmed Shafi, the head of the Gaza City Agricultural Association.


"Israel and the West Bank are the most important markets for the farmers in Gaza as Israel's high GNP drives the Israeli consumer to pay more for the product, and the manufacturers and marketers to pay less – saving money on shipping and handling as ships and planes are not needed due to the geographical proximity," said Jamal Abu Najar, the head of the Khan Yunis City Agricultural Association.

At the grocery stores in Gaza, the products are cheaper than the grocery stores in any other city in Israel.

For example, an Osem cookies box will cost NIS 7 ($2) in Gaza in comparison to NIS 11.40 ($3) in the Israeli "Mega" and "Shufersal" retail chains – 37% difference. The cleaning products are also cheaper in Gaza – Sano window cleaner costs NIS 11 ($3) in comparison to NIS 15 ($4) in Israel – 27% difference.


The list is long and includes dairy products as well, but does this mean that the cost of living is lower in Gaza? Not if you take into consideration the average daily wage of NIS 60 ($17)  and the high unemployment rates of 38.5%.


Flight Attendants at Israel's Service

El Al stewards take an active role in Israeli PR as part of voluntary project aimed at improving country's image around the world.

It was the last thing the residents of one of New York's Latin communities expected when they gathered at the auditorium that evening. The community members, not exactly ardent Israel supporters, ordered a lecture about Israel from El Al, but stressed that they were not interested in listening to "a representative of the government."


Several hundreds of them arrived for the lecture at the appointed hour. The door opened and a Druze flight attendant, wearing a hat with a Star of David on it, walked into the hall. "Nice to meet you, I am Firas Farhoud," he said - silence filled the room.

Farhoud, 28, an El Al steward from the village of Rameh in the Galilee, told the audience about his personal experience as a member of a minority group in Israel. "I told them that I served in the military, that the Israeli society accepts me as an equal among equals, and I spoke about the customs of the Druze community," he recounts.

"Many of the attendees didn't even know about the difference between Druze and other minorities living in Israel. They asked me how we live in Israel and speak Arabic, how we integrate into the defense establishment.

"When I stood in front of the audience, I felt that I was representing the State of Israel through my personal story, but also the Druze community in Israel."


Farhoud is one of the unusual participants in the El Al Ambassadors project, in which some 100 of the company's flight attendants volunteer to take an active role in Israeli PR.

This initiative is the brainchild of El Al's outgoing CEO Major-General (res.) Eliezer Shkedy, who decided that the airline should take part in Israel's hasbara efforts. He asked Futterman, who is in charge of the Jewish Agency's emissaries project, to get it going.

"The idea was that each of the flight attendants would tell his or her personal life story, and not necessarily promote the State of Israel's activity," says Futterman. "When you talk to an audience at eye level and bring your personal story as a person living in a special country, it's easier for people to connect to you.


"We thought that about 20 people would apply," he adds. "When we received applications from 600 stewards and pilots, we realized that we had touched an exposed nerve."

Farhoud has no doubt either that the lectures have a significant effect on the way Israel is perceived.

"In the beginning of the lecture you hear the prejudice people have, and you give them tools to reshape their minds. I don't talk about politics, but about the human aspect of life in Israel, without slogans and without a media outlet distorting my remarks. After the lecture in New York I was approached by people who asked questions and said they were exposed to entirely new information," he says.

"Many of them said that they had thought the Palestinians were the only minority in Israel. They didn't know about the Druze minority and about the way it integrates into society."  

In the two and a half years that have passed since the project began, there have been 180 lectures by flight attendants in almost all of El Al's destinations across the world. 

 Israel, Russia Sign New 'Open Skies' Deal

Agreement enables each country to operate 36 regular weekly flights, in addition to an unlimited number of flights on other routes between the two countries.

Israel and Russia have signed a new aviation agreement allowing unlimited flights between the two countries.

 The agreement enables each country to operate up to 36 regular weekly flights, and on the rest of the routes airlines from both countries will be able to fly unrestrictedly.

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said that the agreement includes flights to Ben-Gurion Airport and Ovda Airport near Eilat.


The agreement, which was signed by depends on the implementation of proper security measures for Israeli airlines in Russia.

Until now, El Al has been operating direct regular flights to Moscow and St. Petersburg. On the Russian side, Transaero Airlines has been operating flights from Moscow to Ben-Gurion Airport, while Rossiya Airlines has been offering flights from St. Petersburg to Tel Aviv.


Estimates are that with the new "open skies" agreement, flights will be offered to additional destinations in Russia and competition will increase, possibly leading to price reductions.

Knesset Hosts OECD Conference on Budget Transparency

For the first time, Israeli parliament hosts the organization's annual convention on public supervision.

It is the first OECD conference held at the Knesset, with 70 representatives attending from 29 parliaments across the globe. Even officials from Turkey's Finance Ministry attended, a sign of the thawing relations between Jerusalem and Ankara.


The-two-day conference is part of the sixth annual meeting of OECD Parliamentary Budget Officials (PBO) on budgetary research and planning and a chance to meet and exchange ideas with their counterparts in foreign parliaments.


Academics from around the world attended the meeting and conference and representatives from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank..


The initiative for hosting the conference came from the Knesset's Department for Budgetary Supervision, which was established within the Research and Information Center in 2007 with the purpose of giving parliamentarians all the necessary fiscal tools to assist in their supervision of the budget.


Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, the keynote speaker at the conference, said "the participation of Knesset employees in international professional forums allows them to learn about the developments in the world and use this knowledge to routinely assist the Knesset members and support the Knesset's work."


New Tourism Initiative

'Breaking Bread Journeys,' first joint Israeli-Palestinian tourism venture, brings Holy Land travelers to private homes of local citizens to interact, partake in regional cuisine; journey also includes visits to religious-historical sites.

In the kitchen of Ahuva Guterman, a Gur Hassid who lives in Mea She’arim, stands an unlikely group of people – a Christian from Texas, a Muslim Arab from the Mount of Olives and a Christian Arab from Jerusalem. Even more unusual is that the group is learning how to bake Challah – the special sweet bread baked for the Jewish Shabbat.

Sulieman is a tour guide with Breaking Bread Journeys, a new tourism initiative that has brought the group of visitors together in Guterman’s kitchen.


The first private sector Israeli-Palestinian initiative, Breaking Bread Journeys was established by Christina Samara, a Christian Palestinian from Jerusalem and Elisa Moed, an American-born Israeli Jew, who are both veterans of the tourism industry. Moed, who is the chief executive of the Israel-based Travelujah, and Samara, who owns the Samara Tourist and Travel Agency, first met in 2010 at the Holy Land Marketing Cooperation panel, created and directed by the Office of the Quartet Representative Tony Blair.


Realizing they shared a business and social vision, Moed and Samara resolved to combine forces and offer unique tourism programs for travelers visiting the Holy Land. Today, the Breaking Bread Journeys offers tourists different touring opportunities that directly engage with the diverse people of the region including Yemenite, Moroccan and Hasidic Jews as well as Armenians, Christian and Muslim Arabs, Palestinians, and Bedouins.


“The comprehensive programming enables travelers to gain a more in-depth experience of the Holy Land, while engaging them in the unique biblical and cultural heritages that make up this region,” Moed adds. “We are looking to create more personal encounters between tourists and local residents.”


Breaking Bread Journeys therefore engages with smaller groups – anywhere from 10-20 participants, and brings them to the private homes of local citizens to interact and partake in regional cuisine. The groups also visit Christian, Muslim and Jewish historical sites during their journeys.


The project has been granted support by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) via the Samara Tourist and Travel Agency as part of the agency’s goal to develop the Palestinian sector and tourism industry on a path to regional stability and peace.