News Highlights September 2014

Contents

     

     1. The Kibbutz Movement – the second 100 years.

 

 2. The Israelis – Mili Avital.

 

 3.  Israeli Towns – Kiryat Bialik.

 

 4.  Israeli Kibbutzim – Dafna.

 

 5. Kibbutz Enterprises – Netafim.

     6. Israel Football Association taken to Court.

     7. Academic Colleges – Higher Education for All.

     8. Indoor Pollution.

     9. Renewable Energy.

     10.Israeli Film Festival.

    

The Second 100 years


Most of the 270 kibbutzim in Israel 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.

 

 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.

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.

A research institute at Haifa University conducts continuous research on kibbutz matters. Current research topics are: changes in the kibbutz structure, outcomes of changes in the kibbutz, leadership, regional development, democracy in a crisis period, reasons for leaving the kibbutz. A yearly survey of institutional changes in the kibbutz community and a yearly opinion survey of a representative sample of kibbutz members have been conducted since 1990 by the institute.

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 – Mili Avital

Mili Avital is considered as one of the most famous Israeli actors in Hollywood. The 39-year-old native of Jerusalem has managed to build a diversified career in film, television and stage in both the US and Israel.

Only a year after arriving in New York in 1993 to study acting, she was cast as the female lead in the film Stargate. This led to roles in Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man opposite Johnny Depp, Doug Ellin’s Kissing a Fool, Polish Wedding, Robert Benton’s The Human Stain and When Do We Eat? Her television work includes portraying Scheherazade in the Emmy-nominated ABC miniseries Arabian Nights, and theater, Avital played Cordelia in King Lear at Venice, California’s Electric Lodge in 2006. Avital even directed a short documentary – I Think Myself I am All the Time Younger - which premiered at the 2004 Tribeca Film Festival in New York.

Last year, Avital appeared in the FX TV show Damages, in a recurring role as the mistress to Patty Hewes’ (Glen Close) husband.

She also starred in the Israeli prime time drama Prisoners of War (Hatufim). Her other recent Israeli work includes the cult comedy Ahava Colombianit (Colombian Love), as well as Noodle, for which she received the 2007 Israel’s Critics’ Circle Award for Best Actress, the Israeli Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, and Israel’s Person of the Year nomination.

Israeli Towns – Kiryat Bialik

Kiryat Motzkin is a city in the Haifa District of Israel, 8 kilometers north of the city of Haifa. At the end of 2013, its population was 46,600. The city is named after Leo Motzkin, one of the organizers of the First Zionist Congress in 1897. The mayor of the city is Haim Zuri.

 

Kiryat Motzkin was founded in 1934, on a sandy patch of land between the railroad tracks and the Haifa-Acre road.

The city consists of 21,800 males and 24,800 females, with 25.5% of the population 19 years of age or younger, 15.2% between 20 and 29, 19.0% between 30 and 44, 20.1% from 45 to 59, 4.5% from 60 to 64, and 15.9% 65 years of age or older. The city is ranked medium-high on the socio-economic scale (7 out of 10).

There are  21,887 salaried workers and 978 self-employed. The mean monthly wage for a salaried worker is NIS 6,581. Salaried males had a mean monthly wage of NIS 8,773 (a real change of 3.0%) compared to NIS 4,634 for females (a real change of -2.2%). The mean income for self-employed was 6,327. 437 people received unemployment benefits and 2,157 received an income supplement.

There are 12 schools and 6,071 students in Kiryat Motzkin, with 6 elementary schools (2,724 students) and 6 high schools (3,347 students). Approximately 60% of 12th grade students were eligible for a matriculation certificate in recent years.

Kiryat Motzkin has been twinned with the city of Kaifeng in China.

 

Israeli Kibbutzim – Dafna

Dafna is a kibbutz in the Upper Galilee in northern Israel, 7 km east of Kiryat Shmona. It was founded on 3 May 1939.

Three streams of the river Dan surround the evergreen landscape.

Har Vagai one of the regional high schools, is located in kibbutz Dafna. The school has 900-1000 pupils from 7th to 12th grade. The school covers an area of about 1 km square and the river Dan runs through the middle of the school grounds. The pupils are drawn from neighboring kibbutzim, Dan, HaGoshrim, Kfar Szold, Snir and from other communities such as Rosh Pinna, Metula and Yesud HaMa'ala.

The elementary school for the kibbutz children is Aley Giva  which is situated in Kibbutz Kfar Giladi. The children from Dafna are taken by bus there and back every day. There is a thriving education system of kindergartens for young children from the age of 6 months up to 6 years when they start the first year of school.

Dafna Industries was founded 1964 and is today one of the leading footwear exporters of Israel. Its products are exported to Europe, North and South America. Owing to a downturn in the world economy the factory went through a difficult period and was eventually sold to another Israeli footwear manufacturer Teva Neot with Dafna retaining a percentage of the shares.

Additional economic activities, which are part of the revenue producing activities of the kibbutz, are: Apple, avocado and grapefruit orchards, cotton growing, dairy cattle and commercial fish ponds and renting accommodation. In addition, the tourist guest house "Ganei Dafna" (Garden of Dafna) offers recreational diversion. The kibbutz also runs a fish restaurant and camping ground where visitors can pitch their tents next to the river and enjoy a grilled trout in the restaurant nearby.

 

Kibbutz Enterprises - Netafim

 

Netafim irrigation systems is exploring the possibility of raising up to $ 250 million through domestic or foreign bonds as well as credit facilities totaling $ 150 million. Funding will be used to recycle existing debt of $ 230 million.

Netafim is controlled by foreign private equity fund Permira and is engaged in the development and marketing of drip irrigation systems and operates in 110 countries worldwide through 31 subsidiaries. The company has an annual turnover of $ 800 million and employs approximately 4,000 workers.

The new bonds will also be used to finance the business operations of irrigation but will not be used for repayment of loans or for the benefit of shareholders dividend distribution.

According to data, EBITDA (operating cash profit) of Netafim in 2013 dropped to 11%, compared to 13.5% in 2012. The company's profitability in recent years has been adversely affected by fluctuations in foreign exchange rates.

Analysts note that efficient water use and improvements in productivity associated with using drip irrigation solutions is likely to increase the demand for such products in the near future. Netafim is recognized as a global leader in drip irrigation systems and it is believed that this development represents a big growth opportunity for the company.

The company is expected to maintain its leading market position in drip irrigation equipment, while maintaining the ratio of FFO (operating cash flow) debt exceeding 12%, in accordance with its operating base.

It has been reported that Netafim is in advanced negotiations to clinch a deal worth about $ 200 million to supply pumping systems and underground drip irrigation to an Ethiopian government sugar cane company. The deal will be financed by a consortium of Israeli financial institutions led by Bank Hapoalim.

Three years ago Permira fund bought a 61% stake in Netafim at a company value of $ 850 million (of which $ 360 million was in cash and a loan of $ 150). A group of selling shareholders in the transaction included the kibbutzim Magal, Iftach and Hatsirim.

Children and Youth Football League

Although racial discrimination is strictly prohibited in Israel some border line cases sometimes come to court. Action against the Israel Football Association has been taken in the Tel Aviv District Court for alleged discrimination against Arab-Israeli youth players in one of its regions.

The NGO, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, along with a parent of one of the players, said that the IFA had separated out most of the “Arab teams” from the “Jewish teams” in its “Shomron" division which is composed of teams in the North and the Sharon region, on the Israeli side of the Green Line.

Adalah said that though the Arab teams of the region had been mixed in with the Jewish teams, as they are throughout the country, only weeks ago, the Arab teams were notified that out of 15 of them, 13 were being placed in an Arab-only division, while two would play in another division with 12 Jewish teams.

The IFA responded saying the new divisions were based “solely on geographic and professional factors.”

It added that it “runs over 100 leagues for children and teenagers, and the fact that only one of them is made up of an Arab population – a definition from which we disassociate by the way – shows” that “ethnic and racist” factors played no part in the decision.

The IFA continued that it is worthy of praise for its commitment to coexistence and equality and that criticism “from one parent, regarding which it is unclear whether he speaks for his team” should not define it.

Adalah acknowledged that the IFA mixes Arab and Jewish teams across the country, but said that in this case the geographic and professional factors were a cover for objections by some parents of some of the Jewish children in one particular region to playing against Arabs.

A letter from the IFA to the complaining parent says that the league will not artificially force players to play in a situation where they will not “benefit,” simply in the name of integration.

The petition asks for a court order to immediately block the change in the divisions.

Academic Colleges – Higher Education for All

A majority of students will pursue higher education degrees at colleges instead of universities during the 2014/15 year, according to figures released by the Council for Higher Education.

The CHE released the report ahead of the opening of the academic year at higher-education institutions across the country.

The 2014/15 year will open with some 310,000 students pursuing degrees at 65 higher- education institutions, including the seven research universities, the Open University, 36 academic colleges and 21 teachers colleges.

Of the students, 238,420 will be enrolled in bachelor’s programs, 59,455 will pursue master’s degrees, and 10,860 will study in doctoral programs.

The CHE said that during the past two decades the higher- education system underwent “dramatic changes.” The 1990s reflected a rapid increase in the number of students enrolled in higher education, with a growth average of 8.5% per year, leading to the development of numerous academic colleges to meet the increasing demand.

During the 2013/14 academic year, 192,710 students pursued undergraduate degrees, but only 34% did so at universities while some 66% studied at colleges – some 30% in publicly funded colleges, some 20% in non-publicly funded colleges, some 13% in teachers colleges and some 3% in academic colleges run by universities.

The fields of study pursued by students have changed during the past two decades.

In 1996/97, 18.5% of students were studying for undergraduate degrees in the humanities, compared to 7.4% in 2013/14.

More students are now pursuing undergraduate degrees in engineering, with 12.5% studying it in 1996/97, compared to 17.7% in 2013/14. Business has also gained popularity, with 11.6% of students pursuing the field in 2013/14, compared to 6.7% in 1996/97.

The numbers of students pursuing undergraduate degrees in the fields of social sciences, biology, agriculture, education and medicine have remained relatively stable.

One of the major accomplishments of the higher-education system in the past few decades has been the expansion of accessibility to students in the periphery and among the underprivileged populations.

The past two decades have seen an increase in the proportion of Arab undergraduates, going up from 7% of the total in 1995/96 to 13.1% in 2013/14.

In the 1990s, women comprised 40% of Arab students, while in the 2013/14 academic year 66% of Arab students were women, compared to 54% of Jewish students.

The CHE has devoted significant resources in the past few years to make higher education more accessible to the ultra-Orthodox population, and has established 10 new academic programs for the ultra-Orthodox to operate alongside the existing designated frameworks

Indoor Pollution

Indoor air quality remains largely unregulated in Israel and demands more attention, a leading American toxicologist concludes in a Health Ministry report.

 Since even in Israel, most people spend the majority of their time indoors, more attention to indoor air standards would bring large benefits,” writes Dr. Linda Birnbaum, director of the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and National Toxicology Program.

Israel has particularly high background levels of particulate matter (PM), due to both local natural dust and long range transport of PM from neighboring countries, the report says. More than 50 percent of PM2.5 – particles with a diameter of 2.5 microns or less – levels in Israel are due to such long-range transport, mostly from Europe and the Mediterranean. Levels become especially high during the winter and transition seasons, from the Sahara and Arabian deserts.

Man-made sources of PM include power plants, industry, home heating and transportation – the last of which dominates large metropolitan areas.

Israel ranks 44th out of 90 countries for annual mean PM2.5 levels and 24th for annual mean PM10 – particles with a diameter of 10 microns or less – according to the World Health Organization, the authors note.

Levels of PM10, ozone and nitrogen oxides continue to exceed the maximum limit values in major metropolitan areas. Because the Finance Ministry reduced funding for the National Pollution Reduction and Prevention Program, the future decrease will not be as large as originally intended, the authors warn.

The introduction of regulations on thermal insulation in 1985 caused the proportion of homes within condensation-related mold to decrease by 25%, the authors find. Meanwhile, regulations for radon levels were passed in 1970 – and updated in 2008 – and 2011 ventilation standards define values for other indoor contaminants.

Because the average person spends up to 90% of his or her time indoors, it is crucial to collect more data on indoor air quality in Israel, the authors say. Together with the Health Ministry, the Environmental Protection Ministry is planning a pilot program to do so in schools in 2015. Yet no data are available concerning residential dust in Israel, which could provide an important tool for assessing human exposure to indoor contaminants, the authors say.

As far as drinking water standards are concerned, the authors praise Israel for having made major progress in data reporting. Going forward, as 30% of Israel’s drinking water is expected to hail from desalinated sources in 2015, the authors stress the importance of evaluating the impact of reduced calcium and magnesium intake.

The effects of ending drinking water fluoridation must also be studied, the authors say.

Calling upon the Health Ministry, the Environmental Protection Ministry and other relevant ministries to increase their cooperative activities regarding pollution prevention, Birnbaum notes that damage to health relating to things such as transportation volume affect both adults and children “from the time they are in the womb.”

 Children are our future,” she concludes. “Increased efforts should be made to monitor their exposures to environmental contaminants...and to prevent their exposure to environmental contaminants, especially indoor and outdoor air pollution, pesticides, environmental tobacco smoke, and chemicals in consumer products and food.”

Renewable Energy

The cabinet approved an expansive renewable energy program claiming to save the country NIS 2.5 billion annually – reworking production quotas in favor of the solar industry and enabling green energy generation in the West Bank.

The cabinet approval enables the diversion of some 520 megawatts allocated for renewable energy generation in other areas to the photovoltaic (solar) sector, saving the country about NIS 2.5b. annually for the next 20 years. Now that the plans have been authorized after two years of delay, residents of Judea and Samaria will be able to build 30 MW worth of photovoltaic facilities.

Wednesday’s decision follows up on an approval by the Ministerial Committee for Renewable Energy in February, which gave the initial go-ahead to the quota diversions and authorized the state to guarantee the debt of West Bank solar facilities.

The government’s decision today advances the renewable energy field with a giant step forward,” National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom said.

 By creating a significant and sizable renewable energy market, we can develop and make progress toward achieving the target of 10 percent electricity generation from renewables by 2020.”

An addition of 70 MW to the photovoltaic-solar sector will come from the quota for large wind facilities, a move the Energy Ministry described as necessary due to the environmental and security obstacles associated with building wind infrastructure. An additional 20 MW will come from the small wind technology sector, while another 20 MW will come from the thermo-solar quota. Sixty megawatts of the biogas production quota will be converted into 230 MW worth of photovoltaic generation.

Also approved was an amendment to the conditional license of two planned thermo-solar facilities, which would enable them to generate 180 MW of electricity from photovoltaic sources instead. This conversion alone would save the electricity sector about NIS 1.5b. annually for the next 20 years, the Energy Ministry said.

An additional 30 MW for the Ashalim solar production site south of Beersheba received government approval, through a public-private-partnership (PPP) agreement. The Ashalim site will include two thermo-solar plants and a photovoltaic facility, with a total capacity of 270 MW, according to the Energy Ministry.

 As stated in the resolution, in order for these facilities to be built according to conditions similar to those in other places in Israel, the government will guarantee that in the case of political changes that cause the cessation in revenue flow from the facilities, it will pay the balance owed by the developer to the bank".

Israeli Film Festival

‘We always have one or two really good films, but this year we have so many terrific ones, it’s really exciting,” says Meir Fenigstein, the founder and executive director of the upcoming 28th Israel Film Festival in Los Angeles.

“We’ve got 28 films for the 28 years of the festival, and I’m very excited, this is our biggest and best lineup ever,” says Fenigstein, who may be better known to fans of Israeli music as Poogy, the drummer for the Israeli supergroup Kaveret, and the inspiration behind the song, “Poogy Stories.”

Israel is a very vibrant society, and these films tell stories of people from so many backgrounds,” he says.

The opening night film is Asaf Korman’s Next to Her, a drama about a woman caring for her mentally disabled sister, which just won the top prize at the Haifa International Film Festival and won an Ophir Award, the Israeli Oscar, for Dana Ivgy, for Best Supporting Actress.

Ivgy will attend the festival’s gala opening night screening to accept the IFF Cinematic Achievement Award. The actress is coming off an especially good year. She also won the Ophir Award for Best Actress this year, for her performance in Talya Lavie’s acclaimed film Zero Motivation, about female soldiers, which will also be shown at the festival. Zero Motivation took the prize for Best Narrative Feature at the Tribeca Film Festival last spring.

Israel-born producer Arnon Milchan will receive the festival’s Visionary Award. Milchan has produced dozens of classic movies, among them the recently released Gone Girl, the Best Picture Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave, Fight Club, Brazil and Pretty Woman.

The Lifetime Achievement Award will go to producer Mace Neufeld, who has made many Hollywood hits, including the recently released The Equalizer, Patriot Games, Invictus, The Aviator and The Hunt for Red October.

In addition to Next to Her and Zero Motivation, the festival’s offerings will include Avi Nesher’s The Wonders, about an artist in Jerusalem who gets mixed up with a mystery woman and a shadowy rabbi; Oren Stern’s Hill Start, a comedy about a family getting on with their lives while their mother is in a coma; Nissim Dayan’s The Dove Flyer, a drama about Iraqi Jewish life; Shay Kanot’s Kicking Out Shoshana, a broad comedy that stars Gal Ganot, who will soon be playing Wonder Woman in a series of upcoming Hollywood movies; and Guy Nattiv and Erez Tadmor’s Magic Men, which tells the story of a Greek Holocaust survivor who returns to his homeland.

Several films in the festival just had their premieres at the Haifa International Film Festival, among them Dani Menkin’s Is That You?, a romantic road comedy starring Alon Aboutboul and Matti Harari, and Arik Lubetzki’s drama, Apples from the Desert, about a young religious woman in Jerusalem who runs away to a kibbutz with the man she loves.

Documentaries are a key part of the festival this year as well. Hilla Medalia’s The Go-Go Boys: The Inside Story of Cannon Films tells the story of the late Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, two Israeli cousins who built the biggest independent production company in Hollywood.