News Highlights October 2014


      1. The Modern Kibbutz.


 2. The Israelis – Professor Toufik Mansour.


 3.  Israeli Towns –Mitzpeh Ramon.


 4.  Israeli Kibbutzim – Gvat.


 5. Kibbutz Enterprises –Sale of Caesar Stone.

     6. The Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

     7. The Oil War.

     8. Start Ups.

     9. The Jordan River.

     10.The Gaza War in 500 B.C.E.


  The Kibbutz – The Future

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.


 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.

The Israelis – Professor Toufik Mansour

Toufik Mansour is an Israeli mathematician working in algebraic combinatorics. He is a member of the Druze community and is the first Israeli Druze to become a professional mathematician.

He is a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Haifa. Mansour obtained his Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Haifa in 2001. He has previously been a faculty member of the Center for Combinatorics at Nankai University from 2004 to 2007, and at The John Knopfmacher Center for Applicable Analysis and Number Theory at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Mansour is an expert on Discrete Mathematics and its applications. In particular, he is interested in permutation patterns, colored permutations, set partitions, combinatorics on words, and compositions. He has written more than 250 research papers.

Israeli Towns – Mitzpe Ramon

Mitzpe Ramon was founded in 1951 as a camp for the workers building the road to Eilat. The town's first permanent residents, immigrants from North Africa and Romania, settled there in the 1960s, and it became the southernmost of the Negev's development towns.

Ramon Crater, known as a makhtesh, is 38 km long, 6 km wide and 450 meters deep. Mitzpe Ramon experiences hot, dry summers and cold winters. There are moderate to strong winds all year long, caused by its location above the crater, which make Mitzpe Ramon feel much colder than it really is. Snowfall occurs on average once in a couple of years.

The development of Mitzpe Ramon was adversely affected by the opening of Route 90 in the late 1960s. After the inauguration of this highway, traffic to and from Eilat bypassed Mitzpe Ramon almost entirely. However, growing interest in ecotourism, Jeep trekking (access to Nabatean ruins), mountain biking and hiking, and the upgrading of Route 40, which is considered a more scenic route to Eilat, have improved the economy.

Jerusalem Marble, a major supplier and overseas exporter of Jerusalem stone established in 1923, inaugurated a new, state-of-the-art factory in Mitzpe Ramon in January 2000.

Mitzpe Ramon has six hotels and dozens of Bed and Breakfast establishments. In 2011, the Isrotel hotel chain opened a luxury hotel, the Beresheet Hotel, in Mitzpe Ramon.

The Tourism Ministry has allocated NIS 9.5 million for infrastructure development in Mitzpe Ramon, and the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and Galilee financed the construction of a landing strip for light aircraft.

The Mitzpe Ramon Jazz Club hosts musical ensembles on the weekend. On weekdays, it operates as a music school. The Adama Dance Company, established by Liat Dror and Nir Ben Gal, is a troupe based in Mitzpe Ramon. The company opened a complex in the industrial zone that offers classes and workshops, and houses studios and a performance venue. It runs a children's dance school in the town's Spice Route Quarter.

 Israeli Kibbutzim – Gvat

The kibbutz was established in 1926.

Archeological evidence, including columns and masonry inscribed with Latin, shows that a first-century BCE Judeo-Roman settlement existed at the site.

Irrigation equipment manufacturing company Plastro was established in 1966 by Kibbutz Gvat. Plastro is the world's second largest drip irrigation company after Netafim (also from Israel) Plastro and Netafim, together with Israel's other irrigation equipment company NaanDan Irrigation Systems, controls roughly half the world market, worth from $1 to $1.5 billion a year.

In 2008 Kibbutz Gvat agreed to sell its 75.1% stake in Plastro Irrigation Systems Ltd to John Deere at a value of NIS 265 million. John Deere was obliged to leave Plastro at the kibbutz employing Kibbutz Gvat members for 15 years.

Another sector of Gvat's economy is agriculture. Field crops, citrus fruit, dairy, poultry, ostriches are farmed.

Kibbutz Gvat runs Bet Herschel theater, named after one of the kibbutz founders, where movies and stage productions are shown. The kibbutz also has a regional sports center.

Kibbutz Enterprises – Caesar Stone


Members of kibbutz Sadot Yam decided that most of the proceeds from the sale of 19% of Caesar Stone Factory will be distributed in cash. 210 out of 400 members of the kibbutz voted  for a cash distribution of 400 million of the sale proceeds. The balance amount of the sale, which is about 200 million, will be used to increase the pensions of members of the kibbutz and various uses of the kibbutz itself, such as investment in infrastructure.

The question of how to divide the proceeds led to a sharp debate within the kibbutz from the founding generation and the new generation.

 Each kibbutz member should receive a million shekels on average. However, the kibbutz rules states that 30% of any dividend will be divided equally among the members, while 70% will be distributed according to seniority According to this division, the amount due to each member ranged from a half million to a million and a half shekels. How the proceeds will be divided will need another discussion and vote.

The Temple Mount

Rabbis agree that because of the sanctity of the Temple, Jews must not enter the area where the ancient Jewish Temples stood.

The Temple Mount is nearly 1,500 square meters, and entering the golden Dome of the Rock, a Muslim shrine, and its surrounding area – around 200 sq.m. – is forbidden.

It is recorded that Rabbi Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides/Rambam, 1135-1204) prayed on the Temple Mount at a synagogue that had remained from an earlier (pre-Crusader) period. Rabbi Moses ben Nachman (Ramban) wrote that he prayed on the Temple Mount when he arrived in Jerusalem in 1267.

When Jerusalem was liberated from Jordanian occupation in 1967 and the Western Wall and Temple Mount opened to all, IDF chief rabbi Shlomo Goren tried to establish a synagogue on the Temple Mount. This enraged defense minister Moshe Dayan, who instituted two decrees regarding the Temple Mount which are in force to this day: 1) he gave administrative control to the Wakf, and 2) he prohibited Jewish prayer on the site.

To accommodate Jordan, successive Israeli governments assigned custodial rights to it, which were included in Article 9 of the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty (1994): “Each party will provide freedom of access to places of religious and historical significance.

Israel respects the present special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan [regarding] Muslim holy shrines in Jerusalem ... The parties will act together to promote interfaith relations among the three monotheistic religions with the aim of working towards religious understanding, moral commitment, freedom of religious worship, and tolerance and peace.”

The Oil War

There are two possible reasons for the recent steep decrease in global oil prices. The first is that Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Libya made a decision to increase supply. The second is that slow growth in China and a stagnant economy in Europe could be causing a decrease in the demand.

Though private consumers are happy to fill up their tanks at the pump for less, many institutions are concerned about the negative impact lower oil prices might have on the global economy. While the price of crude oil has been fluctuating between $77 and $85 a barrel, there is an insurmountable fear that the United States is headed toward another oil glut, an increase in the supply of crude oil accompanied by a drastic decrease in demand. Such a glut could result in further drastic decreases in oil prices.

Saudi Arabia is increasing supply because it wants to send warning signals to Iran, Venezuela and Russia, according to energy experts. Another major reason for the decrease in prices is a shale boom which has spurred US production to high levels.

Are we witnessing an indirect war waged by Saudi Arabia against Iran, and Russia? In the past, the oil has been used to send political warnings to various countries. Are we witnessing oil price manipulation to send political warnings? The Iranian government supports Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria in various ways such as providing it with military equipment. The Russian government, too, supports the Assad regime. Consequently, Saudi Arabia might be slashing the oil prices globally to affect these countries’ economic growth.


Start Ups

Israel is a rising center of technology with more than 4000 start-ups active in various areas of our life, from e-commerce to finance, health, mobile and more.

In the last decade more than 700 Israeli start-up companies sold for more than 40 billion dollars. Investors from all around the globe are coming to Israel to search for the next big thing.

Israeli start-up Talkspace is making therapy accessible and affordable for people in need around the world.

Living in Israel in particular can be very stressful, but an Israeli couple has created a new approach to mental health that is set to revolutionize therapy access in the Digital Age.

Talkspace is the brainchild of Oren and Roni Frank, who, after saving their marriage with couple's therapy, created a platform that supplies instant therapy in a mobile application.

The Talkspace app provides an anonymous, stigma free, affordable and comfortable 24-hour service that grants users unlimited access to top professional licensed therapists from $25 per week.

"More the 60 percent of people who want to go to therapy, won't go because of high costs," Oren Frank said.

In an effort to eliminate the stigma associated with therapy and provide accessibility which is one of the biggest problems preventing people to get therapy, Frank added that Talkspace offers users a service via website and the iOS app to connect with professional therapists via SMS chat or video.

Talkspace recently installed two giant inflatable domes in the middle of Manhattan, New York City to show people that therapy can be accessible and affordable, and — above all — that it's nothing to be ashamed of.


The Jordan River

Conference participants included the government ministers of national infrastructure and environmental protection, the KKL-JNF World Chairman, representatives from the UN, the EU and the Kingdom of Jordan, as well as scientists from Israel and other countries, and executives from various organizations involved in this field.

In order to understand the challenges of the Jordan River and its surrounding banks better, it is not enough to hear scholarly explanations. For this reason, the conference began with an excursion, so that the conference participants could see firsthand how rehabilitating the Jordan River could contribute to the environment, agriculture, tourism and relations between the neighboring countries of Israel and Jordan.

At the Old Gesher site, conference participants heard about tourism initiatives in Israel and in Jordan all along the Jordan River, and they were impressed by the historical bridges from the Roman period to the days of the British Mandate. At Yardena, they viewed the Jordanian side of the border, learned about the agriculture on both sides and heard about the cooperation between the two countries with regard to water and farming. They also heard a report on the mine clearing project being directed by the Israel Ministry of Defense, which aims to make the region accessible to the general public.

Archaeological Find – The Gaza War in 500 B.C.E

Fortifications ranging back 2,500 years have been unearthed by archeologists near Israel's border with Gaza.

The structure, which was found together with arms, indicate the site was a fortified military barracks and dates back to fourth century B.C.E. during the Persian Empire's war with Alexander the Great.

Ironically, at present, the location – Israeli community Netiv HaAsara - is surrounded by fortifications in light of the rocket threat from Gaza.

The first discovery was made when the community was doing infrastructure work and discovered part of the structure that led archeologists to believe the ruins of an ancient community might be found there.

After working day and night, they began to extract amazing artifacts ranging from sifters to stone ovens, to small storage units and pottery. One of the storage units even revealed bottles for storing wine and olive oil.

"Netiv HaAsara was probably a fortified road stop en route to the sea during the Persian era. Because of its location, some 10 km from Gaza City and 10 km from Ashkelon to the northeast, the community was the perfect link between the two, as part of a long line of fortified seaside communities," said Dr. Yael Abadi-Rice from the Israel Antiquities Authority.

"At the top of the hill we discovered a fortified tower built of kurkar stone and mud bricks. A staircase was used to climb atop the massive tower, which has been preserved in part. During the dig we found weapons, including arrow heads and spearheads made of bronze and iron. The arms teach us about the military nature of the site. It was violently destroyed, likely near the end of the Persian era, when Alexander the Great conquered the area in the 4th century BC.