Winds of Change

Warming ties between the Arab world and Israel

By Rolene Marks

If someone has said to me a few years ago that the Arab world would start opening up to the State of Israel, I would have thought that they are losing their minds. But an amazing new phenomenon is taking shape in the Middle East. The frosty relations between Israel and Arab countries are starting to thaw and warm up significantly over the last couple of years and this has been demonstrated by a series of overtures from Arab countries towards Israel.

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The Israeli and Bahraini flags (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

 

It is no secret that one of the key issues that has influenced the warming of ties between Israel and Arab states is the threat to the region posed by Iran. The hegemonic regime poses a massive threat to Gulf States who have aligned themselves more with the USA and has created a corridor via Syria and proxies in the north with Hezbollah, and South with Hamas to further encroach on Israeli territory.

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Change Of Climate. Foreign Minister Israel Katz at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, during a UN climate conference in the city, in late June, 2019. (Courtesy Katz’s office)

One positive side effect of the Iranian threat is the realization that the tiny state of Israel is more of a potential friend or at least ally, than enemy. There is growing concern that relations between Israel and various Arab states have been somewhat covert but there have been rumours circulating that the Jewish State may be close to signing non-aggression pacts with several of these countries.

Israel has peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan but formal bilateral relations with other Arab countries would contribute greatly to stability and economic growth in the region. In fact, Israel will be exporting natural gas from the lucrative Leviathan gas field to Egypt within the next few weeks. Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz calls the permit a “historic landmark” for Israel. He says it’s the most significant economic cooperation project between the countries since they signed a peace deal in 1979.

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“Time Are A’Changin”. The same Arab world that once laid on Israel an energy siege is now buying gas from the Jewish state with Egypt and Jordan the first customers from the Leviathan gas rig off the coast of Israel.

In 2019, the Trump Administration revealed part of its much anticipated peace plan with the “Peace to prosperity” proposal that shared how the administration, with the backing of Arab states, intends to build Palestinian civilian and cultural infrastructure that would lead to job creation and lead to the foundations of a future state. This plan was presented in Manama, the capital of Bahrain and while Israel did not send an official delegation, representatives from the business sector were present – and warmly welcomed! Palestinian businessmen, who despite the invitation to participate in the conference being spurned by the leadership, attended and were promptly arrested by the Palestinian Authority for daring to engage the US administration and Israel on possible commercial solutions. Also significant, was the invitation to six Israeli media outlets to cover the event.

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Friendly Exchange. Posted on Twitter, Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz and his Bahraini counterpart Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa (R) pose for a photograph at the State Department in Washington on July 17, 2019 during a groundbreaking public meeting.

Since the Manama confab, the Foreign Minister of Bahrain, Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, and his Israeli counterpart, Israel Katz, met in the United States and in October 2019, an Israeli official, Dana Benvenisti-Gabay, attended the “Working Group on Maritime and Aviation Security” in Manama. In December 2019, Jerusalem chief rabbi, Shlomo Amar, visited Bahrain for an interfaith event. There is hope that this has helped create the climate for future official ties.

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Open Door Policy. Jared Kushner concludes the 2019 Manama Conference in Bahrain assuring that the doors remain open to the 50 billion dollar plan to revive the stagnant economy of the Palestinian people.

Bahrain is not the only state that is welcoming Israeli visitors. The United Arab Emirates is preparing for Expo 2020, where countries will showcase the best of their offerings for six months and Israel will be included.

UAE Tourism Minister announced that not only would Israeli passport holders be welcome at the event, a phenomenon that was previously unheard of, but that he hoped citizens from the Jewish state would continue to visit long after its conclusion. The real Chanukah miracle was a tweet from the UAE Embassy in London sending warm wishes to Jewish friends celebrating Chanukah.

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And if Twitter is the platform where friendships are revealed, then this one between Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Emirati Foreign Minister sure says a lot:

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It is not just the Emiratis or Bahrainis that are showing Israel some love. Recently, 7 bloggers from Saudi Arabia visited Israel and the results have been quite extraordinary. The bloggists have taken to their social media platforms to speak quite openly of their newfound fondness for the Jewish state.

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Meeting Of Minds. “The people of the Middle East want peace with Israel and for the leadership to promote it,” says Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Rabbi Shlomo Amar (bottom, center) at the interfaith conference in Manama, Bahrain, on Monday, December 9, 2019.

There is no problem with Israel. It is important because of Jerusalem that is holy to Jews and Christians, while Islam’s holy places are Mecca and Medina,” Sultan said via the social media platform.

Is this the yearning of the younger generation to have normalization of ties or is there some indirect influence from Saudi officials? Saudi Crown Prince, Mohamed bin Salman is trying to change the image of his country and perhaps the best way to do this is modernizing attitudes towards countries like Israel and recognizing that there is more to be gained bilaterally and regionally through warmer ties.

It may still be a while until formal ties are recognized but the winds of change are blowing in the Middle East and this time, they are rich with promise.

 

Bravo Boris

The HANDS of British voters eased the MINDS of global Jewry

By David E. Kaplan

Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky day in Western suspicion, evident by the endless number of spooky horror  movies  set on this day.

Not so Friday 13th 2019!

Jews the world over awoke on this worrying day, breathing a collective sigh of relief that Jeremy Corbyn would not only be the next Prime Minister of Great Britain but received such a thumping that will send him packing.

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Grave Concern. The man who would be PM, Jeremy Corbyn (second from left) holding a wreath in October 2014 at a gravesite in Tunisia near a plaque dedicated to members of the Black September terrorist group. (Facebook page of the Palestinian embassy in Tunisia)

For Jews in the UK, the election was less about Brexit, which was the main issue, and more about antiSemitism. If we would go by conversations in Jewish households prior to the election, it might have ended up as “Jewexit” instead of “Brexit”!

If there was any doubt about that before the election note the British Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, entering the political fray in an unprecedent step by describing Corbyn as “not fit for high office” in a November 25 op-ed in The Times.

The Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth was imploring people not who to vote for, but who NOT to vote for.

The future of the UK Jewish community lay in the balance – in the hands of the British voter.

And If there was any doubt about this apocalyptic fear by Jewish voters, it was affirmed in the immediate post-election assurances  by the former Tory leadership candidate, Michael Gove addressing a victory rally in Surrey Heath:

You have had to live in fear for months concerned you may have a prime minister who trafficked in anti-Jewish rhetoric and embraced anti-Jewish terrorists. You should never have to live in fear again.”

Just think about it; this is what it has come down to! That the Jewish community in the United Kingdom has to be assured “You should never have to live in fear again.”

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Reassuring Message. Michael Gove savages Corbyn’s extremism and says Jewish people “should NEVER live in fear”. (Image: BBC)

Summer Recess

By contrast the man who is going to occupy number 10 Downing Street for the next five years is not only well known in Israel but the Jewish state is well known to Mr. Boris Johnson.

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PHEW! Clearly most Britons were happy with this sight and none more so than the Jewish community that breathed a sigh of relief.

Boris’ connection to Israel ‘journeys’ back many years  to the days in which no one was on the tarmac to welcome him at Ben-Gurion International Airport and no red carpets were in sight.

In 1984, two young Brits arrived in Kibbutz Kfar Hanassi as volunteers; they were the future Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his sister the future British journalist and television presenter, Rachel Johnson.

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When In Acre. While in Acre in 2013, the future British PM’s sister, Rachel Johnson dined at the famed Uri Buri, seen here with Chef Uri “Buri” Jeremias (right) whom she described as looking “… like Father Christmas and was the most interesting man. I ate the best thing ever — ‘Ben-Gurion rice’.

It was the summer of 1984, and the Johnson siblings undertook a six-week experience in Israel. In those days, it was “the thing to do”.

Rachel was on a gap year before heading to Oxford University, while Boris, 14 months her elder and already a student at the same university, had just finished his first year at Balliol College, where he was a classics scholar. “Our father thought this was a good way to get rid of us for the summer,” recalls Rachel.

In 2013 Rachel wrote on MailOnline of those experiences of nearly three decades earlier at Kibbutz HaNasi started by  group of British Jewish immigrants, members of the Habonim youth movement.

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Back In Jerusalem. A trip down memory lane, journalist and TV presenter, Rachel Johnson revisits Jerusalem in 2013

I was a pale-skinned, fair-haired teenage girl visiting Israel for the first time with her even paler-skinned and fairer-haired older brother.

We’d come to work as volunteers at a kibbutz north of the Sea of Galilee, on the green banks of the Jordan river, just below the volcanic pointy hills of the Golan Heights and a few miles from Syria.

We arrived at the kibbutz in the blasting heat of July. ‘Warm breeze,’ I wrote in my diary at the time. ‘Smell of blossom … and latrines.’ Soon after arrival, we were assigned our work sections. I had the Augean task of ‘male sanitation’.

Boris was bundled into the communal kitchen, which catered and cleared up after kibbutz Kfar Hanassi’s 600 members and volunteers who dined together three times a day on yogurt, houmous, eggs, houmous, yogurt and tomatoes (that’s all I remember eating at every meal, anyway).”

While comically depicting the scene with “There could not have been worse gigs for pampered, pale-faced public-school spawn,”  Rachel reveals much about her brother, the future Prime Minister who would cause Labour its worst defeat since 1935.

While Rachel “moved to picking fruit, and then, after striking up a friendship with an attractive shepherd called David” and promoted “to being a shepherdess,” Boris, “doughtily remained at his post, his skin peeling from the heat and steam, and stayed sane by reading Homer and Virgil in the library in the evening.”

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Seeing The Sights. Boris Johnson in Jerusalem on his first trip to Israel in the summer of 1984. (courtesy Rachel Johnson)

Boris Takes The Cake

In the land of destiny,  the young man was destined for leadership.

Alec Collins, who hosted the future PM in his home at Kfar Hanassi  in 1984 revealed in a recent interview “Even back then, he used to say, ‘I will be a leader one day”.

“He is a great guy to be around with and chat with,” continued Collins. “Boris can strike up a conversation with just about anyone, on the spot. He has a great sense of humor, and this will be of great benefit to the UK.”

This has proved so.

To quote Boris:

My position on cake is clear: I’m pro-having it and pro-eating it. And once you have your cake and eat it, too, you’ve effectively laid claim to two cakes.”

Equipped with his unique twist of logic and inimitable wit will leave his adversaries baffled as he scales the proverbial ramparts.

Taking on Brexit, the most monumental issue since WWII, Boris can take inspiration from his political hero and wartime victor, Winston Churchill who too was tasked to lead armed with a mastery of rhetoric.

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On top Of The World. Looking down at the Dead Sea – the lowest spot on earth – Boris’ sister Rachel at the top of Masada in 1984.

The Jewish Connection

Like Sir Winston Churchill  – a great greatest supporter of the Zionist movement  and of the 1917 Balfour Declaration – Boris too refers to himself as “A passionate Zionist”

In an article to commemorate the centenary of the Balfour Declaration in 2017, Boris wrote:

 “I served a stint at a kibbutz in my youth, and… saw enough to understand the miracle of Israel: the bonds of hard work, self-reliance and an audacious and relentless energy that hold together a remarkable country.”

And on his visit to the country when  he was the mayor of London, he lashed out at BDS – the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement – and pronounced Israel the only “pluralist, open society” in the region.

This is a far cry from the man too who aspired to be the resident of 10 Downing Street – Jeremy Corbyn.

While Boris has Jewish ancestry traced back through his mother to the revered 19th century Lithuanian Rabbi Elijah Ragoler, his feelings about Israel may stem just as strongly from Jenny Sieff, who became his stepmother when he was seventeen.

From a prominent Anglo-Jewish family, Jenny’s stepfather, Teddy Sieff, served as chairman of Marks and Spencer and was vice-president of the British Zionist Federation. In 1973, Sieff survived an assassination attempt by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine when he was shot by the assassin Ilich Ramírez Sánchez more familiarly known as Carlos the Jackal. Carlos fired one bullet at Sieff from his Tokarev 7.62mm pistol, which bounced off Sieff just between his nose and upper lip and knocked him unconscious; the gun then jammed and Carlos fled.

It was Jenny’s family in Israel, the distinguished South African-born Israeli diplomat, Michael Comay, who had been Israeli ambassador to Canada, the UN and the UK and his wife Joan, who would  help arrange for Boris and his sister Rachel to volunteer at Kibbutz Kfar HaNassi.

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Aspiring To New Heights. Boris Johnson as a 20-year-old in Israel in 1984 climbing to the top of the Jewish fortress of Masada following his 6-week of volunteerism with his sister Rachel at Kibbutz Kfar Hanassi.

According to Rachel, her brother showed great mettle volunteering on the kibbutz. While she admits how she  finagled her way out of cleaning the men’s bathrooms  and got herself reassigned to picking apples with “an attractive kibbutznik,” Boris dutifully stuck to his appointed job in the communal kitchen. There – as Rachel describes in her diary – “he showed inner steel scrubbing pots and pans and sweating it out in the heat of the kitchen, meal after meal.”

Clear early signs of the  makings of a leader if one adheres to the wise words of President Truman: “if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen”.

With Brexit the first order of business, the political ‘MasterChef’ is ready to make history. Clearly Israel has a friend at 10 Downing Street and can look forward  to welcoming on the red carpet at Ben Gurion Airport  that unmistakable blonde mop who first came to Israel on the way to kibbutz Kfar HaNasi 35 years ago.

 

Feature Picture: Boris Johnson on the campaign trail CREDIT: ANDREW PARSONS/ I-IMAGES

‘The Magnificent Nine’

Israel makes the cover of Time as 9  of its inventions feature on the Magazine’s  100 best inventions of 2019

By David E. Kaplan

Every year, TIME magazine highlights the Best Inventions that are making the world “better, smarter and even a bit more fun”. In choosing their 2019 list, TIME solicited nominations across a variety of categories from its editors and correspondents around the world, as well as through an online application process. Each contender on the list is evaluated based on key factors, including

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Cover Story. Nine Israeli inventions or innovations are among Time’s Top 100

– originality

– creativity

– influence

– ambition

– effectiveness

The result: 100 groundbreaking inventions that are changing the way we live, work, play and think about what’s possible. Amongst the Top 100 that appears in print in TIME’s December 2 – December 9 are nine Israeli-made creations.

Here are the nine Israeli innovations that appear in Time’s top 100:

Seeing Is Believing

I was first exposed to this invention over a year ago when I walked into my uncle’s sitting room in Rehovot, south of Tel Aviv and saw him reading. Reading! He is virtually blind but there he was, wearing his glasses reading the morning paper. Then I saw he had a device and soon leaned it was a  MyEye 2.0 by OrCam.

It was great, we could argue over politics!

The MyEye 2 is a lightweight smart camera that attaches to virtually any frame of a pair of glasses. Using AI technology, it instantly and discreetly reads printed and digital text aloud from any surface, recognizes faces, products, money notes and more, all in real time. The intuitive device is operated by using simple hand gestures and has more than 20 voice-activated commands. It is designed for all ages, can be used with any level of vision loss and does not require an internet connection.

The portable, finger-sized device can be discreetly clipped to eyeglasses or sunglasses to read out texts from books, newspapers, product labels, and restaurant menus and can even scan barcodes, identify faces and currency, and tell time even without a watch.

“This is the world’s most advanced artificial vision device for people who are blind, partially sighted and have reading difficulties,” OrCam Director of Media and Communications Rafi Fischer told NoCamels last year. The device is gesture-motivated, so the user only has to point to the piece of text to activate the device or hold their hand out to stop the audio of the reading.

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A Word In One’s Ear. No more for those with failing sight need to miss out on enjoining their favourite literature.

“Fitting all this power into such a small device is like “putting an elephant into a small closet,” OrCam co-founder Amnon Shashua told TIME. Shashua is also famously the co-founder of Israel’s Mobileye, which develops vision-based driver-assistance systems. Intel acquired Mobileye for $15.3 billion in 2017.

 

Offering CONCRETE Solutions

Man’s love of the ocean and building on its coast is all very well for man – not always for the ocean! The problem lies in the detrimental impact of eco-unfriendly concrete.

Step in an Israeli company ECONcrete – an environmental tech company founded in 2012 by marine ecologists Dr. Shimrit Perkol-Finkel and Dr. Ido Sella. Listed in the “design” category of TIME’s list of 100 Best Inventions of 2019, ECONcrete develops sustainable concrete for constructing ecologically active infrastructures in coastal and marine environments as well as in urban landscapes.

The company uses “a technique known as bio­mimicry, relying on the shapes, textures and size of natural systems to dictate how the company builds its products,” so they blend in with their surroundings and are less intrusive to marine ecosystems.

Earlier in 2019, ECONcrete was listed by Fast Company on its “World’s Most Innovative Companies” of 2019. The company was also featured in an episode of the popular web series Nas Daily.

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Below The Surface. ECOncrete is proving that development and sustainability don’t have to be at odds.

With nearly half of the human population living along coastlines, coastal development, and increasing coastal urbanization  are inevitable. Concrete is the main construction material globally, accounting for over 70% of Coastal and Marine Infrastructure (CMI).  Nonetheless, it is a poor substrate for biological recruitment, and is considered toxic to many marine organisms, mainly due to its unique surface chemistry which impairs the settlement of various marine larvae.

Now, ECOncrete, with a suite of innovative, science-based solutions, is proving that development and sustainability don’t have to be at odds.

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“Pitch To Rich”. ECOncrete was honored to be the winner of the event hosted by Virgin Atlantic and Calcalist. ECOncrete’s CEO and Co-Founder, Dr. Shimrit Perkol-Finkel (right) presented its innovation to Sir Richard Branson (3rd from right).

 

Bring To A Head

A world leading survey of health conditions across 195 countries found that, in every year from 1990 to 2016, migraine attacks remained the second-largest global contributor to years lived with disability. They come with a huge economic cost, too, causing an estimated 25 million sick days to be taken in the UK alone each year. But compared to their health and economic burden, migraines remain one of the world’s most under-funded diseases.

Step in an Israeli medical tech company Theranica that has developed a migraine-zapping wearable device Nerivio and featured in Time’s list in the “health care” category.

The device, worn on the upper arm, provides migraine treatment through neuromodulation therapy, altering nerve activity by way of targeted delivery of a stimulus. The treatment is like “a personalized pain-relief programme,” according to the Netanya-based company.

“We are honored to be recognized by TIME and thrilled to see Nerivio listed alongside inventions that are shaping the future,” said Alon Iron, CEO and co-founder of Theranica.

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Getting Ahead. Developed by med-tech firm Theranica, its device, “Nerivio” provides acute treatment of migraines. (Photo via Theranica’s website) Medical Devise Of The Year

“At Theranica, we believe that migraine solutions should be affordable and accessible. We are proud of the non-invasive, low side-effect and drug-free alternative that Nerivio offers and remain dedicated to bringing effective relief to individuals around the world living with migraine.”

 

Home Diagnosis

The “health care” category on the TIME list also featured the remote medical examination device TytoHome developed by Israeli tele-health company Tyto Care. A handheld examination device, TytoHome comes with attachments to examine the heart, lungs, skin, ears, throat and abdomen, as well as measure body temperature, to enable remote diagnosis of acute care situations like ear infections, sore throats, fever, cold and flu, allergies, and more.

The device allows users to perform these comprehensive medical exams and send the information to a primary care provider.

The device, at $299, was recently made available to purchase at over 300 Best Buy locations across the USA. It’s also available online.

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Easy Diagnosis At Home. An ear exam with a Tytocare TytoHome device.

“Tyto Care’s mission has always been to make high-quality healthcare accessible on-demand, from any location to as many people as possible,” Tyto Care CEO and co-founder Dedi Gilad, said in a statement. “We are honoured to be included on TIME’s Best Inventions list for 2019. This recognition signifies the ground-breaking impact TytoHome is having on people’s day-to-day lives and we are excited to continue to deliver the best virtual care experience to consumers across the globe.”

Gilad co-founded Tyto Care alongside Ofer Tzadik in 2012, after spending many days and nights in emergency care as a parent of young children.

As reported in NoCamels, “Dedi Gilad was a young father of two dealing with fevers, fussy eaters and his daughter’s chronic ear infections when he did what few exhausted parents of young children do – he launched a startup!”

Tytocare is a telehealth company bringing medical exams to the comfort of our homes. And like all good ideas, it was born out of necessity. Gilad was spending hours day and night at the emergency room with his daughter, getting exposed to germs in hospital waiting areas and losing countless hours of sleep, only to receive the same diagnosis every time.

 

Home Alone – no more!

Want a beer, ask Temi, an Israeli developed robot, billed as the world’s first intelligent, mobile, personal AI robot. Featured in Time’s list in the “home” category, the 3-foot-tall personal robot with a 10-inch touchscreen for a head is the creation of Israeli startup Robotemi.

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Mr. Robot. Temi Israel CEO Yossi Wolf with one of the company’s personal robots. (Photo: courtesy)

Retailing at for $1,999,Temi can answer questions, order groceries, play music and videos, make calls, control your smart home, follow you around your house (except up or down stairs), and call for medical assistance. Users can control Temi remotely from any location in the world via the app and command different actions.

Temi has won a number of prestigious awards over the past year, including 1st prize in the field of robots and drones at the Shanghai CES Asia 2019 Exhibition, a Gold Award in the Personal Robot category at the prestigious Edison 2019 Awards, and the best robot in CES Las Vegas according to Tom’s Guide and the International PC Magazine Award for Best of MWC 2018.

Founded in 2015, Robotemi is headquartered in New York City, has an R&D lab in Tel Aviv and a business and manufacturing location in Shenzen, China. Earlier this year, the company announced that world-renown Israeli mentalist Lior Suchard was joining as chief brand officer (CBO).

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Touchscreen Temi. A bedtime story with Temi. (Courtesy)

 

Out Of Thin Air

If Moses brought forth water for the People of Israel in the desert by striking a stone, today’s Israelites strike water from the air.

Instead of searching below for solutions, Watergen found it above – in our atmosphere – and devised a way to ‘tap’ into this unlimited resource.

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Tapping Into Air. Using the company’s GENius technology, the “Genny” is capable of producing between 25-30 liters (6.6-7.9 gallons) of water per day from thin air.

The Israeli company Watergen, which  hopes to improve the quality of life of billions who suffer from poor water sanitation or lack of accessibility to safe drinking water, developed a patented technology that makes drinking water “out of thin air”. It is its at-home appliance called the Genny that featured on the TIME magazine list in the “social good” category.

In the aftermath of the raging fires that wiped out much of Paradise, California, a truck pulled up to a group of residents and rescue workers, parched after a day of cleanup. The driver came out, pointed to a machine in the back and said that the device could pull water out of thin air. He flipped a spout and out came clean, drinkable H20.

“They literally walked around the truck and they kept on trying to figure out where this water is coming from, what magic are you guys doing?” recalled Yehuda Kaploun, the president of Watergen USA.

The device, which looks like a water cooler, is a generator capable of producing between 25-30 liters (6.6-7.9 gallons) of water per day using the company’s heat-exchange GENius technology. The generator first collects water vapour in the air and then cools the air at its dew point, after which the water goes through physical, chemical and biological treatment followed by a mineralization process to maintain its cleanliness, tastiness and healthy quality.

The Genny retails at an estimated $1,500, according to TIME. Watergen’s generators have been used in countries like India, South Africa, Vietnam, Sierra Leone, China, Uzbekistan, and the US.

 

Come Fly With Alice

While “These are the largest windows in a commercial aircraft,” noted one observer, that is not what won it its listing in the Time magazine list in the “sustainability” category.

In June 2019, Israeli aerospace company Eviation Aircraft debuted “Alice” – a prototype of the first all-electric commuter aircraft. Alice is a battery-powered nine-seater which Eviation hopes will help transform urban aerial travel through a “flying taxi” concept. CEO Omer Bar-Yohay has called it “Uber meets Tesla in the sky,” with commuters of the future travelling at a fraction of the costs of conventional jetliners ushering in a new era “of flying that is quieter, cleaner, and cost-effective.”

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Flight Of Fancy. Eviation’s exquisite looking Alice.

Regional trips will be “cheaper than a train ticket” and far more considerate for the environment. The idea of curbing carbon emissions by half by 2050 – an eco-friendly pledge by the aviation industry – is another reason many of the major airlines are exploring electric options.

Alice is “capable of flying with nine passengers at 240 knots and a range of up to 650 miles [1046.07 km],” says Bar-Yohay.

“It’s basically a huge battery with some plane painted on it,” Bar-Yohay told reporters.

“This plane looks like this not because we wanted to build a cool plane, but because it’s electric,” he said, “You build a craft around your propulsion system. Electric means we can have lightweight motors; it allows us to open up the design space.”

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News Was Electrifying. Eviation’s electric aircraft on display at the opening of the 53rd International Paris Air Show at Le Bourget Airport near Paris, France, June 16 2019. (REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol)

In 2018, the company was selected as the winner in the transportation category of Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas Awards.

Alice is sure going places!

 

Hello, Meet ElliO

Making the “special mentions” category on the TIME’s list is ElliQ, is a robotic companion created by Israeli company Intuition Robotics.

Designed to help the elderly “stay engaged, independent and connected to family and friends,” the tabletop social robot mimics human movements and responds to voice, gaze, and touch. ElliQ offers tips and advice, responds to questions, engages throughout the day, makes appointments, reminds those in its care about medications and can suggest content to watch and set up chats with friends.

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Engaging Fellow. The small tabletop robot helps the elderly connect to the outside world and keep active and engaged. ElliQ can suggest content to watch, give reminders about appointments, and set up chats with friends, among other functions.

Useful for those who cannot easily operate a smartphone, ElliQ is meant to address the issues of isolation and loneliness among senior citizens by reading out messages, displaying photos, and answering video calls.

Founded in 2015 by Itai Mendelsohn, Dor Skuler, and Roy Amir, Intuition Robotics’ ElliQ was named the Best of Innovation Winner in the smart home category at CES 2018.

 

Giving Back

Also in TIME’s “special mentions” section was Israeli insurance tech company Lemonade with its “Giveback” charity component.

Lemonade’s concept was coming up with a fresh brand that through the use of technology rather than relying on brokers, it could break into the huge and rather staid insurance market.

Customers answer a set of simple questions through a chat with the company’s bot, “Maya,” and, in seconds, can get their home insured. It takes 90 seconds to get insured – says the company’s website  – and three minutes to get paid, if and when a claim is made.

Unlike traditional insurers, Lemonade takes a flat fee — one that would normally go to the insurance brokers — and sets aside the remaining funds for claims. In a good year, when there’s money left unclaimed, the company does not pocket the money but donates it to causes their customers choose.

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Dynamic Duo. The co-founders of Israeli insurance tech company Lemonade, Daniel Schreiber (left) and Shai Wininger. (Photo: Ben Kelmer)

Founded in 2015 by Israeli entrepreneurs Daniel Schreiber and Shai Wininger, the Lemonade Giveback’s mission is “to transform insurance from a necessary evil into a social good.” They have designed Lemonade to bring out the best in people, while giving society a push for the better.

When users sign up, they choose a charity or non-profit organization they care about, and once a year, Lemonade tallies up unclaimed money pooled from policyholders who chose that same cause and donates it to the organization.

Tens of thousands of members are supporting causes they care about, simply by getting a Lemonade insurance policy. As the Lemonade community grows, the social impact emerges stronger.

The philosophy of Lemonade’s  Schreiber may apply to all of Israel’s inventions for 2019. “Great digital brands,”  writes Schreiber, “transcend borders. Whether in Chicago, Paris, or Singapore, today’s consumers listen to music on Spotify, ride with Uber, and stay at Airbnb. Consumers are increasingly cosmopolitan, socially aware, and tech-native.”

Israeli inventors and entrepreneurs are in tune with this, hence their phenomenal global success.

We can look forward to a no less exciting 2020 for Israeli inventiveness!

Far Out!

An Israeli Steak-Out In Space

By David E. Kaplan

You can actually say, “This steak is out of this world” and it would be true; both literally and figuratively.

How so?

Earlier in the year, Lay Of The Land published an article titled ‘Israel Leading A Slaughter-Free Revolution For A Healthier World’ revealing on how the world’s first laboratory-grown steak was served up in Israel by Aleph Farms (Aleph being the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet) by isolating cells from a cow and cultivating them into a 3-D structure.

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Animals Survive; Planet Thrives. Slaughter-free meat involves taking a sample of animal cells from a real cow and replicating them outside of the animal: without the antibiotics, environmental footprint, contamination and animal slaughter which comes with conventional meat production.

Founded   in 2017 by Israeli food-tech incubator The Kitchen – part of Israel’s food processing company Strauss Group Ltd., in collaboration with the Technion, Alpha Farms is set to impact the nature and scope of the future of food by producing cell-grown meat that resembles a free range version.

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Alpha Steak. Healthier for all – animals, humans and the planet.

For meat lovers, that all too familiar alluring sizzling aroma that is  like a culinary aphrodisiac,  will still be there.

The only difference  is  that the genesis of your T-bone, fillet, rump, sirloin or entrecote hails from a laboratory rather than a field. Having unveiled in December 2018 to much fanfare, the first prototype of lab-grown steak in the world, the Israeli enterprising entrepreneurs decided to take its curiosity to another scientific level!

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A lab-grown steak in a laboratory at Aleph Farms in Rehovot, Israel. (courtesy: Jpost.com – photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)

The Next Frontier

In typical Israeli out-of-the-box fashion,  Alpha Farms launched its idea into the stratosphere by conducting an experiment to manufacture its meat product on the International Space Station (ISS) some 248 miles (339 km) from earth.

The ISS is a low-orbit space station that serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory between five participating space agencies: NASA, Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada).

Aleph Farms explained that the project aims to demonstrate its mission of being able “to provide sustainable food security on earth and beyond by producing meat regardless of  the availability of land and local water resources.”

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Didier Toubia, CEO and co-founfer of Aleph Farms.

Says CEO Didier Toubia who co-founded Aleph Farms together with Prof. Shulamit Levenberg:

 “In space, we don’t have 10,000 or 15,000 liters (3962.58 gallons) of water available to produce one kilogram (2.205 pounds) of beef.”

The experiment, he said, “marks a significant first step toward achieving our vision to ensure food security for generations to come, while preserving our natural resources.”

To conduct the experiment in space, Aleph Farms teamed up with Russian company 3D Bioprinting Solutions, which develops implementations of 3D bioprinting technologies, and two American companies, Meal Source Technologies and Finless Foods, to carry out the process on September 26. As reported by Israel’s innovation news platform, No Camels cosponsored by the IDC Herzliya, “Aboard the Russian segment of the ISS, they used a unique technology of magnetic bio-fabrication, developed by 3D Bioprinting Solutions, to produce bovine, mummichog and rabbit myoblast/fibroblast constructs provided by Aleph Farms, Finless Foods, and Meal Source Technologies, respectively. All under microgravity conditions.”

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New Horizons. The RSC Energia spacecraft. (Photo via Rocosmos)

In a statement released on October 7, 3D Bioprinting Solutions said that the joint project “lays the groundwork for renewable protein sources for long term manned missions.”

3D Bioprinting Solutions and Meal Source Technologies’ co-founder Aleksandr Ostrovsky said, “We believe that bio-fabrication of cultured meat in space has several unique advantages such as sustainability, personalization, and biosafety. What is more, creating cultured meat products in space may grant invaluable scientific insights for implementation of this technology on Earth.”

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What’s Cooking? Cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko on board of the International Space Station during the first experiment with 3D bioprinter in December 2018. (Photo 3D Bioprinting Solutions)

Aiming High

Hailing the experiment in space as a “successful proof of concept,” Aleph Farms said the cutting-edge research “in some of the most extreme environments imaginable serves as an essential growth indicator of sustainable food production methods that don’t exacerbate land waste, water waste, and pollution.”

These new innovative culinary methodologies aim to feed a rapidly growing world population predicted to reach 10 billion by 2050.

Assured of it venturing in the right direction, Aleph Farms cited a UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report  – published in September – that argued that conventional animal farming methods contributed greatly to climate change, creating “a challenging situation worse and undermining food security.”

Said  The Kitchen’s CEO, Jonathan Berger:

“The mission of providing access to high-quality nutrition anytime, anywhere in a sustainable way is an increasing challenge for all humans.” Whether “On earth or up above,” he continued,  “we count on innovators like Aleph Farms to take the initiative to  provide solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems, such as the climate crisis.”

This achievement, said Toubia, “follows Yuri Gagarin’s success of becoming the first man to journey into outer space, and Neil Armstrong’s 50th anniversary this year, celebrating the moment when the first man walked in space.”

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Mindful Menu. “Coming Up, one alpha steak with fresh vegetables and salad.”

While lab-grown steaks will likely not become commercially available for at least three to four years and the world waits, a video shows a group of people – among them Aleph Farm‘s vice president of research and development Neta Lavon – enjoying the steak-of-tomorrow alongside a tomato and zucchini pasta.

All these revelations have tongues not only wagging – but wanting to taste!

 

Who loses when you boycott Israel ?

By Rolene Marks

The BDS (Boycott, Divestment and sanctions) movement sure is noisy. While lacking cerebral substance, they understand the veracity of symbolism and language that is provocative, emotive and emotional. They understand that gratuitous use of the word Apartheid is guaranteed to get an emotional reaction from people.

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BDS tries to intimidate shoppers by inferring that if they buy Israeli products they are responsible for the deaths of Palestinian children. This is indicative of BDS tractics of threats, intimidation and libellous accusations.

I use the word gratuitous intentionally because BDS have no respect or understanding of the crime that was Apartheid and the trauma of its victims. To them it is simply evocative, sexy packaging that can be used to market their agenda and make it appealing to the masses who maintain they are concerned about human rights.

If you wrap up hatred and sell it in an emotional package, then surely you must be on the side of good, right?

Wrong. There is a more nefarious agenda at play here and it needs to be exposed again and again.

A wolfish agenda in sheep’s clothing

Why is BDS so hell-bent on the accusation of Apartheid?

The motivation is simple. They want to paint Israel with the same colours as that of Apartheid South Africa in order to undermine Israel’s legitimacy as a State in the hope that global opprobrium will lead to isolation of the Jewish State. In fact, the stated end-goal of BDS is the complete eradication of the Jewish nation state – they have been so bold as to announce this on their website. It’s not going to happen because Israel is not Apartheid South Africa, like BDS advocates want people to believe.

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The BDS agenda of the de-legitimisation of Israel disguised as concern for human rights is wolf in sheeps clothing tactics.

BDS would have you believe that boycotts and sanctions contributed to the downfall of Apartheid in South Africa and that the same kind of well strategized campaign can do the same to change Israeli policies. There are very clear differences – in Apartheid South Africa, the minority white population had dominion over the majority black population and eventually, it was the citizens of the country who spoke out overwhelmingly in a referendum that the time had long passed to do away with this heinous regime.

The situation between Israelis and Palestinians is far more complicated. Rather than a loveless marriage, the parties prefer an amicably divorce in best enjoying their national aspirations. It is extremely presumptuous for South Africans to impose their “one-solution-fits-all” to one of the most complex political conflicts in modern history.

Destruction rather than Construction

Did boycotts and sanctions contribute to the fall of Apartheid?

The idea of boycotts and sanctions was debated in the 1960’s but only really gained traction in the 1980’s. In November 1962, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 1761, a non-binding resolution establishing the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid and called for imposing economic and other sanctions on South Africa. All Western nations were unhappy with the call for sanctions and as a result boycotted the committee.

Fast forward to the 1980’s and the height of the regime and it can be said that while sanctions did effect the economy, the credit for ending Apartheid once and for all was the sterling efforts of Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk who took great – sometimes unpopular risks – to ensure a better future for South Africans based of the democratic principles of equality and justice for all.

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Brave compromisers – South African leaders, FW de Klerk and Nelson Mandela ended the painful years of racist Apartheid rule through compromise and leadership – not as a result of boycotts.

In South Africa, nobody ever questioned the country’s right to exist as a nation state which is precisely BDS’s endgame. It says so openly and unashamedly – “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”. This means that Israel is dealing with a malevolent movement that aims – contrary to the democratic principles that played a part in the South African process – to destroy of one of the main players, namely – Israel.

The German Bundestag voted earlier this year to declare BDS and antisemitic movement and Austria is poised to do the same.

Who stands to lose the most?

It is easy for activists on both sides to play armchair politicians but there are lives at stake and for the most part, Palestinians have more to lose. With an Israeli economy that is booming, the impact of boycotts on the lives on Israelis is minimal – mostly psychological.

For Palestinians on the other hand, boycotts are likely to affect their livelihoods.

One such casualty was SodaStream.  SodaStream, an Israeli company manufacturing soda company  shut its West Bank factory and moved it to southern Israel. This cut hundreds of jobs for Palestinians that reportedly paid between three and five times the local prevailing wage.

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CEO of SodaSteam, Daniel Birenbaum

SodaStream’s CEO Daniel Birnbaum denied the move was BDS-related, though its profits plunged after BDS activists got involved.

“It has nothing to do with politics; we’re relocating to a modern facility that is three times the size,” Birnbaum told The Independent. “But if it was up to me, I would have stayed. We showed the world Arabs and Jews can work together.”

Soda Stream had the last laugh though when it was bought by Pepsico for $3.2 billion, proving that Israel is a hot investment destination – and even more so when there is possibility to create jobs for Palestinians.

Should the boycott be successful – who are the beneficiaries and who are the losers? The losers invariably are the Palestinians while the beneficiaries are BDS and their ilk who by their actions, demonstrate that they are anti-normalisation between Israel and her Palestinian neighbours – and anti-peace.

Does BDS really care that their strategies may affect the very people they purport to help?

Of course not; nothing must get in the way of destroying Israel.

Palestinian lives are the sacrificial lambs in a BDS campaign that is about demolishing bridges rather than building bridges.

See how esteemed human rights Palestinian activist explains how the BDS movement and their boycott campaigns impacts ordinary Palestinians in this video clip:

If BDS truly cared about the lives of Palestinians, they would champion for a second Singapore or Start-Up Nation like their neighbour Israel, rather than promote murderous and genocidal incitement. They would engage in dialogue, not deception.

Peace will be built from the ground up. It will start with spirited, committed people – individuals and communities, business people and investors. Boycotts create barriers and discourage positive discourse.

While the situation in the Middle East is a challenge, let us promote positive tracks of building and promoting commerce that will create a thriving economy rather than the destructive path of boycotts!

This way, everybody benefits.

 

Israel – A land beyond conflict

By Rolene Marks

Israel is a tiny sliver of land in the Middle East, barely the size of the Kruger National Park in South Africa or New Jersey in the USA yet seems to enjoy a disproportionate amount of coverage in the media – often focused on the conflict with the country’s Palestinian neighbours.

A disproportionate amount of airtime and column inches are dedicated to coverage (and I use that term loosely because often fact and context are the first victim of headlines) and more often than not Israel is portrayed as the aggressive Goliath to the more passive Palestinian David. In the court of public opinion it could appear that Israel is nothing but a country perpetually mired in conflict.

There is so much more to Israel; a country which may be bantam in size but punches like a heavy weight.

Israel is a leader in so many fields. Let’s look at some of this tiny country’s greatest achievements:

A helping hand – Humanitarian assistance:

Wherever disaster strikes, be it natural or man-made, Israeli is one of the first to respond – even to countries with who there are no formal bilateral ties.

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Israeli commandos rescuing wounded men from Syrian warzone

Even though hostile relations exist between Syria and Israel, and between Israel and the Gaza strip, Israeli humanitarian aid continues to be dispensed. The IDF ( Israel Defense Force), at great risk to the soldiers, embarked on Operation Good neighbour during the height of the Syrian civil war and brought thousands of wounded Syrian adults and children into Israeli hospitals for medical treatment.

Every day, under the supervision of the IDF body called COGAT (Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories) thousands of tons of aid are sent into the Gaza strip from Israel.

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IDF sends tons of aid to Gaza daily

Recently, Israel sent assisstance to the hurricane struck Bahamas by sending portable water purifiers along with the other aid including Post Trauma counselling.

Israeli aid NGO, IsraAid, is ever ready to be deployed, along with the IDF to parts of the world where humanitarian assistance is most urgent.

Today, while Turkish forces engage in conflict with the Kurds,  Israel has not only dispatched humanitarian aid to displaced Kurdish refugees but has also provided medical care for Kurd refugee children in our hospitals.

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IsraAid, brings humanitarian assistance to victims of an earthquake in Italy. (Credit times of Israel)

Army of the people

Israel’s army  is so much more than a sophisticated defense machine. It is a citizen army, and is as widely inclusive as possible. While conscription is compulsory for Israel’s Jewish citizens who are able to serve, many Arab, Druze and Bedouin citizens in fact volunteer for service. In the last few years, these numbers have increased.  The army tries to be sensitive to the cultural boundaries of these communities.

But minority communities are not the only sectors of society that the IDF include.

The IDF has introduced a programme called Special in Uniform in conjunction with JNF-USA and Lend-a-Hand to a Special Child, which helps to integrate people with mental and physical disabilities into the army to enable them to make meaningful contributions to the country. Special in Uniform includes a three-month course on occupational skills to teach disabled young adults to function independently and contribute to society in a positive way.

Soldiers who have participated in these programmes have gone on to have bright and better futures. We salute them!

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The IDF: Most Humane Army in the World

 

Where the prophets walked

Home to the three Abrahamic religions, Israel is the place where Judaism, Christianity and Islam meet.

Where else but in Jerusalem can you hear the Imam calling the Muslim faithful to prayer while church bells peal and the melodic Hebrew incantations at the Kotel (Wailing Wall) sound out?

Even though Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people, freedom of religion is enshrined in the Israeli Declaration of Independence. While it is sometimes a complex issue, the right to worship as you choose is protected. Israel is also home to the Bahá’í World Centre – the name given to the spiritual and administrative centre of the Bahá’í Faith. The World Centre consists of the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh near Acre, Israel, the Shrine of the Báb and its gardens on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel, and various other buildings in the area including the Arc buildings.

Whether it is intoning ancient prayers or meditating in downward dog, all faiths are welcome. Perhaps this is why Israel is the Holy Land?

Innovation nation

Living in a neighbourhood where there is perpetual threat can turn one into the master of necessity.  As a result, Israelis have had to be fairly innovative. As Israel’s first Prime Minister, David ben Gurion once said, “In Israel, in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles.”

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Israel’s first Prime Minister was a believer in miracles – today Israeli innovators are bringing them to fruition.

Israeli innovators do not only believe in miracles – they create them! Israeli innovation has become so attractive that it is attracting billions of dollars of investment and acquisition. From life-saving diagnostic tools, to the Re-Walk exoskeleton that helps paraplegics walk again, to hi-tech inventions like firewalls and communications technology and many,  many more including WAZE, low drip irrigation, Mobileye,  Israeli know how is changing and improving the world on a daily basis.

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Giving new hope to paraplegics. The Re walk Exoskeleton is making mobility possible (credit CNNMoney).

Make it Rain – Environmental leaders

Climate change is having very serious repercussions on global weather patterns. Many countries that in the past enjoyed high levels of rainfall are now severely drought-stricken. Today, water has become the most sought after commodity and wars have been started over access to sources.

Israel, being a desert country knows only too well the challenges that come with having no water.

Israeli start-up, WaterGen has developed a machine that can literally create water out of thin air! It has been so successful that it has been deployed to desperate communities around the world and even played a role in humanitarian efforts. In 2018, WaterGen machines were sent to northern California to provide clean drinking water for US police and firefighters battling major fires.

Water is not the only area in which Israel is helping to preserve the environment. The country is a leader in breeding programmes for endangered species such as rhinoceros, re-forestation, recycling of plastics, pursuit of natural gas,  high percentage of vegans and so much more.

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Israeli start-up WaterGen, creates water out of air and is helping to bring much needed relief to drought stricken areas across the globe.

Golda would kvell – Women’s rights leaders

Famous for her razor sharp wit, Israel’s first female Prime Minister, the formidable Golda Meir would be quite proud of Israel’s current record on the status of women – and that we continue to work for this to be improved.

In a neighbourhood where women’s rights are often eroded, Israel stands out. Apart from being one of the first countries in the world to have a female head of state, women in Israel are not only active in society but are leaders in their fields that include politics, philanthropy, entrepreneurship, minority communities, social welfare, education, the military, arts and culture, science, medicine and technology and so much more.

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A female combat soldier is put through her paces – Israel’s women are part of the fabric of society and are leaders in their fields, including the military. (Credit Public Radio International)

 

We can vote, drive, and own property and business. We can make decisions that govern our bodies and our communities and if we want to, raise a little hell.

The same cannot be said for many of the other women in our neighbourhood. Women in other parts of the Middle East are not as free as their Israeli sisters. In this part of the world, girls are often married off before they reach puberty or are killed because they have ‘dishonoured” their families. In this part of the world, women do not have the right to own property, vote, and receive and education or even drive. Gender Apartheid is rife.

Israeli women lobby and work hard to continue to elevate the status of women not just in our country; but in the region. Golda would kvell – I think she would raise her glass and toast L’Chaim to Israel’s women.

LGBTQ rights

In June the streets of Tel Aviv are decked with rainbow flags in celebration of Pride Week.  The city comes out in support of the civil rights of our fellow citizens and many across the country flock to Tel Aviv to march in solidarity.

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Israel is a haven for the Gay community in comparison to its neighbours.

While Israel may be a trailblazer in terms of tolerance for the LGBTQ community and is certainly the most accepting and progressive in the Middle East, there are still improvements to be made. Same-sex marriage is not performed in the country; however, Israel does accept and recognize common-law partnerships of same-sex couples that live together. There is always progress to be made, but Israel is certainly a leader of gay rights in the region.The IDF is LGBTQ supportive. The city of Tel Aviv is known to be one of the friendliest and most tolerant in the world and  Pride marches are also held across the country including in the capital, Jerusalem.

Israel is also a safe haven for many Palestinians escaping persecution for their sexual orientation.

Watch us on TV

I am not talking about the news – that is enough to raise anyone’s blood pressure.

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Israel’s hottest TV export, Fauda will have you hooked to its exciting, fast paced plot points. You can “Netflix and chill” while experiencing a taste of reality in the region.(Credit IMDB)

Did you know that some of your favourite TV shows are based on shows created in Israel? The award winning “Homeland” and “In Treatment” are just two of Israel’s stellar small screen offerings and have been followed by international hits like “Fauda”, “Shtisel”, “The Spy” and so many more.

Even our gal, Gal Gadot, has become a box office sensation! We always knew she was Wonder Woman; but now the world does as well.

 

People of the book

Israel has more books published per capita than any other country. And while we may be the people of the book, we are also the people of the book week. Israelis love reading – whether it is for pleasure or knowledge. Israel can boast one Nobel Laureate for Literature, Shmuel Yosef Agnon and award winning authors Amos Oz and David Grossman are just some of our writers who enjoy international support.

 

We are also now the people of the Facebook. Social media giant, Facebook has acquired several Israeli start-ups to increase their service and technology offering to users.

To the Moon – and beyond!

Israelis dream big. There is no such saying as the sky is the limit – we believe in pushing beyond that and reaching for the stars. And we did! In April 2019, Israeli NGO, SpaceIL, sent an unmanned spacecraft called the “Bereshit” (Hebrew for Genesis) to the moon.  On the 22nd of February, the Bereshit began its long anticipated journey and in April, entered lunar orbit and prepared for landing. If successful, Israel would be the 7th country, joining major powers like Russia, USA, Japan, China, India and the European Space Agency to have a presence on the moon.

 

The landing did not go as planned and while the Bereshit  crashed instead of descending gently, we still made it to the moon and this was a great achievement.   Morris Kahn, one of the sponsors behind the project, congratulated the team and spoke of a future second mission. Just days later, SpaceIL announced that they would not be attempting a second time but would rather set their target higher. We don’t know what they are planning; but we will definitely be along for the ride!

Israelis epitomize the tenet; if at first you don’t succeed, try to outdo what you did the first time. The universe, not the sky is our limit!

This is just a mere glimpse into the achievements that Israel has and continues to pursue. When the father of modern Zionism, Theodore Herzl, envisioned a Jewish State that would live up to the tenet of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) and would be in a position to help others.  Looking at what this 71 year old State has achieved, I think he would be proud!

 

Israel’s Unionized Labour Recognizes No Borders

Over 7,000 Palestinians join Israel’s top Trade Union

By David E. Kaplan

Long before Israel emerged as a country in 1948, it’s labour got organised. Established in December 1920 during  Mandatory Palestine, the Histadrut – or the General Organization of Workers in Israel – represents today the majority of trade unionists WITHIN the State of Israel.

However, this summer something quite extraordinary occurred.

It’s most unusual in any country for foreign workers to enjoy equal workers’ rights but Israel is responding with its national trade union  – the Histadrut – not merely accepting but recruiting Palestinian members who live not in Israel, but within the PA controlled West Bank. Resulting from the recruitment campaign, over 7000 Palestinians who enter Israel every morning to work, have joined.

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A New Dawn. Early morning enthusiasm amongst Palestinian workers in Israel to learn from Histadrut activists the benefits of becoming members of the Israeli trade union. (Photo: Daud Daud)

The message of Nihad Sharkiya, who headed the campaign, resonated:

A worker is a worker, no matter where he comes from, and he deserves his rights

A Gulf Apart

This is a far cry from those who reflexively point the proverbial finger at Israel. Take the Gulf  region for instance who are quick to support the Palestinians in theory but according to Amnesty International, ensure that Palestinians in particular, as well as Yemenis, suffer harsh working conditions. They are not alone. Foreign workers from Southeast and East Asia also encounter constant obstacles.

Possibly the most suffering are migrant female workers. Some 60% of non-Kuwaiti women are maids who are not covered by the social insurance and financial benefit provisions of the Kuwaiti Labour Code.

The allure of the Gulf frequently translates dreams into nightmares.

As one newspaper revealingly sited that “Dubai, with its artificial islands, megamalls and seven-star hotels, along with Qatar’s new World Cup stadiums have only been possible due to years of graft by cheap foreign labor, imported mostly from Asia and Africa.”

The promise of much higher wages than at home, seldom materializes. What usually plays out are that low and unskilled migrants often end up trapped for years in their host countries, indebted, exploited and forced to work long hours in hazardous or brutally hot conditions.

Another Way

The outreach by Israel’s Histadrut reflects the lyrics of “There Must Be Another Way” – a song by Jewish-Israeli Achinoam Nini and Arab-Israeli Mira Arad which they performed at the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest. Their message was a simple call to respect the humanity of others.

Over the course of ten days in mid-July 2019, Arabic speaking representatives of the Histadrut met with Palestinian workers at the border crossings, offering advice and handing out pamphlets containing detailed information about workers’ rights in Israel. The Palestinian workers received advice and instruction from the representatives on issues like wages, pensions, safety and welfare, as well as an invitation to contact the Arabic language union hotline. As reported in the Histadrut’s online publication Davar, “The Arabic language hotline was set by the Histadrut to offer guidance to Palestinian workers in Israel, who often speak very little Hebrew.”

It reported a spike in calls following the outreach.

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Operation Outreach. Histadrut unionisation campaign with Palestinian construction workers at Palestinian-Israel border crossing. (Photo: Tal Burstein)

Wahil Abady, who heads the Arabic language information center for the Histadrut, told Davar that the Palestinian workers were excited about the campaign as reflected in the large number that signed up for membership. “These people need someone to take care of the problems they face at the workplace. We never dreamt of such high numbers. We were receiving so many questions that we had to open a special Arabic telephone line for them. In one month,  we received more calls than we got all of last year.”

Approximately 80,000 Palestinian workers cross the border into Israel every day. There, to meet them at the border crossings on their way into Israel before sunrise were the Histadrut activists. “Our people were spread across ten of the border crossings, and over the course of ten days they got to speak to about 15,000 workers coming in from the Palestinian Territories,” said Tal Burstein who took charge of the campaign. “The responses we got from the workers were amazing. We gathered a huge amount of information about breaching of labor laws and various other problems that the Palestinian workers face in Israel. We’re dealing with a very serious problem,” he said.

The relatively high wages and tight restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities make the visas issued to Palestinian workers a rare asset in the Palestinian Territories. For security reasons, Israeli authorities issue visas mostly to older, married men with families back home who are deemed less likely to participate in terrorist attacks.

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Enlightened Engagement. Important questions and detailed answers characterised the exchanges at this border crossing between these Palestinian workers and the officials from the Histadrut. (Photo: Tal Burstein)

Notably, the Palestinian Authority provides no pension scheme. This means that often the wages paid to a Palestinian working in Israel will go towards supporting his parents and his wife’s parents, on top of his own family in the West Bank.

The problems for Palestinians are numerous but not unusual.

Why did Jewish workers need a trade union nearly 30 years before a state emerged in 1948? To avoid exploitation of course – of one description or another?

Well it is no different for Palestinians and being foreigners, they’re invariably vulnerable.

The problems may range from not getting sick leave to not even getting holidays off. “Every time the work stops, for whatever reason,” says Burstein, “the Palestinian workers are the first to pay the price”.

Mostly involved in the construction industry, these workers are under the radar of most Israelis. “These workers are completely invisible,” says Amihai Satinger, head of the unionization division of the Histadrut, who played a major role in the Palestinian project.

As far as many  employers are concerned “they are totally replaceable. When one of them goes another comes along.”

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Inspiring Leadership. Histadrut union representative Nihad Sharkiya, who led the unionisation campaign amongst Palestinian workers (Photo: Tal Burstein)

Contra South Africa – a “Time Bomb”

If the foreign workers in Israel are “invisible”, back to my native South Africa, they are too “visible”  resulting in resentment and subject to horrendous violence.

The recent outbreak of xenophobia, says  local community organiser Papi Papi – pointing across the road to a new informal settlement of over 100 metal shacks crowded onto a small patch of wasteland – “Is a time bomb.” He describes the death of a Zimbabwean man during the unrest,  who was “caught in his car and then burned alive.”

I found the nature of the problem is South Africa tragically exposed by a group of men playing a game of Ludo on a scrap of cardboard.

“I’m not xenophobic,” insisted a man who gave his first name as Alfred. “But these foreigners are prepared to work for less.”

“They work for small money,” his friend Frederick agreed. “And they hire their own, so it’s hard for us to compete. There is frustration.”

These unemployed “political scientists” wasting away their time playing Ludo, articulate a not too infrequent scenario resulting in the death of foreign workers and the destruction of their property!

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Xenophobia In South Africa. More than 120 Nigerians have lost their lives to gruesome killings in South Africa since 2016 – two stabbed to death in this photo above. South African citizens continue to make their country a dangerous place for foreigners.

How do South Africa’s trade unions respond?

The country’s two biggest trade union federations, Cosatu and the newly formed South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU), have basically given the thumbs up on restricting foreign workers.

Despite the alarming climate of xenophobia, the labour movements are significantly silent.

“The way we treat African foreign nationals is our own fault, starting with the government and ending with ordinary citizens,” writes South African journalist Shaazia Ebrahim in his article  “South Africans need to face some harsh truths”.

While lauded the world over for their peaceful defeat of Apartheid and progressive constitution, South Africans are not nearly as beloved on the African continent itself.

A continent away to the north, the Histadrut in Israel went all out  during the campaign to hear and record the stories from the Palestinian workers. Said Burstein:

“They know about the Histadrut, and most of them have been in touch with us in the past. They know us because the Histadrut fought to apply Israeli labour laws to Palestinians working in Israel a few years ago. That made a big difference.”

Countering BDS Obstructionism

As a humanitarian issue, Palestinians working in Israel have long been a cause for concern for Israeli trade unions. This is evident as Gary Kaplan, an officer of the Histadrut’s International Relations Division explains: “the Histadrut represents Palestinians working in Israel – predominantly in the construction industry –  regardless of whether they are members. These construction workers earn and receive what is part of the Construction Sector Collective Agreement regardless of membership. This is unique to Israel. However, now as members, they will be entitled to free legal advice when required.” As part of the campaign, the Histadrut promoted awareness of Palestinian workers rights by advertising in Palestinian newspapers as well as placing in city centers across the West Bank.

Despite the overwhelming positive response from Palestinian workers recognizing how their lives as workers would improve, the Palestinian Journalist Syndicate warned several media outlets “not to publish any material by the Histadrut,” and predictably, the BDS movement joined in those negative efforts.

Nevertheless, the Histadrut persevered.

Peter Lerner, Director General of the International Relations Division at Histadrut, revealed to the media that the Histadrut works in close coordination with the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU).

Noting the complex and challenging political reality, Lerner explained  that “this collaboration is based on long term understandings,” providing “an island of stability.” Although “every act on our side creates some kind of opposition on the Palestinian side, we focus on what’s good for the workers in Israel, whether they’re Israeli, Palestinians or foreign workers.”

Encouraged that  so many thousands of new workers are joining the union proves that “unionized labor recognizes no borders.”

Cow’working to Co-working

Digital Generation makes its MOO’ve to kibbutz

By David. E. Kaplan

I can just hear my late father reverting to Yiddish with “Voz iz dos?” on hearing about “co-working”. As a steel industrialist he knew all about a factory floor.

The actual use of the word “co-working” in relation to a shared office environment was first coined by Brad Neuberg in 2005. He was an intrepid entrepreneur with big dreams who created the first co-working space in San Francisco.

It was called the “San Francisco Co-working Space” and was open only two days a week – Mondays and Tuesdays – but sat empty for the first month as nobody had ever heard of a “co-working space” before.

Today, “Co-working Spaces” are the new normal with some 2.2 million people sharing office spaces worldwide.  Co-working spaces have grown at an astounding rate of 200% over the past five years, with the number of co-working members estimated to rise to over 5 million by 2022 thanks to the huge increase in jobs offering remote working.

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Bring To The Table. A far cry from downtown New York, London, Sydney or Johannesburg but the work at this rustic table is no less – if not more – productive. Courtesy of Gather

 

Freelancers, contractors and younger companies are choosing co-working spaces over home offices and coffee shops for a range of reasons, including the productive atmosphere, affordable rates, excellent software and good networking opportunities.

Israelis love it and it’s available – especially in the greater metropolitan Tel Aviv – all across the city.

Joining this trend but with the added gain  of bringing VALUES  to “a generation of instant gratification” is one of the founding enterprising institutions of the state  – the KIBBUTZ.

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Point Of View. Situated on a beautiful mountaintop in the Western Galilee and boasting breathtaking views, Kibbutz Tuval was established in 1981 by ideological groups of young people from South Africa, Britain and Israel.

Field Of Dreams

It should come as little surprise.  Ideologically and conceptually there are similarities between the kibbutz – a co-operative Israeli farming community – and co-working in so far as shared working space in a collective and congenial atmosphere.

Both aspire to the common goal of increased productivity.

The Kibbutz was traditionally based on agriculture and although many of them have in recent years privatized and branched out to include industrial and high-tech enterprises, they still maintain an enviable community atmosphere hardly found elsewhere.

It is little wonder that Israel’s city dwellers flock to kibbutzim guest houses for weekend retreats and increasingly, young families from urban environments are taking advantage of kibbutzim that have opened up their land for private dwellings. These young couples with kids are opting to live in the countryside and take advantage of the kibbutz’s excellent communal services.

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Office Break. Gather participants can spend their lunch hour enjoying the natural surroundings of a kibbutz. Photo by Almog Gurevich

Come Gather ’round

Enter Gather – a new entrepreneurial project that aims to attract “remote workers” to Israel’s kibbutz communities.

A remote worker is someone who works outside of a traditional office. A company might have a team that is a mix both those that work on and off site.

In an interview with NoCamels.com,  a news website focusing on Israeli innovation in technology, 30-year-old entrepreneur Omer Har-Shai, co-founder of Gather explains that while “the world has changed,” there’s a trend today “to be part of a community, to belong, and to find meaning,” and that “the idea behind the kibbutz is all the more relevant again.”

Har-Shai came up with the idea to tap into the unique potential of Israel’s kibbutz structure– with its onsite accommodation, mess hall, lush surroundings, community atmosphere, and WiFi – and create a connection with today’s digital generation.

Gather has put out a call for professionals from across the globe to come and stay, work remotely, and experience kibbutz life for a one-month period.

“Over 100 people – graphic designers, writers, freelancers, programmers, designers, bloggers, entrepreneurs and even full-time employees – have written to us so far,” says Har-Shai. “They are from all over the world: Canada, the US, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, different European countries.”

As a former South African, whose first enriching experience of Israel in the early 1970s was volunteering on a kibbutz – inspired by the ideology of the labour Zionist youth movement  ‘Habonim’ –  I look with keen interests if  professionals in South Africans will  be attracted to the project.

While once kibbutz communities across Israel attracted tens of thousands of volunteers from abroad, today only a trickle of 20-somethings still come to volunteer and experience the uniquely Israeli communal living style.

Har-Shai says he hopes Gather will revive that legendary kibbutz experience of the 1970s with the adaptations catering to the digital millennial generation.

While still enticed to the uniquely communal agricultural experience of a kibbutz, Har-Shai hopes that Gather will attract new participants “toting laptops and drones instead of shovels and hoes.”

Back To Basics

“The kibbutz experience is still a brand name,” says Har-Shai. “Kibbutzim have gone through economic and social transformations during the past four decades, but the unique atmosphere, scenic surroundings, and communal facilities still exist today. So, there’s really no need to reinvent the wheel, just make the most out of these wonderful communities that already exist.”

There are just over 270 kibbutzim peppered around Israel. In December 2019, Gather will launch its first cohort of up to 25 international professionals in a month-long programme on Kibbutz Kfar Blum, in the Upper Galilee’s Hula Valley.

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Dream Office. Gather participants could work at Bluma Café on the grounds of Kibbutz Kfar Blum. Photo by Almog Gurevich

This will be followed a month later when a second group of some 25 participants will move into guesthouse accommodations at Kibbutz Tuval, in the Galilee on a mountaintop overlooking the town of Karmiel.

That these two kibbutzim were selected resonates with the writer as both attracted over the years, members of the Habonim youth movement from South Africa. They were a hardy and ideologically passionate lot like the late Rona Baram (née Moss-Morris from Durban) who arrived in Palestine from South Africa in the mid-1940s as a law student and trained nurse. Rona had been a member of Habonim in Durban, and “by the time I was 15,” she told the writer in 2005 on the 75th anniversary of Habonim South Africa celebrated on Kibbutz Yizreel, “I was determined to make Aliyah and bear a child in the Land of Israel whose mother tongue would be Hebrew.”

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Muddy Waters. The mud on Kibbutz Kfar Blum which Habonim member Rona Moss-Morris from Durban, South Africa describes on arriving in 1946.

Making her way to Kibbutz Kfar Blum that had been established in 1943  by her Habonim comrades, Rona recalled how “we rode in the back of a lorry carrying rocks for the approach road. I was lucky I came with my gumboots because the place was underwater, and the mud came to our knees. There were only a few buildings on the kibbutz and two families had to share a room.”

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Take The Plunge. Sweating at your computer, feel free to dive in at the pool at Kfar Blum.

Asking how she felt about living in these conditions, Rona answered with a shrug:

We came to build a country. No one promised us anything. We shared everything. Material things just didn’t mean anything to us then.”

Today it’s a different world where “material things” are paramount but nevertheless, the atmospherics of that bygone lifestyle and its concomitant values still have appeal and are at the core of today’s kibbutz revival.

“People want to travel, see new cultures, but they don’t necessarily want to quit their jobs and leave everything behind,” says Har-Shai. “Today, it is very easy to keep your job and see other places. There are digital nomads, freelancers, and remote workers who have the flexibility to work from anywhere. Even people who don’t usually work remotely can ask for a month to try working from another place.”

While the Gather project is geared to the 25-35 age group, “interest has also come from GAP year college-age students and people in their 50s,” says Har-Shai. “It’s not about age or being from a specific country. We’re looking for people who are open-minded and curious, people who are looking for this kind of experience.”

Here’s The Deal

It’s the vibe but without the socialism. While foreigners used to volunteer in return for accommodation and board, with Gather, participants pay a fee that covers accommodation and shared office space; daily lunch in the kibbutz Hadar Ochel (Dining room); access to kibbutz facilities, often including a swimming pool or tennis courts. Organised activities may include hiking, yoga, lectures and weekend trips to places including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Har-Shai reminds that participants in Gather’s kibbutz experience are not on vacation but to pursue their work with increased vigor in a highly motivated milieu. “They can sublet their apartments and come live in this community for a month. I think people will be more productive on the kibbutz. There is no traffic, no errands, you live on-site and walk three minutes to the office.”

In support of the  assertion of “being more productive”, studies out of North America and Europe have revealed that remote work improves productivity.

Over and above impressive levels of productivity of people who work from home, a recent two-year study by Stanford University concluded that people who worked remotely were less likely to leave the company for other employment. The study found there was an overall 50% decrease in attrition among home-based workers.

Remote.co – a resource for companies – reports that the number of companies with a remote workforce is growing all the time. In 2019, according to Remote.co, 66% of companies allow remote work and 16% are fully remote.

Har-Shai himself, is proudly, “office-less”.

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Rush Hour. Your office is a 3 minute scenic walk away on Kibbutz Tuval.

 Digital Nomads

So, how did this idea dawn upon Har-Shai?

Usually working out of a café in Tel Aviv, it was after working in Nitzana, a remote desert community  and youth educational village  in southern Israel near the Egyptian border, that “I decided to create a company that would help others work remotely and enjoy a truly Israeli experience at the same time.”

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Shared Space. Co-working offices in Tel Aviv.

He found the combination of doing physical work on the settlement in the morning “and then on my laptop in the afternoon proved incredibly inspirational and productive.”

He believes that this environment increases productivity because participants will be living “a more balanced life, perhaps starting their day by working in the fields a few hours and eating breakfast in the main mess hall,” before pursuing their professional work.

Searching for the right kibbutzim to meet the needs of remote workers’ needs and finetuning it to a truly revived kibbutz experience for foreign professionals took two years.

Har-shai, who has experience in marketing, sales and business development, shopped around his proposal to 40 kibbutzim across Israel.

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Living The Dream. Gather co-founder Omer Har-shai on Kibbutz Tuval. Photo by Almog Gurevich

Almost all were open to the idea, however, “the two we’ve partnered with to start are both green and beautiful, but different from one another. Kibbutz Tuval is remote and quiet, while Kibbutz Kfar Blum is more traditional with a supermarket and a pub.”

Kfar Blum’s location near the Jordan River at the foot of Mount Hermon has made it a center for outdoor recreational activities including walkinghikingkayakingrafting and bird watching.

As well as the amazing natural landscape that surrounds kibbutz Tuval, heaving with hiking trails, wildlife, and unlimited outdoor pursuits, it is well located for exploring the Western and Upper Galilee regions, within 40 minutes’ drive of Akko, Safed, Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee, Tiberias, as well as countless historic and religious sites.

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Stay Cool. Part of the activities for Gather participants is kayaking on the Jordan River.

“We’ll help each person find the kibbutz that is right for them,” says Har-Shai.

A third Gather location is planned in the Arava, the northeast strip of the Negev desert in the south of the country.

Har-Shai says, “We’re a private startup with no political agenda. I think that when people are living here for a month, they will see the real Israel. A diverse country, with different people; a beautiful country. It’s an interesting country. We’re offering a new approach for the age of Wi-Fi and remote work – living and volunteering on a kibbutz while keeping your day job.”

And while that “day job” feeds our addiction of our beloved technical appliances of computer and cellphone, seeing a tractor routinely pass by on the way to the fields is an enrichening reminder on the core earthy values of life.

 

 

*​Should you want to spend a month with a group of inspiring professionals from around the world, as you live and work remotely on a beautiful Kibbutz in Israel visit https://www.gatheround.co/ to learn more.

 

Am Yisrael High

Medical Marijuana – Israel’s growing “HIGH-tech” leader

By Rolene Marks

Israelis are renowned for being high on life. In fact, Israelis rank very high on the UN’s happiness index, coming in at number 11, far higher than our US and British friends.

Could it be that there is a secret to being happy and chill in the most volatile region in the world?

“Doobie”, “blunt”, “chronic”, “wacky baccy”, “Mary Jane”, “dope”, “ganja”, “weed” or whatever you call it, cannabis is inspiring one of the fastest growing industries in the world and Israel is leading the way.

In 2016, the Israeli government announced that it will expand the number of doctors trained and authorized to prescribe medical marijuana. In January of 2017, the government announced plans to decriminalize personal marijuana use and in February a government committee approved cannabis export.

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Israel Riding High. Israel’s blooming medical marijuana industry. (photo by Kobi Gideon/FLASH90)

In April 2019, Israel’s largest medical cannabis company, Breath of Life filed their preliminary prospectus for listing on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX).

The company, also known as BOL Pharma, would be the first Israeli medical cannabis firm to list its shares on the TSX. Kalytera Therapeutics Inc., also an Israeli medical cannabis firm, has shares listed on the TSX Venture Exchange, Canada’s public venture capital exchange for emerging companies.

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High Profile. An agricultural engineer inspects quality marijuana plants at the BOL (Breath Of Life) Pharma greenhouse at medical cannabis plantation, near Kfar Pines in northern Israel. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Cannabis can do’s!

Israel is a world leader in cannabis technology for a variety of reasons. When it comes to medical marijuana research, Israel is one of the leading cannabinoid centres, attracting interest from around the world and experts are descending on the tiny state to learn more.

Am Yisrael high?

Israel is a start-up and hi-tech powerhouse so why should adapting this to suit the needs of cannabis tech be any different?

What is the secret that Israelis have cottoned on to that is making medical marijuana a fast-emerging market that many want to invest in?

Israeli scientists are among the world leaders in modifying marijuana’s molecular structure to tailor cannabinoids to specific receptors for treating symptoms of disease.

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Top Grade. Inside the greenhouse of Israeli medical marijuana company Seach, Israel, January 30, 2019. (photo Eyal Toueg)

Agricultural technology such as drip irrigation is being tested and used successfully in the growing of cannabis crops before being used on other similar plants.

The decriminalization of personal marijuana use has also allowed the Israeli government to regulate medical marijuana and make it more accessible and available by prescription at pharmacies.

“Cannabis should be considered, so far as possible, in the same manner as any other medicinal product, requiring supervision and regulation in order to protect public health and welfare, even when taking into account its special characteristics — being a plant rather than a product manufactured in a laboratory or factory,” according to the Health Ministry’s Medical Cannabis Unit.

 It turns out that the munchies can prove to be medicinal!

There are many ways to take your medicine. Short of the traditional way, Israeli tech experts have devised new and creative ways to take your daily dose. A variety of delivery systems have been invented such as tablets, a patch, a nasal spray or a cigarette making it easier to regulate dosage.

Major pharmaceutical companies are also getting in on the medical marijuana action and have come up with solutions or devices to help patients.

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How Green Is My Valley. Yuval Landschaft, head of the medical cannabis unit of the Israeli Health Ministry, shows marijuana plants growing under tightly controlled climate and light conditions, at a farm in central Israel. (Tracy Wilkinson / Los Angeles Times)

* Teva Pharmaceutical Industries agreed to market medical cannabis for pain management in Israel with a revolutionary selective-dose pharmaceutical-grade medicinal plants inhaler from Tel Aviv-based Syqe Medical.

*Israel-American company Cannabics Pharmaceuticals is working to put the medicinal compounds of cannabis into a sustained-release capsule in standardized doses.

* Australia-based PhytoTech Medical is developing an adhesive patch with medical cannabis, based on Hebrew University technologies.

Different strains treat different conditions, and did you know that you can even grow your own. For medicinal purposes of course…

The blooming cannabis industry is expected to grow exponentially in the years to come. In the United States, the industry already boasts a $5.7 billion market.

Israel’s growing marijuana high-tech industry proves that the grass is greener on the other side – even in the desert!

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Thai High. Senior Thai officials visit Israel in February 2019 to learn about medical cannabis cultivation (Photo: Israeli Economy Ministry)

Bahrain Conference: If only the Palestinian leadership really wished for peace

*Credit: this article originally appeared in “The Australian” (26 June 2019)

By Alex Ryvchin

co-Chief Executive of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.

The economic component of the Trump administration’s intensely awaited plan to achieve an end to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has been released.

Formally titled Peace to Prosperity, the proposal contains a three-pronged program of investment and reforms to transform the Palestinian economy and society through the injection of $US50 billion ($71.8bn) of foreign investment, opportunities for ­ordinary Palestinians in employment, education, even recreation, and the establishment of a transparent and competent Palestinian administration, without which businesses will have no confidence to invest and Palestinian institutions will continue to wither.

The plan assumes, correctly, that peace building and viable Palestinian self-government will ­require far more than glamorous signing ceremonies on manicured lawns. In offering unprecedented opportunities while maintaining diplomatic and economic pressure on the bloated, inert Palestinian leadership, US President Donald Trump has overthrown the old discredited order of attempting to get the Palestinians to negotiate in good faith by extracting upfront concessions from Israel.

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Jared Kushner describes the “deal of the century” as “opportunity of the century”

Yet the latest proposal, astute as it may be, is destined to fail, just like more conventional diplomatic efforts of previous administrations. This is because the Trump plan, like all others, is founded on an irredeemable fallacy: that the Palestinian leadership wants to end the conflict.

Long before the Trump plan was tabled or its contents were revealed, it was predictably rejected out of hand by the Palestinian leadership. Any plan that promises to “empower the Palestinian people” and “improve the public sector’s ability to serve its people” is a threat to the status quo by which the leaders of the Palestinian movement have attained personal status and wealth while shedding all accountability to the people they claim to serve.

Saeb Erekat, the perennial “chief negotiator” for the Palestinians, announced a boycott of the regional conference in Bahrain at which the plan is being presented. Erekat’s three-decade career as a negotiator has resulted in three rejections of a two-state solution, which would have delivered the Palestinians statehood over territory equivalent in size to 100 per cent of the area of the West Bank and Gaza, with a capital in east Jerusalem, an end to the blockade of Gaza and a solution to the Palestinian refugee ­problem.

The equally longstanding and self-serving Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi, who lauded Saddam Hussein for “standing up for Arab rights, Arab dignity, Arab pride” following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, and notoriously opposed the historic Oslo Accords because they recognised Israel, called the Bahrain conference “delusional, irresponsible” and “an insult to our intelligence”.

Ashrawi has a Sydney Peace Prize to her name and the adoration of Bob Carr and parts of the global left, but not a single, tangible legislative or diplomatic achievement in three decades of public life.

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The petulant refusal of the Palestinian leadership to even consider a proposal intended to offer ordinary Palestinians an alternative to war, conflict and victimhood is a betrayal and a crime but is impeccably consistent with earlier Palestinian responses to international efforts aimed at giving them statehood.

When in 1937 the British first proposed resolving competing Jewish and Arab claims to the land through partition and the creation of a first-ever independent Arab Palestinian state, alongside a Jewish state on just 4 per cent of the British Mandate territory, the reaction of the Palestinian leadership was an outright “no”, backed by widespread violence and calls for the “liberation of the country and establishment of an Arab government”.

When the UN held consultations throughout the country in 1947, again seeking to mediate peacefully rival claims to the land, the Arab leaders boycotted the proceedings.

Periodically, some Palestinian leaders have admitted that their strategy of boycott backed by violence has been utterly ruinous. Palestinian jurist Henry Cattan admitted the 1947 boycott had been “unfortunate”.

Palestinian unionist Majdi Shella ­admitted the Palestinians “have a long tradition of boycotting ­everything. Sometimes boycotting is the easier road. If you want to do nothing, boycott.”

Yet the Palestinians have refined their instinct for rejection and political self-immolation to such an extent that they appear to know no other path.

This is why Palestinian rioters destroyed greenhouses left to them by the Israelis following the unilateral ­Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. This is why last year Palestinians in Gaza set fire to the Kerem Shalom border crossing through which medicine, aid and consumer products intended for the Palestinians are transferred.

Far from holding Palestinian leaders accountable for their betrayal of their own people, instead supporters of the Palestinian cause in the West uncritically have backed the latest Palestinian boycott, thereby making themselves complicit in the entrenched ­culture of violence, corruption and bigotry of the Palestinian leadership.

After all, just as Palestinian leaders have been enriched by their own obstructionism, one wonders what anti-Israel activists would do with themselves if the Palestinians ever chose peace and prosperity over perpetual conflict.

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Palestinians hold up placards outside the UN headquarters in Beirut to protest against a US-sponsored Middle East economic conference in Bahrain. Picture: AFP

Perhaps the most telling statement on the Trump proposal came from a senior Saudi diplomat who called the Palestinians “irresponsible” for refusing even to entertain a proposal intended to provide immense benefits for their own people.

“History and Allah have brought a real opportunity,” the diplomat said. “The blood conflict had lasted too long. The Saudis and all Gulf states plus Egypt and Jordan realise that the age of war with Israel is over.”

It took the Arab nations three failed invasions of Israel and decades of economic warfare and fruitless diplomatic skirmishes finally to recognise that the Jewish state is neither temporary nor a threat to their interests. One wonders how many more decades of boycott and bloodshed will be needed before Palestinian leaders finally chart a new and constructive course.

 

Alex Ryvchin - profile picAlex Ryvchin writes and speaks on the Arab-Israeli conflict, foreign and national affairs, antisemitism and the Holocaust, and religion and identity, and is a regular commentator on TV and radio. His first book is the internationally acclaimed,  “The Anti-Israel Agenda – Inside the Political War on the Jewish State”, (Gefen Publishing House, 2017). His new book, on the history of Zionism, will be released in September 2019. He is the co-Chief Executive of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.

 

**Feature picture: Reuters