Tuesday, May 31, 2011
When one thinks about religious life in India, it’s usually Hindus and Muslims that come to mind. However, there is also a sizable Catholic minority in India. Over 17 million strong, Catholics in India make up 2 per cent of the population. The Catholic community in India is divided into 29 archdioceses and 128 dioceses and dates back to the arrival of Vasco da Gama at the end of the 15th century.
What does this have to do with Israel? Israel, like India, is a religiously diverse country; a place that over two thousand Indian Catholics have decided to call home. They live mostly in Israel’s urban centers such as Tel Aviv, Herzliya, Tiberias and Haifa.
Despite having masses they could participate in throughout the country, the religious life of the Indian Catholics living in Israel has recently become much better organized with the appointment of three Franciscan fathers from India as priests in the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The new mission to take care of Indian Catholics in Israel is in addition to many other missions catering to diverse Catholic groups in the Holy Land. These communities include English, German, French, Polish, and Filipino speakers as well as many other linguistic and ethnic groups.
In addition to Israel’s Indian Catholic community, there is also a significant community of Indian Jews living in Israel. Most of the 85,000 Indian Jews in Israel immigrated to the country after it gained independence in 1948.
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Center founded by Golda Meir helps women internationally.
Ben-David Levy, charged with double murder, armed robbery, lived in Thailand 8 years using Maldives passport, fake name.
An Israeli fugitive of justice, convicted of double murder and armed robbery in Belgium, was arrested in a district of Bangkok, Thailand. The joint operation was carried out between Israel's regional police chief and Thai officers, Thai newspaper The Nation reported on Tuesday.
Ben-David Levy, 41, had been living in Thailand for eight years under the alias Dmityry Milev and had a counterfeit Maldives passport. He was reportedly living with his Thai wife and two children, The Nation said.
After Interpol and Thai police searched for Levy for several years, Thailand was successfully able to track the fugitive down and, working with Israel's Asian Pacific Region police chief, Gaki Obet, arrest the fugitive.
At the time of the arrest, he was located at an apartment located in Soi Prachasongkhro 23, in Bangkok's Din Daeng district, the report said.
He is expected to be extradited to Israel in the coming days.
Israel Tuesday night began celebrating the 44th year since the reunification Jerusalem in the Six-Day War in 1967, after 20 centuries of exile.
Jerusalem Unification Day officially began Tuesday night and will be highlighted by a march from the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva to the Western Wall at 1 a.m.. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is scheduled to speak at the yeshiva.
A “flag dance” parade will take place the following afternoon.
Jerusalem Day festivities a day early Monday with the annual agricultural sector parade led by more than 100 tractors from farms throughout the country. This year’s rally was dubbed “A Salute to the Settlement of Jerusalem.”
4000 Years of Jewish History in Five Minutes
4000 Years of Jewish History in Five Minutes
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After 150 Years: Jerusalem Home Becomes Jewish Again
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Tens of Thousands of Flags Will Proclaim Jerusalem's Unity
In honor of Jerusalem Day, and in defense of the city that is the capital of the Jewish people, the One Jerusalem organization has opened a campaign to make clear that the people of Israel are opposed to the division of Jerusalem. The highlight of the campaign will be the distribution of tens of thousands of Israeli flags that will be distributed to drivers around Israel.
The campaign was organized in the wake of last week's speech by U.S. President Barack Obama, who called for dividing Jerusalem and giving half of it to the PA as the capital of a new Arab state in Judea and Samaria, as well as in reaction to the PA's plan to ask the UN to recognize the state they plan to declare next September.
Beginning Monday, tens of thousands of Israeli flags, bearing the symbol of Jerusalem and the phrase “One Jerusalem” will be distributed to drivers around the country. Drivers who display their flag will be casting a vote against the division of the city, expressing their support for a united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The flags will also contain the Facebook address of the One Jerusalem organization, in the expectation that many more people will connect to the organization on the popular social networking platform.
One Jerusalem spokesperson Shlomo Rabinowitz said that “this is a campaign to reach the man and woman in the street. Tens of thousands of people will fly our flags, thus saying 'no' to a division of Jerusalem.”
One Jerusalem has been operating for more than a decade, emphasizing the need to ensure that Jerusalem remains united. The organization was started in the wake of reports from Camp David over a decade ago that in negotiations between former Prime Minister Ehud Barak and then-PA chief Yasser Arafat, Israel had agreed to surrender part of the city.
One Jerusalem organized the biggest rally in the city's history, with 400,000 people gathering on the hills around the Old City in an unprecedented rally in support of the city's unity. The world saw clearly saw then how many people are willing to swear fealty to Jerusalem as the united capital of Israel, thus allowing it to remain open to all the citizens of the world.
Israel expects to boost its bilateral relations with China in a variety of fields, including high technology, clean technology, agriculture, trade and cultural exchanges, said Rafael Barak, director-general of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, during a press conference held in Beijing on May 30, 2011.
Barak paid a five-day visit to China from May 26 to May 30, during which he had talks with Chinese diplomats on the relationship between the two countries, bilateral economic cooperation and the Middle-East peace process.
He said, "This was a very busy week for China-Israel relations. I brought with me a group of 25 diplomats. They are not dealing in their daily life with China, but with other continents. But this is our decision to bring them here to a seminar with several Chinese personalities. We introduced to them what China is today and where China is in international business."
His visit has been seen as a signal that Israel would like to deepen China-Israel ties, as he said, "For me it's an important message that just after I was appointed as director- general I decided to come to China as my first visit." He further explained that China has the second most important economy in the world only after the United States.
In order to increase Israel's bilateral ties with China, the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs has decided to take a series of measures weeks ago, he said.
"We created a ministry in Jerusalem, and a department will be dealing only with China. We have here the Embassy and the Consulates General in Shanghai and Guangzhou. These departments will be dedicated only to China and Chinese affairs," he said.
In addition, the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided this year to increase the number of diplomats in China. The third Consulate of Israel in Chinese mainland will be established next year to mark the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Barak expressed his sincere appreciation for Chinese people's help to Jews during the World War II. He said, "The relations between China and Israel have a long history, more than a thousand years. Both Israel and Jerusalem people will always remember the last period of the WWII when almost 30, 000 Jews lived in Shanghai as refugees and they were allowed to live in families to overcome the disaster of the WWII."
At last, he said Israel is looking forward to bolstering economic and trade cooperation with China in different subjects, such as high technology, clean technology and trade. "In the framework of economic development in China's five-year plan, we try to see in which way we can cooperate", he said.
"In addition to the cooperation we have in economy and agriculture, we would like to increase people-to-people communication. We would like to invite Chinese to come to Israel and also to increase the number of Israelis visiting your country," he added.
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Chinese should be integrated into school language curriculum: Israeli PM
Chinese Mandarin language studies should be made mandatory in Israeli schools' academic curriculum, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday.
Netanyahu's remarks came during a visit with Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar to an Arab-Israeli high school in Lod, which adopted Chinese studies several years ago.
Israel's children "must acquire skills that will enable them to cope with the future," Netanyahu said.
The prime minister said that he had personally approached Sa'ar two years ago with the request, asking that Chinese be added to the nation's schools, owing to "China's importance as a rising cultural and economic power."
Israel-China relations have significantly improved over the last years, with diplomatic, commercial, academic, scientific and cultural ties being strengthened.
Monday, May 30, 2011
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Theo Caldwell and U of T professor Aurel Braun discuss the Left's bum chumming with islamofascism.
Aurel Braun is Professor of International Relations and Political Science at the University of Toronto. He is also a senior member of the Centre for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies and of the Centre for International Studies, and a Fellow and Senator of Trinity College at the University of Toronto. Professor Braun has twice been appointed a Visiting Scholar at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. Professor Braun received his Ph.D. in international relations from the London School of Economics (London, England). He is a Canadian citizen.
N.B.: Category:Year of birth missing. Also missing: (1) His country of origin before becoming a Canadian citizen,although with his first name a very common Romanian one, his origins could be Romanian and (2) Year of Canadian citizenship.
Professor Braun has published extensively on communist affairs and strategic studies with a special focus on the problems of the transformation of the socialist systems in the former Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe. He is also a specialist in international law. He is the author and/or editor of several books. These include: NATO-Russia Relations in the 21st Century (Routledge, UK and worldwide, 2008); Dilemmas of Transition (Boulder Co. and London, U.K., Fall 1999); The Extreme Right: Freedom and Security At Risk (Westview Press, Boulder, CO and London, UK, 1997); The Soviet-East European Relationship in the Gorbachev Era: The Prospects for Adaptation (Westview Press, Boulder, CO and London, UK, 1990); The Middle East in Global Strategy (Westview Press, Boulder CO & London and Mansell Publishing, London, UK, 1987); Small State Security in the Balkans (Macmillan, London, UK, 1983); Ceausescu: The Problems of Power (Canadian Institute of International Affairs, Toronto, 1980); Romanian Foreign Policy Since 1965: The Political and Military Limits of Autonomy (Praeger, NY, 1978). Professor Braun has written more than 50 scholarly articles and has contributed more than two dozen chapters to collections of scholarly works. The scholarly journals include Orbis, Problems of Communism, Millennium, International Journal, American Political Science Review, and Sudosteuropa. His project on "The Russian Diaspora and the Prospect for Large-Scale Violence" was published by The Council on Foreign Relations, NY. Currently, he is completing work on: Russia, the Russian Diaspora and Nationalizing States.
During the past two decades, Professor Braun has lectured widely in Canada, United States, Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, Russia, Austria and Norway. He is the winner of the PECSU Award for Teaching Excellence at the University of Toronto. He organized three major international conferences at the University of Toronto in 1985, 1987 and 1996, and one in Ottawa in 2005. He is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, the International Studies Association, the Canadian Political Science Association and several other professional organizations. He has appeared frequently on national television and radio. He contributes often to national newspapers. He has been asked to testify several times before parliamentary committees in Ottawa. He has also participated in the Congressional Program in the United States under the auspices of the Aspen Institute.
The MicroPointing mouse is just one square millimeter in size, and a third cheaper to produce.
A tiny Israeli innovation is stepping up to take the place of the 'rocker mouse' that is fast becoming a relic in cell phone and gaming technology.
Why do cell phones, remote controls, gaming devices and other small electronics look like they do? It's all about the mouse - that four-way rocker button that sits at the center of most such devices.
Thanks to his new "mini-mouse" invention, says Ailon Tamir of Israel's MicroPointing device, designers will soon be free to let their imaginations run wild.
"The 35-millimeter-squared rocker mouse currently used on most cell phones and many other small devices is a relic of the past," says Tamir. "Devices today have many more functions, and as a result have many more buttons. There is a real competition for real estate on devices today. The old-fashioned rocker-style mouse used by most devices today just takes up too much room."
It's not only smaller in size but also in cost. The one square millimeter MicroPointing mouse is as much as a third cheaper to produce and consumes less energy than its larger counterpart.
A more intuitive mouse
The MicroPointing solution uses advanced software algorithms and innovative design to create smaller, touch screen-style mice that are easier to manipulate and control, says Tamir.
"Imagine, for example, a ring with a one-millimeter mouse as a remote control for a TV, instead of the current design - a rectangle with the mouse at the center. By making the mouse smaller, we can allow designers to make devices smaller, as well," says Tamir. "And it would be a lot more intuitive to use than current devices."
A mini-mouse would also presage a revolution in gaming. One of the biggest growth areas today, gaming devices are likewise centered on the 35-square-millimeter rocker, often making game play clumsy and difficult to master. A tiny button that controls the action would allow designers to make radical changes to gaming devices - and perhaps even inspire a whole new approach to games.
At a recent conference, Jeff Raynor, principal technologist of ST Microelectronics' imaging division, and inventor of the optical mouse, said that manufacturers are concentrating on developing smaller mouse devices that would fit in with smooth touch screens - "exactly the kind of thing we have already developed," notes Tamir. "If the largest manufacturer of mouse devices had used MicroPointing's solution last year, for example, the company would have saved many millions of dollars."
Rave reviews at trade shows
Tamir, who developed the MicroPointing device along with company CTO Vladimir Muzykovski, has been showing the prototype to several European companies, and received rave reviews at recent trade shows in Las Vegas (January's Consumer Electronics Show) and Barcelona (February's Mobile World Congress). "Our booth was crowded with industry people who were very interested in working with us, because of the design possibilities it opens up, as well as because of the lower production costs," Tamir says.
Currently, MicroPointing is a part of the Mofet B'Yehuda incubator, located south of Jerusalem, and has its offices there. It has three employees, but that may change soon, Tamir says, as the company could have its first deal within a year.
"We are almost ready to go, and are putting the final touches on our product," he says. "This is without question the mouse of the future. Others are working on similar ideas, but we are way ahead of them, and we have the patents to produce the most cost-effective and innovative mouse. I keep telling potential customers that now is the time to get on board with us."
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The newest digital weapon in the arsenal of Israel's elite Sayeret Matkal. It generates 3D outlines of the battlefield in real time, allowing a centralized control of small, swarming teams. Courtesy of Israeli Channel 2.
IDF Technological and Logistics Directorate to replace combat uniforms with the ones worn by US Marines in Afghanistan and Iraq.
For years, IDF soldiers have complained about the combat uniforms they have to wear during exercises, operations and on their bases.
In response, the IDF Technological and Logistics Directorate recently decided to replace the combat uniforms with the ones worn by US Marines in Afghanistan and Iraq.
At first glance, the new uniforms are not so different from those currently in IDF use. The main difference is that the new model is wrinkle- free and has extra pockets and more “breathing holes,” as opposed to the traditional two in the armpits.
“We are trying to make combat more comfortable for soldiers and more practical with the new uniforms,” an IDF source said.
One of the more significant changes is the Velcro on the front for soldiers and commanders to attach their name. Another piece of Velcro is on the arm for soldiers to stick their unit’s emblem. An additional pocket will be added to the arm for a pen and notepad, and a new pocket on the shirt will be designated for a rifle magazine.
The IDF has decided to supply five sets of uniforms to each recruit, one of which he will hold onto following his discharge, for reserve duty.
Whether soldiers will be able to keep their new shirts untucked or they will need to tuck them into their pants has not been decided yet.
The Technological and Logistics Directorate has begun distributing the new uniforms to a select group of soldiers and commanders under a pilot program, that if deemed successful, will lead to the replacement of all uniforms over the coming year.
United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro will travel today to the Israeli city of Haifa, where she will attend the International Women Leaders' Conference as a guest of honour.
Ms. Migiro has been a vocal advocate for women's empowerment and the advancement of gender equality, underscoring the role of women as "critical agents of development."
The conference, co-hosted by the Government of Israel and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), will focus on the issue of 'Women, Science and Technology.'
Ms. Migiro will also travel to Jerusalem to hold meetings with senior Israeli Government officials, including President Shimon Peres and the Speaker of the Knesset, Reuven Rivlin.
In addition, she will meet with UN staff based in Jerusalem before returning to New York on 30 May.
Their Challenges...Our Mission
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About Ezer Mizion
Ezer Mizion, the Israel Health Support Organization, offers an extensive range of medical and social support services to help Israel's sick, disabled, elderly and underprivileged populations. Since its founding in 1979, Ezer Mizion has grown to become one of the largest non-profit organizations in Israel, benefiting over 650,000 people every year.
Ezer Mizion has branches in over 20 cities throughout Israel, with over 11,000 volunteers and an annual budget of US$66 million.
Ezer Mizion's diverse line-up of services includes the world's largest Jewish Bone Marrow Donor Registry and specialized programs for children with special needs, cancer patients, the elderly, and terror victims.
Two months after Chananya Chollak got married, his father-in-law had a stroke that paralyzed half of his body. During the long recovery process, Chananya got to know the world of hospitals quite well.
At the time Chananya's father-in-law was in the hospital, a young girl with cancer was there as well. Her mother stayed with her all day, and her father, all night. Chananya organized eight neighbors to take shifts at the young girl's bedside to give the weary parents some time to rest.
Chananya also noticed that dialysis patients had to come to the hospital by ambulance three times a week for treatment. He calculated that the cost of traveling back and forth to the hospital by ambulance must be exorbitant. So Chananya got hold of a large vehicle, turned it into a makeshift ambulance, and began arranging free transport to and from the hospital for medical treatments.
Involvement with the needs of sick people and their families led Chananya and his steadily-growing volunteer corps to initiate other ways to help ease the difficulties associated with illness. The Food Distribution Program, today a nationwide operation that distributes half a million meals a year, began with a few meals sent every week from the Chollak home to family members of sick people. Similarly, the Ezer Mizion Bone Marrow Donor Registry, today the largest Jewish registry in the world, originated with a grass-roots bone marrow drive to find a matching donor for a leukemia patient.
Ezer Mizion has grown into one of the largest non-profit organizations in Israel, offering a diverse array of services to benefit the sick, disabled, elderly, and underprivileged. The dynamic organization is continually looking for new ways to provide assistance and to help more people face their challenges.
I want to support Ezer Mizion and make a difference in the lives of Israel's sick, elderly and disabled populations and people facing medical crises.
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Sunday, May 29, 2011
The emergency landing of El Al flight 027 at Ben Gurion International Airport on May 23, 2011.
The Boeing 777 carrying 276 passengers returned safely to Ben Gurion International Airport after a technical fault was discovered in the left wheel of the plane.
El Al flight 027 landed safely at Ben Gurion International Airport in an emergency landing on Monday morning, following the discovery of a technical fault in the left wheel of the airplane. The flight, which was headed for Newark, returned to Ben Gurion and landed safely at 5:30am.
A technical fault was found in the left wheel of the plane after its 1:50am take-off, following which the flight crew decided to return to Israel. A state of emergency was declared and 70 ambulances, 20 fire trucks and numerous police vehicles arrived at Ben Gurion International Airport ahead of the emergency landing.
On board the Boeing 777 were 276 passengers.Emergency services chief Eli Bin said, "At 2:20 A.M. we received a message about preparations for an emergency landing of an El Al plane. We don't have experience with this, so we sent dozens of ambulances and many paramedics and doctors in the event of a worse case scenario of 270 injured passengers."
Itzik Zinger, 36, a passenger on the plane, said, "As we waited to take off, there was a delay of one hour and they told us that there was some kind of technical problem that needs to be taken care of before takeoff. A few minutes after takeoff, they told us that there was a problem with one of the wheels, and that we would be returning to Tel Aviv.
"The pilot announced that we were waiting for the light of day to land safely," Zinger said. "For several hours we flew in circles over the water. The pilot released large quantities of fuel."
Zinger said that "People were very nervous. The El Al crew gave out food and tried to calm us down, but no one would eat, and it was very difficult to calm people down. Everyone was very nervous."
"When we were told that we would be landing, we could already see all kinds of rescue vehicles at the airport. The oxygen masks did not drop, but we were told to sit with our heads between our legs and prepare for an emergency landing," Zinger said.
"At the end of it all, when we landed, everyone was happy and was grateful that it ended as it did – but we went through several hours of fear, it was a difficult time."
Emergency landing: El Al plane lands safely
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El Al flight 027 landed safely at Ben Gurion Airport early Monday following the discovery of a malfunction on the Boeing 777 jet. Emergency forces were deployed at the airport when a malfunction was discovered in the plane's wheels a short while after it took off for Newark.
Upon discovering the malfunction, the plane's pilots informed the control tower of the situation and prepared for an emergency landing at Ben Gurion Airport. The jet's fuel was dumped at sea ahead of the landing. The plane was able to land,and all 270 passengers aboard the plane- were safe and sound.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman made sure to pick up the phone and call his counterpart in Ottawa this weekend to thank him for Canada's stance at the G8 summit last week.
Lieberman told John Baird, who recently came into the post, that Canada is a “true friend of Israel.”
Israel's foreign minister added that Prime Minister Stephen Harper had been correct in his reading of the situation to know that the 1967-1949 Armistice lines are incompatible with the demographic realities in the Jewish State – and are indefensible as borders.
Harper blocked the G8 from issuing statements with any mention of the recommendation, stated by U.S. President Barack Obama in his Middle Eastern policy speech a week prior.
Although G8 leaders called for peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the group's final communique issued Friday in Deauville, France, the “1967 lines” were not included.
A day later, the Arab League issued its own communique, stating it would support the Palestinian Authority's refusal to return to any negotiations.
Instead, the Arab League will back a bid by the PA to appeal directly to the United Nations for recognition of a new Arab country called “Palestine” in Gaza, Judea and Samaria with much of Jerusalem as its capital – including many areas where Jews currently live and work.
The “peace process follow up committee” at the Doha meeting in Qatar said it would request membership for the “State of Palestine” at the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York in September. Qatar is set to chair that meeting, according to the current rotation.
As Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu pointed out in his speech to the U.S. Congress last week, there are more than half a million Israelis, most of whom are Jewish, living in the areas claimed by the PA.
Zambian-born Bank of Israel head "keeping his options open," plans to consult international decision-makers before deciding on candidacy.
Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer will test the waters before deciding whether to become a candidate to head the International Monetary Fund, a source familiar with the situation said on Sunday.
"He will be talking to decision-makers throughout the world the next two weeks and then make a decision," the source told Reuters. "If there will be more and more voices and more and more support from different countries, he would consider it."
The deadline for submitting official bids for the post is June 10.
Zambian-born Fischer, 67, is a former deputy managing director of the IMF. He has been widely credited with helping Israel's economy weather the global financial crisis by starting to lower Israeli interest rates sharply in 2008. He has since raised rates 10 times to contain inflation and prevent an overheating economy set to grow another 4.5 percent in 2011.
Fischer has declined to say whether he has been approached about the job vacated by Frenchman Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who resigned after his arrest on May 14 on charges of attempting to rape a New York hotel maid. Strauss-Kahn denies the charges.
"It's one of the best jobs in the international system but I have a terrific job at the moment," Fischer said in an interview with Reuters Insider TV last Wednesday, referring to his post as head of Israel's central bank.
The source said that Fischer was "keeping his options open" and it was too early to tell whether he would submit his candidacy.
"There are two weeks to go and anything can happen in those two weeks," the source said.
French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, who officially joined the race for the top job in global finance last week, is the favorite, with backing from Europe. The only other declared candidate is Mexican Central Bank Governor Agustin Carstens.
A May 19 Reuters poll showed that 21 of some 60 economists believed Fischer was "best suited" to run the IMF compared with 10 for Lagarde.
The United States, with 17 percent of the voting, still has not publicly backed a candidate although US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last Thursday said she "unofficially" welcomed highly qualified women to lead international agencies.
Fischer, a former World Bank chief economist and ex-vice chairman at Citigroup, has received backing from Euromoney magazine while the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post believe he is a top candidate.
But Fischer, who holds Israeli citizenship, could run into heavy opposition from Arab countries.
However, the fact he was born in Africa and straddles the line between the West and emerging market countries could draw support for his candidacy from Brazil, China and other countries opposed to another European at the IMF's helm.
"I hope we will take away the geographical presumption," Fischer said last week. "I thought we had already done that, but apparently not."
The source said that while the IMF post might be a once in a lifetime opportunity, Fischer "loves being the governor of the Bank of Israel" and is eager to ensure the success of a pet project, a soon-to-be-inaugurated monetary policy council.
"That's why he asked (last year) to stay for a second (five-year) term. If he stays, he will be happy and if he goes to the IMF, he will also be happy. He loves his life in Israel," the source said.
Fischer was not available for comment. The Bank of Israel declined to comment.
Globes person of the year 2010: Stanley Fischer
At the gala opening session of the Globes Israel Business Conference 2010 in Tel Aviv, Governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Stanley Fischer was named person of the year for 2010.
The Globes conference, held at the David Intercontinental Hotel, is the most prestigious annual event in Israel's business sector. Executives, major political figures, and top decision makers meet to discuss the latest trends in the local and global economies.
At cabinet meeting, PM says US understands importance of Jerusalem to the Jewish people; cabinet expected to approve J'lem economic plan.
Jerusalem is "one of the foundations of Israel's unity," Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday at a special cabinet meeting at the Tower of David Museum to commemorate Jerusalem Day that will be celebrated Wednesday.
Netanyahu said that he has stressed Jerusalem's centrality recently both in the Knesset and in the US Congress. He said there is an understanding in the US of the importance of Jerusalem to the Jewish people.
"It is important that the whole world knows that the people of Israel and its friends in the world stand together in their loyalty to Jerusalem and our heritage, are determined in our positions, stand up for our security, and extend our hand for a real peace with our neighbors," he said.
The cabinet was expected to approve an economic plan to strengthen the capital economically through two primary channels: tourism and high tech.
The first part of the plan is a NIS 145.5 million investment to strengthen the tourist infrastructure in the city. This will be augmented by a NIS 75 million allocation from the Tourism Ministry to encourage the construction of more hotel rooms in the city.
Another NIS 71.4 million is earmarked to strengthen the city as a center of research and development, with money going to grants for start ups, upgrading R & D laboratories, and grants for bio-tech initiatives.
Another NIS 70.5 million will be allocated for public buildings, student housing, academic projects, and additional measures "to attract productive residents."
In addition, the cabinet is expected to add Jerusalem to the list of cites where scholarships to discharged soldiers or veterans of national service are given for the first year of study in institutions of higher education.
Netanyahu Rallies around ‘United Jerusalem’
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, feeling the political winds in his favor, told the Cabinet Sunday that a unified Jerusalem is “the heart of the country” and added that the government is committed to building in all parts of the city.
The Cabinet is expected to approve on Sunday NIS 290 million ($83 million) to strengthen the city’s economy, with most of the money to be allocated for tourism and biotech research and development.
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments at a special Cabinet meeting in the Old City came two days before the eve of Jerusalem Unification Day, which falls on Thursday night, celebrating 44 years since all of the capital was restored to Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. Jordan, without United Nations authorization, occupied the southern, northern and eastern neighborhoods, where more than 250,000 Jews now live.
The Obama administration has labeled the neighborhoods as “illegitimate settlements,” backing the Palestinian Authority claim that they should be under its sovereignty in any future PA state.
Prime Minister Netanyahu repeated to Cabinet ministers what he told members of Congress last week, when he re-declared the principle of an “eternal and united Jerusalem.”
However, the government never has stated which areas of Jerusalem, if any, would be ceded to the Palestinian Authority in a final status plan for its becoming an independent country. Several Arab-populated areas of the city are situated beyond the security barrier, and the Palestinian Authority unofficially operates in several neighborhoods.
U.S.President Barack Obama declared in his 2008 campaign said that Jerusalem is Israel’s united and eternal capital but quickly backtracked after howls from the Palestinian Authority. He later explained that he meant the city never again will be divided by barbed wire fences, which Jordan placed after the War for Independence in 1949.
Saturday, May 28, 2011
The father of Ethio-jazz, Mulatu Astatke pushes the musical envelope.
It would not be stretching a point too far to say that Mulatu Astatke is one of the most influential musicians ever to come out of Africa. The 67-year-old vibraphonist-percussionist is known as the father of Ethio-jazz, which blends the diverse range of musical styles from Ethiopia with funk and other jazz-based strands. On May 31 Astatke will make his first appearance in this country when he gives a one-off gig at the Barby Club in Tel Aviv, in the company of an eight-piece Ethiopian band.
Astatke – who gained worldwide attention following his contribution to the soundtrack of Jim Jarmusch’s 2005 film Broken Flowers, starring Bill Murray – came across the notion of marrying Ethiopian music with jazz and Latin influences in the 1950s. He first developed an interest in jazz while he was still in high school but, at that time, opportunities to hear jazz, let alone actually perform it, were very thin.
Astatke realized he had to get out into the Western world. But he had to overcome a domestic obstacle before furthering his musical education in more jazz-friendly cultural climes. “At that time, families didn’t accept you becoming a musician, so my other interest was to become an engineer,” he says.
Astatke duly relocated to a university in Wales to study engineering and happily discovered that there was plenty in the way of music courses at the institution as well.
Berklee College of Music in Boston was the next stop on young Astatke’s musical journey, and it was there that he began fusing jazz and Latin sounds with traditional Ethiopian music. In fact, the cultural exchange worked both ways and he started introducing non-Ethiopian instruments, such as vibraphone and keyboards, to the music of his homeland. “When I was in Boston, I started thinking about blending Ethiopian music and jazz,” Astatke recalls. “I thought that if I blended them directly, then it would sound like two cultures going at the same time. It took me time, but I somehow managed. Somehow I put them together.”
Astatke’s initial recordings were based on Latin jazz, and he made his first two albums, Afro-Latin Soul, Volumes 1 & 2, in New York in 1966. He plays vibes on the albums, with piano and conga percussion support, and almost all the tracks are instrumental. The one exception, “I Faram Gami I Faram,” has Spanish vocals.
It was in the early 1970s that Ethio-jazz took on a more defined form and, after performing with many leading American jazz musicians of the time, Astatke brought his new musical baby back to his homeland and put in a guest appearance with Duke Ellington and his band there in 1973.
History tells us that when new schools of artistic thought emerge, the established genres and styles often flex a muscle or two, and this happened with Ethio-jazz too. “There were some people [in Ethiopia] who weren’t so happy about what I was doing, but now people are with it.
People are sensitive to different types of music. Educated people are playing world music, classical music, jazz, jazz fusions, African music. Now they have a great fondness for Ethio-jazz. It’s really lifting up.”
Naturally, Broken Flowers helped to get the word of Astatke’s work out to a greater global audience.
“[Director] Jim Jarmusch is definitely a great man. He’s one that is really here for me and speaks for my efforts for years and years. We’ve been working for years, and finally it’s all over the world. It’s so great that this music is really coming up now. We just keep on pushing and playing it out.”
For his Barby gig, Astatke will benefit from the heavyweight sideman services of seven mostly UKbased instrumentalists who combine an upbringing in classical music, jazz, funk and numerous ethnic strands and will perform material from the Ethiopian’s latest CD, Mulatu Steps Ahead. As Astatke says: “We just keep on pushing and playing it out.”
Mulatu Astatke will perform at the Barby Club in Tel Aviv on May 31. Doors open at 9:30 p.m. For tickets: www.misterticket.co.il.
Mulatu Astatke - Mulutu's Mood
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Mulatu Astatke - Green Africa
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Mulatu Astatke - Derashe
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For the last 10 years, Griffon vulture populations in Israel have plummeted to near extinction. At the National Center for Artificial Incubation of Raptor Eggs - in the Jerusalem Zoo - curators successfully incubate up to 15 griffon vulture eggs yearly. In addition, they work with biologists around the country to try to figure out why populations have fallen so much. Watch the first of this year's griffon vulture chicks as it slowly makes its way out of its egg.
The painter Uri Lipschitz
Lifschitz, one of the most prominent figures on the Israeli art scene during the 60's and 70's, passed away following a battle with cancer.
Uri Lifschitz, a well-known Israeli artist, has passed away after a battle with cancer at the age of 75. Lifschitz, who was mainly active between the 1960's and 90's, tried to bring the influence of Pop Art and historical painting traditions to Israeli art.
He became infamous for his provocative paintings of the 1990's, including a series depicting Margalit Har-Shefi, girlfriend of of Yigal Amir, Yitzhak Rabin's assassin. At this time, his sales dropped and in recent years he did not exhibit his work at all in establishment galleries.
Those who knew him tried hard to define his position on the political spectrum. Lifschitz loved provocation, and used his paintings as a tool to understand the world around him and also to understand current affairs.
In his sisters' words, "Uri was a very special man. He painted from the age of 8, and his whole life was painting, even though he also made sculptures and wrote poetry. At the age of 18 he went to study painting at Seminar Hakibbutzim Teachers College in Tel Aviv, but his teachers told him he didn’t need to study, he already had ability for painting."
"He described his art as a news index. Because of this, he painted Palestinians, settlers and politicians. It is impossible to define his political position, and this confused a lot of people who are used to putting things in boxes."
His sister described his "an anti-establishment spirit", saying that Lifschitz exhibited work in any place he could, including community centers. "He was willing to hang his work wherever people might see it," she said.
Lifschitz was born in 1936 and began working in art in the 1960's, despite having no formal training. He was successful both in Israel and abroad, and received many prizes for his work such as the 1982 Dizengoff Prize. He was a father of six, including the artist Giora Lifschitz, and lived in Tel Aviv.
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Israeli filmmaker Joseph Cedar won the best screenplay prize at the Cannes film festival on Sunday for the movie "Footnote" about the rivalry between a father-son pair of Talmudic scholars.
US actress Rosario Dawson presented the prize at a gala awards ceremony. The jury was chaired by Robert De Niro, and other members including actors Jude Law, Uma Thurman, Liv Ullmann, and director Olivier Assayas.
Cedar, the film's director and screenwriter, was making his way to Cannes when the award was announced. The prize was accepted on his behalf by Sharon Harel, the film's international distributor, who thanked Cedar and the cast.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has rejected U.S. President Barack Obama's vision for Israel-Palestinian peace talks to be based on Israel's borders that existed prior to the 1967 Six Day War.
Obama last week, in a speech on the Middle East, and in another address to the Israeli lobby group AIPAC on Sunday, called on the parties to base their negotiations on the 1967 borders with agreed land swaps.
The G8 leaders meeting in Deauville, northern France, on Friday issued a communique setting out their support for Obama's vision for the Israel-Palestinian talks, but omitted a key section which stated the negotiations should be based on the 1967 borders with agreed land swaps.
On Saturday it was confirmed that Canada, at the insistence of Prime Minister Harper, had strongly objected to the 1967 borders wording and wanted it omitted from the statement. Reuters reported other leaders wanted the terminology in but Canada was insistent. The communique was then released without the wording.
Israel was overjoyed at the Canadian intervention which prompted Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to telephone Stephen Harper to thank him for his support.
"Canada is a true friend of Israel," Lieberman told Harper, adding that "you understand that the 1967 lines are inconsistent with Israel's security needs."
Lieberman told local media in Israel the pair also discussed Hamas's reconciliation with Fatah and agreed that Canada would take a stand against Hamas being involved in any Palestinian government.
Mr. Lieberman issued an invitation to the Canadian prime minister to visit Israel.
According to Reuters, Canada's strong backing for Israel was cited by diplomats last year as one reason why Canada failed to win a rotating two-year seat on the United Nations Security Council.
At a speech against anti-semitism in November, Harper said he would defend Israel at all times, no matter what the cost. “As long as I am prime minister, whether it is at the United Nations, the Francophonie, or anywhere else, Canada will take that stand whatever the cost," he said.
Mr. Harper made headlines at the G8 summit in St Petersburg, Russia, in 2006 when he refused to support a resolution calling on Israel to show restraint during what became known as the Lebanon War. Harpet at that summit issued his own resolution calling it a 'Canada resolution,' which was strongly supportive of Israel.
Harper's support for the Jewish state according to JTA has paid off. In national elections earlier this month his government won 167 seats in the 308-seat House of Commons, although it obtained only 40% of the popular vote.
"Harper's strong and clear support for Israel apparently drew many Jewish voters away from their traditional Liberal base. In heavily Jewish districts, Israel emerged as a key election issue," JTA said.
"In two Toronto-area electoral districts, Jewish Conservative challengers played up the government's support for Israel and defeated longtime Liberal lawmakers," the JTA report added.
Canadian Jewish Congress CEO Bernie Farber told JTA that while Jewish voters may have have shifted away from the Liberals, "the Jewish community doesn't determine any election."
"The voting pattern in the community really mirrors the rest of Canada," Farber said.
The situation in Gaza: The problem is more a Shortage of Work than a Shortage of Food
Judging from the media, the situation in Gaza is desperate, everything is about to collapse, and the community is on the brink or at the level of a third world country.
Israel’s closure of the border to the Gaza Strip has continued for three years, ever since the Palestinian coalition government collapsed, and Hamas, during the subsequent civil war, sent Fatah packing. The Palestinian society's immediate downfall has been prophesied numerous times in the media. People have nothing to eat, we sometimes know. The UN must from time to time to stop food distribution, either because their stocks are running low, or because they cannot get diesel for their trucks, and therefore cannot carry food in. And so on.
Yesterday I drove into the Gaza Strip. I don't do this as often as before, when it involved a quick entry by car in the morning and a quick exit by late afternoon. No it is such a slow procedure, that when I finally get down here, I end up staying for almost a week. The Israelis often also close the Gaza Strip to all foreign journalists, so that no one can get in or out (once in) for several days or weeks. That’s why there can be a long period between my visits.
This time, I had expected to see real suffering, because with all the fuss in recent days about bringing tons of humanitarian relief in - so much that people actually sacrificed their lives for it - there certainly had to really be a deep, desperate situation in the Gaza Strip. No food. Long lines in front of UN food stocks. Hungry children with food bowls.
But this was not the picture that greeted me.
When I drove through Gaza city yesterday morning, I was immediately surprised that there are almost as many traffic jams as there always have been. Isn’t there a shortage of fuel? Apparently not. No one is saving it. Gasoline is not even rationed.
Many shops were closed yesterday; Hamas has declared a general strike in protest against Israel's brutal and deadly attack on the Turkish flotilla with pro-Palestinian activists on board. It was thus difficult to estimate how many products were on the shelves. Therefore I went over to the Shati refugee camp, also known as Beach Camp. Here is one of Gaza's many vegetable markets that sell much more than just fruits and vegetables.
I will not say whether in better times there was a larger product range than yesterday, but there was certainly no shortage of vegetables, fruits or any other ordinary, basic foods. Tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, watermelons, potatoes - mountains of these items in the many stalls.
I must admit I was a little surprised. Because when I call down here to my Palestinian friends, they tell me about all the problems and deficiencies, so I expected that the crisis would be little more obvious.
And the first woman we interviewed in the market confirms this strange, contradictory, negative mindset:
"We have nothing," she said. We need everything! Food, drinks ... everything! "
It didn’t disturb her in the least that she stood between the mountains of vegetables, fruit, eggs, poultry and fish, while she spun this doomsday scenario.
Another woman, Ifka Abu Nahal, who originally comes from a rural district, is more in contact with reality. She says that the crucial problem is the overconsumption of water, which is leading to the sinking of the groundwater table. This means that the saltwater of the Mediterranean is forced in, thus polluting the groundwater, which is already too saline. This makes it unpleasant to drink, and will eventually destroy the agricultural soil.
She also says that the poor economy is the greatest problem.
“There is a great deal of unemployment. There’s no work to be got in the Gaza Strip. This means that many people do not have on income, but are instead forced to live on handouts from their relatives. So they can’t afford to buy the goods that are actually available. They can stand there and look at the meat, but are not able to buy it, “she explains.
One thing that will really surprise many people is that only the vegetables here are grown in the Gaza Strip. With the exception of watermelons, all the fruit comes from nowhere else but from . . . Israel!
Yousuf al-Assad Yazgy owns a fruit and vegetable outlet here in the market. All his fruit is imported from Israel.
"Not all fruit and all vegetables come from Israel. Ours do. They come from Israel. But in the Gaza Strip there is not very much fruit cultivated - mostly tomatoes, potatoes and vegetables. So here with me are the vegetables and watermelons from Gaza. All the fruit comes across the border from Israel," he explains, but also says that there can be long periods when the border is closed, during which, therefore, fruit does not come in.
Another supply route is the smuggling tunnels down in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, under the border to Egypt. A very large part of the goods in the retail establishments here in Gaza come from Egypt and are smuggled in.
On the way out of the Shati camp we stop at a small grocery store. Not any fancy, expensive business. Just a small, humble local store. The proprietor Sun Mohammed Abu Nada says they would not be able to do business if it were not for contraband goods from Egypt.
He takes us on a brief tour of the shelves and shows everything that comes from Egypt. It turns out to be much more than half of the goods: 75-80 per cent, I would estimate. Several other products - including long-life UHT milk - come from Israel, but are also smuggled through tunnels from Egypt.
This detour via the Sinai desert and the smugglers’ tunnels naturally does not make the goods any cheaper, a fact which does not escape the notice of Muhammed Abu Nada.
The products are more expensive, he says. Many people cannot afford to buy them, or only to buy certain things sometimes. But all the while even such a small, poor-looking grocery store on the outskirts of a refugee camp still has so many relatively expensive smuggled goods on the shelves, it shows, nevertheless, that at least many of the customers must be able to afford to buy them. Otherwise, the merchant of course could not even afford to invest in unsold inventory.
I have not written this story to maintain that there are no problems in the Gaza Strip, because that would be untrue. There are problems. Many problems indeed. But it is not lack of food that primarily concerns people down here. The biggest problem is the lack of jobs and a sustainable domestic economy.
There is a shortage of construction materials, cement, and everything in the construction and public works area. However, this shortage has given rise to a whole new industry. Poor Palestinians dig through the many lots and ruins of houses and factory buildings destroyed in the war. Here they find all sorts of things that can be reused. Even many of the stones and much of the concrete can be used.
But there is a shortage of real work and actual Palestinian development, which their brothers on the West Bank are currently experiencing with help from the West, and which could do much to improve the situation in the Gaza Strip. And this economic development must come from within. There will never again be a situation where almost 150,000 workers from the Gaza Strip can travel into Israel every day, and bring money back to help the local economy (something that Israel was actually once criticized for). That was stopped by the wave of terrorism and suicide bombers in the 1990s and the beginning of the decade after 2000.
But in order to start this kind of economic development with the help of the West, Israeli cooperation is needed. And that means that the Hamas government must soften its total and inflexible rejection of negotiations with Israel, not to mention recognition of that country’s right to exist. There is a perception, even though there is still a very long way to go, that among certain circles in Hamas, there are tendencies to show greater flexibility.
In order to cultivate this tendency among the Islamists, it is probably also necessary for us in the West to soften our total rejection of the idea of having contacts with Hamas. Even though our own Danish diplomats in the region, like other EU diplomats, do not want to have contacts with Hamas, a dialog is necessary.
If no calming of the situation whatsoever starts, there is a risk that the even more militant and fanatic jihadist groups, which already are growing in the Gaza Strip, will begin to pressure Hamas from the side, and force that organization to eliminate any possibilities for political compromises, and instead protect its Islamist credentials.
Update 8:00 p.m. (Gaza time)
The Israeli army announced here this evening, that it has loaded the emergency assistance to Gaza from the six Turkish activist ships onto 20 trucks, in order to drive it into the Gaza Strip. The cargo consists, among other things, of “various types of medicine (past their expiration date), clothing, carpets, hospital equipment and toys.”
Apparently, the Israelis have not been willing to accept that building and construction materials, including cement which was also on board, be sent along.
However, the Israelis can save themselves the trouble. Hamas has announced that they will not accept any emergency assistance from the ships, and have blocked Israel’s attempt to deliver the emergency help.
Michael Coren on the 'Sea Hitler' Gaza boat
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"Where's the flotilla to Syria?" asks Michael Coren.
Likud deputy minister says anti-regime figures in Syria wanted Netanyahu to use influence to convince int'l community to pressure Assad.
Deputy Minister for Galilee and Negev Development Ayoub Kara (Likud) on Saturday said that members of the Syrian opposition had turned to him to ask for Israel's help in stopping the violence of Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime against them. Kara made the statements at a cultural event in Beersheba.
Kara stated that he turned to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, asking him to use his influence to put pressure on Assad, but Netanyahu refused his request.
"The Syrian opposition asked for my help because of my connections. They wanted me to go to the government for help, that we would ask the UN, the US and the EU to go against Assad. I brought the request before the government but they refused to interfere," Kara stated.
The Likud politician also said that he had passed a message from Israel to Turkey that Israel would not prevent the Turks from delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza through the Red Cross.
Kara, a Druse originally from Daliat al-Carmel, has boasted in the past that he has contacts throughout the Arab world.
In 2009, he made headlines in Israel when he announced that he had visited Syrian officials from Assad's ruling Alawite sect in Washington. Kara says he often acts alone or is approached by Arab officials who seek contact with him.
Friday, May 27, 2011
IDE’s installation in Tianjin
Israel's IDE Technologies is building China's largest and ‘greenest' desalination plant to meet the country's expanding energy needs.
Normally, "green" and "desalination" are two words that don't go together. Desalination is a process that takes brackish inland or sea water and makes it drinkable.
This can be a lifesaver in countries with limited or no access to fresh water, such as Saudi Arabia or Jordan, but the processes involved gobble massive amounts of energy and produce an unfavorable amount of salt discharge, causing environmentalists to argue that desalination is not a sustainable solution to meet the world's water needs -- especially in countries that can't afford to power the desalination plants.
Now, the Israeli desalination company IDE Technologies has introduced a greener way to pull salt from the world's water. Putting it to the test in China, the Israeli company has created a win-win solution for the environmentally conscious Chinese: using runoff steam from a power plant to help run the desalination plant. The result is water for the power plant, drinking water for the community and salt to sell.
The UK trade magazine Global Water Intelligence is so impressed by the Israeli desalination technology, that in April it named IDE as the "2010 desalination company of the year."
Making what it called “the greatest overall contribution to the desalination industry during 2010” the magazine praised IDE for its “unique competitive position in the global desalination arena during 2010, winning a significant portion of the Chinese desalination business and competing strongly for tenders in the Americas, Southern Europe and elsewhere in Asia.”
For its innovation, the magazine put IDE’s MED desalination plant China on its short list, as a testament to the company’s leadership and ability to take on new environmental challenges and specifications.
Runs on 50 percent less power
Created in Tianjin, China, the Israeli-built IDE MED desalination plant is the country's largest and greenest one yet, says IDE's CEO, Avshalom Felber. Using a process called multi-effect distillation (MED), the plant is claimed to be 50 percent more energy efficient than any other thermal desalination plant today.
In IDE MED, salt water from the sea is heated with steam and then circulated through an evaporator to create an end result of fresh water and salt.
The green element in the design is that the steam used to heat the water before the evaporation process comes from a nearby power plant, making sure that some wasted energy is put to good use.
According to Felber: "The first phase of the Tianjin project is already operating for the last year or so, at 100,000 cubic meters of water per day. Currently we are in the execution process of Phase II, for another 100,000 cubic meters. This is by far the largest desalination plant in China."
The plant consists of four 25,000-cubic-meter units, and an additional four are underway.
Meeting China's growing energy needs
China is considered one of the world's fastest-growing economies. As its population westernizes, so do its industrial and household demands for power and water. People in the Beijing region alone consume 1.5 million cubic meters of water every day.
"Water shortage is a major issue in China," Felber tells ISRAEL21c. "It has a growing population, not yet fully reaching its planned population. And the standard of living is going higher, along with water consumption. It's still less than one quarter of the developed world, but assuming China will catch up, water shortage will be a major restriction for its economic development."
In the China facility, located about 150 miles northeast of Beijing, the desalination plant was contracted by the state-owned energy company SDIC, which had to meet strict regulations now coming into effect in China. Any new power plant must provide its own water source, and also must allocate 80 percent of its wastewater for consumer use. This kind of aggressive policy is meant to ensure that its growing society will benefit from increased industrial growth.
An additional green benefit of the IDE plant, which can generate 15 tons of water from one ton of steam compared to industry standards of 10 tons of water from one ton of steam, is that it produces salt as a commercial commodity.
Dipping its toes into Asian market
IDE, which has already built about 400 desalination plants in 35 countries, has experience in custom-making solutions to fit climate and other special needs.
The new Tianjin plant is IDE's first project in China, and the company is now working with a consortium of large multinationals that plan to put together competitive new tenders, with an eye toward expansion into other parts of China and into the greater Asian market.
In April, IDE picked up a major accolade when it won a 2011 Global Water Award at the Global Water Summit in Berlin. With a keynote address by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the prestigious ceremony attracted hundreds of the top figures from the global water industry.
Tribute to IDF Heroes In Fight Against Hamas Terror Army
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With 150 bike stations around Tel Aviv, residents and will find it much easier to get about the city under their own steam.
Israel's commerce and culture center rolls out a citywide bike rental program to encourage fitness while easing traffic and pollution.
For Tel Aviv-Jaffa residents and workers sick of skyrocketing gasoline prices and incessant traffic jams, the introduction of a new pilot bike-rental project this month couldn't have come at a better time.
Like some 200 other cities across the globe, Israel's commercial and cultural center was looking for ways to encourage fitness and discourage fossil-fuel consumption. The launch of Tel-Ofan (ofanayim is Hebrew for bicycle) synchs with the municipality's mutimillion-shekel investment in additional bike lanes to serve about 400,000 residents and many thousands more who commute in for work.
Tel Aviv-Jaffa Economic Development Authority CEO Sharon Kenan tells ISRAEL21c that Tel-Ofan began with 40 stations and 450 subscribers, expanding daily to reach an eventual goal of 150 stations with up to 20 German-made bicycles each.
Using an electronic key fob, the subscriber picks up a bike and then parks it at the destination station. There's no charge for the first half hour, and if the bike is docked for at least 10 minutes, the user's "clock" restarts from zero.
"The purpose is that we want people to share the bikes," explains Kenan, who heads the project on behalf of Mayor Ron Huldai. "While you're doing whatever you're doing, someone else will ride the bike you docked."
Signup can be done on Tel-Ofan's website; via a toll-free phone number (*6070); or in person at City Hall. Annual subscriptions cost NIS 280 (about $64) or NIS 240 for Tel Aviv-Jaffa residents. Eventually, daily and weekly subscriptions will be sold as well.
Simple idea took complex planning
Kenan's staff worked on Tel-Ofan for three years before rolling it out. One of the trickiest operational details was how to make sure that when somebody comes to a station there will always be a bike available in good condition, and that the station of destination will always have a free docking place. That problem was tackled with the assistance of mathematicians at Tel Aviv University, who established formulas after researching typical bike-riding patterns in the city. Based on those formulas, trucks will patrol the rental stations on a regular basis, balancing supply and demand.
Another major challenge, according to Kenan, was to ensure a completely stable information technology system managing the project under the hood. And to deal with possible theft, damage and vandalism of the bike fleet, the EDA put both physical and electronic safeguards into action.
Now that all the pieces are in place, the next step is to physically accommodate the expected increase in bicyclists. To answer this need, the municipality is investing many millions of shekels to add to its existing 65 miles of bike lanes.
"In the last five years, we've invested 10 million shekels per year in constructing bike lanes, and for the next five years the municipality has tripled the budget for this project," says Kenan.
"Strategically, the ultimate goal is to increase awareness of bikes as a means of transportation and increase the number of people using them, which will substantially reduce traffic problems and air pollution."