- Written by MFA
Throughout their long history, the yearning to return to the Land of Israel has been the focus of Jewish life. Independence Day is a celebration of the renewal of the Jewish state in the land where the Jewish people began to develop its distinctive religion and culture some 4,000 years ago.
Israel Independence Day is celebrated annually on the anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel, according to the Hebrew calendar, on 5 Iyar.
The day preceding this celebration is devoted to the memory of those who gave their lives for the achievement of the country's independence and its continued existence.
This proximity is intended to remind people of the heavy price paid for independence. On this day the entire nation remembers its debt and expresses eternal gratitude to its sons and daughters who gave their lives for the achievement of the country's independence and its continued existence.
On May 14, 1948, the day the British Mandate expired, the new Jewish state - the State of Israel - was formally established in parts of what was known as the British Mandate for Palestine. With the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Jewish independence was restored after 2,000 years.
Independence Day is a celebration of the renewal of the Jewish state in the Land of Israel, the birthplace of the Jewish people. In this land, the Jewish people began to develop its distinctive religion and culture some 4,000 years ago, and here it has preserved an unbroken physical presence, for centuries as a sovereign state, at other times under foreign domination. Throughout their long history, the yearning to return to the land has been the focus of Jewish life. Theodor Herzl, the leader and founder of the Zionist movement, increased international recognition for the need of a Jewish state.
Since its establishment, Israel continues to be a homeland to the thousands who make their way to Israel annually. It is home to some of the holiest religious sites of the three major religions, all which enjoy the democratic rights delineated in the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel.
Israel's 71st Independence Day celebrations will commence on Wednesday evening, May 8, immediately upon the conclusion of Memorial Day for the fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism, when the state flag is raised to full mast at a national ceremony on Mount Herzl, at which 12 torches are lit.
Independence Day is filled with festivities and celebrations including picnics, barbecues, family gatherings, and nature trips. Balconies, car windows, storefronts and more are liberally decorated with Israeli flags.
Population of Israel
On the eve of Independence Day 2019, the Central Bureau of Statistics announced that the population of Israel at the end of 2018 numbers 8,970,000 - more than ten times the population at the establishment of the state in 1948 (806,000). Jews and others today constitute 79.1% of the population, and Arabs 20.9%. About 75% of the Jewish population is comprised today of native-born Israelis, and more than half are at least second-generation Israelis.
Since the establishment of the state, over 3.2 million immigrants arrived in Israel. As a result, the allocation of Jews in Israel as a percentage of the total Jewish population in the world grew from 6% on the country’s first anniversary to 44% on the eve of the 71st.
In 1948, only Tel Aviv-Jaffa had more than 100,000 residents. Today there are 14 cities in Israel with a population of over 100,000, and 6 others with over 200,000 residents: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Haifa, Rishon Lezion, Ashdod and Petah Tikva.
Happy Independence Day!
- Written by Silvia G Golan
150 Israeli and Palestinian University and High School Students Negotiate Peace in Largest Ever Israeli-Palestinian Congress of Students in the Region
Organized by Leon Charney Resolution Center, in cooperation with the University of Haifa and Minds of Peace
Tzili Charney: “My initiative is basically to bring students to the table. I want them to realize their responsibilities, to be part of the discussion.”
The Leon Charney Resolution Center today (February 25) organized the largest ever Israeli-Palestinian congress of students to be held in the region - in a peace negotiations format. 100 Israeli and Palestinian university students and 50 Israeli and Palestinian high school students sat around tables to negotiate trust-building measures and solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Congress, held in cooperation with the University of Haifa and Minds of Peace at the Students House in the University of Haifa, was facilitated by Dr. Sapir Handelman, winner of the Peter Baker award in Peace and Conflict Studies, who leads Israeli-Palestinian public negotiating congress assemblies in the USA, as well as in Israel and the PA. According to Handleman, the Haifa Congress “is an important step towards the establishment of a major Israeli-Palestinian Public Negotiating Congress – a powerful peacemaking institution that will operate over a period of time. The Congress is designed to involve the people in the peacemaking efforts and motivate the leadership, on both sides, to conclude agreements.”
Tzili Charney, the founder of the Leon Charney Resolution Center which organized the congress, explained the importance of facilitating dialogue and discussion between Israeli and Palestinian students. “My initiative is basically to bring students to the table. I respect the young ones, I want them to know that we are for them and we consider them as partners. I want them to realize their responsibilities, to be part of the discussion.”
According to sociology student Alaa Amro from Hebron, 23, who participated in the negotiations and was visiting Haifa for the first time, the Israeli and Palestinian students agreed on the importance of finding a solution, but the issue is how. “If we expand our horizons and expand these types of conversations, we can find peace, because we are talking about the young generation. We are the leaders for the future, we can learn from past mistakes and we can create a better future for both sides. We have dreams and hopes for the future and being in such an environment helps us reach these dreams.”
The Israelis and Palestinian students, all from different fields of study and holding different political views, discussed, debated and negotiated trust-building measures and solutions to the conflict. The participants included 50 University of Haifa students and 50 students from West Bank cities, including Ramallah and Hebron, as well as 25 Israeli 11th graders from Ort Binyamina and 25 Palestinian 11th graders from several locations throughout the West Bank.
Their assignment was to conclude two agreements by the end of the day. The first agreement related to Trust Building Measures and the second related to a conclusive peace pact. Participants were given two ground rules for the negotiations: not to demean others and not to enter into a historical debate about the origin of the conflict and the past. The students were encouraged to focus upon improving the present situation, to visualize a peaceful future, to draft language that works for both parties, to think about creative ideas that can progress the negotiations and to make demands by peaceful means.
This Israeli-Palestinian congress of students came just days after the Leon Charney Resolution Center marathon “peace talks” at the Eastern Mediterranean International Boarding School (EMIS) at Kfar Hayarok (Feb 20/21), with the participation of 90 Israeli, Palestinian and 11th EMIS students from 21 countries (including, among others, Rwanda, Indonesia, Poland, USA, Guatemala, Brazil, China, Vietnam, Armenia, Italy, Spain, Russia, Ukraine, Afghanistan and Hungary). At the end of those negotiations, facilitated by Dr. Sapir Handleman and moderated by Professor Peter Jones, an expert in conflict resolution from the University of Ottawa and, and Brigadier General (ret) Israela Oron, former Commander of the IDF Women’s Corps, the 11th graders reached and signed a “peace agreement”.
The Leon Charney Resolution Center is dedicated to the history and future of negotiations, peace and learning. The late Leon Charney (1938-2016), a prominent lawyer, author, broadcaster and former advisor to, among others, President Jimmy Carter, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and President Ezer Weizman, played an important role in the Camp David Peace Accords, which led to the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. Charney, who dedicated a major part of his life to back-channel diplomacy, understood that the road to peace and stability required peacemaking activities in multiple dimensions. Tzili Charney established the center in her husband’s honor in order to encourage, develop, and initiate peacemaking activities that can create the foundation for a better world.
Dr. Sapir Handelman, who will be facilitating the negotiations, taught at Tel Aviv University, was a postdoctoral fellow and an associate at Harvard University. He is a former Lentz Fellow in Peace and Conflict Resolution Research at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and Wayne State University, where he was a visiting professor at the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies. He developed and leads the Minds of Peace Experiment – an Israeli-Palestinian public negotiating congress – in major universities throughout the US, Canada, and in Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Minds of Peace is an NGO registered in the USA and Israel. Dr. Sapir Handelman founded the organization based on his concepts of conflict resolution in intractable conflicts. The purpose of Minds of Peace is to bring about peace between Israelis and Palestinians by using a method called “Popular Negotiations”. Under this method, a negotiating session is held between Israelis and Palestinians who come from all walks of life. The negotiations are held in open space, to allow the ordinary public to witness the entire process. In the process, the negotiators formulate the kind of agreement they wish to see for an end to the conflict.
The agreement reached serves a dual purpose. When presented to public opinion, it serves to demonstrate that ordinary individuals can reach an agreement where politicians have failed. When presented to politicians on both sides, it serves to pressure them into reaching an agreement.
Photos credit Gil Nechustan
- Written by Ministry of Tourism
The Tourism Ministry allocates NIS 25 million for new directive
Jerusalem, January 30, 2019 - About 200 entrepreneurs today (Wednesday) attended the first conference of its kind, held by the Ministry of Tourism in cooperation with the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality in Tel Aviv, dedicated to a new government directive that offers grants of 10% of the total investment to entrepreneurs converting office buildings in Tel Aviv to hotels. The ministry will allocate NIS 25 million for the directive.
There has been a very significant increase in the number of rooms being converted into hotel rooms: 2015 - 163; 2016 – 198; 2017 – 524 and 2018 – 1088.
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin: “The record levels in incoming tourism provide a business opportunity for entrepreneurs to enter the hotel industry. In recent years, we have spearheaded a series of steps at the Ministry of Tourism in order to simplify planning and building procedures and to increase economic viability. We are seeing a real momentum in hotel construction and I call on other entrepreneurs to join the industry.”
Tourism Ministry Director-General Amir Halevi, who opened the conference, said: “Every year, we break new records in the number of incoming tourists to Israel. This unprecedented success is the direct result of long-term procedures initiated by the ministry and renewed thinking and strategy, specifically suited to the challenges of Israel as a tourism destination. 2018 finished with an all-time record of more than 4.1 million tourists. Apart from the economic benefits to the state and Israel’s positioning as an attractive tourism destination, it is important to understand that we are talking about a new era that brings new challenges. We are ready and prepared to deal with these new challenges.
The tremendous momentum requires us to adjust and to provide tourists with a wide range of accommodation options, which will in turn lead to lower prices. Therefore, together with the Tel Aviv municipality, we are creating a new reality and, for the first time, we are offering grants for entrepreneurs wishing to convert offices to hotels. This is nothing less than a revolutionary process that leverages potential by creating incentives. We at the Ministry of Tourism will continue to promote these changes, reducing regulation and removing barriers so that we can continue to break more records.”
Tel Aviv-Jaffa city engineer Oded Gvuli, said at the conference: “The all-time high in tourism has created a new reality that presents challenges. In a situation where demand outstrips supply, we are ready to act to change regulations and offer grants. As Tel Aviv city engineer, I consider with the utmost importance the issue of permits and conversion of buildings to hotels. These are processes that will have positive impact on the hotel industry and the tourism industry. I call on entrepreneurs to take advantage of the opportunity, submit applications and together we will increase the hotel supply.”
Senior Deputy Director-General, Infrastructure Development and Investments, Tourism Ministry Doron Aharon said at the conference: “Since 2010 through to today, the Tourism Ministry’s Investment Administration has approved grants to construct over 20,000 hotel rooms. Last year, we broke records with grants for 4,000 hotel rooms.
When the Ministry of Tourism examines the developers' requests, they examine several parameters, including the business plan, the tourist experience, the location of the project and the seriousness of the entrepreneurs.
In today's tourism, we already know that the most important factor in the success of a hotel is the tourist experience. This refers to the community of guests, not to a single guest, and adapting the architectural environment to the needs of this community.
A month and a half ago, the Tourism Ministry held a ground-breaking conference on hotel investment attended by about 250 entrepreneurs and hotel industry professionals, of whom more than 100 were international entrepreneurs and organizations. The conference created a platform for cooperation between foreign investors and local property owners. The conference presented occupancy and price data in Tel Aviv from 2012 to 2016, with hotel prices never dropping below $175 per night and hotel occupancy never below 65%, even during Operation Protective Edge and times of crisis. The business environment in Tel Aviv is stable, able to withstand challenging events, overcome crises and move forward. In Tel Aviv, supply is still lower than demand, so prices are still high. "
- Written by Prime Minister's Media Adviser
This will make Israel independent vis-à-vis energy. This gas gives us diplomatic, economic and – of course – energy strength. This is very great news for the Israeli economy and the State of Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Energy Minister Dr. Yuval Steinitz, this afternoon (Thursday, 31 January 2019), at sea, dedicated the arrival of the foundation for the Leviathan gas platform.
Following a tour, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Energy Minister Steinitz stood on the command bridge, near the drilling site, where they were briefed on the building process for the platform.
Prime Minister Netanyahu:
"Completion of the Leviathan gas platform and the pumping of gas from this field later in the year is a critical component of the strategic, energy, economic and diplomatic strength of the State of Israel.
A gas pipeline will run from here and will link us to the gas economy of Europe. It will reach our Arab neighbors. First and foremost, it will supply clean gas to the citizens of Israel. Two-thirds of every shekel's worth of gas extracted from the sea here will go straight into the state treasury. This is hundreds of billions of shekels that will serve us in education, social welfare and the other vital needs of the State of Israel and the citizens of Israel.
This is a great revolution – we are turning the State of Israel into an energy power. An independent Israel will not depend on anyone for its energy needs. This is very good news and I am proud that it is happening now, this year, for all of you."
Prime Minister Netanyahu added:
"We will supply all of the energy needs of the State of Israel with clean energy that does not kill like coal does. Two-thirds of the money extracted from the sea will go directly to the state treasury for the needs of the citizens of Israel.
This will make Israel independent vis-à-vis energy and gives us great strength with the pipelines that we will build from here to the neighborhood in which we live and also to Europe. This gas gives us diplomatic, economic and – of course – energy strength. This is very great news for the Israeli economy and the State of Israel."
Energy Minister Dr. Steinitz:
"This is a holiday for the energy economy and for all citizens of Israel. The process that began approximately three years ago with the formulation of the gas outline has led to the development of the Leviathan gas field which will change the Israeli economy for decades to come, bring billions in revenue to the state and its citizens and – most importantly – will allow the State of Israel to stop using coal that pollutes and to close the power stations in Hadera and Ashkelon.
The development of the Leviathan reservoir is also important diplomatically. When gas production starts later this year Israel will begin to export surplus gas to Jordan and Egypt, and – in the future – to European countries as well. The Leviathan gas field is the greatest natural treasure that has been discovered in Israel and the arrival of the platform foundation symbolizes our entry into the final stage of its development.
The first part of the Leviathan platform reached Israel after a voyage of several weeks. The legs of the platform are approximately 98 meters high, weigh around 15,000 tons and are placed at a depth of about 86 meters.
The operational section of the platform will arrive in the second half of 2019 and will be placed on the foundation that was dedicated today. Natural gas from the Leviathan field is expected to flow by the end of 2019, as per the timetable set in the gas outline."
PM Netanyahu and Energy Minister Steinitz at the Leviathan gas platform. Photo: GPO/Amos Ben-Gershom.
- Written by The Jewish Agency for Israel
Jewish Agency to Provide Emergency Assistance for Businesses Affected by Kite Terrorism
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - The Jewish Agency for Israel will grant loans of up to 100,000 shekels to businesses affected by arson attacks and rocket fire originating in the Gaza Strip.
In recent months, terrorists have launched hundreds of kites, balloons and other flying objects set aflame over the Gaza border in order to wreak havoc on the Israeli side. According to Israel Fire and Rescue Services, some 300 fires have erupted in the area surrounding the Gaza Strip since border tensions rose in the spring of this year, affecting more than 60,000 acres. This has caused damage to farms in the area, and also to small businesses in the tourist industry including guest houses, restaurants and pubs.
The loans will help small and medium sized businesses near the Gaza border that have suffered under the recent kite arson attacks and rockets launched by Gaza terrorists in recent months. The loans will be granted with expedited processing and preferential terms.
The assistance will be provided through The Jewish Agency's Small Business Loan Fund program thanks to a special donation from the Ness Fund, which is supported by the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater MetroWest New Jersey and the Greater Miami Jewish Federation.
In response, The Jewish Agency's Small Business Loan Fund program activated the Ness Fund for the Development of the Negev. Jewish Agency assistance will focus on business in the fields of commerce, tourism and services. Agriculture businesses are handled by the Israeli government, as they are defined as victims of hostilities. As part of the emergency plan, loans will be granted to businesses located in the regional councils Hof Ashkelon, Sedot Negev, Shaar Hanegev, Eshkol and Merhavim, as well as the cities of Sderot and Netivot.
The Ness Fund for the Development of the Negev, which regularly supports dozens of businesses in Israel’s south, is one of eight funds operated by the Jewish Agency's Small Business Loan Funds program. The Jewish Agency funds are made possible by the generous support of Jewish communities, and provide loans under advantageous conditions to entrepreneurs who are starting a new business or expanding an existing business in Israel’s social and geographic periphery. The loans are provided by Bank Otsar Hahayal with The Jewish Agency serving as a partial guarantor for the businesses that would otherwise find it difficult to obtain a loan or to provide the necessary collateral.
Amir Sznajderman, Director of the Small Business Loan Funds program at the Jewish Agency, noted that "The Jewish Agency's funds provide quick assistance under preferential terms for businesses, both in routine and emergency situations." Since the program started, The Jewish Agency’s Loan Funds program has helped 1,900 businesses and entrepreneurs, loaning more than 320 million shekels and creating about 9,000 new jobs. "
The interest charged on the loans is prime + 1.5% with a grace period of 6 months followed by 5 years of repayment of principal and interest. The Jewish Agency will provide a residual guarantee of up to 70% of the loan and the borrowers will provide one guarantor for the loan.