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March 17, 2013

Israel in the News for the Week of March 17th

by City of Ariel

NASA’s Pod Transports Coming to Tel Aviv

If all goes as planned, within the next 2 years Israel will be the first country to adapt this futuristic NASA transport pod, into a suburban public rapid transit system.

( – Transport pods that look like silvery fish could soon be whizzing above the streets of Tel Aviv. The Israeli city is looking to become the world’s first to get a mass-transit system co-developed at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said during a Monday visit to Bloomberg News.

The SkyTran system, which Huldai said could help relieve the traffic congestion that plagues his Mediterranean city, consists of two-person vehicles that hang from rails above street level. The pods are nearly silent because their overhead connectors are levitated by magnetism. Pods pull over on side tracks to pick up and discharge passengers so they don’t slow those behind them. They can travel at speeds up to 150 miles per hour, but in practice would go considerably slower.

Pods can’t substitute for heavy duty rail lines. The maglev rails offer far less carrying capacity than, say, a New York subway line. But they’re designed to reduce the need for cars and taxis by connecting areas that don’t justify the investment in a conventional train line.

The system was co-developed by engineers from NASA and SkyTran, a privately held company based at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jerry Sanders of SkyTran says he’s in talks to raise the roughly $50 million required to build a line to run a little over four miles. That would connect high-tech Atidim Park with an existing train station at Tel Aviv University and a shopping and restaurant district at the city’s north end. After financing and approvals are granted, Sanders estimates that construction and testing will take about 18 months.

The system will be privately owned and will charge fares that are more expensive than a bus ride but cheaper than a taxi, Sanders says. If the first line is successful, he plans to add some that would intersect with it.


35,000 runners participated in Tel Aviv half marathon

Tel Aviv City Hall expresses condolences on death due to heat, but says race was approved by Health Ministry and local hospital

484715_10152655009040254_674145052_n-e1363336548395-635x357(Times of Israel) – A participant in the Tel Aviv half marathon collapsed and died Friday morning while 20 others were hospitalized due to extremely hot conditions.

The deceased runner, a man in his 30s, collapsed along the route and was taken to the city’s Sourasky Medical Center, where his death was confirmed. Twelve other participants were in serious condition at the same hospital, with four of them on respirators, reported Israel Radio.

Some 50 runners were lightly to moderately injured, and received treatment from Magen David Adom on-site. In total, 22 people were hospitalized in Tel Aviv area hospitals, according to the report.

Tel Aviv City Hall expressed sorrow for the death but noted that the municipality acted “according to the guidelines of the Ministry of Health and Ichilov Hospital [Sourasky Medical Center], who instructed us to cancel the full marathon and proceed with the half marathon as scheduled.”

About 35,000 runners participated in the half marathon, held as a late-winter heat wave gripped the country. Some 150,000 spectators cheered them on from impromptu concerts and events along the race route.

Temperatures in Tel Aviv were expected to rise up to a sweltering 34 degrees Celsius (93.2 Fahrenheit) throughout the day, with 35% humidity.


New pope hopes for ‘renewed collaboration’ with Jews

Francis I begins tenure by sending friendly letter to Rome’s chief rabbi.

Vatican-Pope_Horo-1-e1363254661900-635x357(Times of Israel) – The newly elected pope expressed hopes to resume collaboration with the Jews, in a letter sent to Rome’s chief rabbi on Francis I’s first day as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

The former archbishop of Buenos Aires, who is known to have good relationships with Jews, was elected to the post by a conclave of cardinals in the Vatican on Wednesday.

Bergoglio, 76, a Jesuit, was the choice of the College of Cardinals following two days of voting in Vatican City. He is the first pope to come from outside Europe — reflecting the changing demographics of Catholics, he comes from Latin America.

“I sincerely hope I can contribute to the progress there has been in relations between Jews and Catholics since the Second Vatican Council in a spirit of renewed collaboration,” the pope was quoted by AFP as saying, in reference to a landmark council from the 1960s.

Riccardo Di Segni, the chief rabbi of Rome, embraced the election of Bergoglio, and said: “As far as I have heard and read in the few minutes since he was elected pope, he has shown deep signs of respect and friendship towards the Jews.”

“It’s a good starting point,” Di Segni was quoted by the Religion News Service as saying.

Earlier, President Shimon Peres invited the new pope to visit Israel, asking him to contribute to peace as a spiritual, rather than a political, leader.

“He’ll be a welcome guest in the Holy Land, as a man of inspiration who can add to the attempt to bring peace in a stormy area,” Peres said during a meeting with the leaders of the Catholic Church in Poland on Thursday. “All people here, without exception, without difference of religion or nationality, will welcome the newly elected pope.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also congratulated the new pope, expressing his certainty that “the relationship between Jews and Christians, as well as the relationship between Israel and the Vatican, would continue to be strengthened.”


Two more Native American Chiefs pledge tribal support to Israel’s Jewish People

Two visiting female Chiefs of East Coast Native American tribes say their people have much in common with the Jews of Israel, vowing to support in every way possible, the Jewish right to their ancestral homeland.

Two more Native American chiefs pledge support to Israel

Two more Native American chiefs pledge support to Israel

( – Chief Anne Richardson of the Rappahannock Tribe in Virginia and Kathy Cummings-Dickinson, head of the Lumbee tribes in North Carolina, donned traditional tribal clothing for their recent meeting with Israeli Energy and Water Minister Dr. Uzi Landau.

“We are here to deliver a message to residents of Israel: Stand firm and united against the threats and pressure,” said the two female chiefs. “We want to encourage Israel and the newly elected Knesset not to give in to those who try to pressure them to give up parts of the homeland. Surrender to this pressure is not a recipe for peace, but rather war. We stand beside you.”

Chief Richardson also quoted from the Book of Ruth: “We’ll go wherever you go, your people will be our people and your God will be our God.”

This was the second meeting between Landau and Chief Richardson, who is the first female leader of her tribe since 1705. During Sukkot 2009, Richardson visited Israel and presented Landau with a declaration of loyalty to the tribes of Israel.

Cummings-Dickinson presented Landau with a likeness of a known tribal icon cut from the trunk of an ancient tree, stating, “This ancient tree has strong and deep roots, like my tribe to our land, and as with your people to the land of Israel.”

The Native American delegations told their Israeli host that they intend to bring other tribes who wish to express support for Israel.

Landau thanked his guests and said: “I am aware of your strong stance and your actions on behalf of Israel, as well as on behalf of the Native American tribes in the US. …[some] are not aware that we are all in the same boat. There is a large shadow in the form of radical Islam overshadowing all Western culture. Israel stands on the front line, but all lovers of democracy and freedom must face this together.”


Obama to Dine with Miss Israel

Life often changes fast. Miss Israel was orphaned in Ethiopia and was brought to Israel. She worked in a dress shop until she was crowned. Next week, she will dine with Obama at Peres’ official home.

72326_545517522148889_1261388481_n(Jewish Press) – Ethiopian-born Miss Israel, who was crowned only two weeks ago, will dine with President Barack Obama at President Shimon Peres’ official residence next week, Army Radio reported Wednesday.

Obama’s staff invited Miss Israel, otherwise known as Yityish Aynaw, who also was an officer in the IDF.

The appearance of a black Jewess, from Africa no less, dining with the first black American president, who has roots in Kenya, is a PR dream for Israel, which finally will get enthusiastically positive media coverage.

Aynaw will also have plenty of good copy for the herds of journalists who will be covering President Obama’s three-day visit.

Her relatives in Israel brought her from Ethiopia when she was 12 years old.

The Ethiopian community has suffered prejudice in Israel, particularly but not only from Russian Jews, whose culture and tradition are the antithesis of that of Ethiopians.

Like many Ethiopians, whose Jewish beliefs are deep-rooted, she was told that milk comes out of faucets and gold coins are in the streets of Israel.

After being named Miss Israel at the age of 21, she said that Martin Luther King Jr. was one of her heroes because “he fought for justice and equality, and… I want to show that my community has many beautiful qualities that aren’t always represented in the media.”

Correct politics probably had a part in her winning the beauty competition. Former Miss Israel winners have included a Russian immigrant and an Arab. Pageant director Iris Cohen told the Tablet, “I think she was not the most beautiful, by classic beauty, [but] she stands on the stage and you cannot ignore her.”

Now decked out in dresses far more fancy than the ones she sold in a store, she speaks her mind.

Unlike previous foreign-born pageant winners and many new immigrants from Ethiopia who adopted Hebrew names, she told Tablet, “I was born sick, but my mom believed I had a future,” and she explained that Yityish is Amharic for “look,” or as Aynaw explains, “looking toward the future.”

“I’d never change my name,” said Aynaw. “Ever.”


Israel expands Syria border fence as UN peacekeepers fall back

Israeli troops remain on high alert along the border between Syria and Israel’s Golan Heights following the abduction of 21 UN peacekeepers by Syrian rebels on Wednesday. Smoke could be seen and occasional explosions heard over the Al-Jamlah village where the Filipino peacekeepers are currently being held.



Jews who fled Arab homes: new websites profile plight of Jewish refugees from Arab world

A San Francisco based organization has launched 11 websites to tell the stories of Jews who left Arab countries last century. Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa or JIMENA launched the sites in both English and Arabic to tell the stories of Jews who emigrated from nine Arab countries including Turkey and Iran.



Gov. Huckabee Supports Gush Katif Museum



Israel’s natural gas reserves soon to reach export threshold

gas1-300x200( – Globes – Israel’s natural gas reserves are nearing 950 billion cubic meters (BCM), the threshold quantity for allowing exports under the Tzemach Committee recommendations. The figure is based on the revised estimate of gas at the Leviathan reservoir and an optimistic forecast for the expected discovery at the Karish prospect.


Flocks of tourists return to Israel

Some 233,000 tourists and day visitors entered Israel in February, similar to the record-breaking February 2012 numbers • Israeli travelers also take to the skies in large numbers, with some 206,000 citizens going abroad in February.

136308796512342834a_b(Israel Hayom) – Despite the heated military conflict with terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip that saw rockets hitting Israeli territory as far north as Tel Aviv just a few months ago, a near-record setting number of tourists and visitors entered Israel last February.

Some 184,000 tourists and 49,000 day visitors entered Israel in February, similar to the record-breaking February 2012 numbers. The number of tourists last month was 7 percent higher than the corresponding time period in 2011.

The data, recently released by Israel’s Central Bureau for Statistics, indicated that Ben-Gurion International Airport was by far the most common port of entry into Israel. At least 161,000 tourists flew into Israel by plane, of whom only 4,700 came on direct flights to the Red Sea resort town of Eilat.

Israel shares borders with four Arab states, though only Egypt and Jordan have diplomatic relations with Israel and permit tourists to cross from their countries into the Jewish state. Of the 23,000 tourists who traveled into Israel overland, 17,000 entered through border crossings between Jordan and Israel, with the rest entering Eilat through the Taba border crossing from Egypt.

Israelis also took to the skies to travel in large numbers in February, with some 206,000 citizens traveling abroad. Of those travelers, 14,000 left the country more than once last month. The CBS counted some 475,000 Israeli travelers in January and February this year.

According to the data, Israeli travelers are reviving a trend of traveling to Gulf states via Jordan, marking an increase in Israelis leaving the country border through crossings with the Hashemite kingdom. Most of these travelers are Arab Israelis, the bureau reported, undeterred by the turmoil that has shaken much of the Arab world for more than two years.


400 Police officers raid criminals’ homes in Negev

6 guns, 2 rifles, 5 stolen vehicles, $82,000 in cash, 420 gas balloons & IDF bullet-proof vests seized in one of Southern Police District’s biggest-ever raids.

Confiscated-ammunition-–-Photo-Southern-District-Spokesman( – At the crack of dawn on Wednesday, over 400 police officers raided the homes of suspected weapons and stolen property-holders in the Negev. This was one of the biggest campaigns known to the Southern Police District.

The raid occurred in a number of Bedouin towns and in the surrounding area. Throughout the campaign, five stolen vehicles, NIS 300,000 ($82,000) in cash, six guns, two rifles, 420 purportedly stolen gas balloons and IDF bullet-proof vests were discovered.

Moreover, 17 suspects were arrested, 38 people considered as “wanted for inquiry” for various offenses were located, 26 illegal aliens were arrested and 118 traffic tickets were given.

We receive phone calls from all of the country’s units regarding bands of offenders from our district, wanted for inquiry, who carried out crimes from breaking and entering to drug-related crimes, and who have fleeing to here…”

Dog trainer Shai Malul’s dog, Chico, also joined in on the raid. The eight-year-old canine has led to the discovery of dozens of kilograms of hashish, heroine and weaponry.


Israel’s brain center gets off the ground

A groundbreaking ceremony took place at the site of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The new building will be home to the largest neuroscience center in Israel and one of the most ambitious in the world.

thebuilding07032013( – A groundbreaking ceremony will take place at the site of a new building to house the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences (ELSC) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Designed by the British architectural firm Foster + Partners, the new building will be home to the largest neuroscience center in Israel and one of the most ambitious in the world. Construction of the new building is slated to begin within the next few months.

The ceremony will honor the Charles H. Goodman family, and will also include Hebrew University President Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, ELSC Director Prof. Eilon Vaadia and other members of the Center, and architects Spencer De Grey and Darron Haylock of Foster + Partners. The ceremony will take place at the Hebrew University’s Edmond J. Safra campus.

Established in 2009, the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Science (ELSC) brings together a powerful interdisciplinary team of top scientists working to revolutionize current neuroscience research. This collaboration will contribute to worldwide progress in brain science and further establish the Hebrew University as one of the world’s leading neuroscience centers.

The new building, to be located at the Edmond J. Safra campus in the heart of Jerusalem, represents Foster + Partners’ first project in Israel. Foster + Partners will work with the Jerusalem architectural firm of Baer, Shifman-Nathan Architects, headed by architects Yuval Baer and Galit Shifman-Nathan, and with architect Zadok Sherman.

The 14,500 square-meter building will include state-of-the-art labs, classrooms, an innovative imaging center and areas for biological and pre-clinical research. Significant emphasis will be placed on constructing an environmentally friendly building with a focus on conserving energy and reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Hebrew University President Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson said, “This is one of the university’s largest and most significant projects in the coming years. Without the involvement of our donors, in particular the Edmond J. Safra Foundation and the family of Corky Goodman, this project would not have come to fruition.”

Hebrew University Vice-President and Director-General Billy Shapira said, ”This project will be an important contribution to the Hebrew University and the city of Jerusalem. The building will become a magnet for the scientific community and the general public, who will see an architectural masterpiece that displays the innovation and progress that characterize the university.”

Prof. Eilon Vaadia, the Director of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences, said, ”This is another step towards our vision of building an advanced research center that will provide the best technological infrastructure for researchers in brain science. As a result, we will be able to continue recruiting outstanding scientists and training the next generation of graduate students in our unique Ph.D. program.”

British architect Norman Foster founded Foster + Partners in 1967. Lord Foster has been internationally recognized for his work, which reflects a commitment to environmental issues and sustainable design. Some of his most famous designs include the Millennium Bridge in London, City Hall in London, the Hearst Tower in New York, and Beijing airport – the largest single building on the planet. The firm’s projects have won the RIBA Stirling Prize and Lord Foster was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1999.


Israeli doctor saves life of Arab stone-thrower

At the height of Arab riots, Dr Micah Shamir quietly entered the PA city of Nablus (Shechem) without an army escort in order to save the life of a Palestinian Arab who had been badly injured after PA doctors called for help.  The Arab is now recovering in an Israeli hospital.

130227_shamir( – Last weekend’s eruption of violence in Judea and Samaria was riddled with the usual accusations of Israeli brutality toward the Palestinians. But one story being touted in the Hebrew press demonstrates that Israel has no such lust for violence, and in general adheres rather well to Yeshua’s admonition to “love thy enemy.”

According to the story, at the height of the weekend violence, an Israeli doctor quietly entered the Palestinian-ruled biblical city of Shechem (today known as Nablus) without an army escort in order to save the life of a young Palestinian man who had been badly injured in a clash with Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers.

It mattered not that the young man had sought out violence with the Israelis, and any trepidation over entering Shechem without escort was suppressed. All Dr. Micah Shamir knew was that this Palestinian man would die without the kind of treatment Israel can provide.

Dr. Shamir, a senior physician at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, told the Ma’ariv daily newspaper about the harrowing experience: “It was clear we needed to save this young man. But entering Shechem was not pleasant, and there were moments of real fear.”

Dr. Shamir and his colleagues were made aware of the young man’s condition when Palestinian doctors at a Shechem hospital unequipped to save his life reached out for help. “I didn’t think twice,” said Dr. Shamir.

While the rescue operation was sanctioned by the Palestinian mayor of Shechem, had any of the local terror groups decided to attack or abduct the Israeli doctor, they could have easily done so. “It was extremely dangerous,” Dr. Shamir recalled.

Ultimately, the mission was a success, and the young Palestinian man was secreted out of Shechem and transfered to a hospital in Jerusalem where he is recovering in stable condition.

Many Israelis were angered by the story, not because of what Dr. Shamir did for this Palestinian man, but because Israel typically shies away from taking such action on behalf of its own.

Shechem was the setting for a similar situation in October of 2000, when a Palestinian mob stormed the Jewish holy site of Joseph’s Tomb and violently assaulted the Israeli soldiers stationed there.

As the Israelis pulled back, Cpl. Madhat Yusuf, 19, sustained serious gunshot wounds. Fearing that an incursion back into Shechem to rescue Yusuf would result in a major and bloody gun battle and subsequent international condemnation, the young Druze soldier was left to bleed to death.

Of course, the comparison speaks less of Israel’s desire to preserve life on both sides than it does of the international community’s double standards when it comes to the Jewish state.

Israel is simply expected to hold Palestinian life in the highest regard. In fact, Dr. Shamir’s heroic effort to save a wounded Palestinian assailant was not mentioned by any foreign media outlets. At the same time, Israel’s actions in defense of its own people are so vociferously condemned that the Jewish state is often afraid to do what is necessary to save Israeli lives.


Jews and Christians rescue sick Gaza children

Assaf Harofeh Medical Center in Tel Aviv has teamed up with the Living Bread International Church to heal children who receive inadequate healthcare in Gaza and the Palestinian Territories.  The “Rescue the Child” project was set-up when LBIC contacted the Israeli Army.

16-year-old crippled boy who has never had a wheelchair and is pulled around with rope due to illness.

16-year-old crippled boy who has never had a wheelchair and is pulled around with rope due to illness.

( – A Christian church and a Jewish hospital in Israel have united to help provide medical care to severely ill, undiagnosed babies and children from war-torn Gaza and the West Bank.

Assaf Harofeh Medical Center near Tel Aviv and Living Bread International Church, which has offices in Florida, Israel, and Gaza, have teamed up for the new “Rescue the Child” project with the purpose of healing children who have not received adequate healthcare in often restricted areas.

Karen Dunham, director of Living Bread International Church, stated, “I was in the maternity ward of the main hospital of the Gaza Strip during Christmas. I saw such deplorable conditions. I saw children dying, holes in the roof, they had no milk, no blankets, no sheets. They had no bottles for new born babies. People were scrambling around the city trying to find medicine to bring back the medicine to give to the doctor to give to the children.”

Dunham continued, “I was so upset. I called the Israeli army. It was just really wonderful. The captain said, ‘Calm down. We’re going to show you how to bring those children out and get them some help and coordinate it so you can bring them out of Gaza. Then I knew the Lord had done something tremendous. I went around Jerusalem looking for a hospital that would take the children. Then, I met a pastor who said that he knew of a hospital that has great compassion.”

Within one month’s time, the hospital, the government and militaries of every region that would be affected gave “Rescue the Child” clearance to transport the children for medical care.

The “Rescue the Child” contract between Living Bread International Church (LBIC) and AHMC has the church and its volunteers responsible for bringing the child to the hospital, back to their homes, and also for all of the follow-up bandages, medications and follow-up appointment transportation back to the hospital.

LBIC locates parishioners’ child-aged relatives who are in desperate need of health care services in Gaza and West Bank through personal relationships with parishioners in its Jericho home churches. It then connects them to the Israeli medical care facility. There is no limitation to the disease or condition of the child that will be treated, and they are willing to do any type of needed surgery.

Israel has been the target of over 25,000 terrorist attacks, leaving several hundred thousand wounded. Assaf Haroreh Medical Center (AHMC) in Israel has provided medical care to many of Israel’s wounded. With a 65-acre campus and over 3,000 staff members, the hospital is located in Zerifin and covers the towns of Rishon le Zion, Lod, Ramla to Beit Shemesh. The area has the highest population growth in Israel, comprising large numbers of Jewish immigrants from Russia and Ethiopia, and Muslim and Christian Arabs from Ramla and Lod.


 The Chinese connection

Here is a video of the visit to the Technion from the Chinese Ambassador to Israel.  Long histories connect China with Israel and the Technion attracts top Chinese students to study here.


* Thanks to for a number of stories.

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