It’s time for another Good News Friday installment, and as opposed to last week when I had a hard time finding any good news to write about, this week we have a plethora of excellent news. Since this week is also erev Purim, you can count these extras as my virtual “Mishloach Manot“.
First we hear from the economic and hi-tech sector, where Intel has announced that its exports from Israel doubled in 2012. The company also said that it wants to manufacture its next generation of computer chips in Israel:
The world’s top computer chipmaker doubled its exports from Israel in 2012 and is now hoping to bring manufacturing of the company’s next generation of chips to Israel.
Intel announced Sunday at an annual press conference that its exports from Israel rose to $4.6 billion last year. The total amount invested in the country in the last decade is $10.5 billion.
Intel Israel president Mooly Eden said the company accounted for 20 percent of Israel’s high-tech exports last year and 10 percent of its industrial exports, excluding diamonds. Intel Israel was responsible for a third of Israel’s exports to China. “Were it not for Intel’s improved performance last year, Israel’s high-tech exports would have fallen by 10 percent,” he said at the company’s annual press conference.
Well done to Intel, and kol hakavod to all the Israelis who work there.
My next item remains with the economy but moves to the transportation sector. Finally, (for the first time after 2000 years ), the southern regional committee has approved a rail line from Tel Aviv to Eilat.
The southern regional committee has approved the route for the Tel-Aviv railway line. The route of the 350 kilometer line was first approved a year ago by the cabinet, and the journey time will be just two hours.
The new railway line is part of a plan to make Eilat into a metropolitan area with a population of 150,000 through business, commercial and real estate development.
The plan includes an investment of $3.5 billion by the private sector to set up an international transport, logistics and trade center. As part of the plan a new international airport will be built at Timna, a deep sea port and canal dug inland near the Jordanian border north of the city, and the aforementioned railway link by extending the line south of Nahal Zin with stations at the new port and airport.
This is excellent news on various levels. It will help enormously in the development of the Negev, employment opportunities will grow exponentially, and it will also make travel to Eilat so much safer. I just wish it had been build 20 years earlier.
The next item on today’s expanded list comes from Italy which has awarded Moshe Kantor, the President of the European Jewish Congress its highest award for non-Italians;
Italy awarded Moshe Kantor, the president of the European Jewish Congress, its highest decoration given to a non-Italian.
Kantor was honored earlier this week with the Knight’s Grand Cross of the Order of Merit “for his work in promoting tolerance and reconciliation, human rights and interfaith dialogue, and his struggle against anti-Semitism and racism,” the European Jewish Congress said in a statement Wednesday.
Mazal tov to Mr. Kantor and kol hakavod to Italy for recognizing Mr. Kantor’s wonderful work.
Another item from overseas is the good news that the American superstar singer Alicia Keys will be coming to Israel to perform on 4th July:
American superstar Alicia Keys, one of the leading musical artists of the last 10 years, will be arriving in Israel for the first time on the birthday of her country – July 4th.
The winner of 14 Grammys will perform at the Nokia Center as part of her Set the World on Fire tour in support of her new album, Girl on Fire. Keys most recent highprofile appearances were at last month’s Super Bowl where she sang the National Anthem, and at this month’s Grammy Awards where she performed a duet with Maroon 5’s Adam Levine.
Tickets to the show have gone on sale, and a sponsorship deal with American Express is enabling an introductory reduced price of NIS 200.
The Keys show is the third large-scale show heading to Israel so far this year, following the announcement of performances by Depech Mode and Cliff Richards. More big names are expected to be announced in the next month or two.
This is wonderful for all music afficionados, and even better news for Israel in its fight against BDS. Alicia Keys’ music is one of the few modern singers whose music I have heard and like. I’m really looking forward to her visit!
Another overseas-related article comes as excellent news against the backdrop of my earlier post about anti-Israel activity on British campuses. Despite Ireland’s image as being very anti-Israel, the Irish are beginning to temper their tone on Israel, and Israel has many strong supporters there too:
Indeed, Israel has many stout defenders in the Irish media, especially among well-known pundits.
So it’s not all one-way traffic.A support group called Irish4Israel recently formed and held a rally in the center of Dublin, and there is strong support among evangelical Christians, especially in Northern Ireland, which of course is a separate jurisdiction and has its own curious relationship with the conflict (with Israeli flags flying in the Protestant areas of pro-British Unionists!).
The present government is a coalition of the Labor party and the right-of-center Fine Gael party, both of which take a more nuanced approach. Israel has a strong supporter in Fine Gael’s Alan Shatter, the influential justice and defense minister (who is Jewish), and party chairman Charlie Flanagan has repeatedly attacked the Trocaire boycott campaign. Meanwhile, one of the ironies of the debate is that some of Israel’s most robust parliamentary defenders are in the left-leaning Irish Labor party, including the likes of Joanna Tuffy, Richard Humphreys and Education Minister Ruairi Quinn. This dates back to the days of labor Zionism, but it is an instinct that endures, and is possibly reinforced by the antagonism of the hard left.
Despite the fact that there is still some way to go to improve relations, this is very welcome news indeed. Thank you to all our Irish supporters and friends! This includes Rob Harris of Eirael and the Irish4Israel group linked in the above article. Go and read their blogs!
And my final item for today is a lovely editorial from Sarah Honig on her blog (which was also published in the Jerusalem Post). Ms Honig is usually a fire-and-brimstone writer on the terrible state of Israeli and Middle East politics, so it was a wonderful surprise to read her article “Doing Well“.
How many in Israel realize that this country was recently declared the second-best educated in the world (after Canada)? How many know that a recent survey declared Israel the first in the world in hi-tech Research and Development intensity? Odds are that very few do. In our society, bad news is given resonance and the good is relegated to the margins. When Israeli fifth-graders do badly in international math evaluations, the entire country seethes. This feeds political recriminations that generate more headlines for days to follow. Our successes rarely, if ever, receive notice.
And yet elsewhere, contrary to our own proven penchant for griping, our strength does not go unrecognized – even if we fail to crow about it. Thus two enlightening news items went almost ignored by local media.
A new OECD study – its Education at a Glance report for 2012 – ranks Israel second (among all 34 OECD members as well as eight other major economies) in the proportion of adults with higher-education degrees.
Israel’s success shows. It manifested itself, for example, in the latest Bloomberg Innovation Index that ranks Israel first among 50 countries in the Research and Development intensity category.
This makes Israel a force to be reckoned with, even if its overall ranking on the seven-factor index was only 32rd.
While we surely aspire for greater achievement, our glass is more than half full. There is much we can rightly take pride in.
We are a small country with almost everything possible going against it. We inhabit a minuscule strip of harsh topography, with no natural resources to speak of and an arid climate to boot. Moreover, we are not allowed to inhabit in peace this inhospitable sliver of land – in which we built everything literally from scratch, from a depopulating rock-strewn malaria-infested wasteland.
We are repeatedly besieged, boycotted, attacked, threatened with outright genocide, delegitimized and demonized. This would constitute a cumbersome load for any undersized nation, though none has been subjected to anything approaching our still-ongoing travails and dangers.
If we turn our gaze to our own region, our distinction shines forth all the more impressively.
It would do us well to gain a sense of proportion and look around us to be able to better gauge the achievements of our diminutive, beleaguered yet nevertheless excelling collective. A brief let-up from our habitual carping would not go amiss.
Read Sarah Honig’s entire article to put you in a great mood for Shabbat.
Shabbat Shalom everyone!