Good News Friday

Once more a Good News Friday post appears after some tragic news.  But just as the celebrations of Independence Day directly follow on from the solemnity of Memorial Day, so Israelis feel the necessity in general to recover quickly from drastic blows through war or by Palestinian terrorists and return to normal day-to-day life. We Israelis love life more than the Arabs love death, and we must not let the terrorists and their evil deeds and plans win.

So while our thoughts and prayers (and purses) are with Evyatar Borovsky’s Hyd family, we will try and look for some news to brighten up our Shabbat.

Tommy Arshansky, bronze medallist at the European Judo Championships

Our first item from this week comes once again from the sports world. As a Jewish nation we have never particularly excelled in sports, our expertise being more in books and learning. But thanks to the huge Russian aliya in the 1990s we benefited not only from their brain-power (with thousands of doctors, engineers, musicians and other academics) but from their athletic prowess as well. This week Israel’s Tommy Arshansky won the bronze medal in the European Judo Championships in the  under-60 kg category:

Tommy Arshansky on Thursday won the bronze medal in the under-60 kilogram category at the European Championships in Budapest, giving the Israeli delegation its first medal of the contest on opening day.

“I competed with an injury and stepped on to the mat because coach Oren Smadja insisted,” the excited Arshansky told Sport5.

The 22-year-old Russian immigrant had previously won a number of medals on the World Cup circuit, and was Israel’s youngest judoka at the 2012 Summer Games in London, but had fallen into a rut over the last several months.

After a hard time and series of losses Smadja “insisted on bringing me to the European Championship,” Arshanksy said, thanking his coach.

Smadja, himself a former Olympic medalist, told the Israeli sports network he was happy for the team and for Tommy. “This is the start of a long journey with clear goals and objectives,” he said.

Heartiest mazal tov to Tommy Arshansky and we wish him much future success in all his sporting endeavours. Kol hakavod too to his coach and the team in general for bringing honour to Israeli sports.

The ceremony in Kiel on Monday marking the handover of Israel’s newest Dolphin-class submarine

Our next item for today is from the field of defence and security. this time it’s not something that Israel has invented. Rather, it is the news that Israel received its 5th Dolphin-class submarine from Germany this week:

Israel received its fifth Dolphin-class submarine, the INS Rahav, at a ceremony in the German port city of Kiel on Monday. The ceremony was attended by Israel Navy Commander Maj. Gen. Ram Rothberg, Defense Ministry Director-General Maj. Gen. (res.) Udi Shani and other Israeli officials.

To celebrate the handover, Israeli and German officials broke a bottle of champagne on the submarine’s bow.

The submarine is expected to arrive in Israel in 2014, after undergoing a number of steps required to make it operational.

The Rahav is considered one of the most advanced submarines in the world. The Defense Ministry said the new submarine was the most expensive item it had ever acquired for the Israel Defense Forces.

According to foreign reports, the submarine has 10 torpedo tubes capable of launching missiles carrying nuclear warheads.

Israel’s fourth Dolphin-class submarine, the INS Tannin, is expected to arrive in Israel several months before the Rahav. The Tannin was supposed to reach Israel in 2013, but its arrival was delayed a few months and it is now expected to get to Israel at the start of 2014. A ceremony marking the handover of the Tannin was held in Germany last year.

In February 2013, then-Defense Minister Ehud Barak signed a deal with Germany for the construction of a sixth Dolphin-class submarine. Each Dolphin-class submarine costs around half a billion dollars. One-third of the cost is paid for by the German government.

Dolphin-class submarines are considered to be multipurpose vessels capable of carrying out a diverse range of missions. These submarines are the long arm of the Israel Navy, and, according to foreign reports, provide Israel with second-strike capability in the event of a nuclear conflict, making them an important element of Israeli deterrence. Israeli submarines conduct intensive covert missions from Israel’s shores on a daily basis.

The Algemeiner adds details of Germany’s assistance:

Germany donated the first two submarines after the First Gulf War and split the cost of the third with Israel. The fourth was received last year. In March 2012, Israel signed a contract for a sixth submarine, meaning that by the end of the decade the navy will have doubled its fleet.

Besides the obvious good news involved in expanding Israel’s submarine fleet and the positive implications for its future conflict with Iran and its nuclear ambitions, the news comes into the category of “Who would have believed it 65 years ago?”. If my grandparents would be alive today and would have read the news, they would have reacted with incredulity. WWII ended a mere 65 years ago, and yet here, the Jews’ greatest enemy is providing the Jewish state with state-of-the-art submarines to combat their next enemy. Truly the wheel of history not only turns, but can be hard to believe.  Of course the German generosity is most likely connected to their “Wiedergutmachung” campaign (making atonement or reparation to the Jews) but that is no reason to sneer or look down at their largesse. The Germans have done a lot more for Israel than many European states who have almost as much to apologize for and we are certainly grateful for these submarines.

Artist’s rendering of the proposed Jerusalem cable car

Our last item for today comes from Jerusalem. In contrast to the prosaic world of submarines, this method of transport involves above-ground transport: the Jerusalem municipality is planning a cable car to bring visitors to the Kotel (Western Wall), thereby reducing traffic jams:

The Jerusalem Municipality is moving forward with a plan to build a cable car system that will bring visitors to and from the Western Wall.

One line will connect Dung Gate (the Old City gate closest to the Western Wall) with the Mount of Olives to the east. A second line will connect Dung Gate with the Khan Theater on Hinnom Ridge to the west.

The system will be able to transport 6,000 passengers per hour. Each of the 1.6 kilometer routes will take around four minutes to traverse.

The cable car system is a joint project of the Jerusalem Municipality, Jerusalem Development Authority and the Transportation Ministry.

Jerusalem municipal officials said the cable car system will meet the needs of the growing millions of people who visit the Western Wall and the Old City each year and will also benefit the residents of the area. The system will also link up with future additional light rail lines that are planned to be built within the city.

“Beyond being a transportation solution, the cable car will also serve as a unique and innovative tourist attraction that will provide breathtaking views,” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said.

The idea sounds brilliant if a little utopian. I can think of half-a-dozen drawbacks almost immediately, and the idea has already been pooh-poohed by Transport Ministry officials. However, kol hakavod to the Mayor and his officials for not limiting themselves to the same old traffic solutions and for thinking outside the box.  I would love to be able to ride in the cable car on a future trip to the Kotel.

Who knows? Israel is the land of miracles and Jerusalem is the capital of endless possibilities. Perhaps the miracle will occur and the cable car will indeed become operational. Certainly a miracle of gargantuan proportions is necessary to solve Jerusalem’s traffic nightmare, especially on festivals.

And with that food for thought, I wish you all Shabbat shalom!

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5 Responses to Good News Friday

  1. Reality says:

    what good news once again especially at a time so desperately needed after the hard week of the Palestinian murderous attack(-what can you expect -if your child goes to school in Gaza he will now learn terrorism as part of the new curriculum and even though the terrorist may not have come out of Gaza the message gets through to the rest of the Palestinans).
    But what a great idea about the new cable cars. I hope that it gets off the ground(scuse the pun!)
    I must say that the Jerusalem mayor has had some wonderful innovative ideas in order to put Jerusalem on the map.I read last week that he wants a kind of grande prix race all around Jerusalem too(I wonder how that will sit with the residents).Good for him.
    And well done to the athletes who’ve made aliyah from Russia-they’re representing Israel so well . Thank you to them
    Shabbat shalom

  2. TerryD says:

    Being purose built, diesel/electric, those submarines are extremely hard to detect (think of a hole in the water). The confined waters of the Persian Gulf, make them a serious threat to any country.

    • anneinpt says:

      That’s an interesting detail. Thanks Terry. And I seriously hope they are a very serious threat indeed to a specific country.

  3. Andrea says:


    I read “As a Jewish nation we have never particularly excelled in sports”. That sounds curious to me. We have actually a lot of general statement concerning relation between sports and people : “blacks are faster than whites ” ” women from east Europe are best throwers ” ” North Europe people are wealthy ” and now I should note – if my understanding is correct – that jewish do not excel in sports. Is this due to a cultural approach toward the conception of human body and its wellness ? There is maybe something that makes sport not kosher ? I was aware of the opinion that Catholicism did not favoured a way of life based on physical development and athletic achievements ( not very grounded opinion actually ) and I know for sure that Islamic culture prevents Arab women from entering into sport competitions ( Arab, Turkey and Iran are different) but never suspected about jewish culture.
    All above just out of curiosity since it was not absolutely relevant to principal meaning of your post.

    • anneinpt says:

      Andrea, the classic Jewish attitude towards sports was that it wasn’t a particularly important thing. Judaism certainly approves of physical activity and keeping healthy, but sport for sports’ sake, like the tradition of the Greeks and Romans, was frowned upon. It was almost akin to idol worship, because the body became the object of worship or adoration, rather than God Himself.

      Over the centuries the attitude relaxed a bit, but not very much amongst religious Jews. Certainly today there are religious sportsmen, and we even have synagogue football and basketball leagues! Not to mention sports in schools and inter-schools competitions. But they are all amateur and more for fun than really serious sport. And of course, the problem of keeping Shabbat makes life very difficult for religious sportsmen and women outside of Israel.

      With the Enlightenment, Jewish sports also began to develop, the the Maccabi, Hapoel, Elitzur and Hakoach clubs were formed. Nowadays sports is taken fairly seriously in Israel, but the sporting culture is still very new to Jewish society.

      The Jews were always better known for their intellect than their sporting capabilities.

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