Good News Friday

Despite the plethora of terrible news this past week, and the imminent possiblity of things becoming even worse, I still cannot allow myself to go into Shabbat without some good news. So here is this week’s Good News Friday installment.

Israeli banknotes

We start with the surprisingly good news that Israel’s economy surged in the second quarter of 2013, contrary to all expectations:

The Israeli economy grew in the second quarter at an exceptional annual rate of 5.1%. This compared to growth of 2.7% in this year’s first quarter, and 3.1% in the final quarter of 2012.

National accounts estimates published Sunday by the Central Bureau of Statistics show that the sharp rise in GDP for the second quarter primarily reflect the sharp rise of 6.7% in the annual rate, which was recorded in private consumption and the large rise of 8.3% in public expenditures, reflecting the costs of government. Exports of goods and services grew during the first three months of the year at an annual rate of 1.2%, whereas investments in fixed assets during this period decreased at an annual rate of 6.3%.

Even if these statistics should be treated with caution, as the article warns, this is still extremely impressive and encouraging news for Israel. Long may we continue to confound expectations!

Minister Yaakov Peri with Baka al-Gharbia residents

My next item is connected to the educational sector (h/t Reality): Seven disadvantaged or development towns are going to be the recipients of new science education centers, and the first recipient is the Arab town of Baka al-Gharbia:

The Science, Technology and Space Ministry on Monday dedicated a new science education center in the Arab town of Baka al-Gharbia east of Hadera. Minister Yaakov Peri  and town mayor Morsi Abu-Moch said that NIS 150,000 was invested in the center, which will serve children and teens living in the area.

 The center is part of a broad program for building science educational centers in six more places — Ofakim, Migdal Ha’emek, Sdot Negev, Majdal Krum. Yafua and Beit Shean. Although a growing number of residents there have personal computers, many are not connected to the Internet. Such centers allow young people to study and play online freely so they have the same accessibility to the world online as those with more economic and social advantages.

Peri said at the ceremony that the lack of accessibility to the world of science and technology has created a worrisome gap that prevents socioeconomically disadvantaged young people — both Arabs and Jews — from reaching it. The use of such tools will make it easier for them to become academics and succeed educationally, he added. “More young people will be exposed to the world of science and curiosity from discovery,” the minister added.

[…]

The mayor of Baka Al-Gharbia was personally involved in supervising the project. He said at the ceremony that the center will advance young people in their studies and their life in general. “The learning experience in science centers is different from that in schools and is meant to help them build a good basis at a young age for enjoying new experiences and discoveries,” the mayor said.

Kol Hakavod to the Science Ministry and Minister Yaacov Peri, and also to the Mayor of Baka Al-Gharbia for his cooperation. This is excellent news for the future of Israel’s youngsters, both Jews and Arabs, and also puts the lie to the perennial claims of Israeli apartheid against its Arab population.

Shalom Kita Aleph. Welcome First Grade!

Staying with the educational system, this week saw the beginning of the school year for Israeli schoolchildren. with 2,129,562 children returning to the classroom:

In the new school year 429,177 children will attend public kindergartens, among them 160,940 will go to preschool.

Primary schools will be attended by 957,240 anxious kids, with 148,774 especially excited new first graders.

[…]

Junior highs will be attended by 276,526 students and high schools by 385,923.

109,599 will start their last year of public education.

“I’m very excited by the sheer knowledge of the fact that more than two million students and tens of thousands of teachers are going tomorrow to school,” Education Minister Shai Piron said Monday night.

“I hope with all my heart that we’ll create a good, successful year.”

[…]

Across Israel, 4,555 schools, among them 164 new institutions, will open their gates – some 64,000 classrooms.

Furthermore, 15,200 kindergartens will also reopen, including 935 new ones. Beside the students, 145,358 education workers – among them 3,832 new teachers and 350 new principles – will walk the halls of learning.

The sheer numbers are staggering. I still remember the days when one million children went to school at the beginning of the year. How did they grow so quickly?

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett on his first day at school

The start of the school year is a happy and sentimental time for all Israelis who watch fondly as their children return (sometimes reluctantly!) to their studies. Whole families accompany 1st graders to their new classrooms, and it’s almost a festive day for the entire country. Even the politicians can’t resist the sentimentalism:

“I still remember my first day [of school], the fear of the unknown,” Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua) wrote on Facebook on Tuesday morning. “Years later, when I placed my oldest son in the hands of the education system, the apprehension was even greater,” Livni recalled.

[…]

Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) wrote his own school-year note on Monday to his daughter, Michal, who started first grade on Tuesday.

Under a photo of himself on his own first day of first grade, he wrote, “Tomorrow, Michali, you start first grade. In this picture, your father when he started first grade. You see — you already have a head-start: you look like your mother,” he quipped.

[…]

The photos kept coming on Tuesday.

Sports and Culture Minister Limor Livnat (Likud), a former education minister, shared a photo of herself as a young girl, and a poem.

“A person remains a child, all his days a child
Who chases after a dream
A person remains a child, all his days a child
Who asks more questions.”

I would like to wish my niece Hila and my great-nephew Ariel lots of success as they start first grade, and of course I wish all the success in the world for my beautiful  grandchildren who enter 6th, 5th, 4th and 2nd grades, as well as the many other kindergarteners amongst them.  May you all grow with knowledge and wisdom to be a credit to your families and your country.

MDA ambulance

Moving from education to health care, this week we learned that Israel ranks 4th globally in health care efficiency, way beyond America or Britain:

In a new ranking of countries with the most efficient health care, Israel came in fourth, while the US ranked — behind Iran — in 46th position.

The data was compiled by Bloomberg, and countries were ranked based on three criteria: life expectancy; relative per capita cost of health care (percentage of GDP per capita); and the absolute per capita cost of health care (expenditures covering preventive and curative services, family planning, nutrition and emergency aid).

[…]

Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan took the top three spots in the rankings. Israel came next.

The UK came in 14th, Canada 17th, Iran 45th, and the US 46th.

Israel’s life expectancy is 81.8 years, and health care costs per capita were calculated at $2,426 (or approximately NIS 8,800).

The rankings also noted that Israel has the longest life span in the Middle East and Africa, and that Israelis have the 12th longest retirement in the world (lasting 17.81 years).

By comparison, Americans have a life expectancy of 78.6 years and spend $8,608 (NIS 31,100) in health care costs per capita.

For anyone who knows Israel’s health-care system, this is not really news. However, seeing the country ranked globally, especially with concerns that the Israeli health care system is shaky and crumbling, gives us a whole new perspective. The developed world has a lot to learn from us and we should be proud of our achievements.

My last item for today is real feel-good story from Israellycool about how an Israeli settler (how I hate that term!) saved an Arab man’s life:

Here is Aussie Dave’s commentary:

Notice not just how the Jew saved the Arab man’s life but how his fellow Arabs did not help him.

Now this story has not been reported anywhere in the mainstream media, unless you count the Israeli sites Times of Israel and Arutz Sheva.

How can this be?

With such indifference to what is really going on here, it is no wonder so many people buy in to the “Israel is an apartheid state” and “Jewish ‘Settlers’ hate Arabs” narratives.

Please help counter the disinformation campaign and help spread this important story far and wide.

Watch the video and spread the word.

And with all that good news I wish you all Shabbat Shalom. May we all have a quiet ,safe and secure weekend.

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5 Responses to Good News Friday

  1. cba says:

    In honour of the return to school, here’s the lovely back-to-school song Kol Od (which still brings a tear to my eye) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncH7KWRuw5A

    I’ll see if I can find a good translation (maybe if I can’t I’ll do my own).

  2. Reality says:

    I love your good friday posts-cheers me up after all the impending doom news we hear all day long. Good luck to everyone in all types of education(including my own nursery!) & well done Israel for the high rank we got in the health world(we came higher than US & UK? Wow!) & as for United Hatzala -they are all amazing.
    Happy New year to everyone. A year of health happiness ,success & peace

  3. cba says:

    I couldn’t find a translation, but I did find the lyrics http://shironet.mako.co.il/artist?type=lyrics&lang=1&prfid=489&wrkid=5018.

    So here’s my quick-and-dirty translation. Anne, if you (or any other Hebrew-speaker) want to suggest improvements (lyrics are at the link), please do so!

    Kol Od (For as long as)

    A boy walks in the street
    On a clear day in the month of Tishrei
    Back to school go the children
    A man walks behind him
    Watching over him, sees – isn’t seen
    And only afterwards he stands there and watches

    How is it that here another year is starting
    Like every year, in autumn?
    How can a son go all by himself
    And a father in his footsteps?

    The man, hidden, watches
    How his son goes into the classroom
    The man stands like a child who stays outside
    And they’re already singing inside
    A song of the new year
    Oh, how is everything starting here again from the beginning…

    They’re singing again of the rain
    They’re singing again of autumn
    And on the board once again are the letters of the alef-bet

    (Alef, bet, gimmel, daled… )

    The man in the middle of the morning
    The man in the heart of his life
    Stands next to the school fence
    And he remembers how his father
    Once followed him
    He tries to hear the sound of his footsteps

    But the children are still singing
    A song of the first rain of autumn and of the autumn flowers
    And now the man’s lips whisper along with them.
    Even though I walk in the Valley of the Shadow of Death
    I will not fear
    Even if I suddenly fall,
    My heart will still sing

    For as long as the morning rises
    For as long as there’s writing on the board
    For as long as a son goes on his way
    And his father follows him
    For as long as the children sing
    Of a new year
    For as long as everything starts here again from the beginning

    For as long as the sea wakes up
    For as long as the wind rises
    For as long as on the blackboard
    A word is displayed

  4. Reblogged this on israelunlocked and commented:
    To start off on a positive note

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