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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.