It may be Friday the 13th today but there’s always time for good news, so here’s my latest Good News Friday installment.
We’ll start with the subject that’s occupying the minds of around 50% of the world’s population (i.e. the male half) – the football World Cup, which just opened last night in Brazil. Israel did not make the grade unfortunately. However we are taking part in a highly important part of the competition – the security, which is being provided by Israeli drones. An added bonus for Brazil – the Israeli drones helped bring about the fall of a drugs baron:
Police intelligence officer Adriano Barbosa tracked the drug gang leader known as “Little P” for almost a month as part of Brazil’s push to curb violence in Rio de Janeiro’s slums before the World Cup starts today.
The real-time reports on Little P’s whereabouts weren’t coming from police informants. Nor from undercover officers. Barbosa had a more high-tech tool for the hunt that led to the March 26 arrest: a Heron drone outfitted with a heat-sensing camera. The drone, produced by Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd., allowed Barbosa to monitor Little P at night, far from view and earshot.
Israel sold $4.62 billion of unmanned aerial systems from 2005 to 2012, almost 10 percent of the country’s defense export industry in the period, according to a March 2013 report by Frost & Sullivan.
Kol hakavod to Brazil for purchasing the Israeli drones for such a massive security enterprise as the World Cup. And mazal tov to Elbit for procuring such a great contract. And hard luck to the drugs baron. 🙂
More good news on international investment front – in 2013, Norway’s government pension fund investments into the Israeli stock market rose 43% to $1 billion! Yes – that Norway. So much for BDS:
The Government Pension Fund of Norway, the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world, has increased its position in shares of Israeli companies, adding five new companies to a portfolio of 62 stocks valued at a billion dollars (NIS 3.5 billion) on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, Israel’s Globes business daily reported on Tuesday.
In 2013, the value of its investment in companies traded on the TASE rose by 43 percent in nominal terms, from NIS 2.4 billion to nearly NIS 3.5 billion, Globes said. “Even discounting the boom on the stock exchange, the rise is impressive: the fund’s proportionate holding in shares on the Tel Aviv 100 list grew by 21% last year, exceeding 0.5% of the total of shares listed,” the newspaper said.
Norway also raised it holdings of Israel government bonds to $1.1 billion from $786 million (NIS 3.75 billion from NIS 2.674 billion.) Another $200 million (NIS 693 million) of the fund’s money is invested in bluechip Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. Norway’s total investment in the Israeli capital market is nearly $2.13 billion (NIS 8 billion.)
Norwegian financial newspaper Finansavisen tied the investments to a decision by the Norwegian Ministry of Finance in the Summer of 2012 to include Israel in its emerging markets index. “Beyond that, it is no secret that the current government in Norway holds more positive views on Israel than the previous government, and that certainly can’t harm,” Finansavisen said.
In October, a new government in Oslo headed by a center-right party replaced a coalition of left-wing parties that took an openly pro-Palestinian stance. Since then, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg has declared her opposition to any calls to boycott Israel.
True, Norway is still iffy about investments in companies based over the Green Line and
In September 2009, the fund decided to sell its holdings in Israeli defense manufacturer Elbit Systems Ltd. because it provided equipment for Israel’s security fence.
Looking at my first item, that was a bad move by the previous government!
We welcome Norway’s return to sanity and I’m sure their investments will prove very fruitful. Kol hakavod to them for having the courage to ditch a bad political and economic policy.
Turning to something completely different, here is the astonishing story of a Hungarian neo-Nazi anti-Semite, who, upon discovering he was in fact Jewish, turned his life around completely, underwent circumcision, is converting to Judaism together with is wife, and is teaching children about the dangers of racism:
BUDAPEST, Hungary — He was a rising star of Hungary’s far-right, dumped by his party after he admitted he was a Jew. Two years later, Csanad Szegedi has completed an astonishing transformation: He goes to synagogue, eats Kosher food and has adopted the Hebrew name Dovid.
As a leader in Hungary’s Jobbik Party, Mr. Szegedi whipped up crowds by accusing Jews of “buying up the country” and mocking the “Jewishness” of Hungary’s political class. Then came the revelation that upended his career: His maternal grandparents were Jews — which under Jewish law made him one, too.
Mr. Szegedi acknowledged his roots after video surfaced of a suspected blackmailer confronting him with evidence of his Jewishness.
In the political wilderness, Mr. Szegedi has apparently had a spiritual awakening.
Last year, he sought out a young rabbi in the local Orthodox Jewish community. After a period of intense religious instruction, Mr. Szegedi was circumcised last June, a year to the day after he broke with Jobbik. Today he takes Jewish religion classes with his wife, who is also converting to Judaism.
“I am just as Hungarian as until now, but I have expanded my own identity with the Jewish identity,” said Mr. Szegedi, 31. “I have two tasks ahead of me — to teach and to learn. I want to be a bridge.”
Mr. Szegedi kept his seat after being dropped by Jobbik and went on to advocate stronger ties with Israel and Roma integration, while condemning the rise of extremism in the EU.
The first step in Mr. Szegedi’s personal transformation came days after Jobbik kicked him out — ostensibly because Mr. Szegedi offered the blackmailer hush money, not because he was Jewish.
Mr. Szegedi had just published a 316-page book of his interviews, speeches and writings, including anti-Semitic rants. He asked bookstores to return several thousand copies of I Believe in Hungary’s Resurrection,” dumped them in an oil drum at a railway depot — and set them on fire.
“To burn a book is always a barbaric, primitive thing, but I felt that, symbolically and spiritually, fire always cleanses,” said Mr. Szegedi. “With this I was able to cleanse my own past and bring that era to a close. The cover has my picture on it and it was very strange to see my face burn.”
Read the whole story. It is fascinating, scary and heartening all at the same time. “Kol hakavod” seems too mild a term with which to praise Mr. Szegedi on his radical transformation. His moral courage in accepting his family background and embracing it while rejecting a successful political career, together with his physical bravery in standing up to the thugs of the Jobbik party are quite amazing.
Mazal tov Mr. Szegedi and welcome back to the Tribe! May you and your family have a successful (and safe) second career on the right side of the political fence and I hope you have a successful absorption into the Jewish community.
To conclude this week’s installment, I present you (via Real JStreets from Israellycool) with a video of the Jerusalem Light Festival currently taking place in Jerusalem. This display at Sha’ar Shechem (Damascus Gate) is simply breathtaking. I just wish there was more Jewish content but still, the technical talent and the imagination involved are astonishing.
With all that light to take you into the weekend, I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!