Good News Friday

It’s time for another Good News Friday installment, and this time it will be back to my “regular” style as opposed to a war edition.

Kazunari Okada

My first item combines two of my favourite fields: international relations and hi-tech. The Japanese Innovation Center is ready to take a chance on Israel:

For decades, Japanese corporations hesitated to dip a toe into the Israeli high-tech scene, just watching the successes of the Start-Up Nation from afar. Now, after years of work by Kazunari Okada, director of the Japan Innovation Center (JIC), one Japanese conglomerate appears ready to take a chance on Israel.

In October, Toyota’s ITC (InfoTechnology Center), an important R&D arm of the Japanese car giant, will be holding the first ever tech event for a large Japanese corporation in Israel — a hackathon in which Israeli programmers and entrepreneurs will present their ideas on improving car safety and performance.

That’s the kind of thing Okada is hoping to see more of. “I realized already years ago that Japan was missing out on something important,” he told The Times of Israel in an exclusive interview. “People in Japan know Israel from the news, and of course as a religious center holy to Western religions. But these are both not very relevant to most people in Japan, so awareness of the more esoteric points of Israel has been very low.”

As savvy businesspeople, Japanese executives have increasingly been looking at what Israel has to offer in the area of high-tech – and they have begun to realize that they are late to the party. […] Total trade between the two nations in 2013 was a relatively modest $1.83 billion, but they signed a research and development support pact last month that might provide a boost in the high-tech sector.

Okada believes he can change that. He has dedicated the last two and a half years to trying, via the JIC. The group runs programs in Israel and especially in Japan, where it organizes seminars and events introducing Japanese business people to Israeli companies.

Okada, who is working with Japanese accelerator Samurai House to get the ITC event off the ground, is very excited about the upcoming hackathon. “This could be the icebreaker,” he said. “If Toyota can do it, why not Honda, Mazda, and all the rest? Working together, Israel and Japan can do some amazing things, and I firmly believe that the relationship between both countries will soon grow significantly.”

Kol hakavod to Mr. Okada and the people on the Japanese and Israeli sides working to get this relationship into high gear. I wish them all the success in the world for the benefit of both countries, and I’m sure the world will benefit from the results too.

An Israeli navy Dolphin-class submarine (photo credit: Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

Mixing international relations with defence now, a fourth advanced German submarine is on its way to the Israeli Navy:

“At this very moment, after leaving Germany, the INS Tanin, the Navy and the State of Israel’s fourth submarine, is making its way to Israel,” Vice Admiral Ram Rothberg said at a ceremony for graduates of a naval course. “It can dive deeper, go farther for a longer time and can operate at a level we have not seen until today.”

The impending arrival of the INS Tanin will bolster a submarine fleet has seen dramatic increases in the number and duration of its operational at-sea deployments over the past several years.

Israel is also scheduled to receive a fifth Dolphin-Class submarine from Germany, the INS Rahav, later in 2014.

The new submarines have engines that don’t require surfacing to acquire new air supplies, effectively expanding Israel’s naval (and, reportedly, nuclear) reach and allowing for more distant and long-lasting operations.

In 2012, the German weekly Der Spiegel reported that Israel’s submarine fleet has nuclear capabilities and that Berlin is aware of this but has opted to publicly remain mum about it in order to avoid having to defend the deals.

The submarines, according to Der Spiegel, are equipped with Israeli-designed Popeye missiles, which can carry a warhead of up to 200 kilograms. The nuclear warheads are produced at Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor, the report said.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If my grandparents were alive today, they would not believe their eyes and would think the newspapers were writing fiction. I find it almost incredible myself that a mere 70 years after the Holocaust the Germans are providing Israel with such advanced submarines.

Yes, I’m sure German guilt feelings are playing a part in this, but nevertheless, we have to thank Germany for providing us with the edge necessary to fight our deadliest enemies – who by chance happen to be the deadliest enemies of the West too.

Does anyone think that Israel and the Arab terrorists will one day manage to make peace in the same way as Israel and Germany? Somehow I doubt it.

An aerial view of the Tamar gas processing rig, 24 km off the Israeli southern coast of Ashkelon

In a similarly surreal fashion, Israel has signed a $15 billion deal to sell natural gas from its Leviathan field to our former enemy, Jordan:

Israel signed a memorandum of understanding with Jordan Wednesday, under which it will supply the Hashemite Kingdom with $15 billion worth of natural gas from its Leviathan energy field over 15 years.

The new deal is the largest collaboration with Jordan to date, and will make Israel its chief supplier, according to the Globes business news website.

The final agreement will be subject to the approval of Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom, who is expected to confirm it. According to Globes, the US was involved in the negotiations. US envoy Amos Hochstein was said to attend the signing of the memorandum.
Representatives of the Delek Group Ltd. and Nobel Energy Inc. were in Jordan to sign the agreement.

Shalom hailed the agreement, and referred to it as “a historic act that will strengthen the economic and diplomatic ties between Israel and Jordan.”

“At this time, Israel is becoming an energy superpower, which will supply the energy needs of its neighbors and strengthen its standing as a central source of energy supply in the region, and I welcome it,” he said in a statement.

The Jordanians turned to Israel because their supply of natural gas from Egypt had been halted by repeated terrorist attacks on the gas pipeline from Egypt, a Channel 2 report said.

This is fantastic news for both parties.  Just as once we couldn’t imagine Jordan becoming an economic partner, maybe the day might yet come when all our enemies turn their “swords into plowshares”. We can dream anyway.

To conclude this week’s installment, here is a wonderful heart-warming story from the IDF (h/t Hadassah). The following is a swearing-in ceremony of new recruits. But these are no ordinary recruits. They are all handicapped in one way or another: blind, deaf, etc. All the soldiers had exemptions from serving in the IDF – and all were determined to serve despite it all.

Here’s a rough translation of the article.

With tears of emotion we doff our hat to them and thank them! Here’s a Swearing-in ceremony that you do not see every day, and many have never seen! They do not have to serve in the military at all, they have an exemption they suffer health problems deaf, dumb, blind, epilepsy, a disease that affects blood clotting and more.

All this did not prevent this group of wonderful, young amazing people who decided to serve two to three years and ensure that they contribute their share for the Land of Israel, just like everyone else and even more importantly though greatly challenged but with will power and determination not found anywhere else in the world! Some of them will even continue to Officers Courses in the future. You can not stop them. You can not stop such a powerful motivation to contribute to others, as it exists among them.

During the very moving swearing-in ceremony held in Zrifin – possibly the most emotional military ceremony ever – they vowed and pledged to fulfill all the tasks and protect the people of Israel according to each job receives.

The News Channel 0404 thanks you dear soldiers. Thank you! Love you!

Watch this video of the ceremony and note the signing language at the end as the recruits sing Hatikva, the Israeli national anthem.

I challenge you not to have a tear in your eyes at the end!

And on this moving note, I wish you all Shabbat Shalom.

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2 Responses to Good News Friday

  1. Reality says:

    what a wonderful wonderful post.The clip made me cry &smile.No other nation can say they recruit soldiers with health problems I wish every success to our wonderful new soldiers.We are so proud of you.
    I cannot believe we are trading with former enemies.It must be Messianic times when it is said the lion will lay down with the lamb!
    Shabbat Shalom and thank you

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