Good News Friday – Sukkot edition

As I noted in my previous post, I tried my hardest to keep the news positive this week but in the light of yesterday’s terror attack I was tempted to cancel this Good News Friday installment. However my family persuaded me otherwise. Life does go on, and so do the chagim. We are not allowed to mourn on Shabbat or festivals, but how can one suspend one’s feelings? Maybe this blog post will help us towards this end as we head into Shabbat chol hamo’ed, the intermediate Shabbat of Sukkot, which ought to be the most joyous Shabbat in the year.

IBM Israel

So we’ll start with some great news from the world of hi-tech (h/t Reality): Why the world’s largest hi-tech companies all want a piece of the Israeli pie:

They all want a piece of the Israeli pie: Microsoft, Google, Apple – dozens of large, multinational companies have chosen to establish offices and R&D centers in the Startup Nation. Why did they all pick Israel and what exactly are they doing here?

It’s a little known fact that two thirds of all R&D employees in Israel are employed by foreign companies such as HP and Microsoft, according Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics. Currently, there are 250 R&D centers of foreign high-tech companies in Israel, according to IVC Research Center. The heavy presence of multinationals in Silicon Wadi clearly affects the local economy; consider this: Intel Israel is responsible for almost a tenth of Israel’s overall exports!

Thanks to multinational R&D centers, Israel is now a patent powerhouse. Over the past year, the number of Israeli patents filed in the US jumped 21 percent, making it the third-largest patent filer per capita, according to a study by Israeli business data firm BdiCoface. Only Japan and Taiwan outranked Israel. According to BdiCoface, between 2009 and 2013, IBM produced the most patents in Israel (674), followed by Intel (435), Marvell (281), SanDisk (261) and HP (197).

So, why are the big kids playing in the small Israeli playground?

No Camels asked the big hi-tech companies what is so special about Israel:

Maxine Fassberg, president of Intel Israel, said during a DLD panel discussion that Intel is in Israel “because we’re after the talent and the creativity of the Startup Nation.” According to Fassberg, “Israel is crucial to Intel. Intel cannot do without the geniuses here in Israel.”

There’s no doubt IBM is invested in Israel, or as IBM Israel’s passionate CEO Rick Kaplan said at the DLD conference: “We’ve acquired 13 companies here, we invest in them, we grow them.” He explained that IBM puts its offices “where the talent is,” and added that Israel is the company’s No. 2 office in terms of patents.

What’s so special about Israel in his opinion? “The state is now reaching out to eighth graders. By the time they enlist in the military service at age 18, they have advanced degrees in math. It’s an amazing proposition,” Kaplan said.

“Facebook looks at Israel as the place to be,” she said at the DLD conference. “There’s so much they can learn from Israelis. Israelis move fast, they don’t wait for an answer, that’s how you get things done. That’s why Facebook likes Israel. They’re amazed every time they come here.”

Clearly, multinational companies look for local talent, creative thinking and perhaps a grain of Israeli chutzpa. In return, they get a team of Israelis eager to prove themselves. Or, as Israeli Yoelle Maarek, who leads Yahoo’s regional office, said earlier this month at DLD: “We want to be critical to the company; we want to be the leaders.”

With the continuing onslaught on Israel’s legitimacy and the (not-so-successful) efforts of the BDS bigots, it’s gratifying and heartening to know that the big organizations, the ones that count, the ones with the money, the influence and the know-how, see Israel as one of the world’s leading lights.

In more technology news, two Israeli firms signed cumulative $923 million deals:, one in an acquisition and one in a sale:

Israel-based chip designer Mellanox Technologies Ltd made the bigger of the two deals, with its acquisition of network communications chip maker EZchip Semiconductor Ltd for $811 million as it expands its product portfolio for high-performance computing.

Mellanox said the acquisition pursues its strategy to become the leading supplier of interconnect solutions for software-defined data centres.

Mellanox, with a market value of $1.85 billion, makes InfiniBand products that enables databases, servers and computers to communicate. By buying EZchip the company adds Ethernet network processors to the list.

Meanwhile, Israel-based MediWound recently signed a five-year, $112 million contract with the US authority that handles public health medical emergencies to further develop and buy the company’s drug treatment for severe burns.

Investment group Clal Biotechnology, which has a 45 percent stake in MediWound, said in a statement that the deal with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority would raise preparedness for mass-casualty incidents.

The US body would also help MediWound get approval for its drug NexoBrid, a topical treatment that removes damaged tissue, from the Food and Drug Administration, Clal said.

With what is going on in our region, with the added malign influence of Russia, it looks like there’ll be a great demand  for MediWound.

Kol hakavod to Israel’s scientists, researchers, developers, coders and geeks. And kol hakavod to all those tech giants who recognize Israel’s quality.

Tiny stone seal from the King David era

From the future back to the past, last week it was reported that a 10 year old Russian tourist to Israel discovered a tiny stone seal from the King David era amongst the rubble that has been illegally excavated and dumped from the Temple Mount:

A rare stone seal believed to date from the 10th century BCE was recently found in rubble removed from the Temple Mount, archaeologists announced.

The artifact was found some time in the past half year by a 10-year-old Russian boy who volunteered for a day at the Temple Mount Sifting Project, which sorts through rubble that was excavated from the contested holy site during the construction of the Marwani mosque in the late 1990s. Only recently, however, was the seal deciphered, the group said.

The seal, carved from brown limestone, features two crudely engraved animals, one atop the other, “perhaps representing a predator and its prey,” Dr. Gabriel Barkay, the co-founder and director of the project, said in a statement Thursday.

While later stone seals with inscriptions have been found in Jerusalem, Barkay said in a phone call with The Times of Israel that it was unique inasmuch as it was the first of its type and from that period found in Jerusalem.

Seals of this sort would have been used to stamp documents or clay vessels. The one found by the Temple Mount Sifting Project had a hole punched into the tip for wearing on a string.

Drawing of details from a cone-shaped seal found in rubble excavated from the Temple Mount believed to date to around the 10th century BCE (Razia Richman, Temple Mount Sifting Project)

The archaeologists said they determined the date of the seal to be from the 11th or 10th centuries BCE, the period traditionally attributed to the reigns of the biblical kings David and Solomon, based on stylistic comparison to other seals found at sites around the region.

“In recent years, using newly developed statistical methodologies and technologies, we have managed to overcome the challenge of having finds with no exact context since they were not recovered in a proper archaeological excavation,” Zachi Dvira, co-founder of the project, said in the statement. He said over a half a million other finds from the fill remain to be analyzed at the TMSP’s labs.

The importance of this discovery cannot be overstated.  Jonathan Tobin writes in Commentary Magazine that the  discovery of the seal refutes Jewish history-deniers:

In recent weeks, the conflict over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem has heated up. Palestinians have grown increasingly violent in their effort to prevent Jews from entering the site of the two Biblical Temples that constitutes the holiest spot in Judaism. Though the state of Israel has left in place rules that prevent Jews from praying there, the Arab states and the United Nations regard the desire of Jews to visit the compound as an insult to Islam. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas has called upon his people to resist the efforts of Israelis to “desecrate” holy places with “their stinking Jewish feet.” This effort to whip up Arab hate against the Jews, is a cynical act that has several precedents in Palestinian history that inevitably led to the shedding of Jewish blood. But while Israeli efforts to stop the uptick in terror in Jerusalem are being met with unfair criticism, the truth about the struggle over the sacred plateau is best illustrated by the news of a startling archeological discovery.

Aerial view of the Temple Mount

… The reason why some will question the significance of the seal is that it was found among the 40 tons of dirt excavated by heavy machinery from the ground of the Temple Mount in the 1990s. That excavation was ordered by the Muslim Wakf that Israel has allowed to administer the site and its mosques since Jerusalem’s reunification in 1967 and was the result of a mosque building project. Though this is one of the key historic sites in the world, the Wakf had no interest in preserving the vast treasure trove of artifacts that are contained in the 35-acre Temple Mount compound. Indeed, judging by the brutality of its methods and its decision to simply dump the contents of their excavation in the Kidron Valley outside the walled city, it appears the Wakf was as interested in trashing any possible evidence of the history of this place as they were in improving their facilities.

Though malice is part of this effort, it is rooted in a more concrete aim. Abbas and his Palestinian Authority and its official media routinely deny that Jerusalem has a Jewish history. They treat all evidence of the indelible historic ties between the Jews and their ancient capital as Zionist propaganda. Rather than seek to cooperate to ensure that all faiths have equal access and rights to the holy sites in Jerusalem — something that has only become possible under Israeli sovereignty — the Palestinians treat the Jews as interlopers in even those places most closely associated with Jewish history.

In this context the battle over archeology isn’t merely a scholarly debate but a vital part of the effort to deny the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders would be drawn. By trashing an area that was loaded with precious artifacts buried over 30 centuries, the Palestinians hope to convince the world that Jews have no claim to Jerusalem, let alone any part of Israel, including the areas inside the 1967 lines.

The significance of the seal is that it shows the level of activity that is consistent with it serving as the site of the capital of ancient Israel. Since denying the existence of David’s Kingdom might hurt the case for Zionism’s legitimacy, destroying evidence of that history is key to their agenda. That’s why they trashed the Temple Mount and also why the volunteers of the Temple Mount Sifting Project that is painstakingly going through the material they removed from the historical site is so important.

Tobin is exactly right, and that is also why Israel and her supporters must continue to alert the world and protest at the desecration of the Temple Mount – by the Muslims and the Waqf, not by Israel, the Jews, or Christians. Kol hakavod to the Temple Mount Sifting Project – it is hugely important as well as providing a fascinating and enjoyable project for children, tourists and locals.

Meanwhile in present day Jerusalem, here are pictures of some of the wonderful things that have been going on this week:

Birkat Cohanim (the Priestly Blessing) at the Kotel:

At least 150,000 Jewish worshipers gathered under heavy police guard at the Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem’s Old City Wednesday morning for the traditional priestly blessing performed during the Sukkot festival, police said.

… During the Western Wall ceremony, hundreds of Kohanim — descendants of the caste of priests in charge of ritual in the ancient Jewish temple — blessed the crowds packed into the Western Wall plaza.

Just look at the pictures below to get an idea of what it looked like.  (Click on them to enlarge). Now we can get an inkling of what Jerusalem looked like when the Temple still stood. May it be rebuilt speedily in our days!

Arutz Sheva too has a great photo essay and video of the ceremonies at the Kotel:

The celebrations continued with the Hakhel ceremony.

The commandment of Hakhel involves assembling all Jewish men, women, children and non-Jewish residents of Israel to hear the reading of the Torah by the king of Israel after each Shmittah year. The Hakhel gathering took place at the Temple in Jerusalem on the second day of the holiday of Sukkot (Tabernacles), when all of Israel was gathered together in the capital.

The Biblical requirement for perform this commandment is not incumbent upon the Jewish nation today since it is only when all the Jewish people reside in Israel.

Nonetheless, there was a move to revive this unique commandment, at least in a symbolic manner, beginning in the early 1900s with Rabbi Elijah David Rabinowitz-Teomim (the father-in-law of Rabbi Kook), and then Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Rabbi Shmuel Salant.

In 1945, the year after the shmittah, an official Hakhel ceremony was held for the first time in thousands of year. Since then, similar ceremonies have occurred every seven years since. The ceremony will be held this year at the Western Wall, with the chief rabbis of Israel, ministers and politicians in attendance.

Aaron Domba, an organizer behind the last three Hakhel events, spoke with Breaking Israel News about his experiences with what he described as an awe-inspiring endeavor spanning over 20 years. “We all come together as one, equal, like we did at the base of Mount Sinai,” he told Breaking Israel News.

Seven years ago I attended the last Hakhel ceremony with my daughter and it was an incredible, emotional and uplifting moment. Here are pictures from this year:

Here is my free translation of President Rivlin’s words:

As one man with one heart, the Hakhel ceremony is intended to gather in and untie the people, to join our hearts together. I was very moved to take part in the Hakhel ceremony this evening to mark the end of the Shmitta (fallow) year, which took place at the Kotel together with thousands of Israeli citizens who arrived from all over the country. Our existence as a nation is dependent upon our connection to the roots of our traditions throughout the generations, to our historic heritage, and to the path of our Forefathers.

After the Hakhel ceremony there was singing and dancing in celebration:

Yesterday, on our own aliya le’regel (pilgrimage) we found ourselves caught up, entirely by accident, in the Tza’adat Yerushalayim, the Jerusalem March. This is an annual parade in which participants come from all over the world to show their support for Israel. Also taking part are Israeli groups from companies, cities, farms and even the army. It is a very joyous, colourful (and noisy!) parade, and a wonderful sight to behold. The added bonus of course is the warm and emotional support for Israel from the participants.

Here are some of the photos I took (click to enlarge) and a couple of amusing videos:

Here is the Swiss delegation – complete with gigantic cowbells! 😀

And here is a multinational dancing group:

It was a joy to see Jerusalem so full, so busy and so happy. May this be a foretaste of even greater things to come in the days and years to come.

Nearer home, Petach Tikva city council held a Beautiful Sukkah competition – and my sister’s Sukkah was one of the winners! Here’s a video she took of their (very) bright and well-lit Sukkah! 🙂

Kol hakavod to you, your husband and your family on your beautiful Sukkah. May you celebrate many more Sukkot together will all the family in nachat in your Sukkah and in your home.

May the peace and beauty of Shabbat bring comfort to the mourning families and friends of Naama and Eitam Henkin HY’D and may it usher in a better week of good news.

Shabbat Shalom and Mo’adim Le’simcha everyone.

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4 Responses to Good News Friday – Sukkot edition

  1. Amy Cheung says:

    China and Hong Kong together in the march too! Glad to see our presence to show support for Israel! Thanks for taking and posting the photo!

  2. Reality says:

    What a lovely blog.I love the video clips of Jerusalem.We were there for Morning prayers(shacharit)and Birkat Kohanim.Thee feeling was tremendous,very emotional.I felt like I could’ve been at the Temple(Bet Hamikdash).To hear 1000’s of people all davening,praying the same words together was uplifting.
    Well done on the sukka-very bright indeed!!
    That’s such a nice idea for a city council to do,to hold a sukka competition.
    May this Shabbat bring comfort to the Henkin family and peace to all Jews worldwide

  3. Brian Goldfarb says:

    so much for BDS. Jeremy Corbyn can go whistle Dixie…but out of respect for Shabbat, I’ll leave that thought unfinished

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