Good News Friday

It seems like the knife-intifada (or whatever the government wants to call it) is here to stay for the moment. This does not derogate from the need to find some good news before Shabbat – in fact it makes it all the more necessary. So without further ado here is this week’s Good News Friday installment.

New Olim arrive in Israel

Last week another group of American Jews made aliya despite the terror wave with the assistance of Nefesh B’Nefesh:

Despite the current wave of terror attacks against Israelis in recent days, 65 new immigrants (or Olim) from the United States and Canada moved to Israel Tuesday morning.

The passengers, who range in age from 10 months to 83 years old, moved to Israel from 13 states and provinces across North America, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Maine, Maryland, Ohio and Quebec.

Among the passengers are five young men and women who are volunteering to serve in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as Lone Soldiers – those who immigrate to Israel without any immediate family and join the IDF. Twenty of the passengers will be moving to the south of Israel as part of NBN and Keren Kayemeth Le’Israel’s Go North and Go South programs that settle immigrants in Israel’s developing periphery.

“We are truly inspired that despite the extremely difficult times Israel is currently experiencing, Olim are undeterred and are still making Aliyah,” NBN Co-Founder and Executive Director Rabbi Yehoshua Fass stated. “They are coming not only with the desire to build their homes and lives in Israel but to express that modern-day Zionism is thriving while displaying their deep responsibility towards the State of Israel and Jewish People.”

Kol hakavod to all those brave and enterprising Jews who have chosen to make their lives in their ancient homeland despite the present security situation. This is a huge step for them and a huge morale boost for us Israelis. Of course a great “yasher koach” and kol hakavod to those youngsters who are arriving in order to start serving in teh IDF. May Hashem protect you and guard you just as you protect and guard your country.

Bruchim haba’im! Welcome home!

JK Rowling, author of Harry Potter and anti-BDS activist

Israel received another morale booster this week when a large group of 150 celebrities and cultural icons came out against BDS and the widespread effort to boycott Israel. (h/t Reality). A leading member of the group, J. K. Rowling, author of the famous Harry Potter series, had this to say:

Star author of the Harry Potter series J.K. Rowling joined 150 other people from the British arts world in signing a letter that was published in The Guardian on Thursday that came out against the Boycott Divest Sanction (BDS) movement against Israel.

“We do not believe cultural boycotts are acceptable or that the letter you published accurately represents opinion in the cultural world in the UK,” the letter read.

The letter announced that the signatories were declaring their support for the launch and aims of an independent UK network representing a cross-section from the cultural world called Culture for Coexistence.

“We will be seeking to inform and encourage dialogue about Israel and the Palestinians in the wider cultural and creative community. While we may not all share the same views on the policies of the Israeli government, we all share a desire for peaceful coexistence,” the letter read.

“Cultural boycotts singling out Israel are divisive and discriminatory, and will not further peace. Open dialogue and interaction promote greater understanding and mutual acceptance, and it is through such understanding and acceptance that movement can be made towards a resolution of the conflict,” the letter added.

Although the facts as stated in this letter should be taken as a given, in the current climate, and especially on the pages of the Guardian, this is no small thing to go against the grain and express such unfashionable views. Kol hakavod to JK Rowling and all the other 150 signatories of this letter. I am sure that behind these people there are many more supporters who are too timid to reveal themselves in public. May this letter be the beginning of a counter-wave of support for Israel in the international sphere.

Since we’re on the subject of #BDSFail, here is a great video from Israel’s financial paper Calcalist on the impossibility of boycotting Israel:


More importantly, and on a similar subject, (h/t Reality) Israel’s renowned life-saving technologies are changing direction in the face of the latest wave of terror:

Technology created by various innovators in the “Startup Nation” could save lives in the face of the continuing wave of violence that has seen regular pop-up terror attacks against Israelis over the past three weeks.

The current security situation has impacted Israeli startups providing security technology that can be used to respond to acts of terrorism.

Amir Elichai, CEO and founder of Reporty Homeland Security, told The Jerusalem Post that the current security situation has promoted his startup to change its business model and expedite its launch in two weeks.

The Reporty system seeks to create a “global standard of reporting” by providing emergency dispatchers all needed information within a few seconds.

With one click, Reporty’s platform allows users to transmit live video and audio recordings from the scene of the emergency to emergency response personnel. The app allows dispatchers to detect location accuracy – indoors and outdoors – up to meter from the signal. The startup has already partnered with Magen David Adom and is seeking possible future collaboration with the military.

Elichai notes that former prime minister and defense minister Ehud Barak, who invested in the startup, provides valuable input especially from his experience in the security industry.

Meanwhile, the social safety company Musketeer has seen about a 20 to 30 percent growth in subscribers in recent weeks, says the company’s marketing manager Nathalie Beaudoin.

Musketeer, which already has tens of thousands of members, provides “safety net” capabilities to alert a peer-to-peer network of responders along with professional emergency teams.

“When, God forbid, something should happen you want to get in contact with people who around you. You may call the police, but it could take them 20 minutes to get there,” says Beaudoin. “If there is a situation where rocks are being thrown at your car or you are being stabbed you want to be able to contact people closest to you, and that’s what the application does.”

Watch this video to see how Musketeer works. What a clever idea! And of course, as the developers explain, it is useful in all situations, not just terror attacks.

Kol hakavod to Israel’s ingenious technology developers who are inspired to create apps to help in all kinds of emergencies. May they go from strength to strength even in times of peace.

One explanation for the superiority of Israel’s technological advances could be its higher education institutions, which lately have become a magnet for Western overseas students:

The biggest increases [in overseas students] however, were in The Netherlands, Portugal, Israel, and Turkey, which rose by 103%, 67%, 56%, and 49% respectively.

Intriguingly, Israel has actually managed to draw large numbers of Westerners — particularly Americans — to its shores to learn.  Even more impressive is the fact that the dramatic growth in international study in Israel has also come mostly from the West.  Fully one-third of overseas students in Israel were Americans, making them by far the largest group studying in the Jewish State.  And most of the remainder came from other OECD countries, with France, Canada, South Korea, Germany, Italy, and the UK leading the pack.

Why Israel?

This begs the question: why is Israel drawing American students faster than anywhere else?  In some ways, Israel is an ideal alternative to traditional overseas destinations in Europe.  It’s home to some of the world’s highest ranked universities, like Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Technion Institute of Technology, yet is generally far more affordable both in terms of tuition and living expenses than competing schools in the US and Europe.  The country has a mild, Mediterranean climate and English is widely spoken.

It’s a very interesting article, but the focus on Israel is the most interesting as far as I’m concerned. It just confirms what we all knew already – Israel really is one of the best countries in the world for education.

As a final feel-good item, although it is probably far beyond the budgets of most of us, Jerusalem’s new Waldorf-Astoria Hotel has been chosen by Conde Nast as the Middle East’s best hotel:

Jerusalem’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel took the top spot in the Middle East and seventh place worldwide in Condé Nast Traveler’s annual Readers’ Choice Awards.

The Jerusalem Waldorf Astoria Hotel

“More than 128,000 travelers took part in our 28th annual Readers’ Choice Awards survey — the most in its history — submitting millions of ratings and tens of thousands of comments to help us create a list of winning favorites,” Condé Nast Traveler said in announcing the rankings Tuesday.

The 226-room Waldorf opened in March 2014, after a reported $150 million refurbishment.

The former Palace Hotel in central Jerusalem, it had stood empty for years and then been used as a government ministry. The renovation and preservation of the building, which also features the city’s largest ballroom, was carried out by architect Yehuda Feigin. The three-year project included extensive work to restore the building’s blend of Roman, Moorish and Arab architecture.

The hotel has a fascinating history in the story of Israel’s creation, and a connection to the notorious Hitler ally, the Mufti Haj Amin el-Husseini (who has been in the news recently):

An Israeli TV report last year revealed that Israel’s pre-state Haganah military force spied on the meetings of Britain’s Peel Commission at the hotel. The Commission headed by Lord William Peel, which was set up to investigate the causes of unrest in Palestine and wound up recommending the partition of the Holy Land, was headquartered from late 1936 to mid-1937 in what was then the Palace. The hotel was built by the then mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, a fierce opponent of Jewish statehood who would later collaborate with Hitler’s Nazi Germany. The Haganah planted listening devices in chandeliers in the hotel, the TV report said, exploiting the expertise of two of its officers who had been involved in the building’s construction.

I’ve seen the Waldorf Astoria from the outside and it is indeed magnificent. Kol hakavod to the architects, investors and builders who recreated this hotel – this time to be used for the benefit of Israel and those who visit the country.

With all this food for thought I wish you all Shabbat Shalom, and a safe and peaceful weekend.

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1 Response to Good News Friday

  1. Reality says:

    What a great blog as always.I love starting the week with your blog,it gives me strength and hope to carry on ,in the hostile,dangerous situation we find ourselves currently.BY the way, a French court,of all things, has ruled that BDS is racist,and fine Palestinian,or Pro Palestinian, protestors, $14,500 fine! I’m pleasantly shocked!

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