Good News Friday

Once again, despite the continued terror attacks all over Israel, Shabbat is approaching and we need to lift ourselves out of our sadness. To help cheer us up, here is my latest Good News Friday post:

We’ll start off with a slap at those who hate us: Take that BDS! Israeli startups raise over a billion for the third quarter in a row:

In their latest report, IVC-KPMG Survey revealed that Israeli startups have collectively raised $1.1 billion this quarter, just short of the $1.12 billion that they raised last quarter. In the first three quarters of 2015, 506 Israeli startups have collectively raised $3.2 billion, compared to $2.3 billion at this time last year.

Koby Simana, CEO of IVC Research Center commented that, “The third quarter of the year tends traditionally to be on the slow side for capital raising, so we expected to see a slight drop from the previous quarter’s records, yet capital raising is still going exceptionally strong, which is why this drop is marginal at best. We expect the fourth quarter trend to go up again, and believe 2015 may end with as much as $4.4 billion in total capital raising by high-tech companies.”

Yet more indicative than the aggregate amount raised was the number of large fundraising deals by startups of $20 million or more. 20 companies were able to raise such amounts in the third quarter, amounting to $703 million. These sizable transactions accounted for 64 percent of the total capital raised in the third quarter and reflected a 67 percent increase in large deals from the last quarter.

Every time I read statistics like these I marvel at the miracle that is Israel. When we look back a mere 50-60 years and see how Israel struggled in its early days, how citizens were reliant on gift parcels from their overseas relatives, and then to see not only our own economic situation but to compare ourselves to the struggling West, it is nothing short of miraculous.

On a similar theme of slapping down those who hate us, an Israeli Druze delegation slammed apartheid allegations against Israel:

Members of Israel’s Druze community on Monday firmly rejected those who accuse Israel of being an “apartheid state” that discriminates against its minorities.

The defense of the Jewish state was made by a delegation of Israeli Druze visiting New York this week for a conference hosted by the World Jewish Congress.

Members of the Israeli Druze delegation visiting New York

“We are a living example of how empty such claims [as apartheid] are,” said one member of the group, who pointed out how well the Druze community is integrated into Israeli society.

Tahani Sheikh, who recently finished her medical studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and is pursuing a career as a neurologist, said a look at Israel’s academic institutions — where Arabs make up a large percentage of the student body — is enough to grasp how false the accusations are. She cited figures showing that 50 percent of the students at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and more than 80 percent of Tel Aviv University’s dental school are Arabs.

These facts, she said, prove wrong those who say that “Israel is against minorities or not giving them equal rights.”

Another Israeli-Druze, Shuki Hasson, who formerly headed the foreign affairs office of the IDF Personnel Directorate, expressed a similar sentiment. He urged Israel’s detractors to “define apartheid and then take that definition and try to apply it to what’s going on in Israel.” He said none of the definitions of apartheid jibe with the current living situation for minorities in the Jewish state.

Another member of the community, Amir Halabi — who served in the IDF Paratroopers Brigade and is now a doctor — said that Palestinians who accuse Israel of apartheid need to understand why their current living situation is the way it is. He said it’s important to compare the condition of minorities inside Israel with that of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“When you describe to people who think that the checkpoints and the [security] wall were built because Israel wanted to become an apartheid state — and that without these checkpoints and without this wall, buses and restaurants will explode in Tel Aviv — immediately they start to think about it differently.”

The Druze are amongst Israel’s most loyal minorities and are highly valued members of society and many are high-ranking officers in the IDF. Kol hakavod to this delegation who represented their community and their country so proudly. If only all our citizens, of whichever religion, were as outspokenly loyal as them.

Flying back to the past now, in perfect timing for the upcoming month of Kislev, in which Hannukah falls, the 2,000 year old fortress of the Hanukkah villain Antiochus was uncovered – under a parking lot in the Old City of Jerusalem!

In what archaeologists are describing as “a solution to one of the great archaeological riddles in the history of Jerusalem,” researchers with the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Tuesday that they have found the remnants of a fortress used by the Seleucid Greek king Antiochus Epiphanes in his siege of Jerusalem in 168 BCE.

Remains of the Acra citadel and tower in the City of David in Jerusalem. (Assaf Peretz/courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority)

A section of fortification was discovered under the Givati parking lot in the City of David south of the Old City walls and the Temple Mount. The fortification is believed to have been part of a system of defenses known as the Acra fortress, built by Antiochus as he sought to quell a Jewish priestly rebellion centered on the Temple.

Antiochus is remembered in the Jewish tradition as the villain of the Hanukkah holiday who sought to ban Jewish religious rites, sparking the Maccabean revolt.

The Acra fortress was used by his Seleucids to oversee the Temple and maintain control over Jerusalem. The fortress was manned by Hellenized Jews, who many scholars believe were then engaged in a full-fledged civil war with traditionalist Jews represented by the Maccabees. Mercenaries paid by Antiochus rounded out the force.

The discovery of the Acra’s foundations ends over a century of intense speculation over its location, the archaeologists said Tuesday. The fortress is mentioned in the Book of Maccabees I and II, and by the Roman-era Jewish historian Josephus.

The archaeological record from the period of Seleucid Greek control of Jerusalem is scant, a fact that contributed to the difficulty in resolving the longstanding mystery.

The dig, which has been ongoing for the past 10 years, also uncovered lead sling stones, bronze arrowheads and stones shot by a ballista, an ancient catapult. The ballista stones were stamped with the image of a pitchfork, the symbol of Antiochus’s reign. Coins found at the spot were dated from the reign of aforementioned Antiochus IV Epiphanes to the reign of Antiochus VII Sidetes, who died in 129 BCE.

The finds were “silent remnants of the battles that took place there in the days of the Hasmoneans,” the priestly family that led the Maccabean rebellion, the archaeologists said.

The Acra fortress remained a symbolic and strategic foothold of Seleucid power in Jerusalem until it was finally conquered by Simon Maccabeus in 141 BCE, after a long siege during which the Hasmonean king essentially starved out the Greek defenders.

“This sensational discovery allows us for the first time to reconstruct the layout of settlement and the actual look of the city on the eve of the Hasmonean revolt,” the excavation’s directors Dr. Doron Ben-Ami, Yana Tchekhanovets and Salome Cohen were quoted as saying.

“The new archaeological finds testify to the establishment of a properly fortified stronghold constructed on the high bedrock cliff overlooking the steep slopes of the City of David hill,” they said. “This stronghold controlled all means of approach to the Temple, and cut the Temple off from the southern parts of the city. The many coins dating from the reign of Antiochus IV [Epiphanes] to that of Antiochus VII [Sidetes] and the large number of wine jars (amphorae) that were imported from the Aegean region to Jerusalem and were found at the site bear witness to the citadel’s age, as well as to the non-Jewish identity of its inhabitants.”

More than that, this discovery makes the existence of the Temple undeniable and puts paid to the “Temple denial” of the Palestinians who try to undermine Jewish history by claiming there never was a Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount.

Kol hakavod to all the archaeologists and researchers who never gave up during all their years of searching and whose persistence finally paid off with this remarkable discovery.  I really hope to visit it during Hannukah when the site opens to the public.

And to conclude, here’s a lovely heart-warming video of support from Israel from all around the world. The video is the brainchild of Israeli soldier Hananya Naftali who decided to find out if the hatred spewed out of the media on a daily basis has any basis in reality. In truth I am not really surprised. It’s just that, as Hananya says, the media and the haters make so much noise that they drown out the voices of our supporters.

So here are Israel’s supporters, loud and clear! Kol hakavod to Hananya Naftali on his initiative and certainly a huge thank you and kol hakavod to all those wonderful supporters of Israel.


And with this note of love and support I wish you all Chodesh Tov and a safe and peaceful Shabbat Shalom.

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2 Responses to Good News Friday

  1. Reality says:

    Thank you for this uplifting blog. We should have a good quiet week

  2. Pingback: Guest Post: A reader’s pictorial travelogue of his visit to Israel | Anne's Opinions

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