Israel in the News Mar/Apr 2018

Teva Unveils Plan to Lay Off Israeli Workers
Teva Pharmaceutical Industries—the world’s largest manufacturer of generic drugs and one of Israel’s largest employers—has announced its decision to lay off 1,750 of its Israeli employees and shut down two of its plants in Jerusalem due to financial trouble.

The announcement elicited a firestorm of protests across Israel. Teva workers skipped work, picketed outside the company’s medical plant, and barricaded themselves inside the factory, The Jerusalem Post reported.

“These people work around the clock [for Teva], giving their souls and lives. It’s very sad and very frustrating; this place is like family for us; we never dreamed we would be in a situation like this,” chairman of the Petah Tikvah workers union told The Times of Israel.

Teva accumulated its massive debt in 2016 after paying $40.5 billion for Allergan’s generic drug unit and faces increasing generic-drug competition. Israelis resent the fact that employees must now bear the consequences for the company’s bad financial management, reported.

Teva’s CEO Kare Schultz called the closing of the Jerusalem
plants “painful, but absolutely vital.” “In order for Teva to remain an Israeli company and continue to prosper in Israel, and to continue with our significant contribution to the Israeli economy, we must first and foremost save our company,” Schultz said.

In addition to firing one-fourth of its Israeli workforce, Teva plans to lay off 14,000 international employees. The layoffs and plant closings are part of Teva’s overall plan to decrease costs by $3 billion within two years. After the layoffs, Teva will be left with around 5,000 Israeli employees, the Post reported.

From news reports

Israel Emerges as Global Leader in Digital Currency
Israel has emerged as a global leader in the current financial technology revolution of digital currency, such as Bitcoin. The Jewish nation’s cyber capabilities, security proficiency, and wealth of entrepreneurial expertise provide the ideal foundation for blockchain technology projects, according to financial experts.

Blockchain is a distributed database where transactions made in digital currencies like Bitcoin are recorded chronologically and publicly, without the need of banks.

“It is overwhelming to watch the ‘start-up nation’ transform into the ‘crypto nation,’” said Nimrod May, chief marking officer of the Swiss-Israeli technology firm Sirin Labs. “Blockchain technologies and the promise behind decentralized services is a profound game-changing technology. It represents the combination of deep thinking, value creating and ‘seeing the light’ regarding the future direction of technology. These are all central to the Israeli technology ecosystem, which is why we are only at the beginning of the tidal rise of companies in Israel which are harnessing the potential of the blockchain,” said May.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu echoed May’s sentiments in a recent interview, where he highlighted the role banks currently play as mediators and how the decentralized technology at the core of digital currencies eliminates the need for such formal institutions. “Will the banks disappear in the future?” a reporter asked him.

“The answer is yes,” Netanyahu responded confidently. “Will it happen tomorrow? Will it happen because of bitcoin? That is the question, but bitcoin is certainly pushing in that direction.”

Several digital currency start-ups in Israel, such as Bancor and Stox, already have valuations in the tens and hundreds of millions, and hundreds more are expected to emerge in the coming years.

Trump Freezes Grant to Palestinians
U.S. President Donald Trump has decided to halt a $125 million grant to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) until the Palestinians agree to participate in peace negotiations with Israel.

The U.S. annually gives more than $600 million to the Palestinians, with about $375 million going directly to the UNRWA, reported. The president “doesn’t want to give any additional funding until the Palestinians agree to come back to the negotiation table,” U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said.

Trump tweeted, “We pay the Palestinians hundred[s] of millions of dollars a year and get no appreciation or respect….With the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”

The UNRWA, which is supposed to provide humanitarian assistance to Arab refugees, uses its resources to incite terror against Israel in its schools and to house Hamas rockets in its facilities.

From news reports

New Children’s Book Praises Intifada
Jewish parents in New York City have begun to speak out against a new children’s book called P is for Palestine, which praises the Arab-Palestinian Intifada as a “rising up for what is right” and indoctrinates children to hate Israel.

The book was released at the end of last year by Iranian-born author Dr. Golbarg Bashi, who said she wrote it to teach children the ABCs of Palestinian culture, Haaretz reported. “I is for Intifada, Arabic for rising up for what is right, if you are a kid or grownup!” the book reads. It shows an Arab-Palestinian father and son standing near barbed wire (symbolizing “Israeli oppression”) and flashing the V-for-victory sign over Israel, reported.

The Intifada, far from being a “rising up for what is right,” was a murderous rampage of Palestinians killing Jewish Israelis. Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch of Manhattan’s Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, one of the book’s chief critics, described it as “the glorification of the Palestinian Intifada—a cruel, murderous, and terroristic campaign that purposely targeted innocent Israelis, including children, in restaurants, buses, hospitals, schools, and shopping malls.”

From news reports

Other Countries Consider Moving Their Embassies
Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales has announced that Guatemala will follow the United States in moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The Central American leader and evangelical Christian said Guatemala also “supported the creation of the State of Israel.”

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said more than 10 nations have contacted it, expressing interest in relocating their embassies. Although the Foreign Ministry did not release any names, three of the countries are thought to be the Czech Republic, Philippines, and Romania. Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said many have a strong Christian base. Between 35 percent and 40 percent of Guatemala’s 16.6 million citizens reportedly are evangelical.

From news reports

New Cable Car System to be Built in Jerusalem
Israel’s Ministry of Tourism has introduced the idea of building a new cable car system to link Jerusalem’s key religious landmarks. Projected to be up and running by 2021, the system will take visitors from Jerusalem’s German Colony neighborhood to the Western Wall and then to the Mount of Olives.

Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin called the project “yet another boost to tourism” in the capital city. The initiative was officially unveiled in May, when the Israeli cabinet held a special session in the Western Wall tunnels to mark the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem. Officials project the system will cost around $56 million.

Israeli Security Forces Uncover Hamas Terror Cell
Israeli security forces recently uncovered a Hamas terror cell intended for kidnapping local Jewish residents from bus stops in Samaria. The cell’s leader, 26-year-old Muad Ashtiyah from the village of Tel near Nablus, had acquired weapons and recruited terrorists Mahmoud Ramadan and Ahman Ramadan, both 19, to assist with the kidnappings.

The terrorists had collected intelligence on the main routes in the area and planned to disguise themselves as Jews to lure potential victims into entering their vehicle. Israel’s Shin Bet security agency seized several weapons from the cell, including a pistol, stun gun, and pepper spray.

More Ancient Jewish Artifacts Found in Israel
The Israel Antiquities Authority recently revealed two new archaeological discoveries dating back to the ancient Jewish kingdoms of Israel.

One discovery included an ancient inscription of a seven-branched menorah on a large stone slab found in the northern Israeli city of Tiberias. According to archaeologists, the basalt block featuring the engraving was originally used as a door to a Jewish tomb between the second and fourth centuries BC.

The second finding was a 2,200-year-old clay oil lamp dating back to the time when Judah Maccabee fought the Greek ruler Antiochus Epiphanes. A mother and her 7-year-old daughter found the lamp during a hike in Israel’s Beit She’an Valley. Archaeologists said the lamp’s discovery attests to the activity that existed in the valley during the Hellenistic period.

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