News Digest — 5/9/19

Independence Day Awards And Flyover

On Thursday morning (9th), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Rivlin and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.Gen. Aviv Kochavi attended a ceremony awarding medals of excellence to 120 male and female soldiers chosen by their commanders for exceptional service to the Israel Defense Forces and the State of Israel.

The president said at the ceremony, “The Israeli spirit in my eyes is that there’s nothing that’s impossible.  I was born 10 years before the establishment of the state, and already then, there were difficult times. The creation of the IDF became an opportunity to create Uzi sub-machine guns, Merkava tanks, airplanes, industry, economy and cyber.  We develop everything.”

“Already for years now, we do the impossible and overcome together all the difficulties, building a Jewish and democratic home – democratic and Jewish – in the Land of our Fathers.  Today we celebrate doubly because Independence Day falls on May 9, in which we also celebrate the Victory Day over Nazi Germany.”

In praising the soldiers present, Lt.Gen Kochavi said, “Merit involves and begins with the most basic of things – basic battle conduct, the organization of a post, and constant practice and persistence in every mission.  Every one of these outstanding soldiers is a pioneer in his field, and each one of you moves the camp a small step forward.”

Also on Thursday morning (9th), the Israel Air Force launched its traditional flight to salute the State of Israel and its citizens.

The aerial salute passed over dozens of cities and towns, as well as performed air shows over air force bases open to the general public.  Israeli police helicopters and fire-fighting planes also joined the mass flyover.

This year, the festive flight made a special detour to honor southern residents who endured a weekend long rocket attack from Gaza-based terrorists last week.  



From Mourning To Joy: Israel Celebrates 71 Years Of Independence

With great fanfare and excitement, Israel opened celebrations of its 71st Independence Day, Wednesday evening (8th) at Mount Herzl.

The traditional torch-lighting ceremony included all the beloved performances and speeches that Israelis and Diaspora Jews wait for all year, under the slogan “Because of the spirit – the spirit of the People of Israel.”

“Against all odds we returned to our homeland,” Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein proclaimed at the opening ceremony on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara, members of the Knesset and hundreds of others.

Twelve torches were lit by Jews from Israel and the Diaspora, including a resident of the South, the head of the Pittsburgh Jewish Federation, and mothers of three kidnapped and murdered youths that led to Operation Protective Edge in 2014, and others.

The honorees represented a variety of fields, many epitomizing Israelis who turned their personal struggles into inspirational life stories.

Musical renditions of Israeli classics and fireworks entertained an excited audience who made it to Israel’s capital.  The ceremony concluded with a traditional flag-dance, performed by soldiers who trained for months to perfect the symbols and messages they formed.

Hundreds of celebrations were carried out across the country on Wednesday night (8th), but on Thursday (9th) most Israelis will flock to nature parks, beaches and other destinations to enjoy Barbeques.



Israel’s Independence Day – Much To Celebrate

As Israel brought in its 71st birthday with singing, dancing, torch-lighting and fireworks, the country has much to celebrate, particularly when viewed from a historical context in which generations of Jews dreamed of returning to the Land of Israel.

The first thing Israel can celebrate is its rising population, which enjoys one of the highest growth rates in the world.  The Jewish State just surpassed 9 million people, a statistic recently released by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics and widely reported in Israel’s press.

Seventy-four percent of the population, or 6.697 million people, are Jews while 1.890 million are Arab (20.9%).  Another 434,000 are of different religions or no religion (4.8%).

When Israel was established in 1948, the Jewish population stood at only 650,000 and the general population at 800,000.  The dramatic population growth is attributed to the large waves of aliyah, or immigration, in the 1950s and 1990s (which saw a major influx from the Soviet Union) and natural growth rates.  Since Israel’s birth, 3.2 million immigrants have arrived to the Jewish State.

As of Israel’s Independence Day last, the population has grown by 177,000 (a 2% increase).  During the year, 188,000 babies were born, 31,000 immigrants arrived and 47,000 people have passed away.

The U.S. is still home to the world’s largest Jewish population, but only by about 100,000-wide margin.  It’s clear that Israel will soon be able to boast the largest Jewish population on the planet.



Israel’s Booming Economy

Israel’s economic statistics are not too shabby.  “Israel is an international model of innovation,” said Shraga Brosh, President of the Manufacturers Association of Israel, with the publication of statistics showing the steep rise in the number of Israeli corporations since before the state was established.  

In 2017, there were 13,500 corporations registered in Israel employing 378,641 workers.  In 1936, there were 1,500 companies employing 28,000 workers.

In 1948, Israel’s industrial exports stood at 18 million.  In 2018, exports approached 60 billion.

The most exciting part of Israel’s economy is its high-tech sector.  The IVC Research Center, which analyzes data in Israeli high-tech, reports that between 1997-2018, Israeli exits totaled $152.06 billion.

Although somewhat ironically, the biggest exit last year was for a company founded in 1933.  Frutarom was acquired by International Flavors and Fragrances Inc. for $7.1 billion. It’s a flavor and ingredients maker with 70,000 products that it markets to 30,000 customers worldwide.

Another exit in 2018 that made a media splash was PepsiCo’s purchase of SodaStream for $3.2 billion.  The company which is well-known for its successful do-it-yourself carbonation system, is a source of national pride to israelis.

Meanwhile, unemployment is low and tourism is breaking records.  A record 4.1 million tourists visited Israel in 2018, up 14% from 2017, which was itself a record.  The numbers continue to go through the roof. In the first three months of 2019, 1.14 million tourists came to Israel, up 14% from the same first-quarter period last year.



Petah Tikva To Name City Square After Donald Trump

A square in the central city of Petah Tikva will be named after President Donald Trump, the city’s mayor announced this week.

Ramil Greenberg said Monday (6th) that he decided to name the square adjacent to City Hall for the U.S. president because of “his unreserved support for the State of Israel,” the Israeli daily newspaper Maariv reported.

The square will be dedicated officially on July 4, Greenberg said.  The mayor said he will invite the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, government ministers and public figures.

Last month, Netanyahu said he would name a new community on the Golan Heights after the president to thank him for recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the territory.

A week ago, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said in a tweet that a train stop in the Old City of Jerusalem would be named for Trump.