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Thursday, 27 April 2017

Ancient menorah tablet shows ‘clear Jewish presence’ in Caesarea

The Land of Israel constantly reveals hidden treasures, testifying to its rich history and the Jewish People’s deep and long-lasting ties to its land. This time, archaeologists discovered an extraordinary 1,500-year-old mother-of-pearl tablet etched with a menorah in the ancient town of Caesarea.

Israeli archaeologists announced Wednesday the discovery of a 1,500-year-old mother-of-pearl tablet etched with a menorah in the ancient town of Caesarea.

Israel Antiques Authority (IAA) archaeologist Peter Gendelman said the tablet, dating back to the late Roman-Byzantine period of the 4th or 5th centuries CE, “points to clear Jewish presence at Caesarea during this period.”

Archaeologists speculate the pearl menorah tablet was likely part of a structure used to hold a Torah scroll. The slab was uncovered near the temple devoted to Augustus Caesar, constructed by King Herod in the 1st century BCE.

The discovery was made in early April, a few days before Passover, and was publicized as part of a press conference Wednesday regarding a new $30 million renovation project in Caesarea.

“This enormous project has unprecedented archaeological significance…The ancient Jewish past of [Caesarea], of Rabbi Akiva and the Ten Martyrs, is revealed before our very eyes,” said Guy Swersky, vice chairman of the Rothschild Foundation, which funds the renovations.

Current archaeological excavations in Caesarea, which represent a continuation of excavations from the 1990s, have uncovered ancient artifacts and ruins dating back to the time of King Herod, 37–4 BCE, until the Crusader period, 1095-1291 CE.

The artifact is the first archaeological discovery of its kind made from mother-of-pearl, a smooth and shiny substance forming the inner layer of the shell of some mollusks.

During the Byzantine period, in the 3rd century, the city was chiefly a commercial center. Situated on the historic land bridge between Europe, Asia and Africa, Caesarea served as a relying point for trade coming in-land from the Mediterranean Sea and for export from the Far and Middle East to Europe.

Over the coming centuries, the city knew many lords and owners, but it did not return to its early splendor.

Following the Muslim conquest in the 7th century, the city had an Arab majority until the Crusader conquest and renovation of the city. The city was again abandoned after the Mamluk conquest.

Caesarea laid in ruins until the nineteenth century, when the village of Qisarya, the Arabic name for Caesarea, was established in 1884 by Bosniaks, immigrants from Bosnia, who built a small fishing village on the ruins of the Crusader fortress on the coast.

By: and World Israel News Staff

During the Byzantine period, in the 3rd century, the city was chiefly a commercial center. Situated on the historic land bridge between Europe, Asia and Africa, Caesarea served as a relying point for trade coming in-land from the Mediterranean Sea and for export from the Far and Middle East to Europe.

Over the coming centuries, the city knew many lords and owners, but it did not return to its early splendor.

Following the Muslim conquest in the 7th century, the city had an Arab majority until the Crusader conquest and renovation of the city. The city was again abandoned after the Mamluk conquest.

Caesarea laid in ruins until the nineteenth century, when the village of Qisarya, the Arabic name for Caesarea, was established in 1884 by Bosniaks, immigrants from Bosnia, who built a small fishing village on the ruins of the Crusader fortress on the coast.

By: and World Israel News Staff

Where Are The Safest States For Jews?

The Anti-Defamation League’s annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents was released on Monday, and came with some saddening statistics.
Incidents spiked by one-third in 2016, with more than 1,200 reported acts of vandalism, harassment and assault. Things got even worse this year, with anti-Semitic events spiking 86 percent in 2017’s first quarter.
Such hate crimes happened in most states, but were most common in areas with large Jewish populations — California had 211 incidents in 2016 and 87 in the new year’s first three months, with New York, New Jersey, Florida and Massachusetts also with more than 100 incidents last year.
Five states came away with a perfect record in both 2016 and 2017: Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota and West Virginia.
Of course, these states have some of the smallest Jewish populations in the country: Brandeis University’s American Jewish Population Project estimates that the combined Jewish population of those five states is 26,600 — which means they could only half fill Yankee Stadium.
Contact Aiden Pink at or on Twitter at @aidenpink.

Israel's gas can be transferred to Turkey in 2-3 years

Within 2-3 years, Israeli natural gas can be carried to Turkey, Israeli official said on Thursday
The best option of three to carry Israel's natural gas to Europe is the route from Turkey to Europe which is possible within two to three years, according to the Director General of the Ministry of National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Resources of Israel on Thursday.
During the session entitled Boosting Regional Energy Partnerships and Trade in the Eastern Mediterranean the negotiations, director general Shaul Meridor confirmed Israel's large-scale natural gas discoveries in recent years, which need to be transported to European markets.
"To carry natural gas to Europe, there are three routes for consideration by the state of Israel, the Turkish route, the eastern route and through LNG terminals in Egypt," he explained, and added that the Turkish option is the best.
"Natural gas can be carried and used in Turkey's domestic market as well as in neighboring countries," he said. 
Deputy Undersecretary of Turkey's Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources Alparslan Bayraktar noted that three main principles should be considered in any new gas development project in the Eastern Mediterranean 
These principles that govern gas transmission assert that any project should be mutually beneficial to all concerned, that Turkey's security of supply should be taken into account and lastly security of supply for Europe is achieved. 
He also said that peace, prosperity and stability in the region from Israel to Turkey, through Turkey to Europe is possible with the proposed gas projects.
Bayraktar reiterated the key issues in Turkey's energy policy, "security of supply, localization and the expansion of a predictable energy market structure."
He added that Turkey if firstly aiming to meet the challenge of growing demand and secondly is addressing its reliance on imported resources.
"According to International Energy Agency data, Turkey is facing fast growing energy demand in the medium and long run," he said, adding that 70 percent of energy resources are imported which is causing  an account deficit in the economy. 
He explained that to overcome this over-dependence on imports, the country is actively seeking solutions through the use of alternative domestic resources, mainly coal and renewables.
Over the last decade, Turkey has made strides to address growing energy demand through gas infrastructure investments including the launch of Turkey's first Floating Storage Regasification Unit, the expansion of the LNG infrastructure network, the development of nuclear power, amendments to energy regulations and now through diversification by proposing the development and supply of East Mediterranean gas, Bayraktar explained. 
On Oct. 13 last year, Israel's Energy minister visited Istanbul to attend the World Energy Congress 2016, marking the first visit by Israel after several years.
Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Albayrak and his Israeli counterpart agreed then to enter talks to discuss a project to allow the transmission of natural gas from Israeli economic waters through Turkey and onto Europe.
Turkish and Israeli companies are currently discussing a possible gas pipeline to be built between Israel and Turkey to transport natural gas supplies from the Leviathan gas field in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Israel to Europe.

Top Red Cross Official in Israel: “There Is No Apartheid Here”

The International Committee of the Red Cross’ (ICRC) representative to Israel and the Palestinian Authority affirmed this week that Israel neither practices apartheid nor carries out extrajudicial killings.
In an interview with Ynet, Jacques De Maio dismissed the two controversial charges, noting that “in contrast to the security systems in many countries, including Western ones, Israel allows us rapid access to senior military, prison and other security services.”
“We have a productive, efficient and professional dialogue with them,” he added. “We checked with them the question of the shooting of perpetrators of terror attacks, and we came to the unequivocal conclusion that there are no shoot to kill orders of suspects by IDF, as some political elements tried to convince us. Rules of engagement have not changed, and became even stricter.”
De Maio explained that when individual soldiers act in violation of IDF guidelines, the ICRC reports the activity and usually receives a “substantive” response from authorities. “So we rejected the accusation, and immediately there were those who claimed that we were whitewashing IDF war crimes and serving the Zionists,” he said.
In response to accusations that Israel practices apartheid, De Maio observed that “the Red Cross was very familiar with the regime that prevailed in South Africa during the apartheid period, and we are responding to all those who raise their claim of apartheid against Israel: No, there is no apartheid here, no regime of superiority of race, of denial of basic human rights to a group of people because of their alleged racial inferiority.”
“There is a bloody national conflict, whose most prominent and tragic characteristic is its continuation over the years, decades-long, and there is a state of occupation. Not apartheid,” he stressed.
Nkululeko Nkosi, a South African youth leader, strongly rebuked the charge that Israel is an apartheid state earlier this month and called on activists to stop appropriating the term when describing its conflict with the Palestinians.
Benjamin Pogrund, an activist who was jailed for opposing the apartheid regime in South Africa, wrote in The New York Times last month that Israel “is nothing like South Africa before 1994. Those who accuse Israel of apartheid — some even say, ‘worse than apartheid’ — have forgotten what actual apartheid was, or are ignorant, or malevolent.”
“South African apartheid rigidly enforced racial laws,” Pogrund observed. “Israel is not remotely comparable. Yet the members of the B.D.S. movement are not stupid. For them to propagate this analogy in the name of human rights is cynical and manipulative. It reveals their true attitude toward Jews and the Jewish state. Their aims would eliminate Israel. That is what’s at stake when we allow the apartheid comparison.”
South African human rights activist Tshediso Mangope drew upon the history of his country in order to refute inaccurate portrayals of Israel, such as that it is an apartheid state, in a December 2016 article in The Tower Magazine.
Jews, Mangope noted, are not foreign conquerors of Israel, but rather its indigenous people; no one could reasonably argue that “returning to your ancestral homeland from whence you were displaced makes you a settler.” He also pointed out that while black South Africans had support from surrounding nations in their struggle, Israeli Jews historically have been shunned by their Arab neighbors, most of whom at some point have “vowed to wipe Israel off the map.”
While the central goal of black South African activists was peaceful coexistence, “most Palestinians refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist,” and even “essentially supported the call for the genocide of Jewish people,” Mangope noted. He concluded by writing that “the only way to protect Jewish people from all the hardships they have suffered the world over is to defend their inalienable right to self-determination” in a Jewish state.
Maj. Alaa Waheeb, the highest ranking Muslim officer in the IDF, wrote an op-ed in the Jewish News in March 2016 expressing pride in the role he plays in Israeli society. He recounted being on a speaking tour of the United Kingdom with a Jewish medic: “We were the Muslim who protects Jewish lives, and the Jew who saves Muslim lives. There’s only one country in the Middle East that could produce a couple like that – and it sure as hell isn’t an apartheid state.”
[Photo: TAUVOD / YouTube ]

Trump expected to visit Israel May 22

If it takes place, the visit will be part of the US president's first foreign tour.

Even before official confirmation by the White House of the expected visit to Israel by US President Donald Trump in late May, the champagne bottles are already being readied in Jerusalem, Walla! News reports. The likely date is May 22. Israelis had to wait five years to greet the previous president, while watching him tour other capitals around the world, including nearby ones, without even a short trip to the Holy Land.
Like Trump, Obama also visited the Middle East less than six months after taking office, but he skipped visiting Jerusalem, and the highlight of his first journey in 2009 was his speech in Cairo, in which he held out an olive branch to the Muslim world. Eight years later, Trump is likely to give Israelis a compensatory experience and honor them with his visit, accompanied by his photogenic family on their first overseas trip from the White House.
An official US delegation for coordinating the logistical aspects of the visit landed in Israel today, but informed sources emphasized yesterday that the visit was not yet definite. The US administration confirmed that the possibility of a visit to Israel was being considered, but no final confirmation has been issued. Even if the visit does not materialize, however, Trump's message is clear and emphatic: "I am not Obama."
In late May, the time of his planned visit to Israel, Trump will cross the borders of the US for the first time since being sworn in as president last January. During the corresponding period of his term in office eight years ago, Obama had already visited nine countries, including Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Turkey, Iraq, and Mexico. When he had just taken office, Obama was a sought-after guest for all the leaders of close US allies in the world - something that is not the case with Trump. Israel is the perfect destination for Trump to launch his globetrotting: an ally with a friendly administration that is sure to embrace him warmly.
Before the red carpet is rolled out at Ben Gurion Airport, Trump has a dramatic meeting next week, and the possibility that a final decision about the visit will come only after this meeting cannot be excluded. Jerusalem is tensely following the preparations for the arrival of Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas at the White House on Wednesday and the first direct meeting between him and the new president. Trump's meeting with Abbas is the last in a series of meetings conducted with all the leaders in the region in recent months: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, King Abdullah, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammad bin-Salman. The meetings took place in parallel  with the intensive work of US Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt.
Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - - on April 27, 2017
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2017

Israel Thwarts Major Cyber Attack Believed to Have Been Launched by Foreign Government

Israel’s National Cyber Defense Authority on Wednesday revealed that it successfully prevented a major cyber attack on 120 private and public institutions last week.
The attack targeted academic institutions, research and development and advanced technological institutions in a range of fields, including medicine. Israel’s defense establishment was not a target. The cyber authorities of the US and UK have been notified of the incident, which some fear was undertaken on behalf of a foreign government, possibly Iran.
According to the Cyber Authority, the hackers impersonated legitimate organisations and were able to forge a reliable company’s security certificates. Rafi Franco, senior official at the Cyber Authority, called the attack “sophisticated,” with the malware arriving in infected Microsoft Word files attached to emails from an authentic academic institution. Anti-virus software failed to detect the threat.
In another cyber security development, the international hacker group Anonymous announced that it was beginning a cyber attack operation against Israel this month. The list of potential targets that Anonymous named included government websites, such as the Finance Ministry, IDF, Prime Minister’s Office and the Health Ministry, as well as the websites of the Mossad and the Knesset. News websites, sports pages, and the search engine Google were also targeted.
(via BICOM)
[Photo: BICOM ]

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Jewish students are turning their backs on British universities. Who can blame them?

Universities up and down the land are clambering to recruit students in time for the start of the new academic year. International students – those from outside the EU – are the most lucrative market, not least because there are no legal restrictions on the fees that they can be charged; top universities, such as Oxford, can charge as much as £23,000 a year for some courses. But there are also sound academic reasons why we should recruit internationally. We want our campuses – which are places of education as well as training – to be centres of social, religious and ethnic diversity. We also want, of course, to recruit the best students. Yet the signs are that the sector is failing in its mission to make campuses as cosmopolitan as possible. And students from Israel, in particular, appear to be increasingly turning away from British universities.
Over the past six years, the number of Israeli-domiciled undergraduates and postgraduates enrolled on British university courses has fallen by almost a third. In the academic year 2015-16, there were 420 such students, Jewish News reported; but in 2007-8, there were 620. And according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the biggest fall in these numbers has taken place since 2010-11, when there were 595 such students. While among first-year students, the number of Israelis has fallen from 260 to just 200 over this eight-year period.
It is, unfortunately, not difficult to explain this decline. No less an authority than the UK’s current ambassador to Israel, David Quarrey, has admitted that some Israelis are ‘probably deterred’ from applying to study in the UK by well-documented reports of verbal and even physical harassment of Israelis on some of our campuses. Yesterday, the Times reported that senior members of the National Union of Students were facing accusations of anti-Semitism after a series of tasteless social media posts. Holocaust denial leaflets have appeared at some universities. And earlier this year, a swastika and a ‘Rights for Whites’ sign was discovered in a halls of residence at Exeter University. There were also reports from the same university suggesting that one student had worn a T-shirt saying ‘the Holocaust was a good time’ to a sports club social event. But the problem is deeper than these worrying events alone, because it’s not just Israelis who are threatened or who feel threatened on campus: it’s Jews as a whole.
At some of our campuses, Jewish students born in the UK – and occasionally Jewish staff – are subject to similar harassment, often thinly and disingenuously disguised as anti-Zionism. It was against the backdrop of this grim reality that universities minister Jo Johnson recently wrote to vice-chancellors. In his letter, ‘Tackling anti-Semitism on campus’, he warned that the government expected universities ‘to swiftly address hate crime, including any antisemitic incidents that are reported’. Such a letter is without precedent. It remains to be seen whether it will have the desired effect.

Shakira Martin: The new NUS President who's open to Israel and claims she's more radical than Corbyn

After all the controversy surrounding Malia Bouattia, the accusations of anti-semitism and outright racism, NUS members would be forgiven for wanting a fresh start.
With the election of Shakira Martin to president, it's safe to say they've got that - and then some.
Martin sensationally unseated Bouattia in the presidential election today (April 26), winning 56% of the vote in what represents a huge turn-up for the books. Many will now be turning to Martin and asking what she will do as president, and it's safe to say her regime won't be dull.
While Bouattia has regularly been accused of anti-semitism due to a series of incendiary remarks, notably her description of Birmingham University as a 'Zionist outpost,' Martin has previously pledged to keep an open mind on Israel, no matter how much criticism she receives.
Earlier this year she accepted a trip to Israel with the Union of Jewish Students, saying she wanted to see both Israeli and Palestinian sides (although the Facebook post in which she announced she had accepted this invitation appears to have been taken down in light of her election victory).
Martin is certainly no stranger to adversity and tough decisions. Born in Lewisham to a Jamaican family and raised by a single mum, she moved into shared council accommodation just two weeks after she turned 16. She enrolled in a series of different courses, and now admits she couriered drugs to get some money. In fact she says this experience has given her crucial life skills and helped make her the person she is.
She eventually landed a job at a doctor’s surgery in Camberwcll, and decided she would go for the job of practice manager, finding she was enjoying the job she had – only to be told she could rise to the position in about 20-30 years. Instead of being deterred or disheartened, Martin enrolled in a leadership and management course and saw ithrough to the end, collecting the accolade of student of the year along the way.
More college courses followed, and it was in this time Martin became a parent. She will be juggling her role as NUS president will the responsibility of raising two daughters as a single mum.
One day, she saw a poster for the election of a woman officer for the student union. Feeling empowered, she went for the position and won it. This was a beginning of a rise up the ladder of the union, being elected to the presidency the following year.
Notably in this time, she had an encounter with then-business secretary Dr. Vince Cable, and posed him a question about college representation that won her praise from many members. What eventually followed was the election to the vice-presidency of Further Education (FE) in the NUS in 2014, and in this role her lobbying helped secure a £500m investment in FE last month. It was also in this time she began working with Cable on a research project on how major reforms would impact higher education, which will be published this autumn.
She has said that her fall into politics was “accidental”, but she now appears to be a woman on a mission, committed to students' rights and unafraid of gender or racial stereotypes. On the eve of the presidential election, she told the Guardian that Jeremy Corbyn paled in comparison to her when it came to radical policies - an indication that she may pursue some very eye-catching campaigns while NUS leader. 
One of the most pressing, and high-profile items in her in-tray will be the future of international students. The Government has been heavily criticised for failing to nail down its position on migrants living in the UK, a stance which obviously impinges on students from overseas. Martin has made it clear she will fight for the rights of international students, doing everything in her power to ensure the Government protects them in the upcoming Brexit negotiations. So don't be surprised to see her talking to Andrew Neil or Adam Boulton soon.
After all the name-calling and recrimination of the Bouattia era, the NUS has wiped the slate clean. And its new leader seems well-equipped to drag the body into a brighter, more productive period.


Israel vs Holocaust survivor Ilana

Ilana Ben Yaakov's children had to remove her from assisted living housing because of unending disputes with the state, until Yair Lapid stepped in.

The State Comptroller's report published last week painted a depressing picture of how Israel treats Holocaust survivors living in it who still insist, for some reasons, on making demands, on consuming and, in general, on living, 72 years after the end of WWII.
According to the report, as of January 2017, 158,000 Holocaust survivors still live in Israel, as well as 56,000 people whom the government has recognized as victims of anti-Semitism and racist persecution during WWII. The State Comptroller's report finds that their average age is 85, and that they are dying at the rate of 1,000 per month - a rate projected to increase in the coming years.
The youngest Holocaust victims, those born in 1945, months or days before the horrors ended and the final collapse of the Third Reich, will be 85 in 2030, should they live that long. Actually, it is mainly Holocaust children who are living among us – people born in 1930 or later, who were less than 15 years old when the horrors were taking place. These survivors experienced the psychological damage when they were still small, childish, innocent, and vulnerable. Even thousands of psychologists, psychiatric drugs, and a solicitous national establishment will never heal them.
According to the State Comptroller, however, the Israeli establishment does not even bother to show a smiling face to Holocaust survivors, offer them a hand, or embrace them. In 2014-2016, according to the report, the state allocated NIS 100 million to Holocaust survivors, but the Ministry of Labor, Welfare, and Social Services has not even bothered to devise a plan for distributing the money, and only NIS 4 million reached the survivors. Many of them lack basic nutrition, let alone decent housing, medical and nursing aid, and in general, a dignified life.
Today, Holocaust Day, I have chosen not to repeat the story of indifferent clerks, with rebukes and heartrending descriptions. Perhaps it is preferable this time to relate just one story, in no way unique, of a Holocaust survivor who lived here among us, before she died 18 months ago. I refer to the late Ilana Ben Yaakov (Morgernstern), who lived in Hadera, mother of Yaakov Ben Yaakov, an engineer at Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) (TASE: ARSP.B1) living in Shiloh.
"Mother was born in Romania in 1933 in a village in Moldova," her son says. "When she was a child, she and her family were expelled from their home and wandered to the city of Iasi (Jassy), 20-30 kilometers away."
In 1941, when she was eight year old, Ben Yaakov's mother experienced a life-changing event: an especially cruel and murderous pogrom, known to history as the Iasi pogrom. Romanian Fascist leader Ion Antonescu, who collaborated with the Nazis, guided and executed the pogrom a few days after the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, in a despicable effort to appease the side he thought would win.
Estimates of the number of Jews killed in the pogrom range from 13,000 to 20,000. The violence was unprecedented and especially hideous. Ben Yaakov's mother and her family hid in an attic overlooking the city square. From there, she looked down and saw Romanian soldiers putting Jews into lines and shooting them. Other soldiers went from house to house looking for Jews. At one stage, they also came to the house in which her family was hiding, until she heard a Romanian officer say, "There's no one here," and their lives were saved.
She then underwent a nightmare of unending starvation and fear. In one case, a soldier identified her as a Jew and began chasing her. She, a little girl, ran for her life, and was seriously injured in her leg. "My mother told me that they stitched her leg with a needle and thread meant for clothes," Ben Yaakov says, "because that was all they had."
No pension and little savings for the Ben Yaakov family
Many years later, in Israel, after raising a fine family and a career as a private kindergarten teacher, Ilana, who was recognized as a Holocaust survivor, entered assisted living housing with no pension and dwindling family savings. Yaakov, one of her sons, battled to the best of his ability to make her final years dignified and reasonably comfortable.
"Her health deteriorated in several respects," he remembers. "She accumulated a higher and higher proportion of disability, but then I discovered that the Ministry of Finance Holocaust Survivors Rights Authority was simply doing everything to make sure her disability would not exceed 70%, and would remain even at 69.7%, so that they wouldn't have to pay her more money.
"I wrote them letter after letter, and fought over fractions of a percent. In the end, she got NIS 7,500 a month, and that was more or less enough." Ilana lived several years in assisted living housing in Jerusalem, and everything appeared uneventful. Then, however, she suffered a severe stroke that left her in need of nursing care. Her son says, "The assisted housing facility told us they couldn't go on taking care of her in her condition, and that she had to move to a nursing institution. The problem is that at the time, these institutions cost at least NIS 13,000 a month, and we had NIS 7,500. My mother had no pension, and her husband, who worked at a bank, died almost a decade before her. The savings he left her had been almost completely used up. We didn't know what to do."
Ben Yaakov, who has 10 children, had to sell his parents' apartment in Hadera, and even that did not cover the expenses. After repeated correspondence, he and his brother went to the National Insurance Institute branch in Hadera, where one of the clerks told them that they would have to supply the missing NIS 5,500 a month for their mother's needs. "We eventually had to remove her from the assisted living housing in Jerusalem because of her medical state," he says.
"Globes": Where did you send her?
Yaakov Ben Yaakov: "To an assisted living institution in Beer Sheva… We were lucky, because we knew the manager there, and he offered to take my mother until all the mess with the state could be solved. Despite the distance, we didn't think twice."
Ben Yaakov says that once the state recognizes someone as a Holocaust survivor and grants them the benefits for it, it in effect withdraws all the other money given them up until then: National Insurance Institute payments, widow/er's pension, hours allocated for nursing treatment, etc.
"I didn't know what to do," he says. "I wrote dozens of letters to MKs and ministers, and nothing helped. It went on that way, until I sent a letter to Yair Lapid, who was Minister of Finance at the time, and who apparently cares a lot about Holocaust survivors. All of a sudden, less than a month after I sent him the letter, the same clerk from the National Insurance Institute in Hadera called me and said, 'Mr. Ben Yaakov, what's the problem? Pay NIS 7,500 a month, and we'll pay and take care of all the rest.' It was a miracle for me, but what about the other families of Holocaust survivors? Why should they have to go on fighting for every shekel?"
The Ministry of Finance said in response, "We do not know of the cases described. We will be glad to receive additional particulars and examine the claims. We note that some of the complaints involve matters for which the National Insurance Institute and Claims Committee are responsible, not the Holocaust Survivors Rights Authority."
Note that the Ministry of Finance's spokeswomen insisted on making this laconic and general response, because they did not receive the deceased's ID number, even though they had her first and last name, maiden name, and the name of one of her sons - particulars that are enough to obtain particulars about her in any simple Google search, but not enough to provide a specific response. That is unfortunate.
"Someone who doesn't have persistent children gets nothing"
Many Holocaust survivors now live in retirement homes and assisted living housing, which are quite costly. Almost all of them are bitter about the policy of the Ministry of Finance and its clerks, which has been going on for generations. Here are some complaints from Holocaust survivors in retirement homes in Tel Aviv who preferred to remain anonymous.
"The Ministry of Finance issues a pretty expensive-looking booklet in color every year. The booklet lists all the wonderful things that the Ministry of Finance offers. There is a problem, however: none of the benefits they offer comes easily. You have to write letters, pass committees, and in most cases, you are refused, and have to appeal. Someone who doesn't have persistent children fighting for him gives up and gets nothing. Someone who fights to get what he's entitled to eventually gets the benefits."
"There are dozens of organizations for helping Holocaust survivors. All of them have nice addresses, with dozens of employees and big salaries, but when you call and ask them for help, you're told, 'There's no money. It's all used up'."
"Two years ago, Germany offered a one-time €2,500 payment to Holocaust children. They said that anyone born after 1928 was entitled to it if he or she was in a concentration camp, ghetto, or in hiding. Logic says that if the Ministry of Finance has already recognized you as a survivor, you meet the conditions, but it's not like that. The money sat there for 18 months, during which the euro plunged, and many survivors who were definitely entitled were refused."
Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - - on April 24, 2017
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2017

"After 22 years, I'm still recognized as Yitzhak Rabin's son"

After raising $150 million in China for marine investment fund Blueconomy Center, Yuval Rabin is looking for startups able to make profits from the sea.

It is not always easy for Yuval Rabin to bear his name, mostly due to the event that echoed around the world. "I'm 62, it will soon be 22 years since the murder, and when I get into a taxi, I'm still recognized as his son. Both before and after the murder, there were long periods of time in which it was better for me to live outside Israel with some degree of anonymity. It's not that somebody says, 'You look familiar to me' everywhere I go. We're all people, and everyone has his moments. Being nice to everyone who thinks he knows you and is trying to remember where he remembers you from isn't always easy. On the other hand, you have to be pleasant."
Even Rabin, however, has to admit that his name frequently helps open doors and get close to people. For example, he and his partner, old high-tech warhorse Shalom Daskal, have now completed the technical details for raising $150 million from Chinese governmental agencies for the venture capital fund they founded. "I have to say that it's amazing how the name Rabin speaks to them," he admits. "I've been to China four times in the past year, and each time, I encounter people who appreciate, know, and are familiar with the story, and these aren't necessarily people who were briefed before the meeting with us."
"Globes": So you could say that your father's name helps you?
Yuval Rabin: "I assume it does no harm."
The ambivalence of this half burden, half asset permeates Yuval Rabin's conversation. On the one hand, it can be assumed that it has constituted a point in his favor in his various business ventures, in the invitations he received to joint ventures and give them some of his family luster. On the other hand, the name puts him in an impossibly strong spotlight, a target for gossip over trouble, or economic problem he encounters, for which others would receive a short mention in the press, if that.
In China, with its culture of great respect for heritage, the name Yitzhak Rabin is associated not only with his aspiration for peace and the heavy price it exacted, but the fact that "My father was the first prime minister to visit China. Although diplomatic relations between Israel and China were instituted already when Yitzhak Shamir was prime minister, the realization and development of these relations took place during my father's term," Rabin says.
"They regard Yitzhak Rabin as the founder of relations between China and Israel," adds Daskal, who among other things was CEO and a partner in Formula Computer Technologies (Matrix IT Ltd. (TASE:MTRX), Sapiens International NV (Nasdaq: SPNS; TASE: SPNS) VP Europe, and CEO of Emultek and Shellcase. "Then, when we meet and his name is mentioned, it's mentioned in the context of the establishment of relations, and they give it a lot of respect. That's the help that the name gives us, a continuation of the heritage, because the heritage proved that it's possible to do business, and that it was the right decision."
Is that what you had in mind when you proposed that Yuval join the fund?
Daskal: "No. We're simply used to working together. He takes the technological side and goes deeply into all the details, because he likes it and is good at it, and I take care of the business side. As soon as I realized that we needed a partner in the business to assess the technologies, it was clear to me that it would be Yuval, and when I offered him the job, he accepted immediately."
The fund of Shandong Province
Rabin and Daskal have been working for a year on establishing the fund. They still have no income from it, because it is not yet producing any profits or management fees. For Rabin, who is still in the process of repaying debts, although nearing the end of it, it was not an easy matter. "This is our problem," Rabin says, and Daskal adds, "Each of us is living on his savings, and some of the funding for the operational parts comes from me, but both of us, and later the three of us (Jacob Kaplan was added to the fund as a third partner and financial manager) decided that it would that way until the fund starts yielding income."
The fund itself was initiated by Daskal, whose son completed marine science studies at Ruppin Academic Center, and who "tried to understand what someone with a BA could do," Rabin remembers. What he found out was that startups related to the sea, which they call the blue economy, after which they named the fund they founded, had no special place from which they could raise money. As a result, they had to pursue general venture capital funds or funds dealing in biotech.
On the other hand, there is money on the table waiting for suitable investments. In January, the current Chinese government began a five-year program aimed at moving China from the traditionally dominant manufacturing economy - the world's sweatshops - towards a knowledge economy. "We singled out targets for raising money," Rabin says. "We did two or three roadshows, and we succeeded. The idea was apparently just right, and fitted in well with the Chinese idea."
The fund's main investor is Shandong Province, which has the most marine activity in China and provides 60% of the country's marine food. In addition to investing in startups, the fund will open a Chinese company, with local cooperation, for each company in the fund's portfolio. The company will market and commercialize products. Up until now, they have examined about 100 companies, presented more than 10 companies to the Chinese partners, and intend to close the first two or three investments within three months.
"This is the first time that the Chinese government has invested in this type of fund model - totally backed and carried out by government and governmental agencies," Daskal says. "They studied the Yozma Venture Capital model very well (the Israeli government venture capital fund that got the Israeli high-tech industry started at the time), and adopted and perfected it in order to promote their high-tech industry. That's what's special about our fund. We're the first ones, and they intend to use this model for other funds."
What are you offering Israeli startups, other than capital?
Rabin: "The model we're offering first of all provides them with protection, because the main thing that Israel companies are concerned about in China is their intellectual property. But China today is defining itself as a knowledge-based and value-added economy, and that has generated a complete change with respect to intellectual property and copyright violations. Furthermore, the very fact that we are partners with government agencies provides additional protection. Of course, we also offer an Israeli company access to the world's largest market, where penetration costs are enormous. In this context, I have to express my appreciation for the representatives of the economic department in the embassy in China for the real help they give Israeli businesspeople."
From the IDF Central Data Processing Unit to Germany and the US
The night of November 5, 1995, when Yuval Rabin's father was murdered, changed the life of the nation and Yuval Rabin's own life. Even before then, however, it is a little surprising to hear him describe his childhood as the son of the IDF Chief of Staff in the Six-Day War, the Israeli Ambassador to the US, and the prime minister in the 1970s as "fairly standard, a childhood in Tzahala, except for three and a half years when we lived in the US, when my father was the ambassador there."
During his army services, Yuval Rabin joined the IDF Central Data Processing Unit (Mamram), but did not do so in the usual way - he joined only after serving three and a half years in the Armored Corps. He first met Daskal at Mamram: they both handled the salary calculation system – Daskal took care of the army system, and Rabin handled the Prime Minister's Office system and the rest of "those classified things," as he puts it.
Rabin then worked for four and a half years at the Digital computer company, then the second largest in Israel, after which he combined with many friends from his days at Mamram, including Daskal, in Sapiens International NV (Nasdaq: SPNS; TASE: SPNS). Rabin went to work in Germany for two years, during which the flagship project was working with a government company named Deutsche Airbus, whose main function was to hold the government's shares in the German aviation industry. "To put it less politely, it was the instrument that Germany used to give crazy subsidies to this industry.
"Every stereotype I had about Germans was destroyed then," he adds. "They were disorderly, uncreative, and unproductive. Actually, it was a collection of wastrels, and with our impudence, we burrowed our way in and did groundbreaking things, which generated a lot of revenue for Sapiens at the time."
Yuval Rabin's next phase was in the US in the framework of Sapiens' operating agreement with IBM, "which was then at a low point, and we exploited the crisis there to achieve very nice results. It was a period of really strenuous work; I spent weeks away from home."
When he returned to Israel in 1994, his work together with Daskal really began, when the latter was managing Sapiens Europe and Rabin was responsible for technology in the division. They then moved to Emultek, a company that designed software for smartphones, and later folded. "But the truth is that we left it quite quickly," says Daskal, who also managed the company. "When the vesting period ended, we sold our options and left. We didn't believe in the company, and it turned out that we were right."
That was the era of the boom, and Rabin was involved in founding a startup - BeyondGuide. "The buzzword of that period was location-based services," says Rabin, who joined forces with Yechiam Halevy, the technology developer of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, to turn the smartphone into the museum's personal guide for the tourist, instead of the awkward devices rented at the entrance to the museum. "In the spirit of the times, we also managed to raise a lot of money, and to reach a working product," he says, "but the bubble then deflated, and September 11 happened. We made several heroic efforts to survive, merged with a German company owned by the Bertelsmann publishing firm, and like the poor excuse given by every startup, we were ahead of our time."
"Meaning that in 2001, to talk to mobile carriers about value-added services was worse than talking to the wall."
With the military people in Nigeria
The next chapter in Yuval Rabin's resume was different. From a technologist, he switched to being an overseas business promoter for Israeli companies, with the founding of RSLB, a consultant company, with former Israeli economic attached in Washington Gil Birger, Shimon Sheves (former Prime Minister's Office director general under Yitzhak Rabin), and late IDF Chief of Staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak.
"It wasn't such a big change," says Rabin. "At that time, I felt quite confident in business development, entrepreneurship, and business promotion. The company originated in my conversations with Gil Birger, who worked with me at BeyondGuide, and Sheves and I were always in touch. We learned there the hard way what bureaucracy was. For example, we established a consortium with Alvarion Ltd. (Nasdaq: ALVR; TASE: ALVR), Gilat Satellite Networks Ltd. (Nasdaq: GILT; TASE: GILT), and Sagron to compete for a communications project in Guyana in South America – a project that never went through."
And for projects that did go through, you later sued Gilat, a lawsuit that was settled out of court.
"Because it unfortunately did not fulfill its agreements. This is an example of a company on the verge of disintegration, and it took our services in order to cope with a crisis when it lost two big contracts in Colombia and Brazil because of the crisis it was going through (bond payments, which later led to a debt arrangement). Actually, the two contracts, worth about $100 million, were regained, and even if we weren't the decisive factor in the company's success, we certainly helped it, because what helped them get that debt arrangement was their orders backlog."
And then you switched to hardcore politics.
"Yes, we became lobbyists at one stage. We worked with the Serbian Minister of Defense, who later became the president, and we worked with countries like Ivory Coast."
And you were harshly criticized for intervening in the politics of various countries.
"I have learned to take criticism in my stride."
The company terminated its activity in 2006-2007, and then came the "chapter that I prefer not to talk about - a company I founded with my cousin." In 2008, Rabin, Yiftach Yaakov (his cousin), and Koby Huberman founded a company named Galila Line Technologies for repairing mobile phones in the north. The company had 30 employees. Matters did not go well, the two cousins fell out, and Yaakov sued the company. In October 2010, Rabin announced that the company was closing down, the 30 employees were laid off, and debts were left. "It's a very painful wound," Rabin says.
Because of the employees who were left unemployed, or because of the family quarrel?
"For all of those reasons. I paid a very high price, in both money and in other ways. Most of the debts I have to repay are from that affair."
At the same time as Galila Line was founded, a company named Onida was started and operated in Nigeria "with two people who had a lot of experience in Africa, and three who did not." The "three who did not" were Rabin, himself, former IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, and former Israel Security Agency senior operative Ofer Dekel. The two men with experience in Africa were Gabi Levy-Gonen and Shaul Meron. According to Rabin, they had a great deal of experience in setting up agricultural projects, marketing, and cargo airlines. "The idea was to combine their experience with the connections we had in Nigeria, and do the same thing."
And what about Onida? Why did it close down after a few years?
"Maybe it wasn't a big success, but in no way was it a failure. At a certain stage, we decided to dissolve the partnership, release the partners, and divide up the money. I chose not to continue for my own personal reasons relating to what happened with Galila Lines, and for personal reasons of overload. There were years in which I spent 90-100 days in Nigeria, and that's not easy. Gabi and Shaul continued, were very successful, and today they're a company regarded as one of the leading and best-known companies in Africa, and I'm glad about their success."
"We didn't believe what we had"
In the next stage, Rabin went back to his natural habitat - high tech - and combined with a US partner - Ned Segal. Together, they came to a company named on the verge of bankruptcy – Exaudios Technologies, which had an interesting invention in identifying emotions according to voice. They considered an investment in the company , and joined forces with another group interested in it. Together, they founded Beyond Verbal, a company often listed as one of Israel's promising startups.
"It was the type of story that happen maybe twice in a lifetime," Rabin remembers. "We wanted to buy the asset from the liquidator for Exaudios, which went bankrupt, and it turned out that some things move very quickly in Israel. The decision was taken, and we had to bring money immediately. We started running around like madmen. My US partner raised the initial money, and we had to raise more money to continue the company's activity and buy the assets from the court. Completely coincidentally, a Jew I knew in Florida put me in touch with Kenges Rakishev (a Kazakh businessman who invests in high tech), and he told me, 'You can come to Almaty (in Kazakhstan) next week, or meet me the following week in Switzerland.'
I first told myself, 'Flying to Almaty is expensive, and we've all traveled innumerable times chasing after money, and come back with promises at best and nothing in most cases.' So we set a meeting in Lugano, Switzerland. At 10 in the morning, we sat down, and at four in the afternoon, we shook hands on $20 million. I remember how we sat in the cafe at Lugano Airport - I, the CEO, and the deputy CEO - on a beautiful summer's day, looked at each other, and didn't believe what we had."
A little less than a year ago, the company raised $3 million in another financing round led by Chinese technology giant Kuang Chi Science. "This investment gave it both the cash and the route in the direction that it chose to go, mainly the ability to distinguish through sound the probability that the speaker is undergoing a cardiac event - a trial that we are conducting with the Mayo Clinic in the US," says Rabin, who was chairman of Beyond Verbal until the end of December, and resigned following the entry of the Chinese fund, which appointed its own chairman.
The acquaintance with Rakishev, however, also brought Rabin disappointment. Several months after the investment in Beyond Verbal, an idea was proposed that since it was Rakishev's first investment in Israel (he also invested in Mobli, a picture sharing app that closed down its development center in Israel nine months ago, and in other companies), and reached an investment of around $30 million, "He thought that as long as he was investing on this scale, he might as well do it regularly through a fund."
The romance between Rabin and the fund founded, Singulariteam, managed by Moshe Hogeg, did not last. He joined it as an advisor, worked in that capacity for two years, "and that was all."
"At a certain stage, they were looking for a chairman, and I put them in touch with Ehud Olmert (before he was put on trial, obviously). When they parted from him, the parted from me as well as a package deal."
"I made a mistake, I got dragged in"
Another unpleasant affair, which also led to a bailiff's action against Rabin was his inactive partnership in a company named Zenit, a gold mining venture in Zimbabwe, in which another partner was diamond trader and Kardan partner Avner Schneur. The company took a loan guaranteed by its investors, including Rabin. After the investment failed, the investors had to sell out and repay the loan. One of the checks Rabin signed for this purpose, amounting to NIS 155,000, bounced two years ago, leading to a deluge of articles about Rabin's financial troubles.
"I made a mistake, I was dragged in. They sold me a nice story and made me lose a lot, that's all," comments Rabin, who was only a financial investor. "I was the last investor, and constantly got reports from the field what a big thing was happening there."
Did they mislead you, or mislead themselves?
"I don't think they told me anything they didn't believe in, but sometimes, when you see countries like those, and I experienced this in Nigeria, you see the demand, the need, the financial capability, and it looks like the whole world is spread out just waiting for Mr. Israeli to come and pick up the money. It took a while before I realized that this wasn't the case. In Africa, business takes patience and persistence, but above all huge financial capacity, so that you can wait until things happen."
And articles were written about how you were neck-deep in trouble, that you're naive, and that people tempt you into adventures.
"I won't say that I liked it, but I didn't read and don't read stories about myself. I try not to see my pictures in the newspaper, and I know very well where I'm all right and where I'm not all right. I don't absolve myself of responsibility for things. I try not to go for all sorts of solutions, and I intend to pay all my debts, with no write-offs.
"What I can say is that at a time like this, you find out who your real friends are – both those who were there before and those you acquire in the process. "
Peace? We don't have the privilege of despair
It is, of course, impossible to talk to Rabin without mentioning the tragic and defining event. "For me, it was unquestionably a life-changing event. I had a clear path in life, and my life suddenly changed at every level and in every respect. From being unknown, I became known, and I really disliked it. It wasn't my ambition in life. It took me to places I never thought I'd be in, such as being active in Dor Shalom (Generation of Peace) and a lot of public appearances."
Why did you do it?
"I felt a need to give some kind of meaning to this thing, to turn it into something positive in one way or another."
They said that you might even be a candidate to replace your father as a public figure. Did that occur to you?
"It's a question that pursues me - less now, but certainly at the beginning. Someone once asked me whether I wanted it, and I said, 'Never say never,' so he said, 'You want it.' But I really, really didn't want it. Had I wanted it, I assume that I could have wormed my way onto some kind of party list (his sister, Dalia, Rabin, was an MK in the Center Party, and later in the Labor Party).
"There are several reasons for my lack of desire. One is that I don't think I have the character for it. The second is that it's not a great temptation, certainly not in today's political reality. Finally, if I were to do it, it would be to in order to influence things, and in my opinion, what Shalom (Daskal) and I are doing now can contribute a lot more to Israel and its economy than if I were in some place or other on some list or other.
"It's good for me now to concentrate on what we're doing, seeing wonderful things with wonderful people. There's a very optimistic atmosphere, and compliments are also due to the prime minister, whose visit to China generated a positive atmosphere."
Have you lost your appetite for peace?
"I don't think we have the privilege of despair, even though it's very easy. I certainly share the opinion held by quite a few people that the current situation constitutes a better opportunity than ever, because there are common interests with more Arab countries than ever before, as Netanyahu himself said. I'm a partner in a group that has been active for 20 years, Israeli Peace Initiative, and when we said these things in 2008, we were the only ones, and today it is being said all the time. But we also have to listen very carefully to what we're told, from China to the US.
"We're getting more hints than ever that the Palestinian issue can't be swept under the carpet, and it's therefore impossible to settle everywhere. The solution therefore requires some kind of compromise with our neighbors. Such measures are difficult and require courage, responsibility, and taking a position, not running away from reality."
From shrimps to ecological concrete: What Blueconomy includes
1. Marine agriculture - how to improve shrimp production, for example, both quantitatively and qualitatively. How to grow microalgae in closed pools, rather than in the open sea, as it is now being done. New Israeli technologies are now making it possible to grow sea fish in closed pools, something that was previously impossible. Actually, if everything goes according to the vision, in two or three years, there will be no need to sail hundreds of kilometers at sea to fish for tuna, which now costs $20,000-30,000 per fish; they can be grown in pools on land.
2. Undersea construction, including ports, piers, and artificial islands. China, for example, is the world's largest contractor for the construction of artificial islands, due to population density and a shortage of land in certain regions. Concrete in water, however, destroys the surrounding natural life, and one of the companies being considered by Blueconomy is developing ecological concrete that allows plants to build their seed beds on the concrete almost immediately, and to continue growing undisturbed.
3. Sea-related energy, including wave energy, wind energy, and tide-generated energy.
4. Algae-based drugs and cosmetics.
Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - - on April 25, 2017
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