Category Archives: Times of Israel Articles

FROM TOI ARCHIVE: Ticket inspectors to cease work aboard trains (Late March 2012)

For full text scroll down or click here:

[Originally Published in The Times of Israel, “Israel and the Region” section, March 24, 2012]

In latest escalation of dispute, railway workers union continues to protest privatization decision

Starting Sunday, inspectors will stop checking for tickets on all Israel Railways trains in protest of planned transportation reforms, the railway workers union announced on Saturday night.

According to the union, the decision was made as a result of continued bilateral attempts to privatize Israel Railways. It follows an earlier decision to halt all railway development and maintenance work in protest of the government’s decision to privatize the rail service.

Gila Edrey, head of the railway workers union, is to attend a hearing Sunday morning along with four union members, concerning their conduct at previous protests. If found guilty of violence and threats, Edrey could be laid off.

Earlier in March, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz announced a series of transportation reforms which will privatize the rail service by splitting up the current company, Israel Railways, into three subsidiaries responsible for maintenance, cargo, and real estate development, respectively.


FROM TOI ARCHIVE: Fire erupts at day care center in Elad (March 2012)

For full text scroll down or click here:

[Originally Published in The Times of Israel, “Israel Inside” section, March 4, 2012]

Initial reports say 18 toddlers taken to hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation

A fire broke out at a children’s day care center in the town of Elad in central Israel, Walla News reported on Sunday. Eighteen toddlers between the ages of one and three were rushed to Schneider Children’s Hospital in nearby Petah Tikva after sustaining minor injuries caused by smoke inhalation.

According to Nana10 News, initial investigations indicate that the fire was caused by a faulty air-conditioning unit. It is believed that one of the unit’s internal motor parts ignited, causing the fire that subsequently spread throughout the center’s building.

Sunday morning’s fire in Elad is the latest in a series of tragic fire-related incidents which have taken place throughout Israel. Nana10 points out that last week an elderly man died after a fire erupted in an apartment building in Ashkelon.

A week earlier a two-year old toddler was killed in a fire in Rosh Ha’ayin. Nineteen people were taken to hospital after suffering from the effects of smoke inhalation.

Should bumper rains spell a winter of content?

For full text scroll down or click here:

[Originally Published in The Times of Israel, “Israel Inside” section, 24/3/12]

 Don’t get carried away by a single wet season, experts warn. Israel’s drought problems are far from alleviated

After eight years of persistent drought, Israelis can finally breathe a collective sigh of relief — this winter the heavens opened and the rains returned once again to the Holy Land. In a country where many ordinary citizens follow every fluctuation of the Sea of Galilee like investors tracking the latest prices of the Dow Jones Average, the sudden abundance of water has become a source of national joy.

This winter’s rains finally nudged the Sea of Galilee’s water level over its “bottom red line” (-213 meters) earlier this month, and the Israel Water Authority says the lake is the fullest it has been in the past four years. Israel’s most important source of drinking water, it is now a full 113 centimeters above the recorded level this time last year.

But are Israelis right in their new-found optimism? Is it true that our water supplies are now in much better shape? And did the months of near-incessant deluge have a long-term impact on relieving the consecutive years of shortage?

Actually, no. According to Dr. Amir Givati — head of the Department of Hydrometeorology, responsible for monitoring surface water at the Israel Water Authority — if we look at the forecast precipitation index or FPI which measures general drought levels, the rain this year was only slightly above average. Dr. Givati says that while global warming could be a factor, it is still not clear why Israel had suffered from drought or below-average rainfall for so many years in a row. Before this winter, the last time Israel received above-average precipitation was back in 2004 when the figures recorded were dramatically higher than this year’s rainfall.

Professor Uri Shamir of the Technion, an expert in environmental engineering and water resource management, fears that one year of surplus rain may cause the public to have a “fictitious” sense of plenty. “You have to look at it like a bank account,” explained Shamir. “Just because you receive a bonus one year, does not mean you will suddenly be able to satisfy all your needs straightaway, and especially after years of debt.”

While Shamir said that a good rain year was always welcome, he dismissed reports in the Israeli media suggesting that the winter’s higher-than-normal precipitation meant that any serious records had been broken. “If we are talking about the long-term, this year was totally insignificant,” said Shamir. “There were more dramatic years in 2002 / 2003, and before that in the winter of 1968 / 1969.”

Having served as an adviser and consultant to the Israel Water Authority since 1992, Shamir warns that the country’s water woes are far from over, especially now, as the population is set to increase markedly in the coming years. Frustrated by what he sees as a lack of understanding and unwillingness by politicians to heed the advice of experts, Shamir also says that climate change is likely to make the water situation even more challenging in the future.

Other academics such as Dr. Clive Lipchin, Director of the Center for Transboundary Water Management at the Arava Institute in southern Israel, agree that the impact of one surplus year will indeed be limited.  But Dr. Lipchin also says that recent advances in water treatment and recycling, coupled with the proliferation of desalinization plants, mean that the future is not all doom and gloom. In fact, he predicts that desalinization may reduce dependency or one day even replace the Sea of Galilee as the major water resource of the country.

When it comes to Israel’s multimillion dollar fishing industry, now primarily based on controlled fishing ponds located inland and managed by highly-educated aquaculture experts, there is a debate between the academics and the practitioners as to whether the rains have had an impact.

Scholars such as Dr. Shamir and Dr. Lipchin argue that there is no strong link between increased rainfall and the fish population. However, Menachem Lev, known to the media as the official spokesman for fisherman due to the reluctance of others in his profession to speak publicly, told The Times of Israel that, on his frequent fishing and tourist outings on the Sea of Galilee, he has noticed a substantive rise in the amount of plankton and even salmon in the lake. As Lev told Channel Two News recently, “the Sea of Galilee has a thousand faces and can change from hour to hour.”

Only time will tell if Israel’s water fortunes will change for good this time — either through the ingenuity of Israeli technology, or the repeat performance of consecutive rain-drenched winters such as the one that just passed.

Tagged , , , , ,

Rail union halts maintenance work as privatization dispute escalates

(Scroll down for full text): 

[Originally Published on Times of Israel site, “Israel Inside” section, 8/3/12]

Friday labor action may be first step en route to strike

The Rail Workers Union, a sub-section of Israel’s General Histadrut Labor Union, announced on Thursday that they will enact a freeze on all essential development and maintenance work planned for Friday due to the recent decision by the Transport Ministry to privatize Israel’s rail service.

The rail workers stressed that it was not their intention to cause any harm to the Israeli travelling public, but that they had no choice as long as the rail company’s management authority refused to return to the negotiating table, reported Maariv.

The reforms announced by Minister of Transport, Yisrael Katz at a press conference last Monday, will privatize the rail service by splitting up the current train company into three subsidiary entities responsible for maintenance, cargo and real estate development respectively.

Avi Edri, General Secretary of the Train Workers Union was quoted in Maariv saying, “we have opted to respond to the management’s intransigence in a proportional manner and it is not our aim to adversely affect the Israeli public.”

However, Edri also added that, “in the event that management continues to be oblivious to this situation, at the end of the day, passengers may also been harmed by future industrial action.”

In response, a spokesman from the rail company’s management body was quoted in Maariv saying that they were disappointed by the new escalation initiated by the workers union.  “There is no doubt that this action will harm the Israeli public by postponing much-needed development work and extensions to the service, especially for more remote communities in the Negev and Galilee.”

There are fears that the suspension of development and maintenance work is only the first stage of the rapidly worsening relations between rail workers and management, which could ultimately lead to a general strike on Israel’s railways.

Tagged , ,

Tel Aviv soccer match decends into chaos

“Contentious game sparks arrests and disorder”

Originally Published in The Times of Israel, “Israel Inside” section, 6th March 2012 

Tagged , , ,

Organ research center to be launched at Bar-Ilan University

Scroll down or click here for full text:

[Originally Published on Times of Israel site, “Start-Up Israel” section, 4/3/12]

Interdisciplinary center draws inspiration from the ocean depths for new insights into organ repair

The Hebrew University announced Sunday the establishment of a major new national interdisciplinary center for the study of the Nematostella (sea anemone) and organ rehabilitation research.

The main aim of the center will be to achieve a deeper understanding of how the sea anemone has developed its unique ability to regenerate its organs, and gain an insight into the functioning of the animal’s general injury repair processes, according to the Hebrew University’s press release. It is thought that this knowledge will be directly applicable to the study of organ repair in humans and the process by which our wounds heal.

Dr. Uri Gat of the Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences at the Hebrew University said that while the Nematostella is a very simple, ancient life form, it is also highly rich in genes, many of which constitute earlier versions of parallel genes in humans.

The sea anemone, one of the world’s most ancient life forms, could provide important insights into the human nervous system (photo credit: Courtesy Hebrew University)

Gat explained that Cnidarian life forms, such as sea anemones, corals, jellyfish and hydra, developed one of the first nervous systems in the natural world.  “If we learn how the nervous system was created and how it functions we could have new tools for researching and understanding the nervous system in humans.”

The sea anemone, one of the world's most ancient life forms, could provide important insights into the human nervous system (photo credit: Courtesy Hebrew University)

The sea anemone, one of the world’s most ancient life forms, could provide important insights into the human nervous system (photo credit: Courtesy Hebrew University)

The national Nematostella Research Center is set to be one of the first of its kind, incorporating departments from three universities: the Institute of Life Sciences at Hebrew University, the School of Marine Sciences at the University of Haifa, and the Laboratory for Molecular Marine Biology at Bar-Ilan University. The center’s headquarters will be based at Bar-Ilan due to its central geographic location.

Dov Smith from the Hebrew University’s Press Liaison Office told The Times of Israel that the majority of funding for the center will come from the Science and Technology Ministry, while Bar-Ilan will also contribute to the initial establishment costs.

Dr. Oren Levy, director of the Laboratory for Molecular Marine Ecology at Bar-Ilan University, believes that cooperation between academics across a number of fields will enable better resource sharing and research.

“In many parts of the world there are modern centers which offer research scientists state-of-the-art equipment, space and knowledge to enable breakthroughs. We are proud to be involved in the creation of such a center here,” said Dr. Levy. “Without a doubt, in this way we can advance science in Israel.”

Tagged , , ,

My First Article Published in New Online Newspaper: The Times of Israel

The Times of Israel is a brand-new cutting edge news site founded by Former Editor-in-Chief of the Jerusalem Post, David Horovitz.  Today my first article for the Times was published and hopefully there will be many more to come!

Scroll down for full text or click here:

[Originally Published on Times of Israel site, “Inside Israel” section, 1/3/12]

Construction to begin on new facility housing 8,000 illegal migrants

After much delay, construction is expected to start shortly on a new mass detention facility for illegal immigrants, Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Thursday.

One of the aims, officials say privately, is to discourage the flood of illegal migrants, many of them from Sudan and Eritrea.

Population of the facility, situated near an existing facility at Ketziot in the south, will begin in six months. Initially the facility will house 3,000 people, with final capacity  intended to reach a total of 8,000 illegal migrants.

It is estimated that there are over 30,000 asylum seeks currently residing in Israel, most of them African migrants who crossed the border from Egypt illegally.

As well as dividing immigrants along religious, ethnic and national lines to make conditions easier during their detention, authorities plan to provide basic education classes, medical clinics and sports facilities within the vast prison complex.

The substantial 8,000 capacity detention center in Ketziot is set to be the largest by far, compared to other Western countries such as Canada, France, Italy and the UK which have also experienced high influxes of asylum seekers and refugees from around the world in recent years. Speaking to Haaretz, Sara Robinson from Amnesty International cites the example of Canada, which receives from 35,000 to 120,000 illegal immigrants ever year while the largest detention center in that country houses just 272 persons.

Israel Hayom reported in December 2011 that Israel’s Immigration Border Authority apprehended a total of 2,676 people trying to illegally cross into the country in November alone.

Tagged , , , , ,