Information and news on israel

Start Up Nation 
Out of the ashes of World War II rose a small, independent nation situated on the Mediterranean Sea. Since 1948, the nation of Israel has become a great leader in innovation and technology. In just 70 years, Israeli settlers have transformed the country’s desert landscape into lush green gardens by high-tech agricultural methods. With a population just over 8.5 million, Israel has earned the nickname “Start-Up Nation” which rose to popularity in 2009 after Israeli author Dan Senor’s book.

MASHAV Providing Humanitarian Aid

Since 1958, Israel has been committed to providing humanitarian aid through the Foreign Ministry’s Center for International Cooperation and provides more assistance to more than 140 countries. MASHAV helps alleviate hunger, disease and poverty by providing technology and training to places all across the globe including Cambodia, Guatemala, Albania and Ethiopia.

Since 1959, MASHAV has been sending Israeli eye-doctors to countries throughout the developing world to help combat preventable blindness and ocular disease. It has also introduced Israeli drip-irrigation systems to sub-Saharan African countries to aid in providing water to more regions, especially during times of drought. MASHAV has also started a project called Indo-Israel Agriculture Project, which teaches farmers throughout India new agricultural methods.

The Pears Program for Global Innovation

Israel has made it a priority to assist developing countries through entrepreneurial efforts. The country has “the largest number of startups per capita in the world, 1 startup for every 1,400 people.” One example is a company called The Pears Program for Global Innovation, which aids people affected by poverty by supporting Israeli innovators and companies that create technology-based, financially sustainable solutions.

The Pears Program is responsible for several innovations that could have a lasting impact on the world. For example, through its support to the Mosteq company, Israel has found a way to sterilize mosquitos, which could significantly lower, and eventually, end the spread of diseases like malaria. The company, Soapy, has invented smart capsules containing soap and water to facilitate hygiene in countries where sanitation is an issue or there is little access to clean water.

Ideas for the Future

According to Technion International, “Israel has more companies listed on the NASDAQ than Europe, Japan, Korea, India, and China combined.” What is the secret that makes Israel so ingenious and resourceful? “At the heart of this combined impulse is an instinctive understanding that the challenge facing every developed country […] is to become an idea factory, which includes both generating ideas at home and taking advantage of ideas generated elsewhere,” says Senor in his book “Start-Up Nation.”  Furthermore, Israel values education, which helps to foster innovation.

Idea generation has become the backbone of Israeli society. It has allowed the country to thrive in a desert ecosystem, deliver aid to thousands of countries and defend itself from outside attacks. According to the New York Times, “Years of dealing with terrorist attacks, combined with an advanced medical technology sector, have made Israel one of the nimblest countries in disaster relief.” Other humanitarian programs in Israel are continuing efforts outside and inside the country, like Ziv Hospital, which has treated more than 2,000 Syrian refugees who have crossed the border seeking urgent medical attention.

The Israeli Innovation Authority estimates that, over the next decade, there will be a shortage of 10,000 engineers and programmers in the high-tech sector. Although this gap allows for future economic growth, it is a big concern for policymakers. Who will fill these gaps? Will Israel continue to be the Start-Up Nation of the World? Hopefully, Israel’s commitment to entrepreneurship in developing countries will come in handy and create more jobs within the country for migrant workers.

Grace Klein

Photo: Flickr

Education in Israel
Although Israel as a whole is a highly educated country, its Arab minority does not fare as well in attaining higher education. Arabs and Jews typically attend separate schools, and the state education budget is unevenly skewed towards funding Jewish schools. Unequal access to education has long term consequences and in most cases result in poverty and unemployment of Arab minorities.

An Educated Nation

Education in Israel is treated with importance. Consequently, the nation is a leader among OECD members for the percentage of citizens completing tertiary education. According to the 2013 OECD publication, 46 percent of Israelis aged from 25 to 64 hold a post-secondary degree, well above the group’s average of 32 percent. Additionally, Israel’s population is younger than the average. Over 42 percent of the population is younger than 25, providing a continuous stream of students and young professionals that are entering the workforce.

A precursor and important supplement to tertiary education in Israel is mandatory military service. Conscription begins at the age of 18, lasting three years for men and two years for women. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is structured into different units, with conscripts sorted among them based on military and technical aptitude. The most prestigious IDF unit is the Talpiot, noted for its scientific innovation. It combines military service with rigorous science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, giving its participants transferrable skills for university education and preparing them for the job market.

Challenges in Education in Israel

Primary education in Israel tends to be highly segregated. This segregation is representative of Israel as a whole as, according to Foreign Policy Magazine, 90 percent of Arab-Israelis live in all Arab communities. Separating children by ethnicity and religion limits their ability to learn about one another’s culture firsthand.

In addition to learning in isolation from their Jewish counterparts, Arab-Israeli schools receive less funding and do not meet the same educational benchmarks. Whether measured in standardized test scores, high school graduation rates or university matriculation, Arab-Israelis consistently lag behind. One of the more startling statistics regarding education in Israel is the per-pupil funding figure that can be almost 88 percent lower than that of a Jewish student. Furthermore, Arab-Israelis are not required to serve in the IDF, depriving them of the vocational training Jewish soldiers receive.

Consequences on the Country

Poverty in Israel is high compared to other Western industrialized nations and especially pronounced among Arabs. While poverty rates are decreasing, nearly half (49.4 percent) of Israel’s Arab population lives below the poverty line. Lack of education and underemployment plays a key role in Israel’s poverty rate, as over half of the poor families are working families.

Poverty creates a bad environment and makes people prone to crime, and the poverty present in Arab communities contributes to higher crime rates than Israel’s average. Most alarming is the increase in violent crime, including weapons violations and assaults. According to a 2018 article published in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Arab citizens were involved in 40 percent of violent offenses and in 60 percent of the murder cases in the country, despite only comprising 20 percent of Israel’s population. As many Arab-Israelis feel marginalized socio-economically, some resort to violence as a means to make ends meet.

Solutions to the Problem

Both the Israeli government and nongovernmental organizations are working to ameliorate the educational gap between Arabs and Jews. One nongovernmental organization called Hand in Hand that serves as a center for Jewish-Arab education in Israel strives to bring Arabs and Jews together in the classroom. According to the organization’s mission statement, it currently operates in six schools, with the goal of expanding in at least 10 schools and 20,000 pupils in the next decade.

In terms of governmental reforms, Minister of Education Naftali Bennett pushes for both increased spending and a curriculum overhaul. The Jerusalem Post reports that Israel’s 2019 education budget of around $140 billion will surpass its defense budget. This is an astonishing development for a country that faces a vast array of security threats in its immediate vicinity.

Addressing the academic gap between Jewish and Arabic students, Bennett urges Arab schools to emphasize Hebrew and English instruction claiming that its absence is a barrier to future employment. The future of education in Israel depends both on integrating Arab students with their Jewish counterparts and addressing the structural problems present in underperforming schools.

– Joseph Banish

Photo: Flickr

Facts About Human Rights in Palestine
The history that created Israel, Gaza and the West Bank is not brief. The tensions can not be simply put as they require delicate unpacking and care. Until 1948, these three regions were all Palestine; following the Arab-Israeli War of 1947-1948, the land was divided between Jewish Israelis, whose ancestors began migrating to the area in the 1880s, and the Palestinian Arabs whose ancestors had lived in the region for hundreds of years. The dispute over ownership has since led to continued conflict.

Palestine/Israel Conflict

Jewish Israelis lay claim to the land based on a promise from God for a safe haven from widespread hostility to their faith. Palestinian Arabs, whose majority are Muslim but also include Christians and Druze, contest that they are the rightful inhabitants due to the length of their ancestors existence on the land.

Palestinians have been displaced to two regions, Gaza and the West Bank. Under the Oslo peace accords signed in 1993, Gaza was turned over to the newly created Palestinian Authority, to form one wing of an emerging Palestinian state, along with the West Bank and a potential land corridor between them. But two different parties rule these two regions — the militant Hamas controlled Gaza and Fatah ruled the West Bank.

These tensions run deep, and conflict persists. The Israeli government continues to enforce severe and discriminatory restrictions on Palestinian’s human rights, and Palestinian security forces continue to treat their own people with disrespect. Here are the top 10 facts about human rights in Palestine/Israel.

10 Facts About Human Rights in Palestine/Israel

  1. The Israeli government restricts the movement of people and goods into and out of the Gaza Strip. Israel continues to maintain a decade-long effective closure of Gaza, as does the region’s neighbor, Egypt. This imposed border imposes restrictions that limit the supply of water and medical care as well as educational and economic opportunities. These blockades restrict exports and cripple the economy leading to exacerbated and widespread poverty. Approximately 70 percent of Gaza’s 1.9 million people rely on humanitarian assistance.
  2. Israel’s parliament has given itself the ability to dispossess Palestinian’s of their land. In February of 2017, the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, passed the Regularization Law allowing Israel to take control of private Palestinian land on which they have profited from building settlements for Israeli settlers.
  3. Preferential treatment is given to Israeli settlers in the West Bank. In 2017, Israeli authorities destroyed homes and other property, and forcibly displaced hundreds of Palestinians while continuing to provide security, administrative services, housing, education and medical care for about 607,000 Israeli settlers residing in unlawful settlement housing built in the West Bank. The discriminatory practices also include the rejection of almost all building permit applications submitted by Palestinians.
  4. Feuds between Gaza’s two main governmental parties has led to periodic shutdowns of its only power plant. Disputes between Fatah and Hamas concerning responsibility for paying the plant’s fuel has led to frequent loss of electricity in Gaza. Power outages jeopardize water supply, interfere with sewage treatment and cripple hospital operations.
  5. Thousands of Palestinians have been imprisoned, on what Israeli authorities call “security grounds,” without charge or trial. The majority of these prisoners are overwhelmingly Palestinian. As of November 1, 2017, Israeli authorities incarcerated 6,154 inmates. In April and May later that same year, hundreds of Palestinian prisoners spent 40 days on a hunger strike seeking better conditions.
  6. The two leading Palestinian political groups — the Palestinian Authority and Hamas — have arrested and mistreated activists critical of their leaders, security forces and policies. The Independent Commission for Human Rights in Palestine received 205 complaints of torture and ill-treatment by Palestinian Authority security forces and 193 similar complaints against Hamas security forces.
  7. Torture perpetrated by the Palestinian police and security forces remain common. In September 2018, a 16-year old boy and another detainee died in unclear circumstances in a Hamas-controlled detention center. Instances of torture have been carried out with impunity in both the West Bank and Gaza.
  8. Security forces use excessive force to disperse protests. Palestinian security forces have used excessive force to violently suppress peaceful protests in the West Bank. On March 12, 2018, at least 13 men and eight women were injured. Seventeen people were hospitalized during a protest outside of the Ramallah District Court. Despite the Prime Minister’s commitment to upholding recommendations made by a Fact-Finding Commission to follow government regulations on the dispersal of protests, none of the officers responsible for the violence were brought to justice.
  9. Women and girls continue to face discrimination is both law and practice. The violation of women’s human rights in Palestine is most clearly seen in the inadequate protection of women and girls against sexual and other gender-based violence including “honor” killings. In 2017, at least 28 women and girls were reported to have been killed by male relatives in honor fashion. Article 308 of the Jordanian Penal Code allows those who commit rape or sexual assault to escape punishment by marrying their victim.
  10. Capital punishment has been used in Gaza. Six people were executed in 2017 after civil and military courts sentenced them to death for their “collaboration with Israel” and other offenses. In May, Hamas executed three men in a public square in Gaza city after a trial that lasted only one week (consisted of four brief sessions).

Supporting Humanity

Violence committed with impunity is a trait of no one creed but man; both Israelis and Palestinians violate the human rights of each other and themselves. These top 10 facts about human rights in Palestine/Israel and their total violation do little justice to what it is to live under the weight of so much hate.

“We are of one blood you and I.” This sentiment is as true between the people of Palestine and Israel as it is between those reading this and those suffering from the things discussed in this list. Showing indifference to hate allows it to flourish. Do not support representatives and policies that excuse indifference to crises such as what is happening in Palestine/Israel.

– Carolina Sherwood Bigelow
Photo: Flickr

Education in Israel
As Israel has become a center for innovation, the nation has attracted investors and entrepreneurs from across the globe. In fact, new technology in computer science and cyber security entices nearly 15 percent of the world’s venture-capital in the industry. While the standard of living in Israel ranks around 19th in the world, over one-fifth of its population lives in poverty.

Education Combats Poverty

One of the ways in which the country combats poverty is through access to education in Israel. Israeli culture and history emphasizes the importance of education and employment in traditionally white collar jobs. Israel’s education system is three-tiered, schooling children from age 5 to 18.

The OECD’s report on education recognizes Israel as one of the most educated countries in the world; almost half of the countries 25 to 34 years old held bachelor’s degrees. While there is high participation in higher education, there are major gender inequalities.

Gender Inequality in Israel

UNICEF’s data indicates that girls fare better in primary and secondary schools with rates slightly higher than their male counterparts.While access to education in the state-run school system is generally equal, the outcomes of this system are not. Education in Israel succeeds in educating its population through 18, but does not always provide ample employment opportunity for its women.

Women in Israel are enrolling in higher education, making up about 57 percent of incoming students. They are outperforming their male peers but are less likely to find work upon graduation.

Women are also paid around 30 percent less than their male counterparts, which is higher than the OECD average of 26 percent. Despite a well-educated population, over 20 percent of Israel’s population lives below the poverty line; the connection between gendered wage disparities and poverty is curious. Arab women and haredi men tend to see the highest rates of unemployment. Engaging women in the workforce and building on the classroom education experience could benefit the economy and quality of life for families in Israel.

Women in the Workforce

Women participating in the workforce, although earning less than men, also work fewer hours. The primary reason for the large portion of women working part-time is child care — only half of women with higher education and children aged 0 to 4 worked, while their husbands, with similar education levels, were employed at a rate of 84 percent.

The cost and responsibility of childcare rests primarily on women’s shoulders, preventing women from adding to the family income and also creating a ripple effect in delaying a woman’s professional development and the timeline for her career. That being said, Israel does have policies to protect women in the workforce before, during and after their pregnancy. With 6 months maternal leave, about 3 months paid, these policies provide incentives for women to remain in the workforce during childbearing years.

Keeping Israel’s Future Bright

While the future of Israel looks bright, low participation in the workforce remains a daunting problem hindering economic development and poverty reduction. By continuing to explore ways to strengthen the system of education in Israel, the state can improve on one of its best assets — its people.

An asset-based community development plan can help firms benefit from improved labor participation, and benefit families living below or near the poverty line. All in all, creating opportunities for women and using their education in Israel can lead to reduced poverty and a more robust economy.

– M. Shea Lamanna
Photo: Flickr

poverty in Jerusalem
The period between 2014 and 2016 proved to be an especially difficult time for the people of Jerusalem. It was reported that in 2014, 82 percent of East Jerusalem lived in poverty, while in 2016, about four out of five East Jerusalemites were living in a vulnerable situation.  

How Did Poverty in Jerusalem Reach Its Present Levels?

According to the Jerusalem Post and Naomi Hausman, poverty in Jerusalem increased due to the unique disparities in its population. 61 percent of its people are Jewish (30 percent of whom are ultra-Orthodox), 36 percent are Arab and the remaining 3 percent are Christian-Arab or another minority. Hausman states that different educational standards and work ethics between groups have caused a social and economic divide, while both groups are willing to work for a lower rate. However, there are a few ways to help combat poverty in Jerusalem to create a safer environment for its people.

Tsidkat-Elaou Organization

The Tsidkat-Elaou Organization is a sanctuary that provides resources for those in Jerusalem experiencing and living in hardship. Tsidkat-Elaou has been fighting poverty in Jerusalem by taking donations to providing necessities for children, such as school supplies, food and clothes, provides financial aid vouchers, organizes altruistic events and contributes goods for Shabbat and other Jewish celebrations such as Passover and Rosh Hashanah. Tsidkat-Elaou also provides a safe space for those who would like to study or worship through building their synagogue, Ohr Yaacov Velsraёl. Tsidkat-Elaou is truly a key part of fighting poverty in Jerusalem.

School Improvement Program

Funded by USAID, the School Improvement Program (SIP) has budgeted $20 million over four years to invigorate school leadership, improve the quality of teachers and promote community engagement within 50 schools in areas of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Each school will undergo pervasive assessment strategies to identify the underachieving schools. Once the list of institutions is complete, SIP and USAID will host district-wide events with parents, teachers, students and other members of the community to get them engaged in the educational journey. The School Improvement Program will not only improve educational tactics, but will also provide career guidance and experiential training as well as vital life skills training.

Facilitating Access to Infrastructure Resilience (FAIR)

The FAIR Program was put into action by the Ministry of Local Government (MoLG) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The project will aid national institutions in addressing infrastructure concerns and provide access to viable, equitable and affordable industrialization to decrease poverty in Jerusalem. These infrastructure plans will concentrate on housing, cultural heritage, energy, transportation and water. MoLG and the UNDP are hoping this will strengthen communities and improve living standards while preserving their existence.

Partnering with the FAIR program, the Program of Assistance to the Palestinian People and the Royal Charity Organization – Kingdom of Bahrain are establishing a public library in East Jerusalem for $517,880. Their hope for this library is to renew the position of culture within East Jerusalem by promoting national identity. The plan is to remodel and restructure an old building in the Old City of Jerusalem in the area of Aqbat Risas. The library will be equipped with books, furnishings, IT equipment, a library system and a website where the library catalog can be accessed.

Enduring years and generations of war and turmoil, Jerusalem has definitely seen hardship and fallen on difficult times. Through education, infrastructure and an increase in appreciation for their culture and heritage, poverty in Jerusalem is sure to decrease throughout the next few years, rebuilding social status and enriching traditions.

– Rebecca Lee

Photo: Unsplash

 

Learn more about poverty in Israel

 

Media Misrepresents Iran
Western media has a notorious reputation for misrepresenting developing countries. This article will discuss how the media misrepresents Iran with framing, agenda-setting and manipulation. It will also debunk the common stereotypes embedded in these examples of misinformation.

Iran as a Pro-Terrorism Country

Categorizing Iran as a pro-terrorist country is the largest example of how the media misrepresents Iran. Western media is very quick to blame Iran-based problems on terrorism and, often times, radical Islam. In fact, Iran’s legislation and government officials have clearly proven that they’d prefer Iran to be on sound terms with other nations.

Iranian citizens have been dissatisfied about government spending and its foreign ventures for over a decade now; they would rather spend money internally. To note, reformist president Hassan Rouhani was actually approved for office because of his promise to improve relations with other nations.

Both him and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif are seen as national heroes for their desire for peaceful relations with other countries. To note, western media emphasizes this (false) aspect of Iran the most.

Iran as an Anti-Israeli Country

Characterizing it as a nation with a vendetta against Israelis is the next most common way of how the media misrepresents Iran. Though some Iranian leaders have verbally attacked Israel (like president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose presidency ended in 2013), Iranian citizens have proven to contradict this anti-Israeli feeling.

Larry Cohler-Esses, Jewish journalist, decided to travel to Iran for an exclusive look at Iranian citizens daily lives and genuine feelings. He found that most Iranians are, again, more concerned with domestic issues, with fears surrounding isolation and struggling economically. Indeed, individual citizens have no interest in attacking Israel, but the Iranian government does.

Iran as an Oppressive Country

Western media also misrepresents Iran as a country that oppresses and discriminates against religious minority groups. Iran is known for typically having a conservative, Muslim government that many assume oppresses other religions.

It is true that there has been discrimination against the Baha’i community, but this is because the Baha’i faith has been consider heretical since the 19th Century; however, discrimination is only directed toward the Baha’i community but not to Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians and other religious communities.

Iran as a “Backwards” Nation

The media has presented Iran as an impoverished country that is struggling to modernize society. When Cohler-Esses traveled to Iran, he saw no evidence of this.

Instead, he saw a well-educated, youthful population that was fashionable, modern, and critical of their own government. The media also presents Iran as a country with little to no free press, but instead, reformist newspapers have gotten more popular over the years. While Iran does frequently have issues with legislation that constantly changes and effects freedom of press, the nation’s press ultimately has a fair range of freedom to vocalize their concerns.

The media continues to paint Iran as a country with little to no growth or progress, ignoring its efforts to modernize and industrialize society; fortunately, though, this myth continues to be disproven, time and time again.

The media landscape continues to paint blurry pictures of developing countries, but as countries continue to modernize, the reality will present itself — especially in the case of Iran.

– Chylene Babb

Photo: Flickr

Between 2010 and 2016, Israel’s GDP grew from $233.61 billion to $317.75 billion. Foreign direct investment in Israel increased from $6.98 billion to $11.9 billion. In particular, Chinese investment in Israel increased tenfold to $16.5 billion. China facilitates Israeli development mainly by investing the technology market.

Chinese technology companies, such as Baidu, Alibaba and Ping An, have been boosting Chinese investment in the Israeli technology industry by 50 percent year-on-year. All of these data show a positive growth trend of the China-Israel business relationship. China facilitates Israeli development on a large scale.

Last year, Eli Cohen, the Israeli Economic Minister, said in an interview, “We are willing to see more Chinese companies operating in Israel […] and we are willing to increase the cooperation between China and Israel.”

According to a report from an Israeli research firm, the number of Chinese entities investing in Israeli technology companies has increased from 18 in 2013 to 34 in 2017. Baidu, Alibaba and Qihoo 360 are typical examples of how China facilitates Israeli development by investing in Israeli technology.

Baidu China Facilitates Israeli Development

Baidu is a Chinese multinational technology company founded in 2000 that provides China’s most popular search engine. In 2014, Baidu helped Carmel Ventures, an Israeli venture capital fund, raise $194 million for its fourth investment fund.

In 2015, Baidu invested $5 million in Tonara, an Israeli music software company founded in 2008. It aids in music development by providing an interactive platform for music teachers, parents and students. Users can chat, track daily piano practice progress and get music sheets from the app. The company also produces Wolfie, a teaching and evaluation tool for music teachers.

Baidu’s senior director of corporate development, Peter Zhang, joined Tonara’s board, and Tonara expanded its Chinese market with Baidu’s help. The aim is to grow the use of Tonara’s teaching tools, as there are more than 50 million piano students and 10 to 20 million violin students in China.

Alibaba Group Holding Limited

Alibaba is a Chinese e-commerce company founded in 1999. It provides consumer-to-consumer, business-to-consumer and business-to-business services online. In 2015, Alibaba invested $5 million in Visualead, a company producing innovations in QR codes, which are heavily used in China.

The funding helps Visualead expand its business in the technology market. Alibaba also benefits from the connections with Visualead’s clients, which includes Coca-Cola, Sina Weibo and BMW.

Qihoo 360 Technology Co. Ltd

Qihoo 360 is a Chinese internet security company founded in 2005. It mainly provides three products for users to guarantee safe accesses to the internet: a web browser, an app store and a search engine.

In 2014, Qihoo invested $60 million to start a global early-stage fund, which focuses on China, the U.S. and Israel. Qihoo also aided Carmel Ventures in its fourth investment round, as well as Jerusalem Venture Partners, an international venture capital firm. Previously, Qihoo invested in Israeli messaging app maker Glide Talk Ltd., gesture control-technology company Extreme Reality Ltd. and image recognition technology company Cortica Inc.

According to Cohen, other leading Chinese firms such as Huawei, Legend and Xiaomi have been investing in Israel by setting up research and development centers. China facilitates Israeli development by boosting its technology expansion.

“China and Israel are destined for partnership,” Nathan Low, an Israeli-American investment banker, said. “China has the money and the markets. Israel has the products to solve problems and address opportunities.”

– Judy Lu

Photo: Flickr

The Growing Importance of US-Israel Relations Today
The relationship between the United States and Israel is one of political, economic and historical significance. Over the years and with changes in economic objectives and priorities, the mutual diplomatic relationship of goodwill between the two nations has provided both countries with essential benefits in economic growth and development.

The Origins of U.S.-Israel Relations

Historically, the growth of U.S.-Israel relations can be traced back to the inception of Israel shortly after the World War II. Since May 14th 1948, the United States has played a vital role in providing aid, advice, resources and assistance to Israel. Between the years 1976-2004, Israel became the largest recipient of of U.S. foreign aid. The Arab-Israeli Wars through the course of the 20th century tested the strength of the staunch diplomatic ties between both nations.

U.S.-Israel relations have helped redefine ties with other Arab nations as well. The U.S. commitment to foreign aid such as humanitarian assistance already plays a key role in international conflicts. In recent years in particular, the United States has continued to play an active role in political discourse in the Middle East and is a vital part of peaceful solutions to crises.

The Trump Administration is now redefining the steadfast U.S.-Israel relations. In a controversial move, President Trump began recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Also, with a concrete two-state solution still not on the table, U.S.-Israel relations continue to be challenged.

The Startup Nation

Imbibing the strength of the relationship is vital due to the potential impacts the connection can have on the future. Israel has already contributed to U.S. defense, trade and commerce in numerous ways over the years. In turn, given the potential of Israel’s young and growing population and rich natural resources and assets, U.S. businesses hope to tap into this advantage to expand into new product and labor markets.

Moreover, Israel now already boasts a high annual economic growth which reached a peak at 4.7 percent in January 2017. Since 2003, poverty and income inequality rates in Israel have also largely declined. As Israel remains one of the world’s most advanced economies, it is commonly referred to globally as the ‘Startup Nation.’

Yet, at the same time, according to an estimate made in the year 2012, nearly 19.4 percent of families in Israel still live below the poverty line. Consequently, 1 in 5 Israelis are presumed to be affected by poverty prevalent in the country.

Trade

In the realm of trade, Israel’s trade to the United States is essential as the number of dollars created by exports from Israel create the highest number of U.S. jobs among its free-trading partners. For Israel, the United States remains a vital free- trading partner as it provides the country with an outlet for goods and services.

Furthermore, investment between the U.S. and Israel not only pumps in more Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), but it also plays a significant role in bringing in more American jobs. Investments are now expanding in key aspects like science and technology, agriculture and healthcare; Israeli innovations continually contribute to higher levels of efficiency and productivity as well.

Growth and Future Achievement

In recent years, clean energy, technology and environmental solutions have grown to become priorities of international discourse; in fact, according to a report by the Washington Institute, innovation in Israel is currently focused on addressing water and food security issues globally. U.S.-Israel collaborations in research and development programs are particularly notable for its advancements and contributions to the financial strength of both countries.

To conclude, U.S.-Israel relations continue to be an important source of economic, potential and financial support to both countries — a partnership that continues to grow with time. This varied connection between the two countries will have greater implications in the future, and should also provide a good buffer against shocks in the world economy.

– Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in Israel
Of the 34 member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Israel ranks twenty-sixth poorest when discussing gross income, or before government intervention. However, when poverty is discussed in net terms or income after government intervention, it is ranked second-poorest. According to a report by the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel, 31 percent of the country is living below the poverty line. Why is there such a discrepancy and what are the causes of poverty in Israel? There are a number of reasons.

  1. System of allowances
    The first of the causes of poverty in Israel is its system of allowances. While Israel, compared to other countries, collects a significant amount of income from the wealthy in the form of taxes, it lacks in its system of allowances. The government’s influence in curtailing poverty is at around 30 percent. Other countries’ participation is at around 60. Of the allowance payments made by the government, most are handled efficiently. Part of the solution lies in more system of allowances by the government.
  2. Low participation in labor market
    Another one of the causes of poverty in Israel comes from low participation in the labor market, specifically with two minority groups: ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arab Israelis. As of 2011, only 48 percent of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men and 28 percent of Arab-Israeli women were employed.According to a report by the Bank of Israel in 2015, “the dilemma [of poverty] becomes greater because about half of the poor in Israel belong to the ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) community – a population sector that attributes great value to devoting time to studying the Holy Scriptures – and the traditional Muslim community, in which there are cultural restrictions on the employment of women.”For these cultural reasons, some of the ultra-religious in Israel choose not to search for jobs and therefore fall into poverty. This is also one of the reasons why the government’s influence on curtailing poverty is so low; it believes it will encourage living on allowances instead of looking for other means of income.

These main contributors work in conjunction to create a difficult environment for the government to control poverty. Between the low participation in the labor market and therefore lower system of allowances by the Israeli government, the population has suffered from impoverished conditions.

To combat these issues, the OECD has offered some recommendations that will hopefully decrease the poverty rate, the first of which includes increasing competition and efficiency in the domestic economy. An OECD survey noted that the banking industry is inefficient and concentrated.  Therefore, should allow the entry of new competitors into the market, particularly in non-banking credit entities.

Another way to improve the apparent disparity in the labor market is to boost “investment in infrastructure and promoting skills, particularly among disadvantaged groups [which] can both enhance social cohesion and raise long-term growth.” One of the last recommendations given was improving education for those disadvantaged groups like Arab women and the Haredi population so that they may increase their income levels and contribute to the economy.

Sydney Roeder

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in the Palestinian TerritoriesDue to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the people of the Palestinian territories are under a tremendous amount of stress. Adding to their troubles is the fact that citizens also have to worry about the risk of contracting certain diseases.

The most common diseases in the Palestinian territories are non-communicable; cancer and cardiovascular disease are especially common. Although there is not a lot of data on the matter, there is still enough to explain that these diseases are a serious problem. According to research, lung cancer is the cancer that is most responsible for male deaths in the Palestinian territories. Statistics also state that heart disease causes 26 percent of deaths there. While cardiovascular disease and cancer may be caused by people’s family histories and lifestyles, they remain an issue partially caused by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The division between the West Bank and Gaza makes access to healthcare more difficult to acquire for the people of the Palestinian territories. To cross the border, individuals need approved permits that allow them to do so. To make the process even more difficult, Israeli security services sometimes ask the patients to attend an interview in order to be granted access. The slow procedure of obtaining a permit results in health conditions worsening as the people wait for the opportunity to receive treatment.

Although the Israeli-Palestinian conflict provides the people with some obstacles, there have also been some advancements made. In 2015, Israeli authorities declared that men over 55 years and women over 50 years in age do not need permits. This caused the permit approval rate for West Bank patients to rise about five percent from the previous year. With improvements like this being made, healthcare access will hopefully continue to become more available and common diseases in the Palestinian territories – like cardiovascular disease and cancer – will become less common.

Raven Rentas

Photo: Google