Boasting a population of about 8.5 million, Israel places 101st in the world right between Papua New Guinea and Togo. And although it represents only about 0.11% of the world’s population, I think it would be pretty safe to say that Israel punches way over its weight in many areas, including its presence in world headlines. And, unfortunately, the news isn’t always good.
But Israel is about to mark a birthday, its 71st. So it’s time to celebrate. This week, where to go when you want to take a break and see stories about Israel that are not making world headlines.
Every week just before Shabbat, Forward.com’s Jenny Singer publishes Good News for Jews many of which relate to life in Israel. How many of these did you know about?
- The Old City is becoming wheelchair friendly: ‘The ancient cobblestones and narrow alleys in the Old City of Jerusalem have been renovated in areas that are heavily-trafficked by tourists in an effort to welcome visitors who use wheelchairs. 90 per cent of streets in the Old City’s Muslim, Armenian and Christian quarters have been smoothed and adjusted to include ramps and handrails in a project that has been in planning for over a decade.’
- Am Yisrael Chai: ‘The people of Israel literally live — a study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation found that Israel has one of the world’s lowest rate of diet-related deaths. That means that people who live in Israel have the best nutritional balance in their diets of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. The halvah is also very good.’
- Phenomenal firsts: Gadeer Mreeh has just ‘become the first Druze person to serve in the Israeli Knesset, or parliament. … She was the first non-Jewish woman to anchor a Hebrew-language news channel, weathering pushback from inside her own community, when some religious authorities told her parents it was unseemly for her to take such a public job. “Now even the religious leaders understand that Druze women can succeed, that we can represent, in a modest and noble way,” she said.’
The “Israel News Agency” was created by Joel Leyden in 1995 to provide what he calls “accurate and timely on-line news from Israel in times of crisis.” Leyden’s article ‘Was Israel’s SpaceIL Beresheet Moon Mission A Success?’ shines a positive light on a story which made many hearts sink. His upbeat take: Beresheet successfully reached and held earth and moon orbits. And it reached its target although it was disappointing that the main engine and communications cut out on descent. However, “There was no loss of life. There was real achievement, sweat, limited success, much education and inspiration designed for every Jewish child to look up and say: ‘Yes I can, never give up.’’’
Beit Bracha Mitzvot Farm offers Jews worldwide opportunity to do land-dependent mitzvot
Good News From Israel publishes “News of Israel’s Achievements and Heartwarming Stories from the Jewish State.” Here is what I gleaned at this site:
- First live operation using holographic imaging: Surgeons at Toronto General Hospital’s Peter Munk Cardiac Centre have performed the first live medical procedure using real-time holographic imaging developed by Israel’s RealView Imaging. The 3D images allowed the surgeons to see inside the heart prior to a mitral valve replacement procedure.
- Israeli farm of blessings: Beit Bracha Mitzvot Farm offers Jews abroad or visiting Israel “the opportunity to fulfill Biblical commandments than can only be performed within the boundaries of the Land of Israel. They include planting wheat and olive trees, tending to vineyards, and taking the proper tithes.”
- Discounted shopping at Dead Sea mall: “A new mall at the Dead Sea offers both Israelis and tourists products at prices less the Value Added Tax (VAT) amount. The cost of the rebate will be footed by the developer of the mall. Overseas tourists will be able to claim a double discount as they can still get a VAT rebate on many items.”
Israeli ‘Fart’ artist Guy First blows away ‘Britain’s Got Talent’
The New York Times’ slogan may be “All the News That’s Fit to Print” but you would have to look to the Times of Israel to find “quirky, improbable, infuriating and uplifting” stories like these. Here are some recent Tales of the Times of Israel.
- Scared of arachnids? Go watch Spider-Man, Israeli study says – Researchers exposed some 400 subjects to seven-second excerpts from Spider-Man and Ant-Man movies to see what effect it had on those with spider and ant phobias. Viewing short clips decreased subjects’ phobias by 20%.
- Remake of yet another Israeli series coming to HBO this summer – Co-produced by Drake, Euphoria begins its 8-episode run in June. As does the original Israeli series, it follows high schoolers as they navigate drugs, sex, identity and social media.
- Israeli ‘fart’ artist blows away ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ – Israeli hand-farter Guy First earned a standing ovation from all four judges at his audition for Britain’s Got Talent. The audition consisted of a mashup of the songs “Take On Me,” “Ghostbusters,” and “Eye of the Tiger.” Oy such nachas.
Next time, as Yom Haatzmaut approaches where to find those one-of-a-kind “Only in Israel Moments.