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Archive | 2011 | January

After conquering high-tech, Israel sets its sights on a green revolution

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January 4, 2011
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Israel is driving to become a world leader in alternative energy, with the government throwing its support to encourage cutting-edge technologies.

After a successful run of high-tech and computer-related innovation, Israel is focusing its ambitions on the next big thing — preparing the world for life without coal and oil.

Israel is driving to become a world leader in alternative energy, with the government throwing its support to encourage cutting-edge technologies. The number of private entrepreneurs entering the so-called “clean-tech” sector has swelled dramatically.

Already, a number of firms are moving to roll out new ideas. Perhaps the country’s best known clean-tech company — Project Better Place — aims next year to activate a network of charging stations for electric cars across Israel, which would be one of the most extensive such grids in the world.

Others are still in early stages. On a 10-meter (yard) stretch of a north Israel highway, the firm Innowattech tested out its system of tile-like generators, which are installed under roads and convert the weight and motion of passing vehicles into electricity. It is now looking to expand, claiming that a kilometer-long (0.6-mile) lane of its generators could power more than 200 households.

Alex Klein, an analyst at Emerging Energy Research, a Cambridge, Mass., research firm, said Israel — a country of fewer than 8 million people — has in a way benefited from its small size, forcing it to develop products for export.

“Given that it has a small market locally, its role will continue to be innovating new next-generation technology. Pound for pound it is a pretty key incubator of technologies,” he said.

Israel already has a formidable track record. Bolstered in large part by veterans of shadowy high-tech military units, the country helped develop such innovations as instant messaging, Internet telephony and wireless computer chips.

The government is now pushing for that entrepreneurial drive to be directed into environmentally clean technologies, not only as an economic opportunity but as a necessity for an arid, resource-poor nation. Israel, which now depends almost entirely for its energy on imported coal and natural gas, has set a goal to have 10 percent of its electricity generated by alternative means by 2020.

In November, the government approved a plan to spend $600 million over the next decade to reach that goal, with much of the money poured into encouraging green construction and development of new technologies.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented the plan as a security necessity.

“I view this as a national goal of the highest importance because the addiction to oil has led to the Western world being dependent on the oil-producing countries and harms the standing and security of the state of Israel,” he said.

Israel’s green innovation dates back decades.

The country is the birthplace of drip irrigation, a technology that promotes agriculture in arid areas. Israel recycles about three quarters of its waste water for agriculture, and for decades the roofs of its homes have been fitted with solar panels that provide hot water.

Eugene Kandel, a U.S.-educated economist who spearheads the government’s efforts, said the clean-tech drive has the same motivation as the earlier breakthroughs.

“In both cases it’s a matter of necessity being the mother of inventions,” said Kandel, who heads Israel’s National Economic Council.

In real terms, the country still lags far behind clean-tech giants such as Japan, Germany and the United States. According to an analysis of the European Union’s World Patent Statistical Database issued last month, Israel wasn’t even among the top 10 countries patenting environmental inventions between 2000 and 2005.

But that may change as Israel’s clean-tech sector revs up. In the third quarter of this year, investments in the sector totaled $120 million, half of all private-equity investment in Israel.

In 2006, there were about 120 clean-tech companies in Israel, and 120 more have been established each year since, said Glen Schwaber, a partner at Israel Cleantech Ventures, the country’s first and largest venture capital firm to focus exclusively on alternative energy.

“Per capita, we are head and shoulders above everyone else,” he said.
Eight Israeli companies have been named in each of the past two years to the Global Cleantech 100 — a respected industry barometer of the top 100 companies worldwide. Only the United States and Great Britain had more companies named.

When General Electric Corp. handed out $100,000 grants in July as part of its international challenge to companies to build the next-generation power grid, two of the five winners were Israeli companies.

Israel is starting to increase its solar energy sector. Last week, it dedicated its largest on-grid solar project — an $8.5 million collection of 40 solar panel systems that will supply 2 megawatts, enough to power about 500 homes, said Isaac Isman, vice president of business development at IC Green Projects.

This month, the government plans to issue bids for 10 more solar projects in the Negev Desert, with a total capacity of 60 megawatts.

Israeli company BrightSource Energy has taken its expertise overseas, developing the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in California’s Mojave Desert, expected to be the largest solar thermal project in the world.

Another Israeli-based operation, Siemens AG’s Solel Solar Systems, is helping build the Mojave Solar Park, a 6,000-acre power-producing complex expected to go online next year.

Israeli firm CellEra has joined the international race to develop viable fuel cells, a technology that so far has been too expensive for commercial use. It has built what it says is a working prototype of a hydrogen fuel cell that operates without using platinum, greatly reducing the cost. It is now aiming to develop a market-ready version.

Israeli-American businessman Shai Agassi, of Project Better Place, said Israel’s small size and dense population, along with government help, made the country attractive for his firm’s network for encouraging electric cars.
He predicts that about half the cars in Israel will be electric by 2015.

At a recent business conference in Israel, some 1,000 companies from around the world came to study Better Place’s progress, he said.

“When China comes to Israel to learn about electric cars, then something amazing is happening in Israel,” he said.

Source: Associated Press

Andrea Bocelli to sing at Masada

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January 4, 2011
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Famed Italian tenor to take part in one time performance in June. All proceeds dedicated to support of Galilee, Negev residents

Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli has accepted an invitation from the Israeli Opera to come to Israel in June for a unique concert which will be held at the foothills of the famous Masada landmark. The concert will mark the closing of the Opera Festival which will include performances of “Aida” at the Masada and Jerusalem at the Sultan’s Pool.

Proceeds from the concert, which will be held June 12 in cooperation with the Or Association, will be dedicated to the support of residents of the Negev and the Galilee.

Bocelli will be accompanied by musicians from the Rishon Lezion Symphonic Orchestra and the opera choir. The famous tenor will sing famous arias from popular operas together Neapolitan songs. Choir and orchestra pieces will also be preformed during the concert.

Bocelli’s last Israel visit was part of a visit in honor of the birthday of President Shimon Peres in 2008. Prior to this, the singer came to Israel for a gala concert with the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Maestro Zubin Mehta.

“Bringing Bocelli to Israel is a considerable accomplishment, but it should be noted that he was very happy to receive the invitation,” said Manager of the Israeli Opera Chana Monitz, who, in her words, fulfilled her dream of holding the International Opera Festival at Masada.

“The success of the event we held on the foothills of Masada last year had a huge global impact, whose force surprised even us. The next step, launching a full opera festival, was a natural one and its implementation awards us significant standing among international opera festivals.

“When I told Bocelli about the event and we suggested that he come, he said he would do so gladly and was very interested in taking part. We are thrilled.”

The maestro set to conduct the concert has yet to be determined, but the opera said that the issue will be finalized over the next few days.

Andrea Bocelli was born in Tuscany 52 years ago and suffers from glaucoma which left him completely bind by the age of 12. In 1992 he broke out as a singer thanks to an Italian rock star who needed a classic tenor for his song Miserere which he had originally written for Opera singer Luciano Pavarotti. After hearing Bocelli, it was Pavarotti that changed the rock star’s mind, leading him to hire Bocelli’s services.

Source: Ynetnews.com

Flowers for Butts…. It’s good for the environment!

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January 4, 2011
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Passersby help environmental activists clean up Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard. ‘Our goal is to replace litter with clean, green environment,’ one of organizers says

Environmental activists from the non-profit organization “A Country without Cigarette Litter” recruited passersby to help clean up Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard recently.

Residents were given a flower for every cigarette butt they picked up.

The organization estimates that each year, in Israel alone, some six billion cigarette butts are not properly disposed of.

Activist Hanan Shteingart says cigarette butts are the most common form of litter in the world and are one of the leading causes of forest fires.

“Our activity is aimed at encouraging civilians to clean up their surroundings and talk about the environmental damage caused by cigarette butts,” he says.

“The flowers were handed out as a symbolic act which calls to beautify public places and replace the litter with a clean and green environment,” Shteingart said.

According to the activist, “by raising awareness to the damage caused by cigarette butts we can reduce the amount of garbage on Israel’s beaches and streets, and in its forests.

“Smokers have told us that they began disposing of cigarette butts properly after learning of the ecological damage they cause,” he says.

Source: Ynetnews.com

VIDEO: Yet another Israeli discovery on TV this time on ‘Law and Order’

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January 4, 2011
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Tel Aviv to get Waldorf Astoria too

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January 3, 2011
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Luxury chain’s second hotel in Israel to be built on shoreline, near Hilton Hotel

The Waldorf Astoria chain is expected to open a second hotel in Israel, on the plot adjacent to the Tel Aviv Hilton Hotel.

The chain’s first hotel will be opened by the Canadian Reichman family in 2011 in Jerusalem, opposite businessman Alfred Akirov’s Mamilla Hotel, at a total investment of $100 million. It is expected to be Israel’s most luxurious hotel. Developer Henry Taic plans to build the second Waldorf Astoria Hotel on the area north of the Tel Aviv Hilton Hotel, which includes its parking lot and gas station. The new hotel will be integrated into the activity of the historic hotel located near Independence Park.

According to Architect Moshe Zur, who is conducting the negotiations with the Tel Aviv Municipality, it is still unclear home many floors or room the hotel will have and whether it will include vacation flats.

Taic confirmed to Yedioth Ahronoth the existence of construction plans near the Hilton, adding that it would be a long process. In any event, the new hotel’s location is not expected to block the Hilton guests’ view.

Two Waldorf Astoria hotels in Israel will expand the country’s five-star deluxe hotel industry, which includes the two Ritz hotels being built in the Herzliya Marina and on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard and the Four Seasons Hotel planned in Jerusalem’s German Colony.

The Jerusalem hotel, being built by the Hilton corporation and the IPC Jerusalem company within the historical Palace hotel, is located on the corner of King David and Agron Streets – short walking distance from the Old City – and will include 220 rooms and suites and 30 residential apartments.

Waldorf Astoria Collection currently has five hotels, four of them in the United States. The Jerusalem hotel will be the second one located outside the US after the hotel in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

In addition, Taic is planning a hotel with residential apartments near the David Intercontinental Hotel which he also owns, at a total investment of NIS 750 million ($210 million).

Source: Ynetnews.com

Israel helps China combat child abuse

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January 3, 2011
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For first time, delegation of Israeli experts trains Chinese pediatricians to diagnose and treat child abuse and neglect

Israeli expertise in combating the phenomenon of child abuse is being exported to China for the first time.

A team from the Jerusalem-based Haruv Institute, which provides innovative training in identifying and fighting child abuse and neglect, held a five-day seminar last week for a group of 40 pediatricians from across China led by Dr. Yoram Ben Yehuda and Dr. Gabriel Otterman.

Sanford R. Cardin, the president of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, which supports the Haruv Institute, attended as well.

The seminar sought to provide the pediatricians, who often serve as the front-line in identifying child abuse, new tools and clinical skills with a focus on early detection.

The training, which took place in Xi’an, a city of ten million in central China, also included methods for documenting and treating cases of child abuse. Shaanxi Hospital in Xi’ang invited Haruv’s physicians after hearing about their expertise.

The seminar included lectures, workshops, an examination of case studies, in-depth discussion and clinical, hands-on training. Some of the Chinese physicians were expected to travel to Jerusalem for further training at the Haruv Institute.

This is the first time an Israeli delegation has been invited to another country to train others on the subject of preventing and treating child abuse and is among the first times, if not the first time, that a Chinese institute has asked for such outside expertise on the matter.

Integral role

The seminar’s long-term goal is to train a core group of pediatricians in China to become experts in detecting and treating child abuse, who will then be able to transmit their knowledge and new tools to colleagues throughout the country, home to one of the largest populations of children in the world.

“The Chinese have recently realized that the role pediatricians’ play is a very integral one in fighting child abuse, and often they will be the first place a child will go after being hurt,” said Professor Hillel Schmid, Director of the Haruv Institute. “This innovative and pioneering seminar aims to train these pediatricians with the necessary skills and knowledge to detect when a child is in danger and, furthermore, have the resources and wherewithal to take the appropriate action.”

According to Schmid, the Chinese invitation is evidence of the Haruv Institute’s growing international influence as leaders in providing knowledge and training in the prevention and treatment of child abuse. “Our goal is to expand our reach and to deepen our collaboration with the professional community in China to share with them the knowledge and skills we obtained in Israel to fight this phenomenon,” Schmid added.

Source: Ynetnews.com