“We’ve come here to draw,” declared Prof. Ruth Weisberg, who led a group of artist and architect colleagues on a recent working trip to Israel under the aegis of the University of Southern California’s Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Weisberg, a former dean of USC’s Roski School of Fine Arts, founded and directs the school’s new Initiative for Israeli Arts and Humanities.
An exhibition of works resulting from the trip will be displayed at the USC-Hillel Art Gallery in mid-November through early 2014.
“I had traveled with a group of artist friends related to the Roski School in Italy, Norway and China to respond to landscapes and cityscapes through drawing,” the frequent visitor to Israel tells ISRAEL1c. “I wanted to carry on the tradition here. Israel is extremely vibrant intrinsically, and also from my perspective I want people to have positive experiences of Israel. This is a wonderful way to introduce the country to people.”
The May trip was organized and led by Keshet: The Center for Educational Tourism in Israel, which last December put together an art-centered tour of Israel for the Mizel Museum in Denver.
The USC group of seven participants had four days in Tel Aviv and nearly a week in Jerusalem.
Their Jerusalem itinerary included a full day at the Jerusalem Print Workshop; a tour of the Israel Museum and its related Ticho House Museum; a walk through the Machane Yehuda Market, hiking at Sataf park and historical site, and plenty of time to explore and draw the incomparable sights of the Old City’s four quarters.
“I asked Keshet to schedule a three-hour drawing time every day,” says Weisberg, a painter and printmaker.
Most of the participants had been to Israel before. Jan Handtmann of Santa Barbara was one of two exceptions, and she said that at first she felt “like a fish out of water” due to the cultural and language differences.
“But once I got acclimated, I was surprised by the international relations aspects of all these religions in a small area,” she tells ISRAEL21c. “There was more a spirit of working together than I thought there would be.”
The award-winning Iranian film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf is scheduled to arrive in Israel in two weeks as the Jerusalem Film Festival’s honorary guest.
Makhmalbaf, one of the leading figures in the new wave movement of Iranian cinema, has been a sharp critic of the Iranian regime in recent years. He has directed more than 20 films, in addition to his work as a producer, screenwriter and editor.
His most recent film, “The Gardener,” is scheduled to be screened at the Jerusalem Film Festival, which kicks off on July 4. The movie, which was partly filmed in Israel, was first screened at the recent International Film Festival Rotterdam.
“The Gardener” follows a man from Papua New Guinea who tends the Bahai gardens in Haifa, where he deals with the role religions play in politics and in fomenting war and peace. It was filmed by Makhmalbaf’s son Maysam Makhmalbaf.
The Jerusalem Film Festival will also screen several of Makhmalbaf’s other movies, including “Gabbeh,” “Kandhar” and “Salam [Hello] Cinema.”
The film festival runs from July 4-13.
Makhmalbaf was born in Tehran in 1957. As a young man he was involved in underground Islamic activity, for which he was imprisoned for four years. He was released after the Islamic Revolution.
Israel came in for warm praise from European football’s supremo Michel Platini as the Euro Under-21 football championships ended with Spain thrashing Italy 4-2 to retain the title.
“The stadiums were wonderful and well-organized, the pitches excellent and the atmosphere in the stadiums was great with many families with young children attending. That is exactly the type of tournament that I like to see,” Platini told a news conference.
Spain stood out above all their opponents, winning all their matches without conceding a goal until the final and their flowing style captivated the crowds. They won a fourth title in Jerusalem, one fewer than the record held by Italy.
Israel qualified as host and was on paper the weakest team in the event, although it managed to beat England in a meaningless encounter and forced a draw with eventual semi-finalists Norway.
It was a disappointing outing for Germany, Russia and England, who never threatened to advance to the semi-finals, while the Netherlands showed flair but was frail defensively.
The 13-day tournament was the most important international sporting event to be held in the Jewish state since the 1968 Paralympics and was held amid tight security following a politically-charged build-up.
The developing nation of Rwanda – through the vision of a Jerusalem-based team led by American-Israeli Yosef Abramowitz – may soon become home to an 8.5- megawatt solar oasis capable of providing 8 percent of the country’s energy supply.
Although Abramowitz’s Energiya Global and the Rwandan government are still working on signing a final agreement, the company provided a progress report on the project on Tuesday morning at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, in the presence of Rwandan President Paul Kagame. If the agreement is finalized, the country’s first solar field will be located at the Agahozo- Shalom Youth Village, a boarding school for genocide orphans east of Kigali, the country’s capital.
The company hopes not only to bring a new and clean source of energy to Rwanda but also to catalyze industrial growth, create jobs and generate revenue for healthcare and education.
“We are very grateful that you can make the choice to invest in us as well as with us,” Kagame said.
Abramowitz launched Energiya Global as its president and co-founder with the hope of bringing solar energy to the developing world. President and co-founder of the Arava Power Company as well, Abramowitz and his partners were responsible for the construction of Israel’s first grid-connected, medium-sized solar field, which came online at Kibbutz Ketura in June 2011. New Jersey businessman David Rosenblatt and Ketura resident Ed Hofland cofounded both companies with Abramowitz, and were joined by Ira Green and company chairman Howie Rodenstein in establishing Energiya.
“We feel that we are brothers and sisters with the Rwandan people, because we have also come from darkness into light,” Abramowitz said.
The 8.5-MW project would encompass about 16 of the youth village’s 60 hectares and would provide approximately 8% of the country’s energy, explained Chaim Motzen, vice president and Africa regional director at Energiya Global.
“There’s a great solar resource in Rwanda,” he said.
The business climate of Rwanda is one of the best in all of Africa, and the government is eager to reduce its dependency on diesel fuel, Motzen stressed. Rwanda has about 100 MW of electricity for its 11 million people, which is derived from approximately 55% hydroelectric sources, 40% diesel and 5% methane gas.
After Energiya and the government of Rwanda signed a memorandum of understanding, the company submitted its feasibility study to the government at the end of 2012, and final negotiations toward signing a deal are now taking place.
“We hope that we will break ground and begin construction before Christmas,” Motzen said.
Once the solar field is operating, it will support the country’s economic growth, provide power to public institutions such as hospitals, reduce operating costs for businesses and create thousands of jobs, he explained. The site will also become an educational hub, attracting students from the village and from the region to come learn about solar energy production.
The facility will also have a positive environmental effect on both a national and local scale, reducing the need for women to burn wood in their homes – an act that makes their air 20 times more polluted than that of Beijing, Motzen said.
“The project will be a reliable source of income for the orphanage,” and a portion of the profits will be shared with the village, he added. “We hope that this is a replicable model.”
Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village is the ideal host site for the country’s first solar field, according to Anne Heyman, the Jewish South African-American attorney and philanthropist who founded the village in December 2008.
The massive Rwandan genocide in 1994 led to a situation in which there was “no systemic solution to the orphan problem,” Heyman explained.
By establishing the youth village, she said she aimed to transplant the Israeli way of coping with traumatized youth to Rwanda, noting that “we share a common history in so many ways.”
This past January, the village was proud to send off its first graduating high-school class, with 99% of the students passing the Rwandan national exams, she said.
“These are kids that came from the worst of the worst,” Heyman continued, stressing that now, they aim to give back to their country. “These are kids who are able to communicate, to think creatively.”
Heyman explained that Rwanda is also a fitting country for solar energy development, as concern for the environment is prevalent among its citizens, who will not even be seen carrying plastic bags. In his capacity as president, Kagame advocates a policy of diversifying energy sources as widely as possible, she added.
“It’s such a perfect match for Agahozo-Shalom to be a place where we will be able to bring alternative energy,” Heyman said.
Now that the Israeli youth village system has proved successful at Agahozo-Shalom in Rwanda, Heyman said, she feels that the concept “can be replicated with great success.”
“The challenge now is to figure out how to make this village and the ones that follow sustainable,” she said. “We need people willing to invest in businesses – like the solar company – on behalf of the village. Then we are talking true sustainability.”
In the eyes of Kagame, Agahozo- Shalom Youth Village “symbolizes the partnership that is there, that we want to be there” between Israel and Rwanda.
“In Rwanda we feel very much closely associated with Israel,” he said. “We are happy to build on this, on these symbols of togetherness.”
While there are still many challenges for Rwandans to overcome, Kagame stressed, none is “insurmountable,” adding that people who came from nothing are now able to become something in the country. Some of the challenges include continually improving education, developing technology, constructing infrastructure, integrating the various regions of the country and bringing markets to scale, he explained.
“We want to impact lives of people,” Kagame said. “There are things that cement all these ideas together and one of these is energy.
“You understand the meaning of that,” he said.
A group led by Sweden’s Viaeuropa has been chosen to build a super-fast Internet network across Israel that will compete with existing phone and cable companies.
A quasi-governmental selection committee said on Sunday they hoped deployment, which will use Cisco’s technology, could begin in six months.
“All citizens of Israel will enjoy very fast Internet speeds, which could be a significant growth engine for Israel’s economy,” said Roni Friedman, acting director of the Government Companies Authority in the Finance Ministry.
The government early in 2012 gave the go-ahead for state-run utility Israel Electric Corp (IEC) to seek investors to build the network using fiber optic cables.
These can provide Internet speeds of 1 gigabit per second – or as much as 100 times what is currently available.
The Communications Ministry believes the project will bring a range of advanced services and lower rates than currently exist.
Yet the process was delayed five times and by many months due to limited participation.
The government was forced to sweeten the terms, allowing the company selected to hold a 60% stake – up from 51% – in a new company that will build and operate a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network.
IEC will hold the other 40%.
Initially, four groups submitted bids but just one made it until the end, as two of the other companies joined up with Viaeuropa.
Watch a Chinese film crew capturing the magic of Jerusalem’s Old City as a backdrop for a full-length romantic comedy.
The artists worked with the Israel Ministry of Tourism to arrange the filming of the movie, “Old Cinderella,” starring Zhang Jingchu. “It’s a great pleasure to be here in Jerusalem and in Israel,” the actress says. “It’s amazing.”
In recent years, more and more foreign film companies are choosing Israeli settings for their works. Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and other locales provide a dramatic and visually rich landscape for feature films.