Isaac Schapira, a prominent member of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community, will be appointed as an officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II, for his work in “strengthening the ties between the UK and the haredi community,” the British Embassy announced on Tuesday.
Schapira, the son of the late United Torah Judaism leader Rabbi Abraham Yosef Schapira, said that he is “deeply honored” to receive the award and that he sees it as a “mark of great respect” for the haredi community.
The British government has shown “ warmth and [a] supportive attitude” toward the haredim, he said.
British Ambassador Mathew Gould said that Schapira’s work has “helped us build a friendship and understanding between Britain and the haredi community.
Isaac has devoted huge time over many years to helping me and my predecessors get to know this vital and important part of Israeli society.”
Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Google Israel CEO Meir Brand signed the framework agreement, according to a statement.
The Finance Ministry said, “The MOU was formulated as part of recognition of the importance of technology to access government information and services, to reduce the bureaucratic burden, to improve government services to citizens and businesses, and for economic growth.”
Initiatives to come from the collaboration are set to include “Meet the Government” encounters, a platform for Israeli start-up companies to better understand government policies and work plans, a scholarship program cooperation at Ben Gurion University for engineering, computer studies and public policy students to present innovative ideas and technologies for the public sector, and new data banks that can assist Google.
In 2013, Google acquired Waze, an Israeli navigation app and traffic report start-up, for $1.3 billion. Part of the profits from the Waze sale were donated to Israeli charities.
In December, Google also launched an Israeli start-up incubator, called Campus Tel Aviv, “a hub for entrepreneurs and developers located in the heart of the start-up nation” which will serve as “a space for developers and entrepreneurs to attend and organize events with speakers, mentors and other entrepreneurs.”
“The ongoing investment in Israel is proof of the extraordinary talent we have here, and we are committed to continue strengthening the Internet’s contribution to the Israeli economy and public,” Google Israel’s Brand said at its inauguration.
British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are to visit Israel next month, trips seen as an expression of solidarity and encouragement for Israel and the Palestinians during the ongoing US-brokered peace process.
Cameron will arrive in the middle of February on his first official visit since taking office in 2010. Merkel will land a week later, accompanied by German government ministers, for a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet.
The visits by the two most important leaders in Europe will come on the heels of trips to Israel by a host of other senior officials throughout January. These include US Secretary of State John Kerry, the driving force behind the current negotiations, who has notched up more than 10 visits to the region since becoming America’s top diplomat and was expected to arrive Wednesday afternoon.
Among the other dignitaries set to visit this month are German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who will arrive on January 11; Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who lands on January 19 and who will give a speech at the Knesset; Romanian President President Traian Băsescu, who arrives on the same day as Harper; and new Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, who will be accompanied by his foreign minister Maia Panjikidze, is due to visit a week later.
Also expected this month is the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on a three-day visit. Peruvian President Ollanta Humala is also visiting, at a date that has yet to be determined.
A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that American’s citizens’ affection of Israel is only sixth, after Canada, the UK, Japan, Germany, and Brazil.
The survey asked citizens on their perception of various nations. Two countries the United States was fighting against during WWII marked a rise in Americans’ inclination – Japan came in third with 70% finding it favorable, and Germany came in fourth, with 67%.
Some 61% noted to have liked Israel, and 26% of Americans see the Jewish State unfavorably.
In keeping with US tradition, the survey indicates that Republicans hold a more favorable view of Israel than do Democrats. Some 74% of Republicans see Israel in a positive light, compared to 55% of Democrats.
Though considered the most prominent Arab ally of the US, Saudi Arabia was marked at the bottom of the list, garnering 27% favorable views and 57% unfavorable views.
Coming in after Israel was France, as 59% reported to view France favorably.
The complete ranking list named Canada in first place (81% favorable views versus 9% unfavorable); UK second (79% vs. 9%); then Japan (70% vs. 20%); Germany (67% vs. 16%); Brazil (61% vs. 15%); Israel (61% vs. 26%); France (59% vs. 24%); India (46% vs. 33%), Mexico (39% vs. 52%); China (33% vs. 55%); Russia (32% vs. 54%); and Saudi Arabia coming in last (27% vs. 57%).
Harper will lead a delegation to Israel of 200 Canadians. Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein called Harper “a true, courageous friend of Israel” and said he was sure the visit would further strengthen ties between the two countries.
Alitalia, Italy’s national airline, plans to add three weekly flights on its Tel Aviv-Rome route starting in April, bringing the number of its weekly flights between Israel and Italy to 29.
The flights will be added on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. They will leave Rome at 9:30 am and Tel Aviv at 3:50 pm.
According to recent reports, Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways is in early-stage talks over a possible €300 million ($413 million) investment in Alitalia, which could help rescue the loss-making Italian airline.
Meanwhile, Hungarian low-cost airline Wizz Air announced its plan to add another route from Israel to Europe. The new route, to the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, will be launched on May 14, 2014.