What's Next for Israel's Satellite Program After Amos-6?: Noam Amir, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 2, 2016 — The future of Israel's satellite industry has recently been called into question.
Cyberspace, the Final Frontier: Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, BESA, Aug. 30, 2016 — Sometimes dramatic advances are made in important fields far from the public eye, overshadowed by senseless media uproars over insignificant things.
Israel Proves the Desalination Era Is Here: Rowan Jacobsen, Scientific American, July 29, 2016 — Ten miles south of Tel Aviv, I stand on a catwalk over two concrete reservoirs the size of football fields and watch water pour into them from a massive pipe emerging from the sand.
Zionism Jilted as Israelis Flock to Far Lands in Tech Push: Shoshanna Solomon, Times of Israel, Sept. 13, 2016 — As Israeli engineers, academics and high tech workers leave their homes to conquer foreign markets, one cannot but help wonder what the founder of the Zionist movement Theodor Herzl would have to say on the matter.
Israel’s Greatest Victory?: Seth Siegel, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 8, 2016
SpaceCom to Recoup $173m, Plus Interest, for Destroyed Satellite: Judah Ari Gross, Times of Israel, Sept. 4, 2016
Israel Launches New Ofek-11 Spy Satellite (Video): Breaking Israel News, Sept. 14, 2016
Israeli Invention Helps Paralysed Woman Finish Race: Josh Jackman, the JC, Sept. 12, 2016
Jerusalem Post, Sept. 2, 2016
The future of Israel's satellite industry has recently been called into question. On Thursday, Israel's space industry was shocked after a rocket carrying the Spacecom Satellite Communications Ltd's Amos-6 satellite, considered to be the most-advanced Israeli communications satellite in history, exploded on the launchpad at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The blast decimated the $200 million Israeli-built device, which was made by Israel Aerospace industries (IAI) and the Israel Space Agency.
The Israel Space Agency said an explosion occurred during the fueling of the missile launcher, leading to the satellite’s total loss, which will have a “substantial affect on the agency.” Worries about the future of Israel's satellite program were nothing new, however. There had already been fears that Israel would scrap its satellite program after the government said it would thin out funding to the program. In addition, the State had already said it would not continue funding development of an "Amos 7" satellite. This alone would have caused Israel to lose its competitive edge in the field of satellite technology.
Even though Science, Technology and Space Minister Ofir Akunis said his office will continue to support Israel's communication satellite program, he did not specify how much funding would continue. Many worry it will not be enough. Currently, the program gets $300 million worth of government funding. Even in April, senior IAI officials had fears that they would have to let go of some of its most qualified employees, responsible for the satellite's development, manufacturing, assembly and hoped-for launch into outer space.
Although the IAI invests large sums of its own money into satellite development, the government had plans to thin out its contribution, which would have lead to the firing of between 200 to 250 people, most of them experts in their field. Of further concern is that there is no long-term government plan for the satellite industry, despite Israel's 30-year dominance in the field. Thursday's explosion will delay any new satellite launches by at least two-and-a-half years, causing a major setback to Israel's space program. In addition, the IAI would have to shut down its pressure detection department, which employs some of the best satellite engineers in the world.
In contrast, Israeli satellites used for security purposes do not have funding problems. For communications satellites, however, there is no real policy in place. Currently, Spacecom purchases its parts outside of Israel because they are cheaper and are produced in larger amounts. While the United States produces between five to eight satellites a year, Israel produces one every three to four years. Israel cannot expect to maintain its competitive edge at this pace. If it wants any chance in the industry, the government must also reach into its pocket and give the program more funding.
Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror
BESA, Aug. 30, 2016
Sometimes dramatic advances are made in important fields far from the public eye, overshadowed by senseless media uproars over insignificant things. One of these leaps was made a month ago when Israel's cybersecurity legislation entered a new phase. After prolonged discussions, the Knesset voted in favor of a temporary provision laying the groundwork for Israel's civilian cyber defenses. In 2012, following the recommendations of a committee headed by Maj. Gen. (res.) Isaac Ben-Israel, the National Cyber Bureau (NCB) was established at the Prime Minister's Office. The NCB has come a long way since then, and its framework of principles allows Israel to better protect its civilian cyber infrastructures.
This was a case in which the quality of the human capital involved in the government's efforts would have significant impact on the fate of the initiative. A high bar was set for those involved with the NCB. They would have to be top-notch individuals, ready and willing to dedicate their time, energy and skills to a project whose objectives are sometimes ambiguous. Israel has had several breakthroughs in civilian cyber defense knowhow and organization. People now come here from all over the world to study the field so they can construct similar infrastructures and systems in their own countries.
The captains of the NCB held firm that the pursuit of cyber excellence should be multi-pronged. This meant bolstering the academic aspect of the field, encouraging private sector investment, and building the mechanisms necessary to protect current cyber infrastructure while constantly developing it further. The object was for Israel to capitalize on its achievements in the field by bolstering cybersecurity ties worldwide and boosting both its economy and its defensive capabilities.
The southern city of Beersheba, the "capital of the south" and home to Ben-Gurion University, was selected as the focus of government efforts in cyber defense. The decision to turn Beersheba into a hub of cyber excellence coincided with the decision to relocate the military's Communications Branch and Intelligence units to the Negev.
The nationally important greater Beersheba area can no longer be considered the "periphery," and global giants have recognized this. Encouraged by significant tax breaks, they are setting up research and development centers there, either moving them from other locations in Israel or establishing new ones. If this continues, Beersheba will soon be a household name within the international cyber community – an Israeli Silicon Valley, if you will.
Israel's young cyber industry is a remarkable success story. A few years ago, 200 Israeli startup companies were known in the field, and over 100 additional companies were anonymous. Today there are too many budding cyber startups to count. The more top-notch researchers our academies produce, the more their success will encourage others to follow their dreams, resulting in more capital being earmarked for cyber initiatives. The scope of ideas in this field is endless, and the world is thirsty for them. In this respect, the biggest challenge Israel faces is building a truly robust cyber industry, rather than serving solely as an incubator for ideas that are to be sold off early in their development. The rush to run towards an “exit” is somewhat ingrained in Israeli culture – a culture that is also responsible for the wealth of ideas.
One of the most important aspects of Israel's cyber endeavor is the outlining of measures to protect the country's critical civilian infrastructure. These efforts have been quietly pursued by the Shin Bet security agency for years, but rapid changes in this sphere now require more comprehensive efforts. In a democracy, it is best to divide responsibility for the protection of critical infrastructure between intelligence services and other organizations, devoid of intelligence interests, that are tasked with the technical aspects of the issue. It was therefore decided that another state body, one removed from the Israeli intelligence community and with a technological outlook on the issue, would assume the mantle…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Scientific American, July 29, 2016
Ten miles south of Tel Aviv, I stand on a catwalk over two concrete reservoirs the size of football fields and watch water pour into them from a massive pipe emerging from the sand. The pipe is so large I could walk through it standing upright, were it not full of Mediterranean seawater pumped from an intake a mile offshore. “Now, that’s a pump!” Edo Bar-Zeev shouts to me over the din of the motors, grinning with undisguised awe at the scene before us. The reservoirs beneath us contain several feet of sand through which the seawater filters before making its way to a vast metal hangar, where it is transformed into enough drinking water to supply 1.5 million people.
We are standing above the new Sorek desalination plant, the largest reverse-osmosis desal facility in the world, and we are staring at Israel’s salvation. Just a few years ago, in the depths of its worst drought in at least 900 years, Israel was running out of water. Now it has a surplus. That remarkable turnaround was accomplished through national campaigns to conserve and reuse Israel’s meager water resources, but the biggest impact came from a new wave of desalination plants.
Bar-Zeev, who recently joined Israel’s Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research after completing his postdoc work at Yale University, is an expert on biofouling, which has always been an Achilles’ heel of desalination and one of the reasons it has been considered a last resort. Desal works by pushing saltwater into membranes containing microscopic pores. The water gets through, while the larger salt molecules are left behind. But microorganisms in seawater quickly colonize the membranes and block the pores, and controlling them requires periodic costly and chemical-intensive cleaning. But Bar-Zeev and colleagues developed a chemical-free system using porous lava stone to capture the microorganisms before they reach the membranes. It’s just one of many breakthroughs in membrane technology that have made desalination much more efficient. Israel now gets 55 percent of its domestic water from desalination, and that has helped to turn one of the world’s driest countries into the unlikeliest of water giants.
Driven by necessity, Israel is learning to squeeze more out of a drop of water than any country on Earth, and much of that learning is happening at the Zuckerberg Institute, where researchers have pioneered new techniques in drip irrigation, water treatment and desalination. They have developed resilient well systems for African villages and biological digesters than can halve the water usage of most homes. The institute’s original mission was to improve life in Israel’s bone-dry Negev Desert, but the lessons look increasingly applicable to the entire Fertile Crescent. “The Middle East is drying up,” says Osnat Gillor, a professor at the Zuckerberg Institute who studies the use of recycled wastewater on crops. “The only country that isn’t suffering acute water stress is Israel.”
That water stress has been a major factor in the turmoil tearing apart the Middle East, but Bar-Zeev believes that Israel’s solutions can help its parched neighbors, too — and in the process, bring together old enemies in common cause. Bar-Zeev acknowledges that water will likely be a source of conflict in the Middle East in the future. “But I believe water can be a bridge, through joint ventures,” he says. “And one of those ventures is desalination.”
In 2008, Israel teetered on the edge of catastrophe. A decade-long drought had scorched the Fertile Crescent, and Israel’s largest source of freshwater, the Sea of Galilee, had dropped to within inches of the “black line” at which irreversible salt infiltration would flood the lake and ruin it forever. Water restrictions were imposed, and many farmers lost a year’s crops. Their counterparts in Syria fared much worse. As the drought intensified and the water table plunged, Syria’s farmers chased it, drilling wells 100, 200, then 500 meters (300, 700, then 1,600 feet) down in a literal race to the bottom. Eventually, the wells ran dry and Syria’s farmland collapsed in an epic dust storm. More than a million farmers joined massive shantytowns on the outskirts of Aleppo, Homs, Damascus and other cities in a futile attempt to find work and purpose.
And that, according to the authors of “Climate Change in the Fertile Crescent and Implications of the Recent Syrian Drought,” a 2015 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was the tinder that burned Syria to the ground. “The rapidly growing urban peripheries of Syria,” they wrote, “marked by illegal settlements, overcrowding, poor infrastructure, unemployment, and crime, were neglected by the Assad government and became the heart of the developing unrest.” Similar stories are playing out across the Middle East, where drought and agricultural collapse have produced a lost generation with no prospects and simmering resentments. Iran, Iraq and Jordan all face water catastrophes. Water is driving the entire region to desperate acts.
Except Israel. Amazingly, Israel has more water than it needs. The turnaround started in 2007, when low-flow toilets and showerheads were installed nationwide and the national water authority built innovative water treatment systems that recapture 86 percent of the water that goes down the drain and use it for irrigation — vastly more than the second-most-efficient country in the world, Spain, which recycles 19 percent. But even with those measures, Israel still needed about 1.9 billion cubic meters (2.5 billion cubic yards) of freshwater per year and was getting just 1.4 billion cubic meters (1.8 billion cubic yards) from natural sources. That 500-million-cubic-meter (650-million-cubic-yard) shortfall was why the Sea of Galilee was draining like an unplugged tub and why the country was about to lose its farms.
Enter desalination. The Ashkelon plant, in 2005, provided 127 million cubic meters (166 million cubic yards) of water. Hadera, in 2009, put out another 140 million cubic meters (183 million cubic yards). And now Sorek, 150 million cubic meters (196 million cubic yards). All told, desal plants can provide some 600 million cubic meters (785 million cubic yards) of water a year, and more are on the way. The Sea of Galilee is fuller. Israel’s farms are thriving. And the country faces a previously unfathomable question: What to do with its extra water?…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Times of Israel, Sept. 13, 2016
As Israeli engineers, academics and high tech workers leave their homes to conquer foreign markets, one cannot but help wonder what the founder of the Zionist movement Theodor Herzl would have to say on the matter. Ironically in the Israeli town of Herzliya, named after Herzl, some 140 of Israel’s brightest attended a gathering on Tuesday evening to find out how to navigate their transition to Silicon Valley in the smoothest possible way. Most of them will soon join as many as 50,000 other Israelis that are said populate the strip between San Francisco and San Jose working in high tech jobs there.
The gathering was of people, mainly in their 30s, who were both hopeful and fearful of their future ahead. It also highlighted how far Israel, the Start-Up Nation has moved from the days in which those who left the country were looked down upon as betrayers of the Zionist dream. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin once dubbed those leaving Israel, “Nefolet shel nemoshot“, loosely translated as the “falling of the weak” and the term has seared the minds of Israelis. Today however, academics and high-tech workers who leave for foreign shores are seen as pioneers of Israeli technology who set sail to flaunt Israel’s talent, create ties and push their careers forward. They are viewed as the lucky ones.
And if and when they come back, they are viewed as bringing their knowledge and acquired experiences to the benefit of the nation. They leave with their heads held high. “This is definitely not a falling of the weak,” said Oded Solomon, 35 (no relation to this reporter) who attended the meeting. “This is the falling of the stronger ones. People who can leave are perceived as those who have an advantage over others. This is the falling of the successful ones.” Solomon and his wife Lihi, 35, will be leaving for Silicon Valley, possibly Sunnyvale, in December because of his job with Nokia. They don’t have a home yet, but hope to find one close to where other Israelis are located. They have a four-year old child and a baby on the way. They are leaving indefinitely. It is a “one-way ticket”, said Solomon. “Our parents are sad but they support us. My father talks about Zionism and how important it is to come back. He worries we won’t.”
According to figures provided by Ogen, a relocation company that organized the gathering, there are about 50,000 Israelis who live in the Silicon Valley area, based on figures provided by the Israeli consulates. “They generally come for two or three years but then stay for five years or more,” said 39-year old Aya Shmueli Levkovitz, the organizer of the conference and the founder of Ogen. “Most of them come back to Israel, even if it is after 12 years, and generally before their children go to middle school or high school because that is when they change schools anyway.”
Levkovitz also moved to Sunnyvale, California 10 years ago following the high-tech job of her husband. Spotting a need, she set up her company together with another Israeli partner in 2012. Since then, Ogen has helped steer a “few hundreds of families” through the quagmire of getting visas,finding a home and the best supermarket for those who have relocated, said Levkovitz. “There is a significant change in attitude of Israel’s government,” said Dr. Nurit Eyal, director of a government program set up three years ago to lure academics and high tech professionals back to Israel. “If once people who left the country were viewed as rotten fruit that should be shunned, today the attitude is that relocation is part of the Israeli academic and hi-tech ecosystem and when they want to come home we are here to help them,” Eyal said.
Eyal believes Ogen’s figure about Israelis living in Silicon Valley is too high. According to the program’s data based on the Central Bureau of Statistics, there are about 27,856 Israeli academics living abroad – for a period of three or more years, compared with 24,503 in 2012 – 75 percent of them in the US. The statistics bureau figures also show that over the last three years there has been an average net outflow (more people leaving than coming back) of academics (in all sectors of academia) of around 1,000 people a year. “From our experience most come back” at one point or another, Eyal said. But not enough long-term data is available on the matter, she said.
Even so, the phenomenon of leaving Israelis cannot be avoided, said Eyal. “Israel has opened up and has become global, the know-how is global and we are part of this trend. Today we don’t talk about brain drain but about brain cycling. Many people relocate, perhaps even more than once,” she said. “People have an alternative to live and work elsewhere in the era of globalization. Companies are competing for workers worldwide and the Israeli government recognizes this. That is why we try to make it as easy as possible to return,” Eyal added.
The Israel National Brain Gain program that Eyal heads can match returning Israelis to a network of 350 companies in Israel and it also assists them with bureaucratic and other issues that may deter their return. Initial findings of a recent survey conducted by the program among 800 people who are living abroad or returned via the program found that most of the program’s academics living abroad left Israel for career reasons. And those who return, do so because they view Israel as their country and because their family is here, Eyal said.
Dar, 32, and Adi, 31, are married and prefer not to disclose their family name as they are still not sure if they will be relocating. Both are bio-medical engineers and are still checking out the work options available abroad. Both have jobs in Israel and said their motivation is to advance their careers and climb the economic ladder. “Economically the value you get for the work you do is higher abroad than in Israel,” said Dar. His brother also left, and came back to Israel after 10 years abroad. “My mother raises the issue of Zionism and she says there is no place like Israel. But we are a different generation. We have done our bit for the country by going to the Army and now we want to get ahead economically. In Israel it is almost impossible to get ahead, to exist.”
The high cost of living and the deterioration of public services and education in Israel drove citizens to the streets in protests in the summer of 2011, spurring the government to take steps to lower prices for its citizens. “The exit of highly skilled Israelis to work and live abroad – with some of them staying abroad is unavoidable if Israel wants to be part of the global world and global economy. It would be disastrous if Israel tried to be a closed economy,” said Omer Moav, professor of economics at the University of Warwick and the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. “However the government must take this brain drain problem into account in terms of policy. We need to allow Israelis to have a reasonable life here, especially for those who have higher education and who have the ability to push our economy forward. The returns-to-skills shouldn’t be taxed so heavily.”
“The Zionist dream is to have people here and a successful state,” Moav said. “A dictatorship that just locks people in is not an attractive option nor a reasonable scenario. But another way is to create a country that is great to live in. Unfortunately that is not the case in terms of housing, cost of living, bureaucracy, or security for that matter. When the Zionist dream, with its strong socialist roots, meets the global economy, a change in policy is required to maintain the skilled Israelis in Israel.”
Israel’s Greatest Victory?: Seth Siegel, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 8, 2016 —There isn’t a high school student in Israel who doesn’t know about the War of Independence, the Six Day War and the audacious raid at Entebbe among other Israeli triumphs on land, sea and air. Far less known to most – yet with potentially greater impact and reach – is Israel’s triumph over nature and its current water abundance in a time of growing global scarcity.
SpaceCom to Recoup $173m, Plus Interest, for Destroyed Satellite: Judah Ari Gross, Times of Israel, Sept. 4, 2016—Israel’s Aerospace Industries will compensate a communications firm whose satellite was destroyed in a fiery rocket explosion last week, IAI said Sunday.
Israel Launches New Ofek-11 Spy Satellite (Video): Breaking Israel News, Sept. 14, 2016—Israel launched its Ofek-11 observation satellite from the Palmachim army base on Tuesday in a breathtaking display of aerodynamic splendor. Watch it make its way into space!
Israeli Invention Helps Paralysed Woman Finish Race: Josh Jackman, the JC, Sept. 12, 2016—A woman who is paralysed from the chest down has completed the Great North Run wearing an Israeli exoskeleton. Claire Lomas, who has also finished the London Marathon, took five days to walk the half marathon in the ReWalk suit, created by Israeli entrepreneur Amit Goffer after he was paralysed in a car crash.