Arrivals at the opening of the annual Globes Business Conference in Tel Aviv on Saturday night were greeted by a large group of demonstrators from Hashomer Hatzair (Young Guard) and Hanoar Haoved (Working Youth) who waved pink flags as they called for social justice and denounced the rich for getting richer while the poor were getting poorer. They demanded that Israel change its social agenda, force employers to pay fair wages and implement legislation that would strengthen the labor laws and make it more difficult to fire loyal and hard working employees. Dozens of policemen milled around to make sure the demonstration did not get out of hand and, more importantly, to keep demonstrators outside the David Intercontinental Hotel, the venue of the conference.
While Israel's economic growth exceeded all expectations and made a remarkable recovery after the war in Lebanon, the plight of the poor and underprivileged was not ignored at the conference, even though billionaire real estate developer and casino and media mogul Donald Trump, speaking via videophone from the Trump International Golf Course in Palm Beach, Florida, praised Binyamin Netanyahu for reducing the power of the unions during his tenure as Finance Minister. Globes CEO Eitan Madmon, after listing Israel's economic achievements, spoke of growing social gaps and the need to close them. "That's the challenge confronting all of us," he said.
Among the people who will benefit from the business sector's ongoing acceptance of social responsibility are several thousand Israelis with disabilities who, though they can work efficiently in many spheres, are often denied the dignity of employment, because certain kinds of limitations have social stigmas attached to them.
Thus it was heart-warming when Yuval Wagner, the wheelchair-bound founder and chairman of Access Israel was named by Globes and the Schwab Foundation as the winner of the 2006 award for Social Entrepreneurship. A loud cheer erupted from the audience of more than 1,000 when Wagner's name was announced. A lieutenant colonel in the Israel Air Force, Wagner, a former combat pilot, lost his independent mobility in 1987 while flying a mission in a Cobra helicopter, which crashed and left Wagner severely injured. He emerged from the experience a quadriplegic, but remained in the Air Force as an information specialist. Although he's one of the lucky ones in terms of a job, he knows first-hand about the frustrations of many disabled people who cannot reach certain places because there is no wheelchair access or ramp for people who can walk but are unable to climb stairs. Wagner took up the cause for his fellow wheelers, forcing many business enterprises and municipal councils to take note of and give due consideration to a specific sector of society. The award will enable him to represent Israel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, but Wagner was more excited over the fact that the win brought Access Israel more vividly into national awareness. Anyone can suddenly become disabled, he warned, so everyone should work towards putting quality into the lives of the disabled. He also asked that people recognize the fact that modern technology enables the disabled to do many things they couldn't do before. These new abilities make it possible for them to do a large variety of jobs.
It didn't end there. Comedian Yaacov Cohen, who had the crowd roaring with laughter, started his act with the comment: "I always thought Monopoly was a game, but you guys take it seriously." Continuing with a spiel that drew more laughs as it got ruder and cruder, Cohen concluded on a sobering note, when he turned around as he was exiting, came back to the microphone, leaned forward and declared: "Someone's got to get rid of the poverty in this country. You're the only ones who can do it, because the government does nothing."
If the Israeli business sector needed a morale boost, it certainly got it from Trump, who together with his son Donald Trump Jr. and daughter Ivanka, expressed tremendous confidence in Israel's economy. Congratulating Israel on "doing something that few countries could do" in terms of economic recovery after the war, Trump described Israelis as strong people with strong minds. " Israel is one of my favorite places in the world. I love the Israeli people; it's a spectacular place," he said. The Trumps left no doubt that the luxury 70-story Trump Plaza Tower they are building on the seam of Ramat Gan and Tel Aviv with Crescent Heights Investments, will not be their only property development in Israel. "The real estate market has great potential for the future," said Trump, adding that there was no question about future Trump investments in high rise condominiums. "We plan to get in there and take advantage," he said, noting that he has many friends "not all Jewish" who are investing in Israel. Although he would not be pinned down to a date when he will come to Israel, Trump said it would be soon after the commencement of construction on his project. Ivanka and Trump Jr. will be here in about two months and will come very often after that because, according to Trump Jr., one can't oversee projects of this kind by remote control. The Trump siblings do a lot of traveling from project to project - they have 33 under construction in different parts of the world. Trump, who has personally experienced the extremes of rises and falls in the market, was asked to share his formula for overcoming a crisis. In 1989, the real estate market was at an all-time high, he said. In 1990 it was at an all-time low. Many people went bankrupt. Fortunately, he didn't, but he was in serious financial trouble with a debt of $9.2 billion. He hadn't really worked in a while, but now, he had no choice. "I went back to work and I focused hard. Today my company is bigger, stronger and more powerful than it was in the 1980s. The real key is focus and things will turn out all right."
Afraica Israel Investments led the gains on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange on Sunday. Although sales to celebrities are not specifically accountable for the company's successes abroad, celebrity clients are certainly good for the image. Film goers who saw the spectacular New York penthouse of the trend-setting character played by Meryl Streep in "The Devil Wore Prada," might be interested to know that Streep purchased something along similar lines from Africa Israel. Moreover, she's not the only celebrity to whom the company has sold an apartment in New York .
Together with guests from 164 countries, brothers Zohar and Yehuda Zisapel celebrated the 25th anniversary of RAD Data Communications at a five-day festival in Eilat. RAD, which the Zisapels founded in 1981, has grown into a group of 15 companies. Headquartered in Tel Aviv, RAD has more than a dozen offices in North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and Oceania. Aggregate sales in 2005 amounted to $640 million. RAD is an international leader of access solutions for data telecommunications and applications. The company is committed to the environment and practices environmental responsibility in its operations. RAD also maintains a strong code of ethics with regard to respect for employees, honesty, fairness to customers and business relations with other companies.
Agent Video Intelligence has named Russel Salmon, as its CFO and COO. Salmon joins Agent Vi from Raytheon Israel where he served as CFO-COO for the past six years. Prior to Raytheon, he was financial controller at Paradigm Geophysical in Israel. Salmon is a certified CPA and has an MBA from the Edinburgh Business School, Scotland. He holds a Bachelor of Accountancy degree from Tel-Aviv University and a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Finance and Accounting from the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Agent Vi is an up-and-coming CCTV content analytics software developer. In another Agent Vi development, Dr. Gerard Medioni, Ph.D., professor and Chairman at the Department of Computer Science, University of Southern California (USC), joined the company's Board of Advisors.
After serving for the past 17 years, the director-general of the Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva, Prof. Dan Oppenmheim suddenly announced his intention to leave and head the private Herzliya Medical Center, reveals Jerusalem Post Health and Science reporter Judy Siegel. Clalit Health Services, which owns the Petah Tikva medical center, will begin looking for a replacement. Oppenheim forged the joint administration of Clalit's Beilinson and Hasharon Hospitals under the aegis of the Rabin Medical Center, newly named in 1996. He also oversaw the building of the Gur Shasha hospital tower at Beilinson, the establishment of the Davidoff Cancer Research and Treatment Center and the founding of the Helen Schneider Women's Hospital.
Israeli scientists and other academics increasingly are being recognized abroad. For those Israelis who know their history, November 29 is the anniversary of the UN Resolution for the Partition of Palestine, which paved the way for the creation of the sovereign State of Israel. But for sociologist and Hebrew University Professor Emeritus Prof. Shmuel H. Eisenstadt, the date has an extra dimension. This was the date, last week, on which he received the prestigious Holberg Prize from HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway. The prize is worth NOK 4.5 million (roughly equivalent to $716,000). The prize, established by the Norwegian Storting (Legislature), is awarded annually by the Board of the Ludwig Holberg Memorial Fund. In the citation listing Eisenstadt's achievements, the Academic Committee that selected him noted that he had developed comparative knowledge of exceptional quality and originality concerning social change and modernization, and concerning relations between culture, belief systems and political institutions. His work, declared the committee, combines sociological theory with historical and empirical research in the study of modernities and civilizations. Eisenstadt, who was described as an extremely productive scholar who has great influence in many disciplines, took this latest accolade in stride. Over the years, he has received many honors and awards including the International Balzan Prize in Sociology and the McIver Award of the American Sociological Association. A member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and the Humanities, he has received many honorary doctorates and fellowships from such impressive institutions as the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the London School of Economics, the Chinese Academy of Social science, the University of Helsinki, Harvard University and others.
While the Hebrew University, the Van Leer Institute, the Israel Academy of Sciences and the Humanities and other institutions with which he is affiliated may be basking in Eisenstadt's glory, Bar-Ilan University also has good cause to feel proud. Prof. Michal Lavidor, a leading researcher in cognitive neuroscience and psychology at Bar-Ilan's Gonda (Goldschmied) Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center and Department of Psychology, is one of five outstanding researchers (and the only Israeli) to receive the prestigious Marie Curie Excellence Award for 2006. The award, which comes with a check for â‚¬50,000, is awarded annually to five outstanding scientific researchers who have contributed to the advancement of European research. Lavidor was recognized for her work "Interhemispheric Stimulation Promotes Reading Enhancement." The award ceremony took place last week at the Ecole Polytechnique F d rale de Lausanne in Switzerland.
Lavidor is recognized as a world leader in magnetic stimulation studies of language. She recently moved to Bar-Ilan University after spending more than six years in the UK.
During her Ph.D. studies in experimental psychology at Bar-Ilan University, Lavidor specialized in visual word recognition, in particular hemispheric differences in processing written words. She moved to the University of York as a Marie Curie Research Fellow in 1999 and further developed her research interests to investigate brain structures involved in orthographic processing of words and letters. Lavidor's research focuses on understanding what occurs in the brain when we read. It is funded by the Wellcome Trust, (the world's largest medical research charity funding research into human and animal health), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Royal Society, and the Israel Academy of Sciences. Last year Lavidor established a research network that combines 12 laboratories in six European countries, and was awarded European Commission funding.
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