We have lift-off

Last week I proclaimed Israel’s “super-power” status, as its technological developments reached new heights. And, this week I can report that the atmospheric rise of the Jewish State continues.
Following the success of Israel’s satellite developments, Minister of Finance Yuval Steinitz and Minister of Science and Technology Prof. Daniel Hershkovitz have agreed on a huge rise in Israel’s investment in space technologies. The Jewish state will invest 165 million shekels in the space program in the next two years – up from about 10 million shekels for the previous two-year period. In another major project, with the situation in Egypt deteriorating, both India and China are now looking at Israel’s new high-speed freight route between Eilat and Ashdod as an alternative to the Suez Canal and a major trade link between Asia and Europe.
Israeli computer experts, engineers and scientists are now in great demand – thanks to the huge investment by foreign hi-tech companies in Israel. 46 percent of all companies here are multinational ones, compared to only 5% in Japan. Apple recently announced a new R&D centre here, following in the footsteps of Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Texas Instruments and others. Israel is truly the land of opportunity where Israelis can succeed, despite harsh backgrounds. No wonder that, after months of pessimism, Israel’s Consumer Confidence Index rose by 5.3 points in January. 
Despite criticism of our education system, a report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development indicates that Israel is one of the world’s most educated countries. The OECD study shows that Israel ranks second in percentage of population with post-secondary degrees, with 45% of Israelis completing university degrees. Israel ranks ahead of countries such as Japan (44%), the US (41%), the UK (37%) and only lags behind Canada (50%). 
Is it any surprise, therefore, that our film industry has taken off? Four Oscar nominations in five years have catapulted Israel from a cinema embarrassment to a powerhouse player. I’ll keep the news from our scientists and innovators until later in the week. But you should know that Israel’s bakers are the top crust. An Israeli team of bakers won two first-place awards at the International Baking Championships held in Rimini.
Other successful “launches” last week included Israel’s election to a United Nations board. History was made when Israel took a seat on the executive board of the UN Development Program. The UNDP’s one billion dollar budget supports health, welfare and women empowerment projects in 177 countries. Israel’s technological and agricultural know-how is a key resource. Then Air France announced that it would start a new three-times-a-week service to Tel Aviv from Nice. Finally, “the Eagle has landed” in the form of American Eagle Outfitters Inc., which has opened the first of eleven new stores during February.
So what other top news stories can we see from the dizzy heights of the Jewish State?   How about the plans for Israel’s tallest building? Tel Aviv’s Planning and Building Commission has approved a plan to build Israel''s highest skyscraper. Eurocom Global Real Estate is to build a 70-storey skyscraper in Givatayim. We also had a record-breaking art auction. The first part of a two-part sale of Israeli and international art, held at Tiroche Auction House in Tel Aviv broke a house record with sales worth NIS 3.35 million. And from the political world, I personally liked the news of the high regard that Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim gave to the Jewish State when asked whether he would open diplomatic ties with Israel.
To accompany these stratospherical news events we have been blessed by some equally encouraging meteorological and agricultural phenomena. In the run-up to Tu Bishvat, Israel experienced its rainiest January ever - the most since the Israel Meteorological Service began keeping records. The Kinneret rose 55cm in January and (hot off the press) has finally overlapped the bottom red line.  
So please take this opportunity to see the wildflowers that blanket the usually barren land. The Jewish State seems inherently to know that this is definitely the best time to elevate itself.
Keep reading – the country’s blooming!
Michael Ordman writes a weekly newsletter containing Good News stories about Israel.
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