CENTER The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra celebrated Maestro Zubin Mehta’s 80th birthday with three unique concerts this month, featuring some of the world’s most eminent musical stars. The conductor was born in India in 1936, the same year as the IPO was founded in Tel Aviv. He has been with the IPO since 1981 and has been its director for life since that year.The concerts in Tel Aviv at the Charles Bronfman Auditorium conducted by Mehta featured pianists Denis Matsuev and Khatia Buniatshvili, violinist and conductor Pinchas Zukerman, and cellist Amanda Forsyth.In the second concert in the series, Mehta led the orchestra in a performance of Mahler’s First Symphony.State commits to 12,000 Netanya housing units The Finance Ministry and the Israel Lands Authority signed a framework agreement last week with Netanya for the building of 12,000 housing units in the city. Under the agreement, the state will invest NIS 800 million for the city’s development and infrastructure in addition to the funding of educational and cultural institutions, day care centers, synagogues and ritual baths.“This is a celebratory day for Netanya, because it allows us to continue developing and will bring us to the goals we have set for our city for the coming years,” Mayor Miriam Feinberg-Ikar said of the agreement, hailing it as a way to develop new accessible neighborhoods with the best infrastructure and services. Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said that the combination of framework agreements with the government’s program for first-time buyers is the correct way to deal with the housing crisis created by the lack of new apartments for sale. Agreements such as this one will certainly lead to lower housing costs, he added.SOUTH 500 more Jordanians to work at Eilat hotels The government has approved the second round of 500 Jordanian workers for the hotel industry in Eilat. The workers will join the 400 Jordanian workers who already enter the resort on a daily basis.In June 2014, the government decided to allow entry for up to 1,500 Jordanian workers to work in the Eilat hotels in order to offer a solution to the manpower shortage for the hotel sector in Eilat.The day workers, who return to Jordan at the end of the working day, are employed in cleaning, dishwashing and room service in the Eilat hotels only.The program also contributes to the relationship between Israel and Jordan, the Tourism Ministry stated.Tourism Minister Yariv Levin lauded the program for the benefits it brings to Eilat. “Eilat is the tourist resort with the highest number of tourist nights in Israel and the need for workers in the hotel industry is growing as the summer season approaches,” he said.“The quality of the tourism experience and the service in Eilat hotels is critical to the future of tourism in the city, where most Eilat residents work in the industry,” the minister added.The ministry noted that past endeavors, including scholarships and housing benefits, launched by government ministries and the industry to encourage Israelis to work in the hotel sector were not successful.There are about 12,000 hotel rooms in Eilat.NORTH Israel hosts US in Haifa security drill The Foreign Ministry hosted a bilateral Proliferation Security Initiative workshop in Haifa last week. The twoday exercise, in cooperation with the US State Department, was attended by a variety officials from both countries.The workshop simulated situations on the courses of action for inspecting, identifying and seizing of weapons of mass destruction. The scenarios focused on proliferation threats from nuclear, ballistic missiles, and terror elements and included a maritime component executed by Israeli and US navy ships.“The workshop was a very productive way to strengthen our respective governments’ national capacities and to improve our bilateral cooperation to deal with WMD-related interdictions,” the US Embassy spokesman said following the exercise.Step Afrika! stomps up North This month the US Embassy in Israel presented a series of performances by the Step Afrika! dance company under the banner of “Bringing Communities Together.”Step Afrika! promotes dance as an educational tool for young people, focusing on teamwork, academic achievement, and cross-cultural understanding.They reach tens of thousands of Americans each year through a 50-city tour of colleges and theaters, and perform globally as US cultural ambassadors.In partnership with the Haifa Municipality, the dance group gave a free performance at the Krieger Center this week. The group held another full performance at the Fire Station Compound in Jerusalem in cooperation with Machol Shalem as well as master classes and workshops in Acre, Taibe, Kibbutz Mizra and Kafr Yasif.Step Afrika! was founded in 1994 as the first professional company dedicated to the tradition of stepping. It has been ranked as one of the top ten African American dance companies in the US.The company blends percussive dance styles practiced by historically African American fraternities and sororities, African traditional dance and influences from a variety of other dance and art forms.