Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu awards this year’s Genesis Prize to violinist Itzhak Perlman at a June 23 ceremony in Jerusalem. The annual prize of $1 million is given to “an exceptional human being who has attained outstanding excellence and international renown in his or her chosen field, is a role model in the community and who can inspire the next generation of Jews worldwide.” Perlman said he plans to direct his prize money to philanthropic projects in the fields of music and support for individuals with disabilities.
(photo by Israel Antiquities Authority via Ashernet)
Inspectors of the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Unit for the Prevention of Antiquities Robbery during a June 14 raid on a store in Jerusalem’s Mamilla Mall. Bronze arrowheads, coins bearing the names of the Hasmonean rulers, vessels for storing perfumes and hundreds of items that are thousands of years old were being offered for sale by the store, which was not licensed to trade antiquities. New regulations have been in force since March requiring that antiquities dealers manage their commercial inventory using a computerized system developed by the IAA. The system, which allows the tracking of items, aims to prevent antiquities dealers from selling artifacts that are the product of robbery, namely the illicit excavation of archeological sites.
Prof. Eytan Mor, left, and Dr. Evyatar Nesher with a kidney transplant recipient at Petach Tikvah’s Beilinson Hospital, which is part of the Rabin Medical Centre. Mor is director of the transplant department and Nesher, the department’s deputy head. (photo from Ashernet)
About nine years ago, a 55-year-old woman with a congenital kidney disease underwent a kidney transplant in the Philippines. Last week, she died following a stroke and her brother, who suffered from the same congenital disease and needed a transplant, received his sister’s kidney, which was still viable, though she had died. This was the first time such a surgical procedure had been performed in Israel, and it is thought that this procedure has been performed only five times in the world. This is also the first time that such a transplant has been carried out between family members. It is hoped that this landmark operation will encourage more live donations of kidneys.
Avigdor Lieberman takes his seat in the Knesset on the afternoon of May 30 in his new role as defence minister. (photo from Ashernet)
For some time now Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been trying to enlarge his right-wing coalition government. Apart from holding several important portfolios, including foreign affairs and economy, it was becoming increasingly difficult for the government to carry out its policies with a majority of only one seat in the 120-seat Knesset. As well, within the coalition there was pressure over issues that were of special interest to particular factions.
A Knesset vote of 55-43 approved Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu (Israel Our Home) party to join the coalition and gives Netanyahu 66 seats. Lieberman was appointed minister of defence. In the Israel Defence Forces, he attained the rank of corporal.
Lieberman’s predecessor was Moshe Ya’alon, a former IDF chief of staff, who had warned of the rising tide of extremism in the Likud and resigned from the party and the Knesset on May 20.
One of two Egyptian sarcophagi covers – one dating to between the 10th and 8th centuries BCE (Iron Age) and the other to between the 16th and 14th centuries BCE (the late Bronze Age) – that were seized by Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) inspectors four years ago while checking shops in the market of Jerusalem’s Old City. In a short ceremony on May 22, they were returned to Egypt. Egyptian ambassador Hazem Khairat expressed Egypt’s appreciation for all the efforts made by the Israeli authorities to return these smuggled antiquities to their country of origin.
Nadav Argaman, left, is congratulated by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office on May 8, as he takes over as head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service. In the centre is outgoing head Yoram Cohen, who had led the security service since 2011. Argaman became deputy head of the service in 2011. Prior to that, he was the chief of operations from 2003 to 2007 and, from 2007 to 2011, he was Shin Bet’s representative in the United States. (photo from Ashernet)
Slackliner Heather Larson in action. (photo from Ashernet)
On May 2, slackliner Heather Larson, from Denver, Colo., traveled the 35-metre distance between city walls at the Tower of David. Wearing a harness attached to the line, in case she fell, Larson demonstrated various yoga poses along her way. In Israel to draw attention to the upcoming Israel Festival, which takes place in Jerusalem every June, Larson was also being filmed as part of a promotional campaign for a new Israeli-designed backpack.
The main square of the Venice ghetto. The building on the right, which is now a hotel, used to house the Jewish community retirement home. (photo by Ashernet)
Next month will mark 500 years of what most consider the world’s first Jewish ghetto, though some historians contend that a similar type of area, which confined Jews to a restricted quarter, was set up in Frankfurt a short time before the ghetto in Venice. The word ghetto comes from the Italian ghèto, meaning slag, as the area chosen to contain the Jews of Venice had been used as a foundry. Today, some 500 Jews live in and around the ghetto area. There are kosher restaurants, two small hotels that offer kosher breakfast and one that also caters for lunch and evening meals. In the main square, apart from two of the historic synagogues, there is a Jewish museum and a kosher restaurant, run by the Venice City Council.
Among the events that began the Jewish year of 5775 (2014/15), Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu traveled to the United States, where he addressed the United Nations to warn of the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran, and met with U.S. President Barak Obama at the White House.
Prior to that visit, in September 2014, Israel received from Germany another state-of–the-art submarine, the INS Tanin. In October, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon was taken by the Israel Defence Forces to see a Hamas-built tunnel on the Gaza border, used for the purpose of terrorism.
In November, there was an attack on the Jerusalem light rail in which one person died after a terrorist drove his light van into a crowd of people waiting at a train station, and also injured more than a dozen others. The same month saw two terrorists enter Kehilat Ya’acov Synagogue in Jerusalem and attack worshippers at morning prayers with knives, axes and guns, killing four people and injuring a further eight.
In December, Labor party leader Isaac Herzog and Hatnua party leader and former justice minister Tzipi Livni announced that the two parties would join, with Herzog becoming party leader. Another new face was that of Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, who became the new chief of staff of the IDF in February.
The year was a reality check for some public figures, as their misconduct caught up with them. In February, former chief rabbi Yona Metzger, who had been subject to an investigation for accepting bribes, was indicted. In March, former prime minister Ehud Olmert was found guilty of fraud and sentenced to a prison term.
With respect to the environment and public space, the Tel Hiriya waste dump outside Tel Aviv was closed down and a development started for the foundation of a huge urban park in its place.
In March, Netanyahu won the general election, but was only able to form a majority government with a coalition. Later that month, seven siblings, aged 5 to 16, from Brooklyn were buried in Jerusalem after they died in a fire in their home.
During the year, several incidents brought into focus the complaint, particularly by Jews of Ethiopian descent, of discrimination by the police. In one, an Israeli Ethiopian IDF soldier, Damas Pakada, was attacked by a policeman, after which Pakada was invited to the Prime Minister’s Office to receive an apology.
In April, Israel was one of the first countries to respond to the earthquake in Nepal. Within a day or two, a field hospital was set up by the IDF in Katmandu.
In May, there was another attack on the light rail system in Jerusalem. This time, the terrorist was shot in the legs, then apprehended, by a security guard.
In July, the United States announced that it would release Jonathan Pollard in November. Pollard will have served 30 years in prison for spying for Israel. He will not be allowed to leave the United States for five years after his release.
In August, Yishai Shissel, who had recently been released from prison for stabbing participants in Jerusalem’s Pride parade 10 years earlier, once again attacked marchers in the annual parade. He stabbed six people at random, and a 16-year-old died of her injuries. Once again, Israel was faced with problems relating to discrimination and violence.
As the year closed, the government concluded a deal with the companies that will be responsible for mining the huge quantities of natural gas found off Israel’s coast.
Traveling by car between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in 1973. (photo by Edgar Asher)
In the 1970s, Edgar Asher worked at BBC Television News as a photojournalist. In 1973, he went to Israel to take photos of the country, mainly for the Ministry of Tourism, but also to update the BBC stills library. It was his first trip – he and his family would make aliya in 1975.