Friday, January 18, 2008

Good news Friday

Mack Ness, a Jewish farmer and recluse, who lived his life in deprived circumstances in Watchung, New Jersey, willed a fortune to Israel when he died in January 2004. As a result, Ness is helping to make the Negev bloom posthumously.

Mack Ness lived as a poor farmer in central New Jersey, yet when he died in 2004 he left $15 million to Israel.

The Ness Loan Fund for the Negev has disbursed more than 85 business loans, mostly to people who were unable to get loans from a bank.

Virtual world "Second Life" opened a virtual Israeli community for its "Residents" on Sunday, allowing over 11 million users worldwide to teleport into a vibrant 3-dimensional Internet version of the country. "The purpose of Second Life Israel is to present Israel to a global audience beyond traditional media," said SL Israel founder Chaim Landau. "This is a concept of Israel as a fun, entertaining, thriving and diverse community for Jews and non-Jews, and a home for Israelis on Second Life."
As a Legacy Heritage Fellow at the European Union of Jewish Students in 2007, Landau initiated the Second Life Israel island with Beth Brown, a building and design manager. Users can walk through the Old City in Jerusalem, visiting the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Dome of the Rock as easily as they can venture down the promenade in Tel Aviv and weave through the Mahaneh Yehuda marketplace in Jerusalem.

Israel, with fewer than 7 million people, has become a Goliath in the world of technology and medicine. It is third only to America and Canada in the number of companies listed on the Nasdaq, ahead of economic powerhouses like Germany, England and China. Bruce Aust, executive vice president of Nasdaq , said 75 Israeli companies worth a total of $60 billion are listed.
American troops use Israeli portable digital x-ray machines in Iraq and Afghanistan that don't require film for developing and are used in battlefield situations. "The quality of their post-doctorates in medicine, nanotechnology and software development is rather incredible," said Marc Stanley, a technology official at the U.S. Department of Commerce who is involved with fostering collaboration between American and Israeli technology companies. Experts attribute the nation's success to a confluence of cultural and systemic factors, such as Israel's highly educated and motivated immigrant population.

Established in 1983, the Golan Heights Winery is credited with remaking the Israeli wine industry and slowly transforming Israel's reputation as a producer of world-class, award-winning wines that appeal to sophisticated international consumers. Its three labels, Yarden, Gamla, and Golan, produce some 17 different varieties and are the most widely exported Israeli wines in the world. In 2007 the winery's 1,600 acres of vineyards produced 430,000 cases, up from 420,000 in 2006, and generated sales of $30 million. Today, says the head winemaker, California-born Victor Schoenfeld, "We have wine shortages. Our demand outstrips our supply."