22 March 2018 - 6 Nisan 5778 - ו' ניסן ה' אלפים תשע"ח
India looking to bid for Israel oil-and-gas exploration E-mail

Indian state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corp plans to bid for Israeli offshore oil-and-gas exploration blocks, India’s oil minister told Reuters. It is the first significant major development between the two countries since a groundbreaking trip by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi visit to the country in July.

A high-ranking delegation from India, the world’s third-biggest oil consumer, recently visited Israel to discuss taking part in the tender for blocks in the Mediterranean Sea. “We will definitely bid for Israel’s oiland-gas blocks,” said Indian Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan. Many oil majors have been hesitant to enter the Israeli market, fearing a backlash from oil-rich Arab states hostile to the country.

Israel put 24 exploration blocks up for auction in November 2016, and the country’s energy minister, Yuval Steinitz, has said he would be happy to choose two or three foreign exploration groups. The auction closes on 15 November.

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Israel and China sign financial protocol E-mail

Israel and China signed a US$300 million extension of a financial protocol between the two countries in Beijing in September, aimed at increasing Israeli exports of clean tech and agricultural technologies to China.

The deal, signed by Israel’s Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and his Chinese counterpart Xiao Jie, is an intergovernmental agreement that provides state guarantees for Israeli banks to provide long-term credit to Chinese importers to make purchases from Israeli exporters. Since the original financial protocol was
signed in 1995, some 320 transactions worth some US$1.75 billion have been signed in various fields, including health, agriculture and education.

“The visit to China follows the implementation of significant export transactions from Israel to China in recent years, which demonstrates the strength of Israeli industry and its reputation in the world,” Kahlon said.

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First time since WWII, a far-right party in the German parliament E-mail

Jewish leaders congratulated Angela Merkel in September on her election to a fourth term as German chancellor, while decrying the rise of Germany’s newest right-wing populist party, which for the first time will enter the national parliament.

The Alternative for Germany Party, or AfD, finished third with 13.1% of the popular vote. The party, which was founded in 2013, is likely to have 94 seats in the 631-member Bundestag.

Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union won with what is being seen as a weak 32.9 % of the vote, followed by the Social Democratic Party, with what observers have called a poor showing of 20.8%.

Speaking to the Tagesspiegel newspaper in Berlin, Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, called the AfD a “party that agitates against minorities”. For now their target is Muslims, he noted.

“But I am convinced that when the topic of Muslims is no longer interesting, and it becomes politically and socially opportune to switch to another minority, they could easily do so. And I include Jews in that number,” Schuster said.

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Rabbi in Mexico City loses life in earthquake E-mail

Volunteers from Israel’s ZAKA search-and-rescue organisation pulled the body of a local rabbi from an office building in Mexico City that collapsed in a massive earthquake that hit the country on 19 September.

Rabbi Haim Ashkenazi had been working in the building when the 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck central Mexico, rocking the capital and causing hundreds of buildings to collapse. Ashkenazi served as the rabbi of the Kehillat Magen David synagogue and was an in-law of Rabbi Shlomo Tawil, chief rabbi of the Magen David Jewish community of Mexico.

The ZAKA volunteers in Mexico were working with the Mexican Jewish rescue and recovery organisation Cadena, including throughout Rosh Hashanah, 21-22 September and Shabbat.

Two weeks earlier, on 7 September, at least 96 people died in an 8.1 magnitude earthquake that struck off the southern Pacific coast of Mexico, hitting the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Chiapas.

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With much high-level political dialogue and the recent official visits between India’s prime minister Narendra Modi, who made a historic trip to Israel in July, and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who visited India last November, it is no surprise that both countries are eagerly pursuing strong tourism policies.

“We have been very focused on tourism promotions in India and easing the visa process. This year, in the first seven months, we have already hosted 34,000 Indian tourists. This is expected togoupto55,000bytheendof this year,” the Israeli Ministry of Tourism’s India director Hassan Madah said, according to the Indian online news site livemint.

He said that currently there are three to four direct flights from Mumbai to Tel Aviv and numerous connecting flights from West Asia. There is talk of introducing direct Air India flights connecting New Delhi with Israel in a few months, he said, adding that if this happens, tourist traffic is likely to surge from India and this year’s number may reach nearly 90,000.

However, as reported in the June 2017 issue of Jewish Times Asia, Air India has suspended plans to launch flights between Tel Aviv and New Delhi after it failed to receive permission to fly over certain Arab and Muslim countries to reduce the flying time. EL AL Israel Airlines still offers the only direct flight.

A few global airlines are waiting for the Air India flights to be launched, and plan to introduce their fleets on this direct route. “When this happens, we will see a surge in tourist arrivals from India. We have also been engaging with the tourism industry in India for the past few years and are focused on many promotional activities. Due to this, we have set a target of reaching one lakh [100,000] tourists from India by the end of 2018,” he said.

Regarding Israel’s tourism promotions in India, Israel Ministry of Tourism (IMOT) is spending US$5-6 million in India this year, he said, adding that going forward, as the tourist traffic grows, the budget is likely to grow.

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