The city of Tel Aviv is about to get a light rail system that will connect it to all the smaller dormitory towns that surround it, that feed half a million cars into Tel Aviv every day. This long-overdue system, costing some b$6, that it is hoped will ease Tel Aviv’s chronic traffic jams, will in the short term only make things worse. Work was started last week on the red line that will run east-west into the center of the city. But, there were demonstrations by small business owners who fear that it will put them out of business during the time it will take to construct the system. There are elaborate plans to have people use buses and bikes during the interim construction period during which huge traffic jams are anticipated. My advice is to avoid Tel Aviv for the next few years until the system is running, but after that it will be so much easier to get around.
Much of the system will be underground, for which Israelis have little experience. There is the Carmelit system in Haifa, but that is very short, going from down town to the top of the Carmel. The Jerusalem light rail system is great, but it runs above ground. There is a suggestion that Israel hire Gazans, since they are experienced at digging tunnels, but if they helped Israel Hamas would no doubt kill them. So we will have to learn, but for a price we can hire experts from abroad. It is expected that construction will take 6 years and connect an area of 25 miles around Tel Aviv.
PM Netanyahu finally announced the agreement between the Government and the oil companies to exploit the huge natural gas reserves found off the coast of Israel. The negotiations have been mired in controversy since the Leviathan well was discovered. Whether or not the oil companies involved, Noble and Delek, have a monopoly and how much the Government and the companies should be compensated have been points of contention. Finally the companies have been given control of Leviathan in exchange for giving up control of the Tamar field and increasing the compensation to the Government and the people of Israel. The effect of this agreement will not be felt for a few years, but we can look forward to a windfall of several billions dollars a year in future profits as well as almost complete energy independence.
In another advance representing the growing affluence of Israel, a new multiplex has opened in Jerusalem called Planet Yes. It has 16 movie screens, including Imax, as well as restaurants and other entertainments. Unlike some complexes this one will remain open during Shabbat so that the non-religious inhabitants of Jerusalem will be able to enjoy the opportunities for leisure that this presents. Unfortunately some ultra-Orthodox (haredi) Jews don’t want anything to be open on Shabbat and they rioted in Jerusalem yesterday. This is religious coercion, but at least they aren’t beheading secular (hiloni) people, yet!
Standard & Poor’s decision to uphold Israel’s A+ rating along with its “stable” outlook, is a significant achievement for Israel’s fiscal policy, a fact that is especially significant due to Israel’s beleaguered status. The Jerusalem Post contends “This is no mean feat, unequaled by states in far kinder geopolitical circumstances than ours,” and supports the statement by PM Netanyahu that “the credit rating expresses the international community’s trust in the responsible and measured management of the Israeli economy over recent years.” Also, the number of immigrants (olim) to Israel has seen a significant increase this year, with now 6,000 coming from Ukraine and 10,000 from France, for a total of ca. 30,000 this year, nearly doubling last year’s total. No answer to the anti-Israel and BDS activists who shout their empty slogans around the world could be more effective than these Israeli advances.