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Couple Moves Back to Ravaged Kibbutz Three Months After Oct. 7 Massacre

A damaged building lies in ruins, following an infiltration by Hamas terrorists who attacked Israel at a kibbutz in Kfar Aza, Israel, Nov. 8, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

The first residents of the desolated southern Israeli town of Kfar Aza, located near the Gaza border, have returned home three months after their community was devastated by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7.

The couple, Eilat Cohen and Shahar Shnorman, told Hebrew-language media they “decided to return because we don’t like being refugees.”

The kibbutz was one of the most ravaged by Hamas on Oct. 7, when the Palestinian terrorist group invaded from Gaza, murdered 1,200 people, and kidnapped 240 others as hostages. Over 70 people were murdered in their homes in the kibbutz.

The town was almost completely destroyed and burned down during the terrorists’ rampage. Since then, it has served as a temporary home for soldiers entering and leaving Gaza, where Israeli forces are waging a military campaign to wipe out Hamas following the Oct. 7 onslaught.

Israeli officials have also taken foreign dignitaries and journalists to Kfar Aza to tour the remains of the community to see the brutality inflicted by Hamas.

Shnorman said that when he decided to return, “I didn’t ask the army, but the army knows we are here, because once a week we host everyone in the kibbutz for a barbecue. Whoever comes is welcome.”

After being evacuated to Tel Aviv with other members of his kibbutz, he said he “sleep better here than I’ve slept anywhere else. In Tel Aviv there’s car noise.”

Cohen, meanwhile, was born and raised in the kibbutz, so its proximity to Gaza and the sounds of the wars that have been fought there are not new to her. “When you live here, you get used to it,” she said.

The couple was hiding in their safe room for more than 30 hours after Hamas invaded, only leaving a few times before fully grasping the situation and even finding a neighbor murdered in her home.

“We felt that we were abandoned. We were sitting here without electricity, without water,” the couple recounted, describing the fear they felt. “As far as we are concerned, the end of the world has come and we are sitting in some dark cave. Who knows if we will ever get out of it?”

Fortunately, the terrorists did not enter their home, and it is one of the few still standing. However, they were forced to evacuate with the remaining survivors, all of whom remain outside of the kibbutz.

Asked if they were hesitant to return, Shnorman said, “It is much easier to live in northern Greece, but here is home. You can only leave home in good times; in bad times you must be at home.”

Since the kibbutz is still abandoned, they are unable to work — especially since most of the neighboring towns are also abandoned. In such an environment, it is difficult to find food, though they are making do.

Cohen said to keep up good spirits, she made a WhatsApp group with kibbutz members called “Good Morning Kfar Aza.” In it, she posts pleasant pictures of the kibbutz and its surrounding nature, hoping to uplift residents.

The post Couple Moves Back to Ravaged Kibbutz Three Months After Oct. 7 Massacre first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Major Israeli Tech Entrepreneur Gil Shwed Retires

Gil Shwed, former Chief Executive of Network security provider Check Point Software Technologies, speaks during the annual Cyberweek conference at Tel Aviv University, Israel, June 20, 2016

Gil Shwed, one of Israel’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, announced his retirement on Tuesday, bringing an end to his 30-year tenure as CEO of Check Point, an Israeli software firm.

“This year Check Point celebrated 30 years since its establishment, in which we managed to generate growth and reached a peak in almost every parameter. I feel that this is the right time for me to focus on Check Point’s next leap,” Shwed, 56, said. “We are now looking for a replacement for the position of CEO. It’s a process that will take time and even when it ends I will remain involved. I want to focus less on the daily work, and more on the future of the company.”

Check Point was founded in 1993 by Shwed, Shlomo Kramer, and Marius Nacht. Shwed and Kramer were friends from their time together in Israel’s elite cyber unit 8200.

The company provides AI-powered advanced software and hardware for cyber security to more than 100,000 customers globally, bringing in more than $2 billion per year in revenue.

Headquartered in Tel Aviv and publicly traded on the NASDAQ, Check Point has a market cap of more than $19 billion dollars, making it Israel’s second most valuable company, $2 billion less than automobile giant Mobileye Eye. Shwed’s role as CEO has allowed him to amass a fortune of $4.4 billion due to his 20% share ownership in the company.

Shwed is also a recipient of the Israel Prize, an annual award given to Israelis who have shown a high level of excellence in their specific fields. Shwed was given the first award in the technology field when it was introduced in 2018.

The post Major Israeli Tech Entrepreneur Gil Shwed Retires first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Israel’s Leading Hotel Chain Expands Internationally

A view of Athens, Greece. Photo: Jan M via Wikimedia Commons.

Israel’s leading hotel chain Isrotel has announced the opening of their first hotel outside of the country.

The brand, under a new division called ALUMA, meaning “ray of light” in Hebrew, will open its Skylark Hotel in Athens, Greece next month.

“We succeeded in doing the best in Israel, creating a culture that people love, so if you know Isrotel you will want to visit,” Benny Levy, the VP of sales and marketing at Isrotel, told The Algemeiner.

Levy says just because they are expanding outside of the Jewish state, “We aren’t stopping opening in Israel … Outside of Israel the potential is endless, it is a significant opportunity.”

Lior Raviv, CEO of Isrotel, added, “ALUMA is an international chain of hotels that will benefit from Isrotel’s longstanding experience and uncompromising standards of excellence, offering global travelers a wide range of city hotels and leisure resorts to choose from, and providing unique hospitality experiences. As a sister company of Isrotel, ALUMA is guided by our approach to hospitality as a way of life.”

They said most of the workers will be Israelis, ensuring the culture of the brand remains. “Israeli tourists, and especially loyal guests of Isrotel, who return to us time and again due to our hospitality experience and high standard of service, will find those same qualities and sense of a ‘home away from home’ at ALUMA, backed by the international standards of perfection and excellence,” added Raviv.

According to Isrotel, the Skylark hotel will be followed by the Anise Hotel, also in Athens, a month later. An additional hotel in Athens and one in Thessaloniki will open by the end of 2024. They said the total investment in the project is 70 million euros, with plans to expand elsewhere in Europe in the future.

Isrotel has 23 hotels across Israel, including eight in the resort town of Eilat in the south of Israel. Their international move comes as Israel’s National Planning and Construction Council announced this week the changes to the city’s height limitations for hotels, allowing up to 20 floors from the previously permitted eight floors.

Tourism Minister Haim Katz praised the move, saying, “We are bringing good news to Eilat. Hundreds and even thousands of rooms will be added in the city. The move will encourage competition, remove excess bureaucracy for a hotel that wants to renew itself, and allow entrepreneurs who have not yet built to increase supply.”

The post Israel’s Leading Hotel Chain Expands Internationally first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Investment Firm Announces Recommendations for Preventing Corporate Anti-Israel Bias

Illustrative Anti-Israel event. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Morningstar, Inc., a Chicago based investment firm managing over $250 billion in assets, has issued a report including several recommendations for reducing anti-Israel bias in the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) ratings its Sustainalytics subsidiary assigns to corporations.

For several years, Sustainalytics gave poor ESG ratings to Israel affiliated companies, a practice that led Jewish civil rights groups and lawmakers to suspect that the company was violating state laws against engaging in the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, which aims to isolate and weaken the Jewish state.

The firm denied the allegations, but a review of the its ratings by JLens, a leading Jewish investor network, found that Sustainalytics created “BDS blacklists” and used in its internal reports “politicized anti-Israel language” to describe Israel. JLens’ work, which was the first to raise alarms about the issue, led to Morningstar’s cracking down on the practices and adopting policies for ensuring that Sustainalytics does not become a BDS collaborator.

Released on Jan. 31, Morningstar’s new report builds on that commitment, outlining several policy changes, including: eliminating a designation which identified companies as being involved in “occupied territories/disputed region,” quashing reliance on disinformative media reports aimed at distorting a company’s ESG rating, and appointing legal experts to examine matters relevant to international human rights law.

“We welcome Morningstar’s commitment to eliminate anti-Israel bias in Sustainalytics research products,” Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement on Wednesday. “We look forward to ongoing engagement with Morningstar to ensure the expert recommendations are fully and effectively implemented.”

The ADL took a leading role in combating anti-Israel bias in ESG ratings, incorporating JLens in Nov. 2022. ADL noted at the time that BDS activists target firms managing ESG rated funds, which attracted over $500 billion in investments in 2021, a 55% increase from the previous year, according to JP Morgan. During 2022’s proxy season, a time when publicly traded companies hold annual meetings to assess performance and weigh suggestions from shareholders, Israel was named in eight of 20 resolutions targeting foreign governments, “making the country only second to China.”

Morningstar’s recommendations will shield ESG from political bias and increase its reliability, Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law founder and chairman Kenneth L. Marcus explained in a statement applauding the report.

“Anti-Israel external forces are doing everything they can to infiltrate campuses, boardrooms, the [United Nations]., sports leagues, and the securities industry,” he said. “We commend Morningstar for engaging with us, examining their ESG product, and committing to make the changes necessary to ensure that their rating system is apolitical, objective, and honest. We believe that implementing the experts’ report is critical to achieving this goal.”

Ari Hoffnung, managing director of JLens, added that “investor are entitled to research that is both objective and devoid of any anti-Israel bias.”

Last July, Morningstar removed 109 negative “controversy ratings” that Sustainalytics subsidiary had given to companies operating in Israel. The firm has also stopped referring to the West Bank and East Jerusalem as ‘Occupied Palestinian Territory’ or ‘occupied territory” and committed to educating its employees about antisemitism and amassing information about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from “independent, recognized experts.”

Morningstar, however, has repeatedly denied that it ever supported BDS. In June 2022, Morningstar CEO Kunal Kapoor issued a statement arguing that an external review of Sustainalytics found no evidence that it “encouraged divestment from Israel” but acknowledged that at least one of its departments singled out businesses “linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” and “sometimes used inflammatory language and failed to provide sourcing attribution clearly and consistently.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post Investment Firm Announces Recommendations for Preventing Corporate Anti-Israel Bias first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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