Aron White, CAMERA intern

As the world wakes up on January 1st, the focus shifts from reviewing the past year, to looking forward to the new one. For Israel, 2017 is a special year, marking the one hundredth anniversary of the Balfour declaration, and the fiftieth anniversary of the victory in the Six Day War and the reunification of Jerusalem. Here are some of the things to look forward to this year – with the best saved for last.

Israel’s start up achievements will continue with more successes in 2017. A number of new Israeli start-ups will also hit the market this year; one of them is UPnRide, the latest revolutionary invention by Dr. Amit Goffer, the first wheelchair which provides standing as well as seated mobility – the seat changes shape to allow users to move around whilst standing. A previous invention of Dr. Goffer is Re-Walk, an exo-skeleton that allows people who are paralyzed to once again walk, and even compete in marathons. However, Re-Walk cannot be used by everyone, so Dr. Goffer developed UPnRide – a revolutionary wheelchair that itself can change shape, and raise the user to a standing position, allowing wheelchair users to interact with their friends eye to eye.

There will be milestone moments on the investments end as well. This February, Israeli company OurCrowd will host an investor summit in Jerusalem with over 5,000 participants, the largest such event ever to take place in Israel. OurCrowd raises money for start-ups from many people rather than focusing on individual large investors (it currently has 16,000 investors, from over 110 countries) and is the largest crowdfunding company in the world.

2017 is also a great year for Israeli workers. A new minimum wage of 5,000 shekel a month came into force on January 1st, meaning that the minimum wage in Israel has risen by almost 20% in the past two years. Israelis are also getting more holidays this year. Currently, the Israeli weekend is Friday and Saturday, with Sunday a normal workday, but in 2017, Israelis will receive six extended weekends, of Friday through to Sunday, for the first time. In general, Israel`s economy is expected to perform strongly in this coming year – unemployment is below 5%, and the OECD predicts that economic growth will be 3.4%.

But it may be that Israel is saving the best for last, as near the end of this year, Israel may achieve something truly historic. In September 2007, Google announced the LunarX prize – in a bid to encourage private, non government, organisations to get involved with space travel, Google offered $20 million to the first private team to land a spacecraft to the moon, move it five hundred meters, and send images back to Earth.

President Rivlin at the unveiling of SpaceIL`s prototype

In 2015, SpaceIL, an Israeli team, became the first team to successfully sign a contract to take its spacecraft to the moon, with a launch date set for the second half of 2017. If SpaceIL successfully complete the mission, and lands an Israeli spacecraft on the moon, it will have two incredible impacts. Firstly, within Israel, SpaceIL are hoping to create an “Apollo moment” – just as the Apollo missions excited a generation of Americans about science and technology, the Israeli children glued to their TV screens, watching the first Israeli spacecraft land on the moon, could be inspired to study science and technology and take Israel to new heights. But it is the the international impact of the mission which could be truly seismic. Were SpaceIL to be successful, the list of countries who would have landed a spacecraft on the moon would consist of the United States of America, Russia, China and Israel. This would send shockwaves round the world – USA (330 million citizens), Russia (140 million citizens) and China (1.3 billion citizens) would have been joined by Israel (9 million citizens), who would have got to the moon before the UK, Germany, France and Japan. Israeli already is an established technological power – but a successful moon landing may just elevate its status to that of a superpower.

The state of Israel will turn 69 this year, but it certainly is aging gracefully – with each year bringing new opportunities, achievements and successes for this perpetually amazing country.

Contributed by Aron White, CAMERA intern

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