The modern State of Israel is almost the same size of Wales and is smaller than Lake Michigan and Kruger Safari Park. Yet this tiny state produces more innovations and performs more humanitarian activities than countries that dwarf it in size and population. Here are just some of Israel’s amazing achievements in the lead-up to this year’s festival of Passover when we celebrate the events over 3000 years ago that created the nation of Israel.
“Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh”, says the good book; so it is appropriate that during “Save Your Vision Month” scientists at Israel’s Weizmann Institute had the vision to publicize their many projects for treating eyesight problems. They include glaucoma medication, photon analysis, brain imaging and even sensory whiskers. In another sense, neurobiologist Professor Israel Nelken at the Hebrew University may have taken “Hear O Israel” as inspiration for the work that led to his team’s discoveries about the brain’s response to sounds. The research, published in the journal “Neuron”, could lead to the development of better hearing aids.
The Angel of Death takes a vacation when Rabbi Elimelech Firer is around. Nicknamed “The Phenomenon”, Rabbi Firer never received a formal medical education but reviews hundreds of patient reports a day and has diagnosed diseases that professional medical staff missed. He founded "Ezra Lemarpeh" to supply patients with treatments and facilities that Israel’s National Health Service cannot provide. He is now working to build a new Medical Rehabilitation Center in Sderot.
In Egypt, the troubles of the Children of Israel began when “A new King arose who did not know Joseph”. So it was vital that, on his pre-Passover visit to the Jewish State, US President Obama was shown a selection of the best of “Israeli Technology for a Better World”. From Sa’id Haruf (one of 600 Arabs working for Intel Israel) he then heard first hand about Maantech – Israel’s hi-tech “finishing school” that helps Israeli-Arabs integrate into Israel’s hi-tech scene. Finally, he learned about Jewish history when he received a gift of a microchip that had been fashioned by scientists from Israel’s Technion Institute. They had engraved nano-sized versions of the US and Israeli declarations of independence onto the gold-plated chip and affixed it to a Jerusalem stone seal dating to the Second Temple Period (1st century BCE to 1st century CE).
Israelis may not be able to split the sea or turn it into blood, but they are world leaders in water technology. Israel’s Amiad Water Systems has won a contract to help Colombia clean its industrial water by supplying and maintaining a pre-filtration solution at one of the South American country’s desalination plants. And Ben Gurion University of the Negev has announced a partnership with the University of Chicago to collaborate on new water production and purification technologies for deployment in regions of the globe where fresh water resources are scarce. I often imagine that if modern Israelis had watched Egyptian soldiers drowning in the Red Sea they would have gone back to save them. Last week Israel Defense Force medics treated four more wounded Syrians after they approached the Israel-Syrian border seeking medical attention. Two were seriously wounded and were evacuated to an Israeli hospital for further treatment.
Israeli Nir Goldshlager certainly prevented a “sea” of problems for Facebook, when he uncovered a major security flaw. Then when Facebook fixed the breach, Nir earned a place in their “hall of fame” when he discovered another flaw in the “corrected” code. Meanwhile, Israel’s Skycure used its “tree of knowledge” to alert Apple Corporation to the news that their iPhone customers could be eaten alive. Skycure’s CEO and co-founder Adi Sharabani showed that a cyber attacker could steal sensitive information (including the victim’s exact location) and even control victims’ phones – e.g. quietly changing their GPS destination while driving.
Passover is all about passing on Jewish history to the next generation and there has been much recent news regarding equipping Israeli children with hi-tech skills. For example, the Amal network of technical high schools held a nationwide online detection and hacking race at Cisco’s R&D center in Netanya. The goal is to equip a new generation of top-tier computer experts with the expertise to benefit Israel and successfully compete in cyberspace. In another story, Netanya students three top prizes at the Intel-Young Scientists competition. Victor Isserov of the Shai Agnon School was joint first with his project on the quantum characteristics of ions and the development of quantum computers. Victor will represent Israel in the EU science competition in Prague in September. Finally, please watch this new video showing the work of Israeli start-up “Young Engineers” that won Amir Asor the “Youth Business International Entrepreneur of the Year” award from Britain's Youth Business International non-profit organization. Children use kits such as LEGO to grasp the principles of software engineering.
As we conclude these festive highlights, I wonder if you were lucky to see a fiery object in the skies, just to the right of the setting sun. Dr. Igal Patel, chairman of the Israeli Astronomical Association, says it was the comet Panstarrs C/2011 L4. But Passover is when Elijah is predicted to return in his fiery chariot to announce the final redemption - so ……
…. if you see him in passing, please wish him a Happy Passover.
Michael Ordman writes a free weekly newsletter containing Good News stories about Israel.
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