In the Synagogue this week we read the “Song of the Sea” and how the prophetess Miriam (Moses’s sister) led the women in song and dance to celebrate the Hebrews’ escape from Pharaoh’s army. Miriam is attributed with reuniting Moses’ parents and providing a miraculous well of water that travelled with the Hebrews in the wilderness. Today, Israel’s women are at the forefront of Israel’s phenomenal innovations and achievements, as evidenced in these examples from the past few weeks.
I’ll begin where I left off in my last blog, in which I contrasted the Biblical splitting of the Sea of Reeds to Israel Technion Professor Lilac Amirav’s splitting of water into hydrogen and oxygen with 100% efficiency using nanotechnology and solar energy. Another female Professor, Anat Lowenstein from Tel Aviv University, was selected by Ophthalmologist Magazine in the top 100 most influential people in the world of ophthalmology. It noted that “her contribution to, and influence in the field of medical and surgical retina cannot be underestimated.” Women certainly lead the way at Soroka Medical Center in Beer Sheva, where they are in charge of the departments for Infectious Diseases, Women’s Ultrasound, At Risk Mother & Child unit, Respiratory clinic, Interventional neurology, Ophthalmology, Child and Adolescent Psychiatric unit, Geriatric medicine, Neonatology, Pathology and more.
Female Israeli researchers frequently make medical breakthroughs. For example, Dr Ruth Shemer of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem recently co-authored a disease diagnostic method called methylation which has identified pancreatic cancer, pancreatitis, diabetes, traumatic brain injury and MS. In another recent report, Maya Ben-Yehuda Greenwald – a PhD student at the Hebrew University – has developed nanotech antioxidant protection for skin and organs.
Staying in the medical arena, Dana Chanan is the CEO and cofounder of Israel’s Sweetch which has developed an app to detect pre-diabetes and provide diabetics with the tools to prevent the disease developing. Meanwhile, heading up the non-profit Pears Program for Global Innovation is Israel’s Dr. Aliza Belman-Inbal whose Grand Challenge Israel has just awarded a 500,000-shekel prize to Israeli startup BioFeed for developing its solution for eradicating the Zika virus.
Israeli women are taking “tikun olam” (repairing the world) to new levels. As Elana Kaminka, Deputy Director of Israel’s Tevel b’Tzedek highlights, contrary to the lies of the BDS supporters, Israel doesn’t just show up at disaster areas and leave. They are still working in Nepal – a year after the two earthquakes that killed 9,000. And Sivan Ya’ari is the founder of Innovation: Africa, which has brought clean water and renewable electricity to one million people in 104 rural villages in Malawi, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Senegal, Tanzania, DRC and Ethiopia.
Here in the Jewish State, most of the leaders of Israel’s social programs are women. One major international program – Good Deeds Day – was initiated in 2007 by Israeli businesswoman and philanthropist, Shari Arison. This year’s event has been adopted by 70 nations and involved millions of volunteers. Without mentioning any other names, take a look at organizations such as Ezer Mizion, whose volunteers help cancer sufferers and their over-stretched families. Or Sobar, which is establishing a no-alcohol music bar to provide a safe place for Jerusalem youth. Or the Red Mountain Therapeutic Riding School, in Israel’s Arava desert, which provides riding therapy for 200 special needs children and adults each week.
Before you shout, “But what about Israeli-Arab women?” please read about Faiza, an Israeli-Arab doctor who works in the intensive care unit at a major Israeli private hospital. She has ten siblings - most of them graduates of Israeli universities. Or about the young Muslim and Christian women joining the Israel Defense Forces. Israel certainly opened the eyes of Dr. Carol Jahshan, the daughter of a Lebanese refugee from Haifa who grew up in Beirut before moving the USA. She has just completed a 3-month working collaboration at Israel’s Bar Ilan University. And Jamila Hair, the 76-year-old female Druze owner of an Israeli soap factory, amazed the audience and media at the Festival of Women in Segovia, Spain, when she spoke about the peace between her Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Druze women workers. Interestingly, the Druze revere Jethro (father-in-law to Moses) who joined up with the Hebrews when he heard about their Exodus from Egypt.
Twelve Israeli women featured in Timeout’s article to mark International Women’s Day. They work in TV, women’s collectives, alternative medicine, art, fashion, community, advertising, dance, incubators, Africa, ceramics and aviation. The future is also bright, with girls at Israel’s state schools having excellent opportunities to achieve success. One such girl is 10th grade student Tamar Barbi from Hod Hasharon who just discovered a new "Three Radii Theorem" whilst studying mathematics at the highest level in Israel.
In Israel, women can become whatever they want, whether it is an Olympic wrestler like Ilana Kratysh, or a spy like Sylvia Rafael. They can win medals for rhythmic gymnastics or - as with Timna Nelson-Levy and Yarden Gerbi for judo,
Finally, however, perhaps (as King Solomon wrote) there really is nothing new under the Sun. Because just a few weeks ago a rare 2500-year-old seal, inscribed with the name of Elihana bat Gael in ancient Hebrew letters, was unearthed at the City of David in the Jerusalem Walls National Park. The seal, found in a building from the First Temple period, showed that the owner was probably a successful businesswoman. And maybe even a good prophet!
Israel – it’s the land of opportunity.
Michael Ordman writes a free weekly newsletter containing positive news stories about Israel.
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