What an Amazing Turnaround

What an Amazing Turnaround

On Sunday, Jews across the world celebrate the festival of Purim, which features arguably the most momentous reversal of fortune in the history of the Jewish people since the Exodus.  In the last two decades we have also been witnessing the most miraculous period of change in fortune of the Jewish State since Biblical times.  Here are just some of the head-spinning events of the past few weeks.

Recent Israeli medical innovations include the ability to turnaround the deformities and blindness caused by ectodermal dysplasia, which affects seven out of every 10,000 babies born in the world.  Via in-vitro experiments a team including researchers from Israel’s Technion has used a chemical substance called PRIMA-APR246 to greatly improve damaged cells caused by mutant p63 genes.  Israel is also reversing the effects of blood cancer.  Israel’s Gamida Cell Ltd. reported success in the Phase III clinical trial of its StemEx treatment for leukemia and lymphoma.  And what about this – an Israeli hospital just down the road from Armageddon.  The Emek Medical Center is just a few dozen kilometers from Megiddo – the site of ancient battles and which gives its name to the place where some legends say that the world will end.  The hospital treats 50% Jews and 50% Arabs.

In the past weeks, Israel has treated Syrians wounded fighting Syrians in Syria.  It has also given Turkey permission to build a Turkish-funded hospital in Gaza.  Then in a week when 42,898 tons of goods and gas entered Gaza from Israel in 1,445 truckloads, the latest upside-down anti-Israel argument is that Israel supplies too much to Gaza!

Contrary to claims to be a racist state, Israel has become the destination of choice for Muslims fleeing persecution in Arab and Muslim countries.  Until recently, Tel Aviv’s illegal migrants received medical care only from volunteers.  Now, Israel’s Ministry of Health has stepped in to provide emergency care via a staff of doctors, paid by the Ministry from rented offices at the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station.  And besides having 11 Arab members, the 19th Israeli parliament will have a record 23 percent of women lawmakers – a larger percentage than in either the US Congress (18 per cent) or UK House of Commons (22 per cent).

The joke that Moses took the Children of Israel to the only country in the Middle East without energy resources has been turned around completely with the recent discoveries off the Israeli coast.  Israeli firms have even signed an agreement with the Cypriot government to acquire a 30 percent stake in exploration rights for gas and oil off Cyprus's southern shore.  And from once relying on sparse rainfall, Israel will shortly obtain most of its drinking water from desalinated seawater.  Water filters from Kibbutz Amiad have been selected for the protection of ultra-filtration membranes at the Mekorot Group’s new Ashdod Desalination Plant which soon will be one of the largest such facilities in Israel.

Following approval of the final section of track, Israel will soon be able to connect the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea via the new Tel Aviv-Eilat railway link, which is viewed internationally as a possible replacement for the Suez Canal. It will certainly provide a swifter passage of goods to both Europe and Asia, strengthen international relations, improve tourism to Eilat and significantly reduce air pollution levels.  Meanwhile, some two-dozen international bird experts enjoyed watching “a sea of birds” spending their winter home in the Kinneret basin, the Hula Valley and the Gamla Nature Reserve. Migratory routes changed permanently to favor Israel, after Saddam Hussein set fire to the Kuwaiti oil fields during the first Iraq war.

You may be surprised by some other news - that an Israeli company TIGI has won the top prize at Germany’s premier Cleantech Conference in Munich.  That Israel’s Spacecom satellite AMOS-5 broadcast to the world the whole of the 29th Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa – a country that boycotts Israeli goods.  That in Jerusalem (contrary to sensationalist media reports) for the first time in history under Israeli sovereignty, Jews, Christians, Muslims, secular, religious, young and old live side by side in harmony.

Using innovative technology and skills training, Israel has been turning famine-ravaged countries in Africa into major agricultural exporters.  One of those innovators, Israeli biotech Rosetta Green develops improved genetic strains of wheat, vegetables and other plants such as cotton, bio-fuels and algae with medical properties.  US giant Monsanto has recognized its success and bought the Israeli company for $35 million.  And on February 14th millions of Europeans turned into romantics thanks to Israel’s exports of roses, orchids, Bonsai trees and other flowers.

Consider the unbelievable turnaround that has allowed such a tiny country as Israel to produce the best cameras in the world, to be the global market leader in Speech Analytics and make state-of-the-art 3-dimensional printers that can print your dentures.

As Israel’s Noa Furman said in her statement to the UN Commission for Social Development.  We have moved from cultivating apples to designing Apple Computers and harvesting oranges to building Orange mobile phones.”  Then she quoted the Torah - "You shall eat the fruit of your own work and you shall be happy".

Well that’s a turn-up for the Books!

Michael Ordman writes a free weekly newsletter containing Good News stories about Israel.
For a free subscription, email a request to michael.goodnewsisrael@gmail.com

Israel is on the Map

A new Facebook application shows the location of Israeli Clean-tech projects and installations everywhere in the world. So this week I thought that I would share with you some more of Israel’s news stories where Israel appears on the global stage in a positive way.

The world will definitely benefit from two pieces of news from Israel’s Technion Institute.  Firstly, the eNose early diagnostic breath test for lung cancer developed by Technion Professor Hossam Haick is to go commercial.  The Technion has announced a joint venture with Alpha Szenszor Inc. to produce an economically viable, non-invasive, digital screening tool.  The other item is good news for infertile couples.  A Technion research team has produced human eggs using cells from the amniotic sac that surrounds a baby in the womb.  Experts believe that donation of the amniotic sac will be more acceptable than egg donation from fertile women.  No wonder that the goals of Israel’s Technion Rappaport Faculty of Medicine are “To reduce suffering and save lives – for the sake of all humanity.”

The map of the Middle East would appear far less hostile if Israel’s Arab neighbors would appreciate Israel’s efforts to reach out to them.  Nature certainly knows no borders and the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies accepts equal numbers of students from Israeli Jews, Arabs from Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan; and international applicants.  And as the World Health Organization’s 2012 report confirms, Israel approved 98.7 percent of Palestinian applications from Gaza to receive medical care in Israeli hospitals. In total, Israel treated 210,469 Palestinian Arabs in 2012.

Two relatively positive articles about Israel were published last week in London’s Arab daily newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. They were written by Dr. Amal al-Hazzani, an assistant professor at King Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.  They attracted a flood of hate mail, of course.  And it was predictable that two Iranian athletes decided to default rather than take the stage with Israelis at the World Judo Championships.  It didn’t upset the Israeli team, who celebrated with two gold medals and a bronze.

In contrast, Japan has just inaugurated a statue honoring the assistance that Israel provided following the 2011 tsunami in one of the hardest hit towns, Yanmei-Sanriku.  Meanwhile, seventy public health professionals from over 20 countries in Africa and across the globe have come to participate in the 2nd Pears International Master's in Public Health (IMPH) Alumni Reunion at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

One of Israel’s best international friends, Canada, sent a group of 11 business schools to Israel to learn about innovation and how to start up new companies.  And in a moving article, Ryan Bellerose – a native of the Métis colony in Northern Alberta, Canada – wrote about Israel’s epic story and his hope that the Metis keeps walking the same road as the Jewish people.

Israel is constantly seeking to improve relations with other nations.  But its latest bridge-building exercise is more literal.  The link from the Ariel Sharon Environment Park at Hiriya to the main thoroughfare leading to Tel Aviv will be constructed from some of the 800,000 aging maritime shipping containers that the world dumps each year.  The bridge even has solar-powered lighting.  Next, a by-product of Tawkon’s mobile phone emissions warning system is that it can create a map of network coverage.  So even if there is insufficient evidence of the dangers of radiation, it can enable better reception and also increase your battery life.

International police forces will now be able to produce a map of crime hot spots, thanks to Professor David Weisburd of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Institute of Criminology. His 16-year study has proved that 50% of city crime occurs in 5% of the streets.  In related news, Israel Technion’s Kira Radinsky and Microsoft’s Eric Horvitz have developed a program that can produce a world map of predicted disease and violence outbreaks with 70 to 90 percent accuracy.

You need to consult an atlas to see the extent that Israeli companies are working across the globe. For example, Israeli communications company Gilat has just won a contract with the Mexican government to supply over 7,000 SkyEdge VSATs to schools and government offices in order to provide thousands of rural classrooms and with Internet connectivity.  And if you were watching the American Super Bowl you cannot fail to have seen the huge TV screens featuring Israeli drinks maker SodaStream.  Finally, Israeli wineries were again showing their world class in the second annual Wine Seven Two kosher wine exhibition in Jerusalem.  Israel was the center of wine production in Biblical times and today it is becoming so once more.

To finish, the team behind SpaceIL is confident that in 2015 the Israeli flag will be flying on the surface of the Moon.  And Israel’s largest communications company, Bezeq has backed up that promise by signing up as the project’s first corporate sponsor.

Israel’s achievements span the world – and beyond.

Michael Ordman writes a free weekly newsletter containing Good News stories about Israel.
For a free subscription, email a request to michael.goodnewsisrael@gmail.com

Israel says “No” to the Status Quo

I will continue last week’s theme where I ridiculed UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon’s speech, blaming Israel for the stagnation of the Arab World.  Last week we saw Israel’s neighbors continuing to self-destruct and PA Chairman Abbas extending his obstructive preconditions for restarting peace talks. In contrast, Israel was busy pushing ahead with its technological advances to make the world a better place.

Even at walking pace, Israel is making giant strides.  Israeli start-up SensoGo has developed a device that, when strapped to a patient’s leg, performs medical gait analysis.  It records and uploads data about factors such as the patient’s gait, speed, and style of walking. Doctors can diagnose a patient more quickly and efficiently than from current video methods.  Next, here is a news update about the ReWalk exoskeleton from Israel’s Argo Medical that allows paraplegics to walk upright.  Version 2 of ReWalk has just been released to help them walk even better.  New software programs make the device easier to use.  Also one device can now be resized to fit and help train different users.

When aging bones are too fragile for fast walking, Israel’s Bonus Biogroup can generate new bones from a patients’ own fat cells.  Hospitals in Tzrifin and Afula, have agreed to trial the implanting of engineered bones back into patients. Meanwhile, Weizmann Institute researchers have solved a major piece of the puzzle as to why one in 4000 babies is born with DiGeorge syndrome, the cause of various abnormalities in the heart and face.

The top medical story of the week really emphasizes the message that we must never stand still and become self-complacent.  Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center screened 1,000 apparently healthy Israelis for 11 of the most common cancers. 2.4 percent (24) were diagnosed with early stage malignancies and then treated successfully – potentially saving their lives.  And don’t stick with the notion that a fatty diet is always bad for you.  A five-year study at Israel’s Beilinson Hospital says that for the elderly, higher levels of cholesterol mean a longer life, not a shorter one. Patients of average age 82 with higher cholesterol levels (including high LDL) lived longer than those with lower levels.

Israel’s Council for Higher Education continues to invest in building research institutions that will make tomorrow’s breakthroughs.  It has added 11 more research centers into its ICORE research excellence program, to reinforce Israel’s intellectual capacities and promote synergy among Israel’s leading research centers at universities, colleges, hospitals and research institutes.  And in the Israeli-Arab town of Sakhnin, NASA’s administrator Charles Bolden, participated in the launching of the Moona science, environment and space center.  Also in the Arab sector, the Wadi Attir eco-village project completed its “preparation phase” with the inauguration of the Arab Bedouin village of Hura in the northeast Negev desert. Ironically, one of the village’s main sponsors is KKL-JNF - a current target of anti-Israel BDS campaigners.

Israel keeps stimulating innovation by investing in start-up companies. To get a feel for how funding works, read this excellent article in TechWeekEurope, which described how the Tel Aviv Time Incubator brings the Israeli government and venture capitalists together to maintain the momentum of the country’s technological advances.  And should you be worth several million dollars and have the odd $10,000 available to invest, you may be interested in joining OurCrowd.  Israeli entrepreneur Jon Medved has founded this exclusive club to fund and grow Israeli start-ups into global giants.  Over at one of Israel’s flagship companies, Strauss Coffee, the caffeine buzz may have been responsible for the company’s rapid rise to become the world's fourth largest coffee company, even prior to their recent Russian acquisition.

Israelis, of course, are also pushing the boundaries in the International arena.  A team of eight scientists from the Hebrew University, the Weizmann Institute of Science, and Tel Aviv University are participating in the Human Brain Project, chosen by the European Commission as one of its flagship projects.  And Israeli professor Jonathan Rabinowitz, of Bar-Ilan University has been appointed to the European Medicines Agency’s Advisory Group. He will also co-chair of the Program Committee for the Biennial Schizophrenia International Research Society Conference to take place in Florence, Italy.

Visitors to Jerusalem from June 13-14 will witness the fastest race ever around the timeless city.  Herod’s chariot races are long gone – to be replaced for two days, by sleek Formula 1 cars screaming past the Old City walls, going through Mamila, and buzzing by the King David hotel.

Finally, he could have submitted to his fate, sat back and simply received an honorable discharge, but Captain Ziv Shilon was not going to give in to the Gaza terrorists who planted the bomb that blew off his arm in October.  Today, the Givati IDF officer is back with his soldiers and in a special ceremony he presented them with their combat soldier pins.

Israelis never accept “no” for an answer!

Michael Ordman writes a free weekly newsletter containing Good News stories about Israel.
For a free subscription, email a request to michael.goodnewsisrael@gmail.com

Israel Competes in a Fast Moving World


I had to laugh when the UN General Secretary blamed Israel for the stagnation of the Arab nations.  The Jewish State hasn’t been able to sit still for a moment in its 64 years of existence due to continual physical and political attacks from its neighbors.  Maybe it is all this pressure that has put Israel at the front of the technological race to build a better world.

Runners know the importance of oxygen both in training and in competition. Dr. Shai Efrati, of Tel Aviv University is at the forefront of research into its use for the treatment of stroke victims.  His studies showed that even those treated 3 years after their strokes showed significantly increased neuronal activity following a two-month course of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT).

A 47-year-old Slovenian former athlete was immobilized when his knee cartilage was damaged due to a volleyball injury over seven years ago.  Thanks to the Agili-C implant from Israel’s CartiHeal his cartilage has been regenerated. A year after his surgery, he completed a 180 km cycling marathon.

Stem cells have unique reproductive, renewal, and regenerative capabilities for organs.  So it was good to hear that the British Israel Research and Academic Exchange Partnership (BIRAX) will grant NIS 25 million over five years for seven joint Israel-UK stem cell research programs.

Good news for US doctors who want a fast track entrance to the Israeli profession.  Now physicians who have passed American MD exams (USMLE) in the past ten years, and who want to settle and work in Israel, will receive exemption from the local licensing exam.  This is the first time that Israeli health authorities have accepted foreign test results for an MD license.  There are plenty of fertile prospects for those making a new life in the Jewish State.  Britain’s “father of fertility” Lord Professor Robert Winston gave a keynote lecture at Haifa University’s January conference on regenerative medicine.  The conference coincided with news that the IMSI fertility treatment developed by Benjamin Bartoov of Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, is bringing a hope to childless couples in India’s capital city.

When children suffer from the genetic brain disease Peripheral neuropathy they do not move at all.  Now, following a breakthrough by Doctors at Hadassah hospital in Jerusalem, three infants previously paralyzed by the disease are already showing signs of improvement.  Meanwhile, researchers at Israel’s Schneider Children's hospital and in Germany have identified mutations in genes EIF2S3 and UBE3B as responsible for the development of genetic mental retardation.  The discovery may not help existing sufferers, but it certainly improves pre-natal diagnostics tools for prevention of genetic diseases.

When humans want to really travel at speed, they use vehicles such as the Chevy Corvette C7 Stingray with Israeli-built body panels as featured in last week’s blog.  But some of us would be quite happy to nip in and out of town in the all-electric Renault Twizy that the Israeli city of Kfar Saba is about to trial.

Top of the range automobiles built by China’s car-giant BYD will be equipped with entertainment systems powered by Multimedia Broadcasting receiver chipsets from Israel’s Siano.  And if any of these aforementioned vehicles should get stuck in this winter’s snow and ice, they can install Israel Zahavi’s “Power Wheel” – a removable disc that fits on the hub of the vehicle’s tires. Inside are twenty metal bars that can be manually or automatically telescoped out beyond the circumference of the tire to raise the vehicle slightly and grip the road.

Sometimes events happen so fast that you can only see what has happened on camera.  Fortunately, Israeli technology leads the way in this arena.  Project “Safe City Surat” will install over 5000 security cameras plus software from Israel’s Verint, to monitor traffic and crime in India’s eighth largest city.  You can even fit Israeli security systems inside your own home. Israeli WiFi chip manufacturer Celeno has teamed up with Quanto – the world’s largest notebook manufacturer – to build a wireless IP camera network for security and home monitoring.  But just take a look at the future for 3D movement sensing technology as demonstrated by Israel’s PrimeSense, responsible for the success of Microsoft’s Kinetic. 

There are still some opportunities to take a few moments rest in these high-speed times.  The "Lonely Planet" travel guide ranks Tel Aviv's beach as the seventh best in the world.  Or you could explore the upcoming Herod exhibition at the Israel museum.  But if you want the ultimate in relaxation devices, Israel’s Silentium can eliminate noise and create a “bubble” of silence at home, office or in public places. 

Finally, they may have thought that the world had passed them by, but sixty years after Operation “Magic Carpet” the last remnants of the Jewish community of Yemen are making their way home to the Jewish State.  They sure have some catching up to do.

For all those who want to progress, Israel has arrived just in time. 

Michael Ordman writes a free weekly newsletter containing Good News stories about Israel.
For a free subscription, email a request to michael.goodnewsisrael@gmail.com