Always Expect the Unexpected

When I return to Israel from overseas trips I always marvel how fresh and exciting the discoveries and innovations that I collect from the Israeli news are. But last week, even I couldn’t anticipate the vast number of astonishing stories recently reported in the Jewish State.

In the operating theatre at Petah Tikva's Beilinson Hospital, Israeli doctors performed two groundbreaking procedures.  Firstly, they surgically removed a 15cm long tumor from a woman's womb midway through her pregnancy without harming either her or the fetus.  Then in a first of its kind event, Beilinson doctors used innovative technology to remove a massive blood clot from the lungs of a 43-year-old woman who was declared clinically dead after suffering an amniotic embolism during a C-section.  Both the mother and her new baby daughter are now doing well.

Would it surprise you to learn that Israeli hospitals are uniting Israelis and Arabs?  A study conducted at Schneider Children's Medical Center found that parents from the Arab sector, whose children have been treated in Israeli hospitals, feel a stronger sense of solidarity with the State of Israel. 

It really would be unexpected if Hamas senior member Nayef Rajoub’s recent spine surgery at Israel’s Assuta hospital changed his negative attitude towards the Jewish State.  That was indeed the case with Mohammed Dajani, who heads Israel’s tiny Wasatia political party.  He was educated to hate Israelis, but completely changed when his father had his cancer treated in an Israeli hospital.

Israel’s major research breakthroughs often come out of the blue. Israeli bio-tech MeMed has developed a simple blood test to reduce the overprescribing of antibiotics that is the chief cause of resistant bacteria.  MeMed has discovered a protein in blood called TRAIL that dramatically increases in patients infected with viruses but decreases in bacterial infections.  Another Israeli bio-tech, NRGene, together with Tel Aviv University scientists took just 3 months to map out the genome for wild Emmer wheat – a task that had eluded dozens of scientists from 55 countries.  It will now be easier to develop varieties of wheat that will thrive in drier, hotter climates and help relieve world hunger.

Recent unexpected international events include that of Hebrew University Professor Renata Reisfeld accepting an invitation to join the editorial board of the Tehran-based International Journal of Environment, Energy and Waste.  And international plane spotters were amazed to watch the mid-air refueling by an Israeli tanker plane of a flight of Jordanian F-16 Vipers, which were flying together with Israeli Air Force planes on route to exercises in the US.  But hats off to Master’s graduate Haisam Hassanein, an exchange student from Egypt, who defied expectations in becoming the valedictorian of Tel Aviv University. He delivered a remarkable speech, emphasizing that Arabs must question their assumptions about the Jewish State.

Here now are three relatively new Israeli-developed apps that could help you out of an unexpected situation.  Tens of thousands of Israelis have used the app Polly to find a car parking space in Tel Aviv’s congested streets.  Polly uses GPS, crowdsourcing, municipal information and its own algorithm to guide drivers to streets where spaces are more likely to be available.  Polly is now being expanded to Jerusalem.  Next, why should children expect to play on their computer rather than take regular exercise?  Israeli Eylon Porat hooked up his daughter’s computer to an exercise bike that she has to pedal in order to unlock games on the computer for a certain time period.  And if you suddenly get an unexpected problem, Angels Nearby will connect you to somebody who wishes to help.  Angels Nearby uses a search engine to connect people based on the type of help needed, “trust level” (everyone, Facebook friends only, friends of friends), and location.  

To conclude, Felix and Feige Bandos certainly didn’t expect to make Aliya at their time of life.  But at ages 94 and 90 respectively the two Holocaust survivors arrived in Israel to a warm welcome from their family.  "I'm glad I'm here," Felix said upon arrival. "This is the right place to be.”

Finally, I certainly didn’t expect Israel to host a global UN event next week, but 200 scientists from 40 countries will be in Tel Aviv to attend the Animals Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).  It coincides with a related unexpected event - Rotem, a rare Israeli sand cat, has just surprised staff at Ramat Gan Safari by giving birth to a litter of three kittens.

Israel - surpassing expectations.

Michael Ordman writes a free weekly newsletter containing positive news stories about Israel.
For a free subscription, email a request to

Israel Goes Nuclear

In contrast to Iran’s destructive ambitions and manipulative nuclear activities, Israelis are working from the microscopic to the atomic level, in order to develop vital medical treatments and life-enhancing technology.

Israeli scientists are working with international organizations to eradicate cancer at the cellular level.  One Israeli scientist at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT has identified which of the 20,000 genes are essential to particular cancer cells, and are therefore weak spots to target with treatments.  And an International team, including researchers from Tel Aviv University and Israel’s Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences (IUI), has discovered that fluorescent pigments in Eilat’s rainbow coral are ideal for use as biomedical markers for tracking cancer cells.

Knowledge of the minute interactions in the brain will lead to the next medical breakthrough.  So it is timely that Canada has just announced a multi-million program to fund joint Canadian-Israeli neuroscience research projects.  Staying inside the brain, Israeli biotech Pharma Two B has announced positive results in its trials of P2B001 for the treatment of early stage Parkinson’s disease. 

Hardly a week goes by without an Israeli breakthrough with tiny stem cells.  Weizmann Institute scientists have used embryonic stem cells in clinical tests to repair damaged lung tissue and help alleviate chronic respiratory disease.  And Israelis such as Tel Aviv University Professor Udi Qimron are at the forefront of exciting antibiotic research using bacterial viruses (phages).  Professor Qimron has published how phages transfer "edited" DNA into resistant bacteria to kill off resistant strains and make others more sensitive to antibiotics.  And if you are worried that your dog has an infection, the PCRun molecular detection test kits from Israel’s Biogal Galed Labs will diagnose it in 75 minutes instead of previously several days.

Researchers from Tel Aviv University and Israeli medical centers have developed a groundbreaking method for sealing the incisions in the eye following cornea transplant surgery.  They used tiny silver halide optical fibers to deliver an infrared laser beam at the precise temperature needed to bond the tissue.  And scientists at Israel’s Technion have injected the heart with light-stimulated genes and used pulses of light to regulate the heart, just like a mechanical pacemaker.  But the most fascinating microscopic device could be the implanted microchip being developed jointly by Israel’s Teva and US firm Microchips Biotech that will deliver Teva-made treatments direct to patients.  The technology avoids having to measure out meds or to even to remember to take them - perfect for the elderly and forgetful.

We now launch into the world of water, where Israeli micro-biological technology has the potential to save half of the planet from drought.  Israeli startup Ayyeka has developed a unique water chemical pollutant monitoring kit that is being piloted in Israel.  And H2energy Now is the first Israeli startup to be invited to the European Union-sponsored Alpine High-tech Venture Forum.  H2energy’s technology uses radio waves to break the hydrogen-oxygen bond in salt water.  The hydrogen produced is a source of clean energy.  And it is definitely worth watching this video featuring Israel’s Netafim and its drip irrigation system that is globally transforming unproductive land into flourishing agricultural centers.

In addition to Israel’s work with the H2O of life, Israeli agri-tech companies are addressing the core issues involved in feeding a hungry world.  Dr. Zvi Peleg, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem screened over 100,000 sesame seed variants to develop a new elite variety with enhanced yield and seed quality. But maybe I should leap over the news that Israeli startup Steak Tzar Tzar is solving the world’s critical shortage of sources of protein compounds - using grasshoppers!

Israel’s Adama has just received Israeli approval to market NIMITZ, a low-toxic, eco-safe chemical to control nematodes, one of the most destructive and problematic pests in agriculture.  Meanwhile, toxic pesticides in the rice fields have devastated Japan’s bee population.  Which is why Israel’s Bio Bee, at Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu, is exporting bumblebees in spacious hives, each with an impregnated queen bee and 50 worker bees.

Israel’s Phytech has developed its Plantbeat sensors to measure how healthy a plant is and what to do to improve it.  Phytech is to sell its PlantBeat alert system to farmers in North and South America.  And if you want to know the fundamental constituents of any food item, you will be pleased to hear that, after 4 years of development, the new SCIO scanners from Israel’s Consumer Physics are now being shipped to customers.

Finally, there is likely to be the usual “nuclear reaction” by the Palestinian Authority leadership as they try to deny more evidence of historical Jewish existence in the Jewish State, following the discovery by the Shimshoni family of a perfectly-preserved 2,000-year-old Jewish ritual bath (mikvah) directly under the living room floor of their Jerusalem home.

Explosive stuff, no? 

Michael Ordman writes a free weekly newsletter containing positive news stories about Israel.
For a free subscription, email a request to