Going the Extra Mile

So many Israeli innovations and activities are outstanding - not because they are created out of thin air, but because they take an existing concept to a whole new practical level.

Here are some medical examples.  Artificial skin has already been invented.  Some types, known as electronic skin (e-skins), are even sensitive to pressure (i.e. touch). But only scientists at Israel’s Technion have fused resin and gold particles to make a sensor that can detect pressure, temperature and humidity.  Integrated with the current e-skins it can be applied to a prosthetic limb to give the wearer more life-like sensations.  In the same vein, Israelis may not have invented the heart stent, but Israeli biotechs have completely redesigned the original crude devices and extended them for brain and other blockages. Israel’s Allium Medical recently announced that its urinary tract stents are to be distributed in Brazil and now China.

Israeli scientists’ extensive exploration of the body’s immune system has certainly paid off. The healthcare giant Bayer is funding Israeli biotech Compugen’s development of antibody-based therapeutics for cancer immuno-therapy.  And immunology skills helped surgeons at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center to conduct the world’s first ever transplant between two living HIV carriers.  They prevented the rejection of a wife’s (donor) kidney by the husband’s (recipient) compromised immune system.  Then, when Israelis do produce a unique innovation, they continue to work to improve it.  The latest version of Given Imaging’s internal intestine camera, Pillcam SB 3, has so much better resolution, efficiency and coverage, that 62 percent of the Crohn’s patients using it have had their treatment changed as a direct result. 

Israel’s Save A Child’s Heart charity is definitely unique and has been going the extra mile for many years.  Surgeons at SACH are currently repairing the hearts of 22 international children, including three Iraqis and seven from the Palestinian Authority.  Israel also goes miles out of its way to deliver goods to Gaza.  In July, 6,639 trucks laden with over 150,000 tons of food, humanitarian products, electrical goods, construction materials etc. entered Gaza via the Kerem Shalom crossing.  In return, Gaza terrorists fired six rockets into Israel.  Meanwhile, approximately one million Palestinian Arabs received permits to enter Israel as tourists during Ramadan and its concluding holiday Eid al-Fitr – 200,000 more than last year.

Israel is making great strides in creating new possibilities for people with disabilities. In September, Israel is hosting the International Symposium on Quality of Life and Well-being of People with Disabilities. And the Reut Institute has opened up a whole new dimension by launching a project / competition in which students use three-dimensional printers to manufacture inexpensive helpful devices for people with special needs.

Weizmann Institute scientists are extending the boundaries in another dimension.  They have managed to control the production of microscopic nano-wires. Using gallium nitride (GaN) Professor Ernesto Joselevich and his team have built a tiny microprocessor component, which makes possible a whole new world of powerful microchips.  And we should be very quiet when talk about the special product manufactured by Huliot of Kibbutz Sde Nehemia.  Acoustic insulated pipes shield apartment residents from the somewhat embarrassing sound of flowing sewage. The unique plastic compound is environmentally friendly and Huliot has received orders from six European countries.

I was totally blown away by two news stories last week.  Israeli outdoor events planner Ilan Elmaliach went the extra mile when his colleagues failed in their attempts to erect a tent in a strong wind. His experience as a skydiver inspired him to design a portable aerodynamic sunshade that flows with the wind rather than fights against it.  Then the Indo Asian News Service gave Israel’s Technion full-blown credit for “solving the world food crisis”.  Israeli scientists have modified a longevity hormone in the genes known as zytokinin to produce “super plants” that grow more crops on less water. The fruit and vegetables produced also have a much longer shelf life.

There are two extra-special stories to conclude this week’s blog. Firstly, in 2011 six children from one Yemenite Jewish family and four from a second family were spirited out of Yemen and flown to Argentina.  Last week the ten children were flown to Israel, to be reunited with their parents who were simultaneously brought to Israel from Yemen in a secret operation.

Finally, thirty Israeli children suffering with cancer were about to depart Ben Gurion airport for a fun holiday at Camp Simcha in the USA. But 11-year-old Imbar had to disembark in tears as she had lost her passport.  Just as the jet taxied along the runway, someone on board found Imbar’s passport. El Al’s management made an unprecedented decision and authorized the plane to return to pick her up.

Israel – where “ordinary” just isn’t enough.

 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

Can you see the future?

As we approach the Jewish New Year it is appropriate to highlight Israelis and Israeli innovations that are likely to make a huge impact on our lives in the next few years. Here are some examples from the latest news stories to help people see the Jewish State in its true light.

It is hard to see the future when suffering from poor or non-existent eyesight. So imagine the foresight that Bar-Ilan Professor Zeev Zalevsky must have had to invent a bionic contact lens for the blind that receives the electrical signals from an image and transmits them to the wearer’s cornea.  From there, the image is translated, by sensory areas of the brain, into a tactile sensation that the wearer can interpret visually via the fingertips and the tongue.  Now checkout the other futuristic innovations that Professor Zalevsky is working on.

Israel’s EyeYon Medical has two solutions for corneal edema, which afflicts two million new patients every year.  First, a patented contact lens uses osmosis to release the dangerous fluid build-up.  Then a polymer film implant prevents the fluid forming in the future.

Half of the victims of one of the deadliest categories of stroke previously never got to see the future.  Now, thanks to the revolutionary Ventritek105 device from Tel Aviv’s Biosan Medical, more than 90 per cent of Intra Ventricular Hemorrhage sufferers who are treated using the device will survive.  Eli Beer certainly saw the future when he decided to set up United Hatzalah and its lifesaving ambu-cycles.  Eli was unwilling to see people die just because ambulances were unable to get through traffic.  United Hatzalah’s two-wheeler paramedics get to emergencies in 3 minutes. “It’s about saving people, says Eli.

I keep urging people to see at how tiny the State of Israel is on the map of the Middle East.  So it is appropriate that some Israeli hi-tech research, innovations and discoveries involve technologies that you cannot even see with the naked eye.  The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has just founded the Quantum Information Science Center to advance computing and communications. Just imagine the size of the components inside the powerful 5.3 inch by 3.9 inch Utilite computer from Israel’s CompuLab. And another Israeli computer “giant” TowerJazz has just announced a major breakthrough in magnetic technology. 

Israeli cleantech is already helping urban communities around the world to reduce levels of smog and see their environment more clearly.  The latest development Israel’s SDE Energy is a 100MW sea wave power plant along the coastline of Conakry – the capital of Guinea.  It is good to see that we Israelis will also benefit soon from new electric trains and buses and power stations running on natural gas.

Several of the subscribers to my weekly newsletter have asked me whether I can see any future emerging from the current peace talks between Israel and the PA.  I make no comment other than to hope for more of the kind of co-existence stories that I publicize.  For example, a partnership between Israeli and Palestinian Arab companies to produce eco-friendly salt seasoning from the Dead Sea. Or the new industrial park near Bethlehem, being built with support from France, the PA and Israel. 

We also desperately need to see more people such as the pro-Israel Arab Christians of Nazareth who are trying to convince more young Arabs to join the army. Their reasoning is “We live in a Jewish state, which is democratic and free. As Israeli Christians we see ourselves as part of this state and not as part of those who oppose it”. And just look at Ahmed Inaim – a Bedouin Muslim from Nazareth - who enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces, despite losing one brother who fell in military service and having seen another brother severely wounded by terrorists in the same raid that captured Gilad Shalit.  Here, he explains why he chose to extend his service in the IDF.

Finally, we should all be inspired by young Aviva Krainess from Bet Shemesh, who founded Aviva Productions despite suffering from Lupus and losing nearly all her eyesight.  Aviva wanted others who are visually impaired to be able to enjoy entertaining plays and has just finished producing “The Emperor’s Secret” – a unique production for “The Theatre of the Mind”.

My New Year wish is that with Israeli ingenuity and positive attitudes we will all see a brighter future.

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

On the Right Track

The Hebrew month of Elul traditionally accompanies calls for the return of the Jewish People to the “correct path” in time for the upcoming New Year. Whilst the media speculates about Israel’s political direction, my assignment is to highlight how the Jewish State continues to steer the world on the route to a better future.

Israeli organizations are heavily involved in keeping the rest of the world on the right track. The Executive Director of Israeli charity Beit Issie Shapiro, Jean Judes, spoke at the United Nations about Community Based Rehabilitation and explained some of the organization’s innovations to help children and adults with disabilities in society.  And with the US announcement of the new Power Africa initiative, it is important to highlight that Israel’s “Innovation: Africa” has been powering rural East African schools, medical clinics and water pumping systems with Israeli solar technology for the past five years, benefiting over 450,000 people.  In South Africa, a police interpreter took the only available track to miners trapped following their fight with an illegal rival gang – by means of an instant harness from Israel’s Agilite.  The Israeli device received much praise and was recommended to all South African rescue personnel.

Tel Aviv University Professor Eugene Rosenberg was tracking the damage caused by “white plague” bacteria to the corals in Eilat when he discovered that some corals had immunity.  From this, he extracted the natural therapeutic virus BA3, which can now be used to protect the world’s threatened coral reefs.

Photo – Eilat Coral - Wikimedia Commons (WT-en) Jpatokal

Bringing a child into the world can involve much pain. Successful pain relief from epidural anesthesia relies on the skill of the doctor to find the right track for the needle. Now, Israel’s Omeq Medical’s new sensor-based system eliminates the 30 per cent failure rates and frequent complications by guiding the doctor to the exact spot.  An international team led by Weizmann Institute researchers has engineered another medical breakthrough. It has “turned off” the immune system’s automatic rejection of foreign transplants.  The team manufactured weaker immune cells and introduced the biochemical interleukin-15 to guide them through the body to the lymph nodes.  Meanwhile, researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have discovered that flu viruses (including deadly strains) use the protein neuraminidase to disable the body’s natural killer (NK) cells.  The HUJ scientists inhibited the protein and thus cleared the way for NK cells to fight the viruses.
Photo - Influenza_virus_particle - Wiki Commons
(Center for Disease Control and Prevention)

Those of you tracking Israel’s relationship with the Palestinian Arabs at grass roots level, should be familiar with the thousands of trucks of goods and materials that drive through the Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel into Gaza each week.  You may, however, have missed reading about the comprehensive agricultural seminar that Israel arranged especially for sixty grateful Gaza farmers to attend, or the hundreds of Israeli and Palestinian Arabs who (mostly in secret) are becoming business partners and colleagues in joint start-ups that are slowly transforming the PA economy.

The right track to a superior world will be laid through a better education for our next generation.  Six-time NBA All-Star (and prospective Israeli) Amar'e Stoudemire called a “time-out” from the Maccabiah games and took to the road to promote science education in areas outside of Israel's main cities.  Israeli schoolchildren are progressing exponentially in the field of Mathematics. Israel’s team of High school and Junior High mathematicians won 6 medals to reach 13th place out of the 97 countries competing at the International Mathematical Olympiad in Santa Marta, Colombia.  A huge improvement on the 31st place achieved in 2012.

Tel Aviv University has also invested in Israel’s future with its new Student City. The complex covers nearly a quarter mile and has Energy and Environmental Design gold status.  And venture capital guru Jon Medved used the venue of another of Israel’s top educational institutes – The Technion – to give an outstanding analysis of Israel’s innovation success and the direction it now needs to take.

Technologically, Israel is definitely on the fast track.  Israel saw the highest rate of growth in Internet speeds in the world last year, thanks to the investment in infrastructure made by communications companies.  Israel is at the forefront of developments into 5G communications. It will also demonstrate how the Brain-Computer Interface is turning “science fiction” into “science fact” at BrainTech Israel 2013 - Israel’s first ever International Brain Technology Conference in Tel Aviv in October. 

Finally, Israel is visibly on the right track for the world’s migrating birds.  The Israeli government is investing 10 million dollars revamping and expanding birding centers to increase the enjoyment of thousands of tourists that come especially to witness the one billion birds that make the Jewish State a vital stopping place on their bi-annual journey.

Join the Israel track – we’re really flying!

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

Yet Another Opportunity

Abba Eban famously stated that the Palestinian Arab leadership never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.  This week Israel made another huge traumatic concession just to initiate another opportunity to conduct peace talks.  In parallel news, Israelis continued to make the most of numerous opportunities to benefit humanity.

Israelis have made several opportunist discoveries recently.  Scientists at Tel Aviv University struck gold when they found that heart cells integrated with nano-fibers of the precious metal improve electrical signaling between cells to strengthen the contraction of cardiac muscle.  The TAU scientists are using this to create cardiac patches for replacing damaged heart tissues.  At Ben-Gurion University researchers discovered that methylphenidate - used to treat ADHD sufferers - is also successful in reducing the risk of falling by the elderly.  And TAU Professor Illana Gozes has created a new peptide (short protein) called NAP which she has found has benefits for Alzheimer’s, ALS and Parkinson’s sufferers.

Scientists at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem had the vision to develop a method for detecting the cause of diabetic retinopathy - a leading cause of blindness worldwide.  The procedure will provide the opportunity for early diagnosis and treatment of the condition, minimizing damage and saving vision.  Meanwhile, parents of a child with a “lazy eye” condition now have the opportunity to treat them with Amblyz eyeglasses from Israel’s XPAND.  Instead of a patch over one of the lenses, Amblyz uses an electronic shutter to obstruct the strong eye in automatic, intermittent intervals.  And a novel development by Israeli start-up CoreBone bone increases the opportunities for successful bone implants (spinal, dental etc.). Corebone uses corals to encourage bone growth, but the corals are grown in the laboratory so as not to damage the ecology.

There were some opportune moments involving Israelis recently. When 67-year-old man who fell while climbing a cliff in Gwynedd, Wales, two Israeli military search and rescue team members just happened to be close by. They helped bring the victim down safely and even the BBC couldn’t ignore the event.  Then a Greek commercial airliner with 170 passengers on route from Athens to Amman, Jordan was fortunate to be over Israeli air space when it suffered a major hydraulic failure.  After it radioed “Mayday” - the highest emergency distress signal - Israeli jets were scrambled and escorted the jet to Ben Gurion airport where the plane landed safely with no injuries.  Finally, all participants on the Talglit Birthright trip to Israel are given the opportunity to register on the Jewish bone marrow database.  As a result, 23-year-old Matthew Footerman from Houston, Texas donated bone marrow to save the life of 65-year-old Michael Weissner from New Jersey.

Many Israeli companies have spotted opportunities to bring their innovative products to the world market.  They include Blue I Water, which has impressed the Chinese with its unique electro-optic test strip that monitors drinking water for mold, harmful bacteria, caustic chemicals and poisons.  Another is Amiad Water Systems, which has developed filters for anticipated new legislation to prevent the spread of invasive marine creatures through ships’ ballast water.

Israelis relish the opportunity to read books - we are, after all, the “People of the Book” so why not have a mobile library on the beach?  We also like to relive our history - such as at the “Migdal Haroeh” tower tourism center in the Samaria town of Shiloh, which features a unique high-tech display of the site of the Jewish Tabernacle 3,300 years ago.  And we definitely enjoy a good party - as in Tel Aviv’s annual “White Night” when more than 70 musicians, artists, actors and dancers spun their tunes and moves into the wee hours of the morning.

You probably haven’t read that Israel takes every opportunity to integrate its diverse population into society.  For example, the IDF runs a special program for haredi (ultra-religious) Jews.  It is so successful that following army service they are highly sought after by the hi-tech industry.  Hareidi soldiers designed an advanced computer system to help protect Israel’s northern and Gaza borders.  Recently, Commanders of the Israeli Air Force conducted a tour and workshop in haredi areas of Jerusalem in order to prepare for a major increase to the current 300 existing Hareidi IAF servicemen.  “We’re looking forward to their arrival,” said Major Elad Dadon.

Finally, many non-Jewish Israeli citizens have also taken advantage of the opportunities in the Jewish State. They include:
-         Mais Ali-Saleh, an observant Moslem woman who was the Technion’s top graduate student this year.
-         Anett Haskia, a Moslem woman who is campaigning for compulsory national service for Israeli Arabs.
-         Kanj Hussein, a Druze entrepreneur who is building a wind farm in the Galilee.

Israel – it’s the land of opportunity.

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