Into the Hands of the Few

On the Jewish festival of Hanukah, we give thanks for the victory in Jerusalem in 164 BCE of the tiny Jewish army over the mighty Greek-Syrian empire - for deliverance of the many into the hands of the few. Today, we continue to see tiny Israel rise to the massive challenges in the world and we can be inspired by the few.

Israel is one of the smallest nations in the world – yet it has a massive positive impact on global health, food and water security, disaster relief and the economies of developing and developed countries. Here are just a few examples from the last three months.

Israel continues to have a significant effect in the fight against cancer. Europe has now approved Weizmann Institute’s breakthrough Tookad prostate cancer treatment that was featured on the BBC back in January.  And Israeli biotech Ayala has joined the many Israeli companies developing personalized cancer treatments targeting individuals rather than specific parts of the body.

Having already helped West Africa defeat the Ebola virus, Israel is now running training courses on how to fight epidemics. Meanwhile, as a recent addition to the dozens of Israeli research projects to solve global threat from antibiotic resistance, Hebrew University researchers are calculating optimum treatment procedures to avoid the under / over-treatment of infections.

An Israeli-developed space laboratory is currently orbiting our planet on the International Space Station. It allows scientists here on Earth to perform unique medical research by remote control. Back on the ground, Israel’s Regional Cooperation Ministry has been funding surgeons from Israeli charity Save a Child’s Heart to perform life-saving surgery on 500 Kurdish children from Iraq, the PA, Syria and Jordan. So perhaps it is not surprising that Israel Medical Association chairman Professor Leonid Eidelman has been elected President of the World Medical Association (WMA) - an umbrella body representing national medical associations with more than nine million members.

With all the latest tantrums at the United Nations, readers may have missed the recent Israeli resolution promoting the utilizing of agricultural technology for sustainable development. It was passed by the UN Second Committee by 141 to 1.  One specific project is that of Israeli companies Evogene and Rahan Meristem which have developed non-GMO bananas resistant to the Black Sigatoka fungus which has been threatening world-wide crops. Finally, I highly recommend this article on Israeli water conservation and this video about Israeli food technologies.

You probably already know about the IDF rescue unit of 71 specialists that saved lives following the earthquake in Mexico. President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico certainly was grateful.  Regarding other disasters, Israeli NGO IsraAID sent an emergency response team to help victims of Hurricane Maria that hit Puerto Rico. And the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs together with the South African branch of Magen David Adom sent medical aid to Madagascar to help combat what the World Health Organization described as the worst outbreak of bubonic / pneumonic plague in 50 years.

The situation in Syria is a disaster by any definition. Israel has now treated 4000 wounded Syrians.  Ziv Medical Center in Safed will shortly begin treating Syrian children for hearing loss. The IDF even recently helped establish a maternity hospital on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. When the UN does send humanitarian aid to Syria, the only safe route is through Israel.

Israeli latest support for specific African countries includes the JNF / KKL helping the Kenyan government turn its deserts into forests.  Israeli humanitarian organization IsraAID has also recently helped build a center in South Sudan for the study of science and technology. Israel’s Fluence Corporation has supplied a water desalination system to South Africa. And 13-year-old Eytan Kramer from Ra’anana commemorated his Bar Mitzva by raising $18,000 to provide solar power for the Bukalikha Primary School in Uganda.

Across the African continent, Israel recently joined the Power Africa initiative so that Israeli companies can help overcome Africa’s energy crisis and to connect consumers.  The Israeli government is also now partnering with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to help bring electricity to Africa.

Israel is vital to the security of Western nations, as former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, Colonel Richard Kemp explains. Israel also has a major role in NATO and just recently signed an agreement to help expand the sharing of classified intelligence between Israel and NATO. And for 11 days in November, 1,000 pilots and crews from India, the US, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland and Israel took part in Israel’s largest ever aerial exercises.

The UK is buying Israel's Iron Dome short range missile defense system to boost its defense of the Falkland Islands. And the US Army is to install the Trophy active-protection system developed by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems on many of its M1A2 Abrams tanks. Even Pope Francis employed the Israeli-made Skystar 180 surveillance balloon system during his visits to Uganda and more recently to Colombia.
In other areas, Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Israel have agreed to build the world's longest underwater pipeline to bring Israeli natural gas to Europe.  And large delegations from the UK and Florida visited Israel to highlight continued demand for Israeli business and innovation.

I return to the medical arena to finish, by focusing on just one of those few Israelis who make a huge difference almost every day.  Meir Farkash is a legend in his home town Ramat Hasharon.  In his four years as a volunteer paramedic for Israeli emergency service United Hatzalah, Meir has responded to more than 2,500 emergency calls (over 300 life-threatening) on his personal pedal-bike. The residents of Ramat Hasharon wanted to honor him, so … they bought him an electric bicycle.

Israelis may only be few in numbers, but don’t worry…

You’re in safe hands.

Michael Ordman writes a free weekly newsletter containing positive news stories about Israel.
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