As we approach the Jewish festival of Passover and the night that is “different from all other nights” it is appropriate that there is much in the recent news that positively distinguishes the Jewish State from the norm.
In medical news, Israelis have been developing some unique treatments and devices that will make a big difference to the lives of the chronically sick. The Renaissance Guidance System developed by Israel’s Mazor Robotics allowed doctors in Denver to perform the first ever Deep Brain Stimulation procedure on a patient suffering from Parkinson’s disease – whilst he was asleep! The 65-year-old patient responded well to the treatment. Lupus sufferers eagerly await the next Phase II trials by Israeli biotech XTL Biopharmaceuticals of hCDR1 (Edratide) - the first new treatment for Lupus in 50 years. And scientists at Israel’s Technion continually “think outside of the box”. They have been using a 3D scanner to develop unique objects, including the first ever inhalation mask specially designed for babies.
Israel’s unparalleled medical innovations can be on a large or small scale. Winter hospital overcrowding will be alleviated by Israel’s largest Emergency Room – a new 5,000-square-meter fortified ER at the Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva that can treat 200,000 patients a year. On the other hand, at the microscopic level, Israel’s prominence in the revolutionary field of nanotechnology has led to the discovery of a new way to tackle ovarian cancer. Tel Aviv University scientists have devised a cluster of nano-particles that use chemotherapy to target tumor cells directly. It has achieved a 25-fold improvement in effectiveness with a dramatic reduction in toxic effect on healthy organs.
No other country acts like Israel in the face of humanitarian crises. This week’s program on Tel Aviv radio TLV1’s “Out of the Comfort Zone” features some of the staff that are treating injured Syrians at the Western Galilee hospital in Nahariya. Remember that Syria is technically still at war with Israel. And whilst the UN and its member nations make profound speeches about the situation in the Ukraine, Israelis are busy saving lives. Israeli citizens are raising funds and have airlifted several wounded Ukrainians to Israeli hospitals for treatment.
I’ve often written about how Israeli hi-tech is making a huge difference to the developing world, but the recent focus on Israeli technology has been from the USA and the UK. First, New York and Boston and then Chicago and San Francisco held events with packed audiences to hear from Israeli cleantech companies. Then a 30-strong Israeli delegation of technology companies was hosted in London as part of the UK-Israel TeXchange program. Israel is now Britain's largest trading partner in the Middle East. British Prime Minister David Cameron said in a message marking Israeli Science Day, "The work of your scientists is helping humanity in some truly profound ways."
Israeli technology companies frequently launch products that are quite different to the normal money-spinners developed elsewhere. It may be quite some time before people feel comfortable “printing” their meals but the “Ginny” printer from Israel’s White Innovation could eventually revolutionize the food market. Of more immediate practical use are the talking spectacles for the visually impaired made by Israel’s OrCam - especially now that Intel Corporation has put 15 million dollars into the company. And whilst we are speaking about speech technology for the disabled, TalkITT from Israel’s VoiceITT turns impaired speech into computer-generated, natural-sounding sentences. See what a difference it makes to kids and adults suffering from a stutter, a stroke or a neuro-degenerative disease.
One of the features in the history of the festival of Passover is the big difference made by women that helped bring about the redemption of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. It should therefore be no surprise that the modern Jewish State also recognizes the contribution made by its women. In fact the latest World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap survey just ranked Israel the best country in the Middle East for women's rights and freedoms. Israel also received the “Reducing the Gender Gap” prize in 2013 from the European Parliament for championing women's rights. To emphasize the point, fourteen women will lead the traditional torch-lighting ceremony for Israel’s Independence Day. The women represent a unique mosaic of Israeli society and include Hindiya Suliman from Bu'eine Nujeidat, who works to empower Israeli Arab women.
Eight Israelis - including Muslims, Druze and Bedouin - have been visiting Canadian universities to highlight a different side of Israel to that normally portrayed in the media. Some students were shocked to learn that Arabs study at Israeli universities and that many even serve in the Israel Defense Forces.
Finally, award-winning American actor and director Blair Underwood saw many different aspects of Israel during his recent visit to the Jewish State with America’s Voices in Israel. Blair toured a military base, Haifa’s Bahai Gardens, hospitals, the Sea of Galilee and the Western Wall. But the highlight of his very first day in Israel was meeting Mehereta Baruch. Mehereta is an Ethiopian Jewess who arrived in Israel aged 10 without her parents. She is now Deputy Mayor of Tel-Aviv.
Israel – daring to be different.
Michael Ordman writes a free weekly newsletter containing positive news stories about Israel.
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