Matters of Life and Death

When the regular news is full of distressing events, such as the recent terrorist attacks in Jerusalem, I try to focus my weekly positive news feature on the many life-affirming stories from Israel that barely get any attention in the international media.

Israeli scientists at Tel Aviv University stumbled onto a discovery that can help bring new life into the world.  Whilst researching the protein Interleukin-1 (IL-1), they discovered that its genetic deletion actually improves fertility.  It could help increase the effectiveness of IVF treatment.  If a baby is born prematurely and needs to be placed on a ventilation machine, Israeli medical device manufacturer, Pneumedicare, has developed a potential lifesaver.  The Pneumonitor detects the common dangerous condition pneumothorax, in which the preemie’s tiny air sacs can over-inflate and burst.  Pneumonitor’s alarm sounds an hour before any problem arises.

Staying with children, the bio-artificial pancreas, developed by Israel’s Beta-O2, can vastly improve the quality of life for sufferers of Type-1 (juvenile) diabetes.  The BetaAir delivers oxygen to newly transplanted islet cells in the body in order to produce insulin and avoid the need for regular injections.  Finally, Israel’s MediWound has commenced a Phase 3 study in around 25 sites in Europe and Israel to evaluate its innovative NexoBrid treatment for severe burns in children.  NexoBrid removes dead or damaged skin without harming viable tissue. 

Many Israeli families cannot imagine life without Beit Issie Shapiro, Israel’s leading disabilities organization.  BIS is to set up the country’s first Center of Excellence for Cerebral Palsy and severe motor disabilities.  And since mobile phones are such a part of everyone’s life, Israel’s Sesame Enable is developing a smartphone for those who have limited or no use of their hands. The “Sesame Phone” can be controlled with a combination of small head movements and voice recognition.

All life is sacred to Israelis.  Quick-acting Israeli border police on routine patrol in Hebron found a Palestinian Arab youth who had been electrocuted, was unconscious and had no pulse.  They saved his life, performing CPR until the emergency services arrived.  And with the constant life-threatening risk of an Ebola virus outbreak, Israel responded to a request by the Palestinian Authority for Ebola screening tools. They will help PA officials to diagnose the virus among those entering from Jordan and also into the Gaza Strip through the Rafah Crossing.  Israel has also sent six cargo containers of specialist equipment to set up portable field hospitals for treating Ebola victims in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

Water is vital for sustaining life in Africa.  Israeli companies Waterways, Tahal and Anyways Solutions are providing water solutions in Cameroon, Senegal and Ghana. Waterways recently signed an agreement with the Water and Sanitation Organization of Africa, which links 36 African countries under its umbrella.  Israelis are also helping to save Kenyan wildlife.  Israel’s Dr Bill Clark works with the Kenya Wildlife Service to combat poaching.  He uses Israeli dog-handlers, restores old Israeli planes and trains wardens and pilots to detect and pursue poachers. He also employed Israel’s Maisha Consulting - specialists in countering environmental crime.

Among the many recent Israeli technological achievements, two Israelis took only 24 hours to develop a potentially lifesaving facility for sending messages in regions of the world where there is limited cellular reception.  The AirHop won them the $100,000 grand prize at the global hackathon competition held at PayPal’s California HQ.  And several Israeli scientists are eagerly awaiting the results of their work on the Rosetta project that could determine whether life exists on a comet millions of miles away.

Back in Jerusalem - the center of planet Earth - life goes on.  So here are some news items relating to the capital of the Jewish State.  One Jerusalem family chose to hold their baby’s life-cycle brit milah (circumcision ceremony) as planned, in the synagogue where terrorists murdered five Israelis. "Judaism is all about moving from tragedies to happy days", said the baby's grandfather.  Meanwhile, on Nov 12, the moat surrounding Jerusalem’s Tower of David, just a stone’s throw from Temple Mount, was opened to the public after 15 years of careful excavations.  It reveals centuries of Jewish life, going right back to King Hezekiah in the 8th Century BCE.
I will briefly mention that Israeli doctors have to make life and death decisions every day - such as treating a critically wounded terrorist before one of his less-injured Jerusalemite victims.  But there is good news about Rabbi Yehuda Glick, who was shot 4 times at point-blank range in the stomach, lungs, neck and arm by a terrorist in Jerusalem on Oct 29.  On his release from hospital, less than 4 weeks later, Rabbi Glick thanked the Jewish and Arab doctors at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek hospital who worked side by side to save his life.

Finally, the numbers of lives saved thanks to the Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) are incalculable.  Its funding successes include 3 top cancer treatments, two major genetic discoveries and the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. In the last 12 months, the ICRF has made 94 new research grants, totaling a record $3,453,332. 

The Jewish State is for life.

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

Time for a Fresh Start

In our weekly Torah readings we are currently learning afresh about the groundbreaking activities of the ancestors of the Jewish people. In parallel, recent news is full of the innovations being developed by startups, scientists and entrepreneurs in the Jewish State today.

Those suffering from Parkinson’s disease may soon look forward to a fresh start in life thanks to the recent success in Phase II trials of liquid levodopa/carbidopa developed by Israeli biotech NeuroDerm.  Another Israeli area of expertise - stem cell transplantation - is providing a fresh start to many with life-threatening ailments, however the side-effect Graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD) endangers the treatment.  The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has therefore granted preferential orphan drug status to Glassia from Israel’s Kamada, which studies show is able to reduce the severity of GVHD.  The US FDA has also approved the innovative ECG system HyperQ Analyzer Rest developed by Israeli biotech BSP, which can diagnose early-stage heart disease without putting the patient under dangerous stress and avoiding invasive radioactive tracers.

Aging pilots can look forward to a fresh start thanks to the Israeli app GlassesOff. After 3 months of tests, 32 Israeli pilots experienced an average 35% improvement in visual acuity (sharpness and clarity) with just 12-15 minutes of exercise, three times a week.  GlassesOff doesn’t improve eyesight, rather the brain’s ability to concentrate on and process visual signals.  Over at Hadassah Medical Center, a fresh look at managing Attention Deficiency Disorder is giving children with the concentration ailment the opportunity to live normal lives with their families.  Hadassah’s Neurocognitive Center has one of the world’s most innovative models for the diagnosis and therapy of ADHD.  And if your own concentration fails during the post-lunch fatigue period, then you will be pleased to know that the no-caffeine natural beverage WakeUp, from Israel’s Inno-Bev can refresh you. WakeUp has just won the 2014 SupplySide CPG Editors’ Choice Award in the Energy Drink category.

Israeli technology is at the center of the world’s efforts to produce fresh agricultural produce.  Professor Eilon Adar, of Ben Gurion University's Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research (ZIWR), is helping California combat drought by sharing technology and experience of working with scarce water resources.  ZWIR specialties include desalination, hydrology, resource economics and water management.  Back in Israel, Evogene has opened a new center for crop protection, with dedicated Research & Development programs focusing on fungus, insect and weed control.  But the main news this week is of the fungicide developed by Israel’s Pimi Agro that keeps fruit and vegetables fresh for up to 10 weeks.  It extends shelf life by a staggering 1500 percent, and could prevent the current wastage of one-third of the world’s agricultural produce.

Recently, there has been some good news for startups in Israel, where investment during the 3rd quarter of 2014 was 6% higher than the same period in 2013.  Over $700 million of funding capital was invested in Israeli hi-tech from Jul-Sep 2014.  Eleven Israeli startups are currently attending Philadelphia's first Israel Technology Conference, hosted by Drexel University.  Philadelphia is a perfect gateway for Israeli companies, thanks to its abundance of higher education and healthcare institutions.  Meanwhile, hundreds of European and Asian investors looked to Israel for partnerships with Israeli startups at the twelfth annual Go4Europe/Go4Israel conference in Tel Aviv's Hilton Hotel. 

Anyone who normally only reads bad news about Israel could make a fresh start by taking a look at the excellent website From The Grapevine.  It features original articles highlighting the inspiring, beautiful and innovative side of the Jewish State.  It also includes some stunning photography to accompany positive Israeli stories that cover Innovation, Health, Nature, the Arts, Food and Lifestyle.  Another recommendation is Israel21c, which is currently running a story on Israel’s Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Mikhmoret.  Its nine patients include Mazel (Luck) who is blind and Hofesh (Freedom) who has been given artificial fins.  They will stay and hopefully breed, but the other seven should eventually be given a fresh start when they return to the sea.  The video below is of the remarkable rehabilitation of Franki the sea turtle.

Good news for some of the Israelis who were terrorized by thousands of Hamas rockets during the summer.  The Jewish Agency for Israel has developed a $13.2 million aid package to give members of the communities of Israel’s south a fresh start following the hostilities.  Thanks are due to the Jewish Federations of North America, Keren Hayesod-UIA, and many other donors.

Finally, you have got to believe that anything is possible when you read about the fresh start made by a certain Shia Muslim man from Lebanon.  He was a commander in the terror organization Hezbollah when he fled to South Lebanon and eventually to Israel.  Soon afterwards he converted to Judaism and today he is Rabbi Avraham Sinai of Tsfat.

Israel – it all starts here. 

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

Israel Goes Global

Abraham, the first Jew, was told to journey from Ur of the Chaldees to the Promised Land where he would become a blessing to the world.  Some 4000 years later his descendants in the Jewish State are traversing the planet with innovative products, technology and aid to benefit humanity.

An Israeli delegation is currently in Rwanda, as part of a program helping the poor east African nation save millions of dollars a year through recycling and green technology.  At the International Water Association’s annual conference in Lisbon, Israelis presented creative solutions to global water problems. At the same event, Israel’s Miya received the IWA’s Project Innovation Award, Asia Pacific Region, for significantly improving urban water system efficiency in Manila, Philippines.

Israel’s G-Med, the world’s first and only global social-professional network exclusively for physicians, allows doctors anywhere to consult with colleagues, and manage multinational research projects.  Since its 2013 launch, G-Med has linked up 20,000 medical professionals in over 50 countries.  One project, initiated by
Israeli biotech Pharmaseed brings Israeli, Jordanian and Swiss researchers together to search for a cure for cutaneous leishmaniasis.  The parasitic disease is common in the Middle East and can cause death in patients with weak immune systems. 

Doctors at Hadassah Medical Center not only perform complex cardiac surgeries on Palestinian Arab children, they also train Arab physicians so that they can treat Palestinian Arabs closer to home. However, the major humanitarian story this week concerns the Israeli NGO IsraAid, which has been distributing beds, blankets, basic supplies and food to over 1,000 Yazidis and Christians fleeing the Islamic State (IS or ISIS) terror organization in the Kurdish regions of Iraq.

Israeli technology has certainly gone global.  The Olympic Committee and the agencies managing the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympiad have selected Israel’s ISDS to integrate systems security for the world's biggest sporting event.  Amazon Web Services is partnering with Israel’s CTERA Networks for its technology to secure storage in the cloud.  Meanwhile, Israel’s Dr. Eli Harari just received the U.S. National Medal of Technology and Innovation for his invention that led to Flash Memory.  And in 2013 alone, one billion products were sold globally with microprocessor chips developed by Israel’s CEVA Inc.  The latest Asus PadFone X hybrid smartphone-tablet contains a CEVA digital signals processor.

The next generation of Israeli scientists is already receiving the global treatment.  Eight Israeli high school students from the Ilan Ramon Youth Physics Center at Ben-Gurion University earned the top prizes in the latest “First Step to Nobel Prize in Physics” international competition.  Some 80 nations participate in the annual competition, which is held in Warsaw.  Ten major Israeli and multinational high-tech companies are encouraging Israeli children to achieve the same success in Math.  Intel, Sandisk, Marvell Israel, Microsoft, IBM, Qualcomm, Red Hat, Amdocs, eBay, and Philips have combined efforts in order to double the number of Israeli high school pupils matriculating in the five units of Math.

Keeping track of world shipping isn’t as straightforward as you might think.  The Automatic Identification System that supposedly tracks the global position of maritime freight is being manipulated to conceal criminal activities and worse.  Secure technology from Israel’s Windward provides reliable data for both economic and security purposes.  No secrets about the growing attraction of global travel to the Jewish State.  Due to increased demand, British Airways is adding six more weekly flights this coming summer, raising the seat capacity on the London-Tel Aviv route by about 50%. Also schedule changes will give passengers more convenient connections to/from North American destinations.

We can certainly expect an increase in business travel between Israel and California following the first annual California Israel International Business Summit at Microsoft’s Mountain View Campus last week.  And the Canada-Israel Industrial Research Development Foundation announced a new program to encourage research and development between Saskatchewan and Israel, and strengthen innovation and economic ties.  Hi-tech trade links continues to develop with China, where Israel’s SCR Engineers are installing dairy cow monitoring technology.  Finally, Japanese Culture Week in Jerusalem showed that Japan has definitely found the Israeli market. Under the guidance of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Japanese food manufacturers are even obtaining kosher certification.

Those lucky employees of Google Israel that get a chance to spend some quality time in the Jewish State will be able to appreciate working in one of the World’s Coolest Offices – as can be seen on pages 5 – 8 of Inc. Magazine’s 4th annual list.  Even millions of migrating birds use Israel’s Hula valley as a global hub, enjoying some Israeli hospitality on their way to their winter retreat in Africa.

Finally, as millions of Jews worldwide finish celebrating the first global Shabbat (Sabbath) Project together, a new world-class film is about to have its international premiere. “Body and Soul: The state of the Jewish Nation” tells of the remarkable journeys made by the Jewish people.  It culminates with the establishment of the modern Jewish State – a global powerhouse - in the land where it all began.

Israel – a nation of trailblazers.

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