There are so many good things to talk about with regard to Israel. Unfortunately, I don’t always get to them, because there is often a preponderance of “not so good” things going on that need to be addressed.
Sometimes, however, we must focus on matters that are upbeat or constructive, that are sources of pride or have positive implications. And that is ALL I intend to write about in this posting.
There is never a lack of news about valuable Israeli medical innovations.
An Israeli startup called Alpha Tau Medical has developed a minimally-invasive procedure called Diffusing Alpha-emitters Radiation Therapy (DaRT), which, it says, will eliminate cancer cells via breakdown of their DNA.
And a research team that includes scientists from Bar Ilan University has uncovered ways to activate the immune system to act against cancer.
With regard to medical issues, Israel also routinely reaches out into the world to provide medical know-how.
A couple of months ago, Rambam Medical Center in Haifa organized a four-day seminar – the first of its kind in Africa – for some 50 pediatric doctors from Ethiopia and surrounding areas on how to treat foot deformities in children. The course ran at Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital.
Difficulty in walking presents a major problem in rural Ethiopia, where there is little public transportation, and doing farming work is the norm.
This training will help patients “enjoy a higher quality of life and prevent their conditions from deteriorating,” said Prof. Mark Eidelman, director of pediatric orthopedics at Rambam’s Ruth Rappaport Children’s Hospital (pictured below), who was on the scene to lead the training.
It is hoped that the course will be repeated soon.
Experts from United Hatzalah of Israel are participating in a 12-day training course to teach first-responders in India and Sri Lanka how to respond more effectively to mass casualty incidents. The course, which is moving from one location to another, includes lectures and hands-on training drills, and is being attended by participants from the Indian Red Cross and 108 fire and rescue and emergency medical service crews.
Vice President of Operations for United Hatzalah Dov Maisel, leader of the mission, explained that the team consists of “EMS experts as well as some of Israel’s elite search-and-rescue professionals who have been at disasters all over the globe.”
And, of course, there is always news about Israeli high tech developments.
“Tel Aviv startup Navin has built a navigation application specifically for indoor spaces. Like the Israeli-founded navigation company Waze (bought by Google) but for airports, hospitals, malls, and other massive public structures not usually conceived with ease-of-access in mind.
“Navin uses crowdsourced data to build digital maps for pedestrian guidance both indoors and outdoors, and it works where GPS does not, as satellite-based radio-navigation is largely useless in closed buildings…
“Similar to Waze for drivers and Moovit for public transportation users, Navin creates maps based on users’ shared real-time info using its patented peer-to-peer crowd mapping technology.”
In late 2018, we reached an agreement with Greece, Italy, and Cyprus to lay a pipeline that will connect Israel’s gas reserves to these three countries. The project – which will involve setting into place the longest and deepest gas pipeline in the world – is due to begin within months. Ultimately it will be possible to supply Europe with gas from the eastern Mediterranean; Israel and Cyprus will be given preference in exporting the gas.
Additionally on the subject of Israel’s natural gas…
In a few months’ time, Israel is going to start importing gas to Egypt. Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz says that within a decade these exports are expected to reach 1.85 trillion gallons per year. Egypt will utilize about half of this domestically and half will be liquefied and re-exported.
This is a mark of our growing ties with Egypt.
Earlier this month, Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi acknowledged the close security ties his nation has with Israel with regard to Islamists in the Sinai. Not so long ago, he would have been reluctant to speak about this at all.
Prime Minister Netanyahu went to Ndjamena, the capital of Chad, for a lightning quick visit today. He may already be on his way home. His goal was a meeting President Idriss Déby, who had paid a surprise visit to Jerusalem two months ago.
As had been expected, as a result of this meeting there will be a resumption of diplomatic ties between Israel and this north-central, Muslim majority African state after a hiatus of 50 years. I picked this news up in a new tweet from Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon, which means it is now official. This is a diplomatic coup, particularly important because Chad borders Libya and Sudan.
On a different note, but one that fascinates me:
There is a strain of dolphin known as the false killer whale (example in picture below) that is not normally seen near Israel. Yet earlier this month, a pod of 10 of these large, intelligent, highly social dolphins was spotted in the Red Sea off the coast of Eilat. One of them was estimated as being six meters (almost 20 feet) in length and weighing one and a half tons.
In 2018, a record-breaking number of tourists — more than 4.12 million – came to visit Israel. This represents a 14% increase over the year before.
What is more, Jerusalem has been rated as the fastest growing tourist destination in the world for 2018. There was a 38 percent growth in international visitors in 2018 compared to 2017, with an estimated total of 4.8 million arrivals by the end of the year.
And the NYTimes has placed Eilat (pictured), an Israeli resort on the Red Sea, sixth on its list of “52 places to go in 2019.”
With the opening of the Ramon International Airport, in the Timna Valley just north of Eilat, flights will be scheduled from Munich and Frankfurt, Prague, London, Vienna and elsewhere in Europe.
Tonight and Monday we celebrate Tu B’Shvat, the 15th of the month of Shevat, known as the New Year of the Trees. It marks the beginning of the agricultural cycle in terms of counting the age of trees for purposes of tithes, as indicated in the Mishnah.
Here in Israel now the holiday is marked, first, by planting of trees. And in this regard I note that Israel may be the only country that has more trees now than were present in the land at the beginning of the Twentieth Century. We treasure our trees.
Here you can see a video and still photos of Amichai and Shira Ish-Ran – who were wounded in the Ofra terror attack – planting a tree in memory of their son, Amiad Yisrael, who was born prematurely and then lost as a result of that attack.
The good news here is their courage and marvelous spirit – a model for us all. May Hashem grant them long and healthy lives and many thriving children.
We also celebrate Tu B’Shvat by eating fruits, especially those that are among the seven species of the land (olives, grapes, dates, figs and pomegranates) and nuts (notably the almond).
Some people do a Tu B’Shvat seder, a ceremony that involves eating of various fruits and drinking of wines. It is rich in mystical symbolism that arose from the kabbalists of Sfat in the Sixteenth Century.
The almond tree is the earliest blooming tree, and can be seen all over – usually in bloom by Tu B’Shvat, a harbinger of spring.
This year, however, though spring is surely coming soon, we’re having a real winter. This is in contrast to the drought seasons we’ve had the last few years. Rain is plentiful and in the last few days there has been snow in the north and the higher elevations (see Mt. Hermon pictured).
The Kinneret, which was at a dangerously low level, is being replenished and water tables throughout the country are rising. When spring does come, we will see lush growth.
The precipitation, my friends, is a bracha, a blessing.