A few uplifting, positive and lighter notes from Israel
After covering the mostly disconcerting political, diplomatic, security and domestic news about Israel and the Middle East over the past year, I’ve decided that my first column of the year 5776 will be dedicated exclusively to positive and uplifting stories about how Israel is making the world a better, safer, healthier, happier and more secure place for everyone, through technology, ingenuity, initiative…and maybe a little chutzpah.
More information about these and many other inspiring stories from Israel can be found at:
Here are just eight of the “Good news from Israel” stories from the past year:
1. Lab Animal Alternative:
Israeli scientists recently made history when they built a bionic liver. This invention could be the solution sought by both scientists and animal-welfare activists seeking to put an end to live animal testing.
Scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology in Germany have created a liver-on-chip device mimicking human physiology. They call it a 3D microreactor, or in less scientific terminology, a bionic liver.
“The liver organs we created were less than a millimeter in diameter and survived for more than a month,” said Professor Yaakov Nahmias, the study’s lead author and director of Hebrew University’s Alexander Grass Center for Bioengineering. The breakthrough was due to their idea of adding nanotechnology-based optoelectronic sensors. “We realized that because we are building the organs ourselves, we are not limited to biology, and could introduce electronic and optical sensors to the tissue itself. Essentially we are building bionic organs on a chip,” said Nahmias.
The sensors in the device allowed them to detect small, rapid changes in cellular respiration that nobody has ever seen before. This enabled them to identify a previously unknown mechanism of toxicity in the common pain reliever acetaminophen (Tylenol).
The global market for this technology is estimated to be worth $17 billion by 2018.
2. Discovery of Melanoma Trigger Could Stop Skin Cancer in Its Tracks:
A new Tel Aviv University study sheds light on the precise trigger that enables melanoma cells to become invasive killers, providing a future method to block cancer by pinpointing the precise place in the process where “traveling” cancer turns lethal.
3. Israeli Researcher Is Outsmarting HIV to Cure AIDS:
It has been 34 years since the first reported case of AIDS in the U.S., and there is still no cure for the approximate 35 million people worldwide whose immune systems are infected. Given the limitations of existing drugs, an Israeli researcher at the Technion’s Faculty of Biology proposes a new strategy that will focus on the interactions between the virus’ and the host cell’s proteins, instead of solely focusing on targeting the proteins of the virus.
This strategy is set to be significantly more effective in attacking the disease as the HIV-1 virus cannot survive without relying on the cellular mechanisms of the host cell.
4. Israel Signs Agreements with Beverly Hills and LA to Provide Water Tech:
Israel entered into separate agreements with the Beverly Hills City Council and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, “… for the purpose of establishing a formal relationship that fosters the exchange of research and information, facilitates joint developments, and enhances relationships and opportunities to incubate solutions to the water crisis.” Beverly Hills established a similar agreement with Israel in order to combat one of the worst droughts in California’s recorded history.
5. Revolutionary Device Detects Deadly Diseases, Cancer, on The Breath:
Professor Hossam Haick of Israel’s Technion has developed a device that can sense disease on the breath, much like a breathalyzer test. What he calls the Sniffphone uses nanotechnology sensors to analyze the particles on the breath and is able to pinpoint exact diseases, like certain kinds of cancer, pulmonary and even the early stages of neurodegenerative diseases.
6. A Better Potato:
It took nearly 30 years of research, but Hebrew University’s Professor David Levy developed strains of potatoes that thrive in hot, dry climates, and can be irrigated by saltwater.
Potatoes are one of the top sources of nutrition in the world, but they never before grew well in hot, desert regions like the Middle East. Now farmers in these regions can grow potatoes as a cash crop. Levy said that he also intended his research to enhance understanding between Israel and its neighbors, as scientists and officials from Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Morocco meet with Israeli scientists to share knowledge and build bridges of information and technology.
7. Fishing in the Desert:
Overfishing is a serious threat to the food supply, a grave situation since fish is the main source of protein for hundreds of millions of people. But what if fish could be raised virtually anywhere, even in the desert? That is just what the Israel’s GFA (Grow Fish Anywhere) Advanced Systems has made possible.
The Israeli “zero-discharge” system eliminates the environmental problems in conventional fish farming, and doesn’t depend on electricity or proximity to a body of water. Specially developed microbes purify fish waste byproducts right in the tank, with no need for spillage and refilling. The largest facility using GFA technology, in New York, produced about 100 tons of sea bream, bass and tilapia in 2010.
8. Israelis Perform Lifesaving Heart Surgery on 10 Tanzanian Children:
Ten children in Tanzania have been given a new lease on life thanks to an Israeli medical delegation that flew out to the eastern African country to perform the lifesaving heart surgeries.
The 20 Israeli doctors, nurses and medical technicians volunteer their time and expertise for Wolfson Medical Center’s Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) organization. The medical delegation also examined hundreds of other children with congenital heart defects. In March, a pediatric cardiology team from the Wolfson Medical Center teamed up with a Zanzibar medical team to screen 251 children’s hearts in Zanzibar and Tanzania. SACH is now working to bring some of the children to Israel for lifesaving cardiac surgery and follow-up care. The SACH charity has treated thousands of children from 45 developing nations.
Next week I’ll go back to analyzing the wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, the atrocities of ISIS and al-Qaida, the maneuvering of Putin, Bibi’s tap-dancing to keep his coalition alive, the ongoing saga of the dangerous Iran nuke deal, the Israel-Palestine peace process and more.
But for now I highly recommend that you visit the two websites listed above, where you will see, again and again, just how amazing Israel is and the contributions it makes every day for the benefit of mankind.
Israel is certainly not perfect. But these days, when the darkness of extremism seems to be engulfing the region and spreading to Europe, Israel is, without a doubt, a bright and shining light to the nations. And for that we should all be very proud, and very grateful. I know I am.
Agree or disagree, that’s my opinion.
Lt. Col. (IDF res) Gil Elan is president and CEO of the Southwest Jewish Congress, and a Middle East analyst. Email: email@example.com
Upcoming briefings and SWJC events are listed at: www.swjc.org
DISCLAIMER: Opinions are the writer’s, and do not represent SWJC directors, officers or members.