This Week’s Sanity Report from Israel Oct 27-Nov.3, 2019
The Highlights include:
- Israeli-invented leukemia treatment is being modified to treat other cancers.
- Female students far outnumber male students at Israeli universities.
- Israel is the place for wildlife on land, in the sea and in the air.
- From Northern to Southern Israel, innovation is producing superb wines.
- Tourism to Israel increased by a massive 44% in September.
- Israel puts the fizz into home-bottled Pepsi products.
- A record number of Israeli athletes have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics.
- Following a “shake-up”, Maccabi Tel Aviv won their first Euroleague basketball match.
ISRAEL’S MEDICAL ACHIEVEMENTS
Leukemia treatment extends to solid tumors. (TY UWI) Tel Aviv University scientists have engineered the successful Israel-invented CAR-T cell therapy (see here) to also treat other cancers. They discovered a subset of immune system T cells (known as CD4+ T cells) will attract antibodies on solid tumors and destroy them.
Breakthrough in search for a vaccine against Ebola. (TY UWI) Scientists at Israel’s Weizmann Institute working with researchers in Germany have identified two antibodies that are effective in stopping one species of the Ebola virus. Research is ongoing to developing a multi-species vaccine.
Another blood test for lung cancer. A team of Israeli (Weizmann Institute) and British scientists have devised a blood test that analyzes activity of three enzymes (OGG1, MPG and APE1) connected to DNA damage. They say it can “significantly improve current lung cancer risk prediction, assisting prevention and early detection.”
Good trial results for presbyopia treatment. (TY WIN) As reported previously (Sep 2018) Israel’s Orasis has developed CSF-1 (eye drops) to treat presbyopia – age-related far-sightedness. Results of Phase 2b trials of CSF-1 showed “significant improvement”, together with “exceptional safety and tolerability”.
The signature of cancer cells. Researchers at Israel’s Technion Institute have used artificial intelligence and big data to decode the unique signatures of certain cancer cells. The resulting technology – dubbed a “computerized pathologist” –could significantly boost development of personalized cancer treatments.
Israeli cancer survival rates rise significantly. Five-year survival rates for Israelis (Jews & Arabs) diagnosed with all types of invasive cancers have increased significantly over the last decade. For example, of Jewish women diagnosed in 1996 only 63% survived five years or more. From 2011 this rose to 71%.
New Israeli record for blood donations. (TY UWI) Israelis donated 1,567units of blood in one day at the Magen David Adom station at the Samaria Regional Division. They broke the previous Israeli record of 740 units in a 2014 Tel Aviv session. Donors included residents and soldiers from the IDF’s Samaria Division.
Closing openings in Panama. (TY Atid-EDI) Israel’s Gordian Surgical is to provide thousands of its TroClose1200 access-closure systems to public hospitals in Panama. Gordian’s distributor PanaFarma won the tender to supply the post-operation surgical closure system (see here) to Panama’s social security hospitals.
What the microbiome has taught us. Dr Elan Elinav and Prof Elan Segal of Israel’s Weizmann Institute have made many medical discoveries from microbiome (gut bacteria) research. They include artificial sweeteners’ link to obesity / diabetes and gut microbes’ impact on ALS. There are 40 scientists in their research lab.
ISRAEL IS INCLUSIVE AND GLOBAL
Women are the majority at uni. Of the 19,750 students studying at Ben Gurion University, 53% of them are women (up from 39% in 2013). Overall, nearly 60% of students at Israeli universities are women. Amongst Israeli-Arabs nearly 69% of students are women. https://in.bgu.ac.il/en/pages/news/majority_women.aspx
Peace in the Sukkah. Members of the Palestinian Arab delegation to the Bahrain Conference visited the sukkah of Samaria Regional Council Head Yossi Dagan to discuss an alternative path to the Oslo Accords.
Clean water for the Bahamas. Israel delivered portable drinking water stations to the Bahamas to aid victims of Hurricane Dorian. It was a combined effort by Israel’s MASHAV agency, the Israeli Embassy, the Prime Minister’s Office, the NGO IsraAID and Israel’s Water Authority.
Israel joins the European Social Survey. The European Social Survey (ESS) voted to make Israel the first non-European country to join the organization. The ESS is an academic cross-national scientific body that measures the attitudes, beliefs, and behavior patterns of diverse populations in more than 30 nations.
Israel attends Bahrain security conference. Dana Benvenisti-Gabay, the head of Israel’s Foreign Ministry’s regional security and counter-terrorism department, represented Israel at the Working Group on Maritime and Aviation Security conference in Manama, Bahrain.
From Startup Nation to Impact Nation. (TY Stuart) Aharon Aharon, CEO of the Israel Innovation Authority (IAA) spoke at the 2019 OurCrowd investor summit on how the Israeli government supports technological innovation addressing societal challenges, with the aim to turn the Startup Nation into the “Impact Nation”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puj4zOUO3Sg Also see the https://socialimpactil.com/ website.
The remarkable return of the ibex. The ibex are ancient wild goats that were domesticated thousands of years ago and dominated the Negev (e.g. Psalm 104:18). They were decimated by Bedouin hunters after WW1 – their resurgence due to the State of Israel banning hunting and managing nature reserves and ecosystems.
10 dolphins visit Netanya beach. A pod of some ten bottlenose dolphins was observed in the in the clear blue water of the Mediterranean, near Poleg Beach, south of the city of Netanya. Israel’s beaches have been designated as an important habitat for the internationally vulnerable species.
Flight school for injured birds. (TY Hazel) The Israeli Wildlife Hospital, operated by the Nature and Parks Authority and the Ramat Gan Safari Park, is building a new enclosure that will become a flight school for injured birds before they return to the wild. The hospital opened in 2005 and now treats 6,000 patients a year.
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Arava solar power on target. (TY IsraPundit) The Arava region of Southern Israel (including Eilat) is on target by 2020 to be 100% powered by solar energy during daylight hours. And at $0.06 per kilowatt, the cost of solar energy is less than the cost of natural gas. The challenge now is to extend this to the whole of Israel.
A cyber PhD in Tulsa. The private research University of Tulsa in Oklahoma and Israeli cybersecurity foundry Team8 have partnered to a joint 4-year PhD program focusing on cyber research and development. The course will accept 10 students a year, funded by the University and Tulsa’s George Kaiser Family Foundation.
Brazil-Israel projects. Four projects involving companies from both Israel and Brazil will receive a total investment of $7.5 million from the countries’ innovation agencies. The projects involve crop substrates, thermal energy, power sensors and vehicle analytics.
An electric jetski. Tired of hauling a heavy regular fuel & oil jetski to the beach, Israeli Amir Shahar designed and produced an all-electric jetski. His Skivolt prototype runs on a lithium battery, reaches speeds of 70km/hour and fits into the boot of a standard car.
New vegan baby formula. Israeli startup Else Nutrition develops an almond and buckwheat-based baby formula designed to serve as another alternative (see here) to the familiar cow milk and soy-based formulas.
Reducing food waste. To commemorate World Food Day on Oct 16, Calcalistech issued a summary of 10 Israeli companies working to tackle food waste. Most were reported here previously except Safe Foods (which uses hydrogen peroxide to extend the shelf-life of food) and Sufresca’s edible coatings that extend shelf life.
An ecologically friendly vineyard. The Galil Mountain Winery on Israel’s border with Lebanon requires no irrigation as the roots of the vine are very deep. Wastewater is treated and recycled. It uses solar energy for power, sustainable packaging and microbiology to generate healthy soil. It even has a green “living” roof.
The future of wine is very dry. In the last 15 years, 20 new wineries have been established in the Negev desert of Southern Israel. Techniques used to grow grapes in this dry climate include netting for shade, trellises so the vines are not exposed to the full sun, sensors for soil humidity, thermal cameras and (of course) drip irrigation.
Printing animal-free meat in outer space. Israel’s Aleph Farms recently produced cultivated slaughter-free beefsteak aboard the International Space Station. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-_Zy-arDb0
Israel’s “failed” Moonshot is a winner. Despite SpaceIL’s Beresheet lunar module crashing on the moon, the Israeli company was awarded a $1 million Google Lunar XPRIZE for its efforts. Beresheet is to be the model for the Firefly lunar lander, chosen by NASA. And the crash site is now on National Geographic’s Moon map.
Are you sitting comfortably? Israeli startup Seatback develops a device that helps users correct their posture and avoid other sitting-related side effects. Its 70 sensors are embedded in a chair and detects if the sitter slouches or sits asymmetrically. A gentle vibration alerts them to stand up or to change their sitting posture.
Predicting machine failures. There are several Israeli startups that can detect faults in machinery or predict when critical industrial equipment is likely to breakdown (e.g. Augury and 3DSignals). Another was Presenso, whose algorithms anticipate industrial machine failures. However, it has just been acquired by Sweden’s SKF.
An empathic robot responds to your call. Israeli startup Voca.ai develops automatic voice assistants for call centers using natural language and artificial intelligence. Robots handle most mundane calls, freeing up humans for the more complex scenarios (see video). Voca.ai has just raised funds from American Express Ventures.
ECONOMY & BUSINESS
Israel at World Bank / IMF Conference. Israel’s Minister of Finance, Moshe Kahlon, and Bank of Israel Governor Prof. Amir Yaron, led the Israeli delegation to the annual World Bank and International Monetary Fund conference. There was much interest in Israeli cyber technology to protect international financial systems.
Bank of Israel governor wins US economics award. The governor of the Bank of Israel Amir Yaron has won the $100,000 biennial Stephen A. Ross Prize from the US Foundation for the Advancement of Research in Financial Economics. Mr Yaron co-authored an influential research paper on long-term asset pricing.
September tourism skyrockets. (TY WIN) Some 405,000 tourists visited Israel in September 2019, 44% more than in September 2018. Between January and September 2019, nearly 3.3 million tourist entries were recorded, compared to 2.9 million in the same period last year, an increase of 13%.
Virgin’s chairman arrives. (TY WIN) Richard Branson kissed the ground on arriving at Ben Gurion Airport to formally launch Virgin Atlantic’s direct flights from London to Tel Aviv. In its first month, 14,000 people have flown Virgin to Israel. Branson praised Israel and said that more Virgin companies will launch in Israel.
ESPN uses Israeli tech to broadcast US sports. US cable sports channel ESPN is partnering Israeli automated video startup Pixellot to broadcast the America East Conference on ESPN’s digital platforms. With Pixellot’s multi-camera system, ESPN will show soccer, field hockey, lacrosse and volleyball games to new audiences.
Philippines buys Israeli-built jet. The Philippines new $38.7 million Gulfstream G280 Presidential plane was developed and manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries. The Philippine government considers the plane “a necessary component of its modernization program” and not solely for use by President Duterte.
Israeli insurer finds the best doctors. Israel’s Phoenix Insurance has partnered with Israel’s Air Doctor (see here) which locates recommended doctors for travelers to Europe and the Americas. The joint service has already helped Phoenix increase traveler’s health insurance revenues and reduce medical visit claim costs.
Next Insurance becomes a Unicorn. Israeli founded Next Insurance employs 85 people in Israel and over 100 in the U.S. It has just raised $250 million to push its valuation over the $1 billion mark and give it the financial status of a “Unicorn”. The funds will be used to grow its global team and the Israeli R&D center.
Sapiens acquires Spanish consultants. (TY Atid-EDI) Israeli insurance software company Sapiens (see here) employs over 2,500 people globally and is still growing. It has just taken over Madrid-based insurance consultants Calculo. The acquisition will help Sapiens enter the Spanish market.
Turning empty urban spaces into robotic delivery centers. Israeli-founded startup Fabric, incorporated as CommonSense Robotics, turns underutilized urban retail spaces into 1-hour delivery centers where robots store, sort, and process inventory. Fabric has just raised $110 million to expand its team in both Israel and the U.S.
Eco-friendly Pepsi and 7 Up. The first fruits of PepsiCo’s $3.2 billion purchase of Israel’s Sodastream are about to bubble through. Sodastream is to manufacture concentrates for 10 of PepsiCo’s most popular soft drink brands. The savings are mainly environmental – a reduction in the use of disposable plastic bottles.
Toyota likes new Israeli wheels. As reported previously (14th July) Israel’s REE enables a vehicle’s drive components to be fully integrated into a wheel, known as a FlatFormer, improving stability, space and energy efficiency. Toyota Group’s truck subsidiary Hino Motors is now using REE’s technology for its electric trucks.
CULTURE, ENTERTAINMENT & SPORT
Violins of Hope. Israeli master violinmaker Amnon Weinstein has restored more than 70 string instruments whose Jewish owners survived the Holocaust. Now eight from his collection “Violins of Hope” will be played by the Orchestre Métropolitain at a concert on 2nd Nov at the Maison Symphonique de Montréal in Canada.
Dance under fire. Liat Dror, artistic director at the award-winning Sderot Adama Dance Company, is staging a performance on the Gazan border to express Israel’s humanity in the face of living under constant attack.
The diverse Yemenite quarter of Tel Aviv. (TY UWI) Tel Aviv’s Kerem Hateimanim (Yemenite Vineyard) was founded by Jewish refugees fleeing Yemen over 100 years ago. It is now one of the coolest neighborhoods in the world according to Forbes travel magazine, yet it is still home to 50 synagogues.
New TV series features Israeli tech. A new TV show on Amazon Prime called The Tech Talk Show features innovative and emerging entrepreneurs from around the world. Series One focuses on 50 Israeli startups.
Record Israeli Olympic team. Israel is sending its largest ever team to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. 85 athletes far exceed the 47 athletes at the 2016 Olympics. They qualified for baseball, rhythmic and artistic gymnastics, show jumping, cycling, sailing, and surfing. Judokas, swimmers and runners should join them.
Israel to compete in Tour de France. Israeli cyclists will be competing in the 2020 Tour de France for the first time ever. It follows the Israeli cycling team’s inaugural entry in the high-profile Giro d’Italia that began in Jerusalem last year. Israel joined the Pro Continental ranks in 2017.
THE JEWISH STATE
They will all come to Jerusalem. (TY Jacob Richman) The displays for Sukkot / Tabernacles next to the walls of Jerusalem included the Taj Mahal, the Eifel Tower, the Tower of Pisa, a Time Machine and much more. And (TY UWI) 5,000 Christians (including Egyptians) showed support for Israel by marching through Jerusalem.
Shake the lulav before the big game. Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball players waved the four species (palm branch, citron, myrtle and willow) during the Sukkot festival in a practice session before their Euroleague game against Red Star Belgrade. Maccabi then won 84-69 – their first victory in three matches.
Israeli President opens his sukkah. (TY Sharon) The theme of this year’s Open Sukkah at the Israeli President’s House was ‘Finding Treasures in the President’s Sukkah.’ In cooperation with the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage, members of the public were able to enjoy a range of family-friendly activities.
Minister’s son finds 2000-year-old Jewish coin. Benjamin Elkin, 6-year-old son of the Jerusalem Affairs Minister, found a 2,000-yr-old coin in soil from the City of David’s excavations. The coin inscribed “For the Liberty of Zion” was minted in Jerusalem by the Jews during the 66 – 70 CE Great Revolt against the Romans.
Great advert for Aliya. Please watch the Israeli Prime Minister’s unscripted speech, to the latest young visitors on the Taglit-Birthright program. It certainly boosted their enthusiasm for the Jewish State.