This Week’s Sanity Report from Israel Jan. 12, 2020
Israel is definitely on the up. This week’s positive Israel newsletter confirms that 2019 was a record-breaking year for the Israeli economy, investment and tourism. Meanwhile, just two weeks into 2020 we see Israeli medical breakthroughs, international awards for debating and technology, and Israeli support for disaster victims in Australia and Puerto Rico. There are major Israeli developments in autonomous vehicles, renewable energy, defense systems and cybersecurity. And archaeological discoveries continue to link the Land of Israel to the Jewish people.
The highlights include:
- Israeli scientists make a molecule to prevent viruses spreading from rodents to humans.
- Israel sends aid and volunteers to combat disasters in Australia and Puerto Rico.
- Israeli innovations win awards and praise at CES 2020 in Las Vegas.
- An Israeli startup is developing a waste-to-energy system.
- A record number of tourists visited Israel in 2019.
- A million Israelis watch the start of the 3rd season of Israeli TV series Fauda.
- Archaeologists find 2nd Temple period coins and stone measuring table.
ISRAEL’S MEDICAL ACHIEVEMENTS
Decoy molecule neutralizes dangerous viruses. Scientists at Israel’s Weizmann Institute and at Tel Aviv University have engineered a molecule called Arenacept to fool and destroy viruses that migrate from rodents to humans. Arenacept binds strongly to the virus, acting as a decoy. It also triggers the immune system’s defenses.
US Government buys Israeli wound treatment. As per its 2015 contract with Israel’s MediWound (see here), the U.S. Department of Health (HSS), is stockpiling $16.5 million worth of MediWound’s NexoBrid burns treatment. HSS has options on another $50 million of NexoBrid.
Lowering the cost of X-rays. (TY Atid-EDI) Israel’s Nanox is an Israeli/Japanese cooperation that has created the world’s first commercial-grade digital X-ray source for medical imaging applications. Nanox’s novel technology can significantly reduce the costs of medical imaging systems.
Program benefits patients and doctors. Since 2015 Bar-Ilan University’s ETGAR program requires its med students to visit patients at home after discharge from hospital. A study shows patients benefit significantly, especially those who are poor, isolated, understand little Hebrew, or lack education. Future doctors also benefit.
Lessons learned tackling measles in Samoa. The Israeli team of nine doctors and nurses from Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer has returned from helping Samoa combat its measles epidemic. The team emphasized how vital a vaccination program was in preventing similar outbreaks.
Attorney leaves $15 million to Israeli hospital. Although retired attorney Daniel Jacobson led a modest life, he bequeathed 50 million shekels (approximately $15 million) to Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital. It will cover 10 new operating rooms and other major upgrades to the hospital.
ISRAEL IS INCLUSIVE AND GLOBAL
Government funding for all citizens. This article highlights Israel Innovation Authority funding for women, ultra-Orthodox and Israeli-Arab entrepreneurs. The startups featured include a medical device to protect the eyes of diabetics; the world’s first property management computer and a platform for smart beauty tips.
Coexistence in Israeli mixed cities. In every Israeli mixed Jewish-Arab city there is close cooperation between Jews and Arabs at every level of municipal administration and activity. 81% of Jewish residents said relations with Arab residents were good and 89% of the Arab residents said relations with Jewish residents were good.
Training PA and Gaza nurses. 16 nurses (11 from the Palestinian Authority and 5 from Gaza) took part in a four-day medical simulation course at Israel’s Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan. The program also featured sessions on managerial skills, focusing on how to deal with tense situations.
Israelis win debating championships again. For the 3rd time, an Israeli team has won the World Universities Debate Championship. It was the first Israeli women’s team to win, defeating 750 international contestants in the English Second Language (ESL) category, in Bangkok, Thailand.
Israel sends aid for fire-injured Australian animals. Jerusalem’s Biblical Zoo has raised money to donate veterinary medical supplies to treat animals suffering from the fires raging in Australia. The items include burn creams, milk replacers, wound sprays and hydration concentrates to be used in Victoria’s East Gippsland region.
Aid to Puerto Rico. Volunteers from Israeli NGO IsraAID were still helping Puerto Rico recover from 2017’s Hurricane Maria (see here), when the island was struck by a 6.4 magnitude earthquake. Over one million people have no electricity and water, and an estimated 300 are homeless. IsraAID is conducting a needs assessment.
Surprise for Israeli in Sweden. Israeli Noam Shalev was worried when a Syrian refugee waitress in Sweden asked where Noam was from. He said “Israel” and rushed to the exit. But the waitress and her sister stopped him and thanked him for Israel’s medical treatment that saved their mother during the Syrian civil war.
Video of the decade. Some of Israel’s major achievements in the last 10 years, summarized in 2 mins 18 secs.
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
Israeli innovations at world’s largest technology fair. Three dozen Israeli startups exhibited at CES 2020 in Las Vegas (Jan 7 – 10) It is the world’s biggest technology fair with 175,000 attendees. There were 22 startups in the Israeli pavilion. El Al even added an extra flight to arrive on the morning of the first day. It was sold out.
A PA for the blind and deaf. At CES 2020, Israel’s OrCam launched an upgraded MyEye 2 with AI and voice commands. It has become a wearable Personal Assistant for the visually disabled. OrCam also won the show’s “Best Innovation” award for OrCam Hear, for the hard-of-hearing to follow a conversation in a noisy room.
Watergen wins major award at CES. Israel’s Watergen, the company that turns air into drinking water, was named Energy Efficiency Product of the Year at the 2020 Smart Home Mark of Excellence Awards at CES Las Vegas. Each year, the Consumer Technology Association’s awards recognize the top smart home innovations.
Enjoy the ride. At CES 2020 Israel’s Mobileye released this video of a ride through Jerusalem’s busy streets in an autonomous car controlled by Mobileye’s 12-camera sensor suite. It negotiates road works, unprotected left turns, busy roundabouts, pedestrian crossings and some very heavy traffic. And it doesn’t put a foot wrong.
A decade of Israeli innovation. One of many articles highlighting the major technologies and inventions of the past 10 years. Waze, Moovit, Watergen, MarginProbe, Iron Dome, ReWalk, OrCam, 3D-printed heart, NanoGhost, DayTwo and SpaceIL’s Beresheet. All featured previously in this newsletter (see here).
How microbes decompose biomass. Ben Gurion University Professor Itzhak Mizrahi has already received two European Research Council grants for his research into how microbes degrade plant waste. Now he has received a third one – this time from German research funder Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG).
Breakthrough in laser defense systems. Following a “technological breakthrough,” Israel’s Defense Ministry has re-started development of a laser beam system (see here) capable of destroying incoming rockets and small drones, to complement Iron Dome. The new system is expensive but will have negligible operational costs.
Digitizing Israel’s TV archives. The archives of the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) are being converted from film to digital format. The 5-year project will process hundreds of thousands of Betamax tapes, cassettes, reel-to-reel tapes and film recorded between 1948 and May 2017.
Cybertech is back. Cybertech 2020, the largest annual cybersecurity event in the world outside the US, takes place in Tel Aviv Jan 28 – 30. Hundreds of Israeli startups are exhibiting and some 18,000 attendees from over 80 countries are expected to attend. Startups will also compete in Cybertech’s Startup Innovation Challenge.
Turning garbage into energy. One of the recipients of the latest joint US-Israel BIRD foundation grant (see here) is Israel’s Exency. Together with US Brayton Energy they are developing “a low-cost and high-efficiency solid biomass and solid waste fueled electricity generation system” in the Israeli town of Sderot.
Sustainable packaging keeps pomegranates fresh. (TY Liat) Israel-based Stepac (now part of Johnson Matthey) has launched its latest range of sustainable packaging solutions for preserving the freshness and extending the shelf life of pomegranates and extracted pomegranate seeds and arils.
ECONOMY & BUSINESS
Israeli growth tops all Western countries. Israel’s economy, measured by its GDP, grew by 3.3% in 2019. This was the highest rate among Western countries and almost double the OECD average of 1.7%. Israel’s GDP has risen 44% in the past decade. https://www.calcalistech.com/ctech/articles/0,7340,L-3776899,00.html
Israeli foreign reserves rise by $3.64 billion. Israel’s foreign currency reserves soared in December by a record $3.64 billion to end the year at a new all-time high of just over $126 billion. In 2019, the Israeli Shekel appreciated against all major Western currencies and became the world’s strongest currency.
Record year for digital health. The 580 Israeli digital health startups raised $662 million in 2019 – a 32% increase on 2018. Israel is unique, as all citizens are members of a health company, each with some three decades of (anonymized) digitized data, available for startups to develop breakthrough systems and devices.
A booming decade. Just one of many articles summarizing Israel’s economic achievements of the last 10 years. It highlights that there are more than 6,400 startups and 362 multinational companies operating in Israel today.
Record 4.6 million tourists. (TY WIN) A record 4.6 million tourists visited Israel in 2019 – 12% more than in 2018. Most were from the US, followed by France, Russia, Germany and Britain. Tourism contributed some NIS 22.5 billion ($6.6 billion) to the economy in 2019. Tel Aviv is one of Google’s top trending destinations.
Direct flights from Moldova. Every airline seems to want to fly to Israel. The latest is Moldovan low-cost airline FlyOne, which in April launches a twice-weekly route between Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport and Moldova’s capital Chisinau. Air Moldova, Israel’s Arkia and Israir already fly the route during peak season.
Israeli Unicorns doubled in 2019. (TY Janglo) Israel has 20 Unicorns, privately-held companies worth more than $1 billion. Only the US, China and the UK have more. The new ones are Riskified, InMode, Monday.com, Vayyar, Fabric, Lemonade, Next Insurance, Lightricks, Hippo, Trax and SentinelOne. (See here).
Tesla starts up in Israel. (TY Hazel & Jacques) US electric carmaker Tesla has opened a store in the Ramat Aviv mall for shoppers to register for a new Tesla car. Tesla Motors Israel has been registered as a fully owned subsidiary company in Israel and a 2000 sq. meter Tel Aviv showroom already has several Tesla Model 3 cars.
The first Israeli accelerator for Italian startups. The Italian Embassy in Israel and Italian Bank Intesa Sanpaolo has selected 7 startups to join its first accelerator program for Italian startups in Israel, based in Eilat. The Italian Ambassador praised “the Startup Nation’s extraordinary and dynamic ecosystem”.
The largest cybersecurity exit. Israel’s Armis (see here), maker of Internet of Things (IoT) security software, is being acquired by US-based Insight Partners, a venture capital and private equity firm, in a cash deal that values the Israeli firm at $1.1 billion. The deal is the largest ever for a private Israeli cybersecurity company.
Roman Abramovich buys $58 million Tel Aviv offices. Israeli-Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich has bought a beach-front office building in Tel Aviv for NIS 200 million. The property could be converted into a hotel or a residential building. Abramovich (see here) is also building a $27 million mansion in Neve Tzedek.
CULTURE, ENTERTAINMENT & SPORT
Van Gogh comes to Israel. “Van Gogh Alive,” which bills itself as “the world’s most visited multimedia exhibition experience,” is coming to Herzliya arena from Jan 16 to Apr 18. Artificial Intelligence and multi-sensory projection technology will take visitors on a journey through Vincent van Gogh’s life and work.
Tel Aviv street festival embraces cultural diversity. The sixth Nightlight Festival comes to South Tel Aviv’s Neve Sha’anan on Jan 16 and 18. The free event brings dance performances, music and food to parks, streets, urban spaces and stores of the neighborhood, where Israelis, African migrants and foreign workers live.
Mindboggling. The charity MyIsrael is hosting an evening with mentalist Lior Suchard on Mon 10 Feb at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv. Myisrael connects donors with 18 inspirational causes in Israel. You can choose which to support and 100% of your money goes directly to helping people in need.
Another smash hit season of Fauda. The first episode of the third season of the Israeli hit drama “Fauda” was viewed by about 1 million Israelis. The TV series, about an IDF commando unit, is in Hebrew and Arabic. Netflix aired its first two seasons with English subtitles. The third season will be shown on Netflix during 2020.
Things to do in Israel in January. This month’s events include The Batsheva Dance Company performing Ohad Nahrin’s “Venezuela” in Tel Aviv; the Eilat Chamber Music festival and the Israman Triathlon.
THE JEWISH STATE
The top finds of 2019. Another “best of” 2019 article this time focusing on the most important archaeological discoveries in Israel over the past year. They include the ‘Ikkar Ben Matanyahu’ and Adoniyahu seals. Goliath’s city, the Pilgrim’s Path, 5th century synagogue mosaics, a 7000-year-old sea wall and Biblical beer.
Second Temple table found in Jerusalem. (TY IsraPundit) A rare 2000-year-old stone measuring table was recently discovered on the Pilgrims’ Path in Jerusalem’s City of David. Archaeologists have dated it from the Second Temple period, located in Jerusalem’s ancient square, inside the city’s central market.
Archaeologists find Chanukah gelt. During the festival of Chanukah, many Jewish children receive chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil. Israeli archaeologists discovered a 1,200-year-old hoard of real gold coins during excavations in Yavneh, plus twenty 2,000-year-old coins at the site of the Biblical tabernacle in Shiloh.
Growing Biblical plants in Israel. Between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, 20,000 plants are cultivated on the 2-acre Balm of Gilead Farm. They include species mentioned in the Bible, such as frankincense trees and myrrh bushes. Many of these plants were lost to the Holy Land for centuries and are now beginning to flourish again.
Israel’s James Bond. Fascinating history of Mordechai Ben-Porat, whose leadership of Operation Ezra and Nehemiah resulted in the rescue of 130,000 Iraqi Jews and their journey to Israel. He later became a member of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament; and he founded the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center.
Georgia to open cultural center in Jerusalem. Georgia has announced plans to open a cultural center in Jerusalem, joining the embassies of the US and Guatemala and trade offices of Honduras, Hungary, Australia, Brazil and the Czech Republic. Slovakia and Ukraine are also expected to open such offices.
Rescuing stranded motorists. Another article (see previous) about Israeli non-profit Yedidim (Hebrew for “good friends”) whose 20,000 volunteers help any motorists who have problems with their cars. Last year they attended hundreds of thousands of incidents, including rescuing 1,500 infants from locked cars.
Jewish Agency photo exhibit at Ben Gurion Airport. (TY Algemeiner) A new photo exhibit entitled “One to Ninety” at Ben-Gurion airport depicts the story of the Jewish Agency for Israel as it celebrates its 90th anniversary. These photos will welcome those flying to and from the Jewish State until 30th March.