As the world begins another calendar year, I urge all readers to try to open the minds of the international community to the momentous work that Israel is doing.  Israelis certainly have been using their brains and also focusing on making a clean start to 2013.



Beginning with the brain itself, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, together with the Max Planck Society of Germany, is to build a 3 million euro Brain Research Center in the nation’s capital, Jerusalem.  When complete, it should initiate new treatments for destructive neurological diseases.  Even before the new center is complete, Hebrew Uni researchers have discovered a key protein, Calphotin, whose absence can cause Alzheimer’s. Calphotin regulates the amount of Calcium contained in the body’s cells.  Loss of Calphotin (e.g. due to aging) causes Calcium levels to rise and accelerates cell death.  Finally, a study by Israeli neurologist Dr. Rivka Inzelberg has identified an interesting side effect of dopamine-stimulating medication to control symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Patients have contracted artistic or literary creative skills that they never had previously.  Reducing the medication suppresses these new skills.

 
Israel certainly does not discourage individuals with brain disorders from coming to the Jewish State.  20 young North American Jews with Asperger’s Syndrome have just experienced Israel together on a special Taglit-Birthright tour.  They also met Israelis with Asperger’s at Shekel, an umbrella organization for Israelis with special needs.




The Hebrew University of Jerusalem wants all Israeli citizens to have the opportunity to expand their minds with a higher education. It is therefore creating an access program for students from minority backgrounds and has appointed Professor Nayef Jarrous as its Minority Affairs Advisor.

 
At Intel’s Haifa centre, Israeli brains are clearing the route for future technology by pioneering a unique “perceptual computing” platform.  Now they are offering a $1 million prize to for developers to build applications that will allow computers to anticipate the needs of their owners.  Meanwhile, road users are already benefiting from Israeli clear thinking.  Ben Gurion University researchers have analyzed data from Israeli GPS navigation application “Waze “to highlight traffic trouble spots where police can be deployed more effectively.  New technology is one of the reasons why numbers of accidents and fatalities on Israeli roads have reached a 50-year low
 
It’s clearly time to move on to the subject of Israel’s work in cleaning up the environment.  Internationally, Israeli start-up Mapal Energy has completed a project in Brazil for purifying water in São Paulo.  Mapal’s units replaced the existing mechanical aerators, saving 50% of the energy while maintaining the quality of the treated water.  Meanwhile, the Israel-US fund for Research and Development (BIRD) has just announced that it will be providing $9 million for ten new infrastructure projects that include water technologies and environmental recycling. 
 
Cleanliness begins at home, of course, so it was good to read that the Israeli Government has increased the budget for rehabilitating polluted rivers and streams.  Two of Israel’s municipalities are also chipping in.  Be’er sheva has chosen trees over houses byrevoking plans to build 16,000 new housing units in the city''s Ramot Gimel neighborhood in favor of planting a new forest.  The urban forest will span across 1,360 acres and serve as the city’s green lung.  In contrast, Netanya has combined nature with urban priorities by clearing out 2.5 million cubic meters of garbage from a disused landfill site.  The result will be a residential area for 2,062 families and 1,100 hotel rooms, whilst at the same time extending Netanya’s famous iris nature reserve, thus enhancing the beautiful seaside resort.




Returning to the topic of education, 2012 showed that increased government funding, longer staff hours and teachers for specific subjects have led to encouraging academic results for Israel’s next generation of clear thinkers.  Let’s also hope that the Jewish State continues to be blessed with educators like Penny Ur from Moshav Amnon in the Galilee.  Penny has just been awarded the Order of the British Empire in the Queen’s New Year’s Honors List for her work promoting English language-teaching methodologies.



Finally, Israeli clear thinker Yaakov Kirschen has provided 40 years of profound satire and witty commentary on everyday Israeli news and international events with his “Dry Bones” cartoon.  He has traveled to the USA and the Far East, lecturing to the wider community and promoting the Jewish State.  He is now working on a new project to educate the next generation.

 
It shows that when it comes to making a better future, Israelis clearly can
 
Think outside the box.
 
Michael Ordman writes a free weekly newsletter containing Good News stories about Israel.
For a free subscription, email a request to michael.goodnewsisrael@gmail.com
 

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