Iron Dome, WAZE developers among Israelis chosen for 67th Independence Day ceremony

Independence day ceremony at Mount Herzl annually recognizes outstanding citizens.

March 8, 2015 11:46
Iron dome

Soldiers stand near the Iron Dome missile defense system outside Tel Aviv.. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Since Israel’s inception, its reputation as a “Start-up Nation” has been enhanced by breakthroughs in almost every field of human endeavor.

Vera Weizmann, wife of Israel’s first president Chaim Weizmann, wrote a book, The Impossible Takes Longer, that defines the breakthrough character of Israel.

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The breakthrough concept is the central theme of this year’s beacon-lighting ceremony on Mount Herzl, which will usher in Israel’s 67th Independence Day celebrations.

The 14 people selected to light beacons are all breakthrough achievers in their various professions.

The Iron Dome missile defense system is one of the most high-profile breakthroughs in the field of national security, which Brig.-Gen. (res.) Dr. Danny Gold initiated while serving as head of the IDF’s research and development division. Gold defied the bureaucratic opposition and disapproval and went ahead with the project, which proved so vital during Operation Protective Edge. He and his team were awarded the coveted Israel Defense Prize as a result of their efforts. Gold will be the first beacon-lighter.

The second beacon-lighter will be Ehud Shabtai, whose poor sense of direction led to the invention of WAZE, the navigation application. Shabtai was given a Global Positioning System, which certainly made navigating easier, but he wished to create a more efficient system, which led to the birth of WAZE, which is now used around the globe.

Lighting the beacon together with Shabtai will be 17-year-old high school student Or Assouline from Acre, a young entrepreneur and researcher who is CEO of a young entrepreneurs’ development company.

Next in line is supermarket king Rami Levy, who grew up as a poor boy in Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehuda and learned early in life the role that price plays in demand. If the price is right, demand increases. Levy runs Shivuk Hashikma, a chain of discount supermarkets, where prices remain among the most competitive. In addition he provides free food packages to victims of terrorism.

Alice Miller, who, when she applied for service in a pilots’ course, was told by president Ezer Weizman, a former commander of the Israel Air Force, to go home and knit socks, decided instead, after being initially rejected, to take her case to the High Court of Justice and paved the way for women pilots in the IAF. She, too, will light a beacon as will Lucy Aharish, the fiery Israeli-Arab evening news presenter on I24 News.

It was entirely appropriate that Aharish’s inclusion was publicly announced on International Women’s Day, because life for Arab women in mainstream Israel is a constant uphill battle.

Born in Dimona, she was the only Arab student in her school, and on Purim she dressed up as Queen Esther. She is well versed in Jewish culture as well as her own Muslim background and serves as a bridge of tolerance.

Yet another woman among the beacon-lighters will be last year’s Israel Prize laureate in medicine, Hebrew University emeritus Vienna-born and London- educated Prof. Marta Weinstock- Rosin, who developed a drug to slow dementia caused by Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Although she has been involved in the development of several medications, she is best known for Exelon, which slows down the symptoms of mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease, for which as yet there is no cure. Exelon, however, does improve the quality of life of people mildly affected by Alzheimer’s.

Weinstock-Rosin will light the beacon together with Dr. Gabriel Idan, an engineer and inventor, who has developed miniature video cameras, which patients can ingest, to ease the performance of medical procedures.

Israel’s irrigation products have been of invaluable use in third world and other countries. A leader in this field is engineer and world-renowned entrepreneur Rafi Mehudar, who has been selected to light a beacon in recognition of Israel’s contribution to water management at home and abroad.

Israel has a number of singers who have contributed to the overall Mediterranean music scene, but standing out among its pioneers is singer and songwriter Avihu Medina, born in the same year as the state, who has opened doors for those who came after him.

Of all the women serving in Israel’s intelligence operations, Sima Shine has attained the most senior positions, reaching the rank of director of the Regional Affairs Division in the Strategic Affairs Ministry. Before that, she was deputy head of the National Security Council for Strategic Affairs, and prior to that was head of the Research Desk of the Intelligence Division of the Prime Minister’s Office, the first woman to hold that position.

She, too, will light a beacon.

Israel has a distinguished record of providing humanitarian aid to countries stricken by natural disasters and terrorist attacks. Israel Flying Aid, founded by Gal Lusky, who is passionate about rescuing people from distress and providing humanitarian relief in crisis situations, often works in cooperation with the government. Her compassion has earned her one of her country’s greatest honors: to light a beacon on Independence Day.

The penultimate beacon-lighter will be Rabbanit Malka Piotrkowski, a teacher and women’s rights activist with an enviable knowledge of Torah and Halacha, who advocates amending the ketuba – the Jewish marriage contract – to include a clause according to which a man who refuses to give his wife a Jewish bill of divorce would be imprisoned. A woman chained to her husband against her will because he refuses to divorce her is in a sense languishing in a prison, she says, and if the wife is in a prison, it is only fitting that the husband should also be in a prison.

The final beacon-lighter is Pvt. Dan Korkowsky from the IDF’s Special Intelligence Unit 9900, which is dedicated to every possible subject related to geography and is unique in that its elite group of soldiers includes those who have been diagnosed on the autism spectrum, and possibly for this reason can detect minute details which most other people are likely to miss. The unit is known as Ro’im Rahok, which is literally translated as “seeing far” but in IDF parlance means seeing beyond the horizon.

Korkowsky has rare intelligence- gathering qualities and has succeeded in areas where no one before him has reached the same level of achievement. He will be accompanied by Sgt. Bat Chen Fumorchok, the commander of the unit.

The beacon-lighters were approved by the Ministerial Committee for Symbols and Ceremonial Affairs, headed by Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat, who will be neither an MK nor a minister on Independence Day. Livnat announced several weeks ago that she would not be standing for another term and that she wished to retire from politics.

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