The rituals that accompany the Jewish festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles) almost require us to have an extra pair of hands.  Holding 4 species of plants together, assembling a booth, carrying food up and down stairs etc.  So it is appropriate that many of the recent positive news items from the Jewish State can be connected to our hands.

 
We begin in Haifa, where medical experts at the University of Haifa and Rambam Medical Center have developed a non-invasive handwriting analysis technique to detect the onset of Parkinson’s disease.  Changes in handwriting occur years before a clinical diagnosis can be made, providing early treatment options.  In a similar vein, a finger is all that diabetics need in order to receive an accurate, painless reading of their blood-sugar levels using the TensorTip Combo Glucometer from Israel’s Cnoga.



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One day, stem cell technology will be able to regenerate damaged limbs and organs.  Thanks to the handiwork of Israeli scientists at the Weizmann Institute, that day is now much closer. They discovered that removing the protein MBD3 from adult cells re-programs them into stem cells in just 8 days instead of the current 4 weeks.  Israel’s depth of expertise in this technology can be seen in the speaker list for Jerusalem’s 5th International Stem Cell conference in October. It includes 22 Israeli professors and six specialist Israeli doctors.


The technology development arm of Cancer Research UK has received a hand from Israel’s Teva Pharmaceuticals with the signing of a multi-project alliance agreement to research and develop first-in-class cancer drugs. Whilst this was happening, the US Food and Drug Administration handed out approval for two of Teva’s cancer medications - for the treatment of secondary cancers and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.


Patients with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Parkinson’s disease often cannot control their hands. The Deep Brain TMS treatment from Israel’s Brainsway is having much success in this area.  Trials at Sheba Medical Center have shown a 27 percent improvement in OCD patients that had previously failed to respond to both pharmacological and psychological therapy.  Meanwhile, more wounded Syrians have been waking up in Israeli hospitals to find themselves in safe hands


Israeli technology is transforming farmers in the developing world from their previous “hand to mouth” existence.  Israeli brothers Gilad and Yonatan Shilo founded Israel for Africa (IFA) to promote better sustainable agriculture in Kenya.  And in Brazil, Israel’s Evogene has successfully completed three years of field trials to transform castor beans into bio-fuel.  The crop is sown after the soybean harvest, when rainfall is insufficient for other crops, providing farmers with “handy” extra revenue.  However, farmers everywhere would like to get their hands on Tal-Ya trays, now that the Israeli innovation has gone into production.  The agricultural trays achieve a dramatic increase in crop yield and prevent weed-growth, whilst saving farmers over 50 percent in water and 30 percent in fertilizer resources.



Research institutions and science museums across the country handed the Israeli public hundreds of opportunities to participate in this year’s “Night of the Scientists”.  Space exploration was the theme, as 2013 is the tenth anniversary of the flight of the first Israeli astronaut - Ilan Ramon.  The event was entitled “Israelis touch the stars” and included “hands-on” activities for all the family.


The marketing message for the new plug-in from Israeli start-up Curiyo is that it “puts the data you want at your fingertips”.  Curiyo will display a subtle link to instantly available details about interesting subjects in any web page you visit.  And Israel’s “invisible touchscreen” maker SnapKeys has updated its SI Revolution keyboard app to fit your fingers.  Say goodbye to the QWERTY keyboard.  One-finger typing just got even easier.



We should use our hands to applaud two exceptional individuals.  In Acre, Uri Jeremias’s single-handed determination has been responsible for the reconstruction of two abandoned Ottoman palaces and their transformation into a handsome boutique hotel.  On the other hand, Maestro conductor Zubin Mehta is used to waving his hands around more than most of us.  But he put his fingertips together Indian style in gratitude for being bestowed with an honorary Technion doctorate.  Professor Lavie, President of Israel’s world-class innovation university, described Dr Mehta as an exceptional man who has made a unique contribution to the betterment of Israel and the entire world with the magic of music.



Returning to the festive season, and although they missed out on a world record, many hands made light work of Haifa youth’s Sukkot project to make Israel’s longest paper chain. Decorated paper chains are a popular feature of the booths built for the festival of Tabernacles / Sukkot. 


Finally, prominent Israelis shook hands with some of the thousands of Christian supporters of Israel from over 100 countries who made sure they were on hand in Jerusalem this week to celebrate the most inclusive of Jewish festivals.  It is a handy reminder that the last time Israel’s capital city saw more representations from nations of the world was in King Solomon’s time.


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Michael Ordman writes a free weekly newsletter containing Good News stories about Israel.
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