The wheat harvest is one of the central themes of the Jewish festival of Shavuot, which begins on Saturday evening. Whilst the Jewish State has been enjoying particularly good agricultural yields this year, its cutting-edge technology has also been reaping dividends for the growing populations of an ever-hungry world.
As a result of Israel being short of water and arable land, it has had to develop advanced agricultural methods, technologies and products in order for its citizens to survive. The latest of these innovations were on display at Agritech 2012 in Tel Aviv. The many exhibits included mites that eradicate pests and a machine that could literally harvest rain from a cloudless sky. 2000 Indian farmers, including 600 each from the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra flew in to learn how to obtain a larger and better quality of crop, with less use of water and pesticides. The event also provided an opportunity for Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and South Sudan’s Minister of Agriculture, Betty Ogwaro to promote the establishment of an agricultural village in South Sudan that will be constructed based on Israeli methods and technologies and will serve as a model for other villages in the future.
Alongside Agritech 2012, was the 2012 International Committee for Plastics in Agriculture Conference: Plasticulture for a Green Planet. Delegates from over 54 countries observed Israel’s innovative use of sustainable plastics in irrigation systems, greenhouses, netting and other systems. Meanwhile, in Holland, more hi-tech Israeli agriculture was on show at the Floriade agriculture expo. 60,000 people visited Israel’s two pavilions, learning about Israel’s genetic engineering of plants and using an application to create prospective new fruits and vegetables. Once crops have been harvested, another Israeli discovery will keep them fresh for longer. Yissum – the research and development company of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem – has licensed the discovery of four of its professors. Their cyclopropene derivative both increases crop yields and extends shelf life.
Israel’s importance to world farming has been recognised even by the usually hostile United Nations. Israel''s Agency for International Development Cooperation, (MASHAV) and the UN Industrial Development Organization signed a memorandum of understanding to increase cooperation in food security, water management, women empowerment and industrial development in developing countries. Israel and Japan are also involved in a joint agricultural program – the Peace Corridor project, which entails the establishment of an agro-industrial park near the PA city of Jericho. This is a little-known recent outcome of the 60 years of diplomatic relations that Israel and Japan have enjoyed. And Israel’s organic farmers announced another surprise agricultural bond. One of their breeding pairs of barn owls that they use to control rodent pests, consists of an Israeli owl and a Jordanian owl.
There is no point having a good harvest if you can’t enjoy it. Israel’s Sialo Technology has just received Europe’s CE mark for its unique dental implant – the Dynamic Implant Valve Approach or DIVA. Then my jaw dropped when I read how a 24-year old Israeli escaped by the skin of her teeth after she accidentally swallowed her toothbrush. Following a CT-scan, Dr. Uri Segol, at the Carmel Medical Center in Haifa, used a diagnostic endoscope to inch the toothbrush up the woman’s esophagus, into her throat and out of her mouth, to a standing ovation from hospital staff. And there was an even bigger sense of achievement for all those involved in the first-ever Israeli cooking workshop for the blind and the visually impaired organized by the Lions volunteer organization.
The festival of Shavuot also commemorates two events of Biblical proportions. The Giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai is the central feature of our Synagogue service, so it is appropriate that the Young Israel Movement has just dedicated a new Torah scroll to the IDF’s Iron Dome anti-missile unit. Secondly, the new Beit David Museum in Tel Aviv – dedicated to the House of David – is celebrating the holiday, which also marks King David’s 3,025th birthday. The museum has 1st and 2nd Temple exhibits, plus ancient slingshot stones like the one with which David killed Goliath. So it was especially satisfying to hear US Ambassador Daniel Shapiro’s admiration of how Bar Ilan University’s scientists were breaking into new areas of knowledge whilst holding the utmost respect for the wonders of creation. As he put it, they were working at the cutting-edge of science with Jewish values.
Finally, returning to agriculture and that bumper harvest. This year’s cherry crop was so huge that Israeli farmers had to take the rare step of thinning the fruit before it ripened in order to allow each cherry to grow and to avoid overweight tree limbs crashing to the ground. Or as the good book says:
“The land will give its fruit and you will eat your fill”.
Michael Ordman writes a weekly newsletter containing Good News stories about Israel.
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