Born in the Jewish State

Israel is so full of home-grown talent, that I’ve been able to deliver a complete blog on the theme of new beginnings.
It is only appropriate that I begin with the theme of the Start-up Nation and some of the many bright young companies that have born fruit recently. Israel’s Technion has been pivotal in shaping and nurturing the country’s high-tech entrepreneurs. A new Israeli postage stamp - the Technion 2012 Cornerstone Centennial Stamp – features NanoSpun, a start-up based in the Gutwirth Science Park in Technion City. NanoSpun won 300,000 Euros in the Nano/Polymer Challenge in Italy in 2011 for its development of innovative hollow nano-fibres.  Next, we feature Israel’s Airbase Systems – developer of the CanarIT. This low-cost, effective air-quality sensor logs the level of pollution, analyses it, and delivers warnings, alerts, and information to help people protect their health. It operates a network of sensors in Haifa and plans to expand to Tel Aviv and maybe even Manhattan. 


These start-ups do not sprout up out of thin air. Technology nurseries like TechLoft have been providing facilities for even the smallest of seed-stage or even pre-seed companies. Some aren’t companies at all – just teams of people working to formulate an idea. The Tel Aviv municipality is also providing vital assistance by allocating space at the City Library for young Israeli innovators to meet and share their ideas for new businesses. Tel Aviv has become a citywide incubator ecosystem of entrepreneurs, mentors and investors.
Yet another Israeli start-up, Nemesysco has pioneered Layered Voice Analysis (LVA) technology to detect stress and emotion. It is already used in the security, medical, recruitment and insurance industries. And Nemesysco has now built a new application, bringing people together romantically by sensing when two individuals “click” - on the phone, over skype, or locally on a handheld PDA or smartphone.  


So many life-changing drug treatments were conceived in the laboratories of Israeli biotechs. Latest announcements include that from Israel’s BiolineRX who reported positive results in the pre-clinical trial of BL-7010, its treatment for celiac disease. Currently, there is no cure or pharmacological treatment for the ailment. One Israeli biotech, Accelerated Evolution Biotechnologies, has even managed to reduce dramatically the lengthy gestation period (and therefore the cost) of drug development. AEBi has implemented a revolutionary new platform to accelerate the initial screening process by decreasing the numbers of false negative and false positives when identifying potential candidates.
One new arrival in the Jewish State is certainly not a start-up. The Swiss banking giant UBS has launched a Wealth Management business in Tel Aviv. UBS rates Israel alongside Brazil and Russia, but ahead of the Gulf states and decided to deepen its operations here. Its decision is not surprising, in light of Bloomberg’s recent ranking of Israel as the safest country in the world for investing. According to the Bloomberg “riskless return” ranking, the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange’s TA-25 Index’s 7.6% risk-adjusted return over the past ten years was the highest of the benchmark indexes of the top 24 developed-nations.
Technology and Art have been combined with the new addition of the Herta and Paul Amir Building to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. The freestanding concrete-and-glass building comprises complex geometry and light-filled space has won the TAMA the title of Best Museum 2012 in the prestigious Travel and Leisure Magazine. 


The seeds that Israelis have planted are literally bearing fruit. The Jewish State was the only country to end the 20th Century with more trees than it started the century. And green shoots will continue to develop thanks to organisations like the Hebrew Learning Center, eTeacher, which has announced that it will plant a tree in the name of every student who signs up to one of its Modern or Biblical Hebrew courses. This campaign was launched following the Jewish holiday of “Tu BiShvat” – the “New Year for Trees” celebrated in Israel. The festival also coincided with news that Israeli researchers have used a unique technique to separate fossilised pollen. It has helped them identify plants that grew 2500 years ago and reconstruct the ancient royal gardens of Ramat Rahel near Jerusalem.
Dalia Bassa is responsible for all health related affairs between the Israeli Ministry of Health and Palestinian Authority. In 2011 she helped 100,000 Palestinian Arabs get treatment in Israel. Back in 2002 she brought a young Arab boy with 85% burns to Hadassah hospital. He had been declared clinically dead by PA doctors. The boy was reborn in the Jewish State and ten years later Dalia received an invitation to his wedding.
Finally, the Bielski brothers saved 1200 Jews in WW2 and were immortalised in the 2008 film “Defiance” starring Daniel Craig. Aharon Bielski, the youngest brother, came to Israel to visit the Givati Regiment, in which he served during the War of Independence that gave birth to the Jewish State. He told the soldiers, "No army in the world conducts itself as humanely as you do”.
The Lions of Judah are born free again.
Michael Ordman writes a weekly newsletter containing Good News stories about Israel.
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