Going the Extra Mile

So many Israeli innovations and activities are outstanding - not because they are created out of thin air, but because they take an existing concept to a whole new practical level.

Here are some medical examples.  Artificial skin has already been invented.  Some types, known as electronic skin (e-skins), are even sensitive to pressure (i.e. touch). But only scientists at Israel’s Technion have fused resin and gold particles to make a sensor that can detect pressure, temperature and humidity.  Integrated with the current e-skins it can be applied to a prosthetic limb to give the wearer more life-like sensations.  In the same vein, Israelis may not have invented the heart stent, but Israeli biotechs have completely redesigned the original crude devices and extended them for brain and other blockages. Israel’s Allium Medical recently announced that its urinary tract stents are to be distributed in Brazil and now China.
Israeli scientists’ extensive exploration of the body’s immune system has certainly paid off. The healthcare giant Bayer is funding Israeli biotech Compugen’s development of antibody-based therapeutics for cancer immuno-therapy.  And immunology skills helped surgeons at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center to conduct the world’s first ever transplant between two living HIV carriers.  They prevented the rejection of a wife’s (donor) kidney by the husband’s (recipient) compromised immune system.  Then, when Israelis do produce a unique innovation, they continue to work to improve it.  The latest version of Given Imaging’s internal intestine camera, Pillcam SB 3, has so much better resolution, efficiency and coverage, that 62 percent of the Crohn’s patients using it have had their treatment changed as a direct result. 


Israel’s Save A Child’s Heart charity is definitely unique and has been going the extra mile for many years.  Surgeons at SACH are currently repairing the hearts of 22 international children, including three Iraqis and seven from the Palestinian Authority.  Israel also goes miles out of its way to deliver goods to Gaza.  In July, 6,639 trucks laden with over 150,000 tons of food, humanitarian products, electrical goods, construction materials etc. entered Gaza via the Kerem Shalom crossing.  In return, Gaza terrorists fired six rockets into Israel.  Meanwhile, approximately one million Palestinian Arabs received permits to enter Israel as tourists during Ramadan and its concluding holiday Eid al-Fitr – 200,000 more than last year.
Israel is making great strides in creating new possibilities for people with disabilities. In September, Israel is hosting the International Symposium on Quality of Life and Well-being of People with Disabilities. And the Reut Institute has opened up a whole new dimension by launching a project / competition in which students use three-dimensional printers to manufacture inexpensive helpful devices for people with special needs.
Weizmann Institute scientists are extending the boundaries in another dimension.  They have managed to control the production of microscopic nano-wires. Using gallium nitride (GaN) Professor Ernesto Joselevich and his team have built a tiny microprocessor component, which makes possible a whole new world of powerful microchips.  And we should be very quiet when talk about the special product manufactured by Huliot of Kibbutz Sde Nehemia.  Acoustic insulated pipes shield apartment residents from the somewhat embarrassing sound of flowing sewage. The unique plastic compound is environmentally friendly and Huliot has received orders from six European countries.


I was totally blown away by two news stories last week.  Israeli outdoor events planner Ilan Elmaliach went the extra mile when his colleagues failed in their attempts to erect a tent in a strong wind. His experience as a skydiver inspired him to design a portable aerodynamic sunshade that flows with the wind rather than fights against it.  Then the Indo Asian News Service gave Israel’s Technion full-blown credit for “solving the world food crisis”.  Israeli scientists have modified a longevity hormone in the genes known as zytokinin to produce “super plants” that grow more crops on less water. The fruit and vegetables produced also have a much longer shelf life.
There are two extra-special stories to conclude this week’s blog. Firstly, in 2011 six children from one Yemenite Jewish family and four from a second family were spirited out of Yemen and flown to Argentina.  Last week the ten children were flown to Israel, to be reunited with their parents who were simultaneously brought to Israel from Yemen in a secret operation.
Finally, thirty Israeli children suffering with cancer were about to depart Ben Gurion airport for a fun holiday at Camp Simcha in the USA. But 11-year-old Imbar had to disembark in tears as she had lost her passport.  Just as the jet taxied along the runway, someone on board found Imbar’s passport. El Al’s management made an unprecedented decision and authorized the plane to return to pick her up.
Israel – where “ordinary” just isn’t enough.
 Michael Ordman writes a free weekly newsletter containing Good News stories about Israel.
For a free subscription, email a request to [email protected]