The world seems to expect Israel to operate in a similar manner to that of a Swiss watch – quiet, efficient, polished, pristine and predictable. Well no apologies, but 64 years of battling to survive against the odds has resulted in the Jewish State acquiring rather more rugged and pragmatic characteristics. So in these circumstances Israel’s technological achievements are even more remarkable.
In a mirror of the Jewish State, the human body frequently doesn’t perform like clockwork. When it was determined that a 63-year-old man would not be able to survive more conventional surgery, doctors at Beilinson hospital in Petah Tikva had to learn new techniques very quickly in order to perform Israel’s first totally artificial heart transplant. Next, Israel’s Protalix BioTherapeutics had its groundbreaking treatment for Gaucher’s disease, Elelyso, approved by the American Food and Drug Administration. And on World Asthma Day, here are the top 10 Israeli innovations to help prevent, diagnose, monitor and treat the chronic disease. Finally, global medical devices giant Covidien bought its third Israeli medical devices company - Polytouch Medical and its PatchAssist device for the intricate insertion of mesh during hernia operations. No wonder British Columbia’s Premier Christy Clark is sending a delegation to Israel to commercialise medical technology and “create jobs that put food on dinner tables in both British Columbia and in Israel”.
As the world runs out of fossil fuels, Israel is at the forefront of clean energy technology. Israel’s Univerve, plus Israeli-run Actiview Solutions of Belgium, are to help transform Nigeria into one of the global suppliers of bio-fuel, animal feeds and food supplements, by the massive cultivation of algae in the country. Meanwhile, Ormat Technologies – a subsidiary of Israel’s Ormat Industries – is to provide two air-cooled Ormat Energy Converters that utilise power from the centre of the Earth in order to run a geothermal power plant project in North America. Here is how Ormat’s green-energy system is energising Kenya.
In the fight to combat water pollution, the Indian government has invited leading Israeli water technology companies to take part in efforts to clean up the River Ganges - India’s most important river. Nearby, in semi-arid Eastern Sri Lanka, Singhalese, Tamil and Muslim populations struggle over meagre water resources. The head of Sarvodaya, the largest NGO in Sri Lanka, has come to Israel to learn about Friends of the Earth’s cross-border Good Water Neighbours project and Israeli Foreign Ministry’s Mashav program.
Israel is working to root out world hunger by combining science and agriculture. The Israeli company Rosetta Green produces special genes to improve crop yields and has just signed a deal with international seed manufacturer Bayer CropScience AG to grow bug-resistant cotton. AnotherIsraeli company, Hishtil (“speedling” in Hebrew) has demonstrated the potential of technology by grafting two types of basil plants together to produce the world’s first basil tree. The standard basil plant rarely lives longer than a year, but one of the company’s first grafted trees is now five years old, and still provides fresh basil.
Rising into Higher education, the Weizmann Institute ran another round of its popular ‘science on tap’ lectures in Tel Aviv bars. Topics ranged from alternate realities; the fate of the universe; genetic engineering; and even on how quantum physics works in a glass of beer. I wonder if a dirty glass inspired researchers from Tel Aviv Sourasky (Ichilov) Medical Center and Tel Aviv University to develop a cheap, non-toxic solution, which disrupts the DNA of resistant bacteria and renders them susceptible to antibiotics.
We can now speed through some other recent Israeli innovations that resolve major problems. First, iOnRoad, is encouraging hundreds of thousands of drivers to drive more safely and avoid collisions. It’s advanced algorithms turn the smartphone into an intelligent road safety system, with warning facilities and links to other iOnRoad users to exchange details of road hazards. Let’s hope Israeli drivers download the app in their thousands.
Moving on, Israeli app Umoove recognises head and eye movements to control applications and content on a mobile device. The uses include helping people with disabilities, book reading and homeland security. The next attention-absorbing product comes from Israel’s Exotech Bio Solutions who have developed a unique, natural, biodegradable super-absorbent polymer (SAP) with almost unlimited applications from diapers to reservoir linings.
But my favourite of the week is the quakeproof desk. 300 million schoolchildren are exposed to danger every day, in badly built schools, in schools along fault lines and in countries subject to war and terrorism. In a crisis, children are told to shelter under their desks. Thanks to Israeli manufacturer A D Miraz, these desks no longer need to be death traps.
So you can see that Israel does not need to run as smooth as a Swiss watch, but in order to protect the world as it rocks from one aftershock to the next, Israel is definitely….
In the right place at the right time.
Michael Ordman writes a weekly newsletter containing Good News stories about Israel.
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