The theme of Israel’s Presidential Conference this year is “Tomorrow”, highlighting what Israel is doing (and needs to do) to ensure a better future in science, medicine, social issues, the economy, the environment, and even art, religion and politics. So here is a glimpse of some of Israel’s achievements and developments that will definitely make a big impact on the world of tomorrow.
Last week’s discovery of the reason for Devergie’s disease is an example of the futuristic research that Israelis are conducting in area of genetics. Following ten years of endeavour, the researchers at Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center finally identified the genetic mutations that cause this severe skin disease that affects approximately one in every 5000 people. It is currently possible to sequence an individual’s genome in two weeks. But scientists at the Israeli Technion’s Lokey Lifescience centre are working to bring this down to two minutes. The doctors of tomorrow will then be able to prescribe drugs tailored to the individual’s DNA, rather than generic to the condition.
The numbers of Israeli doctors was enhanced by a record-breaking 366 new Ph.D. graduates from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. As honorary doctorate Rick Hansen told them, “New goals and new dreams will be unfolding. Anything is possible.” Over at Israel’s Technion, President Prof. Peretz Lavie gave an insight as to how scientists can change society. Meanwhile, Prof. Shlomo Maital, co-author of “Technion Nation” predicts that when the Technion celebrates its 200th birthday, the numbers of its graduates will comprise half-a-million citizens. This is quite believable, considering its faculties such as the unique Computer Engineering Centre. Its Director Ruth Boneh, formerly of Intel, describes it as a one-of-a-kind centre where students can study academic and practical computing in one place. It is leading to some amazing developments.
Israelis can often be exposed to University life from a very early age, due to the demands of the Jewish State. As writer and childbirth expert Wendy Blumfield explains, following high school and the army, many students get married and then go to university, graduating subsequently with degree(s) and a family. So we shouldn’t be surprised when today’s “Technion babies” become Israel’s scientists of the future. A University career path isn’t always necessary, however, as Israel’s teenage entrepreneurs can testify. Mickey Haslavsky (18) of Holon is already on his 2nd start-up. Tal Hoffman (15) of Haifa, founder of Itimdi, says the “Start-up Nation” has encouraged young business developers. Gal Harth (15) of Herzliya set-up Doweet to get his friends off their games consoles and into the real world.
The Jewish State always gives priority to children – the builders of Tomorrow’s World, wherever they live. MASHAV (Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation) has been educating Ghanaian children and their teachers, using a unique Israeli program. And the inaugural Africa''s Voices in Israel mission visited Save A Child''s Heart in Holon, where 40 percent of the patients are young children from Africa.
Tomorrow’s world will be a better place, with Israel’s CleanTech technologies. While Israel’s Environment Minister Gilad Erdan was being elected Vice Chairman of the Rio+20 Environmental Summit, 14 Israeli water companies were attending Ecwatech Russia, the largest water technology event in Eastern Europe. On Walter’s World you can hear that when you turn on your water taps in Israel in 2015, 75% of all water will come from desalination plants. Even when there is no water, Israel comes to the rescue. Israel’s Evogene Ltd is developing drought-resistant rice to prevent widespread hunger in India.
Weaning the world off oil may arguably be Israel’s greatest achievement of the future. Israel may now have ample resources of natural gas, but it is also busy producing clean energy from other sources. A project at Ben Gurion University and another at NewCO2Fuels are converting the greenhouse gas Carbon Dioxide into fuel and received financial grants to continue their work. Meanwhile, I have been keeping a close eye on the all-electric Better Place Renault Fluence ZE spotted driving around my local streets.
Finally, here are two radical Israeli visions of the future. First, the Israeli cabinet approved, in principle, an ambitious plan to build a new airport, a seaport, a desalination plant and a power plant on artificial islands off the Mediterranean coast. Secondly, a future without terrorism – but only if people like Mosab Yousef, son of Hamas’ founder, convince other terrorists to “learn from Israel what the value and holiness of life is.”
And lastly, Ramat Gan Safari announced the rare birth of a white rhino calf. The birth has important implications for the endangered species. White Rhinos are notoriously difficult to breed in captivity and this is the second successful birth for Tendra, the mother. Perhaps she is also happy with Israel’s vision of a brighter tomorrow?
Michael Ordman writes a weekly newsletter containing Good News stories about Israel.
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