Israel makes you Think

The peaceful atmosphere of Yom Kippur in Israel provided many citizens with an opportunity to clear the brain of routine thoughts and re-tune to a more spiritual channel. But barely will the sound of the shofar have died away before Israel’s creative minds resume work on their innovative projects.

Lately, the brain has become the most popular organ in the body for medical scientists to focus on. Indeed, “NeuroTech” is the current buzzword amongst leading scientists from academia and industry. The US-Israel Neurotechnology and Neuroscience Conference in Washington recently showcased the latest research and cutting edge technologies in the US and Israel for investigating brain function and brain disorders. An Israeli non-profit organisation - Israel Brain Technologies (IBT) - is even offering a $1 million prize to anyone who can come up with a breakthrough brain technology; one that will make life better for everyone. It is aptly named the Global B.R.A.I.N. (Breakthrough Research And Innovation in Neurotechnology) Prize.


Two Israeli companies have recently publicised their contrasting treatments for two different ailments affecting the brain. BrainGames-Israel applies the process of Neurofeedback to monitor an ADD/ADHD child’s brainwaves whilst they play a computer game or watch a film. If the child’s attention begins to wander, the game or film blurs, slows or stops. Focussing the mind continues the action / activity and thus conditions the child’s brain. More conventional medicine is being developed by Israel’s Avraham Pharmaceuticals. It has just started human trials of its drug Ladostigil, which relieves behavioural and psychological symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. In lab animals, the medication also slows the progression of the disease and prolongs life. Results of the human trials are due at the end of 2012.

Israeli medical specialists constantly use their brains to think outside the box in order to improve the success of medical treatments. Israel’s Mazor Robotics has just sold its 18th Renaissance robotic spinal surgical guidance system in the US. Meanwhile, a team of researchers at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba has discovered a treatment that means many painful and traumatic tonsillectomy operations on children don’t need to be performed at all. Montelukast - an anti-inflammatory drug used for the treatment of asthma - helps open the closed airways caused by enlarged tonsils. Finally, just watch this video of Palestinian Arab accountant Tarik Sadek Abu Baker that shows him before and after two treatments at Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center. Doctors used Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) therapy to treat the 51-year-old who had severe Parkinson’s disease. Having previously been barely able to move or talk, he now has no visible symptoms.


Another product of Israel’s inclusive society is that it realises that it has to be clever in order to reduce the national shortage of female specialist doctors. The Israel Medical Association’s Scientific Council and the Health Ministry are therefore piloting a program to enable physicians to complete their hospital residencies in part-time hospital work. It will enable young women to combine the raising of families with medical specialization. Another disadvantaged group, Israelis with mental disabilities, continue to be supported by the non-profit organisation Beit Issie Shapiro (BIS). Amongst its many new facilities is the BIS Friendship Park (Park Chaverim) - Israel’s first accessible and inclusive playground.

Two Israeli companies have developed highly intelligent solutions to the challenges of today’s critical business communications. Firstly Techmer, which won the contract to deploy smart communication systems at One World Trade Center (1 WTC) - the lead building of the new World Trade Center complex in New York City. Techmer’s technology will allow rescue services to communicate during power outages and in extreme conditions. The second Israeli company is company is NICE Systems, which has just won the award for Ingenuity in Language Technology at the 2012 LT-Innovate Summit in Brussels. NICE’s security communications systems operate on the Russian train network and at New Orleans International Airport.


Israel constantly strives to inspire young minds. Last week, twelve top Israeli academic institutions held their annual “Night of the Scientists” open evening. This year Computer Science was showcased, to mark the centenary of birth of Alan Turing - the “father of the computer era”. The public met scientists, toured laboratories, experienced workshops and heard lectures and presentations. The Israel Teaching Fellows program – a joint initiative of the Israeli Ministry of Education and Masa Israel - provides further stimulus. 170 high calibre North American college graduates are participating in this year’s program. Besides benefiting Israeli children, teaching in Israel is a meaningful volunteer opportunity. It also helps build a strong CV and strengthens bonds between the USA and the Jewish State.

Finally, amongst other medical benefits, honey can apparently also help stimulate the mental processes. In the Bible, King Saul’s son Jonathan gained understanding after eating it. This year, the average Israeli consumer will buy two kilos of honey for the holiday season. Locally produced flavours include eucalyptus, citrus, avocado and apple. Or try onion and desert flower. Speciality honeys include marzipan and halva.
Chag Sameach - and please keep spreading positive thoughts about Israel.
Michael Ordman writes a weekly newsletter containing Good News stories about Israel.
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