I’ve been hearing much about recent civil protests being Israel’s equivalent of the Arab ‘Spring.’ I would argue that the Israeli Spring is something completely different. Israel ‘sprung’ into the Start-up Nation several years ago when a sprinkling of scientific papers from our academic institutions and the discovery of drip irrigation technology suddenly turned into a torrent of amazing technological and medical advances. Last week’s news stories were a microcosm of these phenomena.
In the medical world, Israel''s MacroCure is helping 4500 patients with severe chronic wounds heal themselves using a unique product based on donated white blood cells that are now flowing through their bodies. Stem cell treatment developed by Israel’s Brainstorm Cell Therapeutics Ltd has improved the condition of a paralyzed patient and raised the hopes of sufferers of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Who knows what may flow from the discovery by Dr Eli Sprecher, from Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Centre, of the gene mutation associated with the rare condition that is associated with an absence of fingerprints. Finally, at Mayanei HaYeshua Medical Centre in Bnai Brak the directors are totally immersed in their new family-centered approach to care for fragile newborns.
On the technology front, researchers at the Hebrew University have developed a new method to convert previously washed away waste fibers from the paper industry into non-synthetic foam that can be re-used. The government is also initiating technological changes and has agreed to convert four of the six coal-driven turbines at the Orot Rabin Power Station on the coast at Hadera to natural gas turbines in order to take advantage of the new gas discoveries. Thanks to a new Israeli application, the cascade of mobile phones ringing during a concert or lecture will be a thing of the past. ‘Pops’ recognizes the incoming call and displays an appropriate animation. Another visual transformation is possible with technology from Israel’s Briza that can turn white diamonds into almost any colour of the rainbow.
Last week we were awash with stories of an aquatic nature. Firstly, a delegation of Israeli water innovation companies held 120 meetings in the UK with counterparts who sought Israeli advice, despite having ample rainfall. Then thirteen Israeli water companies went to Mumbai to collaborate with Indian companies, leading to the signing of agreement between the municipal corporation and the Israeli government. Next, dozens of high school students departed on a seven-day trip with the Society for the Protection of Nature around Lake Kinneret to encourage water conservation. And their activities are certainly resonating with the rest of the population, who used 7.5 percent less water during the first half of 2011, when compared to the same period last year.
The Haredim are experiencing a small spring of their own. Modiin Illit has got its own strictly kosher Internet café for the very first time. Some of the ultra-orthodox community have discovered that they are becoming a small global village, and can no longer operate with faxes and telephones alone. Meanwhile, anyone wishing to plunge into employment with Israeli internet security company 6Scan needs to prove that they have the skills to break into their Internet system in order to deliver their CV and application. Lastly, potential students poured into Ariel University to explore new courses at the fastest-growing academic institution in the country.
The world’s stock-markets (including Israel’s) are experiencing a waterfall at present, which is why it is fortunate that Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer has maintained a reservoir of foreign currency reserves to protect us somewhat from financial turmoil. Last month’s level of reserves rose by over half a billion dollars.
In sport, top Israeli swimmers and other athletes were brimming with excitement following a special session at the Knesset where UK Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould invited them to take part in the 2012 London Olympics. Further north, Lake Kinneret was the centre of attention with the announcement of the first Dragon Boat Festival to take place on May 17-18 next year.
Finally, someone must have had a brainstorm when they plunged a $100,000 check into a crevice in the Western Wall. Perhaps he was confused by Danny Ayalon’s recent video about the West Bank?
Michael Ordman writes a weekly newsletter containing Good News stories about Israel.