A new book on the Israeli response to COVID-19 presents how the country’s innovation ecosystem has devoted itself to the fight against the disease with the goal to bring solutions at the national and international level in the spirit of the Jewish concept of tikkun olam, or “repairing the world.”When the coronavirus pandemic became prevalent in Israel and the authorities placed the country under a full lockdown, communication consultant Jodie Cohen, like many others, found herself at home juggling between professional responsibilities and supporting her children during their online classes. However, following the news closely, she could not help but notice the amount of innovative solutions that companies, start-ups, research centers and health systems started to develop and thought it would be a good idea to cover them in a book.“At the beginning, I told myself that there was no way I could do it during the lockdown,” she told The Jerusalem Post. “But when we entered its second month, I really felt it was too important of a story to give it up, and I started working on it.” Originally from London, Cohen has been living in Israel for 14 years. Among other areas, she writes for global pharmaceutical companies. Her book, Tikkun Olam: Israel vs COVID-19, was published in mid-June by Mintern Publication, a new publishing venture recently started by Cohen herself. It is available on Amazon and retail stores.
“As we see numbers still going up now all over the world, it is more important than ever that people hear a message of optimism,” she said. “At the same time, the book clearly states that it is not intended to give medical advice and that some of the projects presented might be proven not to be effective or not receive enough funding.” The volume is divided into several sections, covering materials and tools to prevent infection, such as tracking apps and masks, testing technologies, potential treatments and vaccines.“Just over 10 years ago, the book Start-up Nation brought people’s attention to Israel’s as a powerhouse for innovation,” Cohen said. “In the last decade, a lot of this innovation has become focused on sustainability issues like water and energy. Therefore, I think it is not surprising that everyone is trying to turn their attention to the coronavirus, which really is the biggest challenge humanity is currently facing.”“I think that the fact that Israel is an agile country, used to things happening unexpectedly and able to react quickly also helps,” she said. “Companies have been fast to pivot to tackle the virus, and for many people it has become a personal mission.”
AMONG THE ventures that have especially impressed her, Cohen mentioned Pluristem, a Haifa-based regenerative-medicine company.“They take cells from placentas to treat people for a number of conditions,” she said. “When the coronavirus crisis started, they thought this could also help people with the disease. They had the opportunity to test the treatment on patients who were facing severe risk of dying, and after a 28-day follow up, 87% of them were still alive, which I think shows fantastic promise.”Regarding vaccines, the author also highlighted the work of the Galilee Research Institute (MIGAL), which had been studying the poultry coronavirus and a vaccine against it for 10 years.“After the genetic sequence of the human coronavirus was released, they realized that it is almost identical to the human one, so they are adapting their research and hope to produce an oral vaccine quickly,” she said.Cohen pointed out that one of the criteria she employed to select the projects showcased in the book was their use or potential use not only in Israel but in other countries as well.“Tikkun olam is a Jewish concept to help the others. It essentially means ‘healing the world,’” she said. “In this perspective, I want to mention an organization called Innovation: Africa (iA), which is bringing access to water in rural villages across the continent.“We keep on hearing about the importance of washing our hands to fight the virus, which is very complicated without running water,” Cohen said. “In the light of the pandemic, it could have been easier to just go home, but iA chose to do the opposite, doubling their work.”