5777 – what a year that was

A look back on the year that was makes one think that it wasn't all bad news for Israel. In fact, it was a year full of uplifting developments.

A Jewish man blowing the shofar.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
A Jewish man blowing the shofar.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Jerusalem Post included two reports on the events of 5777 in its September 20 edition.
Gill Hoffman wrote “very little of significance actually ended up happening in Israel” so he described the Top 10 stories that didn’t happen.
Amotz Asa-el struggled to find a “Person of the Year” – there was “no celebrity thinker, captivating artist or high-flying statesman.”
I would like to challenge these rather negative articles by providing a summary of just a few of the many hundreds of positive events of the past year. Most of these news articles appeared in the Post. Where appropriate, I will name the exceptional people involved.
Tishrei-Cheshvan 5777/October- November 2016: Readers will know about IsraAID’s relief work after recent hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, but may have forgotten that IsraAID’s Navonel (Voni) Glick and Yotam Polizer were organizing volunteers back in 2016 to help Haitian survivors of Hurricane Matthew. IsraAID has since helped survivors of the Italian earthquakes, refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos, Sierra Leone and Peru, Yazidis in Iraq and more.
In November, the IDF announced that Avraham Yitzhak will be the first colonel of Ethiopian descent in IDF history when he becomes chief medical officer of the IDF Southern Command. Yitzhak came to Israel in 1991, graduated in medicine at Ben Gurion University and was the first Ethiopian-Israeli combat doctor.
Kislev-Tevet 5777/December- January 2016: Israel received rare recognition from the BBC in December, when (after protest at their initial snub) BBC News finally interviewed Weizmann Institute’s Prof. Avigdor Scherz, co-developer of the globally acclaimed TOOKAD prostate cancer treatment.
Also in December, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began his series of global trips to improve Israel’s international relations and bilateral trade by visiting two Muslim countries – Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. He subsequently visited London, Singapore, Australia, West Africa and of course, the United States and the United Nations.
In January the prime minister announced that Knesset member Ayoub Kara would become the first lawmaker from Israel’s Druse community to serve as a cabinet minister.
In his previous role as deputy minister of regional cooperation, Kara was instrumental in setting up Israeli help for Syrian refugees in Syria, Israel and Jordan.
Also in January, Israel’s leading crowdfunding organization, OurCrowd, founded by entrepreneur Jon Medved, hosted Israel’s largest investment event with over 6,000 attendees. Most of OurCrowd’s 110 start-ups were on view.
Shvat-Adar 5777/February- March 2017: In February new judges chosen to sit on the Supreme Court included George Karra, a Christian Arab, and Yael Vilner – the first Orthodox Jewish woman to get a permanent seat on Israel’s highest court.
In the same month Dr. Michal Kaufmann of Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital completed the cochlear implant surgeries of 16 Palestinian Arab deaf and mute children to allow them to hear for the first time in their lives.
Then in March, Israeli scientists announced one of the biggest breakthroughs in cancer treatment when they used derivatives of Phenanthridine to make tumor cells self-destruct in the most resistant and incurable cancers.
Also in March Intel purchased Israel’s Mobileye, founded by Ziv Aviram and Amnon Shashua, for $15 billion. Mobileye continues to be managed in Israel and expand, through partnerships with Fiat-Chrysler and China’s Yutong and Nio.
Another Israeli company, SodaStream, led by David Birnbaum, unveiled its new packaging in March. It includes a picture of the Israeli flag, accompanied by the caption: “This product is made by Arabs and Jews working side by side in peace and harmony.”
Nissan-Iyar 5777/April-May 2017: One of April’s highlights was when President Reuven Rivlin invited Arab teacher Jehan Jaber to his Jerusalem residence, to praise her for teaching Hebrew to Arab elementary school children. The video of Jehan teaching catchy song “Geshem, Geshem Metaftef” (“Rain, rain is dripping”) went viral, with over two million views.
In May Yehiel Tal, CEO of Israel’s CollPlant, which has been developing collagen-based bio-ink, made a major announcement. He said that CollPlant is now “working with several large international companies, with the aim of collaborating in the development of organs and tissues printing.”
Meanwhile, Israeli NGO Innovation: Africa, founded by Sivan Ya’ari, publicized its work installing solar power systems to provide electricity for Africans to pump water, illuminate homes and power medical centers. Sivan’s eight-year-old daughter then visited Uganda to see her mother’s work at first hand.
Sivan-Tammuz-Av 5777/ June-July-August 2017: In June, researchers at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital, led by Prof.Benjamin Rubinoff, transplanted retinal pigment cells from embryonic stem cells to prevent five sufferers of retinal degeneration from going blind.
In the same month, Jerusalem rabbi Dov Benyaacov-Kurtzman set up the UK National Emergency Response, Resilience and Treatment Program for Stress and Trauma. Its first work was with the victims of the Manchester bombing.
In July Eli Beer, founder and president of United Hatzalah, explained his organization’s revolutionary model of life-saving at the largest dedication of emergency vehicles in Israel’s history. Later, in August, United Hatzalah despatched its Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit to Houston, Texas.
Ellul 5777/September 2017: In September, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, took up his new position as vice president of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly (GA). Earlier in the year, as chair of the UN Legal Committee, Danon increased respect for Israel at the UN. He saw two Israeli- sponsored resolutions passed by the GA and arranged a cooperation agreement with UN Women – the world body’s institution for the empowerment of women. He even organized a UN event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem. Then just before this Rosh Hashana, as the presiding GA chair, he proudly invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to speak to the GA.
In fact, it was a Very Good News Year.
The author writes about positive news from Israel at www.verygoodnewsisrael.blogspot.com and maintains a searchable archive www.IsraelActive.com. He also writes a blog on The Jerusalem Post online.