The festival of Rosh Hashana, amongst other things, marks the anniversary of the creation of mankind. So as we begin the Hebrew year 5773 this is an excellent opportunity to celebrate the creativity of the citizens of the Jewish State.
Israeli researchers and bio-techs continue to create new medical treatments that could give patients a new lease of life in the coming year. Pluristem’s unique Placental eXpanded (PLX) stem cells continue to save people suffering from bone marrow failure. The latest was a 45-year-old man who had undergone chemotherapy and a bone-marrow transplant, due to leukemia. There were no side effects and the man has now been discharged from Hadassah medical centre in Jerusalem. Next, a Hebrew University researcher has created a method of using a synthetic, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic family of drugs to combat a variety of illnesses, while avoiding detrimental side effects. Finally, Israeli bio-tech Atox Bio announced that the US Food and Drug Administration has granted fast track designation to its lead product AB103, currently in development for the treatment of Necrotizing Soft Tissue Infections (NSTI). Currently, there are no approved treatments for NSTI, which has a high mortality rate.
Israel is creating many new international friends with its overseas aid programs. For example, at the four-day Agritech-Asia business summit in Gandhinagar, India, Israel’s Consul General revealed the nature of the Centres of Excellence that Israel is setting up in the Indian state of Gujarat. These will focus on mangos, date palms and bananas. Meanwhile, Israel’s long-standing relationship with Nepal has been marked with the creation of a joint stamp - the first that Nepal has issued simultaneously with another country. The stamps appropriately feature both Mount Everest and the Dead Sea – as the two countries contain the highest and lowest points on Earth respectively.
In the technology arena, engineering students at Ben Gurion University have teamed up with industrial designers at Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design to create a futuristic-looking racing car for a collegiate design competition in Italy this month. Meanwhile, the US Federal Aviation Administration has given a certificate of airworthiness to the G280 advanced executive jet, built jointly by Israel Aerospace Industries and Gulfstream Aerospace. The G280 carries ten passengers up to 6667 km at Mach 0.8.
At the “Innovate Invest Israel” conference in New York, Australian magnate Rupert Murdoch summed up the secret of Israel’s economy with the phrase“What differentiates Israel is its creativity”. And it all originates in “the human mind”. Or as James Hurley wrote in the UK’s Daily Telegraph – Israel’s talented ex-army entrepreneurs constantly face impossible problems, with limited resources and manage to “solve them yesterday”.
Two reports from the Organisation for Economic Community Development (OECD) provide an insight to the reasons for Israel’s creativity. Firstly, 46% of Israelis hold an academic degree – the second highest in the OECD. Secondly, Israel tops the OECD in its relative (non-military) expenditure on research and development. The NIS 38.2 billion spent in 2011 is 1.2% more than in 2010 and accounted for 4.4% of GDP.
Over in the private sector, Israel’s research & development centre is the creative arm of Microsoft Corporation. Chief Executive Steve Ballmer famously stated in 2008 that Microsoft was almost as much an Israeli company as it was an American company. Ballmer is to attend major MS-Israel events immediately following the launch of the Windows 8 operating system.
The excellent film “Israel Inside” highlights Israel’s creativity and explores some of the reasons for that creativity - family, adversity, chutzpah, education, proactive behaviour, learning from mistakes and Tikun Olam. If you missed the opportunity to watch this fascinating film, “Israel Inside” is airing on Comcast on Demand, starting now for a limited time.
Finally, at this time of year when we remember our past actions it is important to remember those people who established institutions that continue the creative activity of the Jewish State. One such individual was Stanley (Shalom) Zielony, whose work and generosity helped make Israel’s Technion into one of the world’s centres of scientific creativity.
Wishing you a creative New Year.
Michael Ordman writes a weekly newsletter containing Good News stories about Israel.