One of the items that we put on the Passover plate is a shank bone, to remind us of the (metaphorical) outstretched arm that the Eternal used to deliver the Children of Israel from Egypt, over 3000 years ago. Today, the Jewish State emulates that symbol by the far-reaching impact of its scientific and humanitarian work.
The effects of Israel’s medical research and innovations reach across the globe. They include two major recent successes in cancer treatment. Firstly, early trials of NiCord stem cells from Israel’s Gamida Cell have proved successful in maintaining the health of blood cancer patients. Then researchers at Tel Aviv University and Sheba Medical Center have used cancer cells to fight cancer. They stimulated T-cells in the immune system using proteins from melanoma (a severe form of skin cancer) to produce cytokines, which can fight other cancers in the body. Israel has also shown the world that rates of cancer can be reduced by early diagnosis and treatment.
In other medical news, Israel’s Enopace Biomedical has developed a device that provides an alternative to heart transplants. Its innovative pacemaker for the arteries is implanted in a 30-minute procedure while the patient is awake. Another medical breakthrough was achieved by Tel Aviv University Professor Karen Avraham who has discovered the reason for genetic deafness– the cause of 50% of hearing losses. The result brings new treatments for hearing disorders within reach.
Israel also reaches out to “the other”. The Keren Shalom crossing reopened after Hamas closed it last week and 1,118 trucks delivered 31,338 tons of goods to Gaza. They included three trucks from Turkey – the first since the Mavi Marmara incident. Read also how Orit saved the lives of Palestinian Arabs when she served as a medic in the Israeli army. Meanwhile, Israel has begun a six-year project to improve the job prospects of its Arab community. And the Israeli organizers of the Jezreel Valley Hot Air Balloon Festival successfully reached for the sky to attract Jordanian and Palestinian Arab entries.
In the Jewish State, religious freedom is so important that sometimes it has an even wider reach. Take for example, the first “International Jerusalem Symposium on Green and Accessible Pilgrimage” which commences in April. It combines interfaith dialogue with urban sustainability. And Yoni and Shoshana Rappaport are using their hands and arms to turn the desert green by planting many thousands of the amazing Argan tree in Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev. The Argan tree can survive on minimal rainfall yet produces a healthy oil from its fruit. Please support their work.
Israeli President Shimon Peres stretched out his arm to greet five new ambassadors – from Chile, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Zambia. They presented their credentials and then expressed their hope to develop technological and strategic connections with the Jewish State. As I write, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be reaching out for US President Barack Obama’s hand. After which, he will show him a series of technological products by Israel’s high-tech industries in a special exhibit set up in the President’s honor. The products are in the fields of renewable energy, accident prevention, medicine, search and rescue, and robotics. The PM will also hand the US President a microchip containing 200-micron size copies of both the American and Israeli Declarations of Independence, attached to a Jerusalem stone seal that stretches back 2000 years to the Second Jewish Temple.
The technological age of the Internet has reached almost all of us – certainly those reading this blog. So it was especially satisfying to read Professor Shafi Goldwasser of Israel’s Weizmann Institute was joint winner of the 2013 Turing Prize for her pioneering work that brought about computer cryptography – securing transactions on the Internet. The Turing Prize is considered to be the “Nobel Prize” of computing. But wait – some examples of Israeli technology mean that you soon won’t need to use your arms at all. The voice recognition system from Israeli startup VocalZoom includes an optical microphone that “reads your lips” by sensing vibrations on your face. And with the eye-tracking software from Israel’s Umoove, you can scroll through text on your smartphone’s screen simply by gazing down.
For the third consecutive time, and the fourth in her life, Israeli windsurfer Lee Korzits reached out and took first place at the RS-X Windsurfing World Championships. With fellow Israeli Maayan Davidovich taking the bronze, it was the first time that two Israelis have shaken hands on the winners’ podium. And permit me to stretch the metaphor of ocean waves to sound waves in order to link to Barbra Streisand’s first ever concert in Israel this June. Maybe she will perform her hit “My honey’s loving arms”, but I’ll settle for a repeat of her 1978 rendition of “Hatikvah”.
Finally, when the long arms of Israel reached out and brought Yityish Aynaw from Ethiopia to the Jewish State, she had no idea of her destiny. On becoming the new Miss Israel she said, "Ten years ago I was walking around barefoot in Ethiopia and I never imagined that one day I would be in the Land of Israel, meeting the Israeli President and the President of the United States.”
With Israel, freedom is within everyone’s reach.
Michael Ordman writes a free weekly newsletter containing Good News stories about Israel.