The lights of the festival of Hanukkah provide an appropriate opportunity to illuminate the life-saving achievements of the Jewish State. Here are some recent heartwarming highlights that should brighten the outlook.
At the ‘Innovations in Cardiovascular Interventions’ conference in Tel Aviv, 1100 participants from 40 countries saw the latest Israeli groundbreaking medical technology for treating the heart. Professor Rafi Beyar of Haifa’s Rambam hospital highlighted that the Start-up Nation is also called the “Heart-up Nation”, with Israeli companies comprising fifty per cent of the world’s firms that focus on the body’s most important and most vulnerable organ.
Curing cancer is one of the main life-saving goals of Israeli researchers and bio-techs. Israeli biologist Ido Bachalet is part of the team that designed a microscopic “truck” of DNA nano-robots to carry anti-bodies directly to tumours. The truck releases its payload when it encounters the biological key of the tumor. On the commercial front, Israel’s Teva has signed an agreement with US Galena Biopharma to take its NeuVax early stage breast cancer treatment past the last stage of its trials and through to sales. Israel will be the location of at least four of these trials. A further weapon in the fight against cancer is focused ultrasound. InSightec’s Dr Yoav Medan explains in this Technion video how it is used to treat tumors in the brain.
In latest research, Hebrew University of Jerusalem scientists have discovered how the malaria infection works. The deadly Plasmodium falciparum strain only reveals its 60 destructive genes to the body’s immune system one at a time. Uncovering its mask should lead to new treatments. Meanwhile at Israel’s Weizmann Institute, researchers have shed new light on how bacteria develop resistance by removing antibiotics at the cellular level. Sometimes, however, simple solutions are the most effective. Doctors and nurses at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek are piloting an innovative digital bracelet that prompts them to use an anti-bacterial hand-washafter being in contact with a patient. The bracelet repeats the reminder if the solution hasn’t been applied, or if insufficient time was spent rubbing it into the hands.
A number of positive news stories emerged from the recent Gaza conflict. A rare sympathetic CNN report highlighted that Israeli hospitals treat all patients equally. CNN featured Tel Aviv’s Sheba Medical Centre, which is treating Israeli and Gazan children alike. Then we heard that doctors at Rehovot’s Kaplan Medical Center saved the arm of Boris Chomeh, which was severed by the Grad missile attack by Gaza terrorists on Kiryat Malachi. Finally, doctors at Soroka Hospital in Beer Sheva saved the sight of Sergeant Shimon Alankri who was seriously wounded when Gaza terrorists fired an anti-tank missile at his jeep. Last week Shimon was able to light Hanukkah candles at the hospital.
Hanukkah is all about surmounting adversity and Ronit Harpaz and Ilan Zakai are prime examples. Ronit is finishing her bachelor's degree at the Open University in psychology and sociology. She balances mothering twin girls plus regular work with the fact that she lost her vision in the middle of her academic studies. In Ilan’s case, at the age of three, in an accident during Hanukkah, he received third-degree burns to his face and body. After years of coping with prying stares, he became a professional makeup artist. He now counsels and provides makeup workshops at Rambam Health Care Campus to patients who have suffered severe burns.
Israel also continually saves lives by transforming them with innovative programs. Israeli Designed International Development (ID2) is a 3-day event at Mitzpe Ramon that will show how innovators and entrepreneurs can achieve sustainable profits from products that save and improve lives. It connects hi-tech and established companies to the developing world. Over in Canada, the Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem are raising funds to send students from earthquake-ravaged Haiti to the Hebrew Uni’s agricultural school. Their goal is to support two or three students a year over the next decade.
A cleaner environment will certainly help people to live longer. Scientists at Israel’s NewCO2Fuels are testing a Weizmann Institute method for turning brown coal into an environmentally friendly fuel source. The process uses highly focused solar rays to convert carbon dioxide produced in the burning of the coal into more fuel and oxygen. And despite troubles at electric car company Better Place, Israeli Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau inaugurated Israel’s first-ever public electric vehicle charging station in Mitzpe Ramon. Landau drove an all-electric Renault Fluence from Ra’anana to the Eilat-Eilot International Renewable Energy Conference.
Finally, it wasn’t Hanukkah candles that caused a recent Tel Aviv fire and there were no fatalities. But Magen David Adom paramedics noticed a cat that had fallen unconscious due to smoke inhalation. The MDA team treated the feline patient with oxygen and following a short paws, it emerged from its catatonic state.
Spread Israel’s light to everyone you meet - Happy Hanukkah.
Michael Ordman writes a free weekly newsletter containing Good News stories about Israel.