During the past week there were many news stories quoting the financial revenue generated by various deals and schemes involving Israeli companies and organisations. But there is often far more than monetary benefit arising from the achievements of the Jewish State.
I’m sure that Israel’s top-notch universities have tight budgets that their researchers must adhere to. So it is heart-warming to read that Tel Aviv University takes pride in developing solutions to rare genetic diseases – those that the drug companies do not consider to be financially worthwhile pursuing. In similar vein, we can be truly relieved that Weizmann Institute scientists have discovered the Corticotropin Releasing Hormone. CRH is a kind of “on-off” switch in the brain for regulating the release of Cortisol (a main stress hormone) and is relevant to research into a number of stress-related neurological disorders.
Even in commercial ventures, the instant life-saving properties of Israeli inventions are more than money can buy. Take for example the Hebrew University’s bacteria analysis kits. Imagine the benefit of being able to specify instantly the antibiotics available to treat drug-resistant infections. Then there is the prestige that Israel will attract from the Weizmann Institute and Tel Aviv University having been chosen as Core Centres of the Integrated Structural Biology Infrastructure (Instruct). Instruct’s aim is to allow Europe to maintain a competitive edge in cellular structural biology.
On the subject of pride, imagine the satisfaction felt by my radiologist friend in Detroit when he realised that he was using an Israeli-made Galil CAT scanner to freeze a kidney tumour. I’m not sure if he brought the fact to the attention of the Arab doctor who had requested the procedure. Similarly, you may need to be sensitive when you ask your dentist why he/she is not using Syneron's LiteTouch dental laser. It is portable, saves energy, much less painful than a drill and of course it’s made in Israel. I suppose it depends on how you’re “filling” at the time. (Laugh – it’s Purim!)
Belaynesh Zevadiah definitely felt much pride when she took up the post of Israel’s ambassador to Ethiopia. Admittedly, she had several priceless advantages over other candidates for the position. The main one was that she was born in Ethiopia. Belaynesh immigrated to Israel when she was seventeen. “This is proof that Israel gives a chance to everyone”, she said. Also in Africa, the delegation of Israeli experts from the IsraAID organization heading to South Sudan was again not looking for financial return on its latest venture. IsraAID is conducting the first-ever Gender Based Violence (GBV) training program for social workers in Africa's newest nation in order to protect South Sudanese women against physical abuse.
Since 2000 the Taglit-Birthright program has been bringing young Jews from all over the world to visit the Jewish State. In terms of hard cash, the program has generated over NIS 2 billion of revenue to the Israeli economy. During the second Intifada, it was practically the only source of tourism. But how do you quantify the much higher levels of support for Israel from Birthright participants and their increased identification with their Jewish brethren? Similarly, you cannot quantify the “return on investment” for the gifts donated by Christian Zionists to Israeli soldiers at the Zeelim army base in Southern Israel. Their smiles show the true impact. We can only hope that East Jerusalem residents will likewise appreciate the $130 million that Israel is investing to improve roads in Jerusalem’s Arab neighbourhoods.
There were two recent invaluable political results in the news concerning attacks against the Jewish State. For the first time in seven years, the United Nations Security Council issued a resolution condemning attacks against Israelis. Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor said, “I hope that the Council will now take action to prevent such terrorist acts.” So do we! Then, Dr Yehuda David won his five-year legal battle against the father of Muhammad Al Dura who alleged Israeli soldiers inflicted his wounds. Dr David proved that Al Dura already had those wounds two years previously when he came in for treatment at an Israeli hospital.
UK Ambassador Matthew Gould underscored a valuable message when he applauded last year’s 34% increase in trade between Britain and Israel. “The people (in Britain) calling to boycott Israel make a lot of noise … but if someone is concerned about it, just look at the numbers.” However, during our Jewish festival of Purim when most of us Israelis will be enjoying the traditional consumption of alcoholic beverages, I may not be able to remember that the 5.5% increase in export revenue from Israel’s wine industry earned the Jewish State $26.7 million last year.
Finally, the arts and crafts stalls in Tel Aviv’s Nachlat Binyamin market could be a microcosm for the country as a whole. All products on sale have to be manufactured in Israel and the maker must be present on the stall to sell them. Some of the handmade items are not quite as pristine as factory-made goods. But you cannot fail to see the time, effort and love that has gone into individually fashioning them. It brings to mind the famous quote about the Jewish State, often seen on posters and T-shirts.
It may not be perfect, but it’s unique and it’s ours!
Michael Ordman writes a weekly newsletter containing Good News stories about Israel.