United with Israel

5777 – What a Year it was for Israel!

US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania, with PM Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara in Jerusalem, May 22, 2017. (AP/Ariel Schalit)

Just after celebrating the Jewish New Year and ahead of the Festival of Sukkot, here is a summary of the year 5777, which, all in all, was a very good news year! Chag Sameach!

By: Michael Ordman

The Jerusalem Post included two reports on the events of 5777 in its 20th September edition. Gil 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 also appeared in the Post. Where appropriate, I will name the exceptional people involved.

Tishri-Cheshvan 5777/Oct-Nov 2016

Readers will know about IsraAID’s relief work after recent Hurricanes Harvey and 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 LesbosSierra LeonePeru, 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/Dec 2016-Jan 2017

Israel received rare recognition from the BBC in December, when (after protest for their initial snub) BBC News finally interviewed Weizmann Institute’sProfessor Avigdor Scherz, co-developer of the globally acclaimed TOOKAD prostate cancer treatment. Also in December, Israeli 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 LondonSingaporeAustraliaWest Africa and of course, the USA and the UN.

In January the PM announced that Member of Knesset Ayoub Kara would become the first lawmaker from Israel’s Druze 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 SyriaIsrael 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 portfolio of 110 startups were on view.

Shevat-Adar 5777/Feb-Mar 2017

In February new judges chosen to sit on Israel’s Supreme Court of Justice included a Christian Arab, George Kara, 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 performed cochlear implant surgery on 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/Apr-May 2017

One of April’s highlights was when Israeli President 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 8-year-old daughter then visited Uganda to see her mother’s work at first hand.

Sivan-Tammuz-Av 5777/Jun-July-Aug 2017

In June, researchers at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital, led by Professor 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 setup the UK National Emergency Response, Resilience and Treatment Program for Stress and Trauma. Its first work was with the victims of the Manchester UK 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.

Elul 5777/Sept 2017

In September, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations 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 United Nations Legal Committee, Danon increased respect for Israel at the UN. He saw two Israeli-sponsored resolutions passed by the GA and arranged a co-operation agreement with United Nations Women – the world body’s institution for the empowerment of women. He even organized a UN event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Israel’s reunification of Jerusalem. Then just before this Rosh Hashana as the presiding GA chair, he proudly invited Israeli PM Netanyahu to speak to the General Assembly.

In fact, it was a Very Good News Year!

Michael Ordman writes about positive news stories from Israel. www.verygoodnewsisrael.blogspot.com and a searchable archive www.IsraelActive.com.

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