It’s now just a few weeks into my 11th year living in Israel, and the progress here continues to amaze me. Happy New Year!
It’s now just a few weeks into my11th year living in Israel, and the progress here continues to amaze me.
When I made Aliya from the UK 10 years ago, Israel was far different than today. It suffered from lack of water, few energy resources, a weak economy, high unemployment, low currency reserves, low tech and international isolation.
Now Israel has built desalination plants, recycles 90% of its wastewater and discovered huge natural gas deposits. It has become the Startup Nation, with the world’s 3rd most stable economy. It is at the forefront of medicine and cybersecurity. Together with its humanitarian activities and global development programs, Israel has now raised its profile on the World stage and is especially appreciated in the USA, Africa, India and China.
Just a few weeks into my11th year and this progress continues to amaze me. Israeli ground-breaking medical research has just discovered a molecule that can restore damaged hearts and micro RNA that reduces susceptibility to epileptic seizures. Potentially life-saving treatments include an anti-rabies vaccination, transplants using lab-grown bone, and the curing and prevention of melanoma.
Dozens of innovative Israeli medical devices have been launched or announced recently, e.g. spectacles that read text to the visually impaired; a system that gives mute, “locked-in” patients the power of speech; a minimally invasive implant to treat congestive heart failure; a one-second per year treatment for glaucoma; hyper-MRI scanners to detect cancer; bandages that stop massive bleeding in 40 seconds; and a soft suit exoskeleton to allow stroke patients to walk again.
Recent Israeli global humanitarian activities include disaster relief for USA, the Caribbean and Mexico; expanding the free treatment for wounded Syrians; aid for South Sudan and Sierra Leone; firefighting in Montenegro; free surgery for children in Ghana and Fiji; plus renewable electricity and clean water for Ugandan schoolchildren.
Latest technological breakthroughs include advanced systems for driverless cars and buses, wave energy systems for China, India, Chile, Gibraltar and now Mexico. Israeli companies make water purification systems that utilize ultraviolet light and hybrid biofilters. Israelis developed hyperspectral imaging for amazingly detailed photos and video, including on a new Israeli satellite that monitors the environment. Israeli start-ups plant solar trees; use 3D printing for facial surgery and prosthetics; construct high-tech fish farms and produce smart pesticides to combat fruit fly and rootworm infestation.
Israel’s economy goes from strength to strength with international trade and exports on the rise. Israel’s 300 cybersecurity companies exported $6.5 billion last year. Tourists visit Israel in record numbers and unemployment is at a record low. Massive foreign investment in Israeli start-ups means that they no longer have to make early exits, but grow to become Unicorns (over $1 billion in value).
Far from being isolated, Israel is the “go-to” place for international organizations, politicians, companies and celebrities. The World Health Organization has just appointed the first Israeli for 21 years to its Executive Committee. Israel’s Prime Minister has been feted in Latin America. Visiting Prime Ministers include from Georgia and the Ukraine plus the first-ever visit from a Quebec Premier. Recent delegations to Israel include business leaders from Iowa, Chicago and Australia; Massachusetts police, French doctors, Indonesian Muslim leaders and Jordanian Sheikhs.
Barely a week goes by without the announcement of another airline’s new service to Tel Aviv or Eilat. In the same week Air Canada and Air Transat began separate services from Montreal, Canada. China’s Hainan Airways has launched its direct flights to Shanghai. El Al and Aerolíneas Argentinas are soon to begin scheduled flights from Buenos Aires and Ryanair will be flying in from Rome.
Israel’s OurCrowd has just launched OurNetwork to link at least 25 multinationals to Israeli start-ups. Visa just became the 73rd international R&D center to open in Tel Aviv – nearly double the number five years ago. Skoda is opening an Israeli technology office. Intel are to open another microprocessor factory. Many multinationals are promoting new Israeli startups by setting up incubators – the latest are Merck and Renault-Nissan.
Israel technology is in much demand globally. 10,000 delegates attended Tel Aviv’s 5th annual DLD (Digital Life Design) Conference – Israel’s largest tech conference. Israel’s Technion and Cornell Tech opened their joint New York campus. It’s a sign of the times that Israeli-made detection kits for explosives have been sold recently to the UK, the US and France. And a dozen Israeli companies presented their solutions at a UK cybersecurity conference to counter the latest global cyber-attacks. Even UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres visited Israel and saw Israeli technology at first hand.
Israel’s popularity is not always so serious. London’s “foodies”, for example, have been flocking to Israeli restaurant The Barbary – number one on TimeOut’s list. And for the first time in its 101-year history, Italian cycle race Giro d’Italia will begin outside of Europe when it has its first 3 stages in Israel next year. Meanwhile, celebrities visiting Israel this summer included Conan O’Brien, Britney Spears, Guns N’ Roses, Radiohead and the Pixies, with Cliff Richard lined up for October.
Finally, my Aliya came just at the time when Israel was beginning to benefit from the million Russian immigrants who kick-started the Start-up Nation. Since then I’ve seen the arrival of more Ethiopian Jews, Ukrainian Jews, Bnei Menashe from India, thousands from Europe – especially from France, and a steady stream from the USA thanks to Nefesh b’Nefesh. The latest wave is from Venezuela. We look forward to welcoming many more Jews in the next ten years who decide to make Israel their home and join all those who are making the world a better place.
A Very Happy New Year from VeryGoodNewsIsrael!