Israel: Making the World a Better Place

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…. examples of how Israeli medical breakthroughs, state-of-the-art technology, and disaster relief efforts are contributing to the welfare of the peoples of the Middle East and of the world….

… child heart surgery at the Wolfson medical centre

…. the worldwide battle against malaria

….. joint Israeli - Arab medical projects

…… healthcare and disease prevention

……. enviroment friendly agriculture and green technology

…….. cutting-edge IT

……… third world disaster and famine relief

Most of the information below is from Israel21c , a website which covers Israeli science and technology, and its international aid and assistance programs ( – and see Beyond Images Top Websites On Israel).

Heart surgery project for children worldwide, at Tel-Aviv's Wolfson Medical Centre

The Wolfson Medical Centre in the Tel-Aviv suburb of Holon is the site of a medical project called Save A Child's Heart . Since 1995, Israeli staff in the Centre's cardiology department have been carrying out open-heart surgery without charge for children from all over the world, and offering rehabilitation. Children have received treatment from China , Congo , Ecuador , Nigeria , Vietnam , and many other countries. The Centre has a success rate of 96%. It has a very low public profile, and has no public relations apparatus.

150 Palestinian Arab children have undergone heart surgery or catheter procedures at the Wolfson Medical Centre.

The Centre's website states that it treats children regardless of race, creed, colour, sex or religion.

For more information about Save A Child's Heart go to .

Israeli professor saves “millions of lives” in the fight against malaria

In April 2003, Israeli Professor Yoel Margalith received the world's premier award in environmental sciences for his contribution to the worldwide fight against malaria (see Health – Israel 21c – 13.4.03) .

The committee awarding the prestigious Tyler Prize, administered by the University of Southern California , commented that Professor Margalith's breakthroughs had “saved millions of lives with minimal environmental impact”.

Yoel Margalith is the Director of the Centre for Biological Control at Israel 's Ben-Gurion University in the southern town of Beer Sheva . His key discovery is so-called Bti :-

  • Bti is an environmentally-friendly bacteria which eradicates mosquitoes and black flies, and reduces the incidence of mosquito-borne diseases, notably malaria.

  • since Bti was introduced along the Yangtze river in China , malarial infections from mosquitoes have dropped by 90%. Professor Margalith is currently involved in projects in the Central Asian Republics .

  • Bti has also been used to control river blindness in eleven African countries, reportedly saving the sight of millions.

  • since 1993 Professor Margalith has been working with Palestinian and Jordanian scientists to eradicate mosquitoes in the Jordan valley.

Yoel Margalith was born in Yugoslavia , survived two German concentration camps during the Second World War, and immigrated to Israel in 1948. For his work at the forefront of disease control around the world, Margalith has earned the nickname ‘Mr Mosquito'. The President of Ben-Gurion University, Avishai Braverman, was recently quoted as saying:-

“We are inspired by Professor Margalith's work and salute his achievements… in particular we are proud of his collaboration with Palestinian and Jordanian scientists, as this work is an expression of our hope to build the bridge to peace with Israel's neighbours in the region….”

Joint Israeli - Arab / Palestinian medical projects

Rarely remarked upon by the international media, Israeli medical experts are cooperating with Palestinian and Arab counterparts on significant medical projects. Three examples:-

•  Joint research underway into the genetic origins of deafness:

Teams at Bethlehem University and at Tel-Aviv University are working together to investigate the genetic causes of deafness. The Israeli and Palestinian professors leading the project have now launched a graduate research programme to enable Palestinian students to pursue post-graduate research in this field at Tel-Aviv University . Said Israeli Professor Karen Avraham: “Something clicked between me and [my Palestinian counterpart] Prof Moien Kanaan, our common scientific interests, the fact that we both believe in peace, and in building a future together….” (Health – Israel 21c – 16.02.03)

•  Gene research to help Arab children: Israeli researchers at Ben-Gurion University are working in parallel with researchers in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait (the teams cooperate through third parties) to identify a defective gene that causes a rare and usually fatal disease in Arab children, arising from severe calcium deficiency (Health – Israel 21c – 10.8.03)

•  Israeli team uses revolutionary surgical procedure to save the life of Arab girl: An Israeli team at Jerusalem 's Hadassah-Hebrew University medical centre recently used a revolutionary technique to save the life of a 2 year old Arab girl from Jerusalem , who was born without immune systems. The technique used genetically altered stem cells; its success in this case came after 18 months of treatment for the girl (Health – Israel 21c – 01.07.02) .

Healthcare and disease prevention

Here are four very recent healthcare and related breakthroughs from Israel :-

•  New cancer-fighting drug approved in the US : In October 2003 the US Food and Drug Administration approved a new drug to fight cancer, called Velcade , developed over 30 years by a team of researchers at Haifa 's Technion Institute of Technology. The drug achieved significant results in treating myeloma, the second most common form of cancer of the blood. The president of the International Myeloma Foundation hailed velcade as a “major milestone… which provides a new treatment option for thousands of patients with this disease….”. Prof Avram Hershko from The Technion stated that velcade was the first of several anti-cancer drugs in development using the same scientific technique (Health – Israel 21c – 12.10.03).

•  New radiation-free Xrays possible for patients with spinal deformities: An Israeli company, Orthoscan Technologies, based in the central Israeli town of Yokneam , has developed an imaging device for carrying out radiation-free Xrays for patients with spinal deformities. The device will be of particular benefit to children who have to undergo many Xrays over a short period as part of their treatment. Such intensive Xray treatment has been shown to increase the risk of cancer. The Orthoscan device has received regulatory approval in Europe and the USA (Health – Israel 21c - 23.02.03) .

•  Vaccine developed for the lethal West Nile virus: Israeli researchers have developed the first so-called “passive” vaccine against the West Nile virus, a flu-like virus which is potentially lethal in individuals with weak immune systems, such as the chronically ill, the elderly and young children. The West Nile virus is borne by mosquitoes and it is spreading around the world. It has claimed thousands of lives, and there is currently no available cure. The vaccine was developed via a collaboration between experts at Ben Gurion University and at the Ness Ziona Biological Institute in southern Israel . It is currently the subject of clinical trials in the USA under the auspices of the National Institutes of Health (Health – Israel 21c – 07.09.03)

•  Breakthrough research in fight against infectious diseases among children in daycare centres: Researchers at the Soroka Medical Centre in southern Israel have developed new vaccines which combat common germs – notably the pneumococcus germ - which are prevalent in children. These germs thrive when children gather at close quarters, and for this reason the germs have rapidly spread in child daycare centres. The Soroka vaccines have proven successful in testing, and as a result several European countries have decided to vaccinate all children against pneumococcus germs (Health – Israel 21c – 17.12.01)

Agriculture and green technology

•  Water-saving irrigation system from Motorola Israel : Motorola's R&D facility in Israel has developed another in its line of products which apply state-of-the-art IT and communications technology to urban and rural water conservation. The product – Radio Piccolo XR – communicates remotely with a central irrigation control system and can be used to regulate water use in rural areas, but also in city parks, and municipal water supply systems (Technology – Israel 21c – 29.09.03).

•  Israeli solar energy projects in California rise up the energy agenda: Israeli company Solel has been operating solar power stations in California for over 20 years. The company's innovative solar energy technology is attracting increasing interest, as the US looks for alternative, clean sources of energy, and also looks to reduce its vulnerability to terrorist attacks against conventional energy facilities. Solel is based in Jerusalem and the central Israeli town of Bet Shemesh (Technology – Israel 21c – 30.06.02) . It has also been reported that the world's largest solar power station is planned for the Negev desert in southern Israel , under the auspices of Israel 's National Solar Energy Centre (Technology – Israel 21c – 15.06.03).

•  Israel pioneers novel greenhouse nets to improve growth of plants: Engineers have developed a revolutionary range of greenhouse nets that use the light spectrum in shades of blue, red, pearl and grey to regulate the growth of plants inside greenhouses. The so-called Chromatinets are being marketed by Israeli kibbutz-based company Polysack. Grey nets induce additional branches and increase yields; blue nets induce short branches which assist packing and export; and red and pearl nets accelerate overall plant growth. All the chromatinets are environmentally-friendly. Another Israeli company, Klayman Meteor, has developed a new type of net that increases effectiveness against insects and viruses, and thereby increases plant yields (Technology – Israel 21c – 29.09.03) . These new products have obvious attractions for farmers throughout the developing world eager to increase productivity.

•  Improved efficiency for fuel cells in cars: A team of scientists at The Technion in Haifa has achieved a breakthrough in the design of fuel cells for cars. The team has improved the method of producing hydrogen for fuel cells using so-called solar water splitting systems. The project has attracted the interest of Royal Dutch Shell, and Daimler Chrysler. Fuel-cells are widely seen as the key to making environmentally friendly “clean” cars commercially available in the future, and reducing the world's dependence on highly-polluting oil (Technology – Israel 21c – 28.10.02) .

•  Cleaner and safer air from air-conditioners: Air-conditioning systems are expensive to run, waste energy, are environmentally damaging, and inefficient at dealing with humidity. Some systems contribute to so-called Sick Building Syndrome. Israeli company Dry-Kor, based in Atlit in Northern Israel , has developed a new air conditioning technology which lessens the chance of chemical contamination of the air, by not only cooling the air, but removing the bacteria in the air. “We are practically washing the air” said the company's founder. The technique could have particular benefits for hospital operating rooms, laboratory clean rooms, and for food manufacturers and drugs companies where it is essential that air is kept clean and bacteria-free (Technology – Israel 21c – 30.12.02).

Cutting-edge Information Technology

•  Hands-free computer navigation to help the physically disabled : Using the internet and a PC has depended in the past on being able to manipulate a mouse by hand to navigate the screen. Israeli company Commodio has now developed the world's first Voice Mouse – the screen responds to commands from the human voice. Using the voicemouse (called QPointer Handsfree ), the user can write and send email, use the Internet, and create and edit documents, without using his or her hands. The product is expected to be of particular value to those who suffer from Parkinson's disease, paralysis or other physical disabilities. Microsoft has chosen Commodio as its business partner for voice operations (Technology – Israel 21c – 09.02.03)

•  Israeli team create the world's smallest computing device: Scientists at Israel 's Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot have created the world's smallest computing device. The device uses so-called DNA (or biological) computing instead of silicon microchips, and marks a breakthrough in biological computing methods. The device operates at a computing speed equivalent to 15 trillion computers, and is more than one million times more energy-efficient than a PC. In the future, DNA computing is set to move from the realm of near-science-fiction, to transform pharmaceutical research (Technology – Israel 21c – 13.04.03) .

•  Preventing city power failures and blackouts : Israeli company Satec, a world leader in electrical power products, has developed a system called ExpertPower for monitoring and preventing power breakdowns and blackouts. The system monitors energy distribution and use, and provides real-time reports via the Internet to assist in avoiding power system overloading. The chairman of Jerusalem-based Satec claims that ExpertPower could have helped avert the recent massive power failures in the Eastern United States (Technology – Israel 21c – 05.10.03)

•  Israeli engineers behind Intel's new Centrino chip: In March 2003 Intel, the world's leading chip manufacturer, unveiled its new microchip, the Centrino, in a worldwide marketing campaign. The Centrino's key advantage is its low electricity consumption, making it highly suitable for laptop PCs, notebooks, the new generation of mobile phones, and other mobile devices. The Centrino was developed at Intel's Israeli R&D facility in Haifa , Northern Israel . Intel's Haifa centre is working with a second Intel Israel facility, in Petach Tikva, on the next generation of processors for cellular networks (Technology – Israel 21c – 09.03.03) .

•  Protecting websites from hackers – Israeli-made product as de facto leader: Attacks by hackers on websites is one of the most serious challenges facing companies and non-profit organisations on the internet. In 2002, US company Sanctum was recognised by industry consultants as the “de facto” leader in meeting this challenge. Sanctum markets products which enhance website “firewalls” by adding a further layer of security against attack. Sanctum's two products AppScan and AppShield were developed in Sanctum's research centre in Herzliya in central Israel (Technology – Israel 21c – 05.08.02) .

Disaster relief and emergency medical assistance

Israeli teams have often been among the first on the scene after natural disasters across the world. Here are some recent examples (compiled during 1998-2001, and available via the website of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs):-

•  Earthquake in India : in February 2001 Israel sent an fully-equipped field hospital, staffed by doctors and nurses, to assist in treating victims of an earthquake in Gujarat, Western India . In the first two days of its operations, over 200 people were treated in the field hospital.

•  Hurricane damage in Honduras , Nicaragua , El Salvador and Guatemala : In 1998 Israel sent emergency medical aid teams and equipment to help victims of Hurricane Mitch which struck Central America . The Israelis included experts in infectious diseases, epidemiology, intensive care treatment and treatment of traumatic aftermath of mass disasters.

•  Colombian earthquake : In 1999 Israel sent large supplies of medicine and food, and special consignments of enriched milk for babies, to help victims of an earthquake in Colombia .

•  Drought in Georgia : In 2001, Israeli assisted Georgia (formerly a part of the Soviet Union ) in the aftermath of a severe drought. The Israeli Foreign Ministry contributed baby food, and, in conjunction with Israel 's Ministry of Agriculture, donated large stocks of quality seeds to enable Georgian farmers to recover from the aftermath of the drought.

Other disasters where Israel has made a significant contribution to relief efforts include earthquakes in Turkey (2000) and El Salvador (2001), and floods in Venezuela (1999) and in Mozambique (2000).

In February 2003, various Israeli non-governmental groups (NGOs) involved in disaster relief created a forum to coordinate their efforts. Israeli expert Shahar Zahavi, who worked in a refugee camp on the Uganda-Rwanda border in 1994, explained that the purpose was to maximise the efficiency of the NGOs and avoid wasting scarce resources. For more, see Beyond Images Briefing 65 .