Such is the daily onslaught of political and security-related news in Israel, it’s easy to overlook much of what this tiny Jewish nation does so well, so matter-of-factly in all fields of endeavor.
One way to appreciate the magnitude of its achievements is to take stock of what Israel accomplishes in just one year. That’s exactly what I did in the lead-up to the country’s 69th birthday this week, looking at its feats over the past 12 months, a selection of which I present below.
It’s inspired by an article I wrote a year ago for Israel’s Independence Day titled “68 Reasons to Respect If Not Love Israel.” Without suggesting Israel was beyond reproach or without blemishes, I highlighted facts and figures from the country’s first 68 years to contrast the vile, distorted media coverage it often receives.
This year, in tribute to Israel’s 69th birthday, I’ve focused on discoveries, inventions, breakthroughs, initiatives and other successes – admittedly some more significant than others – that Israelis have accomplished since their previous Independence Day in 2016.
The biggest challenge was choosing just 69 examples. Indeed, what a prolific year it’s been for the Startup Nation. Herewith a sampling of Israeli triumphs from May 2016 to April 2017, presented in chronological order according to the month when each took place or was announced.
They range from creating the world’s first bird blood bank to devising a drug-free solution to menstrual pain, from designing a robot to remove brain tumors to organically growing chicken meat in a lab, from helping secure the Rio Summer Olympics to hosting the country’s first transgender beauty contest involving Jews, Muslims and Christians, from building the world’s tallest solar energy tower to the World Health Organization declaring Israel’s emergency medical response team it deploys to disasters around the globe as the best in the world.
Collectively, these achievements say a lot about Israel, and how it strives to contribute to the world and make life better for humanity.
1. Johnson Controls, the large US-based global diversified technology corporation, announced a strategic investment in Tel Aviv startup ContinUse Biometrics to support its development of a breakthrough biometric sensor. The device, based on patented nanotechnology, is capable of remote detection and monitoring of a person’s bio-medical indicators with no need for contact.
2. The world’s first and only “ability tech” accelerator announced it’s accepting candidates with tech that can have a positive impact on people with physical disabilities. Based in Ra’anana, A3i is seeking start-ups with products and technologies that will be not only lucrative for investors but also improve the lives of disabled people.
3. Israel became one of few countries to host a transgender beauty contest when the inaugural Miss Trans Israel pageant took place in Tel Aviv. A Christian Arab from Nazareth won the crown, earning the right to represent Israel at the Miss Trans Star International pageant in Barcelona in September. A total of 11 contestants, Jews and Christian and Muslim Arabs, took part in the Tel Aviv competition.
4. Israelis are behind technology to print a human organ. Nano Dimension announced it had successfully lab-tested an advanced 3D bioprinter for stem cells, making the printing of large tissues and organs likely just a matter of time. The company said the trial, conducted with Israeli biotech firm Accellta Ltd, showed its adapted printer could make high resolution cells quickly. Nano Dimension has mixed human stem cells into its 3D printer ink. When expelled through more than 1,000 tiny nozzles of its Dragon Fly printer, the ink can form human tissue. Printing human organs would be a huge medical breakthrough, saving countless lives.
5. Israeli technology is critical to musician/entrepreneur Will.i.am’s new venture. Geektime reported he purchased Tel Aviv startup Sensiya to power his new wearable bracelet watch gadget that functions as a substitute for a smartphone. Marketed under the name Dial, it can email, make calls, send texts and play music for which it depends on Sensiya’s advanced contextual capabilities and machine learning.
6. Israeli startup ElectRoad is testing the first under-the-road electric technology that not only charges a car’s battery but powers a vehicle in real time. In Tel Aviv, the company, in partnership with the Municipality, began a study of the country’s first electric road, which could be used to charge electric cars as they drive. Its objective is to see how the “smart road” technology responds to traffic and weather over an extended period. If successful, electric cars could have smaller batteries, making them lighter and less expensive.
7. The Times of Israel reported that Yokneam-based ReWalk Robotics, the innovative medical device company which has developed bionic walking assistance systems, is working with Harvard University on a new exoskeleton “soft suit” for MS and stroke victims who can’t walk by themselves but are not paralyzed to get around. Previously, the ReWalk system made it possible for quadriplegics to walk again. The new lighter-weight, lower-cost device will help a much larger cohort to move about.
8. Two Israeli nonprofits were among the winners in Google’s Impact Challenge grants which promote technological innovations that help people with disabilities. Beit Issie Shapiro in Ra’anana received a million dollars for the joint development with Sesame Enable of a free solution that allows physically challenged people to operate smartphones with head movements. Beit Issie Shapiro also received $700,000 to develop, with Tikun Olam Makers, a template which connects makers and people with disabilities to devise new solutions for better accessibility. Ezer Mizion won a $400,000 grant from Google.org to develop a special keyboard for the disabled.
9. A Ra’anana-based start-up has developed a drug-free solution for menstrual pain. iPulse Medical is behind Livia, which millions of women around the world hope will bring them relief from menstrual cramps. The company began a crowdfunding campaign in the spring to launch Livia, a small wearable device assembled in Israel.
10. Following the violent arrest in Tel Aviv of Maysam Abu Alqian, an Israeli Arab, during which he was beaten by policemen in late May, Israelis helped raise funds for his higher education. The Israeli human rights group Negev Coexistence Forum originally hoped to collect 40,000 shekels for Alqian’s tuition but after a few days, it raised nearly twice the target. Many claimed the 19-year-old, who worked at a local Burger King and supermarket to pay for his university education, was a victim of police brutality.
11. An Israeli cocktail guide in Hebrew won the first prize at the 2016 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. Mira Eitan’s Happy Hours — Famous Bar Stories and Cocktail Recipes was crowned the best in the world at the annual contest which honored the best food and wine books from 209 countries. Three other Israeli authors won awards at the event held in China.
12. Variety magazine reported that BBC America will adapt an Israeli film involving women in the IDF into a US TV comedy/drama series. Zero Motivation, which won six Ophir Awards in Israel and two prizes in the US at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, was a critical and commercial success about a unit of female IDF soldiers at a remote desert base.
13. Israel opened its first urban ‘water sensitivity’ center. Located in Kfar Saba, the Center for Water-Sensitive Cities will help design sustainable urban environments with a special focus on responsible water management. It will contribute to Israel’s already well-grounded reputation for being a world leader in water-related matters, including desalination and gray water use.
14. Israel exported 500 million predatory insects to Russia for use as a natural, non-toxic method to eradicate agricultural pests. BioBee Biological Systems, in Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu in northern Israel breeds and implements beneficial insects and mites for agricultural purposes including pest control now used on farms in 50 countries. BioBee also sent Moscow its homegrown bumblebees for pollination for horticulture and to improve crop yields.
15. Fox International announced it purchased the rights to the Israeli TV drama A Very Important Person. A senior executive at the US-based entertainment company called the series, which stars actor Yehuda Levi, “one of the best shows made this decade.” Fox intends to create its own English-speaking version of the drama.
16. Tel Aviv is home to the world’s best designed hotel, according to a luxury US tourism magazine. As part of its 2016 Best of the Best Hotel Awards in 20 categories, Jetsetter magazine named Brown Beach House as the winner in the design category. The publication’s judges cited the boutique hotel’s playful, colorful look and beach club vibe as a major element in its visual appeal.
17. Israel opened the world’s first avian blood bank to help treat birds found injured or exhausted during migration. Dr. Elad Smit, a veterinarian at the Wildlife Hospital at the Ramat Gan Safari, initiated the project with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. Like humans, birds have different types of blood. The clinic has collected 20 samples of plasma from 13 species of birds for future treatment.
18. According to the journal Psychological Medicine, Tel Aviv University, in conjunction with the IDF Medical Corps, developed a computerized training program to prevent post-traumatic stress disorder in soldiers. Research involving IDF veterans, some of whom had previously undergone training with the system, showed their risk of developing PTSD in battle declined by 70%. The US Army is also testing the program, which changes the way the brain processes traumatic events in battle.
19. An Israeli-designed robot, made for minimally invasive neurosurgery, captured top spot at the Surgical Robotic Challenge 2016 in London, England. Created by researchers from the Technion Institute and Rambam Health Care Campus, the robot was conceived for removing brain tumors. It beat out submissions from 11 other international teams.
20. Israel may revolutionize the meat industry by growing chicken in a lab. Biotech startup SuperMeat is developing machines “to organically grow chicken meat using cutting-edge regenerative technologies.” It launched a campaign to raise funds to move forward with technology to grow cultured chicken meat, eliminating the need for farming and killing the birds. Based on research by Hebrew University professor Yaakov Nahmias, the goal is to grow chicken breasts from small tissue samples from a chicken, collected without harming the animal. The campaign says cultured meat can be healthier, more humane and help fight world hunger.
21. Two Israeli animators took first place for design at a major US animation festival. Shulamit Tager and Gal Haklay, both graduates of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, won the top prize in the original design category for their film Scapegoat at the 13th annual Animation Block Party Awards in Brooklyn, New York.
22. Researchers from the Technion Institute have developed a spinach-powered electricity cell. According to their findings published in Nature Communications, the combination of a man-made bio-photo-electro-chemical cell and plant membranes, which absorb sunlight and convert into electrons, sets the stage for developing new technologies for creating clean fuels from renewable sources.
23. Israeli start-ups won top two Global Innovation Awards. NiNiSpeech, which developed speech disorder treatment, and Aerial Guard, which invented an autonomous navigation system for unmanned aircraft, took first and second place respectively in an international start-up competition in China. They competed against 20 other finalists, selected from 3,000 contenders. It was the second straight year an Israeli startup won first place.
24. Creators of the popular Israeli navigational app Waze introduced a new feature to greatly reduce the number of children left inadvertently by parents in hot vehicles, which sometimes ends tragically. Thanks to the innovation, called Child Reminder, users are notified when they arrive at their destination not to forget their child when exiting their vehicle. The customizable notification can also be used to remind people not to forget their pets, groceries or anything else.
25. Israel helped secure the Rio Olympics. Several Israeli companies provided key components in the measures Brazil deployed to ensure a safe event. These included a high-resolution imaging satellite, street level surveillance, special consulting and video-synopsis technology. Israeli firm International Security and Defense Systems (ISDS) was the main supplier of security solutions for the Games.
26. Israeli technological know-how impressed the four leading professional sports leagues in the United States, opening new export opportunities. Representatives from 13 Israeli companies met in the US with officials from the National Basketball Association (NBA), Major League Baseball (MLB), National Football League (NFL) and National Hockey League (NHL) to show them products developed in Israel. They ranged from sensors monitoring athlete performance to real-time video analysis and other innovations for use by sports teams.
27. Israeli high school students came up big in an international robotics contest in China that entailed building robots to complete various tasks. The 29 teens from Binyamin won the “Inspiration Award” in the Science and Technology Robotics Competition in Shanghai. In the overall event, the Israeli students came in second place, competing against 56 teams including those from the US, Canada and China.
28. Israeli directors won an MTV Video Music Award for best visual effects. Vania Heymann and Gal Muggia received the honor in late August at the VMAs in New York for their video for British rock band Coldplay‘s song Up & Up. The co-directors were also nominated in the “best direction” category but didn’t win.
29. Barely 24 hours after a major earthquake caused many deaths and widespread destruction in central Italy, an Israeli humanitarian organization sent a 20-person team to help with emergency relief and rescue efforts on the ground. Initially, the IsrAID delegation, which included a search-and-rescue crew, relief workers and trauma specialists, was the only foreign group of its kind to arrive and assist Italian authorities.
30. A 3-D printed dress made by an Israeli fashion designer figured prominently at the Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. During the high-tech-themed performance, Amy Purdy, an American Bronze Medalist snowboarder, wore a beige geometric-patterned dress created by Danit Peleg, a 2015 graduate of Tel Aviv’s Shenkar College. It took Peleg 100 hours to make the dress which she printed at home.
31. An Israeli aid worker was honored in the United States for his humanitarian efforts overseas. Navonel Glick, 29, who heads the Israeli international aid organization IsraAID, received the 2016 Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for his work providing relief in various crisis areas. He was one of six to be recognized by the Muhammad Ali Center as role models “transforming communities and bringing about positive change in the world.” The Tel Aviv-based Glick has worked in disaster relief and alleviating poverty in the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Nepal.
32. An Israeli researcher at Tel Aviv University is central to a study which shows promise for a potential breakthrough in preventing breast cancer tumors from metastasizing. Dr. Noam Shomron of TAU’s Sackler School of Medicine is part of the team developing a gene therapy technique to be used alongside chemotherapy to treat early-stage breast tumors before they spread. He’s working closely with other researchers at MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science.
33. According to Israel HaYom, Tel Aviv University researchers have discovered a way to correct a genetic flaw that causes Alzheimer’s. In developing a new approach to treat the degenerative disease, Prof. Danny Michaelson and doctoral student Anat Bam-Kagan found that when the therapy was applied to lab mice, they recovered from the illness. Michaelson believes his findings can lead to the development of effective treatment of Alzheimer’s.
34. Israeli actress Gal Gadot began a central role in a United Nations campaign to benefit women. She took part in an official event at UN headquarters in New York where the Wonder Woman superhero character was designated as an Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls. The 32-year-old former Miss Israel, who plays Wonder Woman in an upcoming movie, told the UN body: “Wonder Woman seeks to promote strength, wisdom, leadership, justice and love. Sometimes we need something or someone to inspire us like Wonder Woman or a real live superhero in your own world.”
35. An Israeli startup won an international competition run by British-Dutch energy titan Shell for innovations relating to vehicles and motorization. Neomatix, a Tel Aviv-based company, beat 218 other startups from around the world for top prize in the first Shell Bright Energy Ideas Challenge. It was selected for its electro-optic sensor technology that monitors the pressure and wear-and-tear of tires, thereby improving road safety and reducing pollution.
36. Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are among the world’s 40 best cities according to readers of Condé Nast Traveler. In the magazine’s annual Readers’ Choice Awards poll in which more than 100,000 people voted, the beach-side metropolis and Israel’s capital finished in 17th and 27th place respectively. Meanwhile, Travel and Leisure magazine chose Jerusalem as one of the best places to travel in 2017. Its annual list of recommended destinations is based largely on input from writers and travel specialists from around the world.
37. An Israeli company is developing eco-friendly solutions for managing human and animal waste. Based in Tel Aviv, Paulee Cleantec Ltd. attracted the attention of the US-based Our Pet’s Company for its patented, portable, safe and inexpensive waste system that uses a special process to convert animal feces into an odor-free ash fertilizer in less than 60 seconds. The two companies announced a partnership to commercialize a portable dog waste product and apply the technology to other pet waste applications.
38. Students from Tel Aviv University made a lasting impact on a village in Tanzania. Israel21c reported that 10 members of the TAU chapter of Engineers Without Borders brought electricity to a remote medical clinic in the East African country as part of their humanitarian initiative. During their two weeks in the village, the students installed a solar electricity generator and storage batteries so the clinic could provide much better health care, thereby helping improve the local quality of life.
39. Israel earned top marks from the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) for the humanitarian relief it provides following major disasters. The WHO said Israel’s emergency medical response team is the best in the world and the IDF’s portable field hospital, run by Medical Corps doctors and soldiers, is unmatched by any other country.
40. As marijuana gains more recognition for its medicinal benefits, Israel has created the world’s first cannabis inhaler that allows doctors to prescribe precise doses of weed. The pocket-size device, developed by Tel Aviv start-up Syqe Medical, comes in two forms – one for individuals, the other for medical institutions such as pain clinics and intensive care units. Syqe announced it signed a deal with Teva Pharmaceuticals, with Health Ministry approval, to market the gadget in Israel where it’s already in use at Haifa’s Rambam Hospital, and for eventual distribution overseas.
41. The Israeli rehabilitation organization for children, Alyn, hosted a ceremony in Jerusalem to mark the first shipment of 250 Israeli “Wheelchairs of Hope” to children in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Launched in cooperation with Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, the Israeli Innovation Authority, Beit Issie Shapiro, the World Health Organization, USAID and UNICEF, the initiative is the vision of Pablo Kaplan, a former executive at Israel’s Keter Plastic company. Various charities are also distributing the Israeli-made and designed, colorful and lightweight plastic chairs in Peru and Tajikistan.
42. A new report showed Israel as the world leader in recycling wastewater. Figures released by the country’s Water Authority indicated Israel purifies 87 percent of its wastewater for use in irrigation. Spain comes in second place, far behind, recycling only 20 percent. Israel is also a pioneer in desalination operating the world’s largest seawater plant 16 km south of Tel Aviv.
43. Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek hospital was praised by The Independent, the British newspaper often harshly critical of Israel. In a lengthy feature, it extolled the hospital for hiring those best qualified regardless of ethnicity, gender or religion, and for having Jewish and Arab doctors working together to save lives, like at all Israeli hospitals. It lauded its policy for treating all people the same, independent of their background, giving priority to patients whose lives are most at risk. It cited cases where terrorists wounded in attacks they had just carried out had to be treated before their less severely wounded victims.
44. Israel’s longstanding freedom of religion came in for appreciation by the country’s Christian leaders at the annual late December holiday reception hosted by President Reuven Rivlin at his official residence in Jerusalem. At the event, Greek Patriarch Theophilos III said: “We take the opportunity of this holiday gathering to express our gratitude to you for the firmness with which you defend the freedoms that lie at the heart of this democracy, especially the freedom of worship.”
45. Israeli scientists have further developed breathalyzer technology so that it can now diagnose 17 diseases, including cancers and neurodegenerative conditions. Med Device Online reported in early January the project, led by Hossam Haick from the Technion Institute of Technology, collected data from 1,400 people to create “breathprints” for diseases like cancer, ulcerative colitis and multiple sclerosis and then uses artificial intelligence to make a diagnosis.
46. Israel announced a large-scale renewable energy project that will feature the world’s tallest solar tower. The 820-foot tower, situated in the sunbaked Negev desert, is expected to be in commercial operation by the end of this year, when it will provide power for about 130,000 households, roughly 5 percent of the country’s population.
47. Tel Aviv joined a small group of cities in the world when it announced the creation of a $26 million car-sharing program called AutoTel. It consists of 260 cars to be shared by thousands of people every year, reducing air pollution and the rate of car ownership. Tel Aviv, which is reserving 520 parking spots around the city for AutoTel cars, expects the service will help reduce the cost of living in Tel Aviv for many residents who now won’t need to own a car.
48. An Israeli startup received kudos at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, the world’s largest trade show for consumer technology. Tel Aviv-based 2breathe Technologies won the CES Innovation Award in the fitness, sports and biotech product category for its device and app that help people sleep. An Israeli invention, the wearable device and mobile, cloud-based app induces sleep in users via guided therapeutic breathing and monitors their sleeping patterns.
49. Israeli cuisine earns more foreign approval. Forbes magazine published a feature article titled “Why Israel Just Might Have the World’s Best Restaurant Scene.” After praising the food and its rich mix of North African, Middle East and Mediterranean influences, the writer states: “It’s the atmosphere that made me fall in love with eating Israeli-style. The best restaurants aren’t hushed culinary temples but festive rooms full of people having fun. It’s hard to name a restaurant scene that’s more appealing than Israel’s.” She then paid tribute specifically to about 10 eateries.
50. Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital used an Israeli-invented plastic surgery patch for the first time on a new-born baby during an intricate operation to help save her life after she was born with a rare congenital defect. Shortly after Ibtihaj (Arabic for Joy) was born with intestines outside her body, Dr. Dan Arbell and his team performed surgery to put the intestines in place. They closed the wound with a patch usually used for wounded soldiers on the battlefield. Three weeks later, Ibtihaj was released from hospital and is expected to have a full, healthy life.
51. An Israeli company, which says it has created an internal combustion engine far more efficient and compact than current models, is raising financing for its commercialization. Aquarius Engines said it’s also having its innovation tested at a Formula 1 center in Belgium. Peugot is evaluating the engine which reportedly will double the best energy consumption of a standard engine, based on a single piston firing continuously.
52. At Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital, a medical team performed a series of cochlear implant operations that allowed 16 Palestinian children to hear for the first time. Initiated by the Peres Center for Peace, the surgeries were carried out on children from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Dr. Michal Kaufmann, the main surgeon, said the humanitarian project gave the children “the opportunity to step out of their world of silence and live their lives normally and fully.”
53. Figures released by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development showed Israel invests more in research and development per capita than any other country. According to the OECD data, Israel’s share of R&D spending climbed to 4.25 percent of its gross domestic product, topping the previous leader, South Korea, whose spending declined to 4.23 percent. That compares to 2.79 percent in the United States and 1.95 in the European Union.
54. Several Israeli companies were part of a distinguished group Fortune magazine highlighted as leading the artificial intelligence (AI) revolution. In its list of the 50 largest AI startups around the word, Fortune included Voyager Labs, Zebra Medical Vision and Logz.io. Israel was one of only six countries on the list. It was based on information the research firm CB Insights compiled in selecting the 100 most promising AI startups which included five Israeli companies.
55. An Israeli startup made headlines after unveiling its artificial intelligence-driven robot companion to keep senior citizens active and engaged with the world. Intuition Robotics raised $6 million in funding to open a US office and to test its product there. Its device, called ElliQ, is an interactive assistant for older adults living on their own by connecting them to their families via video chats and to act as a companion by suggesting activities and reminding users to take their medicine.
56. Israel has pioneered a major step forward in the diagnosis of sleep-wake disorders. Dr. Yaniv Zigel of Ben Gurion University and Prof. Ariel Tarasiuk of the Soroka University Medical Center announced they had developed a remote audio-analysis tracking system that can be installed in a smartphone and can assess conditions such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) while the patient is awake at home not hooked up to machines or sensors.
57. Technology developed in Israel made an impact at the NFL’s Super Bowl in Houston. During the game, Intel Corp. unveiled its “Be The Player” action 360-degree replay feature which enables TV viewers to fully immerse themselves in the game and experience plays from the player’s perspective. It was developed by a Tel Aviv-based start-up, Replay Technologies, which Intel bought for $175 million.
58. Israel is well represented among the world’s most innovative companies, according to Fast Company magazine. In its annual feature on the top 50 companies “changing the way we shop, eat, play work and live,” the US-based business publication showcased 11 firms from Israel — Argus Cyber Security, Colu, EarlySense, Freightos, Itamar Medical, Neomatix, Syqe Medical, Unbotify, Waze, WeissBeerger, and Zebra Medical Vision. Each year, Fast Company assesses thousands of businesses around the globe to choose 50 companies it considers the most innovative.
59. Unistream, the Israeli social entrepreneurial program which helps teens from disadvantaged communities to build and manage their own startups, is reaching new heights. Shortly after the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles announced a multi-year, multi-million-dollar partnership in Israel with Unistream, the New York Jewish Week published a feature piece, praising its leadership training program involving Jewish, Muslim, Druze and Christian students. Last year, the UN selected Unistream as one of 2016’s most influencing organizations in the field of inter-cultural innovation.
60. An Israeli-invented smart water meter that monitors water temperature, quality and consumption is earning rave reviews. BrighTap, created by Jerusalem-based BwareIT, captured the innovation award at the 2017 UK Water Efficiency Product Awards in London. A few months earlier, it won first prize in StartUp Open, a competition for the most promising young startups in the world. Last year, CNBC featured BrighTap as one of the world’s 10 hottest startups of 2016.
61. Israel’s integration of people with autism into the IDF was the focus of a special report on the BBC. It showed how the IDF has designed a program for high-functioning young men and women on the autistic spectrum to have an active role in a such an important national institution, thereby enhancing their self-perception. With the acute perceptual skills associated with autism, the recruits are a valued part of the IDF’s Intelligence Unit 9900 where they scan high-resolution satellite images for suspicious activity.
62. In the biggest-ever deal involving Israeli technology, US computing titan Intel Corp. announced it would pay $15.3 billion to purchase Mobileye, a Jerusalem-based developer of advanced vision sensors and driver assistance systems. Intel hopes the transaction will help make it a leading player in the fast-growing self-driving car market. Mobileye alerts drivers to potential collisions, giving them time to react before it’s too late.
63. Tel Aviv is one of the world’s greenest cities, according to researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in conjunction with the World Economic Forum who released a list after measuring the quantity of trees and plants in urban centers around the globe. A city’s green canopy has a major impact on the quality of its air. Tel Aviv, which came in 7th place, has doubled the number of trees (excluding those in parks) over the past decade, reaching 260,000, averaging 5,000 trees per square kilometer, along with other green initiatives in recent years.
64. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin showed respect for the country’s rule of law when he rejected a request from former prime minister Ehud Olmert for a pardon. In defending his decision, he said: “The president’s pardon powers are not an appeal process against a court decision.” Olmert, who was convicted of bribery and other corruption charges, started serving a 27-month sentence last year and is expected to be released this summer.
65. Israeli researchers have developed a new model for detecting the polio virus before it spreads and causes an outbreak. Ben Gurion University announced Dr. Yakir Berchenko and his fellow BGU colleagues had determined through their research that environmental surveillance is a better, more sensitive way to assess the extent of a polio outbreak more quickly and accurately, helping prevent the disease from spreading and even eradicating it.
66. Israel is providing India and Vietnam drinking water, extracting it from the air. Water Gen concluded an agreement with India’s second largest solar company to produce the essential commodity for remote villages in the country. Previously, it reached an accord with Viet Nam to set up water generators in Hanoi. Based in Rishon LeZion, Water Gen creates technology that extracts water from the air for use by civilians and soldiers without access to sources of clean water.
67. Highlighting Israel’s position as a world leader in research and development of medical cannabis, US News and World Report devoted a major feature to the country’s pioneering work with medicinal marijuana. It described its rise as a global research destination for other countries and companies, with 110 clinical trials involving cannabis now underway in Israel, more than any other country. It quoted one expert: “The world’s best cannabis scientists and researchers are all out of Israel. No other country comes close.”
68. Israel is helping India upgrade its emergency response training as senior instructors and paramedics from Magen David Adom (MDA) conducted two-week training of first-aid instructors from India’s Red Cross. It came about after the International Red Cross and the Indian Red Cross contacted the MDA to request assistance in leading workshops and giving practical instruction to share knowledge that can save lives.
69. As part of Israel’s ongoing efforts to help Syrian civilians wounded in their country’s civil war, the Associated Press published extensive coverage of the IDF medical corps carrying out a nighttime rescue, transporting seven patients across the border into ambulances bound for Israeli hospitals for treatment. In its written and video reports, AP said Israel had quietly treated 3,000 Syrians since 2013, including delivering dozens of Syrian babies and sending prescriptions with patients back into Syria.
If you’ve made it this far, I commend you for your interest in knowing Israel better. And just think: I could easily have included a few hundred more examples of Israel’s achievements over the past 12 months. Looking ahead, there’s every reason to believe what it accomplishes over the next year will be no less impressive.
Sources: My thanks to Israel 21c, Times of Israel, Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, Israel HaYom, Ynet, No Camels, AP, Reuters and other media for their continuous coverage of Israel’s achievements that made it possible for me to put this article together.