International Rankings Salute Israel’s Economy

When I came to Israel in 1984 the country was an economic disaster.  Annual inflation was running at 1200%, companies paid bills in the afternoon to save 1.5% and when you received your monthly salary you made sure to spend all of it that very same day, else it would be worth 3% less the following day.  The only way people survived was that items such as salaries, mortgages, insurance policies, etc. were linked to the inflation rate and in some rare cases to the dollar exchange rate so purchasing power remained more-or-less steady for those lucky enough to have their salaries linked.

I recall traveling to the US via Zurich on business during that time and, in error, took a fistful of old Shekels with me.  I went to the currency exchange at the airport to get dollars and they were only willing to give me 60% of the official exchange rate, that’s how valueless our currency was.  And in many cases, the shekel was not convertible at all overseas.

Furthermore, by the end of 1984 foreign currency reserves were down to $1 billion and buying everything from flour to oil required foreign currency.  Israel survived because the US provided an emergency loan of $1 billion at the time to bail the country out of its “situation.”  By comparison, foreign currency reserves now reach approximately $ 100 billion.

The high tech community was in “pre-infant” stage, venture capital did not exist, home mortgages could only be secured for a small portion of the total cost of the property and car loans, when granted, were at exorbitant interest rates..  Everything had to be purchased with cash.  And today, how things have changed.

This week two major US publications have listed Israel within their top ten rankings, citing the country’s military prowess and innovation capabilities, respectively.

Web-based publication US News and World Report, best known for its influential ranking lists, named Israel as the 8th most powerful nation in the world. Meanwhile, Bloomberg News listed us as the 10th most innovative country worldwide, hailing our high-tech industry and technological advances.

Partnering with global marketing communications company BAV Group and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, US News surveyed more than 21,000 people from four regions of the world and asked them to associate 80 countries with specific attributes.

The power aspect of the survey measured how “economically” and “politically influential” a country was and took into account both its “strong international alliances and strong military alliances.”

“Israel has a technologically advanced market economy with cut diamonds, high-technology equipment and pharmaceuticals among its major exports,” US News also noted in its report, adding, however, that the country still “has one of the most unequal economies in the Western world, with significant gaps between the rich and poor.”

Rounding out the top 10 after Israel were two Arab rivals: Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The online news organization ranked Israel 30th overall in terms of “Best Countries” out of a list of 80. The United States, like last year, was placed at number 1 while Slovenia ranked dead last at number 80.

Bloomberg News ranked Israel number 10 on its list of most innovative countries, using an index that annually ranks economies by analyzing seven contributing factors such as research and development, spending and the concentration of public hi-tech companies.

South Korea topped the Bloomberg list for the third year in a row, followed by Sweden, Singapore, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, Finland, Denmark and France.

The US fell to 11th place from ninth mainly because of an eight-spot slump in the post-secondary, or tertiary, education-efficiency category, which includes the share of new science and engineering graduates in the labor force, Bloomberg said.

Like last year, Israel achieved first place in the “researcher concentration category,” or the number of professionals – including postgraduate PhD students – engaged in R&D per million people in the country. The country was ranked second and trailed only South Korea in the “R&D intensity” category, or R&D expenditure as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP).

Israel also did well in “hi-tech density” – the number of domestically domiciled hi-tech public companies – placing fifth, just after South Korea and Germany.

On the venture capital side, Israeli tech firms raised $5.24 billion in 2017, a 9% increase from 2016.  This from 620 deals, according to the IVC Research Center.  The 2017 jump was aided by four large deals of over $100 million each, representing 12% of the total amount raised.   The four companies were Cybereason, ridesharing firm VIA, artificial intelligence firm Lemonade and Skybox Security.

Recently, a German-based firm that analyzes world currencies, even ranked the Israel Shekel as the second most stable currency in the world.

Had anyone projected any of this in the early 80s they would have been laughed out of the room.  But no one could have predicted what the intellectual prowess of the population could do, especially in the face of constant threats from Israel’s neighbors and a few wars thrown in as well.

A miracle on the Mediterranean?  For sure, but also testimony to what can be achieved even under the most challenging situations.

BIBI NETANYAHU: “We have turned Israel into a global technology power.”

(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this morning (Sunday, 28 January 2018), at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting, made the following remarks:

“Over the weekend I returned from the World economic Forum in Davos. I met there with a dozen heads of state and government from Asia, Africa, Eastern and Western Europe, and from South and North America, with our friend, US President Donald Trump first and foremost, of course.

I again expressed to him our appreciation for his historic decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem as soon as possible. We discussed the need to block Iran’s aggression in the region and its attempts to achieve nuclear weapons via the failed nuclear agreement that must be either fixed or nixed. I also spoke at length about these matters with our friends, French President Emanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

I also met with a series of major corporate leaders, from the worlds of business and technology, including a friend, the chairman of Alphabet, Inc., which you know as Google, Eric Schmidt. He expressed his admiration – I choose my words carefully – for the State of Israel and his deep appreciation for the economic and technology policy that our government is leading. I must say that other corporate leaders did so as well.

During the visit, we worked to advance huge deals with several countries. They are not yet assured, but they were advanced, I hope toward fruition. We also encouraged international companies to increase their investments in Israel. One of these is not here yet; I hope that it will join soon.

The national and corporate leaders told me that we have turned Israel into a global technology power. We hear this everywhere, in India and in Davos – everywhere. It is indeed our policy. We are turning Israel into a rising global power. This was seen in the desires of many to meet with us, which I regret was not possible to time constraints of only two days.

Two weeks ago I spent four days in the company of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on a historic visit there. Afterwards we hosted here US Vice President Mike Pence. Last Thursday I had an excellent meeting with US President Donald Trump. Tomorrow I will go to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. I will discuss with him various regional developments, enhanced security coordination between the IDF and the Russian military forces in Syria and a series of issues that are important – very important – for Israel’s security. I will also attend the opening of an exhibit on the 1943 Sobibor uprising at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow.

Here is the place to point out that we have no tolerance for distorting the truth, historical revisionism or Holocaust denial. Last night I expressed my strong opposition, and I am sure that all ministers would agree, to the law passed in the Polish parliament last Friday regarding the Holocaust that befell our people on Polish soil. The law is due to go through two more stages before it is finally adopted. I expressed our clear position that it must be changed. We will not accept any attempt whatsoever to rewrite history. We will accept no restriction on research into historical truth. On my instruction, our ambassador in Warsaw spoke with the Polish Prime Minister during a Holocaust memorial ceremony at Auschwitz last night and emphasized our positions. During the week, the ambassador and her staff will hold contacts on this issue with the entire Polish leadership, including the Prime Minister, the President and the Senate. The [Deputy] Polish Ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Ministry this morning and heard the same exact things.

Every day, and especially on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was yesterday, we remember three things: One, our six million brothers and sisters who were exterminated in the Nazi horrors. Two, the price that all humanity paid for not taking strong and timely action against a murderous ideology. And third, the constant need to continue building the strength of the State of Israel against the fanatical regimes of our time.

As opposed to the past, today we have a state of our own, a strong state with the ability to defend ourselves, by ourselves. In my view, this is the most important lesson of the Holocaust.

Here I must say a few words about the absurd campaign currently being waged regarding the illegal labor migrants: I would like to clarify three points: First of all, we added approximately 45 positions in order to expedite asylum requests. Genuine refugees and their families will remain in Israel. We have no obligation to allow illegal labor migrants who are not refugees to remain here. They will be sent to another country. Second, international law and the decision of the High Court of Justice here in Israel, allow us to send illegal labor migrants beyond the borders of the state. Third, the designated country to which they are being sent has already absorbed 180,000 refugees under the aegis and supervision of the UN, because the UN considers it to be one of the safest countries in Africa. Therefore, this campaign is baseless and absurd, especially today.”

Light and Water Flow to Rural Africa Due to Israeli Tech

Israeli-led NGO applies Israeli solar technologies to bring clean water and electricity to rural African villages.

The scene was shocking: Villagers in Akuyam, Uganda, hadn’t eaten in three days when Sivan Ya’ari and her Innovation: Africa  staff met them in February 2017 on their way to check on the organization’s solar water-pumping and drip-irrigation projects in six nearby villages.

“The state of poverty we saw there was nothing like we’d ever seen before. During the week we were there, 37 people died. The drought and hunger is truly incomprehensible,” says Genna Brand, iA’s director of communications.

Ya’ari, the Israeli founder of the nine-year-old NGO, immediately added Akuyam to iA’s list of projects in the Karamoja region. She also mounted iA’s first-ever emergency feeding appeal – an exception to the organization’s mission of using Israeli technology to raise the long-term standard of living in African villages.

“We went back to Israel and raised $110,000 for a food relief mission and sent maize, beans and other food through an African supplier. It was very challenging logistically but we couldn’t turn a blind eye to what we saw,” Brand tells ISRAEL21c.

iA’s country manager in Uganda reported that both the emergency aid and the water-pumping project have led to healthier and happier Akuyam residents.

iA has so far installed solar technology in schools, orphanages and medical clinics in some 150 villages in Uganda, Malawi, Tanzania, South Africa, Ethiopia, DRC, Senegal and Cameroon, bringing clean water and electricity to more than 1 million people.

Ya’ari believes that using Israeli knowhow to harness energy from the abundant sun in Africa is the key to freeing rural villagers from poverty and food insecurity. Electricity allows them to pump water for drip irrigation, refrigerate lifesaving medications and vaccines, and light up classrooms.

Power Africa

Now iA is positioned to do even more, since Israel became an official partner in the USAID Power Africa initiative for sub-Saharan Africa, where two out of three residents lack access to electricity.

Ya’ari was on a panel with other solar-energy champions — including Yosef “Kaptain Sunshine” Abramowitz of Energiya Global and Power Africa Coordinator Andrew M. Herscowitz — at the December 4, 2017 ceremony in Jerusalem marking this opportunity for many Israeli companies to take part in electrifying Africa.

“When I am approached by private-sector companies showing me different products, I am always telling them ‘keep it simple.’ Because if it is not simple it will not be sustainable in the villages,” she said at the ceremony.

“Sometimes small-scale solutions are usually the best ones. So, keep it simple, keep it affordable, keep it sustainable. This is really the key.”

As ISRAEL21c reported in February 2014, Ya’ari first visited Africa while working for an international clothing company.

The conditions she saw prompted her to earn a master’s degree in international energy management and policy from Columbia University and then to intern at the United Nations Development Program.

In 2008, she established Innovation: Africa (originally called “Jewish Heart for Africa”) as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in New York, where it’s still headquartered. She moved back to Israel in 2009 and heads iA’s Herzliya Pituah office; there also are offices in Uganda, Malawi and Tanzania.

Altogether, iA has 16 staffers including managers native to the countries in which they work. Salaries are paid from grants separately from funds raised for iA’s projects.

Donations often come from bar/bat mitzvah children. One Israeli bar mitzvah celebrant contributed $18,000 to power a primary school in Uganda for 1,000 students. He and his mother flew there in October for the installation ceremony.

When iA finishes a project, that’s never the end of its involvement. Locals are trained to maintain the solar-energy systems, which also are monitored remotely from Israel.

iA helps each community create a micro-business to generate funds to replace lightbulbs and other ongoing costs. For example, women in some villages run cell-phone charging stations. The small fees are earmarked for purchasing light bulbs, batteries and other needed items.

iA was granted Special Consultative Status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council in 2012, and the following year it won the Innovation Award at the UN Global South-South Development Expo in Nairobi.

Another million people

Brand says that 2017 was a productive year for iA as it expanded its operations from seven to eight countries.

iA partnered with UNICEF to pump water in Bertoua, the capital of the Eastern Region of Cameroon, provide solar energy to three medical clinics, and install a solar water-pumping system in one village. Among those benefiting from this project are 250,000 refugees from the Central African Republic.

Seven iA water-pumping projects in Karamoja, Uganda, as well as one in Congo and four in Senegal, were accomplished in partnership with the Christian Broadcasting Network and private donors.
Brand points out that Karamoja holds special significance for the Israelis. This region was where Zionist visionary Theodor Herzl proposed Great Britain might provide temporary refuge for Jews endangered in Russia in 1903. The plan was never realized, but today technological breakthroughs invented in the Jewish homeland envisioned by Herzl are saving lives in the very same region.

Looking to the future, Brand says iA intends to impact another six million people and install solar energy in another 1,000 villages.

“We have some very exciting things on the horizon. This year we faced many new challenges but like true Israelis we see a problem and figure out the quickest and most efficient and sustainable way to fix the problem.”

For more information, click here

Originally Published on Israel21C.

India cancels $500 million Missile Deal With Israel…Now What?

As the Indian-Israeli relationship continues to grow and mature to something akin to long-lost cousins rediscovering each other, something strange appears to have happened. The Indian MoD has decided to cancel a $500 million deal for anti-tank missiles signed with Rafael in 2014.

The Indian Express reported the following on Monday:

“Ministry sources told The Indian Express that the decision to cancel the deal was based on the consideration that importing a foreign ATGM at this stage would adversely impact the programme for indigenous development of the weapon system by DRDO. Earlier, India had also rejected an offer from US-based Raytheon-Lockheed Martin for Javelin ATGM in favour of the Israeli weapon system.”

While this may seem like a serious dent in future relations between Israel and India, it isn’t and nor should it be.  The misnomer outsiders have involving the relationship between Israel and India revolves around the misunderstanding that the special relationship between the two countries is one tactical and two based on defense sales from Israel to India.

These two notions should be disposed of immediately.  The relationship between India and Israel has been growing from the ground up for over two decades.  While India recognized Israel in 1950, the two did not begin formal relations until 1990.  It was initially Israelis post the army that began to travel to India in a way which created a real grassroots relationship.

These Israelis brought back stories and connections.  These inspired more Israelis to travel to India.  When the tech boom happened Israeli companies sought out inexpensive yet quality programming in India. The economic relationship continued to be built in a decentralized manner.

Both Indians and Israelis recognize that their cultures are ancient and with that recognition a special bond has been built over the years.  Afterall, while Jews lived in exile, they appeared to have found the best treatment in India.

The reasons for the cancellation of the Rafael deal may not seem business like by Western standards, but Israelis should be supportive of India’s strategic goal of self-reliance even if it hits us in the pocket in the short-term.  It is important that alliances and strategic partnerships are based on mutual benefits where neither side holds an upper hand.  An India, which is truly independent is an India that is far better for Israel in the long term.

With all of this being said, the Indian Express reported in the same article that “the Indian military, which currently uses an inferior anti-tank missile that does not work well at night, reportedly expressed concerns that the decision to scrap the Spike deal would negatively affect its preparedness, and that there was ‘operational urgency’ for the Israeli missile.”

India, like Israel appears in need of balancing its short-term military necessities while constantly building home-grown defense equipment.  With the geopolitical circumstances around India entering a far more manic and uncertain stage, both Israel and India would do well to help each other build short-term and long-term approaches to defense partnerships.

DNA block chain project boosts research, preserves patient anonymity

DNA.Bits will make genetic information fully accessible to the researchers who need it, while using strong private keys to maintain digital DNA-wallet privacy and individual anonymity.

Israeli startup DNA.Bits has announced plans to store genetic and medical record data using block chain technology similar to that which underpins the Bitcoin network.

The novel concept will make the genetic information fully accessible to the researchers who need it, while using strong private keys to maintain digital DNA-wallet privacy and individual anonymity.

Dror Sam Brama, DNA.Bits’ CEO, is a local leader in a global revolution to give medical patients an unprecedented level of privacy, access and control over their personal medical records and genetic data – while simultaneously making the genetic data of the human race accessible to all.

Hospitals will still be able to monetize that patient data, meaning healthcare systems will be better equipped to heal patients, and by receiving access to such data, pharmaceutical companies will be able to produce superior drugs.

Monetizing the data

Patient data would live on a ‘side chain’ and when there would be a need for a monetary transaction, it would move onto the ‘main’ (ie: Bitcoin) block chain.

Possible revenue streams for DNA.Bits would be licensing of the platform to data hosts, or a percentage of the contracts that run on the platform. There could also be market-maker revenues from the connections between holders of medical data, holders of genetic data, health organizations and consumers.

Brama sees the company’s potential customers as the holders of those records and anyone conducting research, whether they be genetics companies, pharmaceutical companies, academic institutions or government public health departments. The global pharmaceutical market is now worth $1T. In the U.S., close to 20% of drugs are bioengineered products and, every year, the specialized genetic medicine market grows by 18%.

Game changer

The pharmaceutical industry, in addition, is enormously hungry for patient genetic and medical-record data. DNA.Bits is building a system to funnel that data to the researchers who need it, but in a way that prevents patient privacy rights from being trampled.

Smadar Horowitz-Cederboim from The Jerusalem Center for Genetics and Society (JCGAS), said:

“The ability to cross reference large sets of dynamic medical and genetic records anonymously is a game changer in the fields of drug discovery, personalized medicine and genetic counseling.”

Saving lives

Dr. Efrat Levy-Lahad from the Shaare Zedek Genetics Institute said that in Israel, approximately 1,000 women die from breast cancer every year, for example. With a nationwide DNA screening and analysis program, experts at Jerusalem’s Department of Medical Genetics at Shaare Zedek Medical Center estimate that up to 200 lives could be saved annually.

What holds true for breast cancer in Israel is also applicable to countless other diseases across the world. The main stumbling block for such programs, though, is the question of privacy.

Patients, of course, have no reason to trust governmental agencies, hospitals, insurance companies, healthcare companies, pharmaceutical firms, or even nonprofits with their private data.

The beauty of block chain technology is that it enables the building of ‘trustless systems’ that remove the need for patients to put their faith in institutions or individuals.

Innovating around Bitcoin’s block chain

Israel was one of the first communities to lead the surge into use of the block chain for non-currency focused activity.

So far, Israel has given the world the mastercoin protocol, the colored coins project, XennetLazooz, along with some academic innovation for online privacy, such as ZeroCash, Ghost, and Snark.

Elsewhere, other companies are also employing block chain tech outside of the world of finance.

CoinDesk recently reported on how Proof of Existence is allowing content providers to publish their work on a block chain to protect their intellectual property rights. Even digital democracy could be revolutionized by using an altcoin called votecoin to hash and verify votes.

This story was co-authored with Jon Southurst.

This post was originally published on CoinDesk.

Israeli Company Moebius Medical Signs Deal With India’s Sun Pharma

Moebius Medical

Moebius Medical based in Israel has signed an exclusive global licensing deal with India’s Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.  The deal  involves the development of MM-II, a novel pharmaceutical candidate geared for the treatment of pain in osteoarthritis. According to Israel21C “MM-II is a non-opioid product that leverages the physical properties of proprietary liposomes to lubricate arthritic knee joints, to reduce friction and wear, and pain in the joints.”

Moebius Medical CEO Moshe Weinstein said, “The fact that our novel technology was conceived in Israel and developed within the RAD Biomed Accelerator, confirms the unique quality of the country’s biotechnology ecosystem. In fact, our technology was borne from the multidisciplinary cooperation between leading professors from three of Israel’s most prestigious research institutions: Prof. Yechezkel Barenholz of the Hebrew University, Prof. Izhak Etsion of the Technion Institute, and Prof. Dorit Nitzan of Hadassah Medical Center. I would especially like to thank Prof. Barenholz for his ongoing support of the company, together with Dr. Yaniv Dolev, whose vision and leadership in the company helped bring this partnership to fruition.”

MM-II is an intra-articular biolubricant injection.  The product is being developed to provide symptomatic relief of mild-to-moderate osteoarthritis pain. MM-II is based on patent-protected technology licensed by Moebius Medical from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Technion Israel Institute of Technology and Hadassah Medical Center.

Sun Pharma Global Head of Business Development Kirti Ganorkar said, “Our agreement with Moebius Medical for an osteoarthritis product is a part of our effort to build a branded product pipeline and enrich our global portfolio for pain products. We are encouraged to further develop MM-II and hope to bring a new innovative treatment to patients suffering from osteoarthritic pain.”

The agreement stipulates that Sun Pharma will fund further development of MM-II, and undertake its global commercialization. Moebius Medical has already completed a first-in-man clinical study at Hadassah Medical Center. The trial demonstrated the product’s quick action and potentially better results and relative safety for alleviating osteoarthritis pain as compared to Hyaluronic Acid injection.

Moebius Medical will conduct the requisite pre-clinical studies, and will be responsible for product development and manufacturing until the end of Phase-II studies. Mumbai based Sun Pharma will assume responsibility for further clinical studies, regulatory submissions and product commercialization.


Israel’s Experience and Technologies Can Help Transform Agriculture in India

Originally Published in FirstPost in November.

Over the last 10 years, I have had the good fortune of meeting hundreds of small-scale farmers all over India. I came to appreciate their hard work, eagerness to progress, and the difficult physical and economic environment in which they work.

Farmers bitterly complain about these hardships, but they always light up when I mention that I am Israeli. Even in the remotest of villages, farmers are somehow well aware and appreciative of Israel’s agricultural achievements. Unfortunately, however, very few of those who adore Israel’s technologies also use them in their own farms. A tremendous potential therefore remains largely unfulfilled.

Indian agriculture has made incredible progress over the last few decades, but it needs to undergo a deep transformation. It must make more efficient use of scarce water resources, lest they deplete. It must make more efficient use of nitrogen fertilizers, lest they continue to pollute water and sicken children. It must make more judicious use of pesticides, lest they continue to poison farmers. And it must diversify.

Israel’s experience and its technologies can help, so the growing agricultural cooperation between the two countries is heartening. Several Indian states have opened Centres of Excellence with the Israeli government. Cooperation in the private sector is also growing.

Last week, an Israeli business and academic delegation, led by President Reuven Rivlin, was hosted by President Pranab Mukherjeein Agro Tech 2016 in Chandigarh. President Rivlin declared that “when Israeli companies and Indian farmers meet, they can mage magic happen”. In a seminar organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry and Tel Aviv University, called ‘Digital Pathways in Indian Agriculture’, Israeli and Indian scientists and businessmen introduced exciting new technologies with the potential to transform the Indian agricultural landscape.

As exciting as technological innovations are, making them impactful will require a broadening of perspective. Agronomists and plant scientists have made incredible progress in understanding what crops need in order to flourish. Now, we need to develop a similar understanding of what farmers need in order to flourish. Without such an understanding, even the most revolutionary technologies will likely remain unused by the hundreds of millions of smallholders who grow India’s food.

Take drip irrigation, the most famous Israeli agricultural technology. Drip irrigation is proven to deliver the dual benefit of increased production and reduced water, fertilizer and herbicide requirements, exactly what so many Indian farmers need. Why then does the market for drip irrigation, while growing, still represent only a small fraction of Indian farmers?

The answers to this and related questions have to do more with economics than with agronomy, and more with farmers than with the crops they grow. The problem is that finding business models and government policies that can spread improved technologies sustainably has simply turned out to be as difficult a puzzle as developing these technologies in the first place.

It is therefore not for lack of effort or resources that a country that has mastered nuclear and satellite technology is still struggling to replace antiquated farming practices or lift its farmers out of poverty. The challenge is much more complicated than it may seem. And I don’t mean to suggest no programmes are successful. For example, in some states, like Gujarat, drip irrigation has been spreading rapidly in recent years, likely thanks to effective administration of the national drip subsidy programme. But we know too little about what works and what doesn’t and why and when.

We need to direct the same kind of energies that we put into the “crop” aspect of the challenge into the “human” aspect of the challenge. Frankly, it doesn’t help that the majority of India’s brightest and most ambitious young direct their brainpower to the fields of engineering, medicine and information and communication technology, while so few choose to take on the challenge of sustainable rural development (of course, there are wonderful exceptions, but they are too few).

India can surely succeed in transforming its agriculture, and we in Israel are eager to help. Let us begin by recognising the importance of not just the “technical element”, but also the “human element”. Let us build a bi-national, long-term and systematic programme that brings together academia, the public sector and the private sector; engineers, agronomists, plant scientists, social scientists, policy specialists and entrepreneurs. Let us harness the amazing brainpower, entrepreneurship and creativity of our two countries’ young generations, and get them involved. And most importantly, let us not shy away from leaving our offices and our labs and our experimental farms and stepping into farmers’ own fields.

Academia can have a powerful role to play. My own institution, Tel Aviv University, is leading the way by forging alliances with leading Indian universities and working with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) to carve new paths forward. We can use these collaborations to create a prestigious programme for outstanding, brilliant young Israelis and Indians to work together in small inter-disciplinary teams, and develop and test, in fields and villages across India, new approaches and models for adapting and disseminating relevant technologies to farmers. Governments can provide support and then scale up and implement those approaches that prove to be effective.

I believe a programme of this kind can radically change the perception of agriculture by young Indians from a thing of the past to a science of the future, and attract bright, dedicated and idealistic students from both India and Israel. These students will forge personal ties that will strengthen our relationship as countries, and achieve something that only they, if anyone, can do: help make Indian agriculture a model for the other emerging economies who are facing similar challenges.


Bibi Netanyahu: “This is Why People Are Coming to Israel”

Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke today at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference held in Jerusalem today.  He touched on the changing world and how Israel is leading in technology and innovation. He spoke about the changing relationships with the Arab world and the broader globe.

Watch the whole speech below:


Healing Shattered Psyches on Scene of Traumatic Events

United Hatzalah of Israel inaugurates world’s first fully integrated emergency psychotrauma unit to complement EMTs in the field.

(Article Source:

Thirty Israeli EMTs, paramedics and doctors recently completed a training course qualifying them as psychotrauma volunteers and teachers for United Hatzalah, a private community-based network of voluntary first-responders across Israel.

The volunteers already started providing psychological first aid before the graduation ceremony on May 25, 2016. They responded to a bus bombing, three cases of sudden heart attack deaths and three incidents of crib death.

They will be on call whenever United Hatzalah is called to a scene of a terror attack, sudden death, child’s death, severe car accident, severe injuries, natural disaster, suicide and wartime trauma.

“The new psychotrauma unit is something that we have been working towards for a long time,” United Hatzalah Founder Eli Beer tells ISRAEL21c. He says the psychotrauma unit is the first in the world to be fully integrated within an emergency response organization.

“In order to assure that people are not only saved but have a normal life after the traumatic event that they experienced, we need to make sure that they receive not only medical treatment but psychological treatment.”

Beer relates that he and other medical responders “have often arrived at situations where people’s lives can be destroyed if they do not receive immediate psychological treatment. Our new psychotrauma unit is a project that can help provide care for all aspects of a traumatic event. The unit will enable United Hatzalah to help as many people as possible heal on a physical level as well as on an emotional and psychological level.”

First graduating class of United Hatzalah’s psychotrauma unit. Photo: courtesy
First graduating class of United Hatzalah’s psychotrauma unit. Photo: courtesy

Rickie Rabinowitz, one of the founders and instructors of the unit, said she considers psychotrauma as “another level of injury to treat beyond getting the wounded treated by the volunteer EMTs. The extra facet is coming to complement the work of the medic on the scene.”

The supervising psychiatrist of the unit, Dr. Gary Quinn, directs the EMDR Institute of Israel. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a form of psychotherapy aimed at forestalling development of trauma-related disorders caused by exposure to distressing, traumatizing or negative life events. Quinn specializes in crisis intervention and the treatment of anxiety, depressive disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Many first responders have been taught psychological first aid, which is an eight-stage method of helping people deal with a difficult event,” Quinn said. “This unit has received extensive training which primarily focuses on stage three of that process, which is the stabilization aspect. This step is the most difficult to deal with, and its difficulty is compounded when dealing with people who are in a highly activated state.”

Quinn added that to the best of his knowledge, “this is the first group of EMS responders who are being taught an extra level of stabilization. It is one of the first groups in the world that will be deployed with the specific purpose of providing psychological first aid, and we will need to do a lot of research as we go along.”

Job doesn’t end at the scene

The new unit is headed by Miriam Ballin, a marriage and family therapist as well as a volunteer medic for United Hatzalah.

“Stabilization can mean many different things,” Ballin explained. “We may need to stabilize the scene during an incident when the situation is so chaotic that no one can get their job done. Alternatively, we may be called upon to stabilize family members of the injured people who were hurt at the scene, or we may even be called upon to stabilize the patient in a case where the patient is so activated that the paramedics cannot treat the person.”

Jonathan Hoffman, one of the new graduates, said he is eager “to have a positive impact on people who are suffering from an immediate trauma. I want to be there for them, and in the moment provide them with care that can save their lives. That is what the psychotrauma unit is really all about.”

Ballin added that the job often does not end at the scene.

“Another job of ours is to ease the mourning process and help the person do the things that they will need to do in order to get through the chaotic period following a trauma — whether it is helping them make the first few phone calls for funeral arrangements or assisting them and providing support while empowering them enough so that they will be able to tell their children that a family member has passed away.

“The job is certainly not easy, but it is important for the person’s health and stability in the moment and hopefully in the future.”

For more information, click here.

Israeli Innovations for the Disabled Get Google Grants

(Originally Published on

Technologies to improve accessibility include smartphone controlled by head movements, eye-controlled keyboard and Makeathon-in-a-box.

Two Israeli nonprofits are among 30 international winners of Impact Challenge grants from to promote technological innovations that will make the world more accessible for people with disabilities.

Beit Issie Shapiro in Ra’anana received two Impact Challenge grants.

It received $1,000,000 toward the joint development with Sesame Enable of a free solution that will allow people with limited mobility to operate smartphones with head movements. The beta product is now being distributed to individuals in Israel to test and gauge demand before a global rollout.

Beit Issie Shapiro also received $700,000 to develop Makeathon-in-a-box in conjunction with Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM), a project of the Tel Aviv-based Reut Group.

Makeathon-in-a-box is a template for community make-a-thons around the world that bring makers and people with disabilities together to build prototypes of new solutions for “orphan” accessibility challenges.

Prototypes that come from the make-a-thons will be open source, and featured solutions will be available for purchase on TOM’s website.

National health-support organization Ezer Mizion of Bnei Brak won a $400,000 grant from for its project with Israeli startup Click2speak to develop a keyboard controlled by eye tracking for people with limited mobility and high cognitive function.

In the United States alone, 7.5 million people have trouble using their voices, and many of them also have impaired motor skills, making effective communication a daily struggle. Click2Speak CTO Gal Sont knows this only too well, as he was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) in 2009.

Using eye movements, Sont programmed a user-friendly, affordable and multilingual on-screen virtual keyboard controlled by eye tracking and an eye-operated communication system. The Ezer Mizion Augmentative and Alternative Communication Loan Center provides eligible clients with the beta version.

The Impact Challenge grant will allow Ezer Mizion and Click2Speak to pilot the product, gather user feedback and improve the core technology.