Shaarei Shamayim

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Israel celebrated Yom Haatzmatut—its 66th birthday—this week. My colleague, Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg has written a masterful piece about the significance of Israel at age 66. He shows how Israel finds itself in a position that few other countries find themselves in—threatened with sanctions, boycott and divestment—and now thanks to Secretary of State John Kerry—accused of apartheid. Of all the countries in the world, those words are used most often when it comes to Israel.

Saudi Arabia has a whole city—Mecca—that is off limits to all but Muslims. The highway leading to Mecca is segregated between Muslims and non-Muslims. Did you ever hear anyone say “apartheid” in reference to Saudi Arabia? What about when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas keeps saying that not one Jew will be allowed to live in Palestine? Anyone talk about apartheid? Russia invades the Ukraine and seizes Crimea—a large chunk of a sovereign country—and the European Union is reluctant to impose sanctions. Israel builds a few hundred housing units in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo and the European Union threatens sanctions!?

Why? Because Israel still has not reached a peace agreement with the Palestinians. It matters not that the Palestinians have never expressed any willingness to compromise on their demands…it’s always Israel’s fault! You know the routine: “Israel is the stronger one—by now it should have been able to work something out with the Palestinians.” “66 years is long enough. 66 years after its creation, Israel should have been able to make peace.”

So I want to take a few minutes to look at what the U.S. was like 66 years after its birth. Since the US was born in 1776, 66 years later was 1842. In that year there was a civil war—in Rhode Island—called the Dorr Rebellion! 3 years later we annexed Texas which was followed by a war with Mexico. We were doing much worse with our neighbors and our borders then than Israel is now! Then, we were still 15 years away from a civil war that tore our country in 2. When Israel forcibly evacuated the 9,000 settlers from Gaza—an act that divided the country—not one person was killed. Over 600,000 died in America’s Civil War more than 20 years after its 66th birthday. For the 50 years after America’s 66th birthday it started catching and killing the Indians. And Israel, on its 66th birthday, should have already made peace with the Palestinians? It took 5 years for Israel and the Palestinians to negotiate the release of Gilad Shalit—one Israeli! And Secretary of State John Kerry foolishly thought he could solve all the problems between Israel and the Palestinians in 9 months! 

Let’s look at other countries that today are more or less 66 years old. The end of WWII marked the ending of colonial power. The following countries were created around the same time as Israel: Indonesia, Jordan, the Philippines, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, North Korea and Libya. Do you think the situations in those countries are better than the current situation in Israel? About the same time that Israel was created, 2 major countries came into existence: India and Pakistan. Today in India there are terrible divisions between Hindus and the Muslims. There is still a caste system, but you don’t hear anything about apartheid. India is still controlling part of Tibet, but you don’t hear anything about “occupied territories.” In India 1,000 children a day die from diarrhea, 25,000 women a year are raped but you don’t hear any outcry from the European Union! India is a country of 1.3 billion people. Recently it bought sea-to-sea missiles, radar for missile intercept systems and communications equipment from…the 7 million people of Israel! 

And Pakistan? Pakistan was the home of Osama bin Laden. Pakistan is the country causing all the problems in Afghanistan. Pakistan is the major supporter of the Taliban. Pakistan, more than any country, is responsible for the spread of nuclear technology around the globe. And what word does the European Union and the U.S. use to describe Pakistan? Not apartheid, but the other “a”-word—“ally.” And let me tell you something else about America’s 2 allies, India and Pakistan. During the last 66 years these 2 allies have fought 3 major wars with each other, and continue to have regular cross-border skirmishes. And Israel gets criticized for not yet making peace with the Palestinians! 

Israel is only 66 years old, but it is our most reliable ally in the world. And even more important, at 66, Israel is a blessing to all the nations of the world—certainly more than any other nation its size. The innovations in technology, medicine and agriculture are outstanding and ever increasing. For example, every computer, tablet and smart phone operates on Israeli technology. And so, as I’ve done in the past for the week of Yom Haatzmaut, I would like to focus on the positive side and take a moment to speak of Israel’s blessings to the world in its 66th year so we can shep a little nachas as we take pride in our Holy Land.

There is a web site called that reports on Israeli innovations. To celebrate Israel’s 66th birthday it highlights 18—chai, life—innovations from Israel specifically designed to save lives—some already on the market and some coming soon.

1. The First Care Emergency Bandage (also known as the “Israeli bandage”), invented by an Israeli military medic, is used to stop bleeding from hemorrhagic wounds in trauma situations. It is credited for saving the life of US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

2. A fatal car crash can happen in a split second. That’s why Jerusalem-based Mobileye technology for identifying and alerting to driving hazards is being built into virtually every new vehicle in the world.

3. SensAheart a product made by the Israeli diagnostic technology company Novamed, can be used at home and in the hospital to detect a heart attack coming on.

4. Tel Aviv’s Cheetah Medical invented the NICOM non-invasive cardiac output monitor to prevent sepsis, a life-threatening blood infection that causes one in four hospital deaths and is one of the top 10 causes of death in the United States.

5. The adjustable, disposable Lubo Airway Collar by Inovytec is a novel airway management and cervical collar device for cases of severe trauma to the neck and spine. It is the 1st-ever non-invasive device that can open an airway by imitating a jaw-thrust maneuver while protecting the cervical spine en route to the hospital.

6. The Agilite Instant Harness, the world’s smallest Class II rappelling harness, saved the lives of South African miners trapped underground in 2013.

7. The Babysense breathing monitor by HiSense alerts parents of respiratory cessation (apnea) in babies. The Israeli breakthrough technology has helped protect more than 600,000 babies from crib death around the world.

8. XSight Systems’ award-winning FODetect advanced runway sensors keep runways around the world safe from foreign object debris, birds and wildlife with a unique hybrid optical-radar remote-sensing technology.

9. Hyginex makes a smart bracelet to be worn by every staff member in a hospital to make sure that all personnel wash their hands after contact with patients. Clean hands can practically eliminate most hospital-borne infections.

10. When the iMayDay iPhone app senses that your car has been in a collision, it sets off an alarm and emails five pre-determined addresses (or generates up to 50 SMS messages) to inform emergency workers and/or loved ones about the accident. It works anywhere in the world.

11. PerSys Medical’s Blizzard Survival line of products, including blankets and jackets, leads the market in hypothermia care. The Blizzard Jacket was pivotal last March in the rescue of a mother and son by the Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team in Wales. The lifesaving wraps withstand temperatures as low as -4 F/-20 C.

12. Micromedic Technologies specializes in developing and commercializing novel and innovative cancer diagnostic kits enabling early intervention—including colorectal cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer, bladder cancer, lung cancer.

13. It started out as a rescue “spider” in 2005, and today the Israeli-made Skysaver is deployed to help evacuate skyscrapers in emergency situations. The device is worn like a backpack and includes a fire-resistant cord that can rappel rescued people to safety.

14. The NowForce smartphone app uses GPS crowd-sourcing tech to rally first-response teams quickly.

15. The Oxitone watch is a wearable device that could save your life by measuring blood oxygen levels and alerting to a potential heart attack well before it happens.

16. Autotalks: analyzes data transmitted by the on-board processing units of nearby vehicles and warns drivers of any imminent danger. It is expected that all car manufacturers will integrate its systems by 2015.

17. BiondVax has completed trials of its universal flu vaccine 1st developed at the Weizmann Institute of Science.

18. Wherever disaster strikes in the world, Israel is always among the 1st to send medical and search-and-rescue teams and supplies, even when it lacks diplomatic relations with the country in crisis. The tsunami in Sri Lanka; Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans; the earthquake in Peru; the cyclone in Myanmar; Philippines typhoons; the Haiti earthquake; a hospital fire in Romania; the Japan earthquake and tsunami; even the Turkish earthquakes; and Hurricane Sandy. Israel has also set up a field hospital on its border to treat victims of the Syrian civil war—without charge.

At the time of its birth all the Arab countries attempted to destroy Israel. Years later Egypt made peace with Israel. Later on, Jordan made peace. It’s a step-by-step, slow process. 66 may sound like a lot of years in the life of a person, but it’s very young in the life of a country. 66 years after its birth, Israel faces a lot of problems and a lot of challenges and a lot of threats. But it’s very possible that in its 1st 66 years Israel has accomplished more than what any other country on earth has accomplished during their 1st 66 years. And in its 66th year, Israel is such a blessing to the world.

Surrounded by countries that have done everything possible to destroy it, the people of Israel live, Am Yisrael chai, may they continue to live and ever and be a blessing to the world. Amen!

                                                Rabbi Mark Hillel Kunis


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