Shaarei Shamayim

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In honor of Yom Haatzmaut, Israel Independence Day that we celebrated this Thursday, let me begin by singing with you an old Israeli song—Artza Alinu by Shmuel Navon—that for me epitomizes what Israel is all about: 

Artza alinu, Artza alinu, Artza alinu,

K’var charashnu v’gam zaranu,

aval od lo katzarnu.

“We have ascended to the Land (of Israel),

We have already ploughed and sown too,

but we have not yet reaped.”

Yes, we have come back to our land and we have worked it, but we have not really seen yet the full fruits of our labor.

Israel is only 68 years old, but it’s America’s most reliable ally in the world. And even more important, at 68, Israel has begun to fulfill Gd’s promise to Abraham: V’nivr’chu v’cha kol mishp’chot haadama, “And through you will all the nations of the world be blessed.” Its innovations in technology, medicine and agriculture are outstanding and ever increasing. For example, every computer, tablet and smart phone operates on Israeli technology. California is well on its way to solving its water crisis using Israeli desalinization technology in 2 plants near San Diego that Israel has built.

And so, as I’ve done in the past for the week of Yom Haatzmaut, instead of speaking about the rift between Benjamin Netanyahu and Barak Obama or Israel’s problem with Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton…instead of speaking about Iran’s efforts to become a nuclear power and America’s feeble attempts to thwart it…instead of speaking about the growth of anti-Zionism as a screen for anti-Semitism all over the world—and as we recently have seen in the blatant anti-Semitism in England’s Labor party and the election of its 1st Arab mayor, Sadiq Kahn…instead of speaking about all the challenges Israel faces…I would like to focus on the positive side and speak of the blessing Israel is to the world in its 68th year so we—for a change—can shep a little nachas as we take pride in our Jewish state.

So to celebrate Israel’s 68th birthday I’d like to share with you 18 innovations that Israel is bringing to the world. 18 in Hebrew, of course, are the letters yud-chet which spells the word chai, which means “life.” These 18 are a sample of the hundreds of innovations that are elevating the quality of life for all the world.

1. Amazon Kindle: It’s a surprise to many, but Amazon’s Kindle, one of the hottest book-reading gadgets, was largely developed in Israel’s high-tech center in Hertzaliya. It’s a history that wasn’t well known until recently Oracle has acknowledged it.

2. Airline Security: Israel has designed the 1st flight system to protect passenger and freighter aircraft against missile attacks. Israel also designed the airline industry’s most impenetrable flight security. American officials now look to Israel for advice on how to handle airborne security threats.

3. GroupShot: A new Israeli iPhone and iPad app called GroupShot flawlessly cobbles together the best images from a variety of group shots where somebody’s blinking, yawning or clowning.

4. Drones: Israeli mini-unmanned aerial vehicles are being used by US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

5. WoundClot: The cloud of war constantly hanging over Israel has a shiny silver lining: groundbreaking advances in wound care developed for the battlefield and then shared with the rest of humanity. Here’s one of the latest: WoundClot gauze, a flexible and easy-to-handle material made of highly absorbent regenerated cellulose (plant cells). WoundClot absorbs about 2,500 percent of its own weight in fluids and forms a coagulating gel membrane with platelets from the blood on the open wound. By absorbing blood and enhancing the natural clotting process, this unique gauze stops hemorrhaging within minutes and naturally dissolves – no need for painful removal – within 24 hours.

6. Robots: Israeli robots that are transforming surgery…The rapidly emerging field of robot-assisted surgery promises to revolutionize how doctors operate. Robotic or robot-assisted surgery can give doctors better vision, precision, flexibility and control when performing complex minimally invasive procedures. Only a handful of surgical robots currently are approved for use, and Israelis developed 3 of them.

7. Wheels: Israeli company SoftWheel is revolutionizing the wheel by replacing traditional spoke-and-rim hubs with an innovative automatic suspension system that absorbs shocks, offering more energy efficiency and better maneuverability. On wheelchairs, SoftWheel gives the ability to descend stairs and go over uneven terrain smoothly. On bikes and cars, it means tires that will never go flat.

8. IceCure Medical’s revolutionary device has been changing the way doctors worldwide remove benign breast lumps and small malignant breast tumors, by engulfing them with ice rather than removing them surgically. The ultrasound-guided IceSense3 cryoablation procedure needs only local anesthetic and takes less than 10 minutes in an outpatient setting. The patient can get up and leave afterward with no need for recovery period or post-care.

9. Muv Interactive has developed a disruptive device called Bird that allows you to interact with your digital environment just by moving your fingers. Slip this simple Bluetooth-connected device onto your finger and you’ve got a new-age mouse that controls everything you virtually touch.

10. ElMindA is revolutionizing the treatment of everything from Alzheimer’s to depression, ADHD, concussions and other brain disorders. The FDA-cleared non-invasive technology known as Brain Networks Activation allows healthcare providers to accurately evaluate brain functions by mapping and monitoring changes in brain networks and measuring how different parts of the brain communicate.

11. OrCam: Jerusalem startup OrCam has developed a unique wearable technology device that can read text, describe objects, and turn the world into speech for people with vision impairment. The company’s MyEye camera can be mounted on eyeglasses, providing unprecedented independence to people who are blind or visually challenged.

12. Pulse technology could make Botox passé. This novel Botox alternative uses microsecond-pulsed, high-voltage, non-thermal electrical fields to produce rejuvenated skin without scars or toxic side effects. Israeli scientists say Pulse technology may revolutionize the treatment of aging skin and degenerative skin diseases.

13. ReWalk Robotics’ groundbreaking robotic exoskeleton gives paraplegics the chance to walk again. Not only has the device enabled wheelchair users to run marathons, but also it has been approved by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for all qualifying veterans who have suffered spinal-cord injury during military service. TIME magazine named ReWalk one of the greatest inventions of our time.

14. Exablate: The surgery-free operating room of tomorrow is here. Exablate MRI-guided ultrasound platform from Israel can fix conditions from fibroids to tremors without anesthesia or incisions. The participants of a medical conference in Tel Aviv saw a 65-year-old baker—who had suffered tremors for a decade despite medication—walk out of the 3-hour procedure, sit down and slice a celebratory cake to share with the neurology team…“I wanted to cry, because I could not remember when I was able to drink a glass of water, and for the first time in over 10 years, I can finally return to serving people in my bakery,” she said.


Innovatons to come:

15. Skylake: Skylake, the 6th Gen Intel Core processors deliver more than double the performance, triple the battery life, and graphics that are 30 times better for smooth gaming and video experiences compared to the average 5-year old computer, the company announced today… There were those who didn’t believe this to be possible. Skylake was created at the Intel Israel Development Center in Haifa. This is probably why Intel has a big sale on its products before Skylake appears.

16. StoreDot: Israeli startup StoreDot recently grabbed the world’s attention when it showed off a technology prototype that could eventually recharge mobile phones in just 30 seconds and laptops in a few minutes...The company demonstrated its new battery and charging technology on a Galaxy S4 at the conference…StoreDot came out of the Tel Aviv University’s nanotechnology department.

17. Sweetch App: an Israeli digital health startup, is on a mission to prevent people who are at risk for diabetes from developing the disease…More than 86 million American adults have a blood-sugar level that is higher than normal but not yet high enough to be considered diabetes, according to statistics—like many Ashkenazi Jews my age. Figures show that current methods for identifying pre-diabetics miss about 92.5%. The behavioral analytics engine and mobile Apps serve as a personal digital health coach to help people learn how to modify their habits.

18. NaNose, developed at the Technion, can detect early lung, stomach and possibly other types of cancer just from analyzing breath. When commercialized, this could set a new standard as a non-invasive, easy-to-use, low-cost rapid predictive diagnostic tool, saving lives by finding cancer in its 1st stages.

Yes, Gd’s blessing to Abraham and we his descendants, the Jews: V’nivr’chu v’cha kol mishp’chot haadama, “And through you will all the nations of the world be blessed,” is being fulfilled in our lifetime. Perhaps it is because for the 1st time in 2,000 years, Jews are a free people in their own land, free to improve their lives and the lives of everyone in the world—even its sworn enemies. Israel has achieved great things. It has taken a barren land and made it bloom again. It has taken an ancient Hebrew language and made it speak again. It has taken a nation decimated by a Holocaust and made it live again.

As the song goes: Artza alinu, “We have ascended to the Land (of Israel); K’var charashnu v’gam zaranu, we have already ploughed and sown too; aval od lo katzarnu, but we have not yet reaped.” Yes, we have come back to our land and we have worked it, but we have not really yet seen the full fruits of our labor—the full blessing Israel can be if the world just left us alone to create. Surrounded by countries that do 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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