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April 1, 2012

Israel in the News for the Week of April 1st

by City of Ariel

‘2-million-strong march to Jerusalem’ fizzles

Israeli soldiers and police were heavily deployed at potential border hotspots on Friday for a series of rallies across the Arab world that were meant to draw two million participants. The so-called “Global March to Jerusalem,”  however,  fizzled to localized demonstrations in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

(Times of Israel – 3/30/12) – A series of rallies across the Arab world that were meant to draw two million participants for a so-called “Global March to Jerusalem,” and which had Israeli authorities heavily deployed at potential border hotspots, fizzled on Friday to localized demonstrations in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

While Israel’s northern and eastern borders remained unthreatened, and the rallies in neighboring countries were largely peaceful, there was violence at the Jordan event: Local media reported that four American ultra-Orthodox rabbis from the extreme anti-Zionist Neturei Karta movement were beaten and verbally abused by local participants at the start of the event. They were rescued by other participants. Neturei Karta members also joined a rally in Lebanon.

The gatherings — of thousands of Arabs and international solidarity activists marking “Land Day” — were kept in check by police forces in Jordan and by the army in Lebanon.

Judging by the Global March’s Facebook page, however, the organizers considered the day a success. “The most beautiful photo of the day,” commented the page administrator on a photo of a youth, masked with a Palestinian flag, next to a burning tire on the road.

One man was reported dead and 37 injured in clashes between demonstrators and IDF forces in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian sources reported. And there were hours of clashes at the Kalandiya checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah.  (more >>>)


IDF to remain on full alert over Passover

IDF chief Benny Gantz ends the Army’s long-customary Passover vacation, orders commanders to cancel leaves and remain at full strength.

(Arutz Sheva – 3/29/12) – The IDF on Tuesday broke with Israeli tradition and ordered all units to cancel the long-customary Passover leaves and remain on full alert over the holiday.

Over the years, an army-wide break during Passover became a tradition followed by all major military units, including the Air Force, Navy and intelligence corps.

But this year soldiers will have to divide their vacation days among themselves in order to ensure that their units remain at full strength.

Senior military officials insisted the decision did not stem from any planned military operations set to occur on – or immediately after – the holiday.

IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz said Wednesday he gave the order saying he “does not accept” the notion of an army-wide vacation during Passover.

According to reports, many soldiers who received the news Tuesday did not believe the timing of the decision was arbitrary and dismissed Gantz’s explanation as obfuscation.

Military analysts say the decision does not necessarily reflect plans to undertake a major operation, but likely stems from ongoing security concerns originating in Hamas-run Gaza.


Israeli company uses bacteria to create energy used to treat wastewater

Israeli start-ups are using innovative methods to produce electricity from water, and one was just named a New Energy Pioneer by Bloomberg.

(Times of Israel – 3/27/12) – An Israeli company that uses bacteria to create energy used to treat wastewater has been named a New Energy Pioneer by Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance (BNEF) information service. Caesarea-based Emefcy’s “bio-reactor” (EBR) technology was chosen by the service because it “changes the economics of wastewater treatment by generating instead of consuming energy,” BNEF said. According to Emefcy, external power use in wastewater treatment plants can be lowered by as much as 95 percent. Emefcy was the only Israeli company honored by BNEF as one of its “leaders in the clean energy revolution.”

Emefcy’s Sabre (Spiral Aerobic Biofilm Reactor) treatment system allows wastewater treatment facilities to produce electricity. The heart of the system is Emefcy’s EBR (Electrogenic Bioreactor), which turns the organic matter in the water into the biological building blocks of what is essentially a bio-energy power plant. The water emerges clean and ready for reuse, while the electricity generated can be used to power the treatment plant itself, or for carbon credits from the local power company. Emefcy says that the system will pay for itself in five years, turning the treatment plant from power-guzzler to power producer.

Hydrospin's electricity generation device

Emefcy, established in 2007, is backed by, among others, an investor consortium that includes GE, NRG Energy and ConocoPhillips, called Energy Technology Ventures. According to the company, the potential savings from wide usage of its system in wastewater treatment plants around the world could be as much as $40 billion annually — the amount it costs to produce the 80,000 megawatt of power, the cost of the 2% of the world’s annual electricity supply needed to run the plants. In a statement, Eytan Levy, CEO and Co-Founder of Emefcyy, said that “this recognition validates our company’s vision and leadership providing energy efficient solutions for wastewater treatment. This win arrives at a time when we are about to roll out our first product enhancing our worldwide recognition.”

Emefcy isn’t the only Israeli start-up using water to generate power. Hydrospin, based in Kibbutz Lavi in northern Israel, has designed a device that acts like a miniature hydroelectric power station inside a water pipe. The device generates electricity based on the flow of water through the pipes, and the energy generated is used to supply power to components of “smart water” systems, such as monitors, probes, and GPRS devices that check information on unusual water flow, leaks, or other problems. By generating the power needed to run these devices, Hydrospin eliminates the need to change their batteries every few months. (more >>>)


Israel’s nanotechnology future on display at NanoIsrael 2012

Dozens of companies, including over 40 Israeli start-ups, will be displaying how nanotech will change the way we do almost everything.

(Times of Israel – 3/26/12) – Over the past several years, Israel has emerged as a world center of nanotechnology research, a scientific discipline that is becoming more important by the day in manufacturing, medicine, security, food production, and many other areas. Next week, the best of the world of nanotech will be on display at NanoIsrael 2012, the third international conference on all things nano being held in Israel. Dozens of companies, large and small, along with over 40 start-ups, will present projects and products that use nanotech to produce better solutions in electronics, photonics, biotechnology, medicine, materials, agriculture, and more.

Panels discussing the latest innovations will be led by world-renowned scientists, both from Israel and abroad. Among them will be Professor Reshef Tenne of the Weizmann Institute, best known for leading the group that discovered and studied the inorganic fullerene-like nano-spheres and nano-tubes (IF nano-particles, considered a new class of nano-materials), and Prof. Sumio Iijima from Japan, who is considered to be one of the fathers of the nanotechnology field and discovered the carbon nano–tube. Altogether, over 1,000 participants, including company representatives, venture capitalists and investors, investigators and entrepreneurs, are expected to speak or display their advances and inventions.

[…]  The theme of this year’s show, Swersky Sofer told The Times of Israel, is commercialization. “Israeli companies and academic institutions have been doing research for some years now, and many of the technologies they have developed are finally ready for market. We will be seeing some of these products and technologies in a variety of areas in action at the show,” she said. “The defense and aerospace industries, which use nanotechnology-based materials for a variety of applications, including shielding and materials with special properties, have increased representation in the conference. The leading defense contractors such as Plasan, Elbit, the Israel Aerospace Industries and Rafael will also take part in the conference,” she added.


Israeli surgeons repair hearts of two Iraqi children

Two Iraqi children undergo successful surgeries at Wolfson Medical Center to repair congenital heart defects. The Israeli non-profit Save a Child’s Heart organizes surgeries for children around the world – to date 2,500.

(Israel Hayom – 3/27/12) – At one Israeli hospital, a team of surgeons are giving new meaning to the idea of an open heart.

Last week, at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, two Iraqi children underwent successful surgeries to repair congenital heart defects. The surgeries, funded by the Regional Development Ministry and the European Union and orchestrated by the Israeli non-profit organization Save a Child’s Heart, took place despite the fact that Israel and Iraq maintain no formal diplomatic relations.

The Iraqi children, nearly 2-year-old Arian and 5-year-old Doah, now join 2,500 children around the world who have been given life-saving surgeries thanks to Save a Child’s Heart. Of those children, 160 were from Iraq.

Arian is already sitting up in his bed at Wolfson, playing with a helicopter toy, unaware of the interest he has generated. When he was examined for the first time by Wolfson physicians in Jordan, before his arrival in Israel, doctors were stunned: His complex heart defect was so severe that most children would have required immediate surgery in the first month of life. Arian miraculously managed to survive two years, despite the fact that the main arteries of his body were upside down. Following a series of operations, doctors created a necessary gap in his heart between the ventricles.

“There is a real chance that if he had come any later, we would not have been able to perform the surgery. He came to us at the last possible moment,” said Dr. Lior Sasson, head of children’s cardiac surgery at Wolfson. “I hope that his life expectancy will now be just like that of any other child.”

Sasson added, “The first few times, the Iraqi parents were very anxious. But they soon realized that we provide their children with the best treatment possible. The best part is watching the mothers; they fear that their child will die, and after the surgery a huge weight is lifted off their shoulders.”

Doah’s recovery is slower. She is hospitalized next to Arian and she clings shyly to her mother. She had a congenital heart defect that makes it difficult for blood to flow to her lungs and transfer oxygen to her body. Following her surgery, her pulmonary arteries were also repaired and she is now recovering.


Israel beats all comers in job creation

(Business Week – March 6) – A combination of fast population growth, robust exports, and sound monetary policy has allowed Israel to create jobs faster than the U.S., the European Union, Poland, and even Brazil. Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer says the country is now near full employment.


Treating children in Ethiopia

Two senior physicians from Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center are in the Ethiopian city of Gondar on a medical relief mission.  They are diagnosing sick children using an advanced heart echocardiograph monitor being dedicated for use in the local hospital.

(Shaare Zedik) – Two senior physicians from Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center are currently visiting the northern Ethiopian city of Gondar on a medical relief mission coordinated in conjunction with the Joint Distribution Committee.  Dr. Dan Fink, a senior pediatric cardiologist in the Jesselson Heart Center is working alongside Dr. Amos Peyser, Director of Orthopedics. Their presence in Gondar is part of an effort to provide much needed medical assistance to an area which is recognized as highly underdeveloped.

Dr. Fink, recognized as a leading Israeli diagnostician in identifying pediatric cardiac abnormalities, arrived in the city with a new advanced heart  echocardiograph monitor that was being dedicated for use in the local hospital.  Reporting by email from the city of approximately 200,000 people, Dr. Fink said that he was able to help “change the diagnosis of three chronically ill children that had been diagnosed in the past and could very well help their specific cases.”

In addition to the clinical activities in which the doctors are involved, Dr. Fink reports that they are also helping teach the local medical staff new techniques, adding that “the doctors sponge up the new information and technology very quickly and are a pleasure to work with.”

He said that he sensed a great deal of appreciation from the local population upon the arrival of the Israeli doctors and expects that this could be the beginning of a longer term relationship that would significantly benefit the local population.  “My hope is that they will start screening children without cardiac history of diseases for underlying evidence of Rheumatic Heart Diseases as a research project.  Early treatment of these patients can significantly and easily change their long term outcome from possible devastating chronic heart disease to no heart disease.”

The medical relief mission is just the latest in a series of international relief efforts which have been supported by Shaare Zedek physicians.  In recent years Shaare Zedek physicians have been dispatched to remote regions of Uzbekistan to assist in eye surgeries and treatment.  Top Shaare Zedek physicians and nurses were also instrumental in providing medical relief in the wake of recent massive natural disasters including those following the devastating earthquakes in Japan and Haiti.


 “Good Deeds Day” goes global

What began with over 7,000 participants in Israel in 2007 has turned into a worldwide celebration with 160,000 do-gooders last year across the globe volunteering in everything from cleaning nature reserves and donating blood to reading to youth-at-risk.

(Jewish Philanthropy) – Shari Arison just wants us all to do good.

Israel’s wealthiest woman – who happens to also be the richest woman in the Middle East and #57 on Forbes Most Powerful Women in the World list – has made it her mission to encourage good deeds and positive thinking.

“I believe that in order make a difference in the world and to make the world a better place for all of us, we need a critical mass of people who think good and do good. If we join together we can really make a difference,” said Arison in a recent phone interview with eJP.

There’s even a day earmarked for mitzvoth – Good Deeds Day – which was launched in 2007 by Arison’s nonprofit Ruach Tova and supported by The Ted Arison Family Foundation. What began with over 7,000 participants throughout Israel that first year has turned into a worldwide celebration with 2011 seeing 160,000 do-gooders across the globe volunteering in everything from cleaning nature reserves and donating blood to reading to youth-at-risk. (This year, Good Deeds Day will be held internationally on March 25th and on March 20th in Israel.)

Good Deeds Day has really taken off since its inception. Last year in Israel, 130,000 people actively participated in ‘doing good’ across the country. Participants included school children, businesses, IDF soldiers and municipalities, with 90 Israeli authorities signing on, including 30 Arab towns and villages. Ukraine has taken a particular shine to the mission, and devoted an entire week to doing good. Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, spearheaded initiatives in Kiev, Kharkov, Lvov, Dnepropetrovsk, Odessa, Sevastopol and Simferopol.  (more >>>)


Israeli technology helps Canadian farmers

Canadian farmers turn to an Israeli company to help them increase the milk production of their cows.

(The Canadian Jewish News) – KIBBUTZ AFIKIM, Israel Canadian farmers are turning to an Israeli company to help them increase the milk production of their cows.

Israel’s SAE Afikim, better known as Afimilk, is a world leader in computerized systems for dairy farm and herd management.

Across Canada, there are some 100 farms already hooked up to the Israeli dairy system. A team from Kibbutz Afikim is now shooting a film at Summitholm Holsteins farm in Lynden, Ont., to try to expand its activities.

“We found out that dairy farmers are most convinced by what their neighbours or friends or colleagues say,” said Noa Yonish, Afimilk’s marketing communication and market study manager.

“We are in North America to shoot a testimonial movie of real farmers who use our system successfully and are not shy about telling other people that it is good and works well,” she added.

Bjarne Rune, vice-president of sales at Afimilk said, “The average Israeli cow will produce 12,000 litres per year. For comparison, in the U.S. and Canada, it’s around 10,000 litres. The Israeli cow is significantly better, and it’s not because of the cow, it’s because of management. It’s technology, knowledge – and we really have made a difference.”

The sprawling kibbutz of Afikim is just south of the Sea of Galilee. The kibbutz has a few factories on site, but it is beside the small dairy shed that most of the action takes place.  (more >>>)


Snails And Cockroaches Turned Into Living Batteries!

Scientists at Ben Gurion University together with a team from Clarkson University in New York have managed to produce energy from living snails and cockroaches.  The quantities are small, but practical applications have already been proposed.

(Via NoCamels) Have your alarm clock batteries run out of power? No worries, just plug your snail in..

Yes, you heard us right. Snails have been turned into cyborg power generators that can generate power for months.

Researchers, led by Professor Evgeny Katz from Clarkson University, implanted tiny biofuel cells into snails that can generate electrical power from glucose and oxygen in the animal’s blood.

This pioneering experiment was led by researchers from Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y., in cooperation with Israeli colleagues at Ben-Gurion University. The results of the study are described in detail in the latest online edition of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

This is the first time that researchers have been able to generate electricity from a living creature’s body that can last several months.

“The biofuel cells are expected to operate in small creatures, such as snails, worms and insects – providing sustainable electrical power for various sensors and wireless transmitters,” Prof. Katz says.

Does this mean that cyborg snails may one day become an alternative energy source? Actually, the electrodes that fit into the bodies of snails don’t produce enough electricity to power larger devices. Nevertheless, they might generate enough power for microcircuits and tiny sensors that could record important data about the environment that a snail crawls through.

Snail’s food recharges the battery

Katz and his colleagues implanted the snail with electrodes made of thin sheets of carbon nanotubes called Buckypaper, which can conduct electricity. Those electrodes, coupled with certain enzymes, create electricity by using glucose sugar and oxygen circulating in the snail’s body.

Such a setup still allows the snails to wander around freely, while “recharge” their batteries by building up glucose through food. (more >>>)


Israel Capable of Producing 250 Billion Barrels of Oil

Israel has as much oil in its shale as Saudi Arabia.

“Our company has mapped over 250 billion barrels of recoverable oil in Israel,” says Dr. Harold Vinegar of Israel Energy Initiative Ltd.

(Arutz Sheva) – Dr. Harold Vinegar of Israel Energy Initiative Ltd. in Jerusalem is optimistic about Israel’s potential in the oil industry. He spoke to Israel National Radio’s Goldstein on Gelt show with Douglas Goldstein about energy independence and the “black gold” that is underfoot.

Dr. Vinegar was the chief scientist of Royal Dutch Shell until his retirement in 2008. He was born in Brooklyn, New York and recently made aliyah. Now, he is the chief scientist of Israel Energy Initiative Ltd. in Jerusalem, which is developing Israel’s unconventional oil reserves.

To download the podcast click here.

Douglas Goldstein: What are unconventional oil reserves?
Dr. Harold Vinegar: Conventional oil is what everyone imagines. You drill a well and oil comes out of the well under the natural forces in the ground and you basically have an oil and gas well, but there’s a whole other class of oil called “unconventional oil.” This means that when you drill those wells, the oil will require some special treatment in the sub surface in order to get it to move.
There are two classes of unconventional oils. One is the heavy oils in tar sands such as you find in Canada. These are extremely viscous molasses-like oils that need heating in the sub surface in order to get them to move, and the other class is the oil shales of the world, and these have the organic matter that makes up the carriage. It’s solid and it requires heating to a high enough temperature so that the solid basically becomes a liquid in the sub surface and then gets produced as conventional oil once it’s been heated. Those are the unconventional sources of oil.
Israel has oil shale. It doesn’t have much heavy oil, but its oil shale resources are world class, one of the largest and best in the world.
Douglas Goldstein: Why are we only finding out about this now? What’s the history of oil in Israel?
Dr. Harold Vinegar: The oil shales were basically not developed in Israel for two reasons. The first is that basically for as long as I can remember the real price of oil was $130 per barrel, going way back in my career. It’s always been roughly $20 to $25 per barrel in inflation-adjusted terms. That’s just not high enough for the capital cost required to produce unconventionals. You need something of the order of $30 per barrel and starting around 2003, the price of oil on the marketplace started rising and it’s been going up continuously since then and probably will continue to go up. Right now, we see Brent Crude at about $120 per barrel. The time has come that unconventionals are actually economic to develop and this plays in Israel’s favor because it has enormous quantities of this oil shale.
Douglas Goldstein: When you say enormous, what are the specs of that?
Dr. Harold Vinegar: Our company has mapped over 250 billion barrels of recoverable oil in Israel and that’s a conservative estimate. To put that in perspective, Saudi Arabia has about 250 billion barrels of conventional oil reserves in the ground. (more >>>)


* Thanks to for a number of stories.

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