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April 8, 2012

Israel in the News for the Week of April 8th

by City of Ariel

Thousands march through Jerusalem for Easter

Thousands marched through Jerusalem’s cobbled old city Saturday morning. Franciscan monks and ordinary believers of every denomination walked through Jerusalem’s old city and congregated at Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Olive trees in Gethsemane

(Ynet – 4/7/12) – Thousands of Christians gathered near Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher for Easter Saturday and marched in processions brimming with tradition, taking turns to pray in the site where they believe Jesus was slain and buried.

Easter Saturday is a day of reflection and waiting for many Christians, who believe Jesus was crucified on Friday and rose from the dead on Sunday.

“This day is very important for us. It’s the waiting for the great celebration of the resurrection,” said Father Ibrahim Shomali, a Palestinian Christian priest from the nearby town of Beit Jala.

Thousands marched through Jerusalem’s cobbled old city Saturday morning.

They were led by Palestinian guards in black costumes richly embroidered with gold, topped with scarlet rimless hats. They rhythmically pounded their staffs on the cobble-stone ground, providing a beat for believers to march. The guards, “Qawwasin” in Arabic or “Marksmen” in English, are a leftover vestige from when Ottoman Muslims ruled the Holy Land, Father Shomali said.

According to a series of traditions established over hundreds of years of accommodation between different Christian sects and the region’s ever-changing rulers, the Qawwasin march at the head of the Easter Saturday procession. Their job was formerly to protect Jerusalem’s Catholic patriarch. Now, it is a ceremonial role.

They were followed by Franciscan monks in plain brown robes, clerics in black garb, and then ordinary believers. The believers congregated in the Holy Sepulcher for prayer, where many Christians believe was built on the site where Jesus was crucified and buried.

“This is the place where Jesus is in his tomb, this is the place, a magnet of the world,” said worshipper Jim Carnie of New York City, New York. “The power of this place, to be here, it has to be experienced,” he said.

The Holy Sepulcher is a complex of cave-like rooms, winding corridors, a soaring domed roof, and ornate decorations alongside broken furniture.

Different, often rival, Christian sects control different parts of the Sepulcher, and they have been unable to agree on maintenance and upkeep in some areas.

Catholic and Protestant groups that observe the Gregorian calendar will take turns praying in the Holy Sepulcher on Saturday Eastern Orthodox churches and others who follow the older Julian calendar will mark Easter a week from now.

There are about 110,000 Arab Christians in the Holy land, along with thousands of Christian foreign workers, asylum seekers, and Russian-speaking immigrants.

They are accompanied by tens of thousands of Christian pilgrims from outside the region who flock to Jerusalem and the Holy Land for Easter rites.


Israel showcases the latest and greatest in agriculture

Visitors from 115 countries are expected at Agritech Israel in mid-May. Now in its 18th year, the show is the go-to event for all the latest innovations in the industry.

Visitors from far and wide flock to Agritech for solutions.

(Israel21c – 4/2/12) – Israel’s agriculture scientists have revolutionized the way farmers irrigate and store crops, protect plants from drought and disease, keep pests away naturally, and purify and reuse wastewater.

That’s why more than 7,000 foreign visitors from 115 countries are expected to converge on Tel Aviv from May 15-17 for Agritech Israel 2012, Israel’s 18th International Agricultural Exhibition. About 200 companies will show potential customers the newest approaches and inventions to grow better crops, flowers and even fish and dairy cows.

Here’s a preview of just some of the cutting-edge products to be demonstrated.

Extracting pomegranate seeds

The ruby-red seeds (arils) of the pomegranate fruit offer a host of health benefits. However, extracting the seeds to package them for salads or to press for pomegranate juice is a labor-intensive and messy business.

Where better than Israel, a country whose pomegranates are a national symbol, to come up with a neat solution?

At Agritech, general manager Avner Galili of Juran will demonstrate ArilSystem, a machine that rapidly extracts pomegranate seeds in commercial quantities.

ArilSystem also removes the tough peel and inner membranes, a particularly important selling point for the beverage industry since the tannins in pomegranate membranes add a bitter taste to the juice.

Juran’s pomegranate seed separator.

“Pomegranate is an evolving product worldwide,” Galili tells ISRAEL21c. “Juran is the world leader, using a patent developed mutually by us and the Volcani Institute-Agricultural Research Organization,” an agency of the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

“We believe the only way to keep the pomegranate sector profitable is by industrializing it — fresh-cutting, juicing, drying and freezing. Juran supplies all of the needed equipment and technology for doing it.”

In business for more than 45 years, Juran designs and manufactures innovative machinery for agriculture and the food industry to streamline operations and revolutionize tedious processes such as picking, packing and sorting.

Sharing know-how with other countries

The most advanced irrigation and fertilization technologies coming out of Israel will be presented at Agritech by Yuval Elazar, head of special training activities at the CINADCO Center for International Agricultural Development Cooperation.

Based in Rishon LeZion, CINADCO implements Israel’s agricultural cooperation policies with more than 140 developing nations, working through MASHAV, the Israeli agency for international development. Multilingual training sessions in Israel and abroad cover water resources management, irrigation and fertilization, sustainable market-oriented agriculture, intensive livestock and dairy production.

There are numerous examples of how Israel has shared its agricultural technology breakthroughs practically since the founding of the state. Across the globe, countries use Israeli methods for raising crops and farm animals.  (more >>>)


Cleantech Investing In Israel, The Startup Nation

Israel is the “Start-Up Nation.”  The tiny country has more scientists, engineers, and start-ups, per capita, than any other nation in the world.  Numerous Israeli firms have been acquired by leading multinationals including Google, IBM, and HP.  Other Israeli start-ups have gone public; more than 50 Israeli firms are listed on the NASDAQ alone.

(Forbes – 4/5/12) – Israel is also a hotbed of cleantech entrepreneurship. According to a new report from the Cleantech Group and WWF, Israel is the second most innovative country worldwide for cleantech.  (Denmark ranked first).  “Coming Clean: The Cleantech Global Innovation Index 2012” finds that Israel leads the world in creating cleantech companies and has produced a disproportionate number of high-quality firms.

Israel Cleantech Ventures (ICV) is the leading cleantech venture capital firm in Israel.  To learn about Israeli cleantech innovation and ICV’s strategy and investments, I spoke with the firm’s three founding partners: Jack Levy, Meir Ukeles, and Glen Schwaber.

Q: Israel is often described as the “Start-Up Nation.”  Why?

A, Jack Levy: Per capita, we have by far the most start-ups, particularly in cleantech. Although Israel is 60-plus years old, the country’s private sector is really young.  Its roots are in the 1980s and 1990s.  A lot of the dynamism in the economy really comes from that.  Another driver is the military experiences that young people go through, which gives them great responsibilities, great opportunities, and a can do attitude.  But the driver that is most important and hardest to replicate is cultural, the perspective that failure can be one step along the way.  America shares that perspective, but there are plenty of other cultures where a fear of failure keeps very talented people from taking risks or leaving larger organizations to start enterprises.  Israel has a risk-taking culture.  A lot of it comes from the fact that the downside is not as strong.  If you fail, you’ll try to learn from that failure and keep going.  People won’t hold your failure as a strike against you.

Q: In what areas is Israel strongest in cleantech innovation?

A, Meir Ukeles: At Israel Cleantech Ventures, we focus on areas that make sense in Israel for venture investing.  Generally these are areas where Israel has very strong roots, in traditional energy and water industries.  Israel is a dry country with a lot of sunlight and, up until recently, no domestic fossil fuel resources.  Not surprisingly, technologies for solar, water efficiency, water treatment, water reuse and, in the last 10-15 years, desalination, have pretty deep roots.  Call that one bucket.  (keep reading >>)


New Jersey Governor Christie prays at Jerusalem’s Western Wall on Israel visit

(NY Post – 4/3/12) – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made a huge impression at Israel’s Western Wall yesterday during his first official overseas trip as head of the Garden State.

Christie, wearing a yarmulke with his name and title embroidered on it, brought his political heft to the holiest Jewish site in Jerusalem, where he laid his hands on the rough-hewn stone, his eyes shut in prayer.

Surrounded by a throng of rabbis and onlookers, Christie downplayed suggestions that the trip to Israel is intended to raise his political prospects back home.

“Anything I do fuels speculation for a future bid,” Christie told The Associated Press.

“I am here because this is a place of enormous significance in the world.”

Christie’s brief visit to what has been called the Wailing Wall highlighted his growing popularity. Tourists stopped to shake his hand and pose for pictures. He even held a 6-month-old baby for one photo.

The rabbi of the holy site, who gave him a personal tour, was quick to point out that politicians who visit tend to win elections.


Israel-made anti-virus “spider nets” ensure that insects don’t ‘bug’ produce

Meteor’s anti-virus agricultural nets ensure that bugs stay out of the lettuce patch and off the tomato vine. Thanks to the company’s technology, farmers are able to save billions each year – and observant Jews are able to have lettuce in their salads

(Times of Israel – 4/3/12) – Petah Tikva-based Meteor, which pioneered the use of nets to prevent insect infestation in crops, will be introducing innovations to its “anti-virus” agricultural nets. The nets, according to the company, prevent insects from attacking vegetables and flowers and causing the destruction of billions of dollars’ worth of produce a year. The anti-virus “spider net” marketed by Meteor features a web of tiny micro-fibers that insects cannot penetrate. By keeping the bugs out, Meteor CEO Avi Klayman said, the nets are able to prevent the spread of diseases that until recently have caused major financial losses for farmers.

Meteor’s nets have been instrumental in helping to prevent infestations of one of the whitefly, one of the greatest nemeses of farmers, Klayman said in a recent interview. The creature, which carries, among other diseases, Tomato Yellow Leaf Curl Virus, is alone responsible for some $1 billion in damage annually. The whitefly attacks the DNA of plants, causing them to shrivel up and die, and is extremely difficult to control as it is capable of quickly building up resistance to pesticides. For Western farmers, said Klayman, it’s an inconvenience and an expense; but for billions of people in the third world, whitefly infestation and the subsequent destruction of crops could mean privation, if not starvation.

Meteor began producing agricultural nets in the late 1980s, after Israel lost nearly all of its tomatoes to yellow curl disease. After consulting with scientists at Israel’s Agricultural Research Organization (the Vulcani Institute), Meteor developed a net that was capable of blocking the whitefly’s physical access to plants, while allowing sunshine and air circulation to penetrate. As an additional benefit, the net allows farmers to avoid overuse of pesticides.

One of the more interesting aspects of Meteor’s technology has been its use in the “kosher vegetable” industry. Ever since DDT was banned in the early 1970s, Orthodox Jews have been leery of leafy vegetables, such as lettuce and parsley, because of insect infestation. According to Jewish law, eating any insect is forbidden, and the rules regarding inspection of produce are very strict. (more >>>)


To Milan, with communicative car windows and earthquake-proof tables

Bezalel Academy’s design-technology innovations go on show at a major exhibit.

(Times of Israel – 4/1/12) – Students at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem will be showing off projects that meld design and technology at the prestigious Milan Design Week in mid-April.

Milan Design Week, or the Salone Internazionale del Mobile di Milano, is the largest trade fair of its kind in the world, and showcases the latest in furniture and design. Each year’s show has a unique theme, and this year the theme is “Design and Technology.”

Of the 2,500 exhibitors, a limited number of design academies were chosen to present advanced technology projects, and Bezalel, as one of the chosen academies, will be presenting designs that incorporate new technologies to solve various problems, as well as old technologies revamped for the modern era, the school said.

Among the projects to be presented will be the Bezalel-designed Windows of Opportunity, a host of applications using computers, touch technology, and interactive components that let passengers and drivers use their car windows to create, design, and communicate with other vehicles on the road. One app, called Spindows, is an an “in-window app” that lets users view the world from car windows. Another app, Otto, features an animated character projected over passing scenery that responds to real-time car performance, weather and landscape. The images appear on the car’s windows, with the animated character pointing out information as drivers pass sites.

The apps were created by Bezalel students at the school’s Future Lab, which is sponsored by General Motors. The innovations are to be rolled out by GM in several of its car models over the coming years.

Another Bezalel-created project that will be presented in Milan will be an Earthquake-Proof Table, providing a comprehensive solution by creating both covering protection and a passageway for rescue team accessibility, its inventors, Arthur Brutter and Ido Bruno, said. The table, designed using algorithms, has proven resistant to collapse in rigorous stress tests. When not in use as an earthquake or disaster shelter, it can be used by students for… well, studying, the pair said.  (more >>>)


A medical miracle at the Wolfson Hospital

Israeli doctors at Wolfson Medical Centre were able to save the life of 14-year old Elisa Manuel Antonio from Angola after they took out from her chest a 14 cm tumour that pressed her heart and threatened her life. Only a few similar cases are known in the whole world.

(News from Jerusalem) – Elisa Manuel Antonio was first diagnosed during the Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) medical mission In Angola last October. Elisa was examined by senior cardiologist Dr. AlonaRaucher, who saw such a huge tumor for the first time in her career. “I was shocked when I first saw her”, says Dr. Raucher, “and immediately understood we need to bring her to Israel to try and save her life”.Elisa was brought to Israel by SACH.

On March 19, 2012, after hours of complicated surgery, the SACH team managed to take out the tumor from Elisa’s chest and saved her life.Elisa is now recovering at the Wolfson Medical Center. She will stay in Israel another month and once the doctors are sure she is well enough, she will return home to Angola. The SACH medical team will continue and follow up on Elisa’s condition through the local cardiologist in Luanda and will examine her once a year when going to Angola on a medical mission.

About Save a Child’s Heart (SACH)

SACH is an Israeli-based international humanitarian project providing life-saving heart surgery and follow-up care for children from developing countries. SACH’s mission is to improve the quality of pediatric cardiac care for children from developing countries, who suffer from congenital heart disease and to create centers of competence in these countries.

SACH is a hospital based project whose services are provided at the Wolfson Medical Center in Israel by a team of 70 dedicated experts who, from chief surgeon to physiotherapist, contribute a substantial portion of their time without any additional payment from SACH.


Angel of Africa: Israeli doctor helps refugees

After three years of caring for thousands of sick patients in Africa, gynaecologist Dr. Avigail Maayani has returned to Israel to treat African refugees in Tel Aviv.

(Ynet) – Three years ago Dr. Avigail Maayani left for Africa to care for the sick and lead medical training courses. Now she has returned to Israel, but Africa is still on her mind.

The good doctor chose to continue caring for Africans at the Israel Medical Association (IMA) refugee clinic in Tel Aviv.

When she first left for Africa, Mayani, a trained-gynecologist, left behind her husband and three children and joined the international Global Youth Partnership for Africa (GYPA) delegation, in cooperation with Brit Olam, an international Israeli Jewish Volunteer Movement, on a three month volunteer program

On her first journey to the southern continent, she visited a small city near Uganda. There she cared for sick patients and trained locals in the fields of hygiene, proper nutrition, baby care, sexually transmitted diseases and children’s illnesses.

Maayani met nearly a 1,000 patients throughout her initial journey, an experience which affected her so deeply she began dreaming of moving to Africa and saving more lives.

In the meantime, many African refugees have arrived in Israel, and Maayani is there to provide them with proper medical care.

“Helping people is giving love without conditions, without wanting anything in return. It makes you whole and enriches you as a person,” she explained.

The refugee clinic was founded some three years ago by the IMA and Israel’s Health Ministry. Dozens of doctors care for hundreds of patients there every month.


* Thanks to for a number of stories.

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