Here’s my latest Good News Friday installment.
We’ll start with some news from the last week or two concerning Israel’s natural gas discoveries.
Delek and Noble Energy signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Cypriot government
to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant at Vasilikos on the island’s southern coast. The companies are partners in Israeli offshore fields Tamar and Leviathan and in Cyprus’s Block 12.
This despite Turkish objections to the deal. Strike one against Turkey.
The cabinet has also approved exporting 40% of the gas and keeping 60% for domestic use.
At the start of the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the decision to export 40% of Israel’s gas reserves and keep 60% for domestic use was the right balance. “Today, I am submitting to the cabinet a decision that I made along with Minister Energy and Water Resources Silvan Shalom, Minister of Finance Yair Lapid and Governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Stanley Fischer. We held serious, in-depth, significant discussions because we are delving into the depths of the sea, and made a decision about Israel’s gas economy,” he said.
“Israel has been greatly blessed with gas in the Mediterranean Sea. This gas can meet two of our basic needs: one is to move the local economy forward by consuming cheaper energy, that part which can use gas; and the second thing is to fill the state coffers with billions of shekels from gas exports and the taxation that we will levy on it. The correct balance between the two is not self-evident. We discussed it, we discussed and we decided. I think that we found the correct balance. We were not swept away on the waves of populism that are washing over the country, the world, and we did the right thing for the State of Israel.”
I am neither an economist or an energy expert, so I hope the government is making the right decision. I simply consider it a miracle altogether that Israel has suddenly been blessed with natural resources, something our founding generation could only have dreamed about.
Turning to Israel’s biomedical industry, Israel has produced a revolution in the treatment of arthritis:
Enbrel, for the treatment of inflammatory diseases and probably the most successful Israeli drug that you do not recognize as Israeli.
The researchers, Prof. Dan Aderka and Prof. David Wallach, from Sheba Hospital, Tel Hashomer and the Weizmann Institute of Science, respectively, were the first to guess that a molecule such as Enbrel had to exist. They also were the first to patent the product, a patent that protected their developed product and which recently expired.
An additional patent is based on Enbrol, a molecule that when added to the drug makes it easier for the body to absorb, and this patent right was recently approved until 2026.
Enbrel saw sales of $3.9 billion in 2012 making it the seventh best-selling drug in the US. This achievement was due to the fact that it is the most innovative treatment for inflammatory diseases that has come onto the market in recent years.
Israel Rheumatology Association chairman and Head of the Rheumatology Outpatient Unit at the Sourasky, Ichilov Tel Aviv Medical Center Prof. Ori Elkayam said, “Enbrel and other biological medicines changed the face of rheumatology. Previously, we feared the effects of these drugs, but today, after 20 years of experience, it has been proven that the benefits are much larger than the possible harm. There is huge impact on patients and many of them divide up their lives into before the biological drugs and after them. In light of the therapeutic success, we are committed to diagnose the disease in its early stages and treat accordingly to stop the inflammatory process and prevent the damage caused by the chronic disease to patients.”
Kol hakavod to the researchers, Prof. Dan Aderka and Prof. David Wallach, from Sheba Hospital, Tel Hashomer and the Weizmann Institute of Science, respectively, for their persistence and inventiveness. Read the whole article to learn about the obstacles in their way and how their perseverance overcame these problems.
Staying with the world of bio-technology, an Israeli company, Agro-Shelef, has found a great way to minimize the use of pesticides:
an Israeli agro-tech company has come up with a novel solution to diminish the use of chemical pesticides on fruits and vegetables: Spray them with pest-fighting vegetable oils!
Tamar-Tech, by the company Agro Shelef, is a plant pest control system that consists of a blend of oils that contain natural plant protecting elements. These emulsions are sprayed on agricultural plants in greenhouses or in fields.
“We use the natural pest-fighting ability of plants to create Tamar-Tech,” Founder Almog Yaish tells NoCamels. “To take an extreme for example, peaches contain cyanide in their pits. This is because they [have evolved] to protect themselves against threats such as squirrels. So too do other plants and fruits also contain many different ways to block their ‘enemies.’”
“Our biggest challenge has been starting a small company in an industry full of giants. The pesticide industry is similar to the pharmaceutical industry: huge companies with big budgets. And no one questions the efficiency and nature of their products,” explained Yaish.
“We had to go and convince farmer by farmer by showing them demonstrations of the product in action. They were almost always surprised to see that a natural product can be so efficient. In the Negev [Israel's desert region], we have managed to get into the tomato growing industry, and we are having a real, measurable impact on the amount of [chemicals] Israeli consumers are ingesting.”
This is excellent news for health and for the environment. Kol hakavod to Almog Yaish and Uri Yaffe for their brilliant innovation.
In a related news item, (h/t Reality) we learn in “the land of milk hangs on to its honey” how Israel’s bee colonies are faring relatively better than in the rest of the world:
Since 2007, bees across the world have been mysteriously dying out, with losses most severe in the United States but also ravaging the bee populations in Europe and the Middle East. The phenomenon, called Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, has by some estimates wiped out up to 80% of the bees in the US. In Israel, the impact has been less catastrophic, but still extraordinarily grave — experts say that about half of the bees here have succumbed.
But aside from the bee-eating mite, which causes a disease called varroatosis, most of the factors killing off bees in the rest of the world are actually completely manageable with proper foresight and research, Soroker says. They are simply the result of a world that is increasingly hot and pesticide-dependent.
Because the key to staving off bee deaths is control, Efrat adds, Israel is at a significant advantage. Whereas in the United States and other large countries, beekeepers may have hives that are more than a days’ travel away, in tiny Israel, beekeepers can’t lay claim to more than 1,500 square meters of terrain. That means that beekeepers live near their hives and are able to keep regular tabs on the weight, food supply and water sources of their bees. Mysterious die-offs and sudden collapses are significantly less prevalent when hives are under such close scrutiny, he says.
Israel is the only country, Efrat adds, that demands every beekeeper provide a clean, pesticide-free water source for its bees. Nevertheless, 15 apiaries have died out already this year because of contaminated water sources. But the very fact that the Ministry can pinpoint those 15 apiaries and has identified the exact cause of death means that the ominous label of CCD can, at least in these cases, be prevented.
Israel is unique in that its officials monitor every single hive, an intense and far-reaching system of checks that would be unthinkable in bigger countries but is, for the time being, keeping Israel’s death count on the lower side.
This is a fascinating article on a subject that I know very little about. I’m glad to hear that Israel’s situation is relatively good and that the various authorities are keeping a close eye on the matter. Kol hakavod to the researchers and the government authorities responsible.
For my final item for the day we cross all the way over to … Kuwait! In a spectacularly unusual statement, a Kuwaiti legislator said he loves Israel!
Two Kuwaiti members of Parliament took the rare step of not merely acknowledging military trade and other dealings with Israel, but praising the Jewish state, in video clips compiled and translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
In interviews aired on Al-Adala TV and posted online in late June, the MPs defend financial ties with Israel, one of them citing religious doctrine permitting dealing with Jews, and the other saying he “loves” Israel for helping keep Kuwait safe.
“If the security of Kuwait requires the purchase of Israeli equipment, I will do so, and I will love the Israelis for it. It is permitted to deal with anyone for the sake of Kuwait’s security,” argued al-Fadhl.
The legislator responded to the interviewer’s surprise and dismay at his professed willingness to trade with “Zionists,” saying: “So what? We’re talking about my country’s security. How exactly did the Muslims benefit us, when our Arab neighbor [Iraq] invaded our country? I am willing to buy equipment from Israel to protect my country from its Arab and Muslim neighbor.”
This is extraordinary on so many levels – for the honesty of Hammad al-Dosari, (an independent MP from Kuwait’s fifth district), his candor, and for his courage in making his statement publicly. It is also extremely encouraging for us Israelis. If only the rest of the Arab world could treat Israel as openly and practically as this Kuwaiti, peace would break out in the Middle East almost instantly.
On that happy, if highly optimistic, note, I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!