Good News Friday

This week’s edition of Good News Friday is going to be a bit of a mixed bunch.  I will start with noting that today is a sad day: Asara BeTevet, the fast of the 10th of Tevet, commemorating the start of the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar’s army. It is also designated as Yom HaKaddish Haklali (lit: the day of universal Kaddish), the day of mourning for people whose date or place of death is unknown.  I was going to write a separate post about it, but instead, for lack of time, I’ll just post a few links for those who are interested to learn more:

Jerusalem under siege; Yom HaKaddish Haklali (day of mourning for people whose date or place of death is unknown); when Asara BeTevet falls on a Friday.

Old City of Jerusalem, blanketed in snow

Now to the almost good news: the unprecedented cold, wet and snowy weather which is good news for some people, mostly kids who have a “snow day” from school”, but not such good news for many people who have gotten stuck in their cars on the roads, either in snowdrifts or in flooded areas,  or are just snowed in at home. Forget Iran or the Palestinians. The weather is all that’s occupying most Israelis for the past 24 hours or more. An unprecedented winter storm has blown in over Israel with huge rainfalls and snowstorms over the whole country.

Jerusalemites awoke Friday morning to a city covered in white, as a rare and punishing winter storm dumped several centimeters of snow on the capital, shutting it down and stranding thousands of people on area roads.

And it’s not over. After setting a December record for snowfall on Thursday with some 30-50 centimeters across the country, flurries are expected to continue in Jerusalem throughout the day Friday.

Police and rescue services instructed residents to avoid driving into and out of the capital and avoid going out at all, except in cases of emergency. The two main arteries into Jerusalem, Routes 1 and 443, were shut down Thursday night and authorities said they would remain closed until further notice.

Police were also preparing for floods on the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv Friday morning as rainfall and thunderstorms continue.

[...]

Police and Israel Defense Forces crews worked throughout the night and into the morning to rescue travelers in cars and buses stranded on the roads leading into Jerusalem, at one point putting out a public call for help from anybody with a 4X4 vehicle.

Around 2,000 people were rescued from vehicles during the night, according to Israel Radio. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who requested help from the army and police, said he hoped the operation would end Friday morning.

[...]

Though snow is not unheard of in Jerusalem, it rarely hits this early.

The wet weather, typical of an early winter storm, combined with unusually low temperatures to blanket the capital and other mountainous areas, including the West Bank, the Galilee and the Golan Heights, in snow.

Meanwhile the Rabbis issued a call for prayer of thanks for the massive rainfall – and instructed to stop praying for rain! – after Israel suffered the driest early winter on record.

The reason for my hurry is that I’m invited to my daughter in the Shomron (Samaria) for Shabbat, and because it has started snowing heavily there – again, this is almost unprecedented – I want to get going before I get stuck on the roads.

My younger daughter is snowed in once again in Elazar in Gush Etzion. The pictures she has been sending are very much like those at the link. Here’s one from yesterday:

Snow in Elazar, 12 December 2013

Weather reports can be read at Times of Israel, Ynet (Hebrew, the English hasn’t been updated overnight), Arutz Sheva, and the Jerusalem Post.  There are great pictures at every one of those links. Read and enjoy!

Intel’s new facility in Haifa sets a high standard for green buildings

And now for a complete change of subject and onto the genuinely good news, TechRepublic has a great report on how Israel is rewriting the future of cyber security (h/t MP). It’s a very long article but it is a beautiful paean of praise to Israel and its hi-tech sector. Here’s a very small excerpt:

Israel has been dubbed “The Startup Nation” because it has the highest density of startups per capita in the world—one for every 1,844 citizens (or 2.5 times the U.S. rate). More Israeli companies are listed on the NASDAQ than from all European companies combined. Israel ranks third in the world for venture capital availability and second in the world in the availability of qualified scientists and engineers. Yet, this is a tiny country with roughly the same land mass as New Jersey.

The story of how this undersized, continually-threatened nation of 7.5 million people—less than the population of New York City—has become one of the pre-eminent players in the tech world is complicated. Plenty of journalists, researchers, and government officials from across the globe have probed this issue and argued with each other about the genesis of Israel’s technological success.

The influx of technically-savvy Russian immigrants in 1990s played a big part. Conscription of young Israelis into the entrepreneurial ethos of the IDF was an important factor. Facing continual geopolitical conflicts created the confidence to solve problems that others deemed impossible. The fact that many of Israel’s founders were scientists and intellectuals certainly laid the groundwork for placing a high cultural value on technology. But, above all, the fact that Israel is such a small country with limited resources confronting multiple simultaneous threats means it must rely on better tools and automation and ingenuity in order to survive.

Read it all. It will put a smile on your face to read such high praise for our little country.

Israeli researchers stop the brain from aging

In related news via No Camels, we learn that Israeli researchers have have made a major step towards halting neuro-degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s – by essentially stopping the brain from ageing:

The researchers, led by Doctor Ehud Cohen, found that TyrNovo’s novel and unique compound, named NT219, selectively inhibits the process of aging in order to protect the brain from neurodegenerative diseases, without affecting lifespan. This is a first and important step towards the development of future drugs for the treatment of various neurodegenerative maladies.

Read the rest of the article which explains the process by which the researchers made this very important discovery. Kol hakavod to Dr. Cohen, Dr. Reuveni and Dr. Levitzki and all the other researchers who will hopefully bring us a cure for these dreadful diseases.

To conclude this week’s post, staying with the biomedical field, here is a wonderful video (via Dad) showing a new Israeli device which helps the blind to see. From the description on the YouTube page:

OrCam camera device is one of Israel’s Top 10 advances in vision. Hebrew University Prof. Amnon Shashua created this device that attaches to eyeglasses and is wired to a portable computer in the wearer’s pocket. Using bone conduction technology, it “speaks” text (menus, street signs, grocery labels, newspapers) as well as bus numbers and other objects that the user points to. It can even recognize faces and monitor traffic lights.

Kol hakavod to Prof. Shashua who developed this extraordinary and brilliant device, enabling thousands of blind and vision-impaired people to be able to see and function normally.

Once again, Israeli scientists and researchers, working to make the world a better place for everyone.

And with that I shall wish you all Shabbat Shalom. I hope you all have a dry warm weekend however cold the weather is outside.

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6 Responses to Good News Friday

  1. cba says:

    Drive safely, stay warm, have a great Shabbat!

  2. Brian Goldfarb says:

    With reference to “Start Up Nation” (the book), the authors spent a deal of time with President Shimon Peres, and credit him with helping to create the climate in which start-ups happen. This, note, despite his lack of formal technological education but thanks to his vision of what Israel could do and had to do to survive.

    And also despite his reputation as a loser in the political arena. I have one Israeli friend who jokes that if (when a party politician) he had run against himself for the Prime Ministership, he’s have lost!

    • anneinpt says:

      It’s true what you write about Peres. He has a perennially youthful and forward looking vision which reflects the character of the state. Or perhaps he even helped created that character.

      It’s also true about his political loser-ness. The Israeli joke said that if he would run against himself for head of his house residents’ committee (vaad bayit) he’d lose! :-)

  3. PeteCA says:

    Ohhhhh … you think Israeli researchers have stopped the brain from getting older. Well in the USA we have our own solution. The Kardashians have stopped the human brain from ever reaching maturity !!

    Hahahahahahaha!!!!!
    Pete, USA

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