Good News Friday

Another in my Good News Friday series.

Our first piece of good news comes in the unlikely person of British comedian John Cleese, founding member of the “Monty Python” who is to star in a commercial for the famous (or is it infamous?) Israeli chocolate spread, so beloved of Israeli schoolchildren who eat it on their sandwiches.

The end of the summer is here and children around Israel are preparing to go back to school. The famous Israeli school snack — chocolate spread sandwiches — is also gearing up for its return to schoolbags.

Famed British actor John Cleese has been recruited by one of Israel’s most-popular chocolate spread producers, Hashahar Ha’oleh, to promote their spreads, Israel Hayom has learned.


Cleese, of Monty Python and Fawlty Towers fame, was recently cast in Reshef Levy’s new movie “Hunting Elephants.” He had to turn the part down, however, due to medical reasons. Patrick Stewart will instead play the role, and is currently in Israel for filming.

Hashahar Ha’oleh was not prepared to give up on Cleese and because he could not fly to Israel, they flew to his home in Monaco. The entire production staff was flown out from Israel to make the commercials, with Cleese apparently receiving $50,000 for his participation.

I admit I had high hopes for the advert since John Cleese’s humour is so hilariously subversive. See this clip of Monty Python’s famous Ministry of Silly Walks for example.

However Israellycool has found a Youtube version which is slightly disappointing. Perhaps there’ll be funnier versions to come. Here it is:

And now from the ridiculous to the sublime, (h/t Arsen Ostrovsky‘s twitter feed), Israeli researchers have discovered something that might enable paralyzed people to speak:

Almost completely paralyzed people such as British theoretical physicist Prof. Stephen Hawking might one day benefit from Israeli and US research that identified a structured neurological code for syllables and could let them “speak” virtually by connecting the brain to a computer.

The work, just published in the prestigious Nature Communications online journal, was conducted by Prof. Shy Shoham and Dr. Ariel Tankus of the biomedical engineering faculty at Haifa’s Technion- Israel Institute of Technology and Prof. Itzhak Fried of Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and the neurosurgery department at the University of California at Los Angeles.


At present, people with “locked-in syndrome” who are unable to speak or operate most of their muscles are able to communicate by batting their eyelids when a light passes over letters in the alphabet and reaches the one they want.

They are thus laboriously able to put the letters together into words and sentences, as Hawking – who has suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease since early adulthood – does today five decades later. It takes minutes to complete a sentence.

There was research at the Weizmann Institute of Science that found controlled breathing into a tube could be used to select letters or syllables.

“We performed both sharp and gradual tuning. We found neurons that react to specific vowels,” said Shoham. If the brain’s language center/computer interface is successfully developed further and the whole range of vowels and consonants can be recognized as a structured code, he continued, the patient might be able to communication merely by trying to speak but being unable to produce sounds.

“This is the first step but an important one,” Shoham said.


A wireless connection between the brain and any computer could then “translate” what he intended to say into artificial speech. “It is so far very promising,” said Shoham, “but I can’t say how long it would take. There are only a handful of Israelis with the need for such a device but thousands around the world. There are many more people who suffer from less serious paralysis and speech difficulty who could benefit.”

Once again, kol hakavod to our Israeli scientists and their American counterparts for being on the cutting edge of science to advance health and progress for all humanity.

My last piece of good news relates back to my item from a couple of weeks ago about the Olympic gold medal win by Jewish American gymnast Aly Reisman. This week an Israeli soldier wrote Reisman a beautifully moving letter with which I think we can all identify.

Dear Aly,

I want to tell you about how you became the hero of a gym full of Israeli soldiers.

The same Israeli soldiers who have to deal with Iran’s nuclear threat to the Jewish state. The same ones who serve two-to-three years of their lives, because we have to; because there’s no one else that would do it besides us, because our neighborhood sucks, and when the leadership next door in Syria massacres their own people, there’s no way we would let them lay hands on our kids, as foreign dictators have done for thousands of years.

You picked a song for your floor routine in the Olympics that every Jewish kid knows, whether their families came from the shtetls of Eastern Europe, the Asian steppes of Azerbaijan, the mountains of Morocco or the Kibbutzim of northern Israel. It’s that song that drew almost everyone at the Israeli army base gym to the TV as soon as the report about you came on the news this morning. After showing your floor exercise to Hava Nagila, the announcer told about your gold medal with unmasked pride, and of your decision to dedicate it to the Israeli athletes who were killed in the Munich Olympics in 1972.

There were some tough people at that gym, Aly. Men and Women, Battalion Commanders from Intelligence, Captains from the navy, Lieutenants from the Armored Corps and more. You probably understand that words like ‘bravery’ and ‘heroism’ carry a lot of weight coming from them, as does a standing ovation (even from the people doing ab exercises.) There was nothing apologetic about what you did. For so long we’ve had to apologize for who we are: for how we dress, for our beliefs, for the way we look. It seems like the International Olympic Committee wanted to keep that tradition. Quiet, Jews. Keep your tragedy on the sidelines. Don’t disturb our party.

They didn’t count on an 18 year-old girl in a leotard.

There wasn’t one person at the gym who didn’t know what it was like to give back to our people, not one who didn’t know what happened to the good people who died in 1972, not one who didn’t feel personally insulted by their complete neglect in the London Olympics, the 40 year anniversary of their deaths, and not one who didn’t connect with your graceful tribute in their honor.

Thank you for standing up against an injustice that was done to our
people. As I was walking back to my machine at the gym, I caught one of the officers give a long salute to your image on television. I think that says it all.


Dan Yagudin

I say Amen to that, and wish you all Shabbat shalom!

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2 Responses to Good News Friday

  1. reality says:

    I love your good Friday pieces they’re wonderful-could you add a push away the Sunday blues too?

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