Another week has flown by and it’s time for my latest Good News Friday post.
My first item is about a very unusual Egyptian: Maikel Nabil, a blogger, peace activist and human rights dissident amongst other things is visiting Israel, and he brings a message of genuine peace (via CiFWatch):
The word “bravery” is pranced around way too frequently these days, but a young Arab, in a country struggling to free itself from the yoke of tyranny – who defiantly promotes the causes of democracy, tolerance and peace between Arabs and Israelis deserves such recognition.
Liberal Egyptian blogger, human rights dissident, and peace advocate Maikel Nabil spent over 302 days in prison for criticizing the Egyptian Military after it took power in early 2011. Before he was released on Jan. 24, 2012 – after a “Free Maikel” Twitter campaign captured the support of millions worldwide, and after his 130-day hunger strike – Nabil was subjected to beatings, torture and other cruel forms of abuse.
Nabil believes there is a much greater degree of goodwill on behalf of Egyptians towards Israelis than what the media is reporting, and it would be fair to characterize his trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories (sponsored by UN Watch) as a genuine “peace mission” aimed at dispelling myths about both Egyptians and Israelis – all of which makes the disruption of his speech at Hebrew University yesterday, by “pro-Palestinian activists” almost inexplicable.
Nabil believes that the Muslim Brotherhood-led government is indeed a step backwards for Egyptian democracy (and for Egyptian-Israeli relations), but he expressed confidence that the truly liberal values of the revolution will ultimately prevail.
“It might take 3 or 4 years”, he told me, but a democratic Egypt which respects the human rights of all its citizens, secular and religious, will, he fervently believes, eventually emerge.
Finally, I’d highly recommend reading Nabil’s blog post about Israel, also written while in an Egyptian prison, titled “Why am I pro-Israel“, which provides a fascinating insight into the mind of the truly liberal activist, and should offer a glimmer of hope even to the most cynical among us.
I echo Adam Levick’s recommendation to read Nabil’s blog-post. His insight into what makes Israel tick and what is wrong with the Arab Middle East is highly impressive – as is the man himself. A true hero.
My next piece of good news is about a very unusual group of Olim (new immigrants) who just landed in Israel this week. Michael Freund, founder and chairman of Shavei Israel which assists lost tribes and hidden Jewish communities to return to the Jewish people) reports on the Aliya of 53 members of the “lost tribe” of Bnei Menashe from north-east India, joining the 1,700 members of their group who already living here:
This past Monday, as the Uzbekistan Airways flight began its descent to Tel Aviv, over 50 pairs of eyes looked out the plane’s windows, anxious to catch a glimpse of their new home.
For more than 27 centuries, their ancestors had wandered in exile, clinging to the dream that one day, despite the odds, they would somehow be able to return. And now, at last, that age-old ambition was poised to become reality, as 53 new immigrants from the Bnei Menashe community of northeastern India came in for a safe landing at Ben-Gurion Airport.
Who says we don’t live in an age of miracles? The Bnei Menashe are descendants of the tribe of Manasseh, one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel exiled by the Assyrian empire in 722 BCE. Despite being cut off from the rest of the Jewish people for so many centuries, the Bnei Menashe remained dedicated to their heritage, stubbornly cleaving to the faith of their forefathers. They observed the Sabbath and kept kosher, celebrated the festivals, practiced the sacrificial rites and even argued a lot among themselves, just as Jews have done since time immemorial.
Indeed, the Bnei Menashe never forgot who they are or where they came from, or where they one day dreamt of returning.
That fidelity is now being rewarded as their remarkable odyssey comes full circle and they make their way back to their ancestral homeland, the land of Israel.
THE 53 new arrivals constituted the first group of Bnei Menashe that Shavei Israel, the organization I founded and chair, has been able to bring on aliya since 2007, when the Olmert government inexplicably decided to freeze the immigration of these precious souls. But after five long and often lonely years of pounding the pavement as well as a number of bureaucrats’ desks, we were able at last to persuade the powers that be to open the door once again for the Bnei Menashe.
In a unanimous and historic decision, the Israeli cabinet on October 24 passed resolution 5180, which formally restarted the aliya and granted Shavei Israel permission to bring an initial group of 274 Bnei Menashe back home to Zion. The 53 immigrants who arrived earlier this week were the first batch from among the 274, while the remainder will come here over the next month.
This is all being made possible thanks to some generous Jewish philanthropists in Europe and the United States, as well as some of Israel’s Christian friends.
The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is covering most of the cost of the flights for the immigrants, while Bridges for Peace and others are helping to fund their absorption.
The new arrivals will join the 1,700 Bnei Menashe who are already living in the Jewish state, and have become an integral part of Israeli society.
The return of the Bnei Menashe to our people is a tangible reminder of the power of Jewish memory to overcome all obstacles, and the inevitability of Jewish destiny to prevail. Let anyone who doubts the power of the Jewish spirit take a moment to consider the wonder of it all.
A tribe of Israel, once deemed lost forever, is lost no more.
Read the whole very moving article. Bruchim Haba’im to the Bnei Menashe! Welcome to Israel. May you have an easy klita (absorption).
The last item for this week comes once again from Israel’s amazingly inventive health and biomedical industry. An Israeli company has announced the successful trial of an implant to control epilepsy:
Much progress has been made in the treatment of epilepsy, but some forms of the condition, like “refractory epilepsy” cannot be treated by any drugs on the market today.
But Israeli company BioControl Medical (and its spin-off CerebralRx) recently announced the successful trial of FitNeS, an implant designed to treat epilepsy patients with partial onset seizures who do not achieve full seizure control with available prescription drugs.
BioControl, which already got the medical community’s attention with their CardioFit implant, presented its findings at the American Epilepsy Society 2012 meeting in San Diego. In the five reported cases, the device was successfully implanted in patients and led to an approximate 50 percent reduction in seizures.
“The early results of treatment with FitNeS are very encouraging. Even at relatively high currents, we are seeing positive outcomes in efficacy and an absence of side effects experienced by patients,” says Profesor Elinor Ben-Menachem, the physician monitoring the patients.
The FitNeS system was developed to offer a new treatment option for refractory epilepsy patients while delivering improvements over existing vagus nerve stimulation devices. In addition to its potential to increase stimulation efficacy and minimize side effects, the FitNeS system was designed to employ lower currents, minimize nerve damage through a unique nerve electrode interface, reduce current leakage through improved cuff isolation, and allow for safe and easy explant of the electrode if required.
Kol hakavod once more to Israel’s brilliant scientists, working to make the world a better place for all humankind.
Shabbat shalom everyone!