Hard though it is to believe, another week has sped by, and here is this week’s Good News Friday installment.
My first item counts as a “Two for One special bonus package” (at least for Israelis): Heavy rains force Gaza tunnels to close:
The Hamas government in the Gaza Strip on Thursday ordered the closure of smuggling tunnels running beneath the Egyptian border due to the inclement weather.
Multiple Palestinian smugglers died recently after the heavy rains caused their tunnels to collapse, according to Israel Radio. It added that Hamas reportedly demands the tunnel owners compensate the victims with $10,000.
Last month, Hamas officials had also announced the closure of the smuggling tunnels connecting the Gaza Strip to Egypt due to heavy rains. Several smugglers were reportedly buried during the January storm as well.
The bonus in this piece of good news is the renewed heavy rainfall that we have been having for the last few days. It has been filling our rivers, reservoirs and our beloved Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) to its highest level in decades.
Speaking of rain leads us to the subject of water and the environment. In a rare case of cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the two sides are working to preserve the area around the Jordan River:
Quietly, Israel and the PA have been cooperating extensively to preserve the environment of the entire land mass west of the Jordan River, according to a top water engineer from a large Palestinian-controlled city in the West Bank. The PA needs and wants Israel’s help in keeping water clean, expanding agricultural opportunities for farmers, and ensuring safe disposal of waste and trash, the engineer said.
Attending the 17th annual International Cleantech Business Forum in Tel Aviv this week along with about a dozen other PA engineers and municipal officials, “Amar” (who asked that his real name and employer’s name not be used in this article) told The Times of Israel that everyone in the PA, without exception, had nothing but admiration for Israel’s accomplishments in technology, especially water and agricultural tech. “We want and need the advanced systems that Israel has developed to preserve the environment and to enhance agricultural output. We are neighbors, and we share the same environment, so it is to both our advantages that we cooperate on these issues.”
Far from the limelight, said Amar, Israel and the PA have developed numerous joint projects to tackle environmental problems. “For example, this June a new sewage treatment facility in Emek Hefer will come on line, which will be connected to sewage flow from Tulkarm, Jenin, and other West Bank towns.”
The project is actually the completion of a long-standing effort by officials on both sides of the Green Line to do something about the wastewater from PA cities which had for years choked and threatened to destroy the Alexander River, which flows near Netanya. The project required extensive cooperation between Israel and the PA, with contractors building cesspools, pipes, and other infrastructure. “Even during the wars [Operation Defensive Shield in 2002-2003, Operation Pillar of Defense last year] the cooperation continued,” Amar said. The more, and higher quality, water available, the more West Bank farmers will be able to plant, and the higher their incomes and living standards will be. “That’s good for everyone as well,” Amar added.
While the water situation around Israel deteriorates, Israel, said Landau, has found the solution to its own water problems — and is ready and willing to export its knowledge and experience to any who seek it, include its long-time enemies. “Within a few years, there will be a 70% to 80% chance that the water coming out of your tap will be desalinated.” Thanks to technology, Landau said, “Israel’s water supply is now stable.”
Already, Landau said, about a quarter of Israel’s water economy is based on desalinated water, a figure that will reach 50% within two years; the goal is to raise that to 75% by 2020.
But desalination isn’t the only area Israel excels in. “Already 75% of the water supplied to agriculture comes from recycled sewage and waste water. According to the UN, which has declared 2013 ‘The Year of Water,’ there is no ‘waste water,’ only water that has not been recovered. The UN has called on nations around the world to aim for a 50% recovery rate of wastewater by 2025. In Israel we have a 95% recovery rate.”
Israeli companies, concluded Landau, are the world leaders in desalination and sewage recycling. “And if our neighbors choose to seek our help, we will gladly provide it,” Landau added.
For example, Amar said, the PA has stopped drawing water from the badly-depleted Jordan River, even though it is entitled to a share, along with Jordan, according to the Oslo Accords. Instead, Israel has been compensating the PA with water from the National Water Carrier, which draws from the Kinneret, the Coastal Aquifer, and increasingly, from desalination plants.
It’s sad that “Amar” feels he has to stay anonymous, probably for his own safety, even while Israel is helping his own community and he himself represents his government (if that’s the right word), but I find this news item hugely encouraging on so many levels: on the environment and water preservation level, the political aspect and even the security aspect.
I hope this project and similar ones continue to grow and develop for the benefit of all people living in this tiny country.
My last item for today turns from the environment to Israel’s thriving bio-med developers. An Israel company has developed a cartilage regeneration solution which would help so many millions of sufferers from knee problems:
If you get a cut, break a bone or scrape an elbow, your bloodstream brings the injury all the necessary nutrients for healing. But if your cartilage gets damaged, you’re out of luck. This flexible soft tissue that cushions joints – especially in the knee – has no blood vessels and therefore little ability to heal itself.
However, a privately held Israeli medical device company is now offering a safe and effective, novel off-the-shelf cartilage regeneration solution in a global market worth an estimated $1.6 billion annually.
CartiHeal’s trademarked Agili-C can be implanted in a single-step arthroscopic procedure. In clinical studies, it was shown to regenerate true hyaline cartilage (the most abundant type of cartilage in the human body) after six months.
Founder and CEO Nir Altschuler tells ISRAEL 21c that this is a breakthrough in the field — the “Holy Grail” in orthopedics — because other experimental treatments generate only “hyaline-like” cartilage, which is actually a non-lasting fibrous tissue rather than the real deal.
“Our clinical results, to date, confirm rapid cartilage and bone formation, as clearly visible on MRIs and X-rays,” says Altschuler. “Patients are reporting significant improvement in pain level and return to normal function, including sports.”
The implant has earned the European Union’s CE Mark of approval, and the company is currently running post-marketing clinical studies at leading centers in Europe.
There are approximately 1.2 million cartilage repair procedures performed annually worldwide, and these surgeries mainly aim for pain relief since it hasn’t been possible until now to regenerate true hyaline cartilage.
Altschuler says Agili-C has the potential to heal the problem at an early stage and halt further joint degeneration, and therefore might have the potential to prevent the need for more radical procedures, such as knee replacement, down the road.
The implant provides a scaffold that enables stem cells to climb up from the bone marrow, form vessels within the scaffold and regenerate tissue, Altschuler explains.
Within a few months, the top layer becomes cartilage while the bottom layer becomes bone – each identical to the body’s own tissues. The regenerated cells gradually dissolve the implanted scaffold and the joints are nearly as good as normal.
This solution sounds brilliant and I can think off hand of several members of my own family who would benefit hugely from this new development. Kol hakavod to all the Israeli scientists, researchers, developers and marketers who worked to improve the health of millions of people worldwide.
I wish you all Shabbat shalom!