Good News Friday

It’s time for another Good News Friday installment and I apologize for publishing so close to Shabbat.

Heart of gold

My first item for this week is all about Israeli researchers who have engineered a heart of gold – literally!

Scientists at Tel Aviv University may have made a breakthrough in the field of  heart restoration through the use of gold nanofibers, reports.

Using the gold nanofibers (fibers with diameters less than 100 nanometers) in engineered heart tissue,the scientists have been able to optimize circulation and create tissues that mimic the heart’s coordinated electrical system.

In the event of a heart attack, heart tissue sustains irreparable damage since cells in the heart cannot multiply and the cardiac muscle contains few stem cells, writes NoCamels. When damaged, the heart tissue is unable to repair itself – becoming fibrotic and unable to contract properly.

“Gold has been found to increase the connectivity of biomaterials,” explains researcher Dr. Tal Dvir. With the addition of the gold particles, cardiac tissues contract much faster and stronger as a whole, he reports, making them more viable for transplants.

Kol hakavod to those brilliant researchers who have used their own heart of gold to make hearts of gold for cardiac patients.  May their research prove to be highly successful for the benefit of all cardiac patients.

A vaulted room in the recently uncovered Crusader hospital in Jerusalem’s Old City (photo credit: Courtesy Israel Antiquities Authority)

My next item remains in the medical field but goes back in time several hundred years – to a massive Crusader hospital which has been uncovered in the Old City of Jerusalem:

The massive building, in the area of the Christian Quarter known as the Muristan (based on the Persian word for “hospital”), was excavated by the IAA in cooperation with the Grand Bazaar Company of East Jerusalem. The dig was initiated after Grand Bazaar decided to open a restaurant at the site.

Archaeologists have only uncovered a portion of the complex, which covers an estimated 15 dunams (3.7 acres).

The hospital was built by the Knights Hospitaller, a Christian military order. Also known as the Knights of Saint John, after John the Baptist, the order was founded around 1023 to care for poor and sick Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem. After the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem in 1099, the Hospitallers gained their own Papal charter, giving them the task of defending the Holy Land in addition to providing for pilgrims.

With ribbed vaults and massive pillars, the building was apparently exquisite. The ceilings stand over six meters (18 feet) high.

“We’ve learned about the hospital from contemporary historical documents, most of which are written in Latin,” said the IAA’s Amit Re’em and Renee Forestany, codirectors of the dig, in a statement. “These mention a sophisticated hospital that is as large and as organized as a modern hospital.”

The earliest description of the hospital comes from John of Wurzburg, a German pilgrim who visited Jerusalem around the year 1160. “Over against the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, on the opposite side of the way toward the south, is a beautiful church built in honor of John the Baptist, annexed to which is a hospital, wherein in various rooms is collected together an enormous multitude of sick people,” he wrote. “When I was there I learned that the whole number of these sick people amounted to two thousand, of whom sometimes in the course of one day and night more than fifty are carried out dead, while many other fresh ones keep continually arriving.”


According to other accounts, the knights cared for both men and women from all religions. There are even records of the hospital serving kosher food to Jewish patients.

Despite the grandeur of the building, the knights used the primitive methods that were typical of their time. There is an account of a patient’s foot being amputated for a minor infection, a procedure that ended up killing the woman. The knights were able to gain medical knowledge from the local Arab population, which placed a premium on medical expertise.


The structure collapsed in an earthquake in 1457. Some portions of the hospital survived, remaining in use through the Ottoman period. There were rooms that served as a stable, and archaeologists found the remains of horses and camels during the excavation.

Until the year 2000, the building, owned by the Muslim Waqf, housed a crowded fruit and vegetable market. Since then, it has stood empty just off the Arab market on David Street.

According to Monser Shwieki, project manager for the Grand Bazaar company, the new restaurant will be incorporated into the existing structure, and “patrons will be able to marvel at the magical medieval atmosphere at the site.”

He said that the site is due to open to the public this year.

What a fascinating story, and right beneath our feet in Jerusalem! It sounds like this is a must-see for all visitors to Jerusalem and I very much look forward to going to visit.

Moving back to the present day, this week Greek, Cyprus and Israel signed an energy accord:

Cyprus, Greece and Israel signed a deal on Thursday to cooperate over energy and aiming at securing Europe’s energy supply.

A memorandum of understanding was signed by Cypriot Energy Minister George Lakkotrypis, his Greek counterpart Yannis Maniatis and Israel’s Silvan Shalom.

A statement said the three countries welcomed joint projects in the energy sector to “enhance the security of energy supply, sustainable development and cooperation among countries in the region.”

It said they also supported the privately initiated EuroAsia Interconnector project, which aims to link the three countries with an electricity cable.

“This project… could potentially allow for the export of electricity generated in the eastern Mediterranean to the EU energy market through the trans-European electricity networks,” the communique said.

[…]Natural gas has been discovered offshore Israel and Cyprus, and studies are underway on building a liquefied natural gas plant in Cyprus.

Taken together with Israel’s offshore natural gas finds and onshore shale oil discoveries, this tripartite agreement is excellent news for Israel as well as for Cyprus and Greece.

Baby elephant born in Ramat Gan Safari

A final feel-good story for this week is the announcement of the birth of a baby elephant in the Ramat Gan Safari (h/t Reality):

On Friday, LaBelle gave birth to a 200 pound elephant calf at the Ramat Gan Safari in Tel Aviv. The successful birth was uneventful for first time mom, who is part of Ramat Gan’s extensive animal conservation program.

The female baby, yet to be named, is an Asian elephant and will likely join her mother and grandmother in the elephant breeding program when she is grown. Asian elephant numbers have been dwindling rapidly in recent years due to habitat loss, deforestation, and poaching, sparking efforts to breed the animals in zoos like Ramat Gan across the globe.

While the newborn calf appears healthy, LaBelle has not yet nursed her baby. Instead, the calf has been nursing from her grandmother, LaPetite, who is also set to give birth any day now.

“This is her first live baby,” Sarit Horowitz of the Ramat Gan zoo explained of LaBelle. “She may not know what to do, and the grandmother may be helping out.”

Horowitz added that removing the grandmother to force the mother to feed may be too disruptive and stressful for the calf and adult elephants, although Horowitz admitted that the bossy grandmother may be the reason that the calf and mother aren’t bonding.

“The grandmother is horning in rather too much,” Horowitz said.

Zoo officials are watching the situation carefully, but hope that when LaPetite goes into labor and gives birth to her own calf things may work out on their own without human intervention.

If needed, zookeepers will isolate the mothers and their babies to help the mom-calf pairs bond and keep the calves healthy.

Oy. I hope they sort out their domestic problems soon!

But meanwhile, Mazal tov to the proud mother. May it bring lots of nachas to the staff at the Safari – and to the entire elephant family. 🙂

Shabbat shalom everyone!

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1 Response to Good News Friday

  1. Reality says:

    What a great post as always to start the new week. Mazal tov to the elephant family & may they have many more children & grands/great grands? ! I wonder if that is the elephant we saw last year lying on her side -she was pregnant & lying in the shade with a broken foot ,which the zoo keepers said was healing but the weight of elephant plus pregnancy was too much for her leg to take but was healing nicely. If so an even bigger mazal tov as it obviously healed well!
    As for the heart of gold -what a wonderful invention. And as for the excavated hospital-amazing! What a great find & yet another proof that Jews were in Jerusalem way before the Palestinians!
    Good luck to all those working on the energy accord & I hope they sell energy to EU at the highest price possible with no strings attached. Otherwise they should look to Indianor Far eastern markets & let EU stew in its Arab oil juices!

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