Good News Friday

Despite the depressing nature of my previous post, and most of my other posts this week, as always there are bright spots of good news that deserve an airing before Shabbat. This is especially true this weekend when we are heading into Yom Kippur tonight. (A separate Yom Kippur post will go up later. Stay tuned or check back later today). So here is this week’s Good News Friday installment.

Johnson Liu, deputy director-general of the China Foreign Trade Center

My first item is partly an anti-BDS comment and partly a promo for Israel’s hi-tech industry: In a role reversal, Chinese representatives are courting Israeli businessmen in order to buy their goods, not just to sell Chinese goods to Israel:

The ubiquitous “Made in China” stamp that for years could be found on cheap manufactured goods in Israel and around the world is gradually giving way to a new economic reality.

On Monday, representatives from Canton Fair, China’s largest trade exhibition, met in Tel Aviv’s David Intercontinental Hotel and urged Israeli businesses to join the event in mid-October. But for the first time, they were not courting just importers to distribute Chinese goods to Israel; instead, they laid out the case for Israeli businesses to sell to China.

“Israel has some products that are world-class,” said Johnson Liu, deputy director-general of the China Foreign Trade Center. “It has advantages in agriculture, hi-tech and green sectors, and the Chinese market has great demand for this, so we’re looking for exporters this time to come to the fair.”

Although China already imports significant amounts from Israel – in 2012 Israel sold $2.74 billion of goods to China – a considerable portion of that comes from just two companies. Sales by Intel accounted for a third of Israeli exports to China in 2012, while Israel Chemicals accounted for over 20 percent, according to Globes.

The new push for Israeli products is to help China fill the needs of its transforming economy. The government plans to urbanize 250 million of its rural inhabitants by 2025, a feat that the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a think tank, estimated would cost $106b. a year.


China’s turn to Israel as a market of innovation is part of a larger trend, as Canton Fair itself demonstrates. In 2007, it changed its full name from the Chinese Export Commodities Fair to the China Import and Export Fair.

“The market in Israel is not very large, but we pay great attention to how it can supplement China’s markets, to what we don’t have but you do,” Liu added.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who has cited Asian markets as a major engine of Israeli potential economic growth, visited the country in May and expressed hope that bilateral trade would increase 25%.

In July, Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett laid out preliminary steps for negotiating a Free Trade Agreement with China, on his own visit to the Eastern giant.

This is all excellent news for Israel from both economic and political standpoints. Selling to a huge market like China has obvious benefits, but with the shakiness of Europe’s and America’s economies, exacerbated by their cold-to-wavering political support for Israel, it makes sense to look to new horizons. Let’s just hope that China’s economic good sense stretches to more solid political support for Israel and less support for its enemies.

Dr. Sarit Larisch

Another example of Israel’s technological prowess is demonstrated once again in its bio-medical industry, where an Israeli researcher has discovered a protein that could be used  to eradicate cancer:

“Killing these cancer stem cells is the holy grail of cancer treatments and therefore holds promise for complete eradication of cancer,” says Dr. Sarit Larisch of the University of Haifa.

These are not words pronounced lightly; instead, they follow more than a decade of research that could give hope to cancer patients worldwide. Along with her colleagues, Larisch has established the basis for developing a new, more effective treatment for cancer using a protein called ARTS.

ARTS is a protein, which along with a number of other proteins and enzymes, regulates what is known as apoptosis. Apoptosis is the process of programmed cell death which occurs when a cell is damaged, mutated or no longer functional. ARTS acts as a trigger for cell death, its presence allowing for enzymes called caspases to destroy the non-functional cell.

But this process is missing in cancer cells.


“We have found that ARTS is lost in many types of cancers. Therefore, determining levels of ARTS in blood could provide a marker to alert to the possibility of developing certain types of cancers.” Consequently, Dr. Larisch believes that small molecules that mimic ARTS could restore the ability of cancer cells to be killed selectively using the natural process of apoptosis.


The therapy would also minimize common side-effects of conventional cancer treatment. “All currently available cancer drugs have unwanted side effects because they harm normal cells as well. In contrast, ARTS-based cancer drugs should only kill cancer cells because they act by specifically correcting the defect in their cell suicide program, caused by the loss of ARTS,” says Larisch.

Read the whole article for more technological detail. Kol hakavod to Dr. Sarit Larisch and her team on this wonderful discovery and their research and development. I pray that the treatment they are pioneering will be successful and will save innumerable cancer patients.

Close up of a Byzantine-era solid gold menorah medallion found near the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount

Concluding this weeks’ installment, and leading us into Yom Kippur where the main action of the day took place in the Temple, the Bet Hamikdash, an amazing treasure trove has been discovered at the archaeological dig at the base of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem:

Hebrew University researchers on Monday announced the discovery of a rare trove of Byzantine-era gold and silver artifacts, the most impressive of which is a 10-centimeter solid gold medallion emblazoned with a menorah and other Jewish iconography.

The find, unearthed in the area adjacent to the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount known as the Ophel, was dated to the early 7th century CE, in all likelihood the time of the brief Persian conquest of Jerusalem.

Professor Eilat Mazar described the discovery as a unique find with “very clear Jewish symbols.” She posited that the hoard of gold and silver objects, found beneath the floor of a Byzantine-era house meters from the massive walls of the Temple Mount, was brought by Jews who returned to the city after the Persians conquered it from the Byzantines in 614 CE.

Hebrew University professor Eilat Mazar displaying a Byzantine-era gold menorah medallion found near the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount – the picture illustrates the proportions of the medallion

“I have never found so much gold in my life!” she said with obvious excitement at a press conference on Mount Scopus. “I was frozen. It was unexpected.”

The centerpiece, a medallion that Mazar posited may have been used as ornamentation for a Torah scroll, is emblazoned with a seven-armed candelabrum — a menorah — a Torah scroll, and a shofar, a ram’s horn.

The Torah scroll, she explained, is a unique icon that is not commonly found in artifacts from this time period.

Byzantine-era gold coins found near the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount

Excavators also found a collection of 36 gold coins marked with the visages of Byzantine emperors from Constantine II to Mauricius, ranging over 250 years, and gold bracelets, earrings, a silver ingot and a gold-plated hexagonal prism.

Mazar stated that her supposition was that the hoard was a communal treasure, meant to help the sparse Jewish community survive hard times or rebuild what the Jews hoped would be a free community under Persian rule. “What is certain is that their mission, whatever it was, was unsuccessful,” she said.

Eilat Mazar is one of my heroes and one of Israel’s too. Her archaeological excavations are successful, educational and shine a bright light on the Jewish People’s unbroken history and links to the Land of Israel.

May the Temple service be renewed speedily in our days, Amen.

Until then, I wish you all a Shabbat Shalom, and to those who are observing Yom Kippur an easy and meaningful fast.

Gmar Hatima Tova and Shabbat Shalom.

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