Good News Friday

To make up for last week’s shortfall, and to continue our Yom Haa’atzmaut celebrations, this week’s Good News Friday installment is going to be a super-bumper family size economy pack. 🙂

Shipping containers at Haifa Port

First, a retrospective study from the Israel Export Institute reveals that Israel’s exports have risen a staggering 16,000% since its founding in 1948!

With a relatively minuscule domestic market and hostile neighbors, Israel was forced to develop a strong export-oriented economy early on. What seemed to be a near-impossible situation in the early days of the state has enabled Israel to develop a prosperous, advanced economy. In 1948, Israel exported a total of $6 million in goods and services, while in 2013, exports totaled $95 billion, representing a 16,000-fold increase in 66 years.

The numbers show steady growth in all areas of the export economy, with exports rising an average of 7.7 percent each year since 1990, when exports totaled $17.3 billion. Before 1990, Israeli exports were dominated by agricultural, industrial and electrical products, but since then services, including software, Internet and security technology, have become an important export sector. In 1990, products accounted for $12.7 billion of Israeli exports, growing an average of 5.5% annually to reach $61.7 billion in 2013. In the same period, service exports grew an average of 9% annually, growing from $4.6 billion to $33.1 billion.

Pharmaceuticals, chemicals, electronic parts, software, aircraft and telecom have been the strongest export performers, especially since 1990, the institute said. Pharmaceutical exports amounted to $140 million in 1990, and by 2013 were worth $6.8 billion — a 48-fold increase, with exports growing at an annual average clip of 18%. A significant portion of that increase was due to exports by Teva, which has become one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world.

Electronic components, such as those used in advanced machinery, were another Israeli specialty that took off during the period. While the electronics export market was strong before 1990, the sector performed very well over the past 24 years. In 1990, Israel exported $200 million in electronic components and grew to $4.75 billion by 2013 — a 23-fold increase.

Telecom equipment has also been a strong export sector for Israel over. In 1990, the country exported $450 million worth of equipment. By 2013, that figure had grown to $2.3 billion — a 411% increase, the institute said.

The numbers are truly staggering when taking into account the almost constant warfare, terrorism, boycotts, Israel’s tiny geographical size and its absorption of millions of immigrants, many of whom were traumatized and penniless. Now compare these numbers to the Palestinians’ constant whining, and their development of their one and only speciality: hijacking and suicide bombing.

I think we can all be proud of our tiny country’s achievements.

Back pain

Since Teva was mentioned in the above article, this leads to our next item of good news in which Teva reported success in their back-pain treatment study:

[Teva} today reported success in a Phase III clinical trial for its abuse-deterrent extended-release CEP-33237 drug for chronic low back pain. The results showed significant improvement in the treatment of patients’ chronic low back pain as measured by both weekly average Worst Pain Intensity and weekly Average Pain Intensity scores.

CEP-33237 is a hydrocodone bitartrate acetaminophen-free formulation for the management of pain severe enough to require daily, around-the-clock, long-term opioid treatment and for which alternative treatment options are inadequate. The drug had a safety profile consistent with the known safety profile of hydrocodone and other opioid analgesic therapies.

“With more than 100 million Americans living with the distress of chronic pain, patients, clinicians and society as a whole have a real need for effective opioid therapies,” said Teva Global R&D president and Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Michael Hayden.

If the success reported in the study carries through to a marketable drug, this is marvellous news for all those hundreds of millions of sufferers worldwide – including several in my own family right here.  If I understand the words “abuse-deterrent” correctly,  this means that this drug could be taken long-term which is even better news. Kol hakavod to the brilliant scientists and researchers at Teva for this new development.

Mango the bear undergoes surgery in the Ramat Gan Zoological Center’s animal hospital near Tel Aviv.

Speaking of back pain, surely Israel must be one of the only countries (if not the only one) in the world where veterinary surgeons operate on a bear for back pain. (via Reality). And not just any old bear but a Syrian one. An enemy!  🙂

In Israel, a 19-year-old Syria brown bear named Mango underwent surgery Wednesday to repair a herniated disc, said Sagit Horowitz, a spokeswoman for the Ramat Gan Zoological Center near Tel Aviv.

Zoologists first noticed Mango had a problem when he started to show signs of paralysis in his hind legs in the last few weeks, said Dr. Merav Shamir, who led the surgery on the furry patient.

“It started acutely,” she said. “He wasn’t able to move his right hind limb and it progressively deteriorated over the following 48 hours to become completely paralyzed on the hind limbs.”

Horowitz said veterinarians discovered the 250-kilogram (550-pound) bear had the injured disc during an X-ray taken after noticing his worsening paralysis. That disc compressed Mango’s spinal cord and caused the paralysis he had been suffering through, Shamir said.

Veterinarians shaved parts of the bear’s furry back to prepare him for surgery Wednesday, as well as intubated him. They propped his head up on a pillow wrapped in a trash bag and put an IV through his snout. They also wrapped a blood-pressure cuff around his right paw.

[…]

Shamir said other bears with a similar disc problem like Mango had been euthanized and that the surgery he underwent was novel for bears — though often performed on small dogs.

“I’m nervous now — I’ll be happier in a few hours,” Shamir said before the hourslong surgery began. “I wish him luck.”

What a sweet story. I’m sure you’ll all join me in wishing Mango the bear refuah shlema. Read the rest of the article to learn more about all the other treatments and surgeries that have been carried out in the Ramat Gan Wildlife Hospital on assorted animals from around the country, including using acupuncture to cure the chronic ear infection of a 14-year-old Sumatran tiger named Pedang, and operating on that Maya the rhino’s long and awkwardly downward pointing horn:

[which] was stopping her from chomping down her daily diet. The horn, which extended beyond end of her nose, prevented Maya from getting close enough to the ground to eat properly. As a result, the decision was taken to perform some rhino rhinoplasty and saw off half of Maya’s horn.

Kol hakavod to the dedicated vets and their assistants at the Ramat Gan Wildlife Hospital. They give the same dedication to life and humanity to wild animals that Israeli doctors give to our sworn enemies on the Syrian border.  They are a shining example to the entire world.

Intel in Kiryat Gat

In other technology-related news, Intel is investing $6 billion in upgrading its Kiryat Gat center:

Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) will invest $5-6 billion in upgrading its Kiryat Gat fab sources inform “Globes.” The company is set to file an investment plan for the upgrade with the Ministry of Economy’s Investment Center and can expect to receive a grant of about 5% of its investment – NIS 750 million.

[…]

Intel Israel currently has four development centers in Haifa, Yakum, Petah Tikva and Jerusalem and two production plants in Kiryat Gat and Jerusalem. The company, which began operating in Israel in 1974, and set up its first development center undrer the stewardship of Dov Frohman, today has 9,855 employees.

Total production of Intel Israel is about $1 billion annually and $10 billion over the past decade. Over 40 years, Intel has invested $10.8 billion in Israel in its development and production centers

Intel VP and Intel Israel CEO Maxine Fassberg said, “In 40 years, Intel has exported goods worth $35 billion mostly from its production centers in Kiryat Gat and Jerusalem. In 2013 the Intel plant in Kiryat Gat won the Intel Quality Award for its special performance. Intel is committed to continue its run of quality achievements resulting from its Kiryat Gat fab.”

This is excellent news for Kiryat Gat and the surrounding area since is is  considered on the “periphery” of Israel’s population and industrial centers. Assuming the development goes ahead this will bring very many jobs and increase the productivity of the entire region. Kol hakavod to Intel for their investment and for recognizing Israeli quality when they see it.

Moving from the 21st century back a few millennia, two important, related archaeological discoveries have been made in recent days in Jerusalem.

Massive stones under the Kotel in the Western Wall tunnels

In the first item (not necessarily in chronological order) The Israeli Antiquities Authority has uncovered some 60 meters of Western Wall foundations, leading to an exciting discovery: One unique smooth stone, unlike any other in the wall. The stone may be left over from the construction of the Second Temple.

The recent discovery is fascinating at the very least: a single stone that is different in appearance from the others and raises quite a few questions. It is completely smooth, lacking the cut margins at the edges that we know well from the other stones of the Western Wall.

Where did that stone come from? Why is it there, and why is it different from the stones around it? All the foundation stones of the Western Wall are Herodian stone, also known as ashlar stone, with cut margins and a raised center, called a boss. Even though Herod’s stonemasons finished these stones rather coarsely, these stones still bear a close resemblance to the familiar stones of the Western Wall, the ones that are above ground. Of all the stone blocks used to build the Western Wall, only this one is completely smooth, lacking recessed margins and a raised boss.

Eli Shukron explains it with an interesting theory. “This stone came from the Temple Mount, from the surplus stones that were used in the construction of the Temple itself. Those stones were high-quality, chiseled and smooth, like this unusual one, which was discovered among the Western Wall’s foundations. This stone was intended for the Second Temple, and stones like it were used to build the Temple — but it was left unused. The builders of the Western Wall brought it down here because it was no longer needed up above — and this is how the other stones of the Temple looked,” he says, adding, “Anyone who passes a hand gently over this stone feels a slightly wavy texture, just like the Talmud describes.”

[…]

The last time a stone from the Western Wall caused such excitement was many years ago, when archaeologist Dan Bahat exposed the layer of stones known as the Master Course in the Western Wall’s northern section, which runs along the route of the Western Wall Tunnels. The Great Course’s purpose was apparently to stabilize, with its great weight, the courses beneath it. The first stone of the Great Course, going toward the south, is the largest stone in the Western Wall: a 570-ton stone 13.6 meters long, an estimated 3.5 to 4.6 meters wide and 3.3 meters high.

Herod’s engineers and builders, who constructed the entire length of the Temple Mount’s Western Wall, did not place one course on another in a smooth, straight line. Instead, they used a special method in which each layer was moved back about two centimeters from the one below it. The purpose of this method was to provide stability to the structure and give it an impressive appearance, especially from a distance. The “smooth stone” that was discovered in the foundations of the Western Wall is similar in size to the other stones of the Western Wall and a great deal smaller than the stones of the Master Course.

Read the entire fascinating article. It brings our history to life.

The excavations in Jerusalem’s City of David

The second related discovery comes from an Israeli archaeologist who reports having uncovered the legendary citadel captured by King David when he conquered Jerusalem:

“This is the citadel of King David, this is the Citadel of Zion, and this is what King David took from the Jebusites,” said Shukron, who said he recently left Israel’s Antiquities Authority to work as a lecturer and tour guide. “The whole site we can compare to the Bible perfectly.”

[…]

Shukron’s dig, which began in 1995, uncovered a massive fortification of five-tonne stones stacked six metres wide. Pottery shards helped date the fortification walls to be 3,800 years old. They are the largest walls found in the region from before the time of King Herod, the ambitious builder who expanded the Second Jewish Temple complex in Jerusalem almost 2,100 years ago. The fortification surrounded a water spring and is thought to have protected the ancient city’s water source.

The fortification was built 800 years before King David would have captured it from its Jebusite rulers. Shukron says the biblical story of David’s conquest of Jerusalem provides clues that point to this particular fortification as David’s entry point into the city.

In the second Book of Samuel, David orders the capture of the walled city by entering it through the water shaft. Shukron’s excavation uncovered a narrow shaft where spring water flowed into a carved pool, thought to be where city inhabitants would gather to draw water. Excess water would have flowed out of the walled city through another section of the shaft Shukron said he discovered — where he believes the city was penetrated.

Shukron says no other structure in the area of ancient Jerusalem matches what David would have captured to take the city. The biblical account names it the “Citadel of David” and the “Citadel of Zion.”

Read the whole article. Again, it brings Jewish history and the Bible to life in an inimitable way. If only it could be definitely proven to be true!

Khaled Abu Toameh

Back to the 21st century, what better way to finish off this week’s special edition with the great news that Israeli-Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh has won the Pearl Prize for journalistic courage:

Khaled Abu Toameh, a reporter for The Jerusalem Post who has covered Palestinian and Arab affairs for the past three decades, is the recipient of the 2014 Daniel Pearl Award.

The award, named for Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped and murdered in Pakistan in 2002, recognizes courage and integrity in journalism.

“Khaled Abu Toameh has been telling us, with courage and objectivity, what life is like in the West Bank and Gaza,” said Judea Pearl, father of the dead journalist. “Rarely has a reporter been so successful in penetrating a conflict so complex and remaining consistently and definitively on the side of truth.”

Abu Toameh, an Arab Israeli, studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In addition to the Post he has worked for many media outlets, including the BBC, Voice of America, Wall Street Journal and US News & World Report. He also serves as a distinguished fellow with the New York-based Gatestone Institute.

I can’t think of a more deserving journalist to receive this prize and to be recognized for his very real courage. He is a shining example to all journalists everywhere how to report on sensitive issues without bias and with a clear eye.

Mazal tov to Mr. Abu Toameh. May he continue bringing us the real news for many years to come, and may G-d go with him and protect him from his and our enemies.

And with those blessings and all this good news, I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!

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5 Responses to Good News Friday

  1. Elise Ronan says:

    I know how the bear felt. Aww…Hope he is doing better. FYI-I can’t wait to try that new and innovative little back-pain-killer myself. 🙂

    • anneinpt says:

      Take a number and join the queue. 🙂

      I really hope that they’ve discovered something workable and marketable. It is so desperately needed.

  2. Reality says:

    Poor Bear.I hope he’s feeling better.I can fully sympathise with him!But kol hakavod to Ramat Gan Zoo for helping him and all the other animals. As far as this new back pain drug Teva is trying out-yay!Where &when will it be available?There’ll be a long queue waiting to buy it.Great news about the new discoveries of Davids citadel-yet more proof (as if we ever needed it or it would even help)that Jerusalem was always ours.
    Mazal Tov to Khaled Abu Tomeh.He indeed a great and courageous journalist.

  3. Brian Goldfarb says:

    Re the export story: British Radio 4 (back then, the Home Service) listeners of a “certain age” (certainly me, but probably not Anne – I guess she’s too young by at least a decade, if not more – I’ve just celebrated my 70th) will remember The Goon Show – the forerunner of Monty Python, etc, in the surrealistic humour department. One of their catch phrases, not used that often, was “Damned clever, these Chinese!” Should that be, these days, “Damn clever, these Israelis!”?

    In the same vein, anyone remember “Round the Horne” and “Beyond Our Ken”, with kenneth Williams’ character “Chou N Ginsberg, MA, failed”? Two stereotypes for the price of one there.

  4. Brian Goldfarb says:

    Re Abu Toameh: he’s honest. A priceless quality.

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