Good News Friday

The week has sped past and it’s time once more for another Good News Friday installment.

Violinist Maxim Vengerov

We’ll start this week’s post with a little culture.  Violinist Maxim Vengerov says his heart and soul belong in Israel:

It’s been a busy summer for Vengerov. In the last three weeks, he’s jetted twice to South America, once to China and twice to Paris.

He also celebrated his 40th birthday, doing, what else? Working.

But he’s not complaining. He’s finally in Israel, where much of his extended family lives, including his parents and grandmother. And he’s succeeded in bringing his eponymously named festival to Israel, something that’s been on his mind for some time.

This third edition of the festival, which Vengerov wanted to hold in Israel during the summer but which was postponed due to the war, includes soloists from the International Menuhin Music Academy in Gstaad, Switzerland, Israeli pianist Shira Shaked and Papian, as well as the Israel Symphony Orchestra from Rishon Lezion.

Vengerov, who invited residents from the south to be his guests at the festival, wears white jeans and floral button-down shirts to rehearsal, and plays solos while also conducting.

The festival, which pays homage to composers and great violinists, offers the perfect opportunity to see Vengerov in action.

The violinist and conductor still, somewhat surprisingly, calls Israel home despite having spent only three years of his life here.

Vengerov came with his parents and grandmother in 1990, when he was 16, at the height of the Soviet immigration to Israel. He was already well on his way to stardom — “that was clear to me from age six” — and after studying at the Jerusalem Academy of Music, left Israel for Europe.

He now lives in St. Petersburg with his wife and two young children.

Israel, however, “is in my genes,” said Vengerov. “My heart and soul belong to Israel.”

His family came to Israel because “they needed a sense of hope,” said Vengerov. “Thank God there is this country, and I felt instantly connected to this country.”

“You can’t explain that to other people,” he added. “You try to explain this to foreigners, but even though I don’t live in Israel, I feel that this is my people and one day hope we’ll make our home here.”

…He’d like to make the Vengerov Festival an annual event in Israel, knowing it will help bring him here as frequently.

He can handle the craziness, he said. “I’m sustainable and durable,” said Vengerov. “That’s my character.”

And when will he get to rest?  At the end of September, after stops in Vienna and England, when he’ll head home to St. Petersburg for five days.

“Then it’ll be Yom Kippur,” he said. “And I’ll relax.”

I love his overt and unabashed Zionism! What a wonderful attitude! We are blessed to have such a talented countryman like him.

Watch Maxim Vengerov in action in the following clip:

The end of the article tells us that his performances are today and tomorrow night. Check it out!

From the sublime to the ridiculous, the pop star Lady Gaga was also in Israel this week, performing to 20,000 ecstatic fans in Tel Aviv. She also accompanied crooner Tony Bennett [no relation to Naftali I’m sure 🙂  ]  in a duet which you can watch in a video at the link.

International superstar Lady Gaga performed for more than 20,000 fans last night at Park Hayarkon in Tel Aviv.

The provocative pop star’s show ‘artRave: The ARTPOP Ball’ included songs from her latest album as well as older favorites. At the beginning of the show, she told the crowd, ‘Don’t **** around tonight, it’s time to celebrate!’

Lady Gaga hosts Tony Bennett on stage

Gaga was joined onstage by American singing legend Tony Bennett, with whom she recently recorded the upcoming duet album ‘Cheek to Cheek.’ They sang ‘The Lady is a Tramp’ from the album.

As an added bonus these visits by international musical and cultural icons all thwart the BDS bigots who work so fervently, and futilely, to isolate Israel internationally.

Moving on to a slightly more serious subject, are any of us surprised to discover (h/t Reality) that four Israeli universities in the top 300 globally?

Four Israeli universities are among the 300 best in the world, according to an influential world ranking, with Ben-Gurion University leaping into the club after being left out for years.

The QS World University Rankings, which take into account research, teaching, graduate employability, and international outlook, were released on Tuesday.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem was named the best university in Israel, coming in 138th overall — just behind Dartmouth College and just ahead of the University of Virginia. The Technion — Israel Institute of Technology was Israel’s next highest, at 190th, followed by Tel Aviv University, at 195th, and Ben-Gurion University, at 292nd.

While the top three Israeli universities stayed more or less where they were on the list last year, Ben-Gurion University moved up 39 spots, from 331st. In 2012, the university was nearly 100 spots lower, at 385th. The last time the university was in the top 300 was in 2008.

Ben-Gurion University’s highest ranking, 282nd, was in engineering and technology — though it was still ranked behind the Technion, Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University, and the Weizmann Institute of Science in the field.

Noting the rise of science- and technology-focused universities in the rankings, QS suggests that such universities have been uniquely able to attract the funding needed for big research, on one hand, and small classes, on the other.

Kol hakavod to all four institutions. May they go on to ever greater successes, and may all Israel’s other institutions of higher learning join them on this prestigious list.

A back surgeon looks at a 3D model of a patient’s spinal column in preparation for surgery using the Mazor Renaissance system (Photo credit: Courtesy)

On the subject of high tech, here’s a whole new meaning to the term Chinese medicine: Chinese back patients get back relief with Israeli tech: (h/t Reality again):

Chinese patients facing tricky, dangerous back surgery can benefit now from the skills of Mazor Robotics, which develops technology to help surgeons more accurately and securely perform spine surgery. […]

China is just the latest country where Mazor has made an impact. It was approved by the FDA in the United States over three years ago, and dozens of the systems are installed in North America, Turkey, India, and Southeast Asia.

Fractured or otherwise damaged vertebrae are one of the main causes of back pain, and when surgery is the only repair option, doctors usually fuse the damaged vertebrae with a neighboring healthy one, using pedicle screws and rods to prevent movement of the vertebrae during the fusion process. But spine surgery can be very dicey. If the surgeon misses, the screw might enter the spine itself, and that could cause serious damage to the nervous system.

Mazor’s award-winning back surgery technology aims to prevent such mistakes. Over the past decade the company has developed 3D modeling and automated robotic guidance, the tech that goes into Renaissance, its main offering. In order to insert the screws and rods properly, doctors need a clear picture of exactly where the insertion needs to take place. Mazor’s 3D imaging technology, replacing the 2D images available with less sophisticated systems, enables surgeons to get an accurate picture of what they need to do. With the image, they can program the Renaissance robotic insertion system to accurately place the stabilizers – preventing mistakes and problems that have forced as many as one in four patients to undergo repeat surgery.

The system has proven so successful, in fact, that Mazor hopes to do for the brain what it has done for the back. In July, the company received its first order for its Renaissance Brain Surgery module

This system sounds brilliant. The article doesn’t mention if Israel itself is a beneficiary of the Mazor system. I would certainly hope that “charity begins at home” in this case. In any event, kol hakavod to the developers and scientists who produced this amazing system for the benefit of thousands of patients worldwide.

And now for something completely different. Several Israeli institutions and organizations collaborated to organize a most moving and emotional reunion for parents of lone soldiers from around the world with their sons in Israel (h/t Debi Z).

The heartwarming initiative, arranged by El Al Airlines, the Israel Hotel Association (IHA), the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers (AWIS) and the IDF’s Manpower Directorate, began with a flight from Moscow on Thursday.

Einat Yanai, El Al’s Chief Marketing Officer, told Arutz Sheva at the airport “we had a really difficult summer this year. El Al, as the national airlines of Israel, decided to initiate emotional reunions of the families of lone soldiers who came to Israel by themselves to contribute to the country.”

“We are witnesses to the first flight that is landing here from Moscow. …Later today and tomorrow additional flights will arrive from the United States, Canada and European countries,” noted Yanai, outlining a project of 21 total flights that will have 77 soldiers reunite with their parents – in some cases for the first time in many years.

Yanai added “on Sunday there will be a moving meeting of all the families for a toast in honor of Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year). It’s a great opportunity to say happy new year to the whole state of Israel.”

The families of the soldiers will be put up at 26 IHA hotels for five days of free accommodation, in the first event of this scope ever to be conducted.

One of the mothers a lone soldier in the project, Dovrat Ifis, said “the timing is just perfect and our soldiers truly deserve it, the time has come to hug them and spend some quality family time with them. And on top of this, the best part is that we get to celebrate Rosh Hashanah together.”

Watch this beautiful video – I challenge you not to shed a tear by the end.

Kol hakavod to all the organizations involved in this wonderful reunion. But more than that, kol hakavod to all the lone soldiers who sacrifice a comfortable life and a family home to serve their people far away; and a huge thank you to their families for enabling their sons to do so.

To conclude this week’s installment, here’s something light-hearted with added value. Have you ever wanted Jewish smilies in your text program? Here’s a new take on an old theme – the Emojew app (a play on the Emoji smiley keyboard), and it comes with an extra bonus: the ability to donate to a food aid program:

Food organization Latet, which offers healthy food and meals to more than half a million needy families in Israel, was looking for a new method of attracting donations and attention.

With the help of Baumann Ber Rivnay, Latet’s pro bono advertising firm, they settled on creating Emojew, a takeoff of emoji, the tiny, clever icons that are easily downloaded and added to messages on WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook and email.

“We went to cellphones because everyone’s on their cellphones and working on cellphones,” said Dikla Barak from Latet. “We could have just asked for donations online, but we wanted to offer another incentive to give, to offer added value.”

The Emojews include hamsas and challahs, pomegranates, apples and honey, holiday greetings and fish heads, all images familiar to the Israeli public. In order to drum up more interest, there are celebrity Emojews, icons of local celebs that Latt hopes will be used by the celebrities on Twitter and Instagram.

The app is free, but before downloading, a window pops up, offering an opportunity to donate a holiday meal through Latet, starting from NIS 18.

This is such a clever idea! I’ve downloaded it to my phone and even created a special photo just for you, to wish you all Shabbat Shalom!

Shabbat Shalom

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1 Response to Good News Friday

  1. Reality says:

    what a great post as always.I really enjoyed those clips.A special thank you to all those wonderful soldiers and their families as well as a huge kol hakavod to the organisers of their reunion.What a great country we live in! Well done to all atristes and actors who continue coming to perform here despite the bds’ers.It takes great courage.
    As for our universities..who is really surprised?May they go from strength to strength. Here’s hoping that Chinese/Israeli medicine with Israeli inventive robotics will continue to make all sufferers lives easier.Would that Hamas ,PLO,ISIS and all the alphabet soup of Muslim terror lay down their arms and start creating medical advances the world would be ahappier albeit more boring place to live in!
    Shabbat Shalom

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