Good News Friday

Despite the horrible week we’ve just had, or maybe because of it, I feel a need to post a Good News Friday installment this week.

A skull fragment found in the Manot Cave (left) alongside modern human (center) and Neanderthal skulls (photo credit: Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel staff)

My first item dates back thousands of years ago: an ancient skull found in a cave in northern Israel sheds new light on humankind’s journey out of Africa:

A crucial piece of the story of humankind’s exodus from Africa was recently found near the northern Israeli city of Nahariya — a 55,000-year-old skull of an anatomically modern human, among the first to leave the cradle of humanity and populate the globe.

Scientists from Tel Aviv University, Ben-Gurion University and the Israel Antiquities Authority who found and studied the fossilized skull said the rare find was a “connecting link” between Homo sapiens worldwide and the core population that left the cradle of humanity around 60,000 years ago and began replacing other hominin species.

A paper detailing their findings was published Wednesday in the scholarly journal Nature.

“It’s a key piece in the puzzle of human evolution,” Dr. Israel Hershkovitz, one of the authors of the paper involved in the excavation of the Manot Cave, the site of the find, said ahead of the publication. “This is one of the most important missing pieces because it allows you to connect the African hominids with the European hominids.”

The find sounds most interesting, especially for those who subscribe to the theory of evolution and for archeology enthusiasts. I find it fascinating that the “missing link” was found davka in Israel. I wonder at the implications. 🙂

My next story goes in the opposite direction – from Israel to Africa, as Tel Aviv students bring clean water technology to Tanzania:

Like many good stories, this one began with food. A group of students at TAU’s Iby and Aladar Fleischman Faculty of Engineering organized a campus beer and bratwurst sale to kickstart fundraising for a volunteering project in Africa. Many sausages later, and with a lead donation from Arison Group’s Shikun & Binui construction company, a TAU team arrived in Tanzania to build a system that would provide hundreds of students at a local high school with clean drinking water.

Leading the TAU delegation was electrical engineering student Eran Roll, the director of TAU’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), which initiated and supervised the project. EWB is an international organization dedicated to bringing engineering solutions to disadvantaged communities.

Roll explained that the project’s genesis went back to 2007, when engineering alumnus Itai Perry saw the hardship caused by contaminated water during a TAU-affiliated volunteer trip to the northern Tanzanian village of Minjingu. The residents’ drinking water was saturated with exceptionally high levels of fluoride, causing skeletal deformities and severe dental problems among the local children. Seven years later, Roll and four others came to Minjingu to build and install a 48,000-liter rainwater harvesting and advanced filtration system that would allow the 400 students and staff members at Nkaiti Secondary School – the only high school in the region – to drink and cook with clean, safe water. They also trained school officials and volunteers on how to operate and maintain the system, and they kept in touch with local residents to ensure that any bugs would be worked out. The team created the system with the help of Israeli rainwater harvesting expert Amir Yechieli.

Watch this video which explains the project:

Read the rest of this heart-warming story of volunteerism, initiative, and engineering talent. Kol hakavod to Eran Roll and the engineering students fo Tel Aviv University for this fantastic initiative. May their initiative be picked up by other groups to help communities around the world.

Some BDS Fail news is wroth noting: Via No Camels Samsung made its second huge investment in a week into Israeli startups:

Korean tech giant Samsung will invest $10 million in Israel patient monitoring firm EarlySense, part of a $20 million financing round.

In business since 2004, EarlySense developed a system that monitors patients who are sick enough to require continuous tracking, but are unwilling or do not need to be connected physically to monitors and sensors. Designed for use in non-emergency room or even home settings, the system uses sensors embedded into a mattress or chair cushion to monitor heartbeat, respiration rate, and movement. It operates on the theory that the more a patient moves around in bed, the healthier they are, in general.

The data is transferred to a monitoring station, either local or remote, with the system setting off alarms in the event that something appears amiss. The system is use in thousands of hospitals, nursing homes and home settings around the world, and according to hospital studies, over 90 percent of staff said that the system was useful in stemming and preventing patient deterioration.

Watch this video which describes how EarlySense works:

… This is Samsung’s second investment in an Israeli start-up in just the past week. Samsung was part of a $12 million investment round in Rounds, an app that, according to co-founder and CEO Dany Fishel, may be the next WhatsApp. Like that popular chat app, Rounds lets users set up chat groups with friends, allowing any member of the group to communicate with others at the same time, or individually — but with Rounds, users get to see their friends, with the app utilizing not only text, but voice and video as well. Those features also drew in investors at Verizon Ventures and investment firms Rhodium and Draper Associates, all of whom participated in the funding round.

Samsung is no stranger to Israeli technology; the company has two local R&D centers, which develop telecommunications products, and do semiconductor work as well. Samsung’s Israeli-developed technology shows up in products that Samsung manufactures alone – such as a line of freestanding cameras and cameras integrated into smartphones – as well as jointly with other companies, such as LG and Hyundai.

Kol hakavod to all the Israeli researchers, scientists and technologists involved in these developments, and of course a big kol hakavod to Samsung for recognizing Israeli excellence in hi-tech.

Mazal tov!

Mazal tov!

I started this post with an item from over 50,000 years ago. I conclude this post with an item from yesterday: We welcome a new member of the family as my niece gave birth to a baby boy on Thursday, weighing in at a very respectable 3.8 kg.

A huge Mazal tov to Keren & Gidon and to the baby’s big sister Adi. May the baby bring you joy and nachat, may his brit go well and be on time, and may you have a גידול קל.

יהי רצון שתזכו לגדלו לתורה לחופה ולמעשים טובים. אמן

Heartiest mazal tov too to David & Rina, my brother and sister-in-law, to my parents the great-grandparents, and to all the rest of the wider family.

May we continue to hear only good news from now on. And on this happy note I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!

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3 Responses to Good News Friday

  1. Pete says:

    News: “Ancient skull connects Africa and Israel!”

    So … you are saying that there were “Tours To The Holy Land” that were operating 55,000 years ago??? This person left Ethiopia and went to Haifa to have borekas and coffee??!! NOW THAT’S REALLY SOMETHING!!!!

    Pete, USA

    • anneinpt says:

      LOL! I can just picture it! 😀

      Another version of this story I read is “Israel was the first place where Neanderthals and hominids first had sex”. :blush: :giggle: 😀

  2. Reality says:

    Wonderful blog as always.What a great find that skull was.As for Samsung,it’s good to hear that some firms still invest here!The Early sense is such a clever idea.As for Rounds,I can’t wait.Now if they can figure out why my Samsung phone keeps freezing or crashing life would be perfect!
    A hearty Mazal Tov to the whole family.
    May they all have continued nachat.

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