Good News to start the week

To make up for the lack of a Good News Friday post yesterday, here is some good news to start the week (despite tomorrow being a fast day).  (My apologies for yesterday’s last-minute crisis posting. The immediate crisis is over but this looks like it might turn into a longer-haul issue.)

Following on from the delegitimization campaign against Israel in the UN, led by our ostensible “friends”, it is hugely gratifying to learn that despite the boycott campaing, business is booming in Judea and Samaria:

In the Shahak industrial zone in northern Samaria 100 dunam have already been sold before the end of development, reveals Oz Damari, manager of the zone.

Rony Khoury, director of the Barkan industrial zone where 160 factories are located, says that there is a waiting list of 60 factories currently seeking to enter the industrial zone.

Shteinitz and Dagan visiting Shachak (Roei Hadi)

Shteinitz and Dagan visiting Shachak (Roei Hadi)

Due to increasing demand it was recently decided to establish another industrial zone in Samaria named “Nachal Rabba – Sha’ar Shomron”, to be located near the communities Sha’arei Tikva and Oranit, just a 15 minutes drive from the center of the country, closer than the Barkan industrial area.

The new industrial zone will be spread over 3,200 dunam (790 acres) and is expected to accommodate advanced manufacturing and hi-tech. The industrial zone will be owned by the Samaria Regional Council, the Local Council of Oranit, and the Local Council of Elkana.

Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council who promoted approval of the project’s establishment explains: “To my joy, it is absolutely clear that companies in the country are not affected by the boycott or the UN resolution. The attractiveness of industrial zones in Judea and Samaria is such that companies are unwilling to give the place up, we are unable to keep up with the demand and are constantly working to increase the industrial areas to meet the demand.”

He said, “It appears that foreign companies do not attach importance to the EU decision on the one hand, and on the other hand companies in our country are not willing to give up their cutting edge and are turning to new markets, such as Africa, India, China and others.” Dagan thanked Brig. Gen. Achvat ben Chur, head of the Civil Administration, who campaigned for the project with “professionalism and determination,” he said.

There is no need to emphasise the importance of this news, both from a purely economic angle and of course from the diplomatic and political aspect. Economics trumps politics after all!

In case anyone needs a reminder of the rich Jewish history of this land (I’m looking at you UNESCO!), another two amazing recent archeological discoveries go to prove our case.

Archeologists found more remnants of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Judean Desert, not only of papyrus fragments but of other artefacts which help us understand the lifestyle of the cave-dwellers of the time:

New fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls have been found in the Cave of the Skulls by the Dead Sea in Israel, in a salvage excavation by Israeli authorities. The pieces are small and the writing on them is too faded to make out without advanced analysis. At this stage the archaeologists aren’t even sure if they’re written in ancient Hebrew, Aramaic or another language.

The latest finds, two papyri fragments about two by two centimeters with writing and several fragments without discernible letters, were made during a three-week salvage excavation in the Cave of the Skulls this May and June by a joint expedition of the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The excavations were led by Uri Davidovich and Roi Porat of the Hebrew University, together with Amir Ganor and Eitan Klein from the IAA.

Though the finds so far are small and many are from secondary dumps associated with modern looting of the caves, the excavations shed new light on human activities in the Judean Desert cliff caves. Despite the inhospitable conditions, they were occupied on and off for thousands of years, starting in prehistoric times and through the Roman period.

Hundreds of fragments of leather, ropes, textiles, wooden objects and bone tools were discovered inside the cave thanks to the aridity of the Judean desert, which preserved the organic material.

It sounds like a fascinating hoard and I’m sure it will shed more light on the way of life of certain Jewish sects at the end of the Second Temple period.

The second great find was the discovery by hikers of Second Temple-era etchings, including a Menorah, on the walls of a cave in the Judean Shephela:

Hikers exploring a water cistern in a Judean Shephelah cave had a close encounter with history last weekend, when they came across an ancient seven-branched menorah from the Second Temple period engraving on its bedrock walls.

Engraving of a seven-branched menorah found in a cistern in the Judean lowlands in December 2016. (Saʽar Ganor, Israel Antiquities Authority)

Engraving of a seven-branched menorah found in a cistern in the Judean lowlands in December 2016. (Saʽar Ganor, Israel Antiquities Authority)

Three members of the Israel Caving Club – Mickey Barkal, Sefi Givoni and Ido Meroz – said they decided to explore caves in the lowland region of South-Central Israel after hearing about their beauty off the beaten path.

“When we realized this is an ancient depiction of a menorah, we became very excited,” Meroz added. “Its appearance was quite distinct. We left the cave and reported the discovery to the Israel Antiquities Authority.”

The engraved image has a base with three feet, and depicts the menorah that stood in the Temple during the Second Temple period, the IAA said. Another engraving by the menorah included a cross, and what appears to resemble a key that is characteristic of antiquity, as well as other engravings, some of which have yet to be identified.

Additionally, adjacent to the cistern is a columbarium with dozens of niches that were used to raise doves in antiquity, the IAA said, noting that during the Second Temple period doves were used as part of the sacrificial rites in the Temple.

Moreover, according to Sa’ar Ganor, the authority’s district archeologist of Ashkelon, there are buildings and hiding refuges from the time of the Bar Kokhba uprising (2nd century CE) at the site, as well as buildings that date to the Byzantine period.

“It’s rare to find a wall engraving of a menorah, and this exciting discovery, which was symbolically revealed during the Hanukkah holiday, substantiates the scientific research regarding the Jewish nature of the settlement during the Second Temple period,” said Ganor. “The menorah was probably etched in the cistern after the water installation was hewn in the bedrock – maybe by inhabitants of the Jewish settlement that was situated there during the Second Temple period and the time of Bar Kokhba.”

The cross, Ganor said, was etched later on during the Byzantine period, most likely in the 4th century CE.

“The menorah is a distinctly Jewish symbol of the Second Temple period,” the archeologist continued. “To date, only two engravings of menorahs are known in the region of the Judean Shephelah: One on oil press at Bet Loya, where the same style menorah is depicted, and the other in a burial complex in the vicinity of Bet Guvrin. Other menorahs are portrayed on clay lamps from Beit Natif.”

Meanwhile, the hikers who discovered the engravings will receive a good-citizenship certificate, and be invited to participate in an upcoming archeological survey that the authority is conducting in the Judean Shephelah region.

Kol hakavod to the three hikers and what a perfectly timed discovery!

From the distant past to the cutting edge present and future, the Times of Israel brings us  six Israeli startups that could change your everyday life:

As any pro-Israel activist will tell you, innovators from the Jewish state have invented products and technologies you use all the time, from instant-messaging technology to Waze, the crowdsourced traffic app.

Israel’s tech scene is famously thriving, with about 5,000 startups across the country. Nearly 1,500 of those are in Tel Aviv alone — that’s one startup for every 300 residents of the city, the highest ratio in the world.

A new wave of Israeli companies is inventing more technologies to improve day-to-day life, and 16 of these innovators are in Las Vegas this week to present at the Consumer Electronics Show, one of the world’s premier technology trade shows that draws more than 150,000 attendees.

From slouch-prevention technology to a device that turns any surface into a touchscreen, here are six remarkable Israeli innovations participating in the show.

I found the following two inventions the most interesting:

In a global economy, not knowing English or another common language can be a barrier to doing business. Lexifone is an app that aims to solve the problem by making the “languages” section of your resume all but irrelevant.

Lexifone’s function is simple: It instantly translates whatever you say into the language of whomever you’re speaking to, and vice versa. So if you’re on a call to an associate in Rome, you won’t need to know anything more than “ciao” (actually you don’t even need to know that). It’s easy to understand why this would be especially useful in Israel, a country with a unique native language that few others speak. Lexifone works in 15 languages, from Arabic to Taiwanese Mandarin.

And the following technology for the hearing impaired:

As most people age, hearing loss occurs — yet Alango Technologies says only 15 percent of those with hearing loss use hearing aids. Why? Because they are often complicated to use and aren’t particularly effective.

So Alango developed HearPhones, a hearing aid technology that can be adapted to a pair of headphones, a Bluetooth set or any other external device that people often wear on their ears. By merging hearing aids with everyday devices, Alango makes them easier to manage (from an app on your phone, natch). Bonus factors: HearPhones technology also allows the device to become a Bluetooth headset or slow down rapid speech to make it easier to understand.

Kol hakavod to all the researchers and developers, keeping Israel at the forefront of technological progress anywhere in the world.

And for a grand finale, here is where technology meets humanity in an Israeli hospital – making what Israellycool calls “a huge genocide fail“:

Brought to you courtesy of Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem.

Abed and his wife Tamam from Kfar Kassam, 12 miles east of Tel Aviv, were newlyweds and delighted when she became pregnant with a girl. Then, in a routine ultrasound, the doctor saw a major problem. “It can’t be fixed,” their local doctor told them. Better to abort.

Said Abed: “We were devastated. The doctors we saw in other big centers also recommended an abortion. While we were absorbing this news, we happened to see a TV program about a baby with a similar problem who had been saved at Hadassah Hospital. We drove to Jerusalem. Dr. Dan Arbell, a pediatric surgeon, showed us photos of children with worse conditions who were now preteens and doing fine. It turns out that our baby was not in such desperate straits as the doctors had said. He gave us hope.”

Dr. Arbell, told them that Hadassah was willing to see them through the pregnancy and operate immediately after birth on their daughter.

Read the whole heart-warming story, how the birth defect was discovered, and fixed:

“The real challenge is the 2 inch hole in the abdomen,” said Dr. Arbell. “Sometimes the hole can’t be closed at the time of the initial surgery, and frequently numerous surgeries are required. We decided to make use of a plastic surgery patch called TopClosure invented in Israel by Israeli surgeon Dr. Morris Topaz, but never used on a newborn. TopClosure works by first stretching out the skin around the wound to avoid the need for skin grafts, and second by ensuring that the wound scars in an aesthetic and healthy fashion.

“We asked Dr. Topaz to join us for the surgery because we wanted to see if his invention would nurture the baby’s skin to close by itself. It worked! We are delighted, and optimistic that future surgery won’t be necessary. We are known for being willing to try to save babies whom some think are best aborted. Hence, we get three to five babies a year with serious disorders like this one. We’ll be further pioneering the use of this terrific Israeli invention.”

Said Ibtihaj’s Dad: Thank you isn’t a big enough word to express how we feel about the staff at Hadassah! You have saved our little girl and brought joy to us, our families and our whole community.”

The happy couple went home with their beautiful baby last week.

There can’t be much better news than that to start the week.

I wish you all Shavua tov, refuah shlema to those who need it, and an easy fast to those who are fasting tomorrow on Asara BeTevet.

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