Good News Friday

As so often happens in Israel, we have had a difficult week, but here is Shabbat on our doorstep and we need to have some good news to cheer us up for Shabbat. So here is this week’s Good News Friday installment.

We’ll start with a couple of cute items via Facebook:

Here is  Item 774 from 1000 cool things about Israel:

Check out the class of new army intelligence officers, including two pregnant religious women, who were granted waivers of the uniform requirement because of their pregnancies. G-d bless this country!

Kol hakavod to the dedication of these young women who could easily have received an exemption from IDF service on religious grounds and certainly on the grounds of being pregnant. May their service continue to be as fruitful as their personal life!  Kol hakavod too to the IDF which made special arrangements for these “blooming” young women. 😉

Another story which has being doing the rounds, though it is not new, is this little vignette about the woman who collects abandoned balloons in Ben Gurion Airport arrivals hall, and then distributes them to sick children to brighten up their days in hospital:


What a beautiful idea, so simple and yet so magical for those sick children. Kol hakavod to Samita who has undertaken this project, her consideration for others is an example for all of us.

Talking of hospitals, an Israeli developed software helps reduce prescription errors, something vital to busy hospitals:

A new study by Harvard Medical School shows that software developed by Israeli startup MedAware helps reduce prescription errors, potentially saving the lives of patients.

Ra’anana-based MedAware has developed software that uses algorithms and machine learning based on data and patterns gathered from thousands of physicians who treat millions of patients. The data is used to identify and give alerts about prescription errors in real time.

The company says its self-learning, self-adaptive system is proven to dramatically reduce healthcare costs while improving patient safety.

The Harvard study analyzed records from almost 800,000 patients to assess the efficacy of MedAware’s software. The report found that MedAware’s technology identifies errors otherwise undetected by current systems in use, minimizes the risks arising from fatigued doctors who are used to getting false alerts from current systems, and reduces prescription errors with high accuracy.

The findings, published on Sunday in the Journal of American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA), showed that MedAware’s technology sets a new standard for prescription alerts and patient safety vis-à-vis traditional safety systems, which only detect a fraction of actual errors, and are not geared up to identify random or complex errors, like prescribing a medication used only in pregnant women for an elderly make, for example.

The current clinical decision support (CDS) systems that are used by physicians are not patient-specific and suffer from high false alarm rates — which create a phenomenon known as “alert fatigue,” in which physicians simply learn to disregard notifications, a statement issued by MedAware said.

In the US healthcare market, more than $20 billion is lost, annually, as a result of prescription errors and their consequences, the statement said. In the US alone, medication errors harm at least 1.5 million people every year and cause the annual premature death of more than 220,000 patients, MedAware says on its website. Adverse drug events are among the most common medical errors. Out of the 4 billion medical prescriptions that are written up annually in the US, 8 million contain life-threatening errors.

Kol hakavod to the developers and researchers at MedAware for this brilliant development. Let’s hope it is implemented in every hospital in order to prevent further harm to patients.

Prof. Adi Shamir

Prof. Adi Shamir

Another item from the scientific field: Computer science professor Adi Shamir, of the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, is to receive the Japan Prize for his cryptography work:

An Israeli computer scientist was among three winners of the 2017 Japan Prize, an award honoring achievement in science and technology, for his work in the field of cryptography.

Adi Shamir, a professor at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, was recognized for his “[c]ontribution to information security through pioneering research on cryptography,” according to the prize’s website. The Japan Prize Foundation announced the awards Thursday.

Shamir, 64, is the second Israeli to win the prize. Ephraim Katzir, a biophysicist and former Israeli president, was honored in 1985, the inaugural year of the award.

In 2002 Shamir, with Ronald Rivest and Leonard Adleman, won the Turing Award, widely considered to be the world’s most prestigious computer science prize.

Kol hakavod to Professor Shamir on winning this prestigious award. He has brought honour to himself and pride to the country. May he go on to much more success in the future.

And a final heart-warming story of cooperation between Arabs and Jews at an environmental program in the Arava desert:

Neat rows of corn, spinach, carrots and nasturtium grow near the edge of Kibbutz Ketura in southern Israel’s barren Arava Valley. Nearby, a satellite dish lined with mirrors distills 400 liters of potable water per day, and food waste is converted into cooking gas in a tank loaded with sandbags.

Students learn about alternative energy sources at the Arava Institute

Students learn about alternative energy sources at the Arava Institute

The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies’ “Off Grid Hub” tests and models technology for communities that are disconnected from public utilities like water, electricity and sewage. It is part of the institute’s goal of improving environmental and human interests in the region through environmental cooperation. The tanks producing cooking gas are designed for use by Negev Bedouin, while the crops and water purification systems were developed with Kenya’s Turkana region, which has a climate similar to the Arava Valley, in mind.

The aquifers supplying groundwater to the project are shared with neighboring Jordan, notes Rabbi Michael Cohen, who has been involved with the institute since 1996.

“The environment is a constant that allows us to keep moving forward,” Cohen said. “Lines, borders, walls, divisions — when seeing the environment all of those fall away.”

The Arava Insitute for Environmental Studies, established in 1996, is located about 25 miles north of Eilat on Kibbutz Ketura, a small community overlooked by sandstone mountains on the Jordanian side of the border.

The institute is a research and academic center, hosting students from Israel, Jordan, the West Bank and elsewhere. The focus on the environment gives the students a platform to address and discuss the conflicts in the region.

Students working together at the Arava Institute

Students working together at the Arava Institute

“This is the only place that brings Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli students to study together. They share the same classroom, they share the same dining room, they share the same grass,” said Dr. Tareq Abu Hamed, the academic director of the institute and former Israeli Ministry of Science’s Deputy Chief Scientist and Acting Chief Scientist.

“We are not trying to convince any side,” Abu Hamed said. “We expose them to the reality of this region and we encourage them to talk about it.”

The story so far would be wonderful on its own, but it has another angle too:

The students are given a forum to discuss the political and social situation of the region, and present their side of the story, in a weekly seminar. For example, before Israel’s Independence Day, the Palestinian students give a presentation on the Nakba and the Israeli students present on Israel’s War of Independence. Unlike other mixed universities in Israel, the institute encourages the students to talk about the conflict, Abu Hamed said.

The idea to address the conflict now is to prepare them to collaborate on environmental projects in the future.

“We do the narrative activities and I learn from the other side as well as they learn from me. I think it can make my life better on a daily basis, especially where I live,” said Mohannad Nairoukh, from East Jerusalem. “I learned to hold myself. I want to hear first the other perspective, then speak my mind,” he said.

The Israeli students, most of whom are center-left politically, also start to shift. When they feel blamed for the conflict, or if someone legitimizes Hamas, for example, they can find themselves moving more to the right, said Ben Yelin, from Haifa. The isolated location helps to keep everything calm, while the use of English as a shared language levels the playing field, Yelin said, unlike in mainstream Israeli society. The focus on improving the environment, which benefits everyone in the region, helps them find common ground, Yelin said.

It’s not all rosy of course, but what a wonderful program, greening the desert, teaching citizens of other desert habitats how to green their own desert, while making friends of former enemies. If only the entire Middle East could be sorted out by such a program!

With this food for thought, I shall bid you all Shabbat Shalom as my family prepares for a special Shabbat when our new granddaughter will be named in the synagogue – followed of course by a traditional Lechaim!

Shabbat Shalom everyone!

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5 Responses to Good News Friday

  1. Pingback: Good News Friday – 24/6 Magazine

  2. cba says:

    Thank you for those lovely items! But I’m surprised you forgot one of the best items of the week (at least, in my opinion): The engagement of Renana Meir, on the first anniversary of the horrendous murder of her mother, Dafna Meir ז”ל הי”ד

    Here’s my [annotated] translation of the post (the auto-translation is pathetic, as always):
    My Uri*, who never told me not to cry but simply gave me reasons to be happy
    My Uri, who feels my pain [the bad that I experienced] but who is the essence of goodness
    Uri, on the day when my life was destroyed [on the day of my personal destruction], with the Temple Mount in the background and when we so feel the lack of the Temple – chose on that day for us to build and flourish together.
    Of course I said yes</> ❤

    *Her fiance’s name is either Uri or Ori; they’re spelled the same way without the vowels.

  3. Reality says:

    A great interesting blog as usual.Thank You
    Shabbat shalom and a good week to all

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