It’s been a busy week for me which explains the lack of posting since Sunday. However, it’s Friday again and time for a Good News Friday installment.
Let’s start with a major hasbara victory for Israel. Three years after the British medical journal The Lancet smeared Israel with a letter accusing Israel of war crimes, the latest issue is devoted entirely to Israel’s vaunted health care: (h/t Debi Z):
One of the world’s leading medical journals, the Lancet, has devoted its entire latest issue to the Israeli healthcare system.
The issue, titled “Health in Israel,” was published Monday. It contains 10 English-language articles written by Israeli doctors and researchers, plus summaries of them in both Hebrew and Arabic.
Prof. Richard Horton, the journal’s editor in chief, termed the edition the most comprehensive independent survey of Israel’s health system ever published anywhere. He was speaking in Tel Aviv at the annual conference of the Israel National Institute for Health Policy Research.
The idea for issue emerged under inauspicious circumstances. In July 2014, at the height of that summer’s war between Hamas and Israel in the Gaza Strip, the Lancet published an “Open Letter to the People of Gaza,” signed by doctors from several countries. In this letter, they accused Israel of committing massacres and war crimes in Gaza and then lying to justify its conduct.
The letter ignited a storm of protest, both from Israel’s medical community and overseas, and Horton came under heavy fire.
As this storm was raging Prof. Rafael Beyar ,CEO and Director General at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, invited Horton to come to Israel and see for himself. And in August 2014, Horton duly arrived on his first ever visit to Israel. Until then, he said, he had only passed through on his way to the Palestinian Authority. But the visit changed his relationship with Israel’s medical community, and since then, he has been back several times.
For anyone familiar with Israel’s health system, there is little new or surprising in the issue. But it does provide Israel’s healthcare system with impressive global exposure. Very few countries have had an entire issue of the Lancet devoted to them; among them are Japan, the United States, Mexico, India, France, Brazil and the Palestinian Authority. Researchers and doctors say that being featured in such an issue has an impact far beyond the realm of medicine and academia.
The impact of the Lancet’s Israel-dedicated issue goes far beyond giving our health care system an important boost and world-wide exposure. It goes to show the value of one-on-one interaction and communication with people who are misguided in their hateful attitudes towards Israel, yet are open-minded enough to want to learn the truth.
Kol hakavod to Prof. Rafael Beyar who initiated the contact with Prof. Horton after the first libellous letter to The Lancet. And kudos to Prof. Horton who agreed to reconsider his views, and to provide a much needed corrective.
This echoes the initiative (that I reported on in last week’s post) by Camera on Campus who paired American students with Israeli students by Skype so that the Americans could learn the truth about Israel.
Since we’re on the subject of medicine, here is another Israeli development: an Israeli study has found a missing protein which may contribute to the developemnt of Alzheimer’s:
Researchers at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) say they have verified the absence of a protein in Alzheimer’s disease patients, and that absence likely contributes to the onset of the debilitating disease.
The common consensus is that aging is the result of DNA damage accumulation — essentially the body’s failure to implement processes to completely repair its DNA.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, of the estimated 5.5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2017, 5.3 million are age 65 and older and the remaining 200,000 have younger-onset Alzheimer’s. One in 10 people age 65 and older, 10 percent, has Alzheimer’s dementia.
According to the study, published last month in Cell Reports, one of the key components in this DNA repair process is the protein SIRT6. BGU researchers determined in mouse models that high levels of SIRT6 facilitate DNA repair while low levels enable DNA damage accumulation.
“If a decrease in SIRT6 and lack of DNA repair is the beginning of the chain that ends in neurodegenerative diseases in seniors, then we should be focusing our research on how to maintain production of SIRT6 and avoid the DNA damage that leads to these diseases,” lead author Dr. Deborah Toiber of the BGU Department of Life Sciences said in a statement.
Toiber’s lab is one of only a handful worldwide looking at the effects of SIRT6 in the brain and its connection to neurodegenerative diseases, the statement said.
This is a great discovery, which if successful, could provide a cure, or even a preventative for that dreaded disease. Kol hakavod to the Ben Gurion University research team.
Moving now to a different subject altogether, here is some excellent news on Israel’s tourism industry: April saw the highest number of tourists in Israel ever:
The Ministry of Tourism published today (Tuesday) encouraging data regarding incoming tourism to Israel. According to the report, 349,000 tourists entered Israel in April 2017. This not only marks an increase of 38% compared to last April but also the highest number of tourists arriving in one month since the establishment of the State of Israel.
In January-April of 2017, 1.09 million tourists entered Israel, an increase of 28% compared to the same period last year. There was also an increase compared to the first trimester of 2014 before Operation Protective Edge, which until now had been a peak in tourism to Israel.
This is excellent news for Israel’s economy and its international profile. I’m not sure who to give the kol hakavod to: To the tourists? the Tourism Minister? The hotel industry? El Al? Or maybe to all of them. Let’s hope that this wonderful trend continues.
And now, bringing us back full circle to a similar theme of the start of this post, here is something from the diplomatic front. The Mexican diplomat who went against his government’s instructions and followed his own conscience to vote against the infamous UN Resolution 2334 which denied a Jewish connection to the Old City of Jerusalem, is to receive a Jewish award:
The Mexican diplomat who was fired from his ambassador position for walking out an anti-Israel vote by a United Nations agency will be honored by the American Sephardic Federation.
Andres Roemer, who is Jewish, will be awarded the International Sephardic Leadership Award at a ceremony on May 21 at the Center for Jewish History in New York. The event will honor the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Jerusalem during the Six Day War.
“When confronted by the recent UNESCO resolution that sought to erase Jerusalem, Israel’s Jewish and Christian history, Ambassador Roemer knowingly risked his position to voice and vote his conscience,” read the federation’s announcement.
In October, the Latin American diplomat risked his position by walking out of a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization vote at its headquarters in Paris — leaving his deputy to cast the country’s vote — in a personal protest against the UNESCO resolution denying Jewish ties to Jerusalem.
“While the resolution still passed, Ambassador Roemer did not forget Jerusalem and his moral courage convinced several countries, including his own, to seek to reverse the resolution’s ill-considered position against historical truth and the possibility of peace,” according to the announcement.
For not following the instructions he had received from the Mexican government, he was fired a few days later.
“For not having informed diligently and with meticulousness of the context in which the voting process occurred, for reporting to representatives of countries other than Mexico about the sense of his vote, and for making public documents and official correspondence subject to secrecy,” read the official statement released.
Before being fired, Roemer apparently contemplated resigning his post, but was urged not to by Israel’s ambassador Carmel Shama HaCohen, who wrote him a personal letter praising him as a friend of the Jewish state.
A week after Roemer was fired, vandals broke glass windows, smashed furniture, and painted graffiti on the walls of Mexico City’s Agudas Ajim synagogue in two separate attacks after local Jewish leaders launched a public campaign against the UNESCO vote.
Mexican Consul General in New York, Diego Gomez-Pickering, is expected to attend Roemer’s award ceremony on May 21, according to the federation.
A huge kol hakavod to Andres Roemer who risked – and sacrificed – his career for the sake of honesty, historical truth and for the sake of Jerusalem. He well deserves this prestigious award, and even more so he deserves an apology from the Mexican government. He ought to receive some recognition from the Israeli government too.
And on that note I wish you all Shabbat Shalom.