Good News Friday

Purim finished yesterday in most of the Jewish world, while Jerusalem and other walled cities are still celebrating though they too are now getting ready for Shabbat, so what better time for a Good News Friday post than right now.

Let’s start with the biggest news of the week, possibly the biggest news of the century (literally!) for Israelis: Prince William, the 2nd in line to the British throne, is going to be making the first ever official royal visit to Israel in the summer.

It has been a long-running irritant to Israelis that the Royal Family has visited almost every country in the world, including some pretty nasty dictatorships and tyrannies, yet little Israel is always left off the itinerary for no discernible reason. The unofficial word, never confirmed, but very much suspected, is that it is the work of nefarious Foreign Office officials who didn’t want to offend Arab oil despots. But since many of these oil powers are now drawing closer to Israel themselves there seems to be no more reason to avoid Israel.  Britain also didn’t want to give any legitimacy to “Israeli settlements” but what that has to do with a visit to Israel is a mystery to me and most Israelis, especially as the Royal Family had no problem visiting those human-rights luminaries such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, not to mention Russia, China and so many others.  Brexit has also played a part in this decision, with Britain wanting to regain its international standing.

The Jerusalem Post reports:

For the first time since British Mandatory rule here ended seven decades ago, a member of the royal family – Prince William – is scheduled to make a visit to Israel.

Kensington Palace announced the visit in a tweet on Thursday, saying “the Duke of Cambridge will visit Israel, Jordan and the Occupied Palestinian territories in the Summer.”

The visit, it said, “is at the request of Her Majesty’s Government and has been welcomed by the Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian authorities.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately welcomed the news. “We welcome the announcement that Prince William will be coming to Israel,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “It is a historic visit, the first of its kind, and he will be received here with great enthusiasm.”

While members of the royal family have never made state visits to Israel, they have traveled widely in the Arab world. Prince Charles was in Israel twice, but only to attend funerals: Yitzhak Rabin’s in 1995 and Shimon Peres’s in 2016.

During the latter trip, he also visited the grave of his grandmother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, the mother of Prince Phillip, who is buried at the Convent of Saint Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives. The princess has been recognized by Yad Vashem as one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” for hiding a Jewish women and her two children in Athens during World War II.

Phillip came here in 1994 to attend the Yad Vashem ceremony honoring her, and visited her grave, but the Foreign Office took pains then to stress that his visit was private.

Netanyahu, who met Prince Charles on the sidelines of a climate change conference in Paris in 2015, invited him at the time to visit the country – an invitation numerous Israeli officials have extended to the royal family over the years.

The Telegraph at the time quoted a Foreign Office source as saying that, “until there is a settlement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the royal family can’t really go there.”

With the United Kingdom due to leave the European Union, greater involvement in the Mideast – the kind of involvement symbolized by this type of trip – is seen by some in Jerusalem as a way for London to retain some of the stature and influence on the world’s stage that it will lose by leaving the EU.

President Reuven Rivlin wrote on his Twitter account that William will be a “very special guest,” and that his visit will be “a very special present for our 70th year of independence.”

I think this is going to be a\a wonderful occasion, a fantastic way to mark and celebrate Israel’s 70th anniversary. I just wish the announcement hadn’t included the words “Occupied Palestinian territories” as one of the Prince’s stops, since there is no such official place. The Palestinian territories are under self-rule and have been since the Oslo Accords. Baby steps I guess, until we can re-educate the British Camel Corps (Foreign Office).

Another hugely important diplomatic bonus for Israel was last week’s announcement by the Trump Administration that the US is going to open its Embassy in Jerusalem – finally! – in time for Israel’s 70th anniversary:

The new US Embassy in Jerusalem will open in May 2018 to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel declaring independence, two Trump administration officials said Friday. At first, the embassy will operate out of the US’s current consular premises in Arnona, south Jerusalem.

The US Consulate in Jerusalem, the temporary site of the new US Embassy in Jerusalem

The officials said Congress was being notified of the impending move on Friday. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signed off on the security plan for the new embassy on Thursday.

The State Department confirmed the timing of the move, with an official telling The Times of Israel: “We are planning to open the new US Embassy to Israel in Jerusalem in May. The Embassy opening will coincide with Israel’s 70th anniversary.”

The official said, “The Embassy will initially be located in Arnona [in south Jerusalem], on a compound that currently houses the consular operations of Consulate General Jerusalem. At least initially, it will consist of the Ambassador and a small team.”

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is being planned for mid-May. Israel proclaimed independence on May 14, 1948. According to Channel 10 and Hadashot news, the ceremony could be held on May 14 to honor that date. (Israel celebrates its anniversary of independence according to the Hebrew calendar; Independence Day — Yom Ha’Atzmaut — falls on April 19 this year.)

The May opening marks a significant acceleration. Vice President Mike Pence had said previously the embassy would open by the end of 2019. And Tillerson had said it could take years.

The date of the move is seen as largely symbolic, as the logistics of a permanent relocation are expected to take much longer. Most of the embassy staff could continue to operate from Tel Aviv during the early stages.

Staff at the consulate were told Friday that, as of mid-May, they would be considered employees of the embassy, Channel 10 reported.

In its initial phase, Ambassador David Friedman will move to the consular premises, Channel 10 said, and the building will be formally redesignated as the US Embassy.

The rest of the embassy staff will remain at first in America’s current facility in Tel Aviv. Over time, the Arnona facility will be expanded to accommodate more embassy personnel. The expansion could ultimately involve an adjacent property that currently houses a home for senior citizens. It will come under US control in the next few years under a previous arrangement, officials said.

Finally, a new purpose-built embassy will be planned and constructed.

Israel’s leaders were obviously delighted with the move:

“President Trump’s decision to move the United States Embassy to Jerusalem on the coming Independence Day follows his historic declaration in December to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” a statement issued by the Israeli Embassy in Washington on Friday said.

“This decision will turn Israel’s 70th Independence Day into an even bigger celebration. Thank you President Trump for your leadership and friendship,” it added.

Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon praised the Trump administration on Friday shortly after the announcement.

“President Trump’s bold decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem this May, in honor of our 70th Independence Day, is a testament to the unbreakable alliance and true friendship between the US and Israel,” said Danon.

Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer posted on social media that on May 14, 1948, US President Truman recognized the State of Israel and now on May 14, 2018, US President Trump will move the embassy to Jerusalem.

“70 years apart. Two historic decisions. One united capital,” tweeted Dermer.

The symbolism of this 70 year gap – between the end of the Mandate and the first Royal visit, and between the initial recognition of Israel in 1948 and the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem, the capital 70 years later, cannot be overstated.

It is also significant that Purim, which fell yesterday, marked the beginning of the end of the Babylonian Exile and the return of the Jews to Israel after 70 years in exile.

It will be interesting and exciting to see what the next 70 years hold in store for us!

If Israel’s technological advances are anything to go by, it will be a very good place for everyone.

A team of Israelis has developed eyedrops to replace glasses!

From Interesting Engineering:

A team of Opthalmologists at Shaare Zedek Medical Center and Bar-Ilan University’s Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials developed eye-drops that have been found to repair the corneas and improve short and long sightedness. The nanoparticle solution called as “nanodrops” was successfully used on pigs’ corneas.

Eye-drops to replace glasses?

Clinical trials on humans are expected to be carried out later this year, and if successful, this revolutionary invention could potentially eliminate the need for eyeglasses. According to Dr. David Smadja, leader of the research team, the eye-drops could revolutionize ophthalmological and optometry treatments of patients suffering from myopia, hyperopia and other refractory conditions.

The revolutionary breakthrough was revealed by Dr. Smadja on Wednesday at Shaare Zedek’s second biennial research day, which was held at Steinberg Auditorium in Jerusalem. He said that nanodrops could even be used to replace multifocal lenses and allow people to see object from different distances.

“This is a new concept for correcting refractory problems,” Smadja said. He, however, did not mention how often the drops will require being applied to replace eyeglasses completely.

According to the research abstract, the experiment led by Dr. Smadja and his colleagues involved analyzing refractive errors of pig eyes before and after instillation of nano drops filled with various concentration of synthetic nanoparticles. The results showed significant improvement in error correction for both myopic (near-sightedness) and hyperopic (far-sightedness) refractive error.

If the results in humans are successful, prospective patients will simply require a smartphone app to scan the eyes, measure their refraction, create a laser pattern and then “laser corneal stamping” of an optical pattern onto the corneal surface of their eyes.

The research from Smadja was one of the two chosen works by an impartial team of judges from 160 pieces of research carried out by Shaare Zedek physicians and nurses over the last two years. The hospital staff publishes around 330 articles every year in different medical and science journals through the Shaare Zedek Mada’it (Scientific), a research and development company established for hospital researchers.

This is quite an eye-opener (pun intended 🙂 ) and wonderful news for all those “four-eyes”, “goggle-eyes” and others who hate their glasses. Kol hakavod to Dr. Smadja and the research teams at Shaare Zedek and Bar Ilan.

The other item of technology news that I wanted to share with you is a novel process to remove mercury from factory emissions:

Toxic mercury spewing out of coal-fired power plants, waste-incineration facilities, cement factories, metal processing plants and many other industries pollutes the air, water and land.

To comply with increasingly stringent environmental regulations, facility managers are always seeking improved technologies for reducing and even eliminating mercury emissions.

And that’s why Israeli startup MercuRemoval of Netanya is generating so much steam.

MercuRemoval’s novel process for removing toxic mercury from flue-gas streams originated in the chemistry lab of Hebrew University professors Yoel Sasson and Zach Barnea. The company was established within Hutchison-Kinrot Cleantech seed incubator owned by Hutchison Water and was supported by Israel’s Innovation Authority R&D funds. It went commercial only three years later.

MercuRemoval’s pilot installation at Israel Electric Company’s Rutenberg Ashkelon coal-based power plant. Photo: courtesy

The patented technique renders the mercury stable and safe for disposal, in contrast to existing solutions that eventually redistribute and re-emit the mercury back to the environment through byproducts created in the removal process, CEO Hagay Keller tells ISRAEL21c.

A trial conducted in collaboration with the Israel Electric Corporation demonstrated that MercuRemoval’s system achieves above a 95 percent absorption and removal rate, leaving no contaminated byproducts.

The closed system is based on a unique absorbent liquid formulation circulated inside a common pollution-control device called a “wet scrubber.” The liquid, which is reused again and again, oxidizes and captures all forms of the mercury into a stable complex which is then precipitated out for safe disposal.

“This simple regeneration and mercury separation process dramatically reduces operational costs and avoids the contamination of the environment compared to other commonly used solutions,” says Keller.

The MercuRemoval system can be custom-made and installed as a retrofit. The scalable solution is applicable to a variety of industries, plants and processes emitting mercury.

What a brilliant invention! Once again Israeli ingenuity saves the world. Kol hakavod to professors Yoel Sasson and Zach Barnea who originated the idea and to MercuRemoval for running with the idea. May this development continue to great success for the benefit of all of us to give us a cleaner, healthier world.

And with these very happy thoughts I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!

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15 Responses to Good News Friday

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

  2. leonkushner says:

    It is good that the Prince plans to visit Israel but I find it insulting that they call it ‘occupied’ territories.

    • Jeff Polaski says:

      Leon, you’ve said a mouthful. It includes a great deal about the decades-long failure to resolve an issue so that everyone can agree. (Even I had to use a circuitous sentence to avoid using the wrong word.)
      The paper at this link goes into it in great detail without of course coming to any conclusion). The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs is diligent in detail and support in its references.
      If it is important to you, then it is important to me, so thank you for prompting me to to find this excellent resource. Of course, now I have to comb through their content to discover even more insights.
      Oh, the letter from Windsor Palace. I think we can accept the possibility that they struggled also with terminology, but ultimately meant well.
      Have a wonderful holiday full of family and friends. In the back of my mind this American Jew might have a random “THIS year in Jerusalem”, even though I don’t know our Ambassador.

    • anneinpt says:

      Yeah, join the club. And if those territories are “occupied” it’s only because the British reneged on their Mandate, allowing the Arabs to attack and invade the Jewish areas of then-Palestine, with the resultant war of Independence and the Arabs occupying Judea and Samaria. Those territories were intended to be part of Israel originally. And the Jordanian occupation (there never was an Arab Palestinian state) was never recognized by anyone except Britain and Pakistan.

      So that is the original sin.

      Then came the Six Day War and Israel liberated those territories, but for some strange reason (call it antisemitism) neither Britain nor the rest of the world has ever recognized Israeli sovereignty over that area despite it being rightfully Israel’s. And despite no one ever recognizing the Jordanian occupation over such territories previously. So how did it magically become “Palestinian”? How did “East” Jerusalem magically become “Arab East Jerusalem”? The Arabs have done some bloody good propaganda and brainwashing here.

      /sorry for the rant. I know I’m speaking to the converted here. This was for “passing traffic”.

  3. Elise "Ronan" says:

    Eyedrops instead of glasses is very Star Trek. I still remember when Kirk had to wear glasses because he was allergic to vision correcting drops, a birthday present from McCoy. Being one of those who has needed glasses since I was 10 years old, I will be following this development closely. 😊

    • anneinpt says:

      Me too! I started wearing glasses at age 2 (!), stopped at age 9 and then started again at age 14. I’m too squeamish to try contact lenses. I’m at the multi-focal stage of my life now, trending towards needing reading rather than distance glasses. The joys of aging!

      • Elise "Ronan" says:

        I wore contact lenses from the age of 15 until a few years ago when I needed progressive lenses. The eye doctor said that progressive contacts really didn’t work and I could wear contacts for distance and just add reading glasses when I read. The problem was that I read and write at the computer all day. So I basically would wear contacts with glasses all day. So I just went the progressive lenses route with no contact lenses.I don’t mind it except when I get fancy dressed up (which is rare) and when I exercise (which is daily). The glasses slip down to the edge of my nose when I exercise. 😖 I so want those drops!

        • Jeff Polaski says:

          Um, I wore progressive lenses for about 15 years or so. They take a couple day to get used to (ask, if you are curious)) but they were the best thing since canned beer. Maybe the doc thought your eyes would not adapt, but they do. I had cataract surgery that gave me a supposed 20/20 distance, and drug store reading glasses. Never come close to the visual acuity I had when I wore the progressives.
          I can understand the combination he recommended, but there is an alternative. Expensive, though. Don’t know what contacts cost.
          Elise, if you need the close vision for exercise, use the elastic cords they sell on eBay or Amazon.
          I had progressives designed for computer use, which put that distance (eye to screen surface center) at a comfortable height for keyboarding. All sorts of variations, like sweating a lot to let the reading glasses slide faster down your nose. To have them slide slower …. ah, I could write all day so I won’t.

  4. Earl says:

    The Hg scrubber for stack emissions is simply brilliant. It is a nasty element- massive public health benefits will result from this technology over the long term.

    • anneinpt says:

      Yep. It also sounds so simple though I’m sure it isn’t in practice. I’m constantly amazed at the initiative and innovation of Israeli bio-techies.

  5. Reality says:

    I’m delighted Prince Harry is coming but I hope he will visit our settlements and see what we have done since the British created a mess when they ran out of the way in 1948 ,allowing their friends the Arabs to (hopefully) kill off those offending Jews,and consequently I hope Prince Harry will have the sense not to insult us by “expecting”Israel to give the Palestinians land that never belonged to them in the first place.
    As for all those technological discoveries,how wonderful!If the “Poor Palestinians”would spend more time advancing their lives instead of moaning about how awful their lives are,they too could make technological breakthroughs.

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