It’s time for another Good News Friday post again thank goodness!
Since the news this week was dominated by the diplomatic front it is good to find another perspective, and even more extraordinary to find the good news coming from the Arab world of all places.
Saudi intellectuals, journalists, and writers have increasingly expressed open support for Israel, approving of its policy towards Iran and even calling to normalize relations and make peace with it. This, they say, could put a stop to Iran’s hostile policies, since the perpetuation of the Arab-Israeli conflict serves Iran’s expansionist ambitions. In some cases, these Saudi intellectuals and journalists have also expressed support for Israel in matters pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and especially the clashes on the Gaza border as part of the “Great Return March” campaign. Some of them blamed the events on Hamas and on Iran, which they said were promoting their interests at the expense of the children of Gaza.
It should be noted that this is not the first time such voices are heard in Saudi Arabia. . . . It should also be mentioned that, alongside the clear trend of articles supporting Israel, the Saudi media continue to publish many articles that criticize it.
Particularly stark is the position taken on social media by the liberal Saudi intellectual Turki al-Hamad, translated by Harel as follows:
I was with a group of friends and an argument broke out about the Israeli attacks on Iranian positions in Syria. One of them stood up to condemn the Israeli attacks on an Arab country. To be honest, I was surprised at this. What does he expect Israel to do when it sees the Iranian snake coiling itself around it? . . . Naturally, it couldn’t stand idly by. We are hostile to Israel [just] because it is Israel, not because it poses a threat. That’s how we were brought up and how they [the Israelis] were brought up, so that a psychological barrier has been created between the sides. The real threat in the Gulf today is Iran, but the veil of the traditional resentment toward Israel prevents us from seeing this reality. Let them call [me] pro-Zionist. Zionism is better for my country than the Arab nationalism that has caused us losses.
As stated, the recent uptick in tension between Iran and Israel, including Iran’s firing of missiles at Israel from Syrian territory and Israel’s counterattack on Iranian sites in that country, as well as the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran, gave rise to pro-Israeli discourse among Saudi journalists and intellectuals, who wondered which of the two sides Saudis should be supporting. ‘Othman Al-‘Omeir, editor of the Saudi news site Elaph, tweeted: “If war breaks out between Israel and Iran, aimed at eliminating the foreign militias Iran has brought into Syria, who will you support?!…”
Ali Sa’d Al-Moussa, a columnist for the government daily Al-Watan, addressed the same question in a column titled “Iran vs. Israel – Who Will You Support?!”. Reviewing the dangers posed by Iran to Saudi Arabia, he concluded that Iran and its allies were a greater threat to the kingdom than Israel: “My dear friend ‘Othman Al-‘Omeir tweeted the day before yesterday: ‘If war breaks out between Israel and Iran, aimed at eliminating the foreign militias Iran has brought into Syria, who will you support?!’… [My] answer, which does not take a lot of courage to utter openly in the paper, is that I will side with Israel, as long as all the circumstances and goals mentioned in Al-‘Omeir’s tweet actually obtain [i.e., as long as the war is aimed at driving the pro-Iranian militias out of Syria]…
Read it all. It may not seem like much but it is a huge turn for the better towards Israel. Finally the Saudis are putting their own self-interest before partisan Middle East politics. Let us hope that this attitude continues.
On a related theme, the former Iraq Miss Universe candidate, Sarah Idan, had to flee Iraq with her family after posing for a photo together with Miss Israel. This week Ms. Idan visited Israel and was praised for her bravery:
Iraq’s representative at the 2017 Miss Universe pageant — whose Instagram photo last year with her Israeli counterpart forced her family to flee the Middle Eastern country — was cheered and hugged this week by shoppers at an iconic Jerusalem market during an extraordinary visit to Israel.
“It actually felt weird — the people look like my people. And the city looks like Damascus, like Syria, and I’ve been there, so everything seems familiar to me,” Sarah Idan said in a TV item aired Tuesday by Hadashot.
While Idan toured the Mahane Yehuda market, she encountered numerous Israelis of Iraqi origin, one of whom told her she would like to go back to Iraq.
“Inshallah,” or God willing, was Idan’s answer.
Idan was showered with praise, with one Israeli woman telling her: “Thank you for being so brave, you are an inspiration to all the women in the world.”
The 26-year-old Iraqi-born contestant lives in the United States, but her family was forced to relocate from the Arab country after a photo she posed for together with Miss Israel Adar Gandelsman went viral last year.
Idan came to Israel at the invitation of the American Jewish Committee, and the AJC’s Israel chief Avital Leibovitz said it had taken “several pretty long conversations to convince her to come to Israel. She really wanted to, but was a bit afraid.”
“She was scared of me when she first met me,” Idan said of her first encounter with her Israeli friend, adding that Gandelsman had told her “I’m scared to talk to you.”
“After that, we sat down and talked for hours and hours, and the Miss Universe staff got really angry at us, telling us ‘come on, we have a photo-shoot,’” she recalled, smiling.
What a wonderfully brave lady! Kol hakavod to Sarah Idan, who is beautiful both inside and out. She showed the courage of her convictions and wouldn’t let bigotry deter her from befriending the Israeli candidate. May she have lots of success in her new life in America and we look forward to many future visits to Israel from her.
Moving now to a different subject altogether, an Israeli medical team rushed to Guatemala to help the victims of the erupting Fuego volcano. The Israelis have been using a special enzyme-based therapy to treat the volcano’s burns victims:
An Israeli team specializing in treating victims of burns and respiratory diseases has been using an enzyme-based gel to treat patients suffering from burns resulting from the eruption of the Fuego volcano in Guatemala, The Jerusalem Post reported Sunday. The gel was developed in Israel.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry revealed that the team was using an enzyme that was developed at the Soroka-University Medical Center in Beersheba to treat burn victims.
The gel, which is made from pineapples, is produced by an Israeli company, MediWound, and removes skin damaged by burns, but leaves healthy skin intact. This allows doctors to judge the extent of the burn noninvasively.
Tal Rabin, a paramedic who is part of the Israeli team in Guatemala, saw doctors use the treatment to treat a 42-year-old village leader. The man stayed behind ensuring that others could flee the village. Rabin said, that according to the man’s son, he “didn’t agree to leave until he finished helping get everyone out. That’s why he was severely injured.”
Israel was one of the first nations to send aid following the eruption earlier this month, which has killed more than 100 people.
The medical team was part of IsrAid’s delegation to Guatemala, and their work is vital in helping the local medical and rescue teams:
Accompanied throughout their humanitarian mission by Israeli Ambassador to Guatemala Mattanya Cohen and his deputy, Rabin’s team of eight was not the only Israeli presence in Guatemala.
On June 5, humanitarian aid NGO IsraAID sent emergency responders to the hard-hit area of Escuintla.
With funding from the AJC and the Koret Foundation, the IsraAID volunteers distributed hygiene kits to hundreds of evacuated families in shelters and assessed immediate water, sanitation and hygiene needs as well as mental health and psychosocial needs.
Kol hakavod to the Israeli rescue teams, always amongst the first and definitely the best in providing aid and comfort to disaster victims. May their work be successful and may all the victims have a complete recovery. It seems especially unfair given that Guatemala was one of the first countries after the US to open its embassy in Jerusalem. May Hashem repay their kindness with blessings.
And more news on Israel’s biomedical industry: An Israeli cancer treatment has taken a top prize at MIT:
Israelis are responsible for many of the world’s most important technological strides in the world of medicine, but could they actually cure cancer?
Well, a team of students at Ben-Gurion University in Be’er Sheva seems one step closer after winning first place this week at MIT’s most prestigious competition, iGEM 2015, with a new method of fighting cancer based on genetic engineering.
The competition, which took place in Boston, hosted some 4,600 students from across the globe who presented findings and special projects in various fields including health, where the Israeli team took first place.
Doctors currently know how to kill cancerous cells, but many healthy cells are killed in the process, often causing immense pain and difficulties during treatment. The students developed a modular system that would allow a specialist to identify and target only cancerous cells during treatment.
“We arrived excited and motivated to represent Israel and Ben Gurion University and to take part in a competition with participating teams from the best universities in the world – and we did,” said the students proudly. “Our vision is to continue to promote and solidify the state of Israel and Ben Gurion University on the map at the forefront of development and innovation in the field of synthetic biology.”
Huge kol hakavod to the students and researchers of this great new treatment. Knowing how much suffering is incurred in treating cancer, anything that can alleviate the pain and the risks involved is to be highly applauded.
Happy New Ears update
And now one more item before I close. You may remember my granddaughter Shaked who was born deaf but underwent cochlear implants a few months ago. Well, she is making extraordinary progress thank G-d, the audiology team at Shaare Zedek hospital and the therapists at AV Israel. She is starting to babble like any regular baby, and has finally got the hang of hearing (which does not come naturally if you were not born with natural hearing), using her voice and now copying others. Every new sound is a source of huge excitement and pride for us.
This week I finally managed to catch Shaked on camera saying her first words! “Bye bye”. ♥ (Please excuse the mess in the background! :-D)
What better way to wish you all “bye bye” and Shabbat Shalom. 😍😘