Good News Friday

No matter what happens during the week, it’s always good to hear some good news before Shabbat so here is this week’s Good News Friday post.

Since I so frequently provide news from Israel’s technological sector, I thought it appropriate to start with a rising young (very young!) star who could well be in the forefront of the next generation’s tech wizards.

I’m talking about seven-year old Liel Levitan who won the European School Chess Champtionship:

Seven-year-old Liel Levitan was the top winner in the Girls U7 category of the European School Chess Championship 2018, held June 29 to July 8 in Krakow, Poland.

Liel Levitan, bottom right, competing in the Girls U7 category of the European School Chess Championship 2018. Photo: screenshot

The Israeli second-grader won with 6 points after playing seven matches. Her mother, Julia, filmed Liel accepting her medal while wrapped in an Israeli flag. Click here to see Julia and Liel’s interview with Israel’s Mako news channel (in Hebrew, but too adorable to miss even if you can’t understand the words).

Two of Liel’s three older siblings, Ronit and Yaron, also were among Israel’s 23-person delegation to the event. Ronit finished third in the World School Championship in 2011, when she was seven. The Levitans, who live in Tel Hai, play in the Israel Chess Federation’s Greater Haifa Club.

The winners of the European Championships 2018 receive free board and lodging to participate in the World School Championship 2019 to be held in Tunisia. [That will be interesting to see if the Muslim Tunisia will permit Liel to enter -Ed.]

Watch the video below.

Kol hakavod to Liel! She may be only little now, but she is a giant in chess already and I’m sure she will be hugely successful in the future. Mazal tov and kol hakavod to Liel and to her parents!

On the subject of science and technology, here is some more good news from Israel.

A home breast self-exam device developed by an Israeli has won a $360,000 WeWork Award: – The Jerusalem-based MonitHer home breast-exam system won the $360,000 grand prize at the WeWork Creator Awards on June 20, which was attended by 5,000 people.

Yehudit Abrams, inventor of the MonitHer breast exam device

The handheld ultrasound system enables women to monitor their own breast tissue for abnormalities within 10 minutes in the comfort of their own homes, utilizing artificial intelligence and cloud technology to detect potential anomalies. MonitHer can be used once a month, much more frequently than mammograms and with greater ease.

The new device was developed by American immigrant to Israel Yehudit Abrams, who researched ultrasound technology while completing her post-doc at NASA prior to making aliyah.

What a brilliant concept! So many women find it difficult to go to their doctors for all kinds of reasons. In this way they can monitor their own health at home and protect their health.

Kol Hakavod to Dr. Yehudit Abrams who has made aliya and brought such honour to Israel!

The next item shows that the US-Israel defence relationship is most definitely a two-way street: The US Army announced that it is purchasing tank defense systems from Israel for the whopping sum of $193 million:

Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd announced Tuesday a contract worth over $193 million to supply its TROPHY missile defense system to the United States Army, The Times of Israel reported.

An American Abrams tank equipped with the Israeli-developed TROPHY active defense system (Leonardo DRS and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd.)

The TROPHY, developed by Rafael and the Israel Aircraft Industries’ Elta Group, is designed to protect tanks and other armored vehicles from missiles, rockets, and projectiles. The system is the only active defense system for armored vehicles in the world.

The deal was signed between Rafael and U.S.-based defense contractor Leonardo DRS, which will supply the American military with the systems, to be installed on the M1 Abrams battle tank. The TROPHY, known in Hebrew as me’il ruach, or windbreaker, will be manufactured in the U.S. and Israel.

Under the terms of the contract, Leonardo DRS will provide the U.S. army “with TROPHY systems, countermeasures, and maintenance kits,” the Israeli defense contractor said.

The TROPHY is installed on hundreds of ground combat platforms in the IDF, including Merkava Marks 3 and 4, as well as the Namer armored personnel carriers. Rafael has also signed supply contracts for an additional 1,000 IDF platforms.

At a conference, an official from the U.S. military said they were impressed by the system’s capabilities from live-fire testing on an Abrams tank equipped with the TROPHY. “I tried to kill the Abrams tank 48 times and failed,” said U.S. Army Col. Glenn Dean.

This is great news for both countries, providing excellent defense for the US Army and a valuable export commodity for Israel as well as being a huge vote of confidence in the Israeli Rafael Industries.

There is more good news on the Israel-is-not-isolated front as we learned that Slovakia is the next country to announce that it is moving its embassy to Jerusalem:

Slovak National Council Andrej Danko told President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday that Slovakia is on its way to moving their embassy to Jerusalem. On Tuesday the Slovak lawmakers said they are opening a cultural center in Jerusalem.

Israeli president Reuven Rivlin and his Slovakian counterpart, President Andrej Kiska, are seen at a dinner held at the president’s house in Jerusalem on March 29, 2017. Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO.

The decision was made by Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini after Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein called on them to follow the Czech Republic’s footsteps, who are opening an honorary consulate and cultural center in Jerusalem.

Slovakia will be joining the Czech Republic and Bulgaria as European Unions states who are breaking with EU policy on Jerusalem.

Kol hakavod to Slovakia for their principled stance, joining several other clear-minded countries. May this move be followed by many more countries!

And one last item which is very suitable for this week. Today is Rosh Chodesh Av, the 1st of the month of Av, on the 9th day of which (Tisha B’Av) we mark the destruction of the holy Temples as well as a whole list of other tragedies that occurred on or around the same date.  It is therefore so timely to learn of the discovery of more beautiful mosaics in an ancient synagogue at the archaeological dig in Huqoq (which I first wrote about 2 years ago).

In its eighth dig season, the vibrant mosaic flooring of a fifth century synagogue excavated in the small ancient Galilee village of Huqoq continues to surprise. The 2018 Huqoq dig has uncovered unprecedented depictions of biblical stories, including the Israelite spies in Canaan.

With its rich finds, the Byzantine-period synagogue busts scholars’ preconceived notions of a Jewish settlement in decline.

“What we found this year is extremely exciting,” University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Prof. Jodi Magness told The Times of Israel, saying the biblically based depictions are “unparalleled” and not found in any other ancient synagogue.

“The synagogue just keeps producing mosaics that there’s just nothing like and is enriching our understanding the Judaism of the period,” said Magness.

A recently unearthed mosaic shows two men carrying between them a pole on their shoulders from which is hung a massive cluster of grapes (the same as the easily recognizable symbol of Israel’s Ministry of Tourism). With a clear Hebrew inscription stating, “a pole between two,” it illustrates Numbers 13:23, in which Moses sends two scouts to explore Canaan.

A mosaic found in the 2018 Huqoq excavation is labeled ‘a pole between two,’ depicting a biblical scene from Numbers 13:23. The images show two spies sent by Moses to explore Canaan carrying a pole with a cluster of grapes. (Jim Haberman)

These two newly published mosaics join a pantheon of others — from 2012 and 2013, two Samson depictions, to fantastical elephants and mythical creatures from 2013-2015, Noah’s Ark in 2016, and colorful and as yet unpublished Jonah and the whale in 2017.

During this year’s dig, the team also continued to expose and study rare 1,600-year-old columns, first uncovered in previous seasons, which are covered in painted plaster with red, orange, and yellow vegetal motifs. Other discovered columns, said Magness, were painted to imitate marble.

However, despite these “imitation marble” columns, this was no poor man’s synagogue. Much in the manner of King Herod decorating his palaces with painted faux-marble frescos, the columns and gorgeous mosaics point to a wealthy, flourishing fifth-century Jewish settlement, said Magness.

“In general, unless you’re in a really important church in the Byzantine period, you won’t find marble, rather this common local alternative,” she said. She laughed, saying there is a feeling of “one-ups-manship” in the construction of the Huqoq synagogue.

It’s amazing on the one hand, yet totally unsurprising on the other hand, to find so much rich Jewish history dotted around our land. Even after the hurban (Destruction), Jews continued to live in the Land of Israel and continued to live by the ancient Jewish traditions. Of course this also puts the lie to the absurd and slanderous assertions by antisemites and other Israel-haters that the Jews have no connection to the Land. On the contrary, our connection to this country is so obvious that it seems ridiculous that we have to rebut these claims over and over.

This wonderful archeological discovery is one more point of proof, if ever we needed it.

Kol hakavod once again to the archeologists and researchers who have uncovered this wonderful historical gem.

Despite today marking the beginning of the Nine Days, the countdown to Tisha B’Av, the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, may we merit to see our complete Redemption, the Geula Shlema, speedily in our days, Amen.

I wish you all Chodesh tov and Shabbat Shalom.

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2 Responses to Good News Friday

  1. Reality says:

    wow what a brilliant little sweetie Liel is.Kol Hakavod to her and her siblings.Great news that at long last Israel is selling equipment to the States and not the other way around.Apropo of this ,Israel gave Jordan an old merkava tank for a museum!Who would’ve thought that would happen?
    As for the MontHer device..fantastic! At long last something desperately needed.
    Lets hope this is the last year we will be mourning the Bet Hamikdash and that all these beautiful mosaic floors could be restored to continue to tell the history of the Jewish people in Eretz Yisrael since way way before the common era.Before even the Palestinians!
    Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh tov

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