It’s been ages since I wrote a regular Good News Friday, but despite health problems in the family I want to get back on track.
The first item of good news is that depsite Hamas’ attempt to ignite a war last night, there were no casualties and no damage in their rocket attack on Tel Aviv last night. I must admit though I almost had a heart attack when I heard the siren!
A series of red alert sirens sounded Thursday evening in the Gush Dan region in central Israel.
In addition, an explosion was reported in the city of Or Yehudah near Tel Aviv.
The IDF confirmed that two rockets were fired at Gush Dan. One rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome system. The remains of a rocket fell in northern Tel Aviv.
No casualties were reported.
The Islamic Jihad terrorist organization claimed responsibility for the rocket launches.
Sadly it was much noisier in the south of Israel as a series of Red Alerts sounded throughout the night – but it’s only the center of the country that makes the headlines any more.
A much more peaceful way of making use of flight and space technology is to send a rocket to the moon – which is exactly what Israel did 3 weeks ago. A couple of weeks later the spaceship cheekily sent a selfie back to earth 🙂
The Beresheet spacecraft on Tuesday sent back a photo taken with its “selfie camera,” in which the Israeli flag can be seen 37,600 kilometers (23,000 miles) above Earth.
A plaque installed on the outside of the lunar lander depicts Israel’s national flag as well as the phrases “Am Yisrael Chai” (the people of Israel live) and “Small country, big dreams.”
The picture was taken during a slow spin of the aircraft, with Australia visible in the background.
Once again a huge kol hakavod to the whole SpaceIL team for making history and putting Israel on the map – and even out of it!
Israel’s space exploration demonstrates – if it needs any illustration at all – the country’s hi-tech prowess, and this was demonstrated even further with last week’s OurCrowd annual summit with the participation of hundreds of startups and venture capitalists:
OurCrowd held its biggest-yet annual Global Investor Summit at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem on Thursday, welcoming some 18,000 guests from over 180 countries across the world, including tech entrepreneurs, government officials, and representatives from some 400 multinationals.
The focus of the fifth annual event was on startups with a world-changing social impact and investment in tech and innovation that seeks to solve global challenges in fields such as healthcare, public safety, environment, mobility, cybersecurity, food, and agriculture.
“We need to do good, and make money,” said OurCrowd CEO and co-founder Jon Medved at the event. “That’s what impact investing is all about. We need to attack global challenges.”
“Israel has an explosion of entrepreneurial talent. And we’re just beginning,” Medved said at a press conference ahead of the start of the event.
Just ahead of the conference, OurCrowd announced the launch of a $30 million impact fund in partnership with Social Finance Israel, an initiative that promotes the flow of capital towards solving social issues in Israel. Companies pre-selected for investment will be assessed according to three dimensions, OurCrowd said: alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, impact practice and intentionality, and impact risk.
At Jerusalem’s International Convention Center on Thursday, the summit was a grand affair, drawing a who’s who from Israel’s tech and innovation ecosystem as well as thousands of guests and investors from abroad.
The event hosted a comprehensive exhibition of companies showcasing their tech, including many OurCrowd portfolio startups, as well as foreign ones. The exhibit halls had “pavilions” and “plazas” from Australia, India, Italy, and South Korea.
And with some 250 speakers in 80 sessions, the summit was a whirlwind of activity: from a welcoming speech by Jerusalem mayor Moshe Lion, to a bevy of sessions and roundtables on Israel’s rich tech ecosystem, and a filled-to-capacity “masterclass” on branding and video content hosted by prominent Israeli tech columnist Hillel Fuld and Nuseir (NAS) Yassin, one of the most successful content creators on social media in recent years.
Its focus on Israeli companies has reaped benefits, as “Israel is a world leader in absolute terms in artificial intelligence, mobility, autonomous driving, agriculture tech, digital health and so on; it’s not just cybersecurity,” Medved emphasized.
The event wrapped up with an awards ceremony honoring venerable Israeli scientists Professor Raphael Mechoulam, the “father” on the Israeli medical cannabis research and the head of the Medicinal Chemistry Lab at Hebrew University, and Professor Avraham Baniel, the co-founder of DouxMatok, a startup that developed a patented sugar reduction solution. They each received the Maimonides Award for Lifetime Achievement in Science, Leadership and Menschlichkeit (properties that make a “mensch,” or person of integrity).
“We made history today in Jerusalem,” said Medved in a closing statement. “We are proud that this huge crowd of investors, multinationals, VCs and entrepreneurs gathered and focused tremendous energies on building a global impact investment ecosystem.”
“This summit will create waves that will reach out from here in the coming months and years as we address the serious challenges facing humanity and the planet,” he concluded.
For those who couldn’t get enough, OurCrowd also organized an after-hours networking event at Jerusalem’s iconic Machane Yehuda Market called ShukTech, hosting meetings over food and craft beer, and music.
What an amazing event! Kol hakavod to OurCrowd for their confidence in Israel’s hi-tech industries and for bringing so many investors to our shores. And of course kol hakavod and wishing continued success to all those brilliant inventors, developers and entrepeneurs.
In the light of this it gives me great schadenfreude to find another #BDSFail with EU firms and accelerators heading to Tel Aviv with $300 million in hand for investments into Israeli technology:
Europe, meanwhile, is Israel’s second-largest trading partner, but it runs a number of government-led programs aimed at collaboration. Its peerless Horizon 2020 initiative, a research and innovation project with nearly €80 billion ($90 million) of funding available over seven years (2014-2020), has seen over €700 million ($791 million) in grants handed to Israeli researchers and entrepreneurs so far, according to Ruth Friedel, European Programs Manager at ISERD – The Israel-Europe R&D Directorate.
“In this platform, Israel is quite active, through things like consortiums, and academia, and our job is to promote and maximize Israeli participation,” Friedel tells NoCamels.
And Europe appears to be hungry for more Israeli innovation.
Next week, Israel will host European representatives of top tech accelerators and companies across the continent for the fifth installment of the Europe Days conference, which serves as a platform to leverage the huge business potential between Israel and Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.
Over €300 million ($335 million) in funding opportunities will be on the table for the event, gathering European companies and investors, and some 200 Israeli entrepreneurs.
What a brilliant boost for the Israeli economy and for its reputation. Kol hakavod to all the organizers of this great conference, and kudos to the European investors who are showing their confidence in Israeli know-how and ingenuity.
And now, from the sublime to the not quite ridiculous: Israeli children’s (and many adults’!) favourite snack is the peanut flavoured Bamba. Well, it turns out that the Israeli mother’s habit of stuffing Bamba into her screaming child’s mouth to keep them quiet has in fact been a life-saver for Israeli children – literally. Bamba has protected Israeli children from the ubiquitous peanut-allergy that plagues so many children in the West:
“When we invented Bamba 55 years ago, we never thought it would become the best-selling snack in Israel or that it would attract such interest abroad as well,” Osem Chairman Dan Propper, said at the February 19 opening ceremony of the new factory, built with an investment of about NIS 200 million ($55 million) on an area of 16,000 square meters.
Indeed, this peanut butter-flavored puffed maize snack-in-a-bag wasn’t particularly popular when first introduced in 1964. Actually, Bamba started off as cheese-flavored, similar to Cheetos. It didn’t appeal to local taste buds. But in 1966, Osem replaced the cheese-flavor with peanut-flavored Bamba and its popularity began rising.
Since 2007, Bamba has been the country’s bestselling savory snack.
The world’s attention turned to this snack food upon the publication of the Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP) study, which set out to prove that the very low rates of peanut allergy among Israeli children were a result of high levels of peanut consumption – and, specifically, the consumption of Bamba — beginning in infancy.
The results catapulted Bamba to global headlines when it was found that exposing infants to peanuts within their first year helped prevent peanut allergy by as much as 81 percent.
Moreover, the research was supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services and was conducted by the NIAID-funded Immune Tolerance Network.
In other words, it was not a minor study or questionable science.
“The results have the potential to transform how we approach food allergy prevention,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, Director of NIAID, said at the time.
His statement proved prophetic.
In the US, the prevalence of food allergies increased by 70 percent in kids younger than 18 between 1997 and 2016, according to a CDC report.
Peanut allergy is one of the most life-threatening allergies, according to the Mayo Clinic. Around the globe, drug companies and health organizations are seeking peanut allergy treatments for children who are already allergic to peanuts and those who are at risk.
Peanut allergies affect an estimated 1.2 percent of the overall US population, according to a report in AJMC. The report also shows that peanut allergies place “a tremendous burden on the US healthcare system, employers, schools, and the parents and children affected.”
So, it makes sense why the demand for Bamba is on the up and up.
And now, four years after the groundbreaking LEAP study results were published, the demand for this snack that resembles Styrofoam packing peanuts and melts in one’s mouth, continues to grow in demand.
Israeli food producer Osem says its near-future goal is to produce about 1.5 million bags a day.
These figures are fantastic! 1.5 million bags is almost too much to imagine! Kol hakavod to Osem for producing such a wonderful tasty snack, and now that it has been discovered to have health benefits, well, pass me the Bamba!
On this tasty and inspiring note I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!