After yet another contentious and tense week, thank goodness it’s Friday and time to post another Good News Friday installment.
Dionne Warwick coming to perform in Israel
We’ll start with some entertainment news. Despite US singer Lauryn Hill cancelling her scheduled concert in Israel due to pressure from the BDS bigots, the equally (or more) popular Dionne Warwick has no such qualms and stated that she has no intention of giving in to BDS pressure:
After entertainer Lauryn Hill cancelled her show in Israel for political reasons, American diva Dionne Warwick said Wednesday that she has no plans to cancel her upcoming Tel Aviv performance, saying that “art has no boundaries.”
A statement released to the press read that Ms. Warwick “would never fall victim to the hard pressures of Roger Waters, from Pink Floyd, or other political people who have their views on politics in Israel.”
Outspoken Israel critic Roger Waters and Pink Floyd frontman has called on entertainers to nix their Israel performances in line with the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
“Waters’ political views are of no concern to Ms. Warwick, as she holds her own unique views on world matters. Art has no boundaries. Ms. Warwick will always honor her contracts,” the statement read.
“If Ms. Warwick had an objection to performing in Israel, no offer would have been entertained and no contract would have been signed,” the statement concluded.
Arutz Sheva adds some background:
Warwick, who will appear May 19 at the Menorah Mivtachim Arena (formerly the Nokia Arena) in Tel Aviv, is one of the most accomplished American singers and entertainers in any genre. She is one of the top 40 hitmakers of the modern era, and has had 69 singles in the Billboard Hot 100 during the span of her career, second only to Aretha Franklin as the most-charted female singer of all time. Many of her songs were written – many specifically for her – by the songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, considered two of the most important songwriters in American history. “Dionne Warwick is a class act, in all meanings of the term,” said one music industry observer in Israel. “Lauryn Hill couldn’t shine her shoes.”
We don’t need to denigrate Lauryn Hill (who knows what pressure she was put under?) in order to agree that indeed, Dionne Warwick is a class act. Kol hakavod!
Robbie Williams plays to a crowd of 40,000 in Tel Aviv
In a similar show of loyalty with his Israeli fans, last week pop star Robbie Williams rocked a crowd of 40,000 at Tel Aviv:
Some 40,000 people packed Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park Saturday night to watch, cheer and sing along with British songster Robbie Williams.
The rock has-been Roger Waters applied the same BDS pressure to Williams as he has done to every single cultural icon who comes to Israel, with the same lack of interest from Williams as from Dionne Warwick:
Williams also shared some his personal story, discussing his drug addiction and rehabilitation, and how he overcame his troubles through music.
Lat week, former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters, a vocal critic of Israel, attacked Williams for performing in Tel Aviv, claiming his decision “gives succor to Netanyahu and his regime, and endorses their deadly racist policies.”
Williams did not respond directly to Rogers’ piece during his concert, but did make sure to properly praise Israel and the adoring fans.
“I’ve been here for two days and when I go back home and they ask me how Israel was,” he told the gathered masses, “I’ll tell them it was f***ing amazing.”
You are amazing too Robbie Williams!
Kol hakavod to all of those musical and cultural stars who ignore the BDS pressure to visit Israel. It is no easy thing to go against the anti-Israel bulldozer and I applaud them.
Israel’s economy is booming
With all the noise that BDS make in the media, it is very important for us to remember that Israel is in fact a flourishing country – so flourishing in fact that our economy defies common sense! Yoram Ettinger explains this anomaly:
Irrespective of a cynical and gullible “elite” media, independent of diplomatic pressure, political correctness and conventional wisdom, in defiance of the global economic slowdown, in the face of war and terrorism, and despite ill-advised threats of boycott, divestment and sanctions—but, due to principle-driven tenacity, inherent optimism, human capital/brain power, creativity, cutting edge ingenuity and breakthrough, game-changing innovations—Israel’s economy is expanding beyond expectations, reacting constructively to pressures/challenges, and developing unique commercial and security niches in response to local and global needs.
According to the April 20, 2015 issue of the London Economist Intelligence Unit: “Israel’s high tech sector is in the midst of a boom stronger than anything seen since the late 1990s.  Startups raised a record $3.4bn in 2014….[…] Some 82 Israeli startups were sold last year [for $7bn], […] . It is also significant in boosting Israel’s relations with emerging economic powers hungry for innovation, such as India and China….”
Long-term confidence in Israel’s economy was demonstrated by Microsoft, which inaugurated its second R & D center in Israel, which is the site of Microsoft’s first R & D center outside the USA.
The long-term viability of Israel and its economy is also reflected by its economic indicators, which refute conventional “wisdom.” For instance, Israel’s growth rate (3%) is similar to the USA and above the OECD average, Canada, Britain and Germany, and Israel’s unemployment is below the OECD average. Israel’s declining debt-to-GDP ratio (67%) is lower than the USA, the Euro Bloc, Japan, France, Canada, Britain and Germany.
Judging by Israel’s stellar economic performance, one would hardly guess that Israel experienced a six week war, against Hamas terrorists, in July-August, 2014.
It’s hard to say whether Israel’s economy is a function of its character or simply a miracle – one of many that occur in this miraculous little country. :-)
One of the major contributors to Israel’s economic growth is our population growth, spurred in part by a rise in immigration. In the first 3 months of this year Israel has already seen a rise of 40% in aliya:
A total of 6,499 Jews arrived in Israel between January and March of this year, according to an interim report by the Jewish Agency for Israel. The vast majority of immigrants came from Europe, specifically eastern Europe. 1,971 immigrants came from Ukraine to the Jewish state, the most of any country listed, marking a 215 percent rise from the same period last year. The number of Russian immigrants rose to 1,515, an almost 50 percent increase.
French immigration to Israel rose by 11 percent to 1,413 while immigration from Britain saw a 43 percent rise to 166. Immigration from North America decreased by 7 percent with only 478 new arrivals between January and March.
It will be interesting to see if this trend continues, and if we can encourage more aliya for purely Zionist reasons rather than economic or persecution.
Amblyz glasses for lazy-eye condition
Having mentioned Israel’s burgeoning hi-tech sector, here is yet another example of Israeli ingenuity: Glasses to fix “lazy-eye” in children, to save them having to wear an eye patch:
Amblyopia, or “lazy eye,” is a neural disorder affecting three to five percent of all children. Until now, the only way to strengthen the weak eye has been to put an eye patch over the stronger eye or blur its vision with eye drops. Needless to say, neither option is a hit with kids or their parents.
Israeli family physician Omry Ben-Ezra wanted to find a better solution. The revolutionary result of his efforts, Amblyz Glasses, was introduced to the market in 2012 by multinational company XPAND 3D and has won a product innovation award from the International 3D Society.
Kids like Amblyz much better than eye patches, and it is more effective in treating the condition.
The battery-operated eyeglasses, specially fashioned for children age three to ten, have an electronic shutter to make one lens intermittently transparent or opaque. This helps the weaker eye to function and develop its muscles and neural connections.
“The need for the product came from observing children walking around with eye patches, which seemed medieval,” says Ben-Ezra. “There had been several attempts at active training, but they necessitate sitting in front of a computer or book. So my idea was to incorporate an electronic patch in the glasses, and then the child is training while living everyday life.”
Trials held at Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem, Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer and Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba showed that by eliminating the discomfort of drops and the social awkwardness of wearing an eye patch, Amblyz achieved better compliance.
The shutter approach is superior from a therapeutic point of view as well. “In amblyopia, children develop monocular vision, and when you patch you are still only allowing one eye to work. With our glasses, the eyes are training to work together,” says Ben-Ezra.
“There is great interest in the product,” says Ben-Ezra. “In Turkey, for instance, a chain of optics stores was the first to place an order of 7,000 units.”
Ben-Ezra started working on his project in 2003, and built a very preliminary prototype for the clinical trials, which were reported in the Journal of Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences.
“Then I started to search for a way to build the glasses in an affordable and attractive way, robust enough for children to use,” he says. The Office of the Chief Scientist funded a small startup, OphthoCare, which later received additional support from an Israeli optical chain.
Having suffered from lazy-eye myself as a kid, and absolutely hating the eye patch I was forced to wear, and then seeing my son, and more recently my grandchildren going through the same thing, with no change in methodology in over 50 years as Dr. Ben-Ezra pointed out, this development is simply brilliant. I really hope this ingenious device takes off and becomes a great success. Kol hakavod to Omry Ben-Ezra, Ami Dror and the Israeli officials who are helping to develop these glasses.
Yama-Sharma (left) and Kobliner meet at IDF field hospital in Nepal.
With the Israeli aid delegation to Nepal heading back home this week, it is fitting to conclude this week’s installment with a heart-warming piece (h/t Dad) about an IDF nurse meeting her grandmother’s Nepalese carer at the Israeli field hospital, because the carer wanted to volunteer with the Israelis whom she loved:
A touching reunion occurred at the IDF’s field hospital in Nepal this week between a reserves Lieutenant and a woman who is serving as a translator at the makeshift hospital.
Lieutenant (res.) Dganit Kobliner reunited with Neno Yama-Sharma, who worked as a caregiver for Kobliner’s grandmother in Israel. Yama-Sharma had taken care of Kobliner’s grandma until her passing in Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu in northern Israel.
Now back in Nepal, Yama-Sharma has been working as a translator to help facilitate the doctors and patients communicate.
“She walked around here for a couple of hours and looked for me,” said Kobliner, who is in Nepal as part of reserves duty and working as a nurse in the emergency room. “From what she told me, her Nepalese friends who are still at the kibbutz knew I was here and told her to look for me.”
“From then, we have been sharing memories of her time in Israel. I knew her in Israel but not as personally, and all of a sudden here (in Nepal) we started becoming close,” said Kobliner. “She has been helping us from the first minute as a translator because she has excellent Hebrew.”
Yama-Sharma spent seven years working at a care giving home at Kibbutz Yad Eliyahu, where she took care of elderly patients. During her last two years in Israel she solely took care of Kobliner’s grandmother and after she passed away she decided to return to Nepal.
After the earthquake struck Nepal, Yama-Sharma decided to volunteer at the IDF hospital, not only to give thanks to Israel but also because, according to her, she felt at home among the Israelis.
“I’m still in touch with my friends in Israel, we talk on the phone a couple of times a day,” said Yama-Sharma. “I really miss Israel, and when I heard they were building a hospital I immediately understood that I could help. I really love to help and really love Israel.”
When coming home from a long days work at the hospital, Yama-Sharma says that her neighbors speak of the small country from the Middle East that came to help the Nepalese nation.
“Everyone is talking about Israel and it warms my heart, it really makes me happy. I can’t find the words to express my excitement about how people thank me and the country,” says Yama-Sharma.
I’ve got to admit that I felt a lump in my throat and my eyes became teary as I read this beautiful heart-warming story. Once again, kol hakavod to all the Israeli volunteers who assisted in the rescue effort in Nepal. And kol hakavod too to all the Nepalese locals who volunteered together with the Israelis, and who didn’t forget their old friends from “back home” in Israel.
מזל טוב! עד מאה ועשרים Happy birthday! Until 120!
One final note before I close: yesterday we celebrated our mother’s 80th birthday with a family party at a local restaurant. We had a fantastic time, with funny poems and speeches, and plenty of good food. I hope that I am as energetic and able to enjoy life as Mum when I get to that age!
I’m sure you all join me in wishing Mum a hearty Mazal Tov and happy birthday, and many happy returns in good health, joy together with Dad, and with nachat from all the next generations עד מאה ועשרים – until 120!
With this beautiful news I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!