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2010 in review – the top 10 stories of the year

Posted By Nicky Blackburn On December 28, 2010 @ 12:00 am In | No Comments

It has been a year of contradictions, opening with an earthquake in Haiti in January, where Israeli aid workers rushed to provide assistance to the beleaguered country, gaining the respect of the world for the speed and scope of its response, and ending with Israel suffering a disaster of its own, when a raging forest fire ravaged the northern Carmel region in December.

Unable to douse the flames, which killed 44 and destroyed 12,500 acres of some of the country’s oldest forests, Israel called for international aid, and was delighted and heartened when countries from all over the world came to fight the fire shoulder to shoulder with Israeli fire fighters. Even near neighbors like Turkey, Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority put aside differences to help quench the flames.

It was the year of the Israel Navy raid on the Turkish flotilla, which led to a breakdown in relations with Turkey – thawed briefly only by the Carmel fire – and a crisis in Israel’s dealings with the rest of the world. It was also a year of faltering peace talks with the Palestinians, threats from the Iranians, WikiLeak exposures that continue to rock the world, and an increase in calls for a boycott of Israel.

Despite these political difficulties, Israel continues to flourish. Other countries may still be picking up the pieces after the worldwide recession, but the Israeli economy has grown from strength to strength. In May this year, Israel joined the prestigious Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), while in the fall, the country kick-started its $80 million space program.

Technologies that transform the world

Powering the growth is a long list of exciting innovations from Israel’s high-tech industry and developments in technology, health and environment that are already beginning to transform the world. Just this month, ISRAEL21c was the first to announce that the Kindle’s operating system was made in Israel. Other significant advances include revolutionary new glasses, self healing software invented by IBM Israel, a device that enables severely disabled people communicate, surf the net and even steer a wheelchair by sniffing, interactive movies, and 3DTV – without the glasses.

In the field of airport security, Israel has long been seen as one of the leading players with technologies like WeCU and MagShoe. This year, after the US introduced unpopular new security measures, attention was increasingly drawn to Israel’s successful and alternative airport security approach, which focuses on the passengers, and not their luggage.

In health, Israeli scientists made a breakthrough in developing a new treatment that can kill HIV cells – offering enormous hope to sufferers. Scientists also developed a new intubation device, an ear foam, and a revolutionary new imaging system for early heart disease diagnosis.

With Israel experiencing one of the hottest summers on record, and what is likely to be the seventh year of drought, it’s no surprise that attention here is on clean technologies and alternative energy. From Better Place, the creators of an electric car infrastructure that will go live in Israel next year, to Brightsource Technologies, an Israeli solar company described by US President Barack Obama as “a revolutionary new type of solar power plant,” Israeli companies have been at the forefront of clean tech developments.

Earlier this month, the United Nations launched a decade to fight desertification, and a top UN official called it “the greatest environmental challenge of our time.” Israel has been fighting desertification for decades. Indeed it is the only country in the world that has succeeded in reducing the size of its desert. As one of the leading specialists, Israel is sharing its vital expertise with the world.

A top 10 destination

This was also the year when Israel saw the greatest number of tourists ever recorded in the Holy Land. The country is rapidly becoming recognized as a cultural oasis, with top quality restaurants, wines, music, theater, art and dance drawing people from all over.

In November, Lonely Planet ranked Tel Aviv the third top city in the world, praising it as a leisure, entertainment and cultural center. National Geographic Magazine named it one of the world’s top 10 beach cities and called it “Miami beach on the Med.”

On an international level, peace talks may have been disappointing, but down at street level, Jews and Arabs throughout Israel have continued to make great strides in learning to live together, with projects like the Chefs for Peace, Comet, Windows of Peace and Interfaith Encounter.

And around the world, not just in Haiti, Israeli aid workers have been there in times of crisis to support people in distress, from Romania, to Chile, from the Congo to Nepal.

Throughout it all, ISRAEL21c has recorded the highlights. When so many people regard Israel as a place of only trouble and strife, week after week ISRAEL21c has persistently shown another picture.

Here are the stories you chose as the top stories of 2010.

1. A birth control pill for men

In June, ISRAEL21c broke the story about new technology being developed by Israeli biochemist, Prof. Haim Breitbart that could lead to the creation of a new birth control pill for men within five years. The story swept the Internet and media world like a storm.

Breitbart, of Bar Ilan University, is a specialist in fertility and sperm. He has developed a number of novel compounds that can impair the reproductive ability of the sperm without affecting the male sex drive.

The new pill, dubbed the Bright Pill, has already been tested on animal models successfully. Breitbart believes the new pill could work for between one to three months, depending on the dose. Unlike the female pill, the male pill wouldn’t have to be taken every day.

2. Salt therapy is like a breath of fresh air

A father’s three-year search for a cure for his son’s ear infections led him to found a salt therapy chain in Israel, which is now opening branches in the US as well.

Jonathan Kestenbaum, an American-born immigrant to Israel became interested in the therapy after it helped cure his son of repeated ear infections.

He created the Israeli Salt Room Association, helped close a deal with Israel’s largest health authority, opened salt rooms across Israel, and is now moving into the US market.

3. Moving closer to stem cell therapy

Photo courtesy of Yossi Zamir/Flash90.

Stem cell therapy could soon be within the reach of millions after Israeli scientists made a breakthrough in methods to grow and cultivate embryonic stem cells in suspension.

In May, ISRAEL21c wrote a story about researchers at Jerusalem’s Hadassah University Medical Center who have made important strides in manufacturing mass market stem cell treatments for disorders such as Parkinson’s, diabetes and age-related macular degeneration.

According to Prof. Benjamin Reubinoff, director of the Hadassah Human Embryonic Stem Cells Research Center and the lead researcher in the Hadassah study, within the next year or two, companies in the US and Hadassah’s technology company in Israel will start clinical trials on humans.

4. Israel’s top 10 airport security companies

No one understands security like Israelis do, so it’s no surprise that some of the world’s best new innovative airport security technologies are being developed in Israel.

In our March article, ISRAEL21c took a look at some of the 10 top airport security technologies being developed in Israel, from TraceSafe, which offers an alternative to unpopular body scans; to WeCU, which blends high-tech with psychology; to the pen, Acro-P.E.T., which can sniff out TATP, a main component in explosive detonators.

5. Is this the end of the iPhone?

Sadly for Emblaze, the company that developed the innovative new First Else mobile device, it was the end of First Else, not the ever-popular iPhone.

The device, which Emblaze claimed outsmarted all existing smart phones, created an enormous buzz in the tech community because of its impressive array of features. Born and bred in Israel and developed by about 30 different Israeli companies, Emblaze planned to keep the product here and to help found a worldwide cell phone industry in Israel.

But in June, Emblaze announced that the project was a “no go,” due to delays in deliveries and the slow speed of development.

Many were saddened by the failure of the device, which had created a lot of positive feedback from users who tried it out at trade exhibitions. Geeks everywhere were left hoping that the user interface would be sold on to other established manufacturers.

6. New Israeli treatment kills HIV cells

In September, scientists from Israel reported a significant potential breakthrough in the treatment for HIV and AIDS, when they announced that they had created a new treatment that can destroy HIV-infected human cells without damaging healthy ones.

Some 33.4 million people worldwide are carriers of HIV. To date no therapy has succeeded in completely destroying HIV-infected cells, but only in delaying the development of the disease and making it more manageable.

The new treatment, developed by scientists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, causes the HIV cells to self-destruct, interfering with their ability to infect new cells. Successful in cell culture trials, Yissum, the HU technology transfer company, is seeking a commercial partner to take it through animal and clinical trials.

7. Israeli supermodel Esti Ginzburg joins the army

Already making the headlines for her promise as an international supermodel, Esti Ginzburg created even more when she decided – mid-career – to join the Israel Defense Forces.

The 20-year-old from Tel Aviv has modeled for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and designer names like Tommy Hilfiger, Burberry and Pull & Bear. Now she is over half way through her two-year military service and still takes on modeling jobs.

Her job in the army is to talk to high-school students about their options in the service. It’s a far cry from photo shoots in exotic locales, but for Ginzberg it was an obvious choice. “It’s the values I grew up on,” she tells ISRAEL21c in this video story.

8. Amazon’s Kindle: A Made-in-Israel story

ISRAEL21c broke this story just over a week ago, and the hits are still rising fast. We all know that Israeli engineers are behind some of today’s most significant new technologies, but few were aware that Amazon’s Kindle device was largely developed in the heart of Israel’s high-tech center in Herzliya.

Four years ago, Amazon asked a team of engineers working for the Israeli division of Sun (which was acquired by Oracle last year), to develop a customized Java platform for the Kindle software.

The Herzliya team worked with Amazon for several years to develop a prototype, and when they were satisfied, manufacturing commenced. “They initially ordered 100,000 pieces, and we were frankly skeptical they would sell all of them,” says Eran Vanounou, director of the Oracle development office in Herzliya. “But when they sold out a couple of months later, we realized what we were involved with.”

9. Israel’s top ten technologies that are transforming the Web

Image via Face.com.

Israel’s success in the technology sector is no secret. Over the years the country has become a key research and development center for multinational companies like Motorola, IBM and Google.

Some 3,000 start-ups have been launched in Israel, including ICQ – bought out by AOL, and shopping comparison site Shopping.com, which was purchased by eBay. Today Israel is famous worldwide as a start-up nation.

In August ISRAEL21c took a look at the top 10 technologies that are now transforming the web, including names like Answers.com, MediaMind, Incredimail, iMedix, Outbrain, Fixya and MyHeritage.

10. Israel rushes to Haiti’s aid

Photo courtesy of the IDF Spokesperson Unit.

One day after a devastating earthquake in Haiti that killed 230,000 people, and virtually laid waste to the country’s capital city, 220 Israeli doctors and relief workers were already on their way to the beleaguered country.

While aftershocks continued to rock the Caribbean nation, Israeli medical teams, search and rescue operatives, relief workers, psychologists and social workers flew to Haiti to help with the relief effort.

Within a few days the Israelis had set up the most sophisticated field hospital in Haiti, saving hundreds of lives and providing inspiration to nations throughout the Western world.

Nearly one year on, Israeli experts are still in Haiti, offering a range of significant aid programs, ranging from education to health, disaster preparedness, and psycho trauma counseling.


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