Whether they portrayed life-saving surgery on a Gaza infant, a kibbutz that went solar or a dance for elderly women, our videos touched and informed viewers throughout 2009, revealing a very different side of life in Israel.
It was a touching start to a year full of fascinating and timely features – from an interview with Israeli writer Etgar Keret – whose books are now being transformed into successful Hollywood films – to news of a universal flu vaccine developed in Israel and a series of reports on Jews and Arabs throughout the region working together for coexistence.
During 2009, ISRAEL21c produced some 180 video features and Faces of Israel video vignettes on our YouTube site and received more than one million views. We became the number one most-viewed non-profit from Israel on all of YouTube, and the number one most-subscribed YouTube channel throughout Israel.
Here we bring together our top 10 most-popular YouTube videos of 2009.
The operation saved Jafar’s life and he joined the 1,000 or so Palestinian children and 1,000 additional children from developing countries who have received life-saving heart surgery in Israel from the medical volunteers at Save a Child’s Heart over the last 15 years.
In January, videographer Michal Silberman went to visit Jafar and his parents as the baby recuperated in the Israeli hospital, bringing us a moving film about an act of compassion in the midst of conflict.
2. FDA approves breakthrough lung imaging system
Also in January, journalist Harvey Stein reported on a nine-year-old Israeli company called Deep Breeze which has invented a non-invasive radiation-free lung imaging system that uses Vibration Response Imaging to build a real-time picture of a lung.
The technology, which some experts are calling the biggest breakthrough since ultrasound, can be used to diagnose cancer, asthma and other pulmonary diseases.
3. New vaccine could save bees from colony collapse disorder
The year 2009 was the year of the bee. The alert was raised when bee populations began mysteriously disappearing worldwide. Without bees, people soon realized, we would be without crops and food within an alarmingly short space of time.
In July, Nitsana Bellehsen reported on a revolutionary new vaccine that could save the world’s bees. The drug, Remembee, developed by Israeli company Beeologics, is designed to protect bees from the virus IAVP, which is thought to be the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder, the syndrome that is wiping out bee communities.
Basing its drug on Nobel prize-winning technology, the company has carried out clinical trials on millions of bees in North America, where it was proven effective not only in maintaining bee health, but also in improving the longevity of bees and increasing the amount of honey in their hives. The US Department of Agriculture is accompanying Beeologics through the FDA certification process in an effort to speed up delivery of the drug.
4. Learning to live together is child’s play
At the YMCA Peace Preschool in Jerusalem, coexistence is simply normal life. As our reporter Molly Livingstone discovered, Arab and Jewish children play side by side, day in and day out, learning together without prejudice or conflict.
Parents and teachers at the school hope that one day this will be the reality for all of Israel’s children. The preschool has already been running for 25 years and is just one of many important coexistence projects taking place throughout the country.
5. Where age is a thing of beauty
If there’s one thing that women around the world have in common it’s the anxiety about growing old. But the women taking part in a new dance called Gila, created by Israeli choreographer Galit Liss, are breaking down that stigma, one dance move at a time.
Molly Livingstone went along to interview Liss and to meet some of the women in the show, which encompasses dance, acting, video, music, humor and life stories. She discovered that for these women, some of whom only took up dancing in the last few years, growing old doesn’t have to be a limiting experience.
“It’s all about how you choose to live your life,” says Liss. “Old age could be a beginning not an end.”
6. Israeli solar farm to power a kibbutz
Solar energy is one of the hottest areas of development in Israel today. While traditional businesses saw a slowdown last year as Israeli markets reacted to the world economic downturn, environmental companies continued to grow at a respectable pace.
Reporter Michal Silberman went to visit one of the new solar projects at Kibbutz Yavne in southern Israel. Here, Israeli solar energy company ZenithSolar has launched a new solar farm to provide cheap and efficient alternative energy and hot water to the 250 families on the kibbutz.
ZenithSolar, which was founded in 2006, asserts that in peak conditions it can provide energy to consumers at the same price as traditional fossil fuels, but without any of the damaging effects to the environment. The company’s next goal is to produce small, cheap units for private homeowners.
After 9/11, no one can be in any doubt that high-rise buildings are a prime target for terrorists. And once a building is hit, whether by terrorists or in some kind of natural accident, it is extremely difficult for the people trapped inside to escape.
Molly Livingstone visited an Israeli company that may have the solution. Escape Rescue Systems has developed a revolutionary external evacuation system, stored on the roof of a building, which can help to rescue people caught inside a skyscraper.
Livingstone learned that the system, which is already installed in some Israeli buildings, relies on collapsible cabins, which in an emergency can take 30 people down to ground level every eight minutes.
8. Finding fame in unlikely places
In July, Nitsana Bellehsen met Israeli musician Oren Lavie, whose low-budget video, developed for his single, Her Morning Elegance, had just become an overnight sensation on YouTube.
Nominated later in the year for a Grammy award for best music video, Lavie revealed that his original goal had been to make it big as a writer and director in Europe, but that he unexpectedly found fame as a musician in the US instead.
Today Lavie lives in Los Angeles, and – alongside his success on YouTube – his music is being picked up by the American film and advertising industry.
9. Tel Aviv celebrates its centennial
In 2009, the city of Tel Aviv – Israel’s cultural and economic heart – celebrated its 100th anniversary.
Founded on sand dunes next to the old sea port of Jaffa, the city has become a liberal, tolerant and dynamic metropolis that’s always on the go, both night and day. The New York Times recently called it “the capital of Mediterranean cool.”
Michal Silberman took her camera to Tel Aviv to find out what makes it special and to check out the progress the city has made since its founding in 1909.
10. Israel scores a touchdown with American football
Israel is a land of immigrants, so it’s no surprise that new arrivals from the United States will seek to recreate their favorite sports in their new home.
Reporter Harvey Stein attended an Israel Football League (IFL) game to learn more. He soon discovered that the IFL is attracting more than just former US citizens. The league, which is now in its second full-pad season, is growing quickly as immigrants, veterans, Jews and Arabs all come together to play a game they love.