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Israeli trauma expert Moshe Farchi working with children affected by the 2013 typhoon in the Philippines. Photo: courtesy ISRAEL21c

Israeli trauma expert Moshe Farchi working with children affected by the 2013 typhoon in the Philippines. Photo: courtesy ISRAEL21c

Trauma expert Moshe Farchi’s model stresses the importance of cognitive communication to shift immediate attention from emotions to actions.

By Abigail Klein Leichman

When dealing with someone in psychological trauma, most people instinctively hold, calm and soothe the person.

That may be well-intentioned but it’s not helpful, according to clinical social worker and volunteer medic Moshe Farchi, whose counterintuitive approach recently was adopted as the Israel Health Ministry’s national model for psychological first aid.

Farchi is head of Stress, Trauma & Resilience Studies at Tel-Hai College, and is teaching and using his method in several other countries as well.

While serving as a reserve mental-health officer in the Israel Defense Forces over the past decade, Farchi noticed that the approaches used to help traumatized soldiers in the field simply weren’t effective. Then he began seeing new research showing the scientific reasons for that failure.

He determined to create a new psychological first-aid model based on the latest science and easily implemented by anyone on the scene, not only by mental-health professionals who aren’t as likely to be available immediately.

“I wanted to provide something the whole community could do,” Farchi tells ISRAEL21c.

The program he devised centers on six Cs: cognitive communication, challenge, control, commitment and continuity.

The Six Cs model calls for activating the traumatized person mentally and physically. Activating might mean assigning a task, asking the person to take a walk or giving them decisions to make. Often those in trauma aren’t hurt but have witnessed or otherwise been involved in a frightening situation.

But even injured people in psychological trauma can be given small decisions in order to feel in control, says Farchi. They can be offered a drink of water or asked to direct first-responders where to stand, for instance.

The success of the Six Cs model has been documented. For example, in the summer of 2014, residents of an Israeli town on the Gaza border who were traumatized by rocket fire did not develop post-traumatic stress disorder if they had been treated on the scene according to Farchi’s protocol.

90 seconds

The scientific underpinning of this approach is dozens of studies demonstrating that the brain’s center of emotions, the amygdala, has a seesaw relationship with the brain’s center of logical actions, the prefrontal cortex.

“Activating the amygdala by calming the person emotionally causes the prefrontal cortex to decrease its function, and vice versa,” says Farchi. “We need to reduce the dominance of the amygdala, so actually we should speak cognitively rather than emotionally.”

Emotional communication (“Of course you’re scared”) only reinforces the person’s feeling of helplessness, while cognitive communication shifts attention from emotions to actions.

“Instead of stabilizing the feeling of being scared, we activate the person. We might say, ‘Tell me how many people are around you. Can you count them? How many people are lying down?’ It takes about 90 seconds to shift the person from passiveness to a person who can be helpful to himself and others,” says Farchi, 55.

Since 2013, Farchi’s Six Cs model has been taught to every IDF soldier. In November 2013, Farchi led a delegation from his program at Tel-Hai College to work with victims of the Philippines typhoon in coordination with Israeli humanitarian organizations Brit Olam and Natan.

Moshe Farchi teaching his trauma-care model in the Philippines. Photo: courtesy

Moshe Farchi teaching his trauma-care model in the Philippines. Photo: courtesy

“People going through a traumatic event are very confused and cannot synchronize the event in logical order, and that means the endpoint of the event is also not synchronized,” says Farchi, who volunteers for the Golan Search and Rescue Unit in Israel.

“Subjectively that means the incident doesn’t end and that’s why we have flashbacks. A couple of studies showed that the window of opportunity to resynchronize the events is no more than six hours before the memory is stabilized. That’s why we should assist the person to synchronize the event and emphasize that the major threat is over.”

After a suicide bombing last May in Manchester, Farchi immediately flew over to teach community members his method and returned this summer to train first-response trainers.

He went to Argentina twice to train firefighters, and has taught his method in Haiti and in Germany as a member of Natan’s psychosocial team.

All Israeli first responders are now learning the method, and the Education Ministry will start training high school students in Farchi’s method too. “I hope in the next two or three years the whole population will know how to do this,” he says. Training takes only a couple of hours.

Family therapist and EMT Miriam Ballin, director of the United Hatzalah Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit, says that previously, training for the two-year-old voluntary unit’s 150 mental-health workers and 150 medics was based on World Health Organization (WHO) psychological first-aid protocols.

United Hatzalah psychotrauma team leader Miriam Ballin with Moshe Farchi. Photo: courtesy

United Hatzalah psychotrauma team leader Miriam Ballin with Moshe Farchi. Photo: courtesy

“We are happy to collaborate with Dr. Farchi through the Health Ministry to implement his protocol and we hope it will allow us to give a whole other level of care to the patients we meet in distressing circumstances,” Ballin told ISRAEL21c in early August.

She got an opportunity to use the Six Cs method not long afterward as part of her team’s work with  Houston flood victims in August 2017.

“We always like to advance our skill sets. We meet people on the worst day of their lives and want to do all we can to ease them through that crisis period,” she says.

Israel’s Radical New Approach to Psychological First Aid

Otonomo’s team in Herzliya Pituah. Photo: courtesy ISRAEL21c

Otonomo’s team in Herzliya Pituah. Photo: courtesy ISRAEL21c

Israel’s high-tech expertise is a perfect fit for automakers building the systems that will put self-driving cars on the road safely and securely.

By Brian Blum

How did Israel, a country that has no domestic car manufacturing industry, become a worldwide powerhouse for autonomous-driving technology (also known as self-driving cars)?

“We get that question a lot,” says Yaniv Sulkes, VP of business development and marketing for Autotalks, a leading Israeli startup in the autonomous driving space. “We’ll meet with a manufacturer and they’ll say, ‘You’re the 30th company we’ve seen from Israel!’”

Sulkes tells ISRAEL21c that the car business is going through a massive paradigm shift. If before it was all about “the engine, the power train and the design, now we’re getting into artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and network connectivity. It’s become an interdisciplinary domain and this is an area where Israel has a lot of IP [intellectual property] and experience.”

Alon Atsmon, an Israeli business advisor and investor in the burgeoning car-tech industry, agrees with Sulkes. “Car manufacturing is not about tires or brakes anymore, but the technology inside the car – the sensors and algorithms. It’s a natural next direction for the expertise Israel has built over the years.”

Here are our picks for the 10 hottest Israeli companies offering autonomous driving technology.


The Jerusalem-based company that’s made its mark with an annoying beep whenever you get too close to another car or change lanes without signaling was bought earlier this year by Intel for $15 billion. The reason: to turn Intel into a player in the autonomous driving space.

Mobileye makes integrated cameras, chips and software for driver-assist systems – the building blocks for self-driving cars. Intel Chief Executive Brian Krzanich said the acquisition was akin to merging the “eyes of the autonomous car with the intelligent brain that actually drives the car.”


Haven’t heard of LiDAR yet? You will soon; it’s a key component enabling autonomous driving. An acronym for “light detection and ranging,” LiDAR uses laser beams to measure distance. It’s what allows self-driving cars to “see.”

InnovizOne automotive-grade LiDAR device offers high-definition 3D scanning, while InnovizPro is designed for testing self-driving cars. Innoviz’s proprietary sensing solutions will be integrated into UK-based Delphi Automotive’s systems to provide automakers with a comprehensive portfolio of autonomous driving technologies.

The company was founded in 2016 by former IDF members with experience in electro-optics, computer vision and signal processing.


If InnovizPro makes it easier to test autonomous vehicles in the real world, Ness Tziona-based Cognata does the same in the virtual world.

The Rand Corporation reports that autonomous cars will need some 11 billion miles of testing to prove they’re better at driving than humans. That would take a fleet of 100 cars running non-stop over 500 years. Cognata uses artificial intelligence, deep learning and computer vision to simulate real cities in 3D.

For San Francisco, Cognata’s first virtual city, the company mapped every building and tree along with traffic models to study how autonomous vehicles drive and react. “We can drive millions of miles in a few hours,” Cognata CEO Danny Atsmon says.

Oryx Vision

This Petah Tikva startup tackles the same problem as Innoviz – sensors to help autonomous cars “see” – but does it using micro-antennas to detect light waves rather than LiDAR. The technology splits the difference between existing systems.

Like LiDAR, it uses a laser to illuminate the road ahead, but as with traditional radar, it treats the reflected signals as electro-magnetic waves. Oryx claims its system works better in bad weather, can see farther than LiDAR, uses much less energy, and brings costs down even further.

“Autonomous vehicles need much more powerful depth-sensing capabilities than what was originally thought; existing technologies simply cannot deliver them,” Oryx CEO Rani Wellingstein told Geektime.

On August 8, Oryx announced the closing of a $50M Series B funding round.


For all the advanced technology in self-driving cars, they still can’t see around corners. That boosts the potential for collision between two autonomous vehicles. Autotalks has a solution.

Two vehicles with an Autotalks unit installed can communicate with each other regardless of visibility. Autotalks can predict what will happen in the next five to 10 seconds, allowing enough time for a course correction, Autotalks CEO Hagai Zyss told ISRAEL21c .

Autotalks is currently promoting its B2V (bike-to-vehicle) chipsets connecting people-driven cars and motorcycles, but it’s applicable for autonomous vehicles as well. Autotalks is part of an emerging vehicle-to-vehicle standard in the US that would mandate the technology by 2021, and is opening three new sites — two in Japan and a third in South Korea — to provide close local support to Asian car manufacturers and automotive Tier-1 suppliers.

Guardian Optical Technologies

Your autonomous taxi or ride-share has no driver to tell you how many passengers can jump in the back seat or to remind you to buckle your seatbelt. Guardian Optical Technologies’ sensor scans the cabin for movement, distinguishing between still objects and people by looking for the presence of a beating heart.

Guardian’s system replaces existing solutions, such as seat-pressure monitors and seatbelt-tension detectors, bringing down costs and boosting simplicity of installation. Guardian’s sensors can even remind you if you’ve left something behind – whether that’s a purse or an infant.

Argus Cyber Security and Karamba Security

“The future will be less about traffic accidents and more about hacks,” says Ofer Ben-Noon, CEO of Argus Cyber Security. Both Argus and competing Israeli startup Karamba aim to keep today’s connected cars and tomorrow’s autonomous vehicles safe from the possibility that someone with ill intent could take control.

Argus, the bigger of the two, works with car manufacturers and equipment providers to embed its security into the car’s systems. Karamba focuses on securing the car’s most vulnerable points of entry for hackers: the infotainment center and the systems that keep it immobilized until being unlocked. Argus covers these two systems and adds telematics units, in-vehicle networks and aftermarket devices.

In June, Argus was named to The Wall Street Journal’s Top 25 Technology Companies to Watch.


You might not think of your car as a computer, but that’s what it has become. And just as computers generate data about what their users are doing, so do connected cars, from fuel level to tire pressure, speed, trip duration and number of passengers. As autonomous driving becomes a reality, the amount of data will only increase.

Otonomo is doing for car-created data what Google did for search results. The company has developed an ecosystem for sharing driving information with third parties — insurance companies, fleet managers and car manufacturers. One goal is to use this data to improve future autonomous offerings.

“Google and Apple are the best in the world at monetizing data … the car guys understand it,” Otonomo CEO and cofounder Ben Volkow told Business Insider. Automakers “see us as a strategic partner to help play the same game.”


If you’re in New York, Russia, the UK or Israel and you need a taxi (a real one, not an Uber), you can summon one on your smartphone via Gett. While “Gett is not an autonomous vehicle tech company per se, it is, along with Mobileye and Waze, one of the most important new mobility companies in Israel,” investor Mike Granoff tells ISRAEL21c. (Granoff’s new Maniv Mobility, the first Israeli venture fund dedicated to mobility tech, recently raised its first $40 million.)

Gett certainly has a stake in the evolving self-driving car space – when taxis go autonomous, Gett plans to be there and the user preference data it’s amassed may give it an edge over traditional taxi services. Gett raised $300 million from Volkswagen last year and paid $200 million in April 2017 to buy rival Juno.


You’re hankering for a self-driving vehicle, but you already own a car. It’s IVO to the rescue. IVO (“intelligent vehicle operator”) is a robotic chauffeur that can be placed in the driver’s seat of any car. IVO uses a handful of cameras, sensors and mechanical devices to depress the brakes and turn the steering wheel. Sophisticated algorithms make up for the relatively simple sensors.

And it’s inexpensive – just $1,600 today with prices expected to fall if IVO is manufactured at scale. That’s a big if: IVO is still a prototype being built in a robotics lab at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. But project head Oded Yechiel is bullish on the IVO opportunity, which means “you can still utilize the fleet of worldwide cars,” he told the Live Science website.” IVO weighs 33 pounds and can be carried in a suitcase.


Article courtesy of

Article courtesy of

Ten of the Hottest Self-driving Technologies from Israel

Hossam Haick, making major strides in nanotechnology at the Technion 

Technion–Israel Institute of Technology Professor of Chemical Engineering and Nanotechnology, Hossam Haick on being an Arab Nanoscientist in Israel.

We have a tradition in the Arab sector that immediately after high school you go to university [unlike most Jews in Israel, who do their military or other national service first], without any experience in life, without any experience with science, or with what is going on in universities. Sometimes this is problematic, so I decided that I would not do it that way. I found work as a waiter. I worked in a fish restaurant for thirteen hours per day . . . and that’s when I started to see that home and school are very nice places! When you work, you interact with people, you start to see the conflicts—not from the news, but rather in reality. Those were the most useful years of my life.

We need to increase the number of role models in our society, otherwise we will not advance anywhere.
— Hossam Haick

Two years later, I started at Ben-Gurion University for chemical-engineering studies, and later took my Ph.D. at the Technion. And then I decided to do a postdoctoral fellowship at the California Institute of Technology. My wife and I spent two years in the United States, and then we faced a dilemma: Should we move back to Israel? We had several offers from leading universities in the United States to join the faculty. In terms of salaries, they could offer more than the universities in Israel, also social benefits, great students—everything was much better.

But after a lot of thinking, we realized that if a scientist does not translate his work to society, then he will not deliver the main message expected from a scientist. And we thought that our contribution to society could be much better in Israel, because we know the community here, we know the conflicts between Arabs and Jews, we know the difficulties of the students. . . . So we decided to come back to Israel, to the Technion. The Technion is of course a leading technological institute, and that was the main thing. But the added value is its location in Haifa, where there is a mix of Arab, Jewish, Druze, Russians, everybody. We thought that maybe, under the umbrella of science, we could help to make a kind of network among all these people.

On Mentoring the Next Generation of Arab-Israelis

Today, about 25 to 30 percent of my time is devoted to going into high schools and communities. When I do this, I am often asked: “How do you feel as an Arab in Israel?” These questions are not necessarily connected to my scientific work but rather to the social part of who I am. And I like to hear them, because I want to answer them.

The major thing I want to convey is this: in the Arab society, there is a belief that, as an Arab, you never can succeed in this country. You shouldn’t go for a Ph.D. or graduate studies, because you will not find any place to work. I try to educate the new generations, saying: Try to excel in what you do, in your studies. If you have truly excellent achievements, you won’t need to look for places to work; they will look for you.

I travel all over Israel, starting with the Bedouins in the South, up to the North. And I don’t focus my efforts only on Arab schools; every week, I give talks at Jewish schools, too. The Jews need a new role model, too.

With the primary school kids and with Arab Ph.D. students—I don’t teach them only about research in science and technology. I let them know they have to contribute to society at the same time. We need to increase the number of role models in our society, otherwise we will not advance anywhere, and the gap between the Arabs and the Jews will get even bigger. I am grateful for every effort that is done to raise the level of the Arab sector, because this helps the whole country. I am trying to change perceptions on both sides. We cannot make changes on one side only.

Learn more about Hossam's innovative work to sniff out disease.

Technion–Israel Institute of Technology > 

Nanotech superstar Hossam Haick

The Nanose device, developed at the Technion, analyzes breath in order to detect diseases such as cancer and Parkinson’s, even in their earliest stages. Photo courtesy and copyright © LNBD Group

If there is such a thing as a science superstar, it might be Hossam Haick, Professor of Chemical Engineering and Nanotechnology, Technion–Israel Institute of Technology. Born and raised in Nazareth, he left Israel after receiving his Ph.D. to study in the United States for a few years; he then returned to the Technion, where he is currently a professor of chemical engineering and nanotechnology. 

By analyzing breath we can discriminate between different types of lung cancer, early stage from late, and most important, the benign from the malignant.
— Hossam Haick, Professor of Chemical Engineering and Nanotechnology, Technion–Israel Institute of Technology

Haick has been working on what he calls the “Nanose” since 2007. This remarkable device is designed to “sniff out” cancer and other diseases, including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, gastric ailments, and more. Haick is a respected and successful scientific researcher who has received major scientific awards from all over the world, and has managed to raise huge sums of money in support of his work. (“You can do nothing without funding!” he says.)

We know that disease has a pattern of molecules in the breath. If you can detect these molecules, then you can associate them with a given disease. Dogs have a very sophisticated olfactory system; it’s ten thousand times more sensitive than ours. The “Nanose” started out as an idea to try to imitate the olfactory system of the dog—exactly on the same principles—and to make real-world applications with it. One of these applications is to smell disease through the breath.

In our lab, we take the two main parts of the dog’s olfactory system, the receptors and the brain, and try to imitate them in an electrical way, using nanotechnology. The ultimate device is known as the Nano-Artificial Nose—the Nanose.

Initially, in clinical studies, we had success detecting advanced-stage lung cancer, and we published our findings. But very soon we realized that the most important application of this technology is early-stage detection—before the patient himself or herself is feeling the disease, which is usually not until the advanced stages. And even further: if you can predict whether a healthy person is at high risk to get cancer, you can begin taking preventive measures. So right now, we are working on detecting, with exhaled breath, whether a person is at risk to have cancer in the future.

Some advantages of our technology are that it’s portable, noninvasive, and faster than the CT scan. We can detect cancer even before you can see it in the CT. Moreover, by analyzing breath we can discriminate between different types of lung cancer, early stage from late, and most important, the benign from the malignant. And we can do it with a very high accuracy rate.

Ultimately, we want our device to be easy to use. In twenty years, we hope to have a device that is portable or can be integrated with a smartphone. And it should work. But the most critical part of this project is cost. So we are working hard to make the device inexpensive; we hope to bring it to the order of a few hundred dollars. Then it can be provided not only to hospitals but to family doctors and pharmacies where the tests can be part of routine examinations.

There are a lot of risks in this project. Inventive projects usually are risky. But we are taking these risky steps without going against the stream—and we are able to show results. We are advancing good science, which can help society.

Technion–Israel Institute of Technology > 

The “Nanose”: Sniffing out Diseases

Filtering freshly pressed olive oil at Rish Lakish, Zippori

There are countless stories in Israel of small-scale businesses that cobble together several undertakings in order to succeed. The Rish Lakish olive oil press, in the village of Zippori in the Lower Galilee, is one of these. At the head of this family-owned business are Micha and Rachelle Noymeir, but their six children played a formative role in the establishment of their olive oil production. Their headquarters, a lovely straw-bale structure, was built by the Noymeir sons.

At Rish Lakish, all olives are picked by hand.

During harvest time at Rish Lakish, ladders are propped against trees in the olive groves and workers focus on their task (unlike most commercial olive groves, which use mechanical “shakers” to urge the fruits off the trees, at Rish Lakish, all olives are picked by hand). The tiny green-and-purple fruits then go back to the compound, where the olives are quickly shuttled onto a conveyor belt, sorted from leaves and twigs, and dropped into the press, to be pummeled by a set of massive granite stones. Later, the olive mush is centrifugally churned to separate the oil from the dregs. The end product is a beautifully pristine tawny-green oil, rich and flavorful.

The Noymeir family’s headquarters at Rish Lakish, Zippori. Photo copyright © Cookie West

While chiefly a producer of organic olive oil, Rish Lakish also sells foodstuffs and olive-oil-based cosmetics, has a fine little café, gives tours of the facility, and invites schoolchildren to visit the olive groves. During harvest time, they hire Israeli, Palestinian, and Thai workers, and host international volunteers who come to work on the farm. The operation is involved in a consortium called Olive Oil Without Borders, a project with a goal to bolster grassroots, cross-border economic cooperation and to promote peace and reconciliation between Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs, and Palestinians.

Olive Oil Without Borders > 

Rish Lakish Olive Oil > 

Rish Lakish Olive Oil: A Family-Scale Enterprise

Stef Wertheimer 

Stef Wertheimer is one of Israel’s most successful businessmen; he is also a philanthropist, and in the late 1970s and early 1980s he served as a member of Israel’s Knesset. Chief among Wertheimer’s many enterprises was ISCAR, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of carbide industrial-cutting tools, used by carmakers such as GM and Ford. In 2006 the company, which Wertheimer founded out of a shack in his backyard in 1952, became the first major international target of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. Wertheimer sold 80 percent of ISCAR to Buffett that year, and the remaining 20 percent in 2013. (ISCAR is now the leading brand of the company known as International Metalworking, or IMC.)

What makes peace? The answer is jobs.
— Stef Wertheimer

Wertheimer has built six industrial parks in Israel (and a seventh in Turkey) that provide working space for industrial startups—he has dubbed them “capitalistic kibbutzes.” One contains the innovative Open Museums. These were some of the endeavors for which Wertheimer received the Oslo Business for Peace Award in 2010.

The most recent of Wertheimer’s parks was launched in 2013 in the predominantly Arab city of Nazareth. Situated above the Jezreel Valley, the facility overlooks one of Israel’s greenest landscapes. An entire floor of one of the buildings is occupied by the telecommunications billing company Amdocs (whose Nazareth workforce is 60 percent Arab and 40 percent Jewish). Other entities in this industrial park are Alpha Omega (manufacturer of instruments for neuroscience) and MEET (Middle East Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow). The park’s opening ceremony was attended by Shimon Peres, who observed: “This is the best statement for coexistence between Jews and Arabs; it is truly significant, not just empty words.”

Wertheimer is a staunch believer that the answer to the region’s problems—the world’s problems—is employment and economic stability for all. “What makes peace?” he says. “The answer is jobs.”

Alpha Omega >

Middle East Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow (MEET) >

Israel’s industrial parks >


Businessman Stef Wertheimer: Looking for Peace through Economic Sustainability

Yeshayahu (Ishi) Talmon photo by Miki Koren courtesy Technion-Israel Institute of Technology

Yeshayahu Talmon is a chemical engineer and former director of the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute (RBNI) at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, in Haifa. A frequent spokesman for the industry, he answers even laymen’s questions patiently and lucidly, and offers positive news about Israel as a “nucleus” for nanoscience.

Some Basics about Nanotechnology

Collaborations among the various scientific disciplines are crucial.
— Yeshayahu Talmon

Nanotech is all around us and inside us. Our cells are enclosed within membranes that are about five nanometers thick. Nanotechnology can involve either organic or nonorganic materials. Some of our foods have nanoparticles that are organic. Many of our body liquids—blood, for instance—have nanoparticles. 

Nanoscience is the science of everything that happens on that very small scale. Now, technology is being developed to take that science and apply it.

One example of applications we are working with at the Russell Berrie Nanotech Institute is carbon nanotubes. Carbon nanotubes are only one to two nanometers thick, but the single particle is extremely strong. And in some forms, they are very good electrical conductors, and they are lightweight . . . so in principle they could be the material of the future. However, in most cases, we cannot use them as single nanoparticles, so somehow we have to spin fibers out of them, and this is a challenge. (Sometimes, although it all works very well on a basic scientific level, when you try to make it into a process, things become more complicated.)

Another example of how the technology is applied is graphene sheets. Graphite, of course, is what you have in your pencil. However, when graphite is dispersed into single layers of carbon atoms, it has mechanical and electrical properties that can be used to make interesting coatings, like for touch screens, for instance. All touch screens now have some kind of conductors in them, and by using graphene, you can potentially make better, cheaper, longer-lasting coatings. In 2010, the Nobel Prize in Physics was given to Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, two scientists working on graphene, so this field suddenly became even more exciting than before.

There is also a very important interface between medicine and the nanosciences, starting with intelligent, sophisticated sensors, all the way to drug delivery. At the Technion, we try to bring people from our faculty of medicine together with people from engineering and the basic sciences, in some cases to advise graduate students jointly, and to work on a medical or biological problem where scientists and engineers can help. Collaborations among the various scientific disciplines are crucial here.

The Technion’s Role in Nanotechnology

Israel joined the nano community early on. And the Technion formed the nanotechnology center in 2005, two years before anybody else here. I played a part in its formation, but the effort was primarily led by Professor Uri Sivan of the physics department, who was the first director of the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute. (I took over in 2010.) In a way, it was a pioneering effort not only for the Technion, but for the entire country, because it formed a model on which all the other institutes were formed, not so much in the structure, but much more in the emphasis and in the way they are supported.

We have recruited many new faculty members at the RBNI; each of them is excellent. Many of them spent a good number of years in the United States or in other places, but most are originally Israeli. There is a lot of talk about bringing back Israelis from abroad. We’ve had to lure them from places like Boston University, Stanford, UCLA—it’s competitive. And then, when they’ve made the decision to come to Israel, we have to compete with the other Israeli universities: the Weizmann Institute, the Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University, and so on. Our government is trying to reverse the “brain drain” that we have experienced most acutely in the sciences, of course, because these are the people who are most sought-after by institutions outside Israel.

But there is a kind of “snowball effect”—although we scientists prefer to call it a “nucleation process”! Once you form a nucleus, it grows and attracts more material to form a crystal. Good researchers are attracted to a good nucleus. 

Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute >  

Technion–Israel Institute of Technology  >  

Further Resources: 
Israel National Nanotechnology Initiative >  

Nano Israel >  

Tel-Aviv University Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology >  

Weizmann Institute of Science >  

Yeshayahu Talmon on Israel’s Contributions to Nanotechnology

Shari Arison, businesswoman and philanthropist, with a photograph of her grandparents, Moshe and Sara Arisohn 

Shari Arison is one of the most successful women in the world. Among the entities under her watch are the Shikun and Binui real-estate and infrastructure business, Israel’s Bank Hapoalim, and Miya, the company that optimizes urban water supplies. Shari also heads The Ted Arison Family Foundation, a major philanthropic force in Israel and elsewhere, and she founded Matan, the Israeli counterpart to United Way. She is respected around the world for her eco-awareness and her companies’ devotion to sustainability.

I might be a teacher for some and a student for others. We’re all teaching and learning constantly.
— Shari Arison

Most unusual in the field of megabusiness, Shari is also a woman of unabashed spirituality, compassion, and conscience. In 2007, she initiated Good Deeds Day in Israel, with a simple premise: “If every person does something to make a difference, and communities, organizations, and corporations give of their time and skill to help others, lives will be improved, and our world will be a better one. Just imagine the impact!”

Shari’s 2009 book Birth: When the Spiritual and the Material Come Together has been translated into many languages and distributed worldwide. Her unique humanitarian values-based approach in business and philanthropy has earned her an honorary doctorate in humane letters from George Mason University. In 2013 Shari published Activate Your Goodness: Transforming the World through Doing Good, in which she outlines basic strategies for daily decency and her own insights into ethics. She has expanded on that notion with her latest volume: The Doing Good Model: Activate Your Goodness in Business, in which she illustrates how everyone benefits when companies value people and the planet alongside profits. 

For Shari, life is an ongoing process of learning. “To me, nobody is bigger or better than anybody else. We all teach and are taught at the same time. I might be a teacher for some and a student for others. We’re all teaching and learning constantly.”

Good Deeds Day >

Matan >

Shari Arison >

Shari Arison: A Business Leader Who Does Well at “Doing Good”

Israel has an Arab population of about 20 percent: currently that is some 1.7 million people. Yet the percentage of Israeli Arabs involved in the booming field of high tech is far lower—only about 2 percent of Israeli technology workers are Arab. This gap is one of the many challenges in the country today—but it is beginning to lessen, bit by bit. Arabs are represented at Israel’s top universities in numbers that correspond more closely with their percentage in the overall population. And the numbers of Arab engineers at the large Israeli branches of multinational tech companies such as Cisco, Google, Intel, and Microsoft are starting to climb.

When we employ people from different cultures, we can go even further, because each one thinks differently—and that can create inventiveness.
— Imad Younis, Alpha Omega cofounder

In the city of Nazareth, a small startup ecosystem is coming to life, with the help of Arab-focused venture capital funds and undertakings like the Nazareth Business Incubator Center and Stef Wertheimer’s industrial park.

Alpha Omega is one of the Arab-directed companies with headquarters at Wertheimer’s Nazareth park. Founded in 1993 by Reem Younis and her husband, Imad, the company produces cutting-edge products for neurosurgery and neuroscience research. They make a device that functions like a “GPS” system for the brain—recording neural activity, stimulating neural tissue, processing and analyzing data. It is used by neurosurgeons in the treatment patients with a variety of disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease and dystonia (a syndrome that causes involuntary muscle spasms).

Reem and Imad Younis met at the Technion, where she was studying civil engineering and he electrical engineering. Establishing Alpha Omega was a financial leap into the void for both of them: the young couple’s starting capital was comprised of the money from selling their Volkswagen Jetta, and four gold coins donated by Imad’s father. Over the following years, the Younises edged the company forward. Reem recalls:

We didn’t begin with an idea to “start a startup”; our only idea was to bring high tech to Nazareth, to the Arab sector, the Arab community. And we called it “Alpha Omega” because the idea was—we’ll do everything, from A to Z. Little by little we went into the medical-equipment business. We are there in the operating room with doctors treating people with neurological and mental disorders, helping them to get better.

While helping people to get better is the Younises’ primary aim, they also have a goal to help Nazareth succeed as a city of diversity and technology. As of this writing, Alpha Omega is thriving: the company employs more than sixty people—Muslims, Christians, and Jews—the majority are Arab (reflecting the demographic of their city). Imad Younis says that the mix of backgrounds has been valuable to Alpha Omega’s success: “When we employ people from different cultures, we can go even further, because each one thinks differently—and that can create inventiveness. . . . We can work together to achieve common goals.”

Alpha Omega’s “GPS systems for neurosurgeons” are used in hundreds of research labs and hospitals around the world. The Younises are proud to say that several of their former employees have gone on to form companies of their own. Most recently, Alpha Omega has released a new product that supports both clinical and research functions. And after securing regulatory approval in China, Alpha Omega has made its first major step into the Asian market.

Reem and Imad Younis are modeling and promoting entrepreneurship among the next generation of Israeli Arabs, encouraging them to take hold of the future and do something great with it.

Alpha Omega > 

Innovators Reem and Imad Younis, of Alpha Omega, makers of a “GPS” system for the brain

Naty Barak, Chief of Sustainability, Netafim. Photo courtesy Netafim

Naty Barak, Chief of Sustainability at the pioneering company Netafim describes Israel’s role in launching an irrigation technology that has revolutionized agriculture around the world. 

A Startup in a Kibbutz

In Hebrew, we say that we’re talking to farmers ‘at eye level’: farmer to farmer.
— Naty Barak, Chief of Sustainability, Netafim

When I was young, I was very idealistic. I moved from my home in Haifa to Kibbutz Hatzerim in 1964, along with a group of other young people. We were all farmers, but we weren’t having much success because of water shortage and the high salinity of the soil. The idea for Netafim came in 1965. We had been looking for an industry as a focal point, and we’d set up some guidelines for what we wanted. For one thing, we wanted it to be connected to agriculture. We needed something that would not require too much labor: the idea was to find work for fourteen kibbutz members.(Today we have nearly three thousand employees, all over the world.

Simcha Blass Has an Idea

It was Simcha Blass who moved the idea of drip irrigation forward. Once, Simcha saw a long row of trees that had obviously all been planted at the same time—and yet one of them was far bigger than the others. He was curious and went to see what the reason was. He discovered a water pipe that had a crack in it, and it was leaking near the tree, slowly, drop by drop. On the surface of the ground, there was just a limited circle that was a little bit wet, and the rest of the soil was dry. When he started digging, he saw that underground the wet area became wider, and that there were a lot of roots.

This gave him the idea. That was in the late 1930s. But he kept the idea in his head for years, until affordable plastic piping was introduced, and in the 1960s he started to do experiments in his backyard with the drip system. A few years later, a brilliant engineer developed the next generation of drippers for us. Today, the tiny plastic dripper has many functions built into it. It’s pressure-compensated, which means that it will always deliver exactly the same amount of water, regardless of distance from the water source; it’s self-cleaning; and it has all kinds of clog-prevention and non-leakage mechanisms.

  To give you an idea of what it all means: I’ve worked a lot in the Arava Desert. The rainfall there can sometimes be as little as twenty millimeters per year. But today it’s a rich agricultural area, largely because of drip irrigation.

Helping to Irrigate the World

Today, Netafim has thirteen manufacturing plants all over the world: in California, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, South Africa, Australia, two plants in India (and we are thinking about a third one), three plants in Israel, one in Turkey—and so on. Wherever you have agriculture, you have drip irrigation. It helps in growing tea in Tanzania, sugarcane in the Philippines, potatoes in China, etcetera.

We’re involved—along with several other irrigation companies—in the Andhra Pradesh Micro Irrigation Project in India, helping farmers to enhance their crop yield and save water. We also donated drip-irrigation systems to a foundation in Oklahoma, and they in turn gave them to a military base in Afghanistan; now they are bringing Afghan farmers into the base to teach them how to use drip irrigation. 

On a smaller scale, we have developed what we call the “Family Drip System” for small farmers in developing countries. It’s gravity-based, so you don’t need electricity. All you need is to put a tank on an elevated stage, fill it with water, mix it with the right nutrients, open the valve and shut the valve—and it will irrigate five hundred square meters, which is a small farm for a family. Training is very important, of course. But if the farmers do it right, the increased yield is amazing, and the return on investment is in less than one year. We’ve distributed these in Kenya and elsewhere.

In reaching out to farmers in other places, we try to work collaboratively. We don’t say: “We came from Mount Sinai. We invented drip irrigation; do what we tell you and you’ll be successful.” That’s the wrong attitude. We say: “Listen, you have been growing tomatoes in this region for generations—you and your father and your grandfather—so you must know a lot about growing tomatoes. We know something about drip irrigation; we are working in the Arava with tomato growers . . . so let’s bring our skills together.” And whether we are talking to a Chinese farmer who has one tiny parcel of land, or a cotton-farm manager in Arizona who wears $2,000 lizard-skin boots, we talk to both of them the same way. We give them the same respect. In Hebrew, we say that we’re talking to farmers “at eye level”: farmer to farmer. 

Netafim >

Naty Barak of Netafim: “We Know Something About Drip Irrigation”

Arab and Jewish students working together at Jerusalem’s Hand in Hand

We are bringing hope, success, dialogue, understanding and the ability to live together to a new generation.
— Yaffa Grossberg, teacher, Hand in Hand

Founded in 1997 by educators Amin Khalaf and Lee Gordon, Hand in Hand: The Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel started with the basic observation that Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel operate separately in virtually all aspects of life, and that this separation is especially notable (and influential) in the country’s K–12 public-education system. Khalaf and Gordon wanted to start a school that would bridge that separation.

Hand in Hand’s curriculum is bilingual—Hebrew and Arabic—with two teachers in every classroom, and English is taught beginning in third grade. As of this writing, there are six campuses around the country, where more than 1,300 students are educated every year. Over the coming decade, administrators hope to build ten to fifteen more Hand in Hand schools throughout the country. Though funding is never easy—not everyone believes that such schools should exist—Hand in Hand does receive some support from the state, supplemented with tuition and backing from individual donors, private philanthropies like the Jerusalem Foundation, and the U.S. government (which in 2012 gave Hand in Hand a million-dollar grant to help launch three new campuses).

Children at Hand in Hand: The Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel 

Hand in Hand’s K–12 school in Jerusalem is located in the southern part of the city, between the Arab community of Beit Safafa and the Jewish neighborhood of Patt. Its campus is made up of handsome stone buildings, with halls hung with colorful murals of handprints, as well as paintings and photographs by students.  

Yaffa Grossberg, a teacher at Hand in Hand, succinctly reminds us of the school’s mission: “In this city fraught with tension and conflict, we are bringing hope, success, dialogue, understanding and the ability to live together to a new generation.”

Hand in Hand >

Arab and Jewish students work together at Hand in Hand