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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.


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Ten of the Hottest Self-driving Technologies from Israel

One of Ormat Technologies’ geothermal power plants. Photo: courtesy ISRAEL21C

One of Ormat Technologies’ geothermal power plants. Photo: courtesy ISRAEL21C

Solar, water, geothermal and wind power, battery techs and electric-car components are areas where Israelis are leading the renewable revolution.

By Abigail Klein Leichman

Everyone knows that fossil fuels are an unsustainable source of energy, dirtied by pollution and politics. But global attempts to find alternatives on a mass scale have had limited success.

Could Israel be the country that finally puts fossil fuels to rest with the dinosaurs?

“When we talk about killing fossil fuels, Israel is not yet seen as tops in the world, as we are in water or cyber technologies. But in each related niche — solar energy, battery technologies and electric car components – there is tremendous respect for Israeli companies,” says clean-energy activist Yosef Abramowitz, aka “Kaptain Sunshine,” whose Energiya Global social development company is bringing solar power to Africa.

Two early solar-energy pioneers founded in Israel, BrightSource Energy and Ormat Technologies, are now headquartered in the United States with myriad international projects to their credit.

BrightSource built the world’s largest solar electricity generation installation, in California, using nanoparticle coatings developed at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Ormat built one of the world’s first solar-power fields, near the Dead Sea, and is a leading geothermal and recovered-energy generation producer.

Although Israeli electric-vehicle (EV) network Better Place had great disruptive potential, its bankruptcy in May 2013 dashed those hopes. Yet Abramowitz says the mega-fail led to something positive.

“Better Place spawned a whole industry of 500 [Israeli] startups in the automotive sector, largely related to electric cars and the software and hardware that will kill the combustion engine,” he tells ISRAEL21c.

In 2011, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office launched its Alternative Fuels Administration and Fuel Choices Initiative, aiming to implement government policy and support for fuel alternatives research and industry that can serve as a model for other countries while helping reduce Israel’s dependence on oil for transportation.

Since then, the number of alternative fuel research groups in Israel has grown from 40 to about 220 and the number of companies in this field to about 500. Globally, renewable energy is a $359 billion dollar business.

ISRAEL21c takes a look at 10 Israeli companies trying to accelerate the end of fossil fuels.

1. Aquarius Engines

This Israeli startup is reinventing the combustion engine to power the “series” hybrid EV car of the future. The lightweight Aquarius engine has a single-piston linear engine. A cylinder moves the fuel from side to side to generate electrical current, much like sea waves can do through an up-and-down movement.

A car fitted with the Aquarius engine would have a range of 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) per 50-liter (13-gallon) tank, which would have to be filled every five or six weeks.

Aquarius is working with Peugeot to test its engine in a concept car. The company also is developing a lightweight portable generator based on its technology.

2. Brenmiller Energy

Founded in 2012 in Rosh Ha’ayin, Brenmiller Energy has created products for renewable energy including a thermal storage system that hybridizes any power source — wind, solar, biomass, nuclear, natural gas — to provide reliable, clean energy anywhere.

The B-Gen unit’s first cycle transfers the heat coming from different sources; the discharging cycle delivers steam on demand on a megawatt or gigawatt scale. Commercial projects are underway in several countries. Founder Avi Brenmiller was involved in solar power plant design in Spain and in the United States through the Israeli company Luz Industries, acquired by Solel and then by Siemens.

3. Doral Renewable Energy Resources Group

Doral, of Ramat Gan, was the first company to connect a solar PV system to the national electricity grid, back in 2008. Its several branches operate renewable energy projects (natural gas, biogas, wind, solar) throughout Israel, especially in kibbutzim in periphery and rural areas, including what will be the largest (170 megawatts) PV power plant in the Israel.

Doral recently entered a joint venture agreement with Invenergy, the largest privately held electricity producer in the United States. Doral is planning to introduce advanced means of electricity production, storage and smart grid solutions to eliminate the need for external electricity suppliers.

4. Eco Wave Power

The Tel Aviv-based company’s proprietary technology extracts energy from ocean and sea waves and converts it into affordable, zero-emission renewable electric power. EWP has projects in various stages in the United Kingdom, Gibraltar, China, Chile, Israel and Mexico.

5. ElectRoad

ElectRoad of Rosh Ha’ayin, founded in 2013, is developing a smart transportation technology for underground electric coils that recharge EVs wirelessly as they travel. Its Dynamic Wireless Electrification System would initially be implemented for electric public buses. The revolutionary technology reduces the need for a large battery and for recharging or refueling the vehicle during the day.

6. Energiya Global

This Jerusalem-based renewable-energy developer will invest $1 billion over the next four years to advance green power projects across 15 West African countries. Energiya Global and its associated companies developed the first commercial-scale solar field in sub-Sahara Africa in Rwanda, and broke ground on a similar plant in Burundi that will supply 15% of the country’s power. Energiya Global now has fields at various stages of development in 10 African countries.

7. H2 Energy Now

H2 Energy Now is building a prototype battery-free solution for storing and increasing the usability of alternative energy from intermittent sources – sun and wind – to meet times of peak demand reliably. Radio waves separate water into hydrogen and oxygen and then recombine them in a fuel cell when energy is needed. H2 Energy Now is in the finals for several contests and is in talks with worldwide energy corporations.

In addition, the company was one of four winners of the AES Corporation’s 2017 Open Innovation Contest, held in Washington, DC, for designing a ceramic drone enabling unmanned inspection solutions for extreme heat environments in the global power industry.

8. New CO2 Fuels

Founded in 2011, NCF is raising funds toward a working model of its technology to transform two waste streams — industrial water and carbon dioxide — into a hydrogen-carbon monoxide synthetic gas, which is then turned into liquid fuels, plastics and fertilizer. The conversion process is fueled by concentrated solar energy or byproduct heat from the industries themselves. NCF signed a cooperative agreement with Sinopec Ningbo Engineering to address carbon dioxide pollution in China.

9. Solaris Synergy

Solaris Synergy of Jerusalem developed a solar-on-water power plant that converts a water surface into a cost-effective and reliable solar-energy platform. Solaris and Pristine Sun of San Francisco received a BIRD grant to collaborate on a utility-scale floating photovoltaic solar energy system to be installed in California. Last October, Solaris installed a 100kWp Floating PV system on a reservoir in Singapore. Recently, Solaris formed a partnership with Electra Energy to plan large projects in Israel.

10. StoreDot

Electric vehicles can never be mass marketed unless they have batteries that store a charge longer, weigh less and charge up faster. StoreDot of Herzliya concentrates on fast charging. In June, City A.M. ranked StoreDot No. 1 on its list of the 100 most disruptive startups in the world.

StoreDot is developing a pack for EVs comprised of hundreds of its proprietary EV FlashBattery cells. Together, the cells take only five minutes to charge fully and provide up to 300 miles (480 km) of driving distance. In addition, FlashBattery is environmentally safer than a lithium-ion battery, utilizing organic compounds and a water-based manufacturing process.

Ten Disruptive Israeli Companies that can Wean the World off Fossil Fuels

ElectRoad will retrofit existing roads with buried coils to inductively charge easily retrofitted electric vehicles. Photo: courtesy

ElectRoad will retrofit existing roads with buried coils to inductively charge easily retrofitted electric vehicles. Photo: courtesy

A unique wireless electrification system is to be piloted on a bus route in Tel Aviv, before it moves to Europe.

By Abigail Klein Leichman

As more and more electric vehicles hit urban streets across the world, better battery-recharging solutions are desperately needed to improve range, keep costs low and boost user confidence.

Oren Ezer (CEO) and Hanan Rumbak (CTO) cofounded ElectRoad in 2013 to develop their unique twist on the concept of underground electric coils that recharge vehicles as they travel on the road.

In a few months, ElectRoad’s dynamic wireless electrification system is beginning a pilot project in Tel Aviv involving a short public bus route.

“The idea of electrifying vehicles from the road is trendy right now and you can see several companies trying to do a similar concept to us, but our technology is totally different, from the coils under the asphalt to the transfer of energy to the bus,” Ezer tells ISRAEL21c.

ElectRoad received funding in October 2015 from the European Union’s €18 billion Horizon 2020 project to refine its objectives, define its market segment and woo strategic partners.

“We can use the grants to create pilots in Europe, where we already have several partners, and will apply for Phase 2 Horizon 2020 grants at the end of 2017,” says Ezer. He expects to start a pilot project in 2018 in a European city modeled on the one in Tel Aviv.

Easy retrofitting

ElectRoad’s copper-and-rubber electromagnetic induction strips are installed inside an 8-centimeter trench in the asphalt. From digging to repaving, the process can be completed on a one-kilometer stretch in half a day.

The system also requires smart inverters with real-time communication capabilities installed on the sides of the road; and a coil unit attached beneath the electric vehicle to receive the power over a small air gap to insure safety.

Smart inverters with real-time communication are installed on the sides of the road. Photo: courtesy

Smart inverters with real-time communication are installed on the sides of the road. Photo: courtesy

“We can easily retrofit any kind of electric bus, truck or car,” says Ezer. “All we’re doing is adapting the receiver.”

Because the ElectRoad system electrifies the engine directly, without going through the battery, the vehicle’s five-ton battery can be replaced with a much smaller battery – which is lighter and more energy-efficient – providing five kilometers worth of charging in areas that are not outfitted with the underground infrastructure.

The company’s offices are in Rosh HaAyin and its main facility is in Caesarea, but Tel Aviv was an obvious choice for its first pilot. The city already has made an investment in electric buses for public transportation.

“Tel Aviv is an innovative city and we have a lot of cooperation from everyone including the transportation authorities,” says Ezer.

ElectRoad also gets funding from the Israel Innovation Authority and the ministries of Transportation, Energy and Economy.

ElectRoad technology can be retrofitted to one kilometer of road in just half a day. Photo: courtesy

ElectRoad technology can be retrofitted to one kilometer of road in just half a day. Photo: courtesy

Rolling out slowly

The first market focus will be Europe, which is thirsty for clean transportation solutions.

The potential for ElectRoad’s system is huge, however, as China has thousands of electric buses and the United States is starting to get onto the electric transportation bandwagon.

Ezer and Rumbak, who met six years ago while working at Elbit Systems, plan to scale up ElectRoad very gradually. They learned their business lessons from conversations with 20 former employees of Better Place, the Israeli electric car network that went bankrupt in May 2013, due in part to overly ambitious and too rapid expansion.

“Better Place tried to eat the whole cake in one bite. That’s why we chose public transportation to start,” says Ezer. “There is a chicken-and-egg problem: You cannot create an electric transportation system before you have the first cars, so we understood that to penetrate the market through the private sector is wrong. We need to prepare the city first.”

ElectRoad plans to focus on public transportation first before opening the platform up to private transit. Photo: courtesy

ElectRoad plans to focus on public transportation first before opening the platform up to private transit. Photo: courtesy

Looking for evolution rather than revolution, Ezer and Rumbak plan to prove their cost-savings and pollution-preventing concept one bus line at a time, working their way up to taxis and eventually to private vehicles.

“We started everything with the mission of reducing pollution,” says Ezer. “Transportation is one of the keys to reducing pollution so that’s why we started there.”

The intellectual property is protected by a patent in London, and another three pending. The pilot systems are all made in Israel; eventually the heart of the system will be manufactured in Israel and the rest abroad.

For more information, click here.

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ElectRoad Recharges Electric Vehicles from Under the Road

Possible application of a system to detect buried landmines using a bacterial sensor. Image courtesy of Hebrew University

Possible application of a system to detect buried landmines using a bacterial sensor. Image courtesy of Hebrew University

Researchers remotely detect buried landmines using fluorescent bacteria encased in polymeric beads illuminated by a laser-based scanning system.

By Abigail Klein Leichman

Israeli researchers have revealed their high-tech answer to the global need for a safe, efficient way of clearing minefields: a remote system using lasers and bacteria to map the location of buried landmines and unexploded ordnance.

The invention is bound to be sought eagerly worldwide. About half a million people around the world are survivors of mine-inflicted injuries, and each year an additional 15,000 to 20,000 more people are injured or killed by these devices. More than 100 million landmines are believed still to be buried in at least 70 countries.

Surprisingly, the methods currently used for detecting landmines are not much different from those used in World War II, and require personnel to risk life and limb by physically entering the minefields.

In the April 11 issue of the journal Nature Biotechnology, researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem explain that their innovation is based on the observation that all landmines leak tiny quantities of explosive vapors, which accumulate in the soil above them.

Luminous microbial beads demonstrate the fluorescent signal produced by the bacteria. Image courtesy of Hebrew University

Luminous microbial beads demonstrate the fluorescent signal produced by the bacteria. Image courtesy of Hebrew University

But until now there wasn’t any way to “read” these markers. So the team molecularly engineered live bacteria to emit a fluorescent signal when they come into contact with the vapors on the ground. This signal can be recorded and quantified from a remote location.

The bacteria were encapsulated in small polymeric beads and scattered across the surface of a test field in which real antipersonnel landmines were buried. Using a laser-based scanning system, the test field was remotely scanned and the location of the buried landmines was determined.

"Our field data show that engineered biosensors may be useful in a landmine detection system,” said Prof. Shimshon Belkin, whose group at the university’s Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences was responsible for genetically engineering the bacterial sensors.

“For this to be possible, several challenges need to be overcome, such as enhancing the sensitivity and stability of the sensor bacteria, improving scanning speeds to cover large areas, and making the scanning apparatus more compact so it can be used onboard a light unmanned aircraft or drone,” Belkin said.

The laser-based scanning system used to locate buried landmines. Image courtesy of Hebrew University

The laser-based scanning system used to locate buried landmines. Image courtesy of Hebrew University

The Israeli scientists believe this is the first demonstration of a functional standoff landmine detection system.

Other research groups participating in this study at the Hebrew University were led by Prof. Aharon J. Agranat from the department of applied physics and the Brojde Center for Innovative Engineering and Computer Science (design and construction of the remote scanning system); and Prof. Amos Nussinovitch from the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment (bacteria encapsulation in polymeric beads).



Glowing Bacteria Detect Buried Landmines

Jewish and Arab high-school students come together to participate in  MEET. Photo courtesy MEET

Jewish and Arab high-school students come together to participate in MEET. Photo courtesy MEET

MEET is an intensive three-year program for Jewish and Arab high-school students to learn computer science and business from a team of students, graduates, and faculty from MIT. The goal of MEET, based in Jerusalem and Nazareth, is to nurture a generation of young leaders, based on models developed in one of the top U.S. technological institutions. The curriculum (conducted in English) is heavily project-based, with students working together on lab assignments that culminate in large software engineering projects.

For teenagers, technology is a natural common ground.
— Noa Epstein

MEET’s program was founded in 2004 by three MIT graduates: Anat Binur, her brother Yaron Binur, and their friend Assaf Harlap. As of 2016, more than 300 students have graduated from the program (as the MEET website proudly notes: “50% girls, 50% boys; 50% Palestinians, 50% Israelis”), and student recruitment takes place throughout the country. According to Noa Epstein, one of MEET’s CEOs:

For teenagers, technology is a natural common ground. They share an interest in technology development, in mobile applications, in all things innovative and new. Additionally, in the twenty-first century, regardless of if you are going to be a computer scientist or not, there is a basic set of technological skills that you need to have. We believe that by providing a medium and skill set that [are] useful for leaders, our students can go onto careers in government, the humanities or technology. No matter what they do, it is good for them to have this training.

L. Rafael Reif, the president of MIT, adds: “The genius of MEET is that it challenges Israeli and Palestinian students to work together to solve hard technical problems. And as they collaborate, they build a foundation of trust and respect that they can use later, to help solve the much, much harder problems that divide their people.”

Middle East Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow (MEET) >


MEET: MIT’s Program for Young Engineers of the Middle East

Johannes, an Ethiopian student learning Hebrew at Bialik-Rogozin school, South Tel Aviv. Still from the film Strangers No More

Teaching, learning, and questioning have always, of course, been integral to Muslim, Jewish, and Christian traditions and practice. Some of Israel’s earliest and most grounding enterprises were in the realm of education.

Education must be something deeper and more extensive than schooling.

The film Strangers No More tells the story of an extraordinary school named Bialik-Rogozin, located in the struggling Florentine neighborhood of South Tel Aviv, where children from dozens of countries, and of many ethnicities and faiths, gather to play, learn, and grow together. Former principal Karen Tal has won the Chalres Bronfman Prize for her work with the school. And Bialik-Rogozin itself was awarded Israel’s National Education Prize.

Bialik-Rogozin is a genuine tool for promoting peace—allowing youngsters to do what they do naturally—playing with one another, loving one another. The film takes us into the lives of some of the school's young students, many of whom are recent arrivals in Israel, as they encounter a new place, a new language, and new peers. It is inspiring to see how the school provides a community and a nurturing home for them.  

Directed by Kirk Simon and Karen Goodman and produced by Lin Arison, the film had a major impact, receiving an Academy Award for Best Short Documentary in 2011.

These film stills are from the film Strangers No More, available with the purchase of The Desert and the Cities Sing: Discovering Today’s Israel.

Strangers No More >

Bialik-Rogozin Instagram >

Tovanot Bhinuch >

The Film: "Strangers No More"

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

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

Although the country is nearly two-thirds desert, Israel has enough water to sustain itself, thanks in part to its efforts in water conservation, reuse, and desalination. Photo by and © Vision Studio

When it comes to water, Israel is up against some serious challenges. The country is nearly two-thirds desert, and even those places where water exists, such as Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) and the headwaters of the Hermon River, are overtaxed, which could lead to a breakdown of what is known as Israel’s “water economy.” Needless to say, water is at the center of many disputes in the region with Israel and its neighboring countries.

Israel has accomplished a great deal in the areas of desalination and reuse of this precious resource.

Israel has accomplished a great deal in the areas of desalination and reuse (or “reclamation”) of this precious resource. The country reuses more than 80 percent of its wastewater for irrigation—the highest percentage in the world by far (the United States, for the record, reuses about 1 percent). But the company Mekorot is aiming even higher. Desalination, though long known as a vexingly expensive prospect, is now cheaper, cleaner, and more energy efficient, and it may offer one solution to Israel’s, and perhaps the world’s, water crisis.

In the past decade, Israel has opened four major desalination plants, and as of this writing, a fifth one is about to go into operation. Together, they will produce a total of more than 130 billion gallons of potable water a year, with a goal of 200 billion gallons by 2020. These advances are so transformative that many are calling this a water revolution.

Mekorot > 

The Global Challenge of Water: Desalination and Reuse

New shoots in a Western Negev greenhouse 

Plants have been utilized for their medicinal powers since ancient times. Today such plants are shedding their “alternative healing” label, as researchers are analyzing and quantifying their properties, and as more and more allopathic medical doctors are incorporating them into their healing practices.

Antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant, parasite-fighting, and immune-boosting substances are found in native Israeli plants.

Roni and Peretz Gan run the SupHerbs farm in Zippori, not far from Nazareth. Established in 1986, the company has been cultivating medicinal plants for Israel and for export since 1990. Some of the plants grown here have been used for millennia: hyssop, for example, is mentioned in the Bible and is still employed today, both in cooking (you see it as zaatar in Israeli recipes) and as a folk medicine. Feverfew was employed as a healing plant in Roman times and is still used as an anti-inflammatory. Antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant, parasite-fighting, and immune-boosting substances are found in native Israeli plants such as Palestine oak, terebinth, Mediterranean stink bush, chamomile, carob, sage, nettle, and marigold.

Peretz and Roni know a great deal about the properties of the plants they are tending. Among them is the extraordinary moringa—sometimes called the “miracle tree”: a fast-growing, drought-resistant plant, native to the Himalayas, so hardy and so packed with nutrients that many are hopeful that it will serve as an important tool to combat malnutrition.

Most of these plants can be procured in one form or another through SupHerbs, which complements its own line of cultivated products with imported plants, including traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic herbs.

SupHerbs > 


SupHerbs Medicinal Plants: Ancient Medicines, Modern Uses

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

Miya field work.

Miya is a company dedicated to optimizing urban water networks—preventing water from being wasted through leaks in urban infrastructures. Miya was established by Shari Arison in 2008 as part of Arison Investments, with the vision of ensuring an abundance of fresh water through the efficient management of existing resources.

Shockingly, more than a third of the world’s drinking water is lost from municipal supply systems.

Shockingly, more than a third of the world’s drinking water is lost from municipal supply systems, mainly due to undetected underground leaks. The most sustainable and cost-effective way to prevent such losses is to improve the efficiency of urban water-distribution systems, with effective water-loss management. Working around the world, Miya collaborates with utility companies to significantly improve water efficiency, reducing energy consumption and lowering contamination and health risks, to benefit individuals, communities, and the environment.

Miya > 


Miya: Assuring an Abundance of Water

The Palestine oak is a source of powerful antibacterial substances. Photo by Rafael Medina, courtesy Creative Commons

BioXplore was a three-year collaborative study of Israel’s medicinal plants, led by Hadassah Academic College in Jerusalem. The project, which was finalized in 2014, brought together Israeli, Palestinian, Spanish, and Greek researchers. The results of their work? They found that plants from different regions—from Jerusalem to Mount Hermon, the Hula Valley, and the Dead Sea as well as Nablus in the Palestinian Authority—have the potential to aid in the treatment of diabetes, infections, and viruses. The project was a resounding success on several levels. Hadassah’s president, Bertold Fridlender, who headed the study, observes:

Plants from different regions—from Jerusalem to Mount Hermon, the Hula Valley, and the Dead Sea as well as Nablus in the Palestinian Authority—have been found to have potential to aid in the treatment of diabetes, infections, and viruses.

The study of plants for medicinal purposes was the prime goal, but the cooperation with the researchers from the Palestinian Authority and from the rest of the nations was no less important. The mutual understanding, joint endeavor, and the yearning to deliver results, which was important to both nations, helped bring the final result.

Professor Fridlender, who holds a Ph.D. in medical microbiology from UCLA and worked in botanical research at Rutgers, says the potential of this field is immense. Although particular plants have been known through the ages to be valuable for specific uses, his team’s aim is to measure its effects, to give “a scientific base to that information. . . . If a certain plant is a good anti-inflammatory, we will try to show why and at what dose.”

Perhaps just as importantly, Fridlender has also remarked upon “how much the project connected the participants from all corners of academic research.” With a single vision, such connections can be made.

BioXplore > 

Learn more about "Israeli herbs for the medicine chest" at >

BioXplore and Medicinal Plants: Bringing International Researchers Together

Still from the film " MICHA: A unique kindergarten for hearing impaired Jewish and Muslim children", courtesy the Jerusalem Foundation

Still from the film "MICHA: A unique kindergarten for hearing impaired Jewish and Muslim children", courtesy the Jerusalem Foundation

Just as certain topics seem to be of interest to young people across the board, there are difficulties and challenges that do not acknowledge ethnicities, creeds, or borders. MICHA (the Society for Deaf Children in Israel–National Council), a school and rehabilitation program for hearing-impaired infants and young children, operates in Jerusalem, Be’er Sheva, Haifa, and Tiberias; its principal purview is the sector of the nation north of Hadera, a population that comprises Jews (including new immigrants from the former USSR and Ethiopia), Muslims, and Christians.

Enabling hearing-impaired youngsters of any background or creed to enter Israel’s regular school system

Given this cross section of students, MICHA’s activities are conducted in both Hebrew and Arabic. Their goal is to enable hearing-impaired youngsters of any background or creed to enter Israel’s regular school system when they become of age. This includes educating parents about how to address the needs of their hearing-impaired children, and ensuring that they are aware of their rights and of new legislative developments as they arise.


The film "MICHA: A unique kindergarten for hearing impaired Jewish and Muslim children", courtesy the Jerusalem Foundation

MICHA, Teaching Young Hearing-Impaired Students

Netafim in the field. Photo courtesy Netafim


Nearly 70 percent of our planet’s fresh water goes toward farming and the cultivation of crops. Drip irrigation—the careful meting out of water to feed plants—is a way of using water more efficiently: directly nurturing crops without wasting a drop. Although the notion of drip irrigation is regularly associated with Israel, its roots run wide. And it is not a new concept: centuries ago, buried clay pots were filled with water, which would gradually seep into the surrounding earth and irrigate plant life. Modern drip irrigation was initiated in Afghanistan in the nineteenth century, when researchers experimented with using clay pipes to create underground systems that combined irrigation and drainage. Further developments were made in the early twentieth century in the United States and Germany, and after World War II Australian inventor Hannis Thill came up with the idea of using plastic piping to hold and distribute water.           

Drip irrigation is a way of using water more efficiently: directly nurturing crops without wasting a drop.

The idea was moved forward in Israel by Simcha Blass, inventor of an efficient plastic emitter, or “dripper”—now, instead of being released through holes that can easily be blocked by tiny particles, water is transmitted through larger and longer passageways and can be carefully regulated. In 1965, at Kibbutz Hatzerim near Be’er Sheva, a group of young idealists founded Netafim. They worked with Blass to develop and patent the first surface drip-irrigation emitter, which is now used around the world.

Learn more from Naty Barak, Netafim’s Chief of Sustainability, about Israel’s role in launching an irrigation technology that has revolutionized agriculture around the world.

Netafim >

Netafim in the field. Photo courtesy Netafim


Drip Irrigation and Netafim: Watering Plants Drop by Drop

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.