By Arlene Bridges Samuels
Recent news out of Israel sounds grim. The nation has entered a third national lockdown, with strict regulations and hefty fines for infractions. Not surprisingly, tourists are nowhere to be found. On top of that, residents now face the uncertainty and upheaval of a fourth national election. Yet despite these adverse circumstances—and the ever-present threats of terror on three borders—the “innovation nation” has not become invisible on the global stage or stopped helping the world. Far from it. The Jewish homeland’s citizens boast some of the world’s top experts, not only in wide-ranging inventions, but also in their ability to innovate inside a pressure cooker of competing crises.
God spoke to Abraham 4,000 years ago with a promise, “I will make you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:2-3).
Mega-billionaire Warren Buffet described Israel’s greatness a bit differently when he began investing in Israel about a decade ago. He observed, “If you’re going to the Middle East to look for oil, you can skip Israel. If you’re looking for brains, look no further.” He also stated that “the determination, motivation, intelligence, and initiative of its people are remarkable and extraordinary.” God’s promise and Buffet’s description endure. That’s why 500 multinational companies have locations in Israel.
During 2020, Israeli entrepreneurs not only produced new ideas, but frequently repurposed their products to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. In fact, the pandemic propelled hundreds of Israeli companies to create COVID-19 related products or to launch pandemic-related start-ups.
End-of-the-year statistics show that Israeli technology, second-largest in the world behind Silicon Valley, had its best year yet, raising more than $10 billion for investments. Thus, Israel’s technology sector is not only beefing up the nation’s economy, it also enables Israel to continue its humanitarian aid worldwide. That aid includes vast innovations in the fields of medicine and agriculture, innovations that improve the quality of life for citizens around the world. Let’s review some of these amazing products.
One of the world’s top five COVID-19 related startups is Sonovia, which developed ultrasonic technology to treat fabric face masks with safe, antiviral chemicals that protect against the coronavirus. These antimicrobial “Sonomasks” can be laundered and reused more than 50 times, retaining their potency—the coating continues to neutralize viruses and bacteria. The company, which hired 150 unemployed factory workers to make these breakthrough protective masks, now produces 3,000 masks a day. Sonovia donated its first masks to Israel’s police, and has donated thousands of masks to hospitals in other countries.
An already-established company, Biobeat, invented a medical-grade sensor that remotely monitors 16 vital signs on patients. The remote monitoring platform supplies important patient information while reducing in-person exposure for medical professionals. During the first COVID-19 outbreak, the company put its product to work by installing Biobeat in hospitals throughout Israel.
While COVID-19 research and development added to Israel’s already abundant innovations, other products also took the stage in 2020. Here is a small sample, along with nations Israel helped during the year.
Time magazine listed six recent Israeli innovations on its list of “The Best Innovations of 2020: 100 Innovations Changing How We Live.” Time magazine looks for “originality, creativity, effectiveness, ambition and impact” when making its choices, according to their website. Here are two I especially like:
The bee population is growing dangerously smaller. Since bees supply pollination for 30 percent of the world’s food, the Beehome from manufacturer Beewise is an outstanding solution to make beekeeping more available to more beekeepers. This miracle of technology uses Artificial Intelligence and robotics to save bees, maintain the food supply, and promote honey production. The hive holds 24 or more colonies and remotely takes care of the bees and the hives. These hives put a new twist on Israel as a “land of milk and honey.” Beewise CEO Saar Safra’s comment about the Beehome reflects a widespread Israeli philosophy: “We’re doing well by doing good.”
An invention from City Transformer is in the prototype stage: a two-seat folding electric car that fits into tight spaces yet can go up to 55 miles per hour. The tiny car’s folding mechanism shrinks the wheelbase for easy parking—it can even wedge between two cars. When it was introduced this year at a major innovation convention, the miniature car arrived on the convention floor in an elevator. If the vehicle is successful, its diminutive size will increase city parking spaces, making city dwellers much happier!
In addition to the two innovations that stood out to me in the Time magazine article, here are two more that I find absolutely astonishing. For the last five years, Royal Dutch Shell has sponsored a “New Energy Challenge.” This year, Israeli start-up H2Pro won the competition with an invention that uses electricity to split hydrogen and oxygen. H2Pro’s novel water-splitting technology promises to make hydrogen fuel sustainable, as a cleaner and viable alternative to fossil fuels. In addition, the process can also lower costs and help ensure a cleaner environment. It was the only company from Israel and the youngest to enter the competition. H2Pro will now develop a pilot program using this eco-friendly technology.
Ziv Medical Center in Safed (Tzfat), Israel, has launched another kind of innovation. It is the first hospital in Israel to use drones to deliver prescription medications and blood tests. Avoiding road traffic means delivery time is cut in half. Ziv is working to expand the delivery area with hopes of also delivering needed medical items to its Israel Defense Forces when needed.
Truly, Israel stays committed to helping others, despite its own security threats and lockdown challenges. One way they enact their help is Judaism’s concept of repairing the world—Tikkun Olam in Hebrew. It speaks of kindness and charity.
IsraAid is one such example. Founded in 2001, IsraAid is an international, Israeli non-governmental organization. Its staff and volunteers have carried on in 2020 with their emergency and development aid. For the last 19 years, IsraAid has worked in 50 nations afflicted by earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding, and other disasters—all while maintaining 14 long-term missions. In 2020, IsraAid medical supplies, food distribution, first aid, and water filters have helped citizens in Italy, Guatemala, and Columbia, among others. Their webinars for volunteers and medical personnel have supplied valuable instruction about stress management and other important topics. In April, IsraAid—which until now only worked internationally—also supplied help for Israel’s vulnerable communities: upwards of 40,000 Sudanese and Eritrean asylum-seekers who are living in south Tel Aviv.
Another example of Israeli aid takes place almost daily at Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza. Israel’s supply of humanitarian aid trucked into Gaza did not stop in 2020, despite ongoing rocket fire and barrages from Hamas terrorists. Semi-tractor-trailer trucks loaded with medical supplies and equipment continue their deliveries, and Israel still allows seriously ill Gazan Palestinians into Israel for treatment. The aid continues, even though Hamas has fired more than 15,000 rockets into civilian communities—putting more than a million Israelis in southern Israel in harm’s way—since its 2007 takeover.
Finally, one of Israel’s most impressive attributes is its persistence, despite security threats from terrorists literally next door. The threats are excessive, Israeli vigilance is intense, yet their determination and innovation persist regardless. We can look to history as setting the example for this perseverance and resilience. During the Diaspora, where Jews were scattered across the world for centuries, they were forced to adapt, to find ways to practice Judaism, keep their Jewish traditions, and live in often-excruciating circumstances. Despite national and personal traumas that penetrate their lives, history has built Jews into formidable role models for how to live under painful pressures, yet simultaneously thrive still unbeaten.
In ancient times, God chose the Jews to inscribe His words to us in the Old and New Testaments and visited the earth embodied in our Jewish Savior born on Israel’s ancient soil. In modern times, God is using the Jews to create and innovate in ways that repair the world—Tikkun Olam—to make it a better place for everyone until Jesus comes again.
Please join CBN Israel in prayer as we approach year’s end:
- Pray with thanksgiving for the good news about Israel and Arab nations signing the Abraham Accords, which are already benefiting Jews and Muslims.
- Pray that Hamas will pay attention to the well-being of its own population and stop their violence against Israelis.
- Pray with gratitude for the massive innovations Israelis have created that bless the world.
- Pray that God will continue to help Israel uncover anti-Semitism and all the threats against its people and also reveal threats against Jews worldwide.
May we recall God’s promises to Israel in Psalm 29:11: “The Lord will give strength to His people; The Lord will bless His people with peace.”
Arlene Bridges Samuels pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After she served nine years on AIPAC’s staff, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA engaged her as Outreach Director part-time for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel. Arlene is now an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel and has traveled to Israel 25 times. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited by Artist Pat Mercer Hutchens and sits on the board of Violins of Hope South Carolina. Arlene has attended Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit three times and hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on her website at ArleneBridgesSamuels.com.