Want to be impressed by the achievements of a little country in the Mideast? Check out this review, by the Near East Report, on Israeli Breakthroughs in 2011. Prepare to be impressed:
Israel remains the world’s top investor in R&D as a proportion of its GDP. And, based on its achievements in the fields of medicine, clean energy, high tech and other cutting-edge industries, the investment is paying off.
This year, Prof. Daniel Shechtman won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his groundbreaking discovery of “quasicrystals.” The Technion professor, who does double duty at Johns Hopkins University and Iowa State, becomes Israel’s 10th Nobel laureate. Kudos to Tel Aviv University Prof. Yosef Shiloh for winning the top cancer research prize from the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).
Hebrew University Prof. Haim Sompolinsky took home the top prize at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting in the United States. Meanwhile, two Israeli geneticists from the Hebrew University – Aharon Razin and Howard Cedar – were the first Israeli winners of the prestigious Canada Gairdner International Award, presented annually to researchers around the globe for outstanding contributions to medical science.
Howard wasn’t the only family member honored in 2011. His son, Israeli film director Yossi Cedar, won the best screenplay award at the Cannes Film Festival for his picture “Footnote.” Born in New York, Cedar grew up in Jerusalem and has also directed “Beaufort,” which won the Silver Bear at the 2007 Berlin Film Festival and was nominated for an Oscar.
More Hollywood news: The documentary film “Strangers No More,” about a Tel Aviv elementary school that boasts students from 48 countries, won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject; the hit Israeli TV series, “Hatufim,” has been remade in America as “Homeland,” which U.S. critics are calling one of the best new shows on television; the Walt Disney Company is partnering with an Israeli cinema chain to build a $160 million amusement park in Haifa; Jewish-American filmmakers Ethan and Joel Coen won the $1 million Dan David Prize, handed out at Tel Aviv University; and American movie icon Leonardo DiCaprio has invested in the Israeli start-up Mobli, whose product allows users to see real-time events that others are watching.
There were plenty of blockbuster deals in 2011 between the United States and Israel. Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa won a competition to launch a “super science school” on Roosevelt Island off Manhattan. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg expects the campus to generate as much as $6 billion in economic activity by creating up to 600 new companies and thousands of permanent jobs in its first 30 years of existence.
Apple is purchasing Israel’s Anobit – a global leader of flash storage solutions – for $500 million. Apple has also announced that the tech giant will be opening an R&D center in Israel – its first facility outside of the United States. Apple will join the ranks of companies with R&D centers already in Israel such as Google, IBM, Oracle, Motorola, Microsoft, Dell and Intel, whose new “Sandy Bridge” microprocessor chip – developed at its Haifa R&D facility – was all the rage at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. And it isn’t only high-tech companies that have decided to establish research facilities in the Jewish state. Barclays, one of the ten largest banking and financial services groups in the world, plans to open an R&D center in Tel Aviv.
Medical patients have new hope thanks to a series of Israeli breakthroughs in 2011. An Israeli drug company is testing a promising vaccine that can kill cancer cells. Another company’s device that combines MRI and ultrasound technologies was cited by TIME Magazine as one of the 50 best inventions of the year. Technion researchers have found a way to reverse the aging process. The FDA has approved the “Rewalk,” a device that helps paralyzed people get back on their feet, featured last year on the TV show “Glee.” A new Tel Aviv University study claimscinnamon can prevent and fight Alzheimer’s. Good news, because the U.S. chain Cinnabon has opened for business in Tel Aviv.
Israel’s medical prowess came in handy this year in coping with humanitarian disasters. The Jewish state was the first foreign country to set up a field hospital in Japan following the earthquake and tsunami in March, and an Israeli humanitarian organization was recognized for its relief efforts in the wake of this disaster.
Finally, other stories that made headlines in 2011: Electric cars went on sale in Israel this summer; NASA’s final space shuttle mission included an Israeli bone cell experiment; Israel opened a 62-km “Gospel Trail” trail from Nazareth to Capernaum for Christian pilgrims to retrace the route of Jesus; the Israel Museum put the complete Dead Sea Scrolls on the Internet, attracting millions of online visitors; two Israeli Arabs represented the country at the Special Olympics in Athens as part of the tennis delegation; the world’s oldest human remains have been found in a cave in Israel; and IDF soldiers delivered a Palestinian baby.
Dear 2012: Can’t wait.