Weekly Sermon

Weekly Sermon

YOM HAATZMAUT 5781
ISRAEL AT 73


We celebrated Yom Haatzmaut (Israel Independence Day) on Thursday, but today is actually the proper day on the Jewish Calendar—hey Iyar (the 5th day of Iyar), the day that the State of Israel was declared 73 years ago. However, because today is Shabbat, and because the usual celebrations like BBQs and concerts are not permitted on Shabbos, the Chief Rabbinate has decided that we should celebrate on Thursday.

I think it’s most appropriate, therefore to speak about the State of Israel today. The 1st question on our minds is, how is the State of Israel doing with this Coronavirus? As I mentioned in my Taste of Torah video for Yom Haatzmaut, this has been a year of turmoil for the Jewish State as it has been for most of the world. The Coronavirus has killed thousands of Israelis, it has brought Israel’s economy to a standstill and Israel’s government, after its recent elections is at a standstill as well. Is there anything to celebrate about Israel today? The answer is, yes plenty!

In regard to the Coronavirus, Israel has had the most successful vaccine program in the world. More than ½ its residents have been vaccinated and an additional 830,000 had tested positive for the virus in the past. When you add those who had the virus but showed no symptoms and were not tested, more than 70% of Israel’s population have Covid antibodies—which is the estimated threshold for Covid herd immunity! And so, Israel is beginning to open again and beginning May 23rd, Israel will be open for tourists from America.

As for its government, I think there is now reason to believe that Bibi Netanyahu—who now has 59 seats in the Knesset—will be able to find 2 more and form a government.

Let’s honor Yom Haatzmaut (Israel Independence Day) today by speaking about how wonderful the State of Israel truly is and how its innovations are the wonders of the world—improving the lives of all. At only 73—even in the midst of a pandemic—Israel is fulfilling Gd’s promise to Abraham: V’nivr’chu v’cha kol mishp’chot haadama (And through you will all the nations of the world be blessed). As you know, Israel’s innovations in technology, medicine and agriculture are outstanding and ever increasing. Every computer, tablet and smart phone operates on Israeli technology. California is well on its way to solving its water crisis using Israeli desalinization technology.

In only 73 years, Israel has proven it’s possible to do the impossible at home and abroad, whether greening deserts, rescuing people in distress in distant lands or sending the smallest-ever spacecraft to the moon. The list of Israeli accomplishments is staggering, especially considering the considerable resources that must be spent on defense.

Consider this. If you want to live long and be happy, move to Israel! Israel ranks 5th in the world for longevity and 12th in the world for overall happiness. We take it for granted now, but after only 73 years—73 years of facing constant threats of violence, war and terrorism—Israel is a high-tech superpower. It has the highest number of startups per capita in the world. In Research and Development Israel ranks #1. More than 350 multinational corporations have R&D centers in Israel, including IBM, Intel, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Merck, HP, GE, Qualcomm, and Samsung.

Let me share with you a few remarkable achievements this past year—even in the midst of the Covid pandemic.
- 2 years ago I told you about an Israeli startup named StoreDot that, from my perspective can change the world. We have seen a rise in the use of electric vehicles. They are cheaper to operate and are less expensive to maintain. One problem, you can only go 200-330 miles till you have to recharge and that can take up to 12 hours—depending on the car. StoreDot’s batteries can recharge car batteries in just 5 minutes!
In January they released their 1st samples and should be widely available in 2022. Just think what this will mean. You drive to Florida in your electric vehicle, stop for a few minutes at a service plaza to go to the restroom while your car is charged! With this technology, in just a few years most new cars will be electric. Imagine how this will reduce air pollution in cities like Atlanta, New York and Los Angeles.
- Here’s some remarkable research about treating or even curing Glioblastoma—a particularly aggressive brain cancer, accounting for ½ of all primary brain cancers. Glioblastoma has a 40% survival rate after a year and just 5% after 5 years of treatment. In a study, published in the journal Nature Communications, Prof. Ronit Satchi-Fainaro and her team at Tel Aviv University have discovered a potential treatment. Glioblastoma is caused by an immune system misstep tied to the secretion of a protein called P-Selectin (SELP) which, when bound to the brain’s microglia immune cells, alters their function so that, rather than inhibiting the spread of cancer cells, they amplify it! But when the team found way to inhibit SELP, the tumor cells had a slower division rate, stopped migrating to the brain and were less invasive. For the study, the team modified hundreds of mice to give them Glioblastoma. All the mice with tumors died within weeks. However, those given a chemical compound that blocks production of the SELP protein all recovered!
- Zzapp targets malaria-bearing mosquito larvae at their source by using AI (Artificial Intelligence) to predict where stagnant water bodies will occur and by managing effective treatment of the detected areas. Zzapp analyzes satellite imagery and builds a risk index that takes into account topography, land-use data, rain data and more. Why should we care about malaria? Malaria claims more than 400,000 lives each year, mostly children under 5. Africa is most affected, but malaria threatens about ½ the world’s population.
- Here’s a heartening one. As of April 4th, the nonprofit Israeli organization Matnat Chaim (Gift of Life) has facilitated 1,003 kidney transplants in the last 12 years from altruistic donors. “We believe Israel has the 4th highest rate of live kidney donations in the world and the highest [per-capita] rate of altruistic kidney donations,” says Judy Singer, assistant director and an altruistic kidney donor herself.
- Air travel is taking a giant step toward normalcy thanks to an Israeli rapid Covid-19 diagnostic test soon to be deployed in 120 European and North American airports. SpectraLIT detects viruses in seconds using a swab sample analyzed by a light spectrometer and artificial intelligence. Oren Sapir, president, said, “As travel restrictions are gradually lifted, innovation and technology will continue to be central to the industry’s recovery.”

My friends, Gd’s blessing to Abraham and we, his descendants, the Jews—V’nivr’chu v’cha kol mishp’chot haadama (And through you will all the nations of the world be blessed)—is being fulfilled in our lifetime. Perhaps it is because for the 1st time in 2,000 years, Jews are a free people in their own land, free to improve their lives and the lives of everyone in the world—even its sworn enemies. Israel has taken a barren land and made it bloom again. Israel has taken an ancient language (Hebrew) and made it speak again. Israel has taken a nation decimated by a Holocaust and made it live again.

And yet, Israel has not seen the full fruits of its labor which can only come when the world will leave it alone to create. Who knows then how much blessing it will bring the world? Many Arab states are beginning to appreciate this and are signing peace accords.

Perhaps a new dawn is breaking. But even if not, Am Yisrael chai, Israel will continue to live and forever be a blessing to the world. Happy 73rd birthday to Israel. Amen!

 

                        

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