By Chris DeSouza
Assistant Editor 

'You Are Israel' shows how Israel is helping to heal the world


There is always a lot happening in Israel, especially in the universities and the medical field—and Israel shares everything they learn with the world. It is part of the Jewish heritage—tikun olam—to repair the world.

Recently, Congregation Ohev Shalom, the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando, the Jewish Community Center, Hillel and the Zionistas hosted a four-hour seminar on the many technological, medical, life-saving developments, and restoration projects happening in Israel. After attending the afternoon of ‘good news,’ each person who was there came away with that satisfied feeling that blessings are coming out of Zion.

In addition to a movie about how Israel is making such a big difference in the world, there were six different breakout sessions each with a vast amount of information. The only down side was that attendees could only choose two sessions to sit in on. What to choose, what to choose?

This reporter chose to attend the advances in the medical field and the session with Ari Hoffman, a college senior who plans to make Aliyah and join the IDF.

The medical advances session was led by three local doctors—Drs. Jeffrey Bornstein, Mark Klafter and Daniel Layish (a pediatric gastroenterologist, a neurologist and a pulmonary doctor). Why local doctors? Why not doctors directly from Israel? Everything that is developed or advanced in Israel is shared with the world. These three doctors use techniques either developed or enhanced by Israeli doctors. And by the way, Israeli hospitals are blind to race and religion—there are Jewish, Arab, Christian and Muslim doctors all working and sharing their finds with each other.

The doctors shared exciting discoveries such as Rewalk—an innovative robotic outfit that a paraplegic can wear that helps him/her to walk (this outfit was shown briefly on the TV show “Grey’s Anatomy” last Thursday night). Israeli technologists have also developed the ORCAM, which helps people with macular degeneration see and BioRetina, which can restore their vision.

Other finds include Insightec, a method that combines ultrasound heat and MRI visualization for brain tumors; Superdimension/I-Logic for lung tumors; the PillCam—a capsule that is swallowed and takes pictures of the esophagus, stomach, and small and large intestines. As remarkable as this is (and the audience enjoyed a trip through these organs),the PillCam does not avoid a colonoscopy, Dr. Bornstein stated. But it can diagnose crohn’s disease, celiac disease and sources of GI bleeding. (Read more about the PillCam in Gloria Yousha’s column ‘Scene Around’ on page 9.)

For this reporter, the greatest advancement in medicine was made by Dr. Eli Lewis at Ben Gurion University. He came across Alpha 1 Antitrypsin (AAT), an anti-inflammatory drug typically used to treat emphysema. He realized AAT may have the ability to cure type 1 diabetes in some patients. Dr. Lewis discovered that people who suffer with COPD or emphysema have a deficiency of AAT, which is made in the liver. So do diabetics. Currently, drug trials are being held across the United States for adults.

“These Israeli doctors share all they have learned,” said Dr. Klafter. “Whatever is needed, Israel responds. They are a clinic without walls.”

Winter Park is home to the U.S. headquarters of Israel-based Mazor Robotics, who developed Mazor Robotics Renaissance™, the “next-generation system for spine surgery.” This system is transforming spine surgery from freehand operations to highly accurate procedures. It is the only mechanical guidance system for spine surgery with FDA clearance.

Renaissance has been used in thousands of spine procedures worldwide ranging from minimally-invasive surgery to scoliosis and other complex spinal deformity cases.

Dr. Klafter explained that 50 percent of all technologists have some sort of government support through what he called “meritocracy.” Israel has the most technological startups in the world and the fastest growing economy. Most people know that it was Israel who developed drip irrigation and made the desert bloom—that idea wasn’t just “a hole in a pipe” or a “pipe dream.”

Audience member Laurence Morrell asked the doctors if the BDS movement is affecting the Israeli medical universities. Dr. Klafter replied that he sees that organization more as a “BS” group and that those who would boycott these schools and all the valuable information they impart, are only hurting themselves.

The second session attended by this reporter was with Ari Hoffman, a UCF senior. This brilliant, energetic young man is a go-getter. He was born in Connecticut, spent five years in Israel and the rest in Philadelphia. He has the accent and fast talk of a Philly boy to prove it. His mom was born in Israel and he has lots of family there still. His dad is Jay Hoffman, a former NFL player for the Eagles and Jets, and had a bit role in “Delta Force” with Chuck Norris. To see his father is to see Ari—they look very much alike and have the same love and passion for Israel. Hoffman loves football, but when he met Rabbi Chaim Lipskier of Chabad, he became turned on to Israel.

Seeing what will be coming down the road in terms of anti-Semitism at UCF, he started the Knights for Israel, an organization that provides Israel advocacy and education. He didn’t waste any time, either. Just this school year, Knights for Israel has had three big events with guest speakers: Dr. Anat Berko, an author who spoke about the abuse of women and children in a martyrdom culture; Professor Richard Bass, who lectured on Israel’s right to exist based on the Jews’ historical connection to the land.

Hoffman has been so influential, that the Judaica Studies program will use Bass’ 75-hour curriculum in its program next fall.

The third speaker was Sgt. Benjamin Anthony who shared with the more than 250 students in attendance what it is like to be in the Israel Defense Force.

As the “icing on the cake,” Hoffman helped to put together “Declare Your Freedom,” a celebration of Israel’s independence. This event will be held April 6 at the Memorial Mall on campus. It is free and open to the public.

Zionista member Eva Ritt is hopeful that the “You Are Israel” program will become an annual event. With all the technical startup companies popping up all over Israel, there will have to be more of these programs to keep up with all the progress going on in the Israeli universities.


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