A Jaunt to Israel

Published: March 3rd 2010

Prof. Berta Levavi-Sivan at a fish farm in Uganda.
Pic: Hebrew U. of Jerusalem
Prof. David Lichtstein
Pic: Hebrew U. of Jerusalem
The Hebrew U of Jerusalem logo
Pic: Hebrew U. of Jerusalem




Through the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, I had the opportunity to visit Israel for the first time. A much desired destination on my bucket list, I have longed to understand the dynamics of this small and young country.


My mind has always been preoccupied with thoughts of 'how does his little speck on the map accomplish and contribute so much to the world? What's in the water?' Interestingly, I had just finished reading Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle. This book by Dan Senor and Saul Singer gave me some insight into their drive and success in the world of technology, medicine, agriculture and so forth. The authors call it the "Israel effect." Perhaps when a country is in a constant state of threat from its neighbours (their enemies), a survivalist mentality is in high gear. Imagine if you lived in comfort with no sense of threat, where things are given to you without much struggle. Would you be 'hungry' to fight for what you want? Flip sides and picture what it is like to be in a constant struggle. One has to fight for their rights, needs and desires. Out of struggle comes great feats.


It is intuitively understandable that "a nation of immigrants is a nation of entrepreneurs," as prime ministerial adviser Gidi Grinstein, founder of the Reut Institute, is quoted as saying. It is also intuitively obvious that people who overcame and still face tremendous odds will develop the kind of grit needed to succeed -- witness the tale of Intel Israel's Dov Frohman, orphaned in Europe by World War II, who plugs the "counter-narrative" about war-torn Israel: “When the missiles are falling, it keeps on truckin', even if the kids have to come to the workplace because schools are closed, resulting in shared ‘kindergarten duty.’”


Upon my arrival in Jerusalem, I was immediately overcome by the breathtaking historical landmarks juxtaposed against a modern landscape developed in less than sixty-two years.

There is something significantly unique about Israel that consumes visitors -- a buzz and a vibe giving off a lively dynamic feeling wherever you go. It's electric.


This vibe carried over into the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where I was to invited to explore and learn about the great strides they have contributed in the areas of medicine and agriculture.


At the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada (IMRIC), an overview of their accomplishments was shared by IMRIC Chairman and Professor David Lichtstein. “Innovations Touching Lives” is their mantra and through collaboration, the staff of IMRIC are partnering in research with scientists from Canada.


IMRIC’s Professor Ofer Mandelboim and Winnipeg based researcher Dr. Frank Plummer (one of the world’s leading specialists in the study of HIV/AIDS) received $8.3 million from the Gates Foundation to investigate a group of women in Kenya who are apparently immune to HIV/AIDS. From this study, they hope to develop a vaccine for the disease.


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