Israelis love kids, Israeli company loves birth control

Hervana founder Rachel Teitelbaum explaining her new contraceptive suppository to Bill Gates. (Courtesy ISRAEL21c)

Hervana founder Rachel Teitelbaum explaining her new contraceptive suppository to Bill Gates. (Courtesy ISRAEL21c)

It’s only semi-ironic that a kid-crazy country like Israel is on the way to developing a new contraceptive that promises to be a safer, more affordable family planning option in developing countries.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation even awarded the Israeli company working on the solution a $1 million grant to test its product.

According to ISRAEL21c’s story, the LJ-102 suppository by Hervana (‘her nirvana in contraception’ – get it?) puts the equivalent of cement shoes on sperm.

It will only have to be applied once or twice a month via a non-hormonal vaginal suppository – as opposed to the widely used birth-control pill, which must be taken daily and contains hormones that carry health risks.

The company’s CEO and founder Rachel Teitelbaum explained that the market needs a contraceptive free of health risks and medical procedures. In some parts of the world where women are solely responsible for family planning, there are simply no viable options.

“There are over 220 million women, according to World Health Organization reports, who don’t have access to an effective method of contraception,” says the US-born Teitelbaum, “and 50 million abortions per year in the developing world, which are likely to be a product of the lack of contraceptive availability. They need something that is going to be accessible, low-cost, convenient and non-invasive. That is one of the reasons why the Gates Foundation was excited about this application for the developing world.”

The birth rate in Israel is currently 18.97 births/1,000 population based on 2012 estimates, compared to 13.8 in the US and just over 9 in Italy. However, in countries like Niger, Ethiopia and Uganda, the rate hovers closer to 50 births per 1,000 population.

If Hervana succeeds in getting its product to market, it will be doing a great service for those countries in need. But, here in Israel, where children are king, queen and court jester, it may be a harder sell.

Foto Friday – Save A Child’s Heart

Over the years, ISRAEL21c has written many times about Save A Child’s Heart (SACH). But quite honestly, there can never be enough mentions of this amazing Israel-based international humanitarian project, whose mission is to improve the quality of pediatric cardiac care for children from developing countries suffering from heart disease and to create centers of competence in those countries.

Photo by Nati Shohat

To date, SACH has treated more than 2,900 children suffering from congenital and rheumatic heart disease, aged 0 to 18 years of age — most recently one and a half year-old Clairia Irangabiye of Burundi, the 43rd country on the SACH roster.

SACH patients are brought to Israel to be treated at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon. Approximately 50% of the children are from the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Iraq and Morocco; more than 30% are from Africa; and the remaining are from Asia, Eastern Europe and the Americas.

Photo by Natalie Behring

Most patients have their medical costs covered by SACH and its partners, from the moment the child comes into care and until they have fully recovered – even if they require a lifetime of check-ups.

Photo by Natalie Behring

A few years ago, SACH initiated a follow-up project, to contact their former patients and get updated on their current health and life.

Yared Worde of Ethiopia, whose life was saved by SACH in 1999, is today principle of the School of Saint Yared in Addis Ababa, which fights poverty through education of 100 of the city’s poorest and under-privileged children.

SACH has also been aided by volunteer photographers including Eli Gross, who curated From Art to Heart, a traveling exhibition that fosters awareness of the program and raises funds around the world.

Check out this online version of the photo exhibition. To learn more about SACH, contact them at saveachildsheart.org.

Nostalgia Sunday – As Always Hadassah

Over the past decade, Israel21c has written dozens of articles about Israeli advancements in healthcare and medical research. A hefty percentage of these mention the word “Hadassah” because, in fact, Hadassah — the hospital and the organization that funds it — are all but synonymous with healthcare and medical research in Israel.

Hadassah’s Centennial Convention opens tomorrow in Jerusalem — a nice moment to make note of a few of the Women’s Organization’s many accomplishments and contributions that have benefited healthcare not only in Israel but around the world as well.

Hadassah medical ‘firsts’ include the first double bypass surgery in Israel (1964), the first successful bone marrow transplant in Israel (1977), first “Test Tube” baby in Israel (1983), first successful heart transplant in Israel (1986), first successful liver transplant in Israel (1991) and the first successful lung transplant in Israel.

In the new millennium, Hadassah’s medical success went global, conducting the first computer-guided hip replacement in the world (2004), the first successful freezing of ovaries before chemotherapy treatment (2007) and the first successful pregnancy using ova genetically tested prior to implantation (2008).

Hadassah was also responsible for opening the first ambulatory surgery center in Israel (1986), Israel’s first trauma unit (1991) and has pioneered many other innovative and unique medical treatments. In 2005, Hadassah was nominated for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize for its ongoing initiatives to use medicine as a bridge to peace.

A list of highlights is available online, as is a fascinating timeline of the history of Hadassah. Below, we present a few movies from the Hadassah vault — they serve to illustrate the organization’s long-standing commitment to healthcare in Israel, the Middle East and the world.

As Always Hadassah (from The Spielberg Jewish Film Archive)

A Lifeline for Israel – The Hadassah Medical Organization, 1913-1967

Hadassah: In The Midst of Crisis 1967

Hadassah & Israel: A Partnership of Distinction

Hadassah: A Day to Remember

Hadassah: How the Future Was Built

Foto Friday – The Seven Species

The biblical Seven Species (shiva’at ha-minim) are seven agricultural products listed in Deuteronomy 8:8 as typifying the bounty of the Land of Israel. There are two grains — wheat and barley — and five fruits — grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and/or olive oil, and dates and/or date-honey (silan), which is alternately interpreted as honey.

At Sukkot, the Seven Species are traditionally used as decorative motifs all over the Jewish world. In Israel, however, they are actually harvested at this season and, like all things Israeli, these ancient fruits of the land are being adapted to the modern world.

Wheat, for example. In 1906, on a trip to Rosh Pina, agronomist, botanist and underground Zionist leader Aaron Aaronsohn discovered wild emmer (Triticum dicoccoides), also known as “the mother of wheat” — one of the first crops domesticated in the Near East. To paraphrase Wikipedia, Aaronsohn’s discovery was an important one as emmer (also known as farro) can be grown in areas with poor soil providing countries around the world with the ability “to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development and support sustainable landcare”.

More recently, an Israeli evolutionary biologist has found hard evidence of global warming in the changes found in wheat and barley plants. On a more cheerful note, Israeli microbreweries are using wheat and barley to good effect… and according to Israel21c, they’ve brewed up Pomegranate Ale in time for the High Holidays, too.

Pomegranates have been the subject of medical research in Israel and their juice has been found to help diabetics; its antioxidant properties is also beneficial in skincare — as is olive oil.

Olives and olive oil are major agricultural products in modern-day Israel and related research ranges from biofuel generated from olive pit waste to using brackish water in growing olive trees to fight desertification to creating innovative olive oil-based nutraceuticals and food products.

The land flowing with milk and honey is also fighting the mysterious killer known as colony collapse disorder that has threatened the world’s honeybee population as well as researching bee and honey-related medical applications.

Although, in fact, the “honey” referred to in the Old Testament is apparently silan, a sticky-sweet syrup derived from dates. Cultivated in the region since time immemorial, Israeli agronomists were actually able to sprout a live date tree seedling from a 2000 year-old seed while medical researchers have discovered that eating dates can protect against atherosclerosis.

Figs have also been grown locally for millennia as proven by the archaeological finding of an elaborate ancient garden near Jerusalem that housed a wide variety of imported and domestic plants, including fig trees and grape vines.

Today’s Israeli wine is far cry from the rough stuff produced by the ancients, or the sugary carbonated swill produced here in the 1970s and early 80s, (glass of Fantasia, anyone?) Last year, Golan Heights Winery was the first Israeli winery to win a Gran Vinitaly Special Award as “world’s best wine producer”. Although Israel’s modern viticulture has roots in California wine country, Napa Valley and Sonoma County are now turning to Israeli technology for help.

As we sit in the Sukkah this year, lets look up at the Seven Species decorations and contemplate these modern miracles.

Olive image courtesy of the JNF-KKL photo archive. All other images: Wikipedia.

Made in Israel

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It’s getting to be that time of year again – where the national holidays come fast and furious. Holocaust Remembrance Day just passed and this week we have Memorial Day and Independence Day right on top of each other as Israel prepares to celebrate its 64th birthday.

While there’s no shortage of subjects to be worried, fearful, skeptical or angry about, I would say that overall, the country’s in pretty good shape. But if the Iranian threat, the political situation, the social welfare crisis and the glut of TV reality shows are getting you down, take a couple minutes and check out this clip that ISRAEL21c’s Nicky Blackburn and Viva Sara Press have put together.

In addition to providing some surprising information about just what Israel has achieved in the past 63 years, it will undoubtedly raise your morale and have you whistling a happy tune going into the coming eventful week. Happy Independence Day Israel! We’re proud of you.

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