Irena Nosel tending Abdel from Gaza. Photo by Barak Nuna

‘Children are children. They are not our enemies’

Along with the other 210,000 residents of coastal Ashdod, over the past couple of weeks Irena Nosel and her family must scramble for shelter when the wailing siren warns of incoming missiles from Gaza.

Her teenage son is in the army and her five-year-old son is confined to home because of the danger. Yet Nosel hasn’t missed a day of work as head nurse of the pediatric intensive care unit at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon.

She cares daily for critically ill children from Israel as well as from Gaza, the Palestinian Authority-administered territories, Syria, Africa and other places where the medical system is much less advanced than in Israel.

“Children are children. They are not our enemies,” she tells ISRAEL21c. “It doesn’t matter where they are from. If these children will not come to Wolfson and receive treatment, they will have no chance to live.”

Nosel is also head nurse for the Israeli nonprofit medical organization Save A Child’s Heart, based at Wolfson since its founding nearly 20 years ago. About 40 percent of the patients in her 10-bed unit are admitted through the free cardiology clinic that SACH holds every Tuesday for patients from Gaza and the West Bank.

Remarkably, the flow of sick children has not lessened despite the bombings, due to ongoing behind-the-scenes coordination with healthcare officials in hostile regions.

“We always have Palestinian children in our unit; right now we have three,” she says during a phone interview on Sunday morning. “This Tuesday, 14 children are scheduled to come to the clinic, and some will be hospitalized and stay for surgeries.”

The morning of her conversation with ISRAEL21c, Nosel was feeling less stressed about leaving her young son, Tomer, because Wolfson had just opened an emergency day camp for children of employees. Until then, she had to leave the kindergartner at home with his dad, waiting anxiously for her return, since regular summer activities are canceled in the port city due to constant attacks.

“It’s a difficult situation at home,” she acknowledges. “There are a lot of bombs falling. I never thought to stay home with him and miss work, but honestly it’s not easy for me. We are all here because we believe that we should continue with our mission, saving the children and helping the families.”

No politics in the hospital

Tamar Shapira, spokeswoman for SACH, calls Nosel “the most amazing, dedicated person. She comes every day no matter what, because she does a simple calculation that she knows she’s needed for these children’s survival. The whole team feels that way.”

The pediatric ICU is staffed by 35 nurses in addition to medical students, medical interns and four senior doctors – Jewish, Muslim and Christian. Healthcare professionals from many countries, including recently from China and Tanzania, come for SACH training to take back home. About half the children admitted through SACH for free treatment come from the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Iraq and Morocco.

Shapira says that the personal political leanings of the staff run the full spectrum from right to left, but have no bearing on their work. “They are all here for the patients,” she says.

“There is no politics here,” echoes Nosel. “The nationality of the children is not an issue at all.”

The patient shown here is Talya from Nablus. Photo by Barak Nuna

The patient shown here is Talya from Nablus. Photo by Barak Nuna

She relates that many Palestinian parents feel frightened when they first come to Israel with their sick children. “And then they see how we care for their kids, and they see that there is no tension between the different peoples here.”

When an air-raid siren goes off in Holon, just south of Tel Aviv, the staff members, parents and children are all in the same boat. In the face of the awkward irony that the bombs are coming from Hamas terrorists in Gaza, where some of the patients’ families live, Nosel reports that the stress in the pediatric ICU is kept to a minimum with black humor.

“We prefer to laugh about it,” she says.

After some 20 years on the job, the 42-year-old nurse says she is not burned out even in such trying times. During the 2009 Gaza conflict, she was pregnant with Tomer and didn’t miss a day on the job. Again in 2012, and now less than two years later, she has had to work under fire.

“I’m still excited for my work, and I have not thought about doing something else,” she says. “I like to care for people.”

Claire Lomas nearing the end of the Virgin London Marathon. Photo courtesy of Argo Medical Technologies
Behind the scenes at ISRAEL21c

ReWalk takes steps toward $50 million IPO

Israeli developed exoskeleton for paraplegics was one of TIME magazine's '25 Best Inventions of the Year 2013.'

Israeli-developed exoskeleton for paraplegics was one of TIME magazine’s ’25 Best Inventions of the Year 2013.’

Argo Medical Technologies took a huge step forward with its innovative robotic exoskeleton suit that enables paraplegics to walk. Now the Israeli company behind ReWalk – first introduced to the public by ISRAEL21c in 2008 – is reportedly taking another enormous step toward an initial public offering (IPO) on NASDAQ, and is said to be planning to raise more than $50 million in a listing this year. According to a report in Globes, Argo is planning its IPO at a company value of $250-$300 million.

ReWalk is a wearable robotic exoskeleton that provides powered hip and knee motion to enable individuals with spinal-cord injury to stand upright, climb stairs and walk. It was developed by Argo founder Dr. Amit Goffer in 2001 after he was paralyzed in an accident with an all-terrain vehicle. After ISRAEL21c’s first story, the world media have reported extensively about this futuristic bionic suit.

Available in Europe since 2012, the Israeli system stole the spotlight at the Virgin London Marathon when Claire Lomas, a chiropractor who was permanently paralyzed below her chest as the result of a 2007 riding accident, crossed the finish line in the 26.2-mile run thanks to the exoskeleton device.

Now the ReWalk system, which was dubbed by TIME magazine as one of 2013′s best inventions in the world, is back in the headlines thanks to its recent US Food and Drug Administration approval for using its ReWalk device at home and in the community.

ReWalk is the only exoskeleton with FDA clearance via clinical studies and extensive performance testing for personal use.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are about 200,000 people in the United States living with a spinal-cord injury, many of whom have complete or partial paraplegia.

“Innovative devices such as ReWalk go a long way towards helping individuals with spinal cord injuries gain some mobility,” said Christy Foreman, director of the Office of Device Evaluation, at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “Along with physical therapy, training and assistance from a caregiver, these individuals may be able to use these devices to walk again in their homes and in their communities.”

Argo actually offers two products: ReWalk Personal and the ReWalk Rehabilitation wearable robotic systems. The Rewalk Personal System, designed for everyday use by individuals at home and in their communities, is custom-fit for each user. The ReWalk Rehabilitation system is used in the clinical rehabilitation environment, where it provides a valuable means of exercise and therapy as well as a training base for individuals to be certified, enabling them to purchase a Personal system.

“The person walks the system; the system does not walk them. The users are in control — when they want to sit, they sit, when then want to stand and walk, they do so,” says ReWalk inventor Goffer.

Derek Herrera, a captain in the US Marine Corps, is a paraplegic trained on the ReWalk Personal System, and will be one of the first Americans to own the ReWalk. “I see this as a milestone for people in my same situation who will now have access to this technology – to experience walking again, and all of the health benefits that come with ReWalking,” Captain Herrera said.

The Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC) Foundation will donate the funds for Herrera’s ReWalk system, which carries a price tag of $69,500. “It will be incredible for me to regain independence, to use the system to walk and stand on my own,” he added.

The FDA’s marketing clearance was granted via a rigorous process that involved multiple clinical studies demonstrating safety and effectiveness of the technology.

“This revolutionary product will have an immediate, life-changing impact on individuals with spinal cord injuries,” said Larry Jasinski, CEO of ReWalk Robotics. “For the first time individuals with paraplegia will be able to take home this exoskeleton technology, use it every day and maximize on the physiological and psychological benefits we have observed in clinical trials. This is truly the beginning of ‘ReWalking’ as a daily reality in the US.”

Argo is just one of many Israeli health-related companies hoping to raise money in the US to finance product development and marketing, according to a Bloomberg report.
Bloomberg reports that Argo is backed by investors including SCP Vitalife Partners, Pontifax Venture Capital Fund, OurCrowd, and Technion Research & Development Foundation.

Enjoying the parade, from top clockwise, David Behrman, Vicki Weber, Lana Dishler, Michele Herman, Steve Ostrove and Bernie Dishler.
Behind the scenes at ISRAEL21c

Celebrate Israel parade brings travel pals back together

Cap 1: Enjoying the parade, from top clockwise, David Behrman, Vicki Weber, Lana Dishler, Michele Herman, Steve Ostrove and Bernie Dishler.



Cap 2: Karen and Steve Ostrove on the Journey to Israel trip.

What is 5½ miles from head to tail, 50 years old, and winds through the streets of Manhattan?

The Celebrate Israel parade, of course.

The parade celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, and the 66th anniversary of Israel’s Independence Day, with more than 200 different groups and 40,000 marchers. (Don’t ask about the security.)

It started at 11am on June 1 at 57th Street, and progressed up Fifth Avenue to 74th Street. The last float finished at 4pm.

And on the last float was Karen Ostrove, who joined us on the ISRAEL21c Journey to Israel trip last October. Karen was there because her day job is organizing the parade. It’s an all-year thing: deciding which groups march, what order they’re in, what their banners and floats say, and how they’re announced for live TV coverage.

Karen and Steve Ostrove on the Journey to Israel trip.

Karen and Steve Ostrove on the Journey to Israel trip.

And then, on the day of the parade, Karen makes sure that all those people, all those banners, and all those floats get sent off properly, in the right order, from the starting line. Like a captain who is the last one to leave the ship, Karen is on that last float, getting off at the VIP grandstand near 72nd Street, at which point the parade is officially over.

Her husband, Steve, makes it a family affair. He was at the reviewing grandstand in a bright orange “Staff” shirt, near the media booth with all the TV cameras, making sure that there weren’t big gaps in the marchers, which would create “dead air” in the live television broadcast.


Best part: We got to have a mini-reunion from our trip, with Karen and Steve, Michele Herman and Bernie and Lana Dishler. 

Logo of the Jewish Ophthalmologists of Buenos Aires.
Behind the scenes at ISRAEL21c

Argentinean eye doctors find ISRAEL21c eye-opening

 Last October, Dr. Roberto Ebner wrote to say that he had chanced upon ISRAEL21c’s “Top 10 incredible Israeli advances in vision” and was “amazed by the synthesis in the steps you explored on this subject.”

Dr. Ebner, chairman of ophthalmology at the British Hospital of Buenos Aires, cofounded the Jewish Ophthalmologists in Buenos Aires professional group in 2012, with eye surgeon Dr. Gustavo Goldman.

The inaugural meeting featured Dr. Amir Amedi of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a world pioneer in sensory substitution devices for people with vision loss. (Yes, we’ve written about him several times.)

The group meets twice a year and always devotes a few sessions to a Jewish topic – such as the kabbalistic meaning of the eye, medieval scholar-physician Maimonides’ treatise on eyes, kosher wine-tastings or a synopsis of medical advances in Israel.

“We’d like to be on your list and receive periodical info regarding scientific Israeli medical advances (some we know, some we don’t) for comment during our meetings,” Dr. Ebner requested.

We were happy to register him to receive ISRAEL21c’s free weekly edition of the stories we post every day.

The latest meeting included a discussion based on our story “Israelis find cure for stem-cell debate.”

“We feel proud of the achievements of Jewish ophthalmologists around the country who share a common interest in getting together and exchanging cultural information linking the eye and our culture, religion and history,” writes Dr. Ebner. “The enthusiastic group is growing and expects to continue forever.”

From left, Daniel Gold, LA Jewish Federation; Yael Vizel of Zeekit; Roei Deutsch of Yesh Atid; Shiri Ladelsky of Vibits; and Guy Katsovich of Veribo.
Behind the scenes at ISRAEL21c

Startup ‘secret sauce’ recipe shared in LA

From left, Daniel Gold, LA Jewish Federation; Yael Vizel of Zeekit; Roei Deutsch of Yesh Atid; Shiri Ladelsky of Vibits; and Guy Katsovich of Veribo.

From left, Daniel Gold, LA Jewish Federation; Yael Vizel of Zeekit; Roei Deutsch of Yesh Atid; Shiri Ladelsky of Vibits; and Guy Katsovich of Veribo.

Four Israeli “high-tech heroes” told their startup success stories at a recent TLV Talks event in Santa Monica co-sponsored by ISRAEL21c. The speakers, all former soldiers who served in elite Israel Defense Forces cyber, tech and combat units, were in the country to raise the profile of their businesses.

TLV Talks was a natural stop on the tour, as the goal of this collaboration between the Los Angeles Jewish Federation and the Israeli American Council’s BINA program for young professionals is “to create a web of connections that promotes Israel to our community and strengthens our personal connections to Israel.”

The presenters were all from Gammado, one of Israel’s top startup incubators:

• Guy Katsovich, who served in the prestigious 8200 cyber-unit and now is head of business development for Veribo for corporations and individuals to manage their online reputations.

• Yael Vizel, founder and CEO of Zeekit, which gives consumers an enhanced online clothes shopping experience.

• Roei Deutsch, a veteran of 8200 and former CEO of Veribo, and currently director of new media for the Israeli political party Yesh Atid.

• Shiri Ladelsky, another 8200 vet, musician and head of software startup Vibits, which focuses on personality features for human resource departments via visualized CV.

ISRAEL21c provided source material for this event as well as all TLV Talks, said Nathan Miller, ISRAEL21c’s director of social media.

“The LA Federation puts on TLV Talks once a quarter, where they bring over interesting Israelis like women entrepreneurs and members of IsraAID [the Israel Forum for International Humanitarian Aid], and they approached us to provide content for these events because a lot of the speakers are people we’ve featured in our stories,” he explains.

“We print out relevant articles from our website and create social media graphics to give the attendees a little more context if they want to learn more about that particular sector.”

The foursome was making the rounds of “Silicon Beach,” as the LA high-tech scene is known, and had meetings at companies including Microsoft. The TLV Talk was held at Cross Campus, an Israeli-owned shared workspace for startups.

The audience included members of ISRAEL21c’s Digital Ambassadors program, a framework for college students to share our content online through social networks.

Miller reports that the speakers were extraordinarily impressive and articulate.

“Roei Deutsch sold his first high-tech startup at 16. Yael Vizel was the first female commander of the Air Force’s field and aerial telecommunication crews and now heads a big startup. All of them have compelling personal stories, and talked about how their rigorous training from the army gives them incredible skills and also a network so that when they get out, they get plugged right into the high-tech scene.”

At the Microsoft presentation, about 300 local high-tech people were there, “trying to mine the secrets of what Israel is doing and wanting to know how to get Israeli programmers to work for them,” says Miller.

“A lot of young professionals are really excited about what Israel has to offer,” he concludes.