At ISRAEL21c, our problem is never in finding the stories on exciting new innovations and developments to bring you week after week – the problem is always having to choose.

Week after week, month after month, we hear about exciting new developments emerging from Israel that can dramatically impact the world – even in the most unexpected of places.

While health, environmental and technological developments continue a rapid pace, Israel’s cultural and tourism scene have also seen major growth in recent years. The country is now recognized as a leading innovator not just in the sciences, but in the arts as well.

In a year of great Middle Eastern upheaval and conflict, Israel has remained stable and strong, offering aid in times of crisis to countries like the Philippines, Africa, Ethiopia and even Syria.

As a celebration of the year about to end, ISRAEL21c brings you its top 10 stories of 2013.

1. 10 great reasons to love the pomegranate

There are so many good reasons to eat pomegranates. Not only do they taste good but these glorious fruit also have many health benefits that are gradually coming to light.

The pomegranate is a super-food packed with powerful antioxidants and vitamins found to help stomach upset, hot flushes, hemorrhoids and even conjunctivitis. It can lower blood pressure, combat diabetes, protect against heart attack and stroke, stimulate the immune system, ward off flu and lower cholesterol.

And if that’s not enough, it also makes great dessert wine, can be used in beauty products and — thanks to Israeli technology – the seeds are now much easier to extract.

2. Hospital hygiene rap

Earlier this year, Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem released a video about hygiene in the hospital, and it went viral. The video, which urges medical staff to wash their hands, is a rap song performed by doctors and nurses and features breakdancing in the surgical suite.

We covered the video in our Spotlight section – and it went viral, too. What’s so nice about this video is that the staff looks like it’s having such a ball. Originally done in Hebrew, a version with English subtitles was released by the hospital due to public demand.

3. Say goodbye to surgical stitches

We featured many revolutionary new inventions from Israel this year, but this one by Israeli startup IonMed was one of the most popular. The company has developed a product, BioWeld1, for closing surgical incisions within a few minutes using cold plasma. For patients, it means less pain, less possibility of infection, and minimal scarring.

Women giving birth by Caesarean section could be the first to benefit from the invention. The company expects to receive the CE mark of approval in Europe shortly and will be looking for US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval after that.

4. 18 cool things to do in Tel Aviv

In recent years, Tel Aviv has become the capital of cool. With its beautiful Bauhaus buildings, an impressive stretch of golden beach, and a nightlife that begins early and ends late, the city has become one of the hottest destinations in the world.

To make life easier for you, we put together a list of the top 18 things to do in the city for free. Start with the beautiful beaches, try out the promenade that now stretches from Jaffa in the south to the far reaches of north Tel Aviv, and check out Jaffa Port, the Carmel Market, the flea market or Neve Tzedek on the way.

There’s so much to do in Tel Aviv, from walking tours to roller-skating the streets. Just make sure you give yourself days in the city to do it all.

5. The top 65 ways Israel is saving the planet

For Israel’s 65th anniversary, we brought you the top 65 ways Israel is helping the world. The country may be famous for its innovation and technological edge, but many people have no idea how much good work is being done by Israeli citizens and organizations all over the world.

In our extremely popular story, we showed how Israel is helping US war veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder; farmers in Senegal, India and China; young women in South Sudan; the wheelchair-bound in Africa; cardiac patients in Gaza and Iraq; and even Syrians wounded in the country’s bitter civil war.

We also featured environmental breakthroughs that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, technologies that can increase food production and save vital crops, and humanitarian missions in the wake of catastrophic natural disasters.

It’s an impressive and quite extraordinary list.

6. Good news for knees

CartiHeal’s cartilage regeneration solution could save many patients from joint replacement surgery. Image via

If you get a cut, break a bone or scrape an elbow, your bloodstream brings the injury all the necessary nutrients for healing. But if your cartilage gets damaged, you’re out of luck. This flexible soft tissue that cushions joints – especially in the knee – has no blood vessels and little ability to heal itself.

Now, in a ground breaking advance, the Israeli company CartiHeal is developing a safe off-the-shelf scaffold implant for the body to regenerate true joint-protecting cartilage.

In clinical studies so far, CartiHeal’s Agili-C is shown to regenerate true hyaline cartilage — the most abundant type of cartilage in the human body — after six months.

7. Top 12 amazing medical advances

This is something the editorial staff at ISRAEL21c has been thinking about for some time. We hear about so many impressive biotech and medical device companies – but which ones are the best?

Israel is undoubtedly a powerhouse in medical innovation. There are about 1,000 companies in the healthcare or life-science field, and half are already generating revenues. Another 60-70 healthcare companies are founded every year.

Narrowing them down to just 12 of the most significant recent Israeli contributions to the medical field was difficult, but we managed. So who did we choose? You’ll have to read the story to find out.

8. 18 things to do in Jerusalem for free

After the huge success of our article on the top 18 things to do in Tel Aviv for free, we decided to focus on Jerusalem next.

Jerusalem is, without a doubt, the holiest city in the world. It’s also a city with history oozing out of every corner – sometimes layer upon layer of history all within the same space. If that’s not enough to keep you busy, the city also has great window shopping, charming neighborhoods, colorful markets, awesome architecture, manicured gardens and a bird observatory. And, of course, it’s all for free.

9. PhotoMania

Over 40 million Facebook users regularly turn to a social image-processing service developed by three young Israeli entrepreneurs.

PhotoMania provides state-of-the-art photo effects, and is considered one of the biggest entertainment applications on the Facebook platform today. You don’t have to be a graphic artist to use the app. The whole point is to give users a “one-click” photo effect.

10. New implant is alternative to spinal fusion

One of the most common causes of back pain is spinal stenosis of the lower back – a narrowing of the spinal canal that causes pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots. Fixing the problem usually involves spinal fusion, an operation to permanently join two or more vertebrae bones so there is no movement between them.

It’s not ideal. Now Israeli company Premia Spine has developed a transformative solution for spinal stenosis, inspired by the success of total hip and knee replacements. The company’s TOPS (Total Posterior Solution) System allows the surgeon to remove the diseased parts of the spine and then stabilize it with an artificial joint that restores the function of a normal posterior spinal column.

The implant, which already has a CE Mark, not only gives patients normal, pain-free mobility, but it also protects adjacent levels of the spine from similar degeneration – a common unwanted side effect of fusion surgery.