Temple Mount Western Wall on Shabbat. (photo by David Shankbone via en.wikipedia.org)
Robin and Jon Sirkin prepared to celebrate their son Eitan’s bar mitzvah in Jerusalem last weekend. There was a Dr. Who theme and an ice-cream bar planned for the reception at the synagogue after the services. As part of the celebrations, Robin Sirkin’s brother, sister, aunt and cousin were planning to make their first trip to Israel. She booked a trip to southern Israel and a meal at one of Jerusalem’s most expensive restaurants for 15 people.
Four weeks ago, just after the ceasefire was declared between Israel and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, they all canceled their trips. Sirkin, who moved to Israel from Cleveland three years ago with their four children, said she tried to convince her relatives that the ceasefire would hold, but to no avail.
“It’s devastating and heartbreaking and feels unsupportive,” Sirkin told the Media Line. “I think they’re overreacting, but we have a different sense of security here.
She said they held off telling their son that his relatives had canceled, hoping that as the big day he approached he would be more excited about the ceremony and the party, and less disappointed.
“He was a little sad, but he’s trying not to focus on that,” she said.
The Sirkins are not alone. Mark Feldman, CEO of Ziontours, said that the seven weeks of fighting between Israel and Hamas over the summer has devastated tourism for the rest of the year, except for the Jewish holidays this month, and Christmas. Feldman said they lost about 2,000 bookings, and most of the time waived the cancellation fees.
“Tourism for the rest of 2014 simply doesn’t exist,” Feldman said. “Now we’re looking toward 2015, and hoping the government will begin to lay the seeds to allow tourism to begin to come back.”
The concept of SoftWheel was initially imagined as an improvement for wheelchairs, but its potential uses are numerous. (photo from SoftWheel)
While new patents and inventions appear all the time, they don’t often aim at a mainstay, like the common wheel, which has had the same design for thousands of years.
Many inventors have focused on how a wheel connects to a vehicle through different suspension systems. An Israeli startup has infused the suspension right into the wheel itself, with a selective shock absorption system.
Dubbed “SoftWheel,” the concept was imagined by Israeli farmer Gilad Wolf when, a few years ago, he broke his pelvis and was confined to a wheelchair.
“Sitting on one of the more sturdy wheelchairs, having to manoeuvre around his fields, Gilad decided to design an improved model with suspension,” said Ronny Winshtein co-founder, inventor and former chief executive officer of SoftWheel.
Wolf partnered with some colleagues and an Israeli nonprofit organization for rehabilitation technologies called Milbat and, together, they approached Tel Aviv-based Rad-Biomed Accelerator to assist in funding and developing the project.
“Rad-Biomed CEO David Zigdon liked the idea but decided to come up with a product that would be disruptive in technology and market orientation,” said Winshtein.
With Winshtein, they decided they would put the suspension in the wheel and make it selective – i.e., to work only at high-magnitude shocks – otherwise, the wheel would remain purely round and concentric, functioning like any other wheel.
In 2011, SoftWheel was founded with this notion in mind, and it attracted some of the best and brightest players in Israel to the wheel business. One of them, Ziv-Av Engineering, assisted them in developing the wheel’s unique mechanism.
“Putting suspension into the wheel has many advantages, like giving you the freedom to plug in the suspension onto any frame you like,” said Daniel Barel, SoftWheel’s current CEO. “You can just pick one out of a catalogue. As well, the suspension covers 360 degrees of incoming shocks, rather than [the] linear shocks absorbers provided in most frames.”
Barel explained why a design like theirs had not been done until now. “With promise comes challenges, and having the shocks in the frame of a flexible wheel creates design challenges for the rest of the vehicle’s frame – a challenge fairly non-existent in wheelchairs.”
The biggest problem with wheelchairs is adding suspension to the chair, as it adds weight. “Active wheelchair users commonly disconnect the wheels from the frame when getting into their car, etc., and pull the wheelchair components with a single hand from the ground to the passenger seat … so, weight becomes a major issue,” said Barel. “By adding suspension (meaning, adding some weight) to the wheels, which are always lighter than the frame, [it is easier to manoeuvre the chair portion].… On the other hand, SoftWheel understands the need to have the lightest possible wheels, so the overall wheelchair weight won’t be more than current lightweight wheelchairs.”
What makes SoftWheel’s wheel better than any other, according to Barel, is the embedded suspension. “It’s a real suspension with not only springs, but also dampers, which are needed to absorb the shock. Also, it’s selective, so, during a ride on a regular road, the hub won’t wobble within the frame, keeping more of the good propulsion energy.”
The company has filed several different patent applications for utility and design that they are confident will provide broad protection to their inventions.
Barel acknowledged it is difficult to reconsider one of the oldest possible technologies ever invented, but also exciting.
“We’re currently focused, first and foremost, on the market, with a first product for active wheelchair users … in the very near future,” said Barel. “We also made substantial progress in designing similar wheels for commuter bicycles, some of which also include a motor in the wheel hub.” The prototype is featured in the video below.
“We also develop concepts for other types of vehicles based on our know-how and technology, and have been in discussion with some very interesting players in Israel and abroad,” he added.
The company is very proud to be part of the Israeli startup Kaleidoscope. Winshtein believes that it is not by chance that so many innovative technologies have originated in Israel. He said it is embedded in the culture, the atmosphere, jokingly adding, “Probably, also [the] heat and humidity, but mostly the openness, from any level, to try and change the world for the better.
“SoftWheel has been a globally oriented company from day one, and we already have good and friendly ties with different global and national players from different market segments.”
One of the other companies that has shown interest is an aircraft landing gear manufacturer. Another focus for SoftWheel has been implementing the technology on city bikes, as more and more cities introduce bikes that anyone can pick up and return at different locations (for a cost).
“As the wheels reduce the impact of typical street blows, both wheelchairs and bikes that use them can move around freely without having to access ramps,” said Barel. “The suspension systems currently available in city bikes are unsuitable for such obstacles and often result in the rider taking the impact. Eventually, the product will sell itself and, in doing so, it has to answer real needs for real individuals.
“Like with any new concept, you do everything in your power to bring into the market the best possible product, under time and budget constraints. With time and growth, and feedback from the users, we’ll naturally be able to improve the product in different parameters, ones we already have in mind and ones we probably hadn’t thought of yet.”
A small black hole gains mass. Dense cold gas (green) flows toward the centre of a stellar cluster (red cross in blue circle) with stars (yellow); the erratic path of the black hole through the gas (black line) is randomized by the surrounding stars. (photo from wis-wander.weizmann.ac.il)
At the ends of the universe, there are black holes with masses equaling billions of our sun. These giant bodies – quasars – feed on interstellar gas, swallowing large quantities of it non-stop. Thus, they reveal their existence: the light that is emitted by the gas as it is sucked in and crushed by the black hole’s gravity travels for eons across the universe until it reaches our telescopes. Looking at the edges of the universe is, therefore, looking into the past. These far-off, ancient quasars appear to us in their “baby photos” taken less than a billion years after the Big Bang: monstrous infants in a young universe.
Normally, a black hole forms when a massive star, weighing tens of solar masses, explodes after its nuclear fuel is spent. Without the nuclear furnace at its core pushing against gravity, the star collapses. Much of the material is flung outwards in a great supernova blast, while the rest falls inward, forming a black hole of only about 10 solar masses.
Since these ancient quasars were first discovered, scientists have wondered what process could lead a small black hole to gorge and fatten to such an extent, so soon after the Big Bang.
In fact, several processes tend to limit how fast a black hole can grow. For example, the gas normally does not fall directly into the black hole, but gets sidetracked into a slowly spiraling flow, trickling in drop by drop. When the gas is finally swallowed by the black hole, the light it emits pushes out against the gas. That light counterbalances gravity, and it slows the flow that feeds the black hole.
So how, indeed, did these ancient quasars grow? Prof. Tal Alexander, head of the particle physics and astrophysics department at the Weizmann Institute of Science, proposes a solution in a paper written together with Prof. Priyamvada Natarajan of Yale University, which appeared in a recent issue of Science.
Their model begins with the formation of a small black hole in the very early universe. At that time, cosmologists believe, gas streams were cold, dense and contained much larger amounts of material than the thin gas streams we see in today’s cosmos. The hungry, newborn black hole moved around, changing direction all the time, as it was knocked about by other baby stars in its vicinity. By quickly zigzagging, the black hole continually swept up more and more of the gas into its orbit, pulling the gas directly into it so fast, the gas could not settle into a slow, spiraling motion. The bigger the black hole got, the faster it ate; this growth rate, explained Alexander, rises faster than exponentially. After around 10 million years – a blink of an eye in cosmic time – the black hole would have filled out to around 10,000 solar masses. From then, the colossal growth rate would have slowed to a somewhat more leisurely pace, but the black hole’s future path would already be set – leading it to eventually weigh in at a billion solar masses or more.
An artists’s rendering of the new facility now under construction in Bnei Brak. (photo from Mayanei Hayeshua Medical Centre)
Chavi (not her real name) awkwardly positions herself on the chair in the group therapy room. The doctors gave her parents no choice, hospitalize her or she may develop organ failure as a result of her extreme anorexia. Chavi is 16 and has grown up in the Charedi enclave of Bnei Brak, where there was little public knowledge or discussion about this debilitating disorder.
The group therapy room is in the adolescent unit where she has been hospitalized, a couple of miles away from her community and yet a world away from the life she knows. Girls talk openly about intimate experiences. They discuss the influence of media on their eating disorders and they talk about their secular lifestyles. Chavi doesn’t understand; she understands the words, but not their connotations. She is told that this place will help her get better but she feels lonelier than ever, like an outcast, discarded from her community and implanted into an alien world.
Chavi is one of the lucky ones; her parents noticed the signs of her illness and took her to seek help. One in four people will experience mental illness in their lifetime and the Charedi community is no different. And times are changing: Israel’s Charedi community is breaking down barriers to tackle the stigma of mental illness.
“The last few years have seen the community join together to fight mental illness,” explained Nechami Samuel, a psychotherapist at Mayanei Hayeshua Medical Centre (MHMC) in Bnei Brak. What was once a taboo subject is now being discussed and debated by rabbis, and the message is hitting home. “People in our community don’t turn to medical professionals in these situations, they turn to their rabbi for help with shalom bayit [domestic harmony],” said Samuel. “These rabbis are now referring families to us, seeking professional guidance and, together with MHMC, leading a revolution in reducing the stigma of mental illness.” This changing atmosphere could not happen soon enough – within the first days of the recent Operation Protective Edge, air-raid sirens began to sound in Bnei Brak.
“We have seen an influx in cases because of the war. For some, anxiety disorders get worse, and people who have had no prior anxiety issues may develop disorders because of the situation,” explained Dr. Michael Bunzel, chief psychiatrist at MHMC. “We have been charged by the Ministry of Health as an acute-stress treatment centre for Bnei Brak to deal specifically with trauma in the case of a national disaster. The idea is to create separate sites for trauma so that people don’t have to go to the emergency room. Mayanei Hayeshua serves as one of these sites.”
“Take, for example, postnatal depression: 10 years ago, it [was thought not to] exist in our community. We’re talking about a communal prevalence of 13 percent and yet it was brushed under the carpet.”
In addition to the upsurge in cases of post-traumatic stress and anxiety, MHMC is continuing to tackle the basic mental health needs of the community. “Take, for example, postnatal depression: 10 years ago, it [was thought not to] exist in our community,” said Shimon Goloveizitz, head of administration for MHMC’s psychiatric services. “We’re talking about a communal prevalence of 13 percent and yet it was brushed under the carpet.” Today, in addition to the organizations that have been founded to provide support, a substantial public awareness campaign has been instigated. “Recently, we hosted a rabbi-therapist to give a lecture to men to help them spot the signs of postnatal depression in their wives and support them effectively, and the turnout was overwhelming.”
Prior to his position at MHMC, Goloveizitz managed a health centre in central Israel. “One day, they decided to do an evening for Charedim because they never came to any of their health-promotion events,” he recalled. “They chose a night during Chanukah, brought in glatt-kosher food and entertained the Charedi visitors with a female singer and scantily clad dancer. They just simply didn’t understand.” There is a need to provide more information about social norms so that there is less misunderstanding between secular and religious Israelis.
MHMC is currently home to both child and adult outpatient and day-care psychiatric services but it has struggled to serve the high demands of this typically under-served population. The therapists take into account religious sensitivities and the particular challenges of conforming to religious norms. “When I am conducting family therapy and the father doesn’t look at me, rather than racing to conclusions of autism or communication disorders, I think shmirat ha’ayin [guarding the gaze],” said Samuel. “Even in standard diagnostic tests a child can be diagnosed with low intelligence because he doesn’t know culturally determined answers, or a yeshivah student diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder because his religious lifestyle fits the criterion for this disease.”
“We don’t close our doors to anyone. We have patients from all religious backgrounds, but it is an environment of religious respect, which is unique to our institution.”
MHMC is now halfway through the construction of a state-of-the-art psychiatric facility that will become the first in Israel solely dedicated to serving the religious population; it promises to increase the available treatment options. “We don’t close our doors to anyone,” clarified Goloveizitz. “We have patients from all religious backgrounds, but it is an environment of religious respect, which is unique to our institution.”
The new facility will house inpatient services in addition to its current outpatient services and is hoping to become a centre for excellence in Israeli mental health care. “There is no doubt that there is a need for an inpatient facility when a person is endangering himself or others, but our goal is not to be a sanatorium. We want to give people the tools to reintegrate into society as speedily as possible and for that we need to build a welcoming environment in which religious people, like Chavi, will feel comfortable living,” said Samuel.
Israel’s mental health system is currently undergoing reforms. The country’s psychologists currently predominantly offer psychodynamic therapy, which is a long-term, in-depth therapeutic approach primarily focusing on unconscious internal conflicts. Under the new system, there is a move toward evidence-based practice, which advocates the use of treatments that have a strong empirical support. While this does not exclude psychodynamic therapies, it does recommend more targeted treatment approaches based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for specific disorders.
“Our main purpose is to get our patients back out to the community and we use whatever treatments have been shown to be most effective for that purpose,” said Samuel. “Especially with these treatments, which have strict protocols, first and foremost, the research outlines the importance of cultural applicability and individual tailoring of treatment goals and plans.”
The future looks hopeful for the mental health of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community. With 3,350 patients accessing Mayanei Hayeshua’s psychiatric services in 2013 alone, the improved services are needed. “The first stage of the revolution on stigma has been a success,” said Samuel. “Now we have to stand up to the challenge of the increased demand for our services.”
Anna Harwood is a writer and clinical psychology student at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. She made aliyah from England at the end of 2010 and has been living in Jerusalem ever since.
In Italy, at Ben-Gurion Racing’s pit, from left to right, BGR2014 team leader Dudy Daud, project manager Tamir Plachinsky, main sponsor of the event Giampaolo Dallara, former EU president and former Italian prime minister Romano Prodi and the rest of the BGR team. (photo from BGR)
Israel is not known for manufacturing cars, let alone race cars, but that hasn’t stopped students from Ben-Gurion University from doing just that.
At their first race this year, in Austria Aug. 17-20, the car had an oil leak in the middle of the endurance race. “The car was stopped and we were very disappointed,” said mechanical engineer Tamir Plachinsky.
At the second race, however, in Italy Aug. 29-Sept. 1, the team fared better. They finished 21st overall out of 44 teams, completing all of the events, including acceleration, skid pad, autocross and hard endurance (which was incomplete in Austria).
“The team is extremely happy to have finished the event,” said Plachinsky. “We showed again the strength of our students – that, even in a year like we had [in Israel], we managed to build the most advanced car we’ve ever built and to race it in two races.”
Plachinsky began the initiative to build the first-ever Israeli Formula SAE project in 2010. After the successful participation of the first Ben-Gurion Racing (BGR) team in 2011 in the Italian race, Plachinsky was granted a six-month apprentice opportunity at the Italian racecar manufacturer Dallara. Upon his return, he started managing the race-car project at the university.
This year’s car is the fourth that students have designed and manufactured in the team. The aim is to redesign a new car each year for the Italian event, with a new group of students to replace the graduate students who have completed their studies.
“Each year starts with a new team and new goals, and you never know what will happen until the race,” said Plachinsky. “Think of it like a manufacturing company that forms at the beginning of the year with a new CEO … and everything [is] needed. And, at the end of the year, all the personnel retire from the company and you hire completely new staff.”
This year, Plachinsky said, “We started with new goals for the team and we knew we wouldn’t have enough time and resources to complete the car, but we still worked as hard as possible to keep to the time table and find support.”
The creation of the team occurs around September. The new team meets with the old team and learns about the current car. “We go over the good systems and the bad ones, where we need to improve and develop, and what should be left as is,” explained Plachinsky.
For 2014, the team consisted of 31 mechanical engineering students together with five students from the university’s department of management and design students from Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem.
“We’re confident and believe in our ability to face any difficulty we’ll encounter,” said Plachinsky.
This year’s design concept was formed in September 2013. “They put into it their previous three years’ experience and a lot of courage to make it a better car from the 2013 model – one that put a new standard for race cars produced in Israel,” said Plachinsky.
This car, dubbed the “BGR14004,” had two unique features. The main frame is built from carbon fibre, instead of welded steel tubes, and the students designed their own gearbox.
“The carbon frame, also called ‘monocoque’ (Latin for ‘single shell’) is the first of its kind ever produced in Israel and allows for [a] lighter and stiffer chassis,” said Plachinsky. This is a feature the university students have been developing over the past two years.
“Together with the frame, we managed to design and manufacture the new gearbox,” he added. “This will enable the car to access a much better power supply, giving the driver help in reducing lap times.”
The main assembly was done in the university’s new compound, but the different parts were manufactured at various factories supporting the team. The carbon fibre frame was made at Composite Materials Ltd. in Modi’in, the gears were made at Ashot Ashkelon Industries Ltd. in Ashkelon, and the 3D-printed intake manifold was made at Aran Research & Development Ltd. in Caesaria. “But, as much as possible, we’re trying to keep the manufacturing of the parts in the Be’er Sheva area and the south of Israel,” said Plachinsky.
Registration for the races in Italy and Austria was in January 2014. “Once we knew we had spots at those events, all that was left to do was to build the car,” said Plachinsky. “This [was] no easy task, especially this year, because of the complicated manufacturing of the new frame and also – and maybe mainly – due to the fact that almost half the team got recruited to serve in the army. Even with these difficulties, we managed to complete the car just in time for the Austrian event, after a month of working 25 hours a day.”
Overall, Plachinsky said everyone is very happy with how the car performs. “It shows all the features we designed into it and is faster than last year’s car,” he said. “The students’ devotion to complete the car and represent the team, the university and the country in the best way possible has just been unbelievable.
“Arriving at the event with the car you’ve designed and built is an amazing feeling,” he continued. “Adding to that is the fact that the Austrian event is held at the famous Red-Bull Ring and that the Italian event, our traditional race, is always an amazing experience.”
The financial side
Getting the funding necessary for such a project is daunting – and most participating teams get 10 times the funding that BGR does, according to Plachinsky.
“We received support from the university and some companies and factories (from 2013 and continuing into 2014) but, as the design level goes up, so does the need for support,” he said. “Also, as we’re now on tour in Europe for three weeks; it’s not cheap or easy to organize and finance.”
Plachinsky and the team are approaching companies in Israel that they feel will want to collaborate with them “on a joint development basis or for marketing interest.” He said, “We want to show them how amazing this project is and that they can earn something by supporting us, having there be positive publicity, connections to the university, future employees, and so on.”
Plachinsky said of donors, “None of what we do would happen if it wasn’t for the good hearts of those people. We’ll be forever grateful.”
Looking ahead, the team’s goal is, as always, to advance into new areas and technologies. For the coming year, the plan is to participate in the Austrian and Italian events once again. This time, with a new car that will be the first electric race car made in Israel.
Although the team has not yet begun building it, the general concept is in place. “Some team members from next year’s team are here with us [in Italy], learning about the competition, the race and the car as much as possible before the current team will clear the stage for them,” said Plachinsky.
BGR is continually seeking assistance in helping them “represent Israel in the most amazing way and to educate the future engineers and automotive industry of Israel,” said Plachinsky. “And, for this, we greatly need to find further financial support.”
SCiO allows users to find out the molecular breakdown of almost anything. (photo courtesy of Consumer Physics)
Consumer Physics, a technology startup based in Israel, was founded on the idea of empowering people to learn more about the physical world in which they live, according to the company’s chief executive officer, Dror Sharon.
A collaboration of two Technion electrical engineering graduates, Sharon and Consumer Physics chief technical officer Damian Goldring, the company has been honing in on coming up with “an affordable, handheld device that would allow people to explore the world around them and get a better sense of what things are made of,” said Sharon.
The business partners discovered that they could miniaturize a spectrometer (optical sensor) to scan material objects, much like the technology used to miniaturize optics for smartphone cameras.
After several years of research and development, this idea became Consumer Physics’ first product, dubbed “SCiO.” It can analyze a vast number of physical materials and provide information previously unavailable without large-scale laboratory equipment.
SCiO provides real-time molecular breakdowns, and can tell you anything from how much fat is in your latte to what the unmarked pill in your medicine cabinet is, and whether or not your plants need to be watered.
By miniaturizing the spectrometer to about the size of a USB flash drive, and using technology and products that are cost-efficient, Consumer Physics has made spectrometry both affordable and accessible.
SCiO includes a light source that illuminates the sample and a spectrometer that collects the light reflected from the sample. The spectrometer breaks down the light to its spectrum, which contains all the information required to detect the molecules in the sample.
SCiO communicates the information from the sample to a smartphone wirelessly, which then sends it out to a cloud-based service for review.
Creating a global database of possible materials that the scanner will encounter is one of the biggest challenges SCiO programmers face.
“Advanced algorithms rely on our updatable database of matter to analyze the spectrum and deliver information about the sample back to the user’s smartphone in real time,” said Sharon.
Considering the buzz their device has already spurred, Sharon said, “People are interested in SCiO to be able to learn more about their physical world in a way that, until now, they haven’t been able to.”
Some people have shown interest in specific applications, like being able to track the nutritional aspects of the food they eat, or being able to select the sweetest melon at the supermarket. Others, especially developers who supported Consumer Physics in its early stages, are excited about what future applications there might be for the company’s hardware.
“We’re working diligently to ensure we ship the products to our early supporters on schedule, and are currently growing our research and development team internally to support the demand for SCiO,” said Sharon. “Professional applications, like consumer applications, will vary, based on what the community of developers creates.”
Soon, SCiO will be available in Canada and around the world. “We were very pleased to see that our Kickstarter backers came from five continents, and will continue to support our global community,” said Sharon.
Right now, Canadians can pre-order SCiO for $249 from the company website (consumerphysics.com). Early Kickstarter supporters will receive their SCiOs in December 2014, while later purchases are expected to be shipped in March 2015.
“It’s safe and easy for kids to use, but they’ll need a smartphone to see the results,” said Sharon. “SCiO can teach children all about the world around them – from gardening to biology and nutrition – and we’re also looking forward to seeing what educational applications will be built for children.”
Members of Dr. Barak Dayan’s team, left to right: Serge Rosenblum, Yulia Lovsky, Orel Bechler and Itay Shomroni. (photo from wis-wander.weizmann.ac.il)
Weizmann Institute scientists have demonstrated for the first time a photonic router – a quantum device based on a single atom that enables routing of single photons by single photons. This achievement, as reported in Science magazine in July, is another step toward overcoming the difficulties in building quantum computers.
At the core of the device is an atom that can switch between two states. The state is set by sending a single particle of light – or photon – from the right or the left via an optical fibre. The atom, in response, then reflects or transmits the next incoming photon accordingly. For example, in one state, a photon coming from the right continues on its path to the left, whereas a photon coming from the left is reflected backwards, causing the atomic state to flip. In this reversed state, the atom lets photons coming from the left continue in the same direction, while any photon coming from the right is reflected backwards, flipping the atomic state back again. This atom-based switch is solely operated by single photons – no additional external fields are required.
“In a sense, the device acts as the photonic equivalent to electronic transistors, which switch electric currents in response to other electric currents,” explained Dr. Barak Dayan, head of the Weizmann Institute’s Quantum Optics group, which includes Itay Shomroni, Serge Rosenblum, Yulia Lovsky, Orel Bechler and Gabriel Guendleman of the chemical physics department in the faculty of chemistry. The photons are not only the units comprising the flow of information, but also the ones that control the device.
This achievement was made possible by the combination of two state-of-the-art technologies. One is the laser cooling and trapping of atoms. The other is the fabrication of chip-based, ultra-high-quality miniature optical resonators that couple directly to the optical fibres. Dayan’s lab at the Weizmann Institute is one of a handful worldwide that has mastered both these technologies.
The main motivation behind the effort to develop quantum computers is the quantum phenomenon of superposition, in which particles can exist in many states at once, potentially being able to process huge amounts of data in parallel. Yet superposition can only last as long as nothing observes or measures the system, otherwise it collapses to a single state. Therefore, photons are the most promising candidates for communication between quantum systems as they do not interact with each other at all, and interact very weakly with other particles.
“The road to building quantum computers is still very long,” said Dayan, “but the device we constructed demonstrates a simple and robust system, which should be applicable to any future architecture of such computers. In the current demonstration, a single atom functions as a transistor – or a two-way switch – for photons, but in our future experiments, we hope to expand the kinds of devices that work solely on photons, for example new kinds of quantum memory or logic gates.”
A copper awl from the fifth millennium BCE that was discovered at the site in Tel Tsaf. (photo by Yosef Garfinkel via Ashernet)
Excavations at Tel Tsaf in the Jordan Valley, near the Jordan River, revealed in a woman’s grave a small copper awl. Generally speaking, this would not have been regarded as special except, in this instance, the grave where the awl was found dates from 5200 BCE.
This find, announced by archeologists from the Zinman Institute of Archeology of Haifa University on Aug. 24, pushes back the time that metal technology was thought to have been introduced into the region by at least 500 years. The awl is probably the oldest metal object ever found in the Middle East.
The find also adds another dimension to the Tel Tsaf community itself. Discovered in 1950, it was not until about 10 years ago that it was established from excavations directed by Prof. Yosef Garfinkle that Tel Tsaf dated to about 5200 to 4700 BCE, the Middle Chalcolithic period.
It was clear that Tel Tsaf was a centre of regional commerce. There were silos that could store up to 30 tons of grain in each individual silo, and excavations, including burial sites, had revealed painted pottery, bullae (seals), basalt and obsidian beads, seashells, but no copper – until now.
The discovery of the copper awl would point to a population with advanced technology, and the fact that a copper implement was discovered at the site has a significant bearing on understanding the history of the period, both in Tel Tsaf and the rest of the Middle East.
Weapons recovered from a Hamas tunnel. (photo from IDF/FLICKR)
“One hundred Israeli schoolchildren killed in Hamas attack.” Israelis say this would have been just one of many similar headlines announcing untold loss of civilian life had Operation Protective Edge not been launched last month. The goal of the operation was to silence the seemingly endless barrages of Gaza rockets aimed at Israeli cities and towns, and to detect and destroy the vast network of underground tunnels dug beneath Gaza and into Israel by the Islamist Hamas terror organization.
As details of the tunnel system became public, Israelis were at once fascinated and infuriated to learn specifics of the intricate Trojan-horse-like network lurking beneath their communities; an engineering feat so potentially lethal that the national discussion is rife with unsubstantiated worries about terrorist plans for the execution of “an Israeli 9/11.”
Frequently heard were comments like, “Surely the high-tech nation should have the ability to detect tunnels!” while others ask how such an elaborate feat of engineering and construction could have proceeded right under the noses of the military in a security-savvy country with vast counter-terrorism experience.
In October 2013, Israeli army intelligence located entrances to one such tunnel just a couple of hundred metres from the entrance to Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha, a collective community in southern Israel near the border with Gaza.
On a tour of that network, standing at ground level, one can see the tunnel split in the middle, its branches extending deep into the earth, with one entrance/exit nearly a mile away – through Israeli territory and into the Gaza Strip – and the other a mere 600 metres (almost 2,000 feet) to the right: exiting into Israeli territory.
Moving closer required man- oeuvring through a steep downward 46-foot trek, assisted by the steadying hand of an IDF officer to navigate the distance from the surface to the underground passageway itself. Crawling through the deceptively small opening and out of the desert’s summer heat into the coolness of the subterranean concrete-encased structure, it was surprising to find myself standing upright, able to see far enough to sense the vast distance it covers. Though visibility was limited by the dearth of ambient light, helped only slightly by the lighting unit attached to our camera, the immense dimension of the tunnel was perceptible, the elaborate nature of the structure striking. From the sophisticated construction to the array of cables, conduits, finished ceilings, communication lines and pulley systems, it made sense that each tunnel was estimated to have required several years and millions of dollars to build – mostly by hand, with jackhammers and shovels.
Also discovered in many of the recently destroyed tunnels was a variety of weapons, army uniforms, motorcycles, chloroform and handcuffs: macabre “kidnapping kits.”
Fact: There are 200 Christian Arab Israelis serving in the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). Fact: There are 200 Muslim Arab Israelis serving in the IDF. Fact: There are 1,400 Bedouin serving in the IDF. Fact: There are 4,000 Druze serving in the IDF. Fact: There are 100 Circassians serving in the IDF.
Why don’t journalists write about them? Perhaps because most might find it hard to believe that these 5,900 view their citizenship to mean they have a role to play in defending their country. How do these minority members of the IDF come to the decision to serve their country?
A recent meeting with parents of minority soldiers in the IDF presented some context. The visit was organized by MediaCentral, an independent Jerusalem-based nongovernmental organization that provides support services for journalists based in or visiting Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the region.
Anett Haskia is an attractive, fashionably dressed blond with long, manicured fingernails. She is an Israeli Muslim Arab and outspoken. Growing up, she said, “It was not acceptable for our kids to join the army. Everyone [who wanted to join the army was] considered to be a traitor, but I didn’t see it as [being] a traitor. I saw it as taking responsibility like every other citizen.”
Twenty-two years ago, after a divorce, she and her three children moved to a kibbutz and she went to enrol them in a Jewish school, the first time that school had been approached to enrol an Arab child. He was accepted in three days.
As her children grew up, her older son decided to volunteer to serve in the IDF infantry; her daughter volunteered to serve in an education unit and became one of the first Arab Israeli women to serve in the IDF. Haskia’s youngest son is part of the Golani Brigade (an infantry brigade) currently serving in Gaza.
“The aim was not to integrate into Israeli society,” she said. “They [already] are Israeli. They want to live in the present and future as Israelis. They never suffered from being Arab and they never hid their heritage.” Haskia said she didn’t tell them to join the IDF, rather, it was a choice the children made as individuals.
Speaking to reporters, Yusuf Jahja said proudly, “I am a Muslim Arab citizen of the state of Israel.” A blue-collar worker most of his life, Jahja comes from an Arab village up north and has six sons and two daughters. His was the first family from his village to send their children to the Israeli army.
Three of the sons went to serve in the IDF together – two served in combat units and one in border patrol. In 2004, one of the sons was killed in an explosion in Gaza. The family’s home community initially boycotted the funeral. Today, two of Jahja’s sons are still serving their country.
Sybil Kaplan is a journalist, foreign correspondent, lecturer, food writer and book reviewer who lives in Jerusalem. She also does the restaurant features for janglo.net and leads weekly Shuk Walks in English in Jerusalem’s Jewish food market.