Aharon Aharon Running Israel’s Innovation Authority

Aharon Aharon was hired by Apple in the Israeli tech scene in 2011. He was hired to open a semiconductor development center in Israel. Now, he will be leaving Apple in the coming months to run Israel’s “Innovation Authority” which was previously the Office of the Chief Scientist of the Economy Ministry. They are in charge of the nation’s innovation policies and they work to promote the country’s technological ecosystem.

Aharon holds two degrees from the Technion and he started his career at IBM and then moved into the private sector. He was previously at Zoran Corporation and Seabridge. He also helped to establish two startups that were sold in exit deals. And, of course, he was instrumental in starting Apple’s Israel activities.

As Avi Hasson, Israel’s Chief Scientist and chairman of the Israel Innovation Authority said,

“Israel sees innovation as a valuable resource.” He explained that Aharon’s appointment is “testimony to the importance Israel gives the issue,” by appointing someone with “such great experience and ability, who can take innovation a step further.”

Aharon said in a statement,

“I give great importance to empowering the partnership of the government with the industry and aim to put the organization that I will lead at the service of the industry.”

Israeli App Gets $9 Million in Capital

Zeekit, a fashion tech startup in Israel, has just announced the close of their Series A Funding round. They will now be imbued with $9 million in new capital. The company was co-founded in 2013 by Yael Vizel, Alon Kristal and Nir Appleboim and allows users to “try on” clothing items before buying them. With their app, they use image processing technology to layer the image of the clothes over the user’s body.

The user uploads a picture of themselves and their measurements, and the app then uses those as it places the clothes on their bodies. Vizel, interestingly enough, has explained to the press that she based her creation of Zeekit off of her experience as a captain in the Air Force in Israel. She came up with the idea while using technology that turned 2D landscape images of the ground into 3D images for aircraft. The three founders are graduates of Israel’s Technion University.

Zeekit plans to reach out to retailers and others so that they can have a button on their websites where visitors can then see themselves in the clothing for sale.

Israel Pleased with Boris Johnson’s Appointment as UK Foreign Secretary

As a result of Brexit, whose impact on the world economy is still a big question mark, two new politicians have risen to power who are distinctly friendly to Israel.

The passing of the referendum to take Britain out of the European Union, known as Brexit, resulted in the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron. Theresa May replaced Cameron, and she recently appointed the former mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to fill the role of foreign secretary. May’s ascension to power and her choice of Johnson are both welcome developments for the state of Israel.

Former Israeli ambassador to England, Daniel Taub, explained Israeli’s satisfaction with the developments.

“He is a very enthusiastic supporter, and his relationship with Israel goes back a long way,” said Taub about Johnson. He added that Johnson’s enthusiasm for Israel was “infectious.”

Taub also said that Israel was happy with May as prime minister.

“She was Home Secretary, and I had the opportunity to work closely with her,” Taub commented. “She was always receptive to the concerns of the Jewish community, and the areas where we cooperated closely were in homeland security and confronting extremist violence.”

As Home Secretary, May ran MI5, the British intelligence agency, whose security and intelligence cooperation with Israel during her tenure had never before been as “deep and transparent.”

Johnson has also made a positive impression in Israel during a November 2015 visit there. He clearly stated his opposition to boycotting Israel when he said “I cannot think of anything more foolish” as a boycott. He also praised Israel’s role as a beacon of freedom saying that, Israel is a “country that when all is said and done is the only democracy in the region, the only place that has in my view a pluralist open society.”

He also won favor in Israel with a criticism of the BDS movement and its British supporters, describing them as “corduroy-jacketed, snaggle-toothed, lefty academics.”

International Investor Flock to Israel for Startup Festival

Investors from all over the world came to Tel Aviv to take part in the premier event in Israel to showcase the best startups the country has to offer. Known as the Geektime Techfest, it self-describes as the conference whose aim it is to fertilize “the tech ecosystem in the start-up nation.”

Now in its ninth year, the conference was launched by the on-line magazine Geektime in partnership with Leumi-Tech, a subsidiary of Bank Leumi which focuses on the world of hi-tech.
CEO of Geektime, Moran Bar explained that “The conference serves as a springboard for start-ups to be noticed by venture capital funds, ‘angel investors’ and big companies looking for the next thing. We have start-ups in cybertech, virtual reality, advertising tech, smart agriculture, medical tech, every sector really.”

Tel Aviv’s David Intercontinental Hotel was the venue for the gathering, which covers every aspect of both local and global technology, hi-tech and start-ups. The start-ups with the greatest potential for success take part, and are introduced to a large number of investors, both international and local.

The opening ceremony was led by the keynote speaker, Tzameret Fuerst, co-founder and former CEO of Circ MedTech, the company which developed PrePex, a divice to reduce and prevent the spread of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa.

After the keynote address Fuerst invited participants to choose one of three stages for their focus.

• The Future Tech Stage: This is where Israel’s hottest trends for the future were showcased, such as autonomous cars and smart cities.
• The Growth Stage: Leading experts in products and marketing presented their experiences getting their startups off the ground and running.
• The Start-up Stage: This is where the new companies with the most potential were introduced.

On the Start-up Stage ten Israeli start-ups which were hand-picked by Geektime, participate in a friendly competition. The founder of one of the 10 startups chosen this year by Geektime, Karin Kloosterman, founder of Flux, explained:

“The Geektime event is very much like the TechCrunch Disrupt conference, where 10 companies are brought to the stage to ‘battle it out.’ However, in Israel it’s not about the competitiveness, but cooperation between us, since Geektime always picks companies from different fields.”

The 10 featured start-ups were selected from a field of 300 applications.

“We cherry-picked each of the start-ups we’re showcasing according to various criteria, including the level of exposure they have,” said Geektime’s Bar.

“We are looking for companies that already have a product that shows promise, but are still relatively unknown, so as to provide that initial exposure to more than 1,500 industry guests this year.”

CES Innovation Award

The CES Innovation Award in the category of fitness, sports and biotech product just went to 2Breathe Technologies, the sleep inducer smart device and mobile app designed by Israelis. Developed to assist users fall asleep (while tracking their sleeping patterns), the patented technology emerged out of RESPeRATE, the company’s very first product which still today remains the only FDA-approved device. It is also the only device recommended by the American Heart Association that can bring down blood pressure just by breathing. Today, over 250,000 people around the world use the device that Dr. Benny Gavish invented.

Users found that RESPeRATE helped enhance sleep so Gavish – together with his son Erez who is now company CEO – used the same technology to help those who have sleep issues. On receiving the award Erez said:

“It’s a huge honor to win this award and validates the importance of health and sleep for the tech industry. At the conference, the response to 2breathe was overwhelming. When the folks setting up the exhibit and waiters are asking you to save them a sample before the show begins, you know you’re on to something big.”

The CES Innovation Awards each year recognize “outstanding design and engineering” in new consumer technology products. It is the largest trade show in the world, for consumer technology. It is also America’s largest annual trade show.

The way the 2Breathe app works – that retails at $180 – is by strapping a small sensor around the body with an elastic band and then pressure is detected on the sensor as one inhales and exhales. That data is then relayed to a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone. Given that around 164 million Americans struggle with sleep issues at least once a week, there is clearly a huge market for such a device.

Israel Partners at Agro-Tech 2016

Twelve countries are to be featuring their technology and agricultural innovations at Agro Tech 2016, the 22nd CII’s biennial agro-technology and business fair. Israel is the partner country and included in the list of 12 is the UK – where Daniel Taub was born and raised before he made Israel his home in 1989. The other 11 countries participating in the 4-day event are: America, Canada, China, Denmark, Germany Israel, Italy, South Africa, Spain, The Netherlands and Turkey.

At the event (that will take place December 3rd to 11th), countries worldwide will be displaying their latest products, services and technologies. There will also be presentations of new launches and innovations relating to the industry. One example of this is the UK’s Luis Mulet, an Agri-Tech specialist. He is offering collaborative and partnership opportunities in the Animal Science, Plant Science and Precision Agriculture industries. Some of the key speakers from Israel include: Richard Klapholz, CEO, Rivulis Irrigation, Shani Keysar, Founder & CEO, SolChip, Israel; Ilay Engelhard, Founder & CEO, ATP Labs, Israel; and Eyal Cohen, Managing Partner, Copia Agro & Food, Israel.

In Israel, agriculture is a very well-developed industry, given that the country is a major exporter of fresh produce and global leader in agricultural technologies. This is even more impressive since Israel’s geography is not known as being agriculturally conducive. But at the event, experts from around the world will see Israel’s strength in the area, with a special emphasis on its drip irrigation systems, wastewater-to-agriculture reuse, and aquaponics.

Sea Israel & The Jerusalem Zoo

Whether you’re a tourist in Israel or you live here, enjoying the Jerusalem Zoo is an experience for everyone. And soon that experience will be enhanced even further with the Window on the Mediterranean by the Sea Israel: The Gottesman Aquarium. This new conservation center and attraction will educate and raise awareness about Israel’s aquatic habitats. There will be a focus on the seas of Israel.

The construction has already begun for this new center and the opening is scheduled for 2016/17. As Dr. Yehoshua Shkedi, the Chief Scientist of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority said,
“A successful and attractive aquarium that will draw many visitors will be the most effective tool to promote aquatic conservation and education in Israel.”

The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo was originally established in 1940 as a small children’s zoo. From 1950 until 1991 the zoo was in Givat Komuna near Romema. In 1991 the zoo closed to begin the process of moving to the new location, and it was reopened in 1993. Today there are 250 dunams of land and is a beautiful place for children and adults to enjoy animals of all sorts.

How Trips to Israel Really Make a Difference

Programs like Birthright have received a lot of attention. Do they really work? Does it make a difference if you bring young adults to Israel to see the country first hand? Apparently it does. The Jewish News found that 54% of first-time visitors from England to Israel had an improved impression of the country after being there. The survey was a combined initiative by the newspaper and EasyJet.

As easyJet explained, “Our research, in conjunction with the Jewish News, has helped us better understand why passengers choose Tel Aviv. The most striking finding was the destination’s growing popularity with young travelers who viewed it as a relaxing, beach destination. One of the reasons for launching new flights from Gatwick is because Tel Aviv’s appeal has been growing.”

Daniel Taub, in an Op-Ed that accompanied the survey, said that the results confirm “the troubling fact that widely-held perceptions of Israel are disconnected from, and far more negative, than the reality. The fact is that the majority of people will never visit Israel and their inaccurate preconceptions are unlikely to be corrected.”

He said that the survey raised two important questions. Daniel Taub’s questions were: “If more than half of visitors to Israel are so pleasantly surprised by what they see with their own eyes, can the media truly be fulfilling its responsibility to present that reality accurately?” and “If the reality is truly Israel’s greatest ally, what more can we do to enable people to experience the reality of Israel?”

The Emergence of an Israeli Soap Opera

Some soap operas that are shown in Israel have been in the works for months, if not years. Not so with Daniel Taub’s Hahatzer (“Rebbe’s Court”) that was more of an emergence. “I certainly didn’t intend to write it,” he explains. “But when I suggested a soap opera set in the court of a Hasidic rebbe – a cross between ‘Dallas’ and ‘The Chosen’ – they asked me to write a sample episode,” the British-born and educated Taub adds.

The idea behind the soap opera that takes place and is broadcast in Israel came to Taub as part of a think tank which was seeking to develop unique content for the Jewish TV channel in Israel, Channel 10-Tchelet. Before he wrote the series, he had actually never watched an entire soap opera ever, in Israel or the UK. To write this, he ordered script-writing books on the Internet and looked at old scripts. He then wrote around 26 episodes and it became one of the biggest successes on that channel, getting prime time screening on Saturday nights.

The soap opera screened in Israel but he didn’t write it just for the entertainment value. The idea was to try and use the soap opera and the dilemmas that the characters face to break down stereotypes. Taub is most keen – through his work also as the Director of Strategy and Planning for the Yad Hanadiv Foundation – to turn Israel into a society that is “committed to Jewish values and equal opportunity for the benefit of all its inhabitants, carrying forward the philanthropic tradition of the Rothschild family.”

Indeed, Taub is particularly perturbed by the very prominent religious-secular divide in society in Israel. Hence Hahatzer is fighting against this.