Israel was plunged into war on October 7, when Hamas terrorists from Gaza launched an unprecedented attack on the country’s southern border communities, killing 1,400 people, abducting hundreds and wounding thousands more. 

And for the more than 1.5 million people in Israel living with disabilities, it has been a time of quiet suffering, frequently isolated and struggling to ask for the practical and emotional help they need. 

Determined to aid this often overlooked community, an organization that supports autistic people has created a new online service to help them get that assistance. 

The ESNA Initiative (short for Emergency Special Needs Assistance) acts as a universal portal for disabled people who have a specific need or request, but feel unable to search for it themselves. 

A screenshot from the ESNA website. The text in yellow reads: “You are not alone”

The platform brings together specialist organisations, helplines, professionals and volunteers in one place, in order to ease the process of finding the best response to a disabled person’s specific need from a potentially overwhelming maze of resources. 

Once the person has completed a simple online form, the volunteers staffing the ESNA platform reach out to help them make contact with the relevant body or professionals. 

“Our volunteers make the match, contact an organization, ask them if they can help this specific person, make that connection and ensure that the problem has been solved,” Ilana Mushkin, one of the creators of the initiative, tells NoCamels. 

The initiative was born out of Hackautism, an organisation encouraging startups that ease the daily lives of people with autism. Following the events of October 7, Hackautism co-founder Mushkin brought together women connected to that organization to find a way of supporting Israel’s disabled community.

These women included Hackautism spokesperson Karin Tamir and Moria Barak, the founder of StellarAI, a startup to train autistic people in the field of AI data classification. 

Hackautism co-founder Rimon Tubin, left, with his son Yuval, who inspired him to create the organization (Courtesy)

There are many resources for people with disabilities, says Mushkin. The problem is that narrowing it down to which hotline or organization is best suited for the individual can be daunting, especially in times of war when people are under extraordinary stress. 

“I would guess that there are hundreds if not thousands of organizations and hotlines out there,” she says. “There are so many of them right now, but you have to know how to reach them and make sure your request gets processed.”

The ESNA initiative began as a WhatsApp group, which was almost instantly flooded with requests for help.

“We realized that if we wanted to be able to really give help on a large scale, we needed a system that was much more sustainable,” says Mushkin. 

Using technology donated by monday.com, a NASDAQ-listed project management software company based in Tel Aviv, ESNA was able to create a bespoke platform that handles both incoming requests and its many points of contact for assistance. 

ESNA began as a WhatsApp group, which was almost instantly flooded with requests for help (Courtesy Porapak Apichodilok/Pexels)

“The system lets us receive a large number of requests for help and deal with them very efficiently,” she explains.  

Volunteers use a triage system, categorizing each request in order of urgency and dealing with the most time-sensitive issues first.

And for the people in need of assistance, says Mushkin, the site is as simple as it can be. 

The webpage includes just five links. The first four links are: for individuals seeking help, which leads to the simple request form; for urgent cases, which leads to a WhatsApp chat with an ESNA volunteer; for would-be volunteers; and for organizations and operation centers wishing to participate in the initiative. 

The final link leads to a Zoom meeting room, which is open every day from 8am to 10pm and is also staffed by ESNA volunteers.

“It’s for the people that need to talk to somebody,” says Mushkin of the Zoom feature. 

“Maybe they can’t fill out a form, maybe they’re too frazzled to even wrap their heads around it.

“They can go into our Zoom room where someone will talk to them, help them fill out the form, and connect them to an expert in the field in real-time if need be.”

Illustrative: For individuals who feel to frazzled to fill out a form, there is an ESNA Zoom room that is open from 8am to 10pm (Courtesy Anna Shvets/Pexels)

The hundreds of people who have already used the platform have sought assistance with a wide range of issues. 

One case, shares Mushkin, was of a mother with two children on the autism spectrum who came under fire from Hamas terrorists while evacuating their community in the south of the country. Israeli soldiers saved them at the very last minute, and the family managed to reach the safety of Even Yehuda, a town in central Israel. 

ESNA was able to quickly find volunteers from the same city to bring them food and provide them with psychological support. 

Another case was of a blind woman who was evacuated from Nahariya on the Lebanese border, and had been forced to leave her home without her cane. She found refuge at a hotel in Tel Aviv, but was unable to replace her cane unaided. 

ESNA volunteers helped buy and deliver a replacement cane for a blind woman who was evacuated from northern Israel (Courtesy Eren Li/Pexels)

ESNA was able to contact a center for the blind to open their shop for one of the organization’s volunteers to buy a replacement cane and deliver it to her. 

“No bot, no AI, nothing like that could have answered these kinds of cases,” says Mushkin. 

ESNA is not the only initiative offering services to disabled people in need. Other initiatives include Shavvim (Hebrew for equals), an online media outlet for people with disabilities, which has collaborated with former member of Knesset and deaf activist Shirly Pinto to open a 24/7 situation room. 

This project also aids individuals who need help with essential requests such as finding psychological assistance, refilling prescriptions and buying groceries.  

ESNA’s partners include the National Israeli Society for Children and Adults with Autism (ALUT), which provides a range of services for people with autism of all ages nationwide; Access Israel, whose main mission is to promote accessibility and inclusion among all sectors; and Brothers in Arms, an organisation of IDF reservists who provide full-time aid and relief to those in need. 

A Hackautism volunteer (Courtesy)

The platform also has 15 other initiatives created through Hackautism that are available to assist with specific requests. “We are proud to offer innovative solutions to the challenges we now face,” says Rimon Tubin, co-founder of Hackautism. 

The entire ESNA platform is managed by a team of around two dozen volunteers and ESNA is actively seeking more help to address the growing number of daily requests. 

“People can volunteer in an impactful way from their home or from their office,” says Mushkin.

“All it takes is to go into our system and connect these people with the organizations that could best help them,” she explains. “It’s very gratifying.”

To donate to Hackautism, click here.

Kfar Aza resident Neta Portal woke up to the sound of warning sirens in her apartment with her partner Santiago on the morning of October 7. Despite hiding out in their safe room, terrorists penetrated the door with bullets before throwing a grenade that forced Neta and Santiago to flee from the apartment through a window. While escaping, Neta retained seven gunshot wounds to her legs while Santiago suffered from a gunshot to his back. The couple was ultimately rescued and treated in the hospital, but both still have a long way to go to heal.

Now, Neta is back on her feet – literally – thanks to Assistant Professor Dana Solav of the Technion Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Dr. Amir Haim, director of the Biomechanical Rehabilitation Unit and senior physician at the Loewenstein Rehabilitation Center. The two created a unique orthotic device tailored specifically for Neta based on 3D scans of her leg to aid her in walking while her injured ankle is unable to bear weight. They developed the technology under the guidance of Professor Alon Wolf during their studies at the Technion and have maintained a rewarding professional relationship since.

The device’s purpose is to enable the recovery of mobility while practicing natural and symmetrical walking under the requirement that the ankle is entirely or partially offloaded. It effectively transfers weight to the healthy part of the leg above the injury, allowing walking without causing pain. It features an adjustment mechanism that allows for a gradual and measured increase of weight-bearing of the affected part of the leg, according to the level permitted by the clinical condition.

Credit: Chen Galili, Technion Spokesperson’s Office

According to Prof. Solav, the device allows the knee and hip joints to move and function normally, which helps prevent muscle atrophy and bone density reduction – especially in long-term rehabilitation processes. The 3D scanning technology eliminates the need for a traditional plaster cast, and the computational design process facilitates the fabrication process, which combines a lightweight aluminum frame and 3D-printed parts.

Along with her research team of students and engineers, Prof. Solav is continuing to develop and improve the device for other uses, such as assisting diabetic patients who cannot walk due to pressure ulcers on their feet. The team is also planning to conduct clinical trials in collaboration with Loewenstein Rehabilitation Center and hopes to see how the orthosis can aid in walking rehabilitation.

In an interview with Ynet, Neta shared her gratitude and optimism: “Before the operation, thanks to the Technion’s device, I already managed to take several steps and jump on my right leg. It’s important for me to say that the work carried out by the team is amazing, and it has become an integral part of my rehab. They were very attentive and responsive. I was in a wheelchair for almost three months, and thanks to them, I went back to walking on my feet, even if not completely. They don’t know yet whether I will fully recover, but I hope so.”

Professor Daniella Raveh became dean of the Technion’s Faculty of Aerospace Engineering on January 1, 2024. She is the first woman to have obtained this position at the University. An alumna of the Faculty, she graduated with honors and went on to earn both a master’s and Ph.D. degree at the Technion. She became a prominent researcher and a popular lecturer in the Faculty. 

“I’m honored to become the dean of the Faculty where I once studied, and where I have spent many years conducting research and teaching,” said Prof. Raveh.  

“Aerospace engineering is a field suitable for both men and women, and every skilled engineer who graduates from the Faculty is assured of engaging work in the field. As an aerospace engineer, I have been fortunate to work with captivating subjects daily,” she added. 

Prof. Raveh’s field of expertise is aeroelasticity, which concerns the interaction of aerodynamic forces and flexible structures. Today, as lighter and more flexible aircraft are being designed globally, a thorough study of aeroelastic phenomena is essential to understanding their flight performance. Prof. Raveh’s team researches high-fidelity models for aeroelastic analysis and conducts wind tunnel and flight tests to explore all aspects of this field. 

For decades, the Technion has made a concerted effort to recruit women into STEM fields. This year’s freshman class is nearly 50% female, and more women are pursuing graduate and postgraduate degrees. Additionally, Prof. Raveh’s appointment is a testament to the Technion’s commitment to nurturing and developing talent within its ranks. Her journey in the Faculty reflects the University’s continuous efforts to train outstanding alumni to contribute significantly to aerospace science. 

“I’m very proud that this Faculty is now headed by a female dean who will inspire and serve as a role model for young women,” said Professor Uri Sivan, president of the Technion. 

As dean, Prof. Raveh is responsible for implementing the Faculty’s academic program, fostering interdisciplinary collaborations and research, upholding high standards of research and teaching, and advancing the Faculty’s world-renown reputation and accomplishments. Her perspective as an alumna is advantageous for the Faculty’s continuous endeavor to offer students and researchers an optimal environment for their studies and research. 

Researchers at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa have developed a new tool to determine whether a cancer patient is predisposed to an advanced kind of treatment called immunotherapy. 

The immune system contains “checkpoints” to prevent it from attacking cancer cells too strongly, as this would also potentially damage nearby healthy cells. 

Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI) suppress this action and allow the immune system to attack the cancer cells, but they are only effective in less than 40 percent of patients and tools currently being used to predict the drug’s efficacy are not completely accurate. 

Now, according to Prof. Keren Yizhak and Ofir Shorer, how well a patient responds to ICI therapy can be predicted by the metabolic activity in their immune system cells, as they battle any cancer cells in their environment for nutrients and other resources. 

The two are members of the Technion’s Bruce and Ruth Rappaport Faculty of Medicine and the Rappaport Family Institute for Research in the Medical Sciences. 

To make sure of the accuracy of the tool, Yizhak and Shorer analyzed some 1,700 metabolic genes taken from over one million immune cells of cancer patients receiving ICI. 

The study was recently published under the title “Metabolic predictors of response to immune checkpoint blockade therapy” by the US National Center for Biotechnology Information. 

Technion President Prof. Uri Sivan says his university could play a critical role in helping Israel rebuild after the war because of the unique talent it offers. He spoke with Israel Hayom.

In December, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology will celebrate 100 years. Looking at the list of achievements over the years makes you realize how significant its contribution to the state’s development has been – and still is.

“For many years we were essentially the only engineering school in the country, and to this day we are the only technological university,” the Technion president, Prof. Uri Sivan, tells Israel Hayom in a special interview. “To a large extent, we shouldered the burden of founding the state on our shoulders, and over the years we have all reaped the rewards for this. Most of the civilian infrastructure in Israel today – roads, railways, water, desalination, agriculture – is the work of Technion faculty and alumni over the generations.”

The Israeli aerospace industry, still highly relevant today, has also developed over the years on the Technion’s shoulders, as have the various security systems. The four Nobel Prize laureates in chemistry and the 41 Israel Prize winners among Technion graduates attest to the quality of its education. “Engineers who graduated from the Technion were responsible for the development and production of the armored vehicles used by the IDF today, as well as all missile defense systems. To this day, 80% of the engineers working on the Iron Dome are our graduates. The microelectronics industry also started here, and this is just a partial list,” he says. 

But beyond the technological feats, the Technion president makes sure to emphasize other no less important aspects promoted by the university under his leadership.

 “After I was appointed president in 2019 I went on visits to different countries, and everywhere I went I was asked, ‘Tell me, what’s special about you?’ There are many very good technological universities – MIT, Stanford – but people feel that we have something different here and it took me some time to fully understand what they were talking about. Of course, we try to do the best science and give our students the best training – and a Technion degree is considered top tier in the world.

“But over time I realized another thing that makes this place unique, and that’s the fact that the security of the State of Israel, the economy of the State of Israel, and Israeli society are part of our mission, just like our mission is to do the best science and provide the best education. When I sit down in my office in the morning, those three things – security, economy, and society – comprise a major part of my considerations.”

Professor Uri Sivan, the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology president (Credit: Michel Dot Com)

President Sivan is keen to shed light on the Technion’s role in supporting Israeli society, which has been part and parcel of the place since its early days, as has been evident during the war.

“The Technion has a long tradition as an inclusive university, and this started with the founding fathers. In that sense, this is a place that welcomes everyone, and believes in equal rights, and ‘diversity’, it’s part of the principles, it appears in our constitution, which goes back many years. Another aspect of Technion pluralism is the increase in the percentage of female students over the years. That has been hard to do – in the first Technion classroom there were 16 men and one woman – but today the situation is one of parity.”

The fact that the Technion was established in Haifa, a city that is a symbol of tolerance and coexistence, is no coincidence and reflects the spirit of the academic institution since its founding. “Back when they were talking about establishing the Technion, in 1906, representatives of ‘Ezra’, a German organization that set up many schools in the country, came to Israel to look for a place for a technological university. There were two possible locations – Jerusalem, which was the largest Jewish settlement in the country, and Haifa, which had 20,000 residents, 2,000 of them Jewish. The organization’s people explained something that still holds true today – Jerusalem has too much ‘baggage’ because of its history, too much internal infighting among Jewish power brokers; so they chose Haifa, which has always been a very communal place, as it still is today. During the British Mandate, Jewish and Arab mayors of Haifa would alternate, and it was also very close to various industries, it is a very innovative city.”

Academia and industry – together

When Prof. Sivan talks about security and the economy as central components in the Technion’s mission (alongside the social issue), he also means the national challenge of rebuilding after the war.

“We need to think about how to move on from here, how to boost the economy and industry again,” he says. “It’s important to remember that the Technion is the main source of engineers, scientists, doctors, and architects, and we’re already looking ahead, thinking about how to really get this whole big system going after everything we’ve been through.

First class of architects at the Technion (Yehoshua Nessyahu’s archive)

“The Technion has a very large role to play in emerging out of the crisis, beyond the security aspects. The engineers graduating from here are the ones pushing the industry forward, so we have a role in workforce training. Second – each year about 15 new companies are created at the Technion; one out of every 30 new companies founded in Israel is by Technion people, and it’s all ‘deep-tech’. The companies are founded by faculty members or students based on knowledge developed in labs here, and they raise funding from outside investors. We also have a  tech transfer office – which is an entire system that allows the establishment of companies, including a licensing agreement whereby the technology is granted to the company for certain applications, and from there it continues on its own.

“The extensive system we have built here to enable all this starts with the entrepreneurship training we provide to our students with their studies. We have a center here called T-HUB (The TEchnion Hub for Entrepreneurship and Innovation), which is responsible for all entrepreneurship education and mentoring, including a lot of mentoring by our graduates.

“Afterwards, anyone who has an idea they want to develop can get help through several channels where they also receive guidance from successful mentors who have gone down this path. For example, we have a branch called T3 – Technion Technological Transfer – which assists researchers from the idea stage, with patents, support, investor search, and even strategy writing, and from there, it goes out into the world.

“In addition to the Technion’s role in driving the system forward in terms of human resources, ideas, training, and entrepreneurship, there is a very extensive system here of infrastructure worth hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s not just the machines that we have and industries can use; for example, we have a very advanced microelectronics center. Companies send people here and we give them the resources, and together we work and enable them to develop. This is very important for start-up companies that sometimes lack the relevant infrastructure needed to move forward.

“In light of everything I have mentioned, I have a very important message: The government must support this matter. I know the country has many needs, but looking forward, we have to figure out how we get out of here, how we go back to who we were, how we revive the start-up scene, and so on. The answer: Only through investing in universities. We still don’t know how the new budget will impact things, but the message is that it’s vital – ideas are born here, human capital comes from here, start-ups rely on us, as do the companies that spawned from us and other companies, it’s an insane powerhouse. Look at what’s happening around the Technion – very few universities have created an ecosystem around them like there is here, with MATAM high-tech park in Haifa, industrial zones in Yokneam and Migdal HaEmek, and collaborations with schools in the region. All this must continue in order to help us all rebuild.” 

As an institution that is one of the important pillars of the Israeli industries in all its diversity, the Technion also ensures cooperation with various sectors through knowledge transfer and research agreements. Prof. Sivan noted that when he took office as president, he built a 10-year strategic plan whose central component is strengthening ties with manufacturers.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the Technion (Photo: The Central Zionist Archives)

 “If you look at where academia is going today, you can identify two main focal points – one in everything related to digital communication that is completely changing the way students receive knowledge and learn, and the second is the connection with industries. Once there was a separation – basic research in academia and applied research in the industries. That belongs to the past, and we are formulating new models for interaction between the two.

“So, for example, we created an entirely new academic position here of an industry research fellow. These are people who have been very successful and come here a few days a week, meet with students, engage in research, and teach; this is really a fusion of industry and academia. In fact, we expose students to the field, to what is happening outside, already during their studies.” Just as the Technion has set Israeli society throughout the years as an integral part of its activities, so it has been since its very first moments of the war. “On October 7, at around 10 am, we opened a situation room,” says Prof. Sivan about the contribution to civilians who found themselves refugees in their own country.

“We established the ‘Mutual Guarantee’ center for the Technion community and their families as well as to assist residents of the south and north and IDF soldiers. As part of this, dozens of initiatives are still active today, in addition to the extensive activity of hundreds of student volunteers. Since the beginning of the campaign, dozens of families and individuals who have evacuated from their homes in the north and south have been staying on campus – the dormitories, which were empty at the beginning of the war, were converted into housing for the evacuees who received everything they needed – from clothes to laptops.”

Among other things, the Mo’ed B – second-hand equipment store at the Technion – stepped up to the plate to help the students and evacuees and equipped them with everything they needed, free of charge. Students in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering cleared and arranged shelters in nearby Nesher, as part of the “Shelter City” project, and graduate students in the Faculty of Chemical Engineering also went out with the faculty dean to clear shelters in Haifa. This is just a partial list of the assistance provided by Technion people due to the security situation.

But the aid did not stop at the country’s borders, and in light of the rise in antisemitic manifestations and anti-Israeli rhetoric on campuses worldwide, students, alumni, and academic faculty studying abroad were invited to come and conduct research, teach, and study at Technion campuses in Haifa.

“We saw in many countries a wave of anti-Israeli and antisemitic protests, and unfortunately faculty members at many leading universities in the West, student organizations, and trade unions joined this wave,” says Prof. Sivan. “In light of the weak responses from a considerable number of presidents of leading universities in North America, Europe, and Australia, we realized that many Jewish and Israeli students and researchers were subjected to physical and verbal threats that interfered with their academic activities at those institutions. Against this background, and recognizing the Technion’s historic role in the history of the Jewish people, we announced a program for the rapid onboarding of students and faculty from around the world looking for academic refuge.”

A warm embrace for fighters

A significant contribution from the Technion is in IDF reserves, with about 2,500 of the 15,000 students enlisted as early as October 7, along with about 500 faculty and teaching staff. “I assume we still have over 1,000 who are still called up, and it’s important to understand how we cope with this fact and how we assist them when they return. There are a lot of officers here, a lot of combat unit veterans, it has always been like that. Many female students were also drafted, and a very high percentage of the women staffing the Iron Dome crews are reserve soldiers from the Technion, including those serving in key positions.

“It is important for us that each of our reservists know that the entire Technion has joined the cause and committed to supporting them. Thus, for example, together with friends of the Technion in Israel and around the world, we set up a special relief fund that allowed us to transfer an immediate grant of 6,000 shekels to each of them. Along with a series of support measures we have already taken, they receive an economic support package and some peace of mind. We have also prepared academically to make their return to on-campus studies as easy as possible. The Technion also published an updated payment schedule for dormitory fees, which will ease the burden on students, especially those serving in the reserves.”

About 80 faculty members and students at the Technion lost family members who were murdered on October 7 or killed during the war, some still have family members among the captives. Two Technion students fell in the Gaza battles – Staff Sergeant (Res.) Master Sgt. (res.) Dov Moshe Kogan and Captain (res.) Denis Krokhmalov Veksler. Kogan, a Shaldag fighter, was 32 when he fell. He completed his degree at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and was a graduate student at the faculty, as well as a third generation at the Technion – his late father, Meir, was a graduate of the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering and was involved in developing the Iron Dome, and his late grandfather, Avraham, was one of the founders of the faculty. Kogan left behind his wife Shaked and three children. Krokhmalov Veksler, who was 32 when he fell, was about to start his first year of studies at the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering. He was killed while serving as an officer in the Yahalom combat engineering unit.

“Many reservists from the Technion were injured, and we make sure to accompany and support them,” says Prof. Sivan. “For example, there is a student who is recuperating, and we send a taxi every day to bring him to campus and take him back so he doesn’t miss classes. Since the beginning of the war until now we have been in touch with many military units, assisting however we can. One of the interesting units is the Carmeli Brigade. This is a brigade established in 1948 during the War of Independence whose core was Technion students and faculty. We have remained in contact with them over the years, we mark Memorial Day together every year and adopted them in the early days of the war.

“Many units needed food at the first stages of the war, and the Technion became a logistics hub for that. The student union also rallied wonderfully, as did the academic and administrative staff. Copious amounts of food, military equipment, and medical supplies were shipped from here. The volunteering spirit of everyone has been amazing and inspiring, people simply came to help. As soon as others saw our extensive activity, more and more requests for assistance began to arrive and we addressed their needs, each and every one of them.”

Brigadier General (Ret.) Pinhas Buchris ’91 is a longtime pioneer of Israel’s security, dedicated to serving the State both on the frontlines and in various leadership positions. He’s also a man who lives by his words.

Once, when asked what advice he would give to up-and-coming Technion students, he said: “If I have a message for (them), it is: ‘The daring is victorious.’ Don’t give up on your dreams even in difficult times. Studies and perseverance can lead to improvement and success, even when the environment seems hostile or difficult.”

His long and storied career and bold contributions to securing Israel make Mr. Buchris a true example of success born from daring actions, and the very embodiment of Israel’s core values, furthering freedom, justice, and peace for the nation.

Born in Yavnal to a family of immigrants from Tunis, Mr. Buchris served in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for 10 years before beginning his studies at the Technion in 1988. Dedicated to protecting the welfare of his fellow Israelis, he was called up from the reserves and served for an additional 15 years, achieving the rank of brigadier general and serving as the commander of Unit 8200, the largest unit in the IDF focused on collecting intelligence for crucial operations, and Unit 81, a secret technology unit part of the Special Operations Division. Using his computer science background, Mr. Buchris helped develop and implement remote recording devices that could be planted in dangerous areas to gather intelligence instead of sending in soldiers.

During his service, Mr. Buchris participated in the daring Entebbe raid, a 1976 counter-terrorist mission to rescue civilians from a passenger flight hijacked on its Tel Aviv – Paris journey during a layover in Athens and taken hostage to Uganda. Mr. Buchris and his fellow soldiers rescued 102 of the 106 hostages held, making the operation a resounding achievement for the IDF.

Upon his release from the IDF, Mr. Buchris served as the director general of the Israel Ministry of Defense from 2007 to 2010. He is credited with spearheading various crucial defense projects during his tenure, including the development of the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system, the transfer of IDF bases to the Negev, and the billion-dollar cost-saving plan in army operations authored by McKinsey Consulting Co., which was approved just before his departure from the role.

For his longtime dedication and contributions to the State of Israel, Mr. Buchris was honored with numerous prestigious awards, including the Israel Defense Prize, the Israel Security Award, and a medal from the president of the State of Israel for his contribution to Israel’s security and economic strength.

A current venture capitalist and founder of State of Mind Ventures, Mr. Buchris’ previously held positions include CEO of BAZAN Group Oil Refineries, partner at Apax Partners, and special advisor of the Office of the Prime Minister of Israel.

When Ovadia Harari (z”l) ’64, M.Sc. ’67 immigrated from Egypt with his family as a youth, who could have imagined the trajectory his life would take, and the impact he would have on the State of Israel? From those humble beginnings, Mr. Harari went on to become one of the best aeronautical engineers Israel has ever produced, a longstanding luminary of its defense industry, and a dazzling example of leadership. His distinguished work allowed Israel to flourish on the ground and in the skies, and made possible a trail of firsts that advanced Israel’s aerospace capabilities to the loftiest levels.

His journey through the ranks of Israel’s aerospace industry is the stuff of legends. Mr. Harari first served in the Israeli air force, and his deep passion for aeronautical technologies drew him to Israel’s only Faculty of Aerospace Engineering at the Technion, where he earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

He was at the forefront of Israel’s defense industry, influential in the development of Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) – of which he served as the executive vice president and chief operating officer for more than 35 years. With Mr. Harari leading the charge, IAI achieved numerous monumental advances, including entering the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) market in the 1970s with the development of the IAI Scout, earning $1.28 billion in sales by 1989, joining the space race in the 1990s, and more, laying the foundation for Israel’s dominance in the aerospace arena.

Under his visionary leadership, IAI also tested the Arrow 1, the first family of anti-ballistic missiles for a new defense mechanism to protect Israeli citizens, which became the world’s first operational defense system against aerial missiles in 2000. Since then, the Arrow system has been upgraded multiple times and continues to provide protection to the State, serving as a testament to Israel’s unwavering commitment to security.

The events of the Six Day War highlighted the need for Israel to develop its own combat aircrafts. In the crucible of conflict, Mr. Harari played a pivotal role in the first project to fill this gap, which made history for its creation of Israel’s first ever home-grown defense aircraft. Led by IAI, the team successfully produced the Kfir, an all-weather multirole fighter jet developed based on the French model Mirage 5. More than 220 of these aircrafts were built. Soon after, Mr. Harari was also instrumental in creating its successor.

In an effort to replace the Kfir models, Mr. Harari spearheaded the IAI Lavi project as its chief engineer. Launched in February 1980, the program aimed to create an aircraft to be used for the close air support (CAS) and battlefield air interdiction (BAI) mission with a secondary air-defense mission. The resulting aircraft was a single-engine fourth-generation multirole fighter jet, taking flight for its maiden voyage in 1986 – a technological marvel that showcased Israel’s prowess on the global stage.

Though the Lavi project was discontinued soon after, it illustrated IAI’s advanced capabilities, and much of the technological knowledge gathered during its development helped make Israel’s first satellite launch into space in 1988 possible. Mr. Harari’s imprint on Israel’s aerospace landscape was indelible, his contributions immortalized in history.

Upon retiring from the aeronautical industry after an illustrious tenure with IAI, Mr. Harari was appointed as a guest professor at the Technion, a member of the board of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, and chairman of the committee of the Aeronautical and Space Sciences in Israel, where his wisdom continued to shape the future of Israel’s defense.

Mr. Harari received numerous awards honoring his unparalleled dedication and groundbreaking achievements, including the Israel Defense Prize in both 1969 and 1975, and the most prestigious distinction awarded by the State of Israel, the Israel Prize in 1987, for his contributions to the IAI Lavi project.

With Rosh Hashana honey in mind, ISRAEL21c visits an apiary to see how BeeHero produces insights for beekeepers and growers trying to feed a growing world.

When I dip an apple slice in honey on the first night of Rosh Hashana this Friday, I’ll remember suiting up for a bee encounter at the largest private beekeeping operation in Israel on Sunday.

Members of the press were invited to Boaz Kanot Apiary in southern Israel to see how ag-tech company BeeHero monitors the wellbeing of hardworking honeybees in 200,000 hives on five continents.

Honey is, of course, a valuable commodity produced from nectar by honeybees.

However, bees’ main role is pollination. Bees, especially easily transportable honeybees, unintentionally pollinate about 75 percent of the crops we eat as they fly around collecting pollen from flowers to feed their eggs and larvae.

But honeybee colonies are declining due to disease, pesticides, adverse weather and other life-threatening conditions. There aren’t enough bees to sustain pollination for a rapidly increasing world population.

“Our mission is to future-proof the global food supply by saving bees,” says Eytan Schwartz, VP Global Strategy for BeeHero.

Translating bee language

BeeHero cofounders Itai Kanot, Omer Davidi, Yuval Regev. Photo courtesy of BeeHero

In 2017, Boaz Kanot’s son, Itai, founded BeeHero with Omer Davidi and Yuval Regev.

BeeHero’s IoT sensors inside beehives collect essential data on temperature, humidity, acoustics and other parameters.

The hive data is then correlated with outside data, such as weather conditions, and analyzed in the cloud by advanced algorithms and AI.

BeeHero’s sensor keeping tabs on a hive. Photo courtesy of BeeHero

Beekeepers get real-time insights about colony health and productivity. Farmers get real-time insights to help them plan pollination strategies.

“BeeHero is the first company to continuously log data from hives 24/7, providing more transparency into the hives than ever before possible, and producing more insights for beekeepers and growers around the world,” said CEO Davidi.

BeeHero monitors the bees in this almond orchard. Photo courtesy of BeeHero

Regev, the company’s CTO, said the bees’ constant communication gives each hive a unique acoustical signature.

When bees communicate stress — for example, the queen is gone or the hive is overcrowded or lacking water or food — BeeHero “translates” the conversation for the beekeeper, who can then take action to avoid colony collapse.

“By connecting the hive to the Internet, beekeepers don’t need to go into each hive to check what is going on. They can just go into the app where we provide information for beekeepers to do their job better,” said Regev.

“Last year, the mortality rate of hives was 48% for regular beekeepers [in the United States]. For those using BeeHero, the number dropped to 27%.”

Staying comfortable

Abigail Klein Leichman suited up at Kanot Apiary. Photo by Efraim Roseman/Government Press Office

BeeHero Chief Biologist Doreet Avni, and we reporters, put on protective suits before examining the system at work in one of many bee boxes at Kanot Apiary.

In 90-degree Fahrenheit heat, the overalls, head coverings and disposable gloves were mighty uncomfortable, helping to illustrate the advantages of the BeeHero system.

“Ordinarily, beekeepers have to suit up, go outside in any kind of weather and inspect hives frame by frame. In an operation with thousands of colonies it’s almost impossible to do this,” said Avni, who has been researching honeybees for over 30 years.

BeeHero Chief Biologist Dr. Doreet Avni showing a frame from a hive. Photo by Abigail K. Leichman

Furthermore, the bees don’t like their hives opened. It disturbs them and lets in ambient heat or cold. They have to work for hours to restore homeostasis inside the hive.

“For almond groves in California, the rule of thumb is not to open hives if the outside temperature is below 16 degrees Celsius [60.8F]. With our sensors, beekeepers open only those hives there are concerns about,” said Avni.

On that hot day, the bees were venturing out of the hive only to bring back water.

Avni said BeeHero isn’t the first company to attempt replacing manual inspections with sensors but the others used sensors that were too large, too disruptive or too expensive.

This is why BeeHero has become the world’s largest pollination services company. The New York Times gave BeeHero a 2022 Good Tech Award, and this year CNBC named the company to its Disruptor 50 list.

Buzz-iness model

BeeHero has raised a total of $64 million, employs 65, and is now facilitating 10 million hive samples daily.

The company’s clients are mainly in the United States and Australia. A clientele is building up in Europe and Africa. In Israel, BeeHero is used in apiaries such as Kanot. Sales and operations are in California; R&D in Tel Aviv.

A beekeeper checking a hive monitored with BeeHero’s sensor. Photo courtesy of BeeHero

Schwartz explains that beekeepers get the sensor technology for free.

“Our money comes from growers, for whom we broker the hives. If you need 10,000 hives and you’ve been ordering them from an apiary on the other side of the United States or Australia, by the time you receive them you might be receiving empty or half-empty boxes that cannot provide the pollination you need,” he said.

“You also don’t know where to place the hives, taking into account field conditions and crop density and variety. When you order from us, we give you the exact number of bees you need, and we tell you precisely where to place the hives, maximizing the bees’ ability to pollinate the crops.”

BeeHero’s “Precision Pollination as a Service” technology also lets growers check if the bees are actually pollinating the flowers.

Schwartz adds that “by creating better hives with more bees, you reduce the number of hives that have to transported from place to place. You get better pollination with fewer boxes. We reduce carbon emissions in this way.”

Sweet ending

Our tour of Kanot Apiary ended in the honey extraction shed, where workers uncap each frame and place it in a spinner so the honey flows into a collection pan and is piped to a different room to be jarred.

While pollen provides protein for the bees, nectar provides energy. They preserve nectar by turning it into honey – similar to humans canning vegetables for future use.

Avni told ISRAEL21c that in a commercial apiary, bees don’t need as much honey as they produce from the nectar they collect. Some apiaries leave half the honey in the frames and others extract it all. Either way, the bees are compensated by the addition of sugar syrup to make sure they have energy to continue the colony.

Honey being extracted from hives at Kanot Apiary. Photo by Abigail K. Leichman

Reps from 10 startups spend four days meeting with British executives, investors and policymakers in collaborative events and discussions.

A delegation of climate-tech innovators from Israel enjoyed a morning welcome reception at the British House of Lords, opening a groundbreaking event hosted by Lord Ian Austin from June 26-29.

The UK-Israel Climate First Delegation was organized by Israeli climate-tech accelerator Climate First with the UK-Israel Business Bilateral Chamber of Commerce, which has fostered growth and investment between the UK and Israel since 1950.

Representatives were from Helios (large-scale carbon capture), Hydro X (hydrogen storage and transport), Criaterra (sustainable building materials), Daika (natural materials from wood waste), Gigaton Carbon (ocean-based CO2 removal and storage), Momentick (monitoring greenhouse gas emissions), QD-SOL (green hydrogen), Zohar CleanTech (decentralized waste disposal systems), Luminescent (isothermal heat engine) and NakAI (maritime cleaning and inspection robots).

“Our mission at Climate First is to empower companies that can help us meet our net-zero goals,” said Nadav Steinmetz, cofounder and managing partner of Climate First.

“Through this UK-Israel delegation, we are furthering that mission by bridging the gap between innovative Israeli companies and the UK’s vast network of investors, policymakers and business leaders. Together, we can unlock potential and accelerate the global transition towards a climate-resilient future.”

During their visit, the delegates interacted with British executives, investors and policymakers in collaborative events and discussions. Meetings were scheduled with Lord Browne, founder and chairman of BeyondNetZero; Generation Investment Management Just Climate Fund; Barclays Sustainable Impact Capital; J.P. Morgan ClimateTech; BlackRock Decarbonisation Partners; the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD); and representatives from Prince William’s Earthshot Prize.

Prof. Gideon Grader awarded the Institut de France prize for developing the E-TAC process that enables splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Prof. Gideon Grader from Israel’s Technion-Israel Institute of Technology was recently awarded the Grand Prix Scientifique research grant by the Institut de France for developing innovative green hydrogen technology.

The Institut de France, a nonprofit organization founded in 1795 that unites five French academies, encourages research, supports creativity, and funds many humanitarian projects.

Grader has developed a process — dubbed E-TAC — along with his Technion colleagues, which splits water into hydrogen and oxygen by decoupling the production of the two gasses. This is achieved by circulating electrolyte solutions at different temperatures through the electrodes.

The professor later developed unique electrodes that move continuously between the separated sites where the hydrogen and oxygen are produced simultaneously, allowing for the E-TAC process to be continuous and not an isolated action.

The scientists say the method will enable long-term operation at a low cost and easier scaleup to industrial level.

In 2019, green hydrogen company H2Pro was founded using the E-TAC technology. The 100-strong company has since raised over $100 million from venture capital funds, including Bill Gates’ BEV fund, TEMASEK, and Horizon Ventures. H2Pro was recently selected by BloombergNEF as one of the most promising companies for solving the climate change crisis.