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Did You Know?

Israel engineers are behind the development of the largest communications router in the world, launched by Cisco.

Friday, June 4, 2010

New research: One people!

Jews the world over share age-old genetic ties.

The Jews have been not only a national and religious group since the 2nd century BCE but also have common genetic links derived in the ancient Middle East despite their dispersion throughout the world, sophisticated genetic analysis based in New York has concluded.

The study, which was published on Thursday in the online edition of The American Journal of Human Genetics, also provides the first-ever detailed genetic maps of the three major Jewish subpopulations – a precious resource that can be used to study the genetic origins of disease in non-Jews as well.

The important study, called “Abraham’s Children in the Genome Era: Major Jewish Diaspora Populations Comprise Distinct Genetic Clusters with Shared Middle Eastern Ancestry,” was conducted by Dr. Gil Atzmon and Prof. Edward Burns at Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Prof. Harry Ostrer of New York University’s School of Medicine. It also included Prof. Eitan Friedman, head of oncogenetics at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, and others.

They performed a genome-wide analysis of Eastern European Ashkenazi Jews; Italian, Greek and Turkish Sephardi Jews; and Iranian, Iraqi and Syrian Jews. A total of 237 participants from diverse Jewish communities in the metropolitan New York region, Seattle, Israel, Athens and Rome underwent blood tests. The 237 Jews were included only if all four grandparents came from the same Jewish community.

The results were compared with a genetic analysis of 418 people from non-Jewish groups around the world.

Jews from the different regions of the world were found to share many genetic traits that are distinct from other groups and that date back to ancient times.

The researchers wrote in the 10-page article to appear in the journal’s print edition that Jews from the major Diaspora groups formed a distinct population cluster, albeit one that is closely related to European and Middle Eastern non-Jewish populations. Each of the Diaspora groups also formed its own cluster within the larger Jewish cluster.

In addition, each group demonstrated Middle Eastern ancestry and varying degrees of mixing with surrounding populations. The genetic analysis showed that the two major groups – Middle Eastern and European Jews – split from from each other about 2,500 years ago.

For more than a century, Jews and non-Jews alike have tried to define the relatedness of contemporary Jewish people, the article states.

“Previous genetic studies of blood group and serum markers suggested that Jewish groups had Middle Eastern origin with greater genetic similarity between paired Jewish populations. However, these and successor studies of monoallelic Y chromosomal and mitochondrial genetic markers did not resolve the issues of within- and between-group Jewish genetic identity.”

The new research, however, showed “distinctive Jewish population clusters – each with shared Middle Eastern ancestry, proximity to contemporary Middle Eastern populations and variable degrees of European and North African admixture.”

Thus, this study demonstrates that European/Syrian and Middle Eastern Jews represent “a series of geographical isolates or clusters woven together by shared identity-by-descent (IBD) genetic threads.”

It also disproved claims of large-scale genetic contributions of Central and Eastern European and Slavic populations to the formation of Ashkenazi Jewry.

“This study provides new genomic information that can benefit not only those of Jewish ancestry, but the population at large,” said Burns, the executive dean and a pathologist at Einstein.

“The study supports the idea of a Jewish people linked by a shared genetic history,” added Ostrer. “Yet the admixture with [non-Jewish] European people explains why so many European and Syrian Jews have blue eyes and blond hair.”

Asked to comment, Prof. Karl Skorecki – director of medical and research development at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa and director of nephrology and molecular medicine at the Technion’s Rappaport Medical School – stated that he was “familiar with this excellent study.”

Skorecki made headlines around the world with his landmark 1997 discovery that the majority of kohanim (Jews of the priestly tribe) were descended from a single common male ancestor, and has conducted extensive research in Jewish genetics.

“I have had discussions with Dr. Atzmon, who visits Israel often and whom I know well. He will be visiting our faculty of medicine and give a lecture on June 9.”

“The goal of the study was to determine a genomic baseline,” said lead author Atzmon. “With this established, we’ll be able to more easily identify genes associated with complex disorders like diabetes that are determined by multiple variants across the genome. Armed with this information, we will be better positioned to treat patients.”

The article notes that Iraqi and Iranian Middle Eastern Jews date from communities that were formed in the Babylon and Persian empires in the 4th to 6th centuries BCE; Jewish communities in the Balkans, Italy, North Africa and Syria were formed during classical antiquity and then admixed with Sephardic Jews who migrated after their expulsion from Spain and Portugal in the late 15th century. Ashkenazi Jews are thought to have settled in the Rhine Valley during the first millennium CE and then to have migrated into Eastern Europe between the 11th and 15th centuries.

“Admixture with surrounding populations had an early role in shaping world Jewry, but, during the past 2,000 years, may have been limited by religious law as Judaism evolved from a proselytizing to an inward-looking religion,” the team wrote.

The study was supported by the Lewis and Rachel Rudin Foundation, the Iranian-American Jewish Foundation, the United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation and private donors.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Foreman ‘locked and loaded,’ heads into title bout

Boxing world champion proud to represent Israel.

NEW YORK – Israel’s first major boxing champion Yuri Foreman was relaxed and confident on Wednesday as the build up to his super welterweight title defense went into overdrive.

Foreman will fight Puerto Rico’s Miguel Cotto on Saturday night in the first bout to be held at New York’s Yankee Stadium in 34 years.

During a press conference worthy of the first fight at the new stadium, the humble rabbinical student kept his words to a minimum, simply stating, “lock and load”.

The symbolism was clear – Foreman believes he is up to the challenge and ready to face a big-name fighter like Cotto.

While the undefeated Foreman (28-0, 8 KO’s) was a man of few words, trainers from both camps heaped praise on the 29-year-old fighter.

Cotto’s Hall of fame trainer Emmanuel Steward called Foreman, “a fantastic fighter with great balance” adding that he “doesn’t buy” the criticism that Foreman has not faced a true opponent in the ring.

The man born in Belarus outpointed Daniel Santos in November to claim his first major belt

Foreman’s own trainer, Joe Grier, discussed the importance of the fight, saying that it will define his fighter’s career and secure, “his place in history.”

Grier praised Foreman’s training intensity and discipline, calling him a “tremendously hard worker” and a “disciplined individual.”

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post after the press conference, Foreman reiterated the fact that he is prepared to face Cotto.

“I am ready to go, I have been training hard for this and it is going to be fun,” he said.

While Cotto has a huge Puerto Rican following that has helped him to sell more tickets than any other boxer in New York over the past decade, Foreman has called New York City home since moving here from Haifa 10 years ago.

“It is awesome to be fighting in my adopted hometown.

“Being able to fight here for my first title defense and fight at Yankee Stadium is an honor,” Foreman said.

Since Foreman is Shabbat observent and unable to travel by car until sundown on Saturday night, he will leave his hotel room at 9:15 p.m. and travel to the Stadium with a police escort.

While this is out of the norm, Foreman said he is not worried about the situation.

“It’ll be a bit different. Usually I would get to the locker room a little earlier and have more time to prepare, but it will be fine.”

The fight comes at a particularly turbulent time for Israel and Jewish people around the world in light of the recent events in Gaza. Viewed as a role model for Jewish children worldwide, Foreman said the fight is, “very important.”

“It is important for the Jewish people and for Israel. Right now is a tough time. Stuff happens and you have to stay strong. You gotta represent.”

On Saturday night he will have the chance to do just that, as he takes on Cotto in the biggest fight of his career.

Israel set to become gas exporter

Consortium finds enough gas to secure energy needs for 50 - 70 years.

A consortium led by billionaire Yitzhak Tshuva announced on Thursday that it has struck natural gas in a field called 'Leviathan' off the coast of Israel.

The field is estimated to contain 15 trillion cubic feet of gas and is the second large scale gas find in a month. Last month's find, in a field called 'Tamar', is thought to contain enough gas to supply Israel for the next twenty years.

Speaking to Channel 2 news, Uzi Landau, Minister of National Infrastructure said that "we have enough gas to supply all our needs for the next 50 to 70 years".

Mr Yitzhak Tshuva is the owner of the Delek Group and a major player in the consortium which made the latest find. Other partners include Noble Energy and Razio.

Noble Energy are based in Houston, Texas and say the neighboring Tamar field probably contains more then previously estimated, about 8.4 trillion cubic feet, a 33 percent increase in the earlier estimate.

Tshuva also says there may be an oil field beneath the gas.

More detailed story:

Rafael distributes NIS 220m. dividend to gov’t

“The defense industry in Israel shows again and again its important contribution to the country’s economy," says Steinitz.

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. on Wednesday paid a dividend of more than NIS 220 million to the government.

“The defense industry in Israel shows again and again its important contribution to the country’s economy,” Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said. “Rafael is placed at the leading edge of the global defense technology industry thanks to its sophisticated research and development activity.

“The Israeli economy is enjoying the fruits of Rafael’s success, which hired more than 2,000 new workers in the past decade in hi-tech and contributed to the strengthening of the Galilee and the security of the State of Israel.”

Israel’s first hi-tech exports were produced by defense industries such as state-owned companies Rafael and Israel Aircraft Industries and by subcontractors.

Rafael develops and manufactures advanced defense systems for the IDF and armed forces around the world. It makes air, sea and ground weapons, electro-optic systems, electronic warfare systems, unmanned systems, acoustic defense systems, armored protection, munitions and space technologies.

Rafael is the largest employer in the North, with more than 6,000 employees, contractors and service suppliers. It also operates via subsidiaries and holding companies throughout the world.

Last year Rafael’s net profits increased 7 percent to NIS 441m., mainly from exports. Sales jumped 15% to NIS 6.3b. from a year earlier.

At the end of 2009, Rafael’s order backlog rose by $1.8 billion to $3.5b., or about two years of manufacturing. Some 76% of the backlog is for export, mainly to Europe, Latin America, the Far East and the United States.

Rafael is an example of a successful and profitable state-owned company, Government Companies Authority Director-General Doron Cohen said Wednesday.

“The fruits of the company’s success are boosting Rafael’s own capital and enabling it to continue to invest in research and development and to reward its workers and the government by securing a continued growth path, since more than 50% of its sales are exports,” he said.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Innovation in the Desert

Ontario's business delegation sees how Israeli companies drive innovation to create jobs and improve the environment.

Ahava - Israeli cosmetics company

Ahava (Hebrew: אהבה‎) (lit. Love) is an Israeli cosmetics company that manufactures skin-care products made of mud and mineral-based compounds from the Dead Sea.


Dead Sea Laboratories (DSL), the company that manufactures Ahava products, was established in Israel in 1988 by three kibbutzim in the Dead Sea area. The company is now co-owned by Gaon Holdings, one of Israel's largest holding companies. Ahava exports to over thirty countries worldwide, and exports account for 60% its sales. Ahava products, popular with tourists, are available in shops all over Israel, with an outlet store at the foot of Masada.

Ahava's shareholders include Mitzpe Shalem (41 percent); Hamashbir Holdings and Gaon Holdings (41 percent); Ein Gedi and Kalya (18 percent). The main manufacturing plant and showroom is at Mitzpe Shalem in the West Bank, on the Dead Sea coast, with administrative headquarters in Holon.

Ahava products are based on the belief that minerals have an extraordinary capacity to act as "intercellular messengers," transmitting information to skin cells and impacting positively on their health and vital functions. The company believes that the black mineral mud on the shores of the Dead Sea has healing properties and beneficial effect on joint diseases and skin conditions. According to the company, it is made of layers of sedimentary clay formed over thousands of years and contains a very high concentration of minerals, which Ahava products use to promote skin health.

Ahava's Dermud series for dry and sensitive skin includes hand cream, foot cream, facial cleanser, body milk, facial nourishing cream, facial moisturizer, moisturizing shower cream and body cream.

Created at the Source

The only cosmetics enterprise indigenous to the Dead Sea region, AHAVA is driven by a deep passion to unearth the secrets of the revitalizing effects of minerals on the skin. Our dedicated scientific approach has helped us to acquire an unrivaled expertise on the subject, which has culminated in the development of an international network for ongoing academic research. Moreover, we have translated this deep knowledge base into a series of superior skincare product lines, based exclusively on the rich resources of this magical region.

AHAVA’s second vocation is to learn and decipher the rich language of the human skin. As a living organ, the skin receives information and stimuli from the outer world and communicates it through specific reactions, helping to protect, nurture and clean its cells, retain moisture and fight the aging process. Minerals have an extraordinary capacity to act as “intercellular messengers” that transmit information to skin cells and positively impact their health and vital functions. At AHAVA, we are committed to unraveling the syntax of these crucial biological phenomena in our ongoing quest to produce the finest Dead Sea mineral-based products available worldwide.

Research and Development

AHAVA invests heavily in research, development and testing to study the therapeutic effectiveness of minerals on the skin in conjunction with leading international experts and scientific institutes. Clinical tests, independently confirmed and published in scientific journals, prove the revitalizing effects of DSL’s mineral and plant-based products on a range of dermatological conditions.

Our R&D efforts, central to the Company’s mission, consist of research in four main areas:

Fundamental research, to improve the understanding of the mode of action performed by minerals in improving skin functions, texture and appearance.

Nano-Technology applied to cosmetics, aimed at studying the physical and therapeutic features of various Dead Sea ingredients processed in nano size.

Product development, focusing on new age control technologies that will become an integral part of AHAVA’s product offering.

Development of spa and therapeutic treatments, based on human genome research and biotechnology and focusing on relieving the severity of various joint diseases.

Environmental Responsibility

True to our philosophy of protecting the innate beauty and resources of the region, we have cultivated a passionate and caring relationship with the Dead Sea, working and living along its hypnotic shores. The Company's activities are undertaken with a view towards preserving the pristine environment and delicate balance of the natural forces in the Dead Sea region. The healthy harvest of crystallized minerals, Dead Sea mineral mud and desert plants, which grow in the pure air of this magical region, is conducted responsibly - we only take what is strictly needed, enabling Nature to effortlessly replenish itself.

Our manufacturing processes are non-polluting and environmentally conscious. No animals are involved in testing phases and all of our products are encased in recyclable tubes, bottles and jars.

Pe’er parades into fourth round at French

Israel’s No. 1 knocks off home-favorite Bartoli to set up clash with top-seeded Serena Williams.'er

Shahar Pe’er
set up a mouthwatering last 16 clash with No. 1 seed Serena Williams at the French Open by waltzing past home-favorite Marion Bartoli in the third round on Saturday.

The 7-6 (7), 6-2, straight-set victory ensured Pe’er will enter the world’s top 15 after matching her career-best achievement at Roland Garros, having also reached the fourth round in 2006 and 2007.

Israel’s No. 1 started slowly against 15th-seeded Bartoli on Saturday, taking the first set on a tie break.

But it was full steam ahead in the second set on Court Suzanne Leglen, with Pe’er (ranked 18th) taking no prisoners on the way to a convincing win.

Bartoli was disappointed by the loss, but took some positives from the experience.

“My only regret is that during the first set I had a set ball in the tiebreak, and I missed my backhand,” she told reporters.

“[Pe’er] played on my backhand very often, and instead of playing along the line as I did in the second set, I tried to play crosscourt, and she gained confidence.

“I think again this is going to be a good lesson to improve on this kind of surface.”

It was just another in a list of impressive triumph for the 23-year-old from Maccabim who is in the form of her life.

Pe’er broke Bartoli four times and had 30 winners to extend her record against her rival to 7-2 and ensure no French women remain in the draw.

Bartoli was full of praise for Pe’er, noting her recent rise in form since teaming up with coach Pablo Giacopelli.

“Her main strength was that she came back after she had had an off year, and very few people can climb back to the right level,” Bartoli noted. “She’s very strong, because she went below top 15 and came back up again.”

It won’t be easy for Pe’er against Williams, who battled past her third round opponent, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, on Saturday afternoon despite needing a visit from a doctor on court Philipe Chatrier who gave her pills to help her cope with mild illness.

World No. 1 Williams has defeated Pe’er in every one of their four meetings on the WTA tour, although they haven’t played since meeting in the last 16 of the Rome Masters in 2007.

Since then, Pe’er has had her ups and downs. However, she has clearly been on top of her game in 2010, reaching the semifinals in Madrid and Stuttgart in recent months.

Williams appeared in danger of crashing out earlier Saturday, when she fell behind 5-0 in the second set and summoned the trainer.

But soon her court movement improved, her strokes steadied and she advanced to the fourth round.

“Just ran out of a little energy out there,” she said of the visit during a changeover from a trainer, who checked her temperature and gave her pills.

Pe’er said she was “just fighting a cold and fighting sickness.” Pavlyuchenkova admitted it is never easy against the best female player on the planet.

“Doesn’t matter the score, especially against her,” she said. “She’s a good fighter. She’s really confident and she is Serena.”

The seesaw victory assured Williams of retaining the No. 1 ranking after the tournament.

Pavlyuchenkova, seeded 29th, fell to 8-1 this year in three-set matches. Williams is 100-44 in three-setters.

“After she beat me she has to win the tournament,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “I really hope so.”

Also Saturday, Andy Ram and his Austrian partner Julian Knowle made it through to the third round of the men’s doubles, defeating the all-French pairing of Gael Monfils and Josselin Ouanna 6-3, 7-6 (4).

Ram was ousted in the mixed doubles event with Russian partner Elena Vesnina, however, with the pair falling 10-8 in a tiebreaker to Katarina Srebotnik and Nenad Zimonjic after they split the first two sets.

There was also disappointment for Ram’s former partner Yoni Erlich, who was knocked out of the doubles along with partner Dudi Sela by Australian Stephen Huss and Brazil’s Andre Sa in a straight-set 6-4, 6-4 affair.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A lion in Zion

Hagov can satisfy sports spectators’ viewing needs and their hungry stomachs.

It’s been hundreds of years since any lions lived in Israel, but a few months ago a new lion’s den opened in the region. Hagov (The Lion’s Den) is a sports bar in downtown Jerusalem, and its goal is to serve an entire cross-section of the city.

Luckily, with the ability to show eight different sporting events simultaneously, Hagov is able to cater to all of the types in the capital (those who don’t like sports don’t actually have to watch). And when I say cater, I include the food sense of the word. The bar is fully stocked with all types of alcohol, as would be expected, including five different beers on tap. But in addition to the booze, Hagov has an enticing menu that combines bar staples like Buffalo wings and burgers with options like carpaccio and salad.

While chatting with one of the owners, he mentioned that the Hagov team had put special effort into the menu. I’d heard from acquaintances that the kitchen got off to a rocky start, but judging by what I sampled on two separate visits, that culinary effort paid off.

The bar is long and somewhat narrow, like many of the older buildings in Jerusalem. There are seating areas at individual tables, along the bar, and out back where there is a massive screen. The wait staff is bilingual, which emphasizes the Anglo-friendliness of Hagov. The background music is also all in English, and the English menu is actually intelligible.

From that menu, my dining partner and I ordered beers on draft: 400 ml. Carlsbergs and Tuborgs (NIS 22 each). I also put the whiskey sour (NIS 32) to the test, and I’d give it a B. To go with the drinks, we tried the Buffalo wings (NIS 43 for 24 pieces). They come in three levels of spicy, and we opted for the middle one. I found the beer very useful in dousing the flames on my tongue – that’s not a veiled complaint. Still, my dining partner added Tabasco to his. The wings were crisp on the outside and the flavor unlike most Israeli wing options.

On a subsequent visit, I also sampled (with the help of a friend) the 250 gr. burger (NIS 50), the roast beef platter (NIS 59) and the onion rings (NIS 27 or free with burger). All were presented simply but not haphazardly. The burger tasted like it was actually made of meat, not just some vague ground-up relative of a cow. The bun was toasted and thus more likely to crumble, which made it a bit difficult for it to hold the burger.

I wasn’t sure what to expect of a roast beef platter at a bar – or anywhere, for that matter. It turned out to be a plate with thinly sliced meat and tomato salad, and a second plate with sliced bread and two spreads (sun-dried tomato and tehina). The meat was pink inside and reminded me of the steak my mother used to make, back in the day. Again, that’s not a complaint. I couldn’t quite figure out what the tasteless yellowish sauce on the platter was, though, so I skipped it.

And really, since when can you go wrong with onion rings? The Lion’s Den version is a homemade deal with tempura-battered slices of onion, and they’re good and greasy.

Generally, Hagov is a fun place. The food is tasty, the music is entertaining, and there’s always a game to watch. Wisely, there are hooks under the bar on which to hang a purse, so women know that it’s not a men-only type sports bar. But remember: A sports bar can get rowdy when a critical match is on. With the World Cup fast approaching and the multitude of nationalities in Jerusalem, things in the Lion’s Den just might get wild.

Hagov, Rehov Yoel Moshe Salomon 5, Jerusalem. 052-870-9993. Open Sunday-Thursday, 7 p.m. to the last customer, and Saturday night after Shabbat. Kosher.

Rihanna in Israel

Robyn Rihanna Fenty (born February 20, 1988), better known mononymously as Rihanna (pronounced /riˈænə/), is a Barbadian R&B recording artist, songwriter and model. Born in Saint Michael, Barbados, Rihanna moved to the United States at the age of 16 to pursue a recording career under the guidance of record producer Evan Rogers. She subsequently signed a contract with Def Jam Recordings after auditioning for then-label head Jay-Z.