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Events and Life Science and nature Wellbeing

Possible oral vaccine for COVID-19 in months

An Israeli research team has developed an oral vaccine for COVID-19 that seems to be heading for testing, and could be distributed in a matter of months.

According to The Times of Israel:

Chen Katz told The Times of Israel that the new oral vaccine for adults and children could “turn this disease into a very mild cold.” He said that for many people who are inoculated and then infected by COVID-19, “potentially it will not affect them at all.”

The rapid potential progress by the state-funded Migal Galilee Research Institute stems from the fact that the institute has been working for four years toward a vaccine that could be customized for various viruses, and has now adapted that work to focus on the coronavirus, he said.

Israeli-made oral vaccine for coronavirus on track, but testing will take months | The Times of Israel

What’s particularly exciting about this development is that the research team was able to adapt research they had been doing into a vaccine for a related virus for four years, into a potential vaccine for COVID-19.

[Dr Chen] Katz clarified that the 90-day time frame in the February 27 statement was until the product is ready for human testing, and said he still believes this is realistic. He said that skeptics should understand that his team is not working on new research, but rather customizing an existing innovation, meaning that a fast turnaround is realistic. He stated: “The important thing is that we were working on a vaccine, unrelated to this outbreak, and this is a great advantage.”


Update (2020-03-12): According to The Times of Israel, the Israeli Ministry of Defense has announced that the vaccine isn’t quite as advanced as it seemed yesterday:

“There has been no breakthrough in the efforts of the Institute for Biological Research to find a vaccine for the coronavirus or to develop a testing kit. The institute’s activities are being carried out on an orderly schedule and they will take time,” said the ministry.

Defense Ministry denies ‘breakthrough’ on vaccine for COVID-19 | The Times of Israel

Still, I’m encouraged, and optimistic. 😊

Categories
Events and Life Politics and government

Highest Israeli voter turnout since 1999

Regardless of the results of yesterday’s Israeli elections (the 3rd in a year), we saw the highest voter turnout since 1999, according to The Times of Israel:

The Central Elections Committee said that 65.5 percent of registered voters cast their ballots by 8 p.m. — the highest figure for the hour since 1999.

Although I have my preferences for who will form a coalition (and my strong hope that someone actually forms a coalition this time), I’m proud of Israelis for turning out in these numbers to have their say.

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Events and Life Spirituality Travel and places

My Chanukah highlights

While most of the world was gearing up for the Christmas (or Christmas analog) holidays, we celebrated the festival of Chanukah, my favourite festival of the year. I thought I’d share my Chanukah highlights in a series of photographs.

I usually take photos on each of the eight days of the candles, and this year was no exception. That said, I decided to add some variations to my collection so I wasn’t just capturing our candles that we lit each night.

Instead, I took opportunities to include other people’s candles, whether they were neighbours, or family we visited.

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Events and Life Music People Travel and places

Music in the park with Tal Kravitz

Tal Kravitz performed at one of our city’s annual Autumn music festival events in a neighbourhood park yesterday. According to his bio on his Facebook Page

Tal Kravitz is a musician and a singer educated at Israel’s finest music institutions. He is also a traveler who journeyed on a personal search for original tribal music in far corners of the world not yet exposed to Western civilization. Tal plays piano, harp, guitar, a variety of bagpipes, the musical saw, African percussion instruments and more.

We really enjoyed the event. Kravitz is really engaging, and involves the audience (who loved him).

Fortunately we arrived early enough to find good seats. I took advantage of that for some photographs.

Kravitz used a range of musical instruments including an Irish harp, a saw (the kind you use to cut wood), bagpipes, and some sort of electromagnetic/sonic device.

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Photography Travel and places

Pretty sunset yesterday

Sunset in central Israel
A pretty sunset in central Israel

I thought I’d capture our sunset yesterday evening, as a panorama. It was pretty!

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Travel and places

Winter is coming to Israel … eventually

In between news reports abouts recent rocket attacks on Israel, and our ongoing leadership stalemate, Israeli media is reporting that Winter is coming.

We might even have rain.

That said, our weather forecasts have gone from somewhere around 80% chance of ⛈️ to around 30% chance of 🌧️. I’m still optimistic it will rain, eventually.

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Events and Life Travel and places

Fireworks for Israel 71st Independence Day Celebrations

We celebrated 71 years of Israel’s independence earlier this month. We joined thousands of Modiin’s residents to watch a fireworks display in the park.

It was a spectacular display, as usual, and we enjoyed all three parts of the show. I took my tripod with me to attempt some longer exposure photography of the fireworks. I switched to my 18-55mm kit lens, and I think the photos came out fairly nicely.

Yom HaAtzmaut starts at the end of Yom HaZikaron, a memorial day for soldiers and Israelis who died in terror attacks. This year, I decided to learn our national anthem, HaTikva, so I could participate when the anthem was sung at memorial events.

I learned it a few years ago, and then forgot most of the words since then. Having a better understanding of the words in this short anthem made a real difference (as you’d expect). It’s a beautiful anthem, and represents us as Israelis in so many ways.

One version of HaTikva that appeals to me, is this version that the IDF published recently. It speaks to so much of what makes us who we are:

Update: I came across this other video from the IDF that I thought I’d share here too:

Categories
Events and Life Politics and government Spirituality Travel and places

Tragedy and Inspiration in Jerusalem

My friend visited me recently, and I took some time off to spend with him. One of our day trips was to Jerusalem, primarily to visit Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center.

We started off by taking a relatively new train to Jerusalem from the Ben Gurion Airport. This train takes about half an hour to reach Jerusalem, and shaves an hour (or more) off the previous train route that left from Tel Aviv.

Jerusalem train station

As I mentioned recently, I really like the new station. It was a great welcome back to Jerusalem.

We took the light rail up to Mount Herzl, the site of both Theodore Herzl‘s grave, and Yad Vashem.

We arrived at Yad Vashem at a pretty busy time. There were easily half a dozen tour buses there already.

Yad Vashem

We picked up two audio guides for a self-guided tour (although the guided tours are apparently really good too).

The main museum was pretty crowded, although the tour groups eventually moved past us as we walked through the exhibits describing the events leading up to, and the Holocaust itself in visceral detail.

Walking through the museum takes time, and I almost always felt like I was moments away from tears as I listened to the narrative describing how European Jews were first marginalised, dehumanised, and then eradicated in the many death camps they were shipped to like cattle.

It took us three hours to make our way through the exhibits, and each step reinforced why Israel is so important. Having our own country with an effective military means that Jews are no longer subject to the whims of other nations who repeatedly return to old stereotypes, and prejudices.

What still alarms me (even though I know better), is that we see the same rhetoric being repeated in various countries as the Nazis used in the 1930s, and other groups used in the centuries that preceded them. It seems that some things never change. Some people seem to drift back to anti-Semitism when they need someone to blame.

From Yad Vashem, we made our way to the Old City, towards the Western Wall.

Western Wall

We arrived at the Wall after lunch at a nearby schwarma place, and during preparations for Yom HaZikaron (our memorial day for soldiers and victims of terror attacks) two days later.

This photo of these three men sitting, facing the Wall reminded me of a previous visit where I saw three monks leaning over the railing, looking at the Wall and it’s visitors.

From here, we made our way back out of the Old City towards the train station, and home.