Finding The “Magic Bullet”

Potential New Israeli Treatment ‘targets’ Metastatic Pancreatic Cancer

By David E. Kaplan

While South Africa’s premier university, UCT makes international news of its proposed boycott of academic institutions in Israel,  alumni of Israeli universities are making far more remarkable news seeking to save rather than destroy lives.

The irony is that some of these Israelis who are in the vanguard of groundbreaking medical research are former South Africans!

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Gastro-Intestinal Malignancies Expert. Doctor Talia Golan, is Medical Director of Early Phase Clinical Trials Programme and Medical Oncologist at Gastrointestinal Unit, Chaim Sheba Medical Center, Tel-Hashomer, Israel

One such is medical oncologist Dr. Talia Golan, a graduate of the Sackler Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University (TAU) is the head of Sheba Medical Center’s Pancreatic Cancer Center.

While UCT conducts itself at the southern tip of Africa hardly befitting its historic moniker “The Cape of Good Hope”,  Israeli researchers headed by Dr. Talia Golan are offering genuine “Good Hope” for some pancreatic cancer patients. A world-renowned specialist and researcher in the field of pancreatic cancer, Dr. Golan is also the director of Phase I clinical trials unit at Sheba’s Pancreatic Cancer Center.

Having immigrated from Pretoria, South Africa with her parents Dr. Alfie and Dr. Myra Feinberg – prominent physicians in their own right – when she was 13 years old, Dr. Golan today is in the front lines of battling pancreatic cancer by striving to find the “magic bullet” that could possibly cure several forms of the disease in the near future.

In 2017, Dr. Golan was already feeling confident. “I believe the changes in the way we treat pancreatic cancer, using new and innovative technologies, will result in the emergence of game-changing drugs in the near future,” adding that “these treatments will target the specific gene mutation that causes the cancer, re-engineer it, and eliminate it as a threat.”

That “near future” may have arrived.

Potential Power of Polo

Last week in June 2019, the research team headed by Dr. Golan at Israel’s Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, announced that a targeted cancer therapy drug they developed together with two of the world’s largest biopharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and Merck & Co. Inc. – known as POLO –  offers “potential hope” for patients with a specific kind of pancreatic cancer, as it delays the progression of the disease.

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Top Ten. Sheba Medical Center or Tel HaShomer Hospital in Tel Aviv is ranked as one of world’s top 10 hospitals.

“The POLO trial using the medicine Lynparza offers potential hope for those who suffer from metastatic pancreatic cancer and have a BRCA mutation,” explains Dr. Golan. “This treatment also exemplifies the advent of ‘precision medicine’ based on a specific genetic biomarker, BRCA 1 & 2.”

Pancreatic cancer is the 12th most common cancer worldwide, with 458,918 reported new cases in 2018 alone. It is the 4th leading cause of cancer death, and less than 3% of patients with metastatic disease survive more than five years after diagnosis. It is difficult to diagnose pancreatic cancer early, as often there are no symptoms until it is too late. Around 80% of patients are diagnosed at the metastatic stage.

So, what are BRCA Mutations?

“A Huge Thing”

As explained in the research, “BRCA1 and BRCA2 are human genes that produce proteins responsible for repairing damaged DNA and play an important role in maintaining the genetic stability of cells. When either of these genes is mutated, or altered, such that its protein product either is not made or does not function correctly, DNA damage may not be repaired properly, and cells become unstable. As a result, cells are more likely to develop additional genetic alterations that can lead to cancer. A significant number of Ashkenazi Jews (European origin) around the world are carriers of the BRCA 1 & 2 genes.”

The POLO study was held with 154 patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer who carried the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genetic mutations.

“When we saw the results were positive it was an exceptional, phenomenal moment,” said Golan in an interview. “For the field it is a huge thing.”

She added that this is the first Phase 3 biomarker study that is positive in pancreatic cancer and the drug “provides tremendous hope for patients” with the advanced stage of the cancer.  “This drug has shown efficacy and a tremendous really phenomenal response in this patient population,” she said.

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An illustrative image of a cancer patient and perfusion drip. (CIPhotos, iStock by Getty Images)

Light Unto The Nations

At the launch last December  during Chanukah in Cape Town of the South African Friends of Sheba Medical Center at the city’s contemporary art gallery, “WHATIFTHEWORLD”,  Dr Talia Golan said:

 “I’m extremely proud of my Jewish South African roots. Africa is in my soul and it’s an honour to represent Sheba Medical Center, where we work to bring cutting edge care to patients, from IDF soldiers to people of all walks of life in Israel and around the world.”

Yoel Har-Even, Sheba Medical Centre’s Chief of Staff added:

 “We are looking forward to strengthening the relationship between the South African community and Sheba Medical Center in Israel. Our goals include formulating programmes that will allow South African students from different spheres of the medical sector to intern and to specialize at Sheba Medical Center, assist disadvantaged communities in South Africa and the rest of the African continent by building bridges with us and ongoing support for Sheba’s highest standards of medicine, research, innovation and technology, transforming medicine in Israel and worldwide.”

Executive Director of the South African Friends of Sheba Medical Center, Naomi Hadar, who had spent the past 17 years as one of the most influential Jewish organizational community leaders in South Africa (IUA-UCF) said:

It is a privilege to be a part of Sheba’s innovative medical centre, which provides global outreach to communities around the world, including the South African community. As our event in Cape Town took place during Chanukah, we hope to bring light to the South African Jewish community and the African continent as a whole. I am looking forward to helping Sheba make a difference in many people’s lives.”

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Launching A Healthier Tomorrow. At the Cape Town launch of South African Friends of Sheba Medical Center are (l-r) Nilly Baruch, Professor Mordechai Shani, Chancellor of the Sheba Fund for Health Services and Research, Dr. Talia Golan, Mrs. Louise Swart and Naomi Hadar.

While Dr. Talia Golan, who left Pretoria at the age of 13, leads the battle to find a cure for Pancreatic Cancer supported by the Jewish community in South Africa, one wonders what will cure the ‘cancer’ gripping South Africa’s political leadership that seeks to alienate the country – diplomatically to academically – from Israel?

 

Israel’s “Iron Dome” For Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes aren’t just annoying, they spread killer diseases and are often called one of the most dangerous animals on the planet

By David E. Kaplan

Many Israelis are alive today ONLY because of the country’s penchant for finding solutions to existential problems. A classic example is the ‘Iron Dome’ – a mobile all-weather air defense system designed to intercept and destroy short-range rockets  from 4 kilometres to 70 kilometres away and whose trajectory would take them to an area populated with Israeli civilians. 

Its success has been proven in battle. The Iron Dome hits 90% of rockets aimed at populated areas.

However, there are “populated areas” all over the world  under daily threat for incoming aerial attacks of a totally different kind – the dreaded mosquito, and Israeli ingenuity have these critters now firmly ‘in their sights’.

Mosquitoes have killed many more humans than all wars in history.

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The Mean Machine. Mean and deadly, the mosquito about to penetrate human flesh.

It is the most dangerous creature in Africa responsible for killing more Africans than any other through the spread of malaria, dengue and other diseases. Malaria kills over a million on the African continent every year, most of these are children under the age of five.

While the threat in Israel is less lethal, they are super annoying. Who is unfamiliar with them buzzing around your bed keeping you awake all night with their infernal whining sound as they dive into attack like the once-feared WWII German Stuka dive bomber! For those that penetrate your ‘Home Guard” defense system – from protective clothing,  mosquito repellents, mosquito killer lamps to even eating garlic – the aftermath of an assault results in bites, itches, endless scratching, and finally sores  or what I describe as “my battle scars”!

The best defense against mosquitoes is making sure they can’t get to your skin and an Israeli start-up Bzigo has developed a device that scans and locates the biting insects in a room, sending a message to a phone app allowing you to easily kill them.  A future model will be capable of eliminating them as well!

This is like a computer game  but for real!

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Fighting Back. Taking down the enemy mosquitoes are Israeli startup Bzigo cofounders, Saar Wilf and Nadav Benedek.

Action Stations

Developed over the three years, the Bzigo device looks like a box the size of a compact smartphone that can be connected to the wall or stand-alone on a flat surface. It uses  infrared camera that marks the mosquito’s exact location with a red laser once it lands providing the essential ‘intelligence’ to the disgruntled humans to kill them.

Although the current model only helps locate the mosquito, Bzigo CEO, Nadav Benedek says “we are working a future model that will be able to eliminate the mosquito on its own. In reality, killing a mosquito is the easy part – the real challenge is in detecting them. Mosquitoes are adept at avoiding human vision, attacking us when we don’t notice them. But once you know a mosquito is in the room and see where it landed, killing it is simple.”

The technology is based on an algorithm that can detect the movements of a mosquito with a wide-angle high-resolution camera that constantly photographs the walls and ceiling of a room to locate the pest, before sending a message via Wi-Fi to the homeowner’s smartphone.

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Fighting Back. Taking down the enemy mosquitoes are Israeli startup Bzigo cofounders, Saar Wilf and Nadav Benedek.

The brains behind this potential “Iron Dome” against mosquitoes is Saar Wilf, 45, and company CEO Nadav Benedek, 38, both of whom served in the elite IDF intelligence unit 8200. They are trained to zero in on the enemy and firmly in their crosshairs is the mosquito.

To date, we have carried out hundreds of tests with live mosquitos,” says Benedek. “At first, Saar would spend hours trapping them with containers and nets, but then we found a supplier from the Emek Hefer region.”

Asked by YNet.news.com why they chose to focus on mosquitos, Wilf replied that “anyone with a technological inclination, has at some point in their life thought to find a technological solution to this annoying problem; we were just persistent.”

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Caught Red Handed. The Bzigo device monitors a room using an infrared camera and marks the mosquito’s exact location with a red laser once it lands. (Photo: Courtesy)

Benedek described how growing up in the central Israeli town of Pardes Hana, the home was surrounded by netting and recollects how “my Dad always checked my room before bedtime in summer for ten minutes to find and kill mosquitos.”

The Tel Aviv based start-up assures that its device is safe to use near children, food and in hospitals and although the initial model is made for home use, the plan is to produce a model suitable for industrial use, such as to kill pests on farms and in hothouses.

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Most Willful. Bzigo cofounder, Saar Wilf explaining the device programmed to take out mosquitoes. . Photo: Orel Cohen

The device is expected to be available on the market in 2021 and will sell for about $170.

Mosquitoes don’t play fair: They target some people more than others and I am one of them and welcome any addition to my arsenal to take on these critters.

Whatever it takes, the battle is on.

Cleansing Experience

Two Young Israeli engineers introduce clean water to Ugandan community

By David E. Kaplan

 

Israelis have their eyes on Africa, not to exploit but to enrich.

Such was the motivation for two 26-year-old water engineering graduates Selda Edris and Mayes Morad, both from the Galilee who as students were shocked on discovering the level of poverty in rural Uganda.

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Dirty Water. A major cause of children’s illness and death in Uganda.

“We were amazed by the living condition of the children,” said Morad. “We were exposed to horrible poverty and were shaken to see children shivering when it got cold, barefoot or with torn shoes.”

It was one thing to be “shocked”, but both asked the question:

Can we do something about it? Can we make a difference?”

Following their graduation it was not the exotic beaches of the far east that attracted these idealistic engineers. Armed with their education, they wanted to volunteer and knew exactly where. The calling was clear;  they wanted to help provide a specific Ugandan community with clean drinking water.

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“Clean Water”. Young Israel engineering graduates Selda Edris (left) and Mayes Morad providing water solutions in Uganda (Photo: Gali Margalit)

So, soon after graduating, Edris, from the Circassian village of Rehaniya, and Mayes from the Druze village of Beit Jann on Mount Meron in northern Israel, joined the HELPAPP organization and set off for a community in Uganda that pulled at their heartstrings. “There were 900 school children from the region that drank water  from a nearby swamp that filled up in winter,” said Edris.

Although the three schools in the community boiled the swamp water before drinking, “this was  hardly a safe solution” to the young Israelis.

Finding “a solution” proved challenging to the enterprising and innovative young engineers. However, Edris and Morad were finally able to install sinks and taps in the schools and connect them to a proper purification facility. When complete, 900 children had running clean water.

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Normal Life. Extracting dirty water from swamp in rural Uganda.

The reality of what they achieved struck home.

When I saw how happy they were when they just turned on the tap and water came out, I thought to myself,” says Morad, “what in the world would make me, or my nieces and nephews who are the same age as these schools kids, feel so happy?”

The joy in the children’s eyes when they opened a tap to wash their hands and water came out stayed with her. “It’s difficult to imagine that there are children in this world who don’t have the most basic commodity – drinking water – only because they weren’t fortunate enough to be born in the right place.”

For Edris and Morad “Clean water is a basic right for every person in this world – regardless of where you were born.”

After providing a solution to supplying the schools with running water, the two Israelis initiated a Facebook fundraising campaign to buy shoes for many the children who ran around barefoot on the hard-arid African terrain.

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“I feel beautiful for the first time”. Every day Helen had to choose how to use the little water she had. Now that she has a steady source, she says she feels beautiful for the first time.

We Shall Return

“We’ve helped hundreds of children, but we know there are so many others in other parts of Uganda, who don’t consider drinking water a given,” says Edris. “We want to come back to Uganda and initiate a larger scale operation.”

Ask a young teenager in Israel, the USA or Europe what they most want? The answers would not be even close to the answer a 13-year-old girl gave Edris. “All she wanted was clean water, clothes and an electrical light at home to light up the house when it gets dark. What we take for granted isn’t taken for granted in so many places around the world, and that’s sad. She broke my heart.”

It also broke Israel’s Foreign Minister Golda Meir in the 1950s. When the future Prime Minister was appointed Israel’s second Foreign Minister in 1956, Golda announced that a cornerstone of her foreign policy was to reach out to the African states emerging from colonial rule. The rationale for this was lost to many at the ministry. After all, the new countries were often poorer than Israel and facing greater security, environmental and other problems; what could they possibly help Israel with?

She explained:

Independence had come to us, as it came  to Africa, not served up on a silver platter, but after years of struggle. Like them, we had shaken off foreign rule; like them, we had to learn for ourselves how to reclaim the land, how to increase the yields of our crops, how to irrigate, how to raise poultry, how to live together and how to defend ourselves…. The main reason for our ‘African Adventure’ was that we had something we wanted to pass on to nations that were even younger and less experienced than ourselves.”

That “African adventure” continues today inspiring young and talented Israelis like Selda Edris and Mayes Morad who could not stand idly by in the face of suffering.

 

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A refugee camp in Uganda, 2018 (Photo: AP)

 

The Israel Brief – 15-18 April 2019

 

The Israel Brief – 15 April 2019 – Coalition building! Trump Peace Plan! Eli Cohen’s remains to return? Israel heads back to the moon!!

 

 

The Israel Brief – 16 April 2019 – Solidarity with Notre Dame. Bibi to form coalition. Abbas to meet Bibi?

 

 

The Israel Brief – 17 April 2019 – SpaceIL investigates Beresheet landing. Palestinian PM says US waging financial war. Hamas and Roger Waters aim to ruin Eurovision party.

 

 

 

The Israel Brief – 18 April 2019 – IDF “Readiness and Change”. Israeli official meets Lebanese FM. Netanyahu starts to form coalition.

“Action Stations – All aboard”

Israel’s Hi-Tech Sector Soaring Bringing Palestinians on Board

 

By David E. Kaplan

This may not be the much touted “deal of the century” but it is Israel’s deal of 2019 – “so far” – and its only March!

Based in Santa Clara California, Nvidia’s acquisition of Mellanox is the “second largest ever” in the Israeli high-tech industry after global behemoth Intel bought Mobileye – the vision-based advanced driver-assistance systems providing warnings for collision prevention and mitigation – in 2017 for $15.3 billion.

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Success Story. Mellanox headquarters in Yokneam in the lower Galilee, Israel. Yokneam is known as Israel’s “Startup Village” because its high-tech hub is surrounded by forest and small communities.

This deal augers well for sustaining Israel’s hi-tech global branding.

Jensen Huang, founder and CEO of Nvidia, said the company was “excited to unite Nvidia’s accelerated computing platform with Mellanox’s world-renowned accelerated networking platform under one roof to create next-generation datacenter-scale computing solutions.”

Huang said he was “particularly thrilled to work closely with the visionary leaders,” of Israel’s Mellanox “and their amazing people to invent the computers of tomorrow.”

Nvidia will continue investing in local Israeli “excellence and talent,” calling Israel “one of the world’s most important technology centers.”

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Eyeing The Future. A technician works in a Mellanox lab in Yokneam, Israel, March 4, 2019.\ AMIR COHEN/ REUTERS

The acquisition will unite two of the world’s leading companies in high performance computing (HPC). Nvidia and Mellanox will together power over 250 of the world’s TOP500 supercomputers and have as customers every major cloud service provider and computer maker.

Nvidia, will pay $6.9 billion cash to acquire Mellanox (MLNX) -twelve years after the Israeli company’s IPO on Nasdaq.

Mellanox develops and sells high-speed communications equipment using InfiniBand and Ethernet technologies.

Billion Dollar Man

Founded in 1999 by its CEO Eyal Waldman, Mellanox surpassed in sales an impressive $1 billion in 2018.

This will be Waldman’s second exit in two decades. He sold the Israeli chip company Galileo Technology Ltd – which he co-founded – to Marvell in 2000 for $2.7 billion. Marvel Technology, like Nvidia, is also based in Santa Clara California.

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California Dreaming. ‘Sailing into the future’ is the design of Nvidia’s Santa Clara headquarters in California. (Courtesy).

A kite boarder and a scuba diver, Waldman, studied electrical engineering at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.

Responding why Mellanox is important in this marketplace, Waldman explains:

“So, if you look at the world today, the most important asset or resource on the planet is DATA. A long time ago it was real estate; then it moved to energy and now its data. It is the most important asset people can gather and own; the more data you have, the more powerful you become.”

Eyal Waldman is living testimony!

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In The ‘Genes’. When in Israel, hi-tech visionary Eyal Waldman wears jeans to his Mellanox office in Yokneam.

The Times of Israel describes Waldman as a CEO that is “perpetually in a rush, tends to eat fast food, gets joy from his success but spends as much time as possible with his family.”

Asked to describe himself, “I’m just a normal guy.”

The name “Mellanox”, Waldman reveals, comes from combining the sound of “Xerox” with “Millennium” – because the firm was founded in 1999 – and “Ella”, the name of his wife at the time.

While Nvidia redefined modern computer graphics and sparked the growth of the PC gaming market, Mellanox’s solutions include adapters, switches, software and silicon that accelerate application runtime and maximize business results for a wide range of markets including high-performance computing, enterprise data centers, Web 2.0, cloud, storage, and financial services.

Waldman said the company shares the same vision for accelerated computing – a great fit given our common performance-driven cultures. This combination will foster the creation of powerful technology and fantastic opportunities for our people.”

By ‘people’, Waldman, includes Palestinians as Mellanox is one of several companies with Palestinian employees in the West Bank and Gaza, a source of pride for the firm.

I think a lot of employees became millionaires overnight, and I’m very proud of that. In Israel and in the Palestinian territories, we have employees in Gaza, Rawabi, Nablus, Hebron who also have Mellanox shares, and I think we will all benefit from this sale,” Waldman told Israel’s Channel 12.

The word is out: Working together is “a win-win for all”.

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Six Billion Dollar Smile. Mellanox CEO Eyal Waldman (left) is beaming as he shakes on the deal with Jensen Huang, founder and CEO of Nvidia.

Building Bridges

We need engineers for high-level programming and together with the Palestinians we can build a large Silicon Valley for the Middle East,” said David Slama, senior director for Palestinian Authority activities at Mellanox Technologies. “We’re missing talent that the Palestinians have on their side. Together we can build a bridge that develops great products for the whole world.”

Instead of outsourcing abroad for engineers, Slama says Israeli companies should look no further than the Palestinian Authority areas, noting that some 3,000 Palestinian information and communication technology graduates enter the market each year.

Setting an example, Mellanox and ASAL – a software and IT services outsourcing company based in Ramallah that employs some 250 technical experts around the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – began cooperating at the start of the decade. Mellanox was among the first Israeli companies to outsource to Palestinian software developers in the West Bank and Gaza. Today, more than 120 Palestinian engineers and software developers work for Mellanox.

Pulsating Palestine

Addressing the elephant in the room – namely the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – Tahboub says “it is not a social stigma” to work with Israeli companies. “On the contrary,” he asserts

“Political news is not only what the Palestinian people are all about. We want to have an export-oriented economy based on knowledge and innovation. This is our biggest vision. Innovation, technology and entrepreneurship is the way for the future,” he says. The latest Palestinian Mellanox employees are based out of the Rawabi Tech Hub, in Rawabi, the first planned city built for and by Palestinians in the West Bank, just 20 kilometers outside Jerusalem.

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Roaring Rawabi. Palestinian Mellanox employees are based out of the Rawabi Tech Hub, in Rawabi, the first planned city built for and by Palestinians in the West Bank. Over $1.4 billion has been invested in the city by developer and Palestinian businessman Bashar Masri.

Rawabi is in the middle between Tel Aviv and the Jordanian capital of Amman. “It could absolutely be a hub for innovation not just serving the Israeli and Palestinian markets, but serving the whole region,” asserts Tahboub.

Behind the high-tech “Rawabi City” – Palestine’s first planned city – is Palestinian entrepreneur, visionary, and property developer Bashar Masri who is also the founder and Chairman of the Board of Massar International.

Massar’ is an Arabic word meaning “path” and symbolizes the vision of its founder – to create a company that would successfully link the very best of local professionalism in Palestine with international standards.

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Men On The Move. Looking to plot Palestine trajectory into a prosperous future are CEO of Wataniya Palestine Mobile Telecommunication Public Shareholding Company, Dr. Durgham Maree ( left) and Bashar Al Masri (right) in the new city of Rawabi in the West Bank, June 2018. Courtesy

Says Al Masri:

 “We are relying on our historic enemy, Israel, to be our best friend in moving forward. Israel is riding high. Israel is a super-advanced country. If we piggyback on their economy, I hope they will benefit, and they will benefit, and we stand to benefit exponentially. It’s a win-win situation for all of us.”

 

 

A Wee Dram Of Milk & Honey

By Rolene Marks

Israel is the “land of Milk and Honey” – and I am not speaking about biblical references!  It is all about the single malt whisky. Known as “the water of life”, Israel is about to join a small, elite group of countries that is licensed to distill whisky.  Not bad for a desert dwelling country!

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Secrets Out The Bottle. The first 100 bottles of Israel’s first malt whisky made by Tel Aviv’s M&H Distillery were auctioned off on a Scottish whisky site in August 2017 (Courtesy M&H Distillery)

Buying the cow?

Distilling whisky is quite a unique and specialised skill, and there are four main producing centres in the world. Scotland, Ireland, Japan and the USA have traditionally been responsible for sharing some of the finest scotches, whiskies and bourbons (yes, there major differences) but a tiny, powerhouse may be ready to challenge them.

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Inside Story. Inside Israel’s Milk & Honey Distillery.

Enter the Milk & Honey Distillery. Neatly nestled amongst the warehouses and buildings of Tel Aviv, this veritably hidden gem was borne out of the dream of six hi-tech entrepreneurs whose passion for whisky spurred them on to open their own distillery.

Speaking in an interview with a leading hi-tech publication, CEO Eitan Attir quipped “Founding the distillery was like buying a cow when you want milk.” The next logical step was to set up a company which they established in 2012. Construction of the distillery began in 2014 and the actual distillation started in 2015.

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The Distillers. High-tech entrepreneurs who share a passion for whisky, (l-r) Gal Kalkshtein and Eitan Attir (Photo by Kirk D’Souza)

In order to comply with strict Scottish standards, the Milk & Honey Distillery must ensure that they are involved in the distilling process from start to finish and that their single malt spirit matures for a period of three years.

Spirited Dedication

The Milk & Honey team spent two years studying the intricacies of producing top-notch whisky. Master Distiller, Dr. James Swan, who is also an expert on producing whisky in warm climates recognized the exciting possibilities that Israel has to offer and helped the team come up with a truly winning formula.

While in colder climates in can be claimed that a wee dram can warm the cockles of your heart in icy weather, Israel’s summer climate (and hair curling humidity!) presented a whole new challenge.

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The Israeli Whisky Revolution Happening Now. Visitor’s pub at Israel’s Milk & Honey Distillery. (Photo by Lior Goldsad)

This dedicated distillery did the research and discovered that maturation happened much faster that their colder climate dwelling counterparts.

Israel also offers five geothermic regions, allowing for the opportunity to experiment with maturation in other areas, such as the mountains, the desert, and of course – The Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth.

Couple this with opening a distillery in Tel Aviv – the city that never sleeps and is a vibrant hub of good food and booze appreciation – and the result is a winning formula.

While Milk & Honey may offer other products, it is the whisky that occupies a point of pride and in May 2017, they launched Israel’s first single-malt.

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All Over The World. The ‘spirit’ of Israel is global.

This marked quite a historical moment not just for Israel but for appreciators of fine single malts around the world.

Sadly, no whisky was imbibed while writing this article.

Off to pour a wee dram now.

L’Chaim!

 

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Tel Aviv “the city that never sleeps and is a vibrant hub of good food and booze appreciation.”

“Fly Me To The Moon…Let me play among the stars”

The lyrics of the Frank Sinatra classic resonated throughout the Jewish world this February 2019 as Israel soared to the heavens –to the moon and amongst the stars at the Oscars

 

By David E. Kaplan

 

It was that kind of week in Israel.

It began with the news headline:

ISRAELI SPACECRAFT LAUNCHES, BERESHEET HEADS INTO ORBIT TOWARDS THE MOON

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Countdown. The Falcon 9 before the launch. (Photo courtesy)

“All I can say is farewell Beresheet,” said an emotional South African-born Morris Kahn, chairman of SpaceIL, who donated more than $40 million to the project. “Our hopes are with you, make us proud.”

Kahn, who hails from Benoni in South Africa where he had been a member of the socialist Zionist youth movement Habonim, made Aliyah (immigration to Israel) in 1956 to kibbutz Tzora.

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‘Hand’ It To The Israelis. Israeli philanthropist, visionary and major sponsor Morris Kahn (centre) with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Space Division general manager Opher Doron (first right) during a news conference to announce the launch of a spacecraft to the moon. Kahn is a former South African who immigrated to Israel in 1956 and began manufacturing bicycles with kibbutz Tzora.

From starting out manufacturing bicycles at a factory in Beit Shemesh in partnership with kibbutz Tzora, Kahn’s trajectory soared establishing companies that grew into commercial behemoths such as Golden Pages IsraelAmdocs, the Aurec Group and Coral World  and  is now reaching out to the heavens.

A former underwater diver whose Coral World International, established aquariums around the world from his first in 1978 in Eilat, Israel to Maui, Hawaii; Perth, Australia; St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands; Coral Island Nassau, The Bahamas; Oceanworld in Manly, Australia and elsewhere.

Transitioning his GPS, Kahn recalibrated his sights from below to above – from the deep depths of the earth’s sea to outer space.

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We have liftoff! Israel makes history with Moon launch

Over The Moon

Israelis of all ages were wound-up at the countdown as the country’s non-profit organisation SpaceIL launched its spacecraft from Florida’s Cape Canaveral on board a Falcon 9 rocket, in a bid to become only the fourth country to make a soft landing on the moon.

Weighing in at 1,300 pounds and standing approximately five feet tall, the unmanned craft, began an approximate seven-week journey to the moon, from where it will send back images of the rocky surface and conduct experiments on the lunar magnetic field.

All of Israel stands animatedly behind this project and was involved even in choosing the name of the spacecraft.

A public vote was conducted on the SpaceIL’s facebook page, and ‘Beresheet’ – a reference to the first words of the Bible in Hebrew: “In the beginning” – won the most votes.

Apart from the technical support from Israel Space Agency, Israel Aerospace Industries, Rafael Systems and Elbit Systems, SpaceIL was also supported by some of Israel’s top universities, including the Technion, Tel Aviv University (TAU), Weizmann Institute of Science and Ben Gurion University of the Negev (BGU). Most of the multitude of people associated with SpaceIL are volunteers  – including 250,000 students at schools across the country.

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Flaging The Future. PM Benjamin Netanyahu with his wife Sara and philanthropist Morris Kahn (2nd left) watch the launch of the Beresheet spacecraft from the Yehud command center, Feb. 22, 2019. (SpaceIL) An upbeat Prime Minster exclaimed: “There is great inspiration and daring here, and as of now great success as well. We look at the clock, another 60 days or so. We will meet on April 11.”

Moonstruck

For decades, the moon was the exclusive domain of the superpowers. The Soviet Union landed Luna 2 on the Earth’s nearest neighbour in 1959. Three years later, the United States landed Ranger 4 on the moon and it would take nearly another 50 years for a third country to execute a soft moon landing, when China’s Chang’e 3 did so in 2013.

Joining the elite and exclusive club of Russia, USA and China, Israel is by far the smallest country. It would also become the first private enterprise to make a controlled landing on the moon, with the smallest spacecraft to do it, and by far the least expensive. The total cost of the programme, raised from private donations amounted to $100 million, a small fraction of the billions of dollars invested in the US space program.

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From Holon To The Moon. SpaceIL founders (left-right) Yonatan Winetraub, Kfir Damari and Yariv Bash recreating the experience from a decade earlier in a Holon pub when they conceived the idea of creating an Israeli spacecraft to land on the moon. (Photo: courtesy)

SpaceIL signed with another former South African, Pretoria-born Elon Musk, whose SpaceX launched the Israeli craft on board a Falcon 9 rocket. Beresheet will travel approximately four million miles on its journey, circling the earth multiple times to gain speed before it slingshots toward the moon. It is scheduled to land on April 11.

One “bicycle man” can feel truly proud!

This mission that we were talking about was really a ‘mission impossible’,” Kahn told local media.

“The only thing is, I didn’t think it was impossible, and the three engineers that started this project didn’t think it was impossible, and the way Israel thinks, nothing is impossible.”

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Monumental Moment. SpaceIL holds a press conference in Florida, immediately before the launch. (left-right) Philanthropist Sylvan Adams, a Canadian immigrant who brought the Grand Start of the 2018 Giro d’Italia to Israel and is contributing to Israel’s’ mission to the moon; SpaceIL cofounder Yonatan Winetraub; Spacecraft Project Head, Yigal Harel; GM and Executive VP of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Systems, Missiles & Space Group, Boaz Levy, and SpaceIL cofounder, Kfir Damari. (Photo courtesy)

L’Chaim (“cheers”)

The three engineers Kahn refers to are Yariv Bash, a former electronics and computer engineer in the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (IDC) and currently Co-founder and CEO of Flytrex, Kfir Darmari, a computer Networking lecturer and entrepreneur, and Jonathan Winetraub, formally a satellite system engineer at Israel Aerospace Industries and currently a biophysics PhD candidate at Stanford.

It may come as a surprise but Israel’s journey to the moon was hatched in a pub. Some ten years ago, a younger Bash, Damari and Winetraub were at the only bar in Holon, a small town just south of Tel Aviv.

As the night wore on, the future space engineer, cyber security expert and drone maker, came up with a daring plan to build a spacecraft that could land on the moon. “As the alcohol level in our blood rose, we got more and more determined to do this,” Winetraub recalled during an interview with local media. “And it never faded away.”

Nearly a decade later, their alcohol-infused idea is making history.

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Far Out. Opher Doron, general manager of Israel Aerospace Industries’ space division, addresses the press beside the SpaceIL lunar module at the facility near Tel Aviv in July 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Ilan Ben Zion)

From Holy Land to Hollywood

While it is the ‘dream’ of every film producer, director, actor, screenplay and musical score writer, costume and set designer to win an Oscar, this year the sense was that Israel was literally ‘out of the picture’. That was until the following morning after the 91st Academy Award ceremony, I saw on my Facebook:

And the Oscar goes to … WIZO!”

What on “earth” – getting now away from the “moon” – did this mean?

First of all, WIZO – for those who do not know – stands for Women’s International Zionist Organization, which was founded in 1920 in direct response to the needs of women and children in what was still then Palestine. With branches all over the world, including South Africa where my mother was an active volunteer, begged the question:

What did WIZO have to do with the Oscars?

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Night At The Oscars. Israel filmmaker Guy Nattiv and his wife , actress and producer Jaime Ray Newman, celebrate their win at the 91st Academy Awards in Hollywood.

Reading further, it turned out that  Israeli filmmaker Guy Nattiv, who won the Academy Award in Los Angeles for his short film “Skin” – a bio-drama set in the United States about a neo-Nazi skinhead and his son – is a proud graduate of the WIZO Tzarfat (France) Arts School in Tel Aviv, an iconic high school sponsored by WIZO France . Graduates of the school include world famous artist Nir Hod, Israeli actress Dafna Rechter, South African fashion designer, Chantal Abro  and  Chairperson of WIZO in the United Kingdom, Ronit Ribak Madari.

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Wonderful WIZO. Spanning five continents and four generations as one of the largest women’s networks in the world, WIZO, established in 1920, is supported by over 250,000 volunteers in 50 federations worldwide with tens of thousands of volunteers in Israel.

Nattiv, who grew up in Israel and now lives in Los Angeles, co-wrote “Skin” with fellow Israeli Sharon Maymon and produced it with his wife Jaime Ray Newman. The film deals with a hate crime and its ramifications from the point of view of two children, one white and the other black.

“I moved here five years ago from Israel,” Nattiv began his acceptance speech before adding in Hebrew, “Good Night, Israel.”

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Joy & Jubilation. From left to right: Sharon Maymon, Jaime Ray Newman, Guy Nattiv and Andrew Carlberg accept the Best Live Action Short Film award for ‘Skin’ onstage during the 91st Annual Academy Awards. (Photo: Kevin Winter / Getty Images)

Excited and emotional he stood with his wife and continued:

My grandparents are Holocaust survivors. The bigotry that they experienced in the Holocaust, we see that everywhere today—in America and in Europe. This film is about education; it’s about teaching your kids a better way.”

Adding, Newman said that she and her husband “dedicate this to our five-month-old baby who’s sitting at home with my parents watching this. We hope that you grow up in a world where these things don’t happen, because people learn to love and accept each other.”

Congratulations came in from Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin who told Nattiv, “…the film is a gift for our children and grandchildren, and for the future that we want for them so they can fulfill their dreams. Proud to be lsraeli. Mazel Tov!”

And how fitting being a graduate of a WIZO school in Tel Aviv, for World WIZO Chairperson Prof. Rivka Lazovsky adding to the long list of congratulations from Israel with:

Mazal Tov, Guy! This is yet another shining example of WIZO pride. You, and thousands of WIZO graduates over the years taken what you have learned at WIZO and used it to create a better world.”

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Emphasis On Education. Presiding over World WIZO – a network of 800 projects serving hundreds of thousands of children, youth and women across Israel – chairperson Rivka Lazovsky visits a WIZO day-care centre on the first day of school. (photo credit: KFIR SIVAN)

February 2019, recognises not only Israel’s ‘dreams’ for a “better world” but its pursuit thereof, whether to land a spacecraft on the moon or an Oscar for a movie that fights racism and proclaims love and acceptance.

For those who watched the launch of Beresheet and heard the words, “We have a lift off…” it was a portent of Israel’s destiny.

Contemplating a future Jewish state over 120 years ago Theodore Herzl said, “If you will it, it is no dream…”.

From his iconic concerned look on the balcony of the Hotel Les Trois Rois in Basel, Switzerland, 1897, Herzl can look down today from his ‘celestial’ perch at his ‘state’ about to become the fourth nation to land on the moon, and smile.

 

 

Cool It

“What, harnessing the blazing sun for cooling instead of heating?” Leave it to the Israelis!

By David E. Kaplan

An Israeli company, SolCold has developed a new paint that convert sun’s rays into cool air-conditioning. The double-layered nanotech coating is a potentially game-changing electricity-free solution for cooling buildings or equipment in intensely sunny climates. This makes it ideal for Central and South America, the entire Middle East and all of Africa – from Cairo to Cape Town.

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Coating materials that protect against fire, water or extreme temperatures are nothing new. But an Israeli high-tech paint doesn’t just protect surfaces from the sun. SolCold actually uses the sun’s power to activate a cooling mechanism, effectively providing air conditioning without electricity.

How does it work?

SolCold’s unique paint – “no thicker than a business card” – is applied to a surface of an object, where the sun’s radiation triggers a reaction in the material. This reaction then converts the heat accumulated on the object it is applied to – into radiation. This radiation is then emitted in a process called ‘anti-Stokes fluorescence’ – invented by electrical engineer Yaron Shenhav, the co-founder and CEO of SolCold – thus providing the cooling effect.

SolCold’s material functions as if it were a thin layer of ice that gets thicker and cooler as the sun gets stronger,” explains Shenhav. “We are focusing first on homes and shopping malls, but it can be applied on the roofs of cars and this can help save gasoline.”

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Cool It With Paint. A special paint will make houses cooler without electricity. (Photo: Chanchai Boonma / Shutterstock)

Energy Saver

“When applied to the rooftops of buildings, the material can help save up to 60% in energy costs,” says Shenhev, “which translates into annual cost savings of +$10,000 per building.” There’s also a major positive impact on the environment – saving on these energy costs means a considerable reduction in CO2 emissions. “We are not just saving costs, but also helping protect our environment at the same time.”

SolCold’s product is generating interest for coating anything from chicken coops to cargo ships, malls to stadiums, cars to planes, satellites to hothouses, military equipment to apartment houses.

How did such an early-stage company receive so much attention already?

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THE SUN ITSELF COULD SOON BECOME A LOW-COST AIR CONDITIONER…

Cool Heads

SolCold first made the news in June 2016, when it was one of six Israeli companies handpicked by the US State Department and the White House to participate in the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in California.

And then, in October 2017, SolCold was a finalist in the deep tech competition at the Hello Tomorrow Summit in Paris.

Addressing the summit to an excited audience, Shenhav began:

“Yes, we are in Paris, the City of Lights, and above all these lights that we admire, there is the greatest, strongest light – the SUN. And while the sun is our greatest source of light, it is also our greatest source of heat on this planet. And whether here in Paris or in Tel Aviv, my home town, or LA, Beijing and practically everywhere on this planet, when the sun shines it emits radiation, which is absorbed by everything around us from buildings to cars, and in return it creates heat. So, this is the equation we know today – the stronger the sun, the hotter it gets. But we at SolCold have an alternative equation. We have a material that actually harnesses the suns energy into active cooling; meaning for us the equation is: the stronger the sun, the cooler it actually gets.”

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Sunny Side Up

Potential imitators do not concern SolCold’s super cool team because the technology is so complicated.  “We gathered a unique combination of knowledge in the worlds of thermodynamics, nanotechnology and quantum physics,” says cofounder Gadi Grottas, “and have been working on it for the past four years. We have also registered a PCT patent, which is pending before being published.”

Grottas expects the product to be affordable and to offer a quick return on investment.

He reveals that the materials used in the coating:

–  all exist in the market

–  are 100% “green”

–  free of carbon emissions

– are activated by free energy from the sun.

When tested in a lab using a sun simulator, SolCold’s double-layered coating cooled an object by 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) using the equivalent of only 1% of the sun’s energy.

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Cool Heads. The SolCold management team, (left – right): Cofounder Yaron Shenhav, technical leader Prof. Guy Ron and Gadi Grottas. Photo: courtesy

“The paint could decrease electricity consumption by up to 60% and is expected to last for 10 to 15 years before needing a new coat,” says Grottas. 

This is no “sugar coating” it – this coating is for real and is transformative.

In hot weather, electricity grids become strained as people use their air conditioning day and night. In Israel, the national electric company frequently issue warnings during summer — when temperatures soar over 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) — to use air-conditioners more sparingly, lest the grids shut down. Inevitably, electricity bills skyrocket.

The idea came to Shenhav sitting in his Tel Aviv apartment one sweltering summer over fours ago. “My air-conditioner was barely functioning – it was struggling to cope and came up with an idea which initially involved optic cables.”  This he later abandoned in favour of harnessing the sun’s radiation for cooling.

Cool Idea

“Now imagine what would happen for example,” says Shenhav, “if all the buildings in Tel Aviv have this coating on the roof. The entire city would consume 60 percent less energy in the hottest days of summer, and when that happens, our power plants would need to produce 60 percent less electricity – meaning much less CO2 (carbon dioxide) would be released into the air by the power plants.”

This is an enormous environmental benefit, asserts Shenhav.

The big question then is what happens in winter with less sun? While “the cooling effect would be reduced by 50% due to more rainy days when clouds hide the sun,” cooling will nevertheless still occur. At present, SolCold is targeting warmer climates such as the sun belt in the US, Central and South America, southern Europe, the Middle East, parts of China, Oceania and Africa.

Playing It Cool

Grottas has visited South Africa as part of promotion where there was interest among egg farms “because hot weather stresses laying hens and greatly reduces their productivity.”

It would also be extremely beneficial in rural South Africa for schools and hospitals.

 

Vision for Africa.  This could be a game-changer in rural South Africa.

 

But Shenhav envisions entire cities in hot climates using SolCold to coat residential and commercial buildings, which would consume less energy and therefore reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.

“Our technology can cool anything under the sun,” he says.

With the material able to be applied to most surfaces, SolCold’s potential is infinite.

The Herzliya-based startup is currently raising funds and has begun trials. Commercial and residential buildings in Israel and Cyprus are waiting to get the trial SolCold treatment.

Meanwhile, says Grottas, the company has received hundreds of inquiries regarding orders and distribution rights — which he estimates to be worth around $100 million — from places including Africa, Australia, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, China, France, India, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Mexico, Philippines, Turkey and the United States.

Out Of This World

SolCold also has its sights on cargo, automotive, space and military markets, estimated at a total of almost $100 billion.

Satellite and space applications especially could prove a huge market for us,” says Shenhav.

“In space, there is the problem to cool down equipment where there is no air to conduct heat and so expensive internal systems are used to isolate and ventilate,” he explains.

Therefore, “opportunities arise in space for our cooling coating that emits the heat via radiation.”

The same cooling principle may have huge potential for the military, in its application on specific hardware. There may also be an added advantage that the paint could in theory “also serve as a camouflage against infrared detection.”

No ‘camouflage’ can hide the sheer genius of Israel’s coolest new invention. Wherever its hot in the world, leave it to the Israelis to cool things down!

 

Coca Cola Cozying Up To Clover

Israeli consortium bids for South African food & beverage behemoth

By David E. Kaplan

Contrary to those half-witted South African politicians who advocate keeping their distance from Israel, are the astute in the country’s business community who think the positive opposite. The operative word is “THINK” as this week reveals a proposed marriage of South Africa’s beverage giant Clover with Israel’s Coca Cola.

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The Coca-Cola bottling plant in Bnei Brak, Israel. (Nir Keidar)

Of course, a deal is only a deal when all is signed – but why keep this news ‘bottled’ up – when the champions for enterprise and entrepreneurship in both South Africa and Israel are so enthused to see ‘golden’ opportunities above ground rather than the usual mineral subterranean variety.

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‘Clover’ an iconic brand in South Africa.

 

Heading a consortium called MilCo, Israel’s Central Bottling Company (Coca Cola Israel) submitted a bid to acquire control of Clover, in a deal that values the South African public traded company at $359 million (NIS 1.3 billion). The consortium is offering the SA food producer’s shareholders R25 per share, which will amount to 59.5% of the SA food producer.

Interestingly, while Clover traces its history back to 1898 with farmers meeting in the lush pastures of the Natal Midlands to discuss the establishment of a butter factory, only a year earlier in 1887, 208 delegates met at a hotel in Basel Switzerland where the modern Zionist movement was birthed under the chairmanship of Theodor Herzl.

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Delivering The Goods. Early Days as the precursor to Clover, the Natal Creamery Ltd. starts its milk distribution from Pietermaritzburg in 1902.

Trajectories of both affirm that with determination, passion, grit and self-belief, the impossible becomes possible.

While Clover Industries produces milk and juices, has 8,000 employees and owns 13 production facilities throughout South Africa, the Central Bottling Company is the fourth largest manufacturer of consumer products in Israel. It owns a number of leading brands, headed by Coca Cola Israel, Tara Dairy, and other beer and soft drink brands.

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….and Today. Clover delivery trucks in their multitude.

Eran Elsner, who manages the Central Bottling Company’s overseas business, said, “The Central Bottling Company group believes that its activity is synergetic with the activity of the company in South Africa. There is a reciprocal contribution of knowledge and experience between the Central Bottling Company group and the overseas companies, which is channeled towards innovation and business development, while providing added value to consumers, who are always foremost in our considerations.”

Other members of the MilCo consortium are Ploughshare Investments, which will buy 10.9%, and IncuBev, which will buy 8.3%. The latter is an international business focused on the food and beverage sectors in sub-Saharan Africa.

A barometer of the excitement following the announcement, Clover’s share price jumped 19% to R23.80 on Monday morning after the JSE opened.

At the same time in Israel, CBC, whose subsidiary companies serve more than 160-million consumers worldwide, made the following press release:

CBC is Israel’s leading manufacturer and distributor of beverages and, through its foreign subsidiaries, has manufacturing and distribution operations in Turkey, Romania, and Uzbekistan. CBC, which is also the owner of the Tara dairy, Israel’s second-largest milk processing dairy, produces and distributes its own brands and Müller brands, and it operates the license for the Müller brand in Romania.”

CBC also owns Gat Foods, a “grove to table” juice operation with customers in more than 70 countries. In addition, CBC works closely with its international franchisors, including The Coca-Cola Company, Carlsberg, Anheuser-Busch InBev, the Müller Group and Diageo.

Further South African participation in the bid is Brimstone Investment Corporation (Brimstone) cementing its plans to further expand into the food sector.

“In addition to a long history of being one of South Africa’s most popular brands,” says Brimstone CEO Mustaq Brey, “Clover runs South Africa’s largest chilled and frozen goods distribution network and is well placed for further expansion. This made it an attractive investment proposition for the foreign direct investment which South Africa desperately needs if we wish to achieve the economic freedom our country deserves.”

Brey added that all of Brimstone’s investments are geared towards transforming the South Africa’s economy by creating shareholder value on a sustainable and responsible basis. “In this transaction, MilCo is adopting an owner-operator approach and a long-term investment horizon with a view to grow the dairy category as a whole, thereby benefiting local farmers and other suppliers throughout the value chain.”

Building for the Future

Clover has a “strong portfolio of brands and best distribution system in South Africa,” said Richard Izsak, CBC’s chief of staff and Israel Country Manager and Strategic Planning Director for The Coca-Cola Company’s Eurasia Group. “We want to build the company for the long term.”

While foreign takeovers of South African listed-companies have been a rarity in recent years, State President Cyril Ramaphosa has made clear that international investment is a centerpiece of his plans to revive the economy. The challenges are immense – weak economic growth and high unemployment and as warned by the US and the UK, “ongoing corruption scandals are a barrier to investment” as recently reported in South Africa’s Sunday Times.

This is not deterring Israel that has faith in South Africa.

Regarding the economy, says Izak, “CBC is investing for long term, even if there are some ups and downs in the short term.”

It’s the more the “downs” than “ups” that are keeping away much foreign investment, however Israel is ready and willing to invest.

Despite political currents and the diplomatic obstacles, the “Startup Nation” continues to enjoy a prosperous relationship with South Africa.

“South Africa is a country of unquestionable business potential,” said the head of the Israeli Economic Mission to Southern Africa Amit Lev in 2018 to the SA Jewish Report. “While it can be difficult at times, the trade relations between South Africa and Israel are mutually beneficial and have potential to improve both countries significantly.”

Noting that Israel’s trade with South Africa is low relative to business engagements with other countries – accounting for only 1% of overall trade – Lev expressed that “with the right approach and resources, there is an opportunity to make a difference in the markets of both Israel and South Africa.

Lev discounts the impact of BDS as a challenge for business. While these threats must be addressed, “our success stories outnumber such problems.”

There are many advantages to carrying out business in South Africa. “Besides being a portal to the rest of Africa,” said Lev, “the country has a growing economy, a sophisticated banking system which is compatible with Israel’s, and it is a member of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) group.

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South Africa-Israel – Working together for a better future

“Also, the country is a top agriculture producer, and the issues it is currently facing regarding water are ideal for the implementation of business infrastructure and solutions from Israel. Israel has so much to share with South Africa in the water, hi-tech and agriculture sectors, and the opportunity for Israel here is immense.”

Reflecting on the economic achievements Israel has notched up in the past 70 years, “Now is the time for Israel to mature its economic sector and move into its next 70 years of success. By creating multinational corporations, growing its trade network around the globe, exposing itself to more opportunities and inviting others to be a part of the growth, Israel can be enhanced and make giant steps in this magical movement of economy.”

While the business relationship between South Africa and Israel is promising, the Coca Cola bid for Clover indicates that the future could be even more promising.

ANC politicians – take note!