At the Israel Innovation Showcase at the annual AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC earlier this week, more than 18,000 Israel advocates learned about a technology to extract water from air; an Arab-Israeli business accelerator; a touch-free smartphone; a user-friendly security system for public venues; and a dance program breaching barriers between Jews and Arabs in northern Israel.
Elliot Brandt, AIPAC Managing Director of National Affairs, said the showcase exemplified the Israeli “mindset of unrelenting determination to overcome all barriers and conventional thinking … to defend and protect and heal and transform the world.”
To kick off the showcase on March 26, Prof. Alan Dershowitz introduced Water-Gen of Rishon LeTzion, whose patented GENius technology generates clean drinking water from the air.
Water-Gen’s “plug and drink” Atmospheric Water Generator, said to be the world’s most energy-efficient module of its kind, can serve the water needs of single households to entire countries, requiring only electricity or solar power.
According to the World Health Organization, tainted water is one of the factors causing 1.7 million children annually to die during their first five years.
Water-Gen also has portable water filtration solutions for emergencies and relief efforts, including Spring, a lightweight battery-operated system.
This April, Water-Gen is launching its first pilot study in Miami-Dade County, Florida, which will be analyzed as a prototype for additional US locations.
“Water-Gen is focused on improving the quality of life for billions worldwide who suffer from inaccessibility to safe drinking water and thus saving millions of lives,” said Dershowitz, who noted that “no country in the world has contributed more to lifesaving technology in a mere 69 years than the nation of Israel.”
All AIPAC delegates had a chance to try Water-Gen units for themselves.
Arab-Israeli business accelerator
Fadi Swidan and Eitan Sella came from Nazareth to talk about Hybrid, the Israeli Ministry of Economy and Industry’s accelerator for startups in the Arab sector.
Swidan and Sella co-direct this unusual accelerator that leverages the expertise and connections of alumni of the famed IDF Intelligence Corps’ Unit 8200. This elite group of veterans has spawned some of Israel’s most successful high-tech executives.
Hybrid favors startups with at least one Arab cofounder, but above all seeks to build thriving businesses. As Sella noted, “We’re not doing anyone a ‘favor’ except the industry of Israel.”
Agreements with the Tel Aviv and Haifa municipalities and with companies such as SAP and EMC enable Hybrid startups to get free workspace near where the founders live.
In its first year, Hybrid accepted nine early-stage startups and also worked with another 20 more mature startups. Many Hybrid alums are now scaling up under the umbrella of the Economy Ministry’s Agency for Small and Mid-Sized Enterprises.
“Things are going very well. We’re seeing lots of small successes in investment and employee recruitment,” says Swidan, whose staff will soon begin working with eight to 12 candidates for the next cohort.
One successful graduate is MindoLife, a Haifa smart-home IoT and cybersecurity company headed by two Arab and two Jewish cofounders. Swidan tells ISRAEL21c: “They have paying customers in Europe and in Israel and are ready now for the next stage of grants from the Israel Innovation Authority and from a special program for exports. “
Sella mentioned NIMD (Noninvasive Medical Devices) in Jerusalem, whose Muslim, Jewish and Christian cofounders are developing a thermal ablation treatment for cancer.
Smartphones and security checks
Oded Ben-Dov, cofounder and CEO of Sesame Enable, came onstage with Gary Fisher, a user with multiple sclerosis from Washington State, to demonstrate how the company’s touch-free smartphones and tablets allow mobility-impaired people to make calls, read email, go on social networks, play games – activities most people take for granted.
Sesame Enable allows people with mobility impairments to use a smartphone for the first time. Photo: courtesy
Two years ago, Caesarea-based Sesame Enable teamed up with Google and Israel’s Beit Issie Shapiro to distribute its revolutionary motion-tracking technology free of charge to every Israeli who needs it.
“Now we have hundreds of active users in Israel and in other countries, and we’re looking forward to penetrating the US market,” says Ben-Dov. There’s even a user in Saudi Arabia.
Sesame Enable just closed a financing round and plans to open a US office this year. Maryland, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Oregon, Montana, Missouri and Texas all are in some stage of approving a subsidy for qualified residents to receive this assistive technology.
Ben-Dov explained more about the history and impact of Sesame Enable during Startup Stories, a side event at the Policy Conference.
Attendees also saw a presentation by Lisa Dolev, founder and CEO of Qylur Intelligent Systems, a Palo Alto-based American-Israeli company whose self-service Qylatron Entry Experience is making security checks faster and more user-friendly at airports, stadiums, amusement parks, cultural venues, malls and other large public places – including the Rio Olympics and Levi’s Stadium in California.
Qylatron uses cutting-edge technologies including Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), adaptive machine learning and artificial intelligence. Dolev said Qylur technology could be applied beyond security to other decision-making situations such as in agriculture or fracking.
Minds in Motion
In a separate presentation at the Policy Conference, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine introduced the Richmond Ballet’s Minds in Motion Israel program.
This two-week project uses the power of dance to break down barriers between two northern Israeli populations: Jewish students at Beit Yitzhak Elementary School in Emek Hefer and Arab-Israeli students at Al-Salam School in the village of Kalansuwa. Each school’s participants learn half of an original dance and then meet to put it all together.
In 2015, for the first time, the young dancers did a joint performance before 1,500 people. And in January 2017, Israeli filmmaker Lior Netzer documented the program by filming staff, teachers and students over the course of several days.
“Minds in Motion has been in existence for 22 years in Virginia and in Israel for the last eight years, with seven programs so far,” says Cat Studdard, director of outreach for the Richmond Ballet.
A board member of the Richmond Ballet and of the Virginia-Israel Advisory Board made the connection.
“At the initial program, students at both schools felt a lot of concern about having a joint experience,” says Studdard.
“Even this year, at our first performance at the Arab school, the 200 students from Jewish school were late arriving and the Arab children were concerned the kids just wouldn’t show up. But they came and everyone relaxed, and the students were eager to meet one another. They do three performances so you see how their relationship develops through their dance collaboration. They’re excited about having that experience of sharing it.”