This is the question asked by the newly released book, Tikkun Olam: Israel vs COVID-19 by Jodie Cohen. Published by Minterne Publications, the book has been produced at lightning speed – much like many of the innovations featured throughout the book.
The book looks at what Israeli scientists, doctors, start-up CEOs and even NGOs have been doing from the onset of the coronavirus until early May 2020.
Covering a snapshot of what in the future will be considered Israeli history, the book looks at five key areas that are all essential in the fight against the pandemic – helping to prevent the further spread of the virus, testing for the virus, caring for patients while protecting medical staff, and the crucial search for treatments and vaccines.
The book is described as the ‘first chapter’ in the story of how Israel is attempting to help tackle the coronavirus. It is a record of some of the more prominent innovations that have been developed by top researchers, scientists, doctors and entrepreneurs in Israel.
“The characteristic that I observed that seems to tie all the innovators together is that they are approaching the coronavirus as if it is their personal mission,” explains Cohen. “It is not really surprising because we all know someone who has been affected by this horrible disease, whether it is through illness, quarantine or economically. Never before has the whole of humanity faced the same challenge at the same time.”
Many of the innovations in the book had been developed for another purpose. For example, a company called VizibleZone produced technology to keep pedestrians safe while crossing a road. With the onset of the pandemic, they realized they could use their technology to enable potentially more accurate contact tracing than other apps available.
If someone who works at a factory, for example, contracts COVID-19, the whole factory could be impacted. VizibleZone says that its technology can identify who specifically has been in close contact with the carrier, meaning that the rest of the factory could continue working. This has the potential to keep people safe and help keep the economy running.
“When the coronavirus appeared, the people behind the innovations all seemed to ask themselves the same questions. How can I help? What can I do to make a difference? Some had been working on related research. Others had access to artificial intelligence platforms and pharma data. Others had been working in totally unrelated areas. Whatever area they were working in, they all pivoted their technologies, research and networks towards tackling the virus and the results are promising.”
The author is careful to state that the book doesn’t offer medical advice, and no claims are made predicting the future success of any of the innovations detailed within the book, although many are already in use in major hospitals or in the various stages of testing.
The purpose of the book is to show how the people behind Israel’s ‘start-up nation’ are quickly adapting their innovations in a bid to help ‘tikkun olam’, or heal the world.
“Over the past decade, we have heard a lot about Israel as a powerhouse of innovations, and these have increasingly been focused on some of the biggest challenges facing the world, issues like climate action, a lack of water, sustainable farming to help feed communities, and of course, good health.”
“The past few months have shown that Israel is now focusing its innovations where they are needed the most – to attempt to tackle COVID-19. As a society, I think we have been able to do this because we are agile – unfortunately, Israel has had to be as a nation. We are used to crises, unexpected things
happening, and having to adapt at the last minute.”
“The ‘start-up’ world has taken these disadvantages and used them to Israel, and the world’s, advantage. We faced a severe lack of water, so we became world leaders in water recycling and drip irrigation. Now we are facing this horrible pandemic, and again Israel is playing a leading role in developing technologies that could make a huge difference.”
The book features over 30 examples of Israeli innovations and is purposefully written in a concise, easy to digest way. Cohen believes this is important as many people do not have the time, or even the inclination, to read long accounts of complex, technical research and innovations.
“Particularly when it comes to writing about medical innovations, I think it is especially important to explain any jargon so that readers who are not involved in the medical world in any way can understand each example of innovation.”
Indeed, Cohen’s professional background is in corporate communications and public affairs, and part of her work involves writing for global pharmaceutical, medtech and healthcare companies, explaining often complicated medical developments and breakthroughs in technology.
The book concludes by examining Israel’s impact on the world stage, how it is working in partnership with other countries and sharing its knowledge globally. As the number of coronavirus cases increases across the world, and Israel and a number of other countries face the ‘second wave’, this book is a timely reminder that there is cause for optimism.
With so many incredible innovations being tested and already in use, as President Reuven Rivlin said in a visit to the Israeli Institute of Biological Research in early May 2020: “The whole world is hoping for the day an antibody, an immunization, a drug or treatment is found that will help us save lives. In my talks with world leaders, whenever we speak about breakthroughs and innovation – all eyes are on us. I hope very much that good news will come from Zion.”
Stuart Schnee heads a public relations office focusing on book publicity and marketing.