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Palestinian Faction again Likely to Be Behind Rocket Fire from Lebanon
by Yaakov Lappin ~ JNS
Thursday, 5 August 2021 | A Palestinian terror faction likely fired the three rockets from Lebanon at Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel on Wednesday; however, the precise motivation for the act of aggression isn’t immediately clear.
The attack does not bear the hallmark of Hezbollah but does fit the pattern of a Lebanese-based Palestinian armed cell, possibly belonging to Hamas, firing on Israel, as it likely did on July 20 as well (Iron Dome [aerial defense system] intercepted one of the projectiles in last month’s attack, unlike the current attack, in which no rockets were intercepted).
While the specific motivation for the attack is still under question, the establishment of a precedent involving Palestinian cells terrorizing northern Israeli communities, possibly with Hezbollah’s knowledge, is beginning to take hold.
It is this precedent that the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] and Israeli government will seek to cut down at its early stage. The IDF’s response to the attack—three waves of artillery fire directed at areas along the Lebanese border—is more extensive than Israel’s reply to the July rocket attacks; still, it is a cautious response designed to avoid a broader security deterioration at a time when the Lebanese state is on the brink of collapse.
“We estimate that these were Grad-type rockets,” former intelligence officer Maj. (res.) Tal Beeri, the director of the research department at the Alma research center, which analyzes security threats to Israel emanating from Syria and Lebanon, said on Wednesday. “At this stage, the identity of the attackers is not known.”
Indications from Lebanon are [that] the IDF artillery counterstrikes hit open areas in western and eastern Lebanon, said Beeri.
He assessed that the area used to fire on Israel is the Al-Arkub region of southern Lebanon, from where rockets had been fired in the past at Israel during its May conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, also by Palestinian terrorists.
In running through the possible scenarios behind the action, Beeri said the chances of the attack being designed to mark the annual commemoration of the Beirut port blast, or the upcoming Ashura Shiite holiday, are very low.
‘Comfortable Terror Attacks’ against Israel
Other scenarios suggest a Palestinian cell conducted the attack with the knowledge and approval of Hezbollah, though it is also possible that Hezbollah did not know about the launch ahead of time, said Beeri.
If Hezbollah was aware, the rocket fire could be part of Iran’s policy of safeguarding a continuity of “comfortable terror attacks” against Israel. Under this scenario, terrorism will occur from where it’s secure for perpetrators to strike Israel at any given time; at this time, Lebanon, with its growing anarchy, is that place. Similarly, it is operationally comfortable for Iran to conduct terror attacks at sea on Israel-linked ships in the Persian Gulf.
A more dangerous scenario listed by Beeri is that Hezbollah actively initiated the attack, either directly or through a proxy, including through the use of Palestinian attackers to disguise its initiative to send a message to Israel, warning it against intervening in internal Lebanese affairs.
“It cannot be ruled out that Hezbollah is seeking to warn Israel about such an intervention,” said Beeri. Hezbollah blames Israel for encouraging Lebanese communities to act against it and attempting to influence international aid (while limiting Iranian aid) to Lebanon, which is suffering a severe political-economic crisis.
Hezbollah also raised its alert levels in recent days following an IDF exercise in the north, indicating heightened tensions.
While in last month’s attack, Hamas was probably looking to respond to Temple Mount tensions in Jerusalem by firing from Lebanon in order to avoid drawing Israeli fire to Gaza, the motivation for Wednesday’s attack remains more cryptic.
Either way, the incidents again raise difficult questions about the ability of UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon] and the Lebanese Armed Forces to play an effective role in stabilizing southern Lebanon, said Beeri.
As Israel’s intelligence community continues to work on deciphering the attack, the defense establishment and the Israeli cabinet will determine what is necessary to cut short the precedent of regular rocket fire from Lebanon, irrespective of the identity of the attackers or their motivation.
Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on August 4, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)
Photo Credit: David Cohen/Flash90/jns.org
Pray that the Israeli cabinet will have great wisdom as they develop a strategy to end rocket fire from Lebanon. Pray that the identity of the attackers will be made clear and that Israel’s response will deal appropriately with all involved.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.
Raisi’s Presidency a ‘Metaphor’ for Iran’s Regional Escalation
by Israel Kasnett ~ JNS
Wednesday, 4 August 2021 | Iran’s new president, Ebrahim Raisi, will be sworn in on Thursday, and he is already making his mark. Reports on Tuesday that a number of ships in the Gulf of Oman were the victims of a cyberattack are the latest in what appears to be Iran’s effort to flex its muscles and show the Middle East who’s boss. Together, Raisi and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei seek to take Iran’s threats to a new level and turn their country into a regional superpower.
Uzi Rabi, director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, told JNS that Raisi’s new role as president and the recent Iranian attacks point to “a new reading of the geopolitical chessboard by Iran.”
Rabi noted that with the United States bowing out of the Mideast, Tehran sees the region as a “comfortable arena” in which it can “play a hegemonic role.”
“Israel is being put to the test,” he said, noting he believes that Jerusalem has “gotten the message.”
While Khamenei is the ultimate decision-maker on all matters of state, Raisi will add his ultra-conservative views and influence on the country’s domestic and foreign policies. Raisi is also widely viewed as a potential successor to Khamenei.
The incoming president stands accused by many Iranians and human-rights activists over his alleged role in the mass executions of political prisoners in the 1980s.
According to Rabi, millions of people in Iran “hate” the ruling regime. To them, Raisi’s presidency is a major setback in terms of domestic reform or progress. “This is the loss of hope,” he said.
Tuesday’s incident comes just days after Iran launched multiple drones that slammed into Mercer Street, a Japanese-owned tanker managed by British company Zodiac Maritime, killing a British and a Romanian national. The ship’s British management company is owned by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer, who is based in London.
During a visit to the Israel Defense Forces [IDF] Northern Command headquarters on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett expressed his disappointment in the European Union for sending a representative to Raisi’s inauguration.
“Unfortunately, an EU representative intends to attend the swearing-in ceremony of the new Iranian president, Raisi,” said Bennett. “Raisi is the most extreme Iranian president of them all, and the competition is tough. From here, I call on the EU: One cannot talk about human rights and simultaneously honor a murderer, a hangman, who has eliminated hundreds of opponents of the regime.”
Turning his attention to the attack on the oil tanker, Bennett warned Iran, saying, “Iran already knows the price that we exact when someone threatens our security. The Iranians need to understand that it is impossible to sit peacefully in Tehran and from there ignite the entire Middle East. That is over.”
While US Secretary of State Antony Blinken promised on Monday that “there will be a collective response,” Iran also promised on Monday that it would “not hesitate to protect its security and national interests, and will immediately and decisively respond to any possible adventurism.”
‘There is a Single Track Operating in Europe on Iran Policy’
According to Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Iran’s latest drone attack at sea is part of the “larger shadow war” between Iran and Israel.
He noted a similar drone attack in July against a maritime target Iran likely believed was connected to Israel.
“These attacks indicate that Iran is poking and prodding to test Israel’s resolve while incrementally working its way up the escalation ladder,” he said. “Currently, there are three domains for this shadow war: land, sea and cyber. What is changing are the targets and weapons used in these domains.”
Ben Taleblu slammed the P5+1 [the UN Security Council’s five permanent members: China, France, Russia, UK, US—plus Germany] effort to appease Iran and return to the Iran nuclear deal amid mounting evidence of Iran’s obvious efforts to destabilize the Middle East.
“Sadly, Iran’s European interlocutors in talks to resurrect the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the official title of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal] have not put their money where their mouth is on Iran’s nuclear and non-nuclear threats,” he said. “There is a single track operating in Europe on Iran policy, and that track leads to resurrecting the JCPOA. If the past is prologue, Europe is unlikely to walk away from the JCPOA due to this.”
Ben Taleblu said he believes that the United States “should work with Israel and Europe to declassify evidence linking the attack to Iran and help coordinate a multilateral diplomatic and economic response.”
He added that Israel “will likely respond covertly” against Iran, which, in turn, “is likely to absorb the escalation and look to attack soon to signal that it cannot be deterred.”
With regard to Raisi, Ben Taleblu said his presidency “is a metaphor for Iran’s growing comfortability with escalation, be it at home against US partners like Israel or at home against the Iranian people.”
He predicted that “we can expect an intensification of the worst behavior the Islamic Republic is already known for.”
Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on August 3, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)
Photo Credit: Mohammad Hossein Taaghi/Wikimedia Commons/jns.org
Pray for Israel’s victory in the shadow war with Iran, regardless of the weapons being used or the targets in Iranian sights. Pray that the US and other nations will halt negotiations for a return to the JCPOA and join with Israel in thwarting Iran’s flagrant efforts to destroy Israel and destabilize the region.
They have said, “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more.”
Israeli Tech Wins Praise for Saving Hundreds of Dominican Women from Cancer
by Itamar Eichner
Friday, 30 July 2021 | An Israeli-made early cancer detection technology is winning much praise in the Dominican Republic for helping to diagnose hundreds of women with early stages of cervical cancer, potentially saving the lives of many of them.
Israeli femtech firm MobileODT launched in recent months a large-scale nationwide campaign together with the Caribbean country’s government intended to screen some 50,000 local women for cervical cancer, using the company’s EVA Visual Check AI technology.
The novel AI [artificial intelligence]-based kit allows non-specialists to diagnose abnormal cervical findings in their early stages using an ordinary smartphone and match the patient with adequate preventive treatment.
The company’s activities in the Dominican Republic were made possible thanks to the efforts of the Israeli ambassador in the country, Danny Biran.
At the end of a two-year process during which embassy representatives met with various government officials, MobileODT launched the campaign, performing over 18,000 tests on Dominican women, many of them of modest means.
The project was recently presented by the Israeli envoy to Dominican Republic Vice President Raquel Peña de Antuña, who was deeply impressed about the initiative’s results and even tweeted about the Israeli innovation.
“Israeli technology can reach anywhere in the world, make essential health services accessible to everyone and present fast results and above all—save lives,” Ambassador Biran said. “We will continue to work on a variety of issues in the field of groundbreaking and life-changing Israeli technologies together with Israel’s great friend, the Dominican Republic.”
MobileODT, which was established in 2012, developed an inexpensive mobile kit called EVA System, which is based on the smartphone’s photography and processing abilities and allows it to perform vaginal colposcopy.
The kit includes a zoom lens that is attached to the smartphone camera and a powerful lighting unit that allows clear imaging. After testing, the images can be sent to gynecologists and experts through a mobile app for diagnosis. In addition, the product also includes smart decoding of the test, based on algorithms developed using machine learning performed on large databases of patient’s cervical imaging.
This assessment allows nurses, midwives and therapists to perform a simple diagnostic test even in remote locations and countries in which medical infrastructure is lacking, and thus help lessen cervical cancer mortality rates. The EVA System kit, which received FDA approval in 2016, is sold today in about 30 countries and is in use in 60 clinics in the U.S.
Photo Credit: Women Deliver/flickr.com
Photo License: flickr.com
Praise the Lord for this remarkable example of Israeli innovation! Thank Him for women’s lives that have already been saved, and pray that the EVA System kit will be used globally to ensure life-saving intervention for countless women who would otherwise be at the mercy of undetected cancer. Pray that this medical advancement would be one more way in which the Lord is revealing Himself by blessing the nations through His faithfulness to Israel.
“And the nations shall know that I am the LORD,” says the Lord GOD, “when I am hallowed in you before their eyes.”
Cabinet Approval Moves Forward First Budget in Three Years
by Janet Aslin
Monday, 2 August 2021 | Early this morning Israel’s cabinet voted unanimously in favor of the 2021–2022 state budget, the first to advance thus far since 2018. The budget will now go to the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament) Finance Committee, where it will be prepared for a vote by the entire 120-member body.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett described the proposed budget at the start of the 27-member cabinet on Sunday morning. “This is a budget that invests in the future, a budget of growth. We are investing in beneficial public transportation, in Internet infrastructure and technology, in quality education for our children, in our health system, and in our soldiers who will receive the best defense systems to deal with and defeat our enemies.”
Bennett concluded the portion of his opening remarks devoted to the budget by saying that “approving the budget will be a milestone for government stability and ministers’ ability to work in their ministries, to realize their plans and to work on behalf of the public.”
This is a budget that Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his staff have been hard at work on for weeks. Israel’s 36th government is made up of eight diverse parties, and with 61 members, has the slimmest of margins when matters go for a plenum vote.
The Bennett–Lapid government, which was formed on June 13, 2021, has until November 4, 2021, to get the budget passed into law or face automatic dissolution of the government. Lieberman has expressed confidence that the budget will pass before the deadline because he feels there is no desire among many in the opposition for a fifth round of elections.
However, the budget is likely to face some challenges in the weeks ahead. Unless votes can be drawn from opposition party members, passage will require all 61 government MKs (members of Knesset) to vote in its favor.
Source: (Bridges for Peace, August 2, 2021)
Photo Credit: James Emery/flickr.com
Photo Credit: flickr.com
Pray for the passage of the 2021–2022 budget, Israel’s first since 2018. Pray that members of Knesset will unite with a focus on providing what is best for the nation both domestically and internationally, and pray that the coalition will come together into a truly strong and united body.
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion; for there the LORD commanded the blessing—life forevermore.
Arsonists Cause Fires in Israel’s Heartland During Extreme Heat Wave
by Elisha Ben Kimon
Tuesday, 3 August 2021 | Israel Fire and Rescue Services claimed on Monday that many of the daily fires that broke out in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] were a result of arson.
“This is a life-threatening phenomenon,” officials said.
According to the fire-fighting authority, arsonists operated specifically on the hottest days with the aim to cause the most damage.
Israel is experiencing [an] extreme heat wave expected to last into next week with north-easterly winds arriving from Iran.
The officials feared that multiple fires would be ignited simultaneously, challenging the service’s ability to respond and endangering lives and residential communities.
Fire and Rescue Chief Dedi Simchi said his forces are bracing for the challenge.
“Heat and dry conditions expected in the coming days will present optimal conditions for fires to spread and forces were put on full operational alert,” he said.
According to information obtained by Yedioth Ahronoth, Ynet’s sister organization, since the beginning of the year, 6,072 fires broke out in the West Bank, and that number was expected to grow by 1,000 fires each month.
Since November of 2020, the service reported an average of 500 fires per month.
The commander of the Fire and Rescue service on the West Bank, Yeshayahu Bar Dov, said fires were often extinguished on the doorstep of homes. “These are very dangerous days,” he said.
The Civil Administration, Israel’s governing body in the West Bank, said preventive steps have been taken such as clearing brush and dry weeds, cutting down trees and removing inflammable materials in open areas.
“We will continue to do all that we can to increase the cooperation with the Fire and Rescue Services and local Palestinian and Israeli authorities,” the administration said.
Photo Credit: רונית בן צבי בת משפחה/wikimedia.org
Photo License: wikimedia.org
Pray that those who plan to commit arson will be discovered and stopped before fires are able to spread, damaging land and property and endangering human life. Cry out to God for an end to this vile and extremely dangerous form of terrorism, and plead with Him to bless His people by sending ample rain and cooler temperatures.
For He says to the snow, “Fall on the earth’; likewise to the gentle rain and the heavy rain of His strength.
Erdan Urges World Leaders to Take Action on UNRWA Staff Inciting Anti-Semitism Online
Wednesday, 4 August 2021 | Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States and the United Nations, is urging the United Nations and world leaders to take action against the UN Relief Works Agency (UNWRA) after a watchdog report found more than 100 UNRWA educators and staff have publicly promoted violence and anti-Semitism on social media.
“UNRWA once again proves that it is not a humanitarian organization but an organization that encourages terrorism under the auspices of UN hypocrisy,” said Erdan.
“After studying the report in-depth, I wrote an urgent letter to the UN Secretary-General and UNRWA with a clear demand: to immediately terminate all employees involved in the report, and to conduct an in-depth examination of other employees of the organization and to dismiss any employee who acts in a similar manner. I also demanded the immediate establishment of a commission of inquiry, and that all the countries that fund this despicable organization stop their funding and take action to investigate its actions,” he said.
The report, titled “Beyond the Textbooks,” uncovers 22 recent cases of UNRWA staff incitement that clearly violates the agency’s own rules, as well as its proclaimed values of zero tolerance for racism, discrimination or anti-Semitism.
According to the report, UNRWA staff in the Gaza Strip, West Bank [Judea and Samaria], Lebanon, Syria and Jordan publicly incited anti-Semitism and terrorism.
The report lists a total of 113 cases where it managed to capture from UNRWA employee’s social media accounts examples of celebrating and promoting violence, even among children. The watchdog group said it only examined a sample of Facebook users who publicly identified themselves as UNRWA employees and estimates that many more of the agency’s 30,000 staff members may also be engaged in promoting hate.
“It is inconceivable that an UN-sponsored organization under the guise of humanitarian action would fund declared supporters of terrorism and anti-Semitism,” said Erdan. “The serious things that emerge from the report prove what is already clear: that UNRWA is a dangerous body that has no right to exist.”
He said he has also reached out to US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield to review the findings and demand urgent explanations from the world body to address these serious cases.
The United States transferred [US] $135.8 million to UNRWA on July 18 after signing a framework agreement with the refugee agency on July 14.
In April, the Biden administration announced the restoration of $235 million in US aid to Palestinians, including $150 million to UNRWA, restoring part of the $360 million in US funding to the agency cut by former President Donald Trump in 2018.
Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on August 3, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)
Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90/jns.org
Pray that the United Nations will not be able to ignore the results of this report, and cry out to the Lord for action on behalf of the nations in demanding that UNRWA be held accountable for the actions of its staff. Beseech Him that US leaders will open their eyes to the truth of UNRWA’s anti-Semitic pro-terrorist stance and cease any further financial aid until these issues are clearly dealt with.
The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry. The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
PM Bennett Urges Israelis to Get Vaccinations to Prevent Further Restrictions
by Adir Yanko, Itamar Eichner
Wednesday, 4 August 2021 | Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned Tuesday evening that Israel could face “severe restrictions” if there is not a sharp uptick in the number of people having the coronavirus vaccination in the face of the fast-spreading Delta variant.
“It all depends on the data we receive and the effects [of the vaccination campaign] out in the field,” Bennett told the ministerial committee for handling the pandemic.
Israel has recently begun administering a third dose of the vaccine to the over-60s due to concerns that the level of protection the inoculation provided was dropping over time.
Bennett’s message was echoed by Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who told ministers that the public should prepare for another lockdown during the Jewish High Holidays next month if the daily coronavirus infection rate did not drop.
Gantz told the so-called coronavirus cabinet that closure in September would cause less economic damage as Rosh Hashanah [Jewish New Year], Yom Kippur [Day of Atonement] and Sukkot [Feast of Tabernacles] all fall during the month this year.
The cabinet approved the resumption of the mandate for wearing masks out of doors in gatherings of more than 100 people, backed a return to working remotely where possible and canceled the exemption from the “Green Pass” for the under-12s who are yet to be part of the vaccination drive.
The “Green Pass” system means people have to show proof of vaccination, recent recovery from COVID or a new negative test in order to access many venues and workplaces.
Israel has seen its daily infection rate soar into the thousands as the Delta variant spreads across the country. On Monday, the number of daily cases surpassed 3,000 for the first time since March.
The Health Ministry said that 3,818 Israelis tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday. With more than 101,766 tests conducted, the positivity rate stood at 3.78%.
Out of 22,345 active patients, 221 are in serious condition, with 46 connected to ventilators.
The death toll since the start of the pandemic rose to 6,492.
On Monday, Health Ministry Director General Prof. Nachman Ash expressed concern over the continued rise in coronavirus cases.
“The situation is worrying,” he said during a press briefing. “This morning again we saw a rise in both normal and serious illness. I call on everyone to adhere to guidelines, use face masks and follow the Green Pass or any other directives. Keeping in line with these measures saves lives. We are all obligated to do so.”
The Health Ministry chief said he was encouraged by the number of Israelis over 60 who were getting their third vaccine dose, with 45,000 having received booster shots so far.
He added that no “special side effects” had been reported among those who received the third jab.
Photo Credit: Jenna Solomon/bridgesforpeace.com
Pray that the vaccination program will be effective and people will comply with government guidelines, but pray that Israelis will hear and obey the voice of the Lord in the actions they are taking to stop the spread of the virus. Remind the Lord of His promise to be Israel’s protector and healer, and pray that all of Israel will cry out to Him for deliverance from the pandemic. Also, pray for quick and complete healing for each person who is now suffering the effects of the disease.
For I am the LORD who heals you.
100-year-old Former Nazi to Stand Trial in Germany
by Janet Aslin
Wednesday, 4 August 2021 | The trial of a German centenarian, accused of having been a Nazi SS guard at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, has been set for October. The man, as yet unnamed for privacy reasons, has been charged with 3,518 counts of accessory to murder, which took place between 1942 and 1945 at the camp which was located on the outskirts of Berlin.
Sachsenhausen was established in 1936 and was one of the more than 1,000 concentration camps operated by Nazi Germany between 1933 and 1945. It originally housed political or criminal prisoners. In 1938, after Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass), the first large group of Jewish prisoners were brought to the camp. Later the Jewish prisoners were sent to Auschwitz, one of the six death camps run by the Nazis.
In addition to the six million Jewish men, women and children who died at the hands of the Nazi regime during World War II, millions of others, including Soviet citizens, gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses and homosexuals, were also killed. At Nuremberg, Germany in November 1945, the upper echelon of the Nazi leadership were put on trial and sentenced for their part in the genocide.
However, many wanted Nazis fled to western countries such as Argentina, the United States and others. A list of Nazi war criminals who remain at large, published by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, was last updated in 2018.
Normally there is a statute of limitations for criminal acts. Due to the magnitude of Nazi war crimes, however, Germany’s 20-year statute of limitations was removed in its entirety. In addition, a recent legal precedent set in Germany to allows the prosecution as an accessory for anyone who helped a Nazi camp function.
In addition to the 100-year-old man who is set to go on trial, a 96-year-old woman will face charges in September for her role as secretary for the SS commandant of the Stutthof concentration camp. She has been charged with 10,000 counts of accessory to murder.
Those directly involved in Nazi war crimes, as well as their victims, are now dying of old age. In a short time we will no longer have their firsthand accounts. It is important that the guilty be held accountable, no matter how many years have transpired. And it is equally important that we acknowledge the lives of those who suffered at their hands.
Source: (Bridges for Peace, August 4, 2021)
Photo Credit: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration/wikimedia.org
Photo License: wikimedia.org
Pray that these two war criminals will be truly repentant as they are held accountable by the courts and by the Lord for their horrific actions. Pray that they will take responsibility for their actions, and ask the Lord for a just sentence. Beseech the Lord for closure for the remaining survivors who are still haunted by the memories of the horrors they experienced, and ask the Lord to bring comfort to their minds and peace to their souls.
“Many a time they have afflicted me from my youth; yet they have not prevailed against me. The plowers plowed on my back; they made their furrows long.” The LORD is righteous; He has cut in pieces the cords of the wicked. Let all those who hate Zion be put to shame and turned back. Let them be as the grass on the housetops, which withers before it grows up.
Utilizing Skills Honed as Intelligence Operatives, These Israelis Are Revolutionizing Agriculture
by Josh Hasten
Friday, 30 July 2021 | A group of former Israeli intelligence experts are in the midst of revolutionizing the fruit-tree farming industry around the world, utilizing their know-how, along with some of the most advanced agriculture technology (“agtech”) on the planet.
With the use of drones, satellite imagery, artificial intelligence and plain old boots on the ground in countries such as the United States, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico and Greece, the Tel Aviv-based SeeTree company has been retained by some of the world’s biggest fruit-tree farmers in order to analyze and provide important in-depth information on each individual tree’s health and productivity.
SeeTree is getting set to celebrate its fourth year in business, collecting data and monitoring some 50 million trees for more than 30 farming customers…and counting.
Co-founder and CEO Israel Talpaz told JNS, “when I retired from Israel’s intelligence community, I hooked up to agriculture with the goal of bringing the expertise, technologies and capabilities that I learned in the defense world to the world of agriculture.”
He added, “surprisingly, I saw similarities in the challenges agriculture has today with what happened in the defense community about 20 years ago. Both were analog, not digital, especially in the world of trees and permanent crops—crops that live for many years.”
Talpaz explained that “most technologies went to row crops—those that you replant every year—livestock and other areas, and I asked experts why that is. I was told that trees are very complicated; they are like people. Every tree varies from one another. Farming trees is complex because of the high level of variability.”
On the other hand, he said: “The value of a tree is very high because it lives for decades and produces fruit every year. A farm of trees is like a factory that has production units. Every tree is a production unit. It has [annual] inputs and outputs. And you would not imagine a factory today that is not digitized. What would you do with a million trees or 25 million trees, and the farmers don’t have the tools to manage these trees at all?”
‘We Bring in Data and Teach Machines How to Analyze It’
Until now, farmers—some with 100,000-plus trees on their property—would physically be unable to obtain accurate information in terms of their trees’ health, how its crops were doing, whether or not the tree was receiving enough water and sunlight, the amount of crop-protection pesticides that are needed and other important data. Talpaz explained that without that information, farmers essentially estimate those figures by examining several trees and calculating averages in all categories.
So in comes SeeTree, he said, to “create a digital entity for every single tree. Each one is separated and mapped, and monitored and has a name. And all of the data is connected to that file of that tree like a health file, and that’s what enables us to optimize for the farmers.”
With teams on the ground in the above-mentioned countries, the company starts by sending in an agronomist to create an initial assessment and establish a protocol for a farmer’s trees. The trees are then tagged and monitored utilizing military-grade drones, satellite imagery and team members in jeeps with mounted cameras.
Each tree receives a score using a 0-to-5 scale based on the tree’s health and productivity. A score of “5” means the tree is doing very well, while a “0” indicates to the farmer that for one reason or another, the tree is no longer even standing in the orchard.
Once the teams collect the data, it is uploaded to the cloud daily, and the analysis is done in Israel with AI [artificial intelligence] technology coming into play.
“We bring in the data and then we teach the machines how to analyze it; it’s like we copy the farmers, training the machine with thousands of examples, and the machines know how to detect the different symptoms. It’s a learning process, and it works fantastic,” said Talpaz.
The analysis team in Israel utilizes algorithms that take the examples found in the data and teaches the machines that certain symptoms show that a tree might be suffering from water stress, a certain type of disease or any other ailment that could harm food production, thus negatively affecting the farmer’s crop output.
The farmers are then able to see how their trees are doing using a web-based or mobile platform in order to monitor each and every tree.
In terms of the fruit itself, the SeeTree technology allows a farmer to prepare for an upcoming harvest. Using oranges as an example, “we know how many oranges will be on the trees five months before harvest time. We give the farmer a prediction—an assessment on the yield he is going to have,” explained Talpaz.
“Therefore, the farmer can start negotiating the prices and selling before harvest time,” he continued. “This is crucial. Without the technology, they can’t. They have to harvest, count how much they have and start selling. That is a problem because they don’t have any leverage. The retailers know they have already picked the fruit, and if the fruit is not sold fast, it’s going to spoil, so we’re empowering the farmers with that insight early.”
Uri Rosenzweig, the company’s vice president of product management, who made aliyah [immigrated to Israel] from Chicago in 2005, started his professional career in Israel as a farmer himself growing sugar snap peas, mushrooms and ginger. He told JNS that he joined the company with the ability to empathize with the struggles of farmers.
“I was growing produce in Israel and then went from farming to serving farmers,” he said. “So I come from a background of understanding the pains of farmers and challenges and struggles they have.”
He said that his role in product management is to help those in the agriculture industry meet those challenges.
“Product management is the bridge between the needs of the industry and being able to identify significant opportunities for optimization, and then being able to translate that into the best way we can package our capabilities and also develop those capabilities to solve the industry challenges,” said Rosenzweig.
‘A Game-changer for Foresters’
Gary Schiff, who made aliyah from Maryland three years ago, was a forester in the United States for more than three decades. He started “Natural Resource Solutions and Guiding Israel–US” and serves as a consultant for SeeTree.
He told JNS that the company has revolutionized the business for orchard growers across the globe.
“For 100 years, foresters have been walking through the trees and stopping to sample a very small part of a forest and making assumptions from those small samples about the forest,” he said.
“SeeTree’s key to success is that they can see every tree in detail like no one else. Because they can see every tree they can help the forest owner before small problems become big problems, such as insects and diseases or drought stress,” he said. “They can see when the fruit is ready, how much wood volume is in a tree or how much carbon is stored in a tree. This is a game-changer for foresters.”
Talpaz said that in addition to benefiting the farmers themselves, the company has found itself on the radar of organizations and other bodies from around the world interested in improving food production in third world countries, along with those who understand the importance trees play in benefiting the environment.
He shared that the company’s lead investor from the last round of raising seed capital was the International Finance Cooperation (IFC), the investment arm of the World Bank in Washington, DC.
He added that the IFC not only invested for financial reasons but saw the company as a world leader in technological strides towards improving food production and farming that could greatly benefit those in poorer countries.
Other groups interested in the environment, as well as urban planners, recently approached SeeTree to measure the carbon sequestration in trees. This refers to how a tree captures carbon emissions.
Talpaz said that trees have a positive effect on carbon emissions because they capture and store the carbon for photosynthesis, which prevents it from reaching the atmosphere, thus slowing CO2 pollution and helping to mitigate climate change—just one of many other examples of how monitoring trees benefits the earth.
Source: (This article was originally published by the Jewish News Syndicate on July 27, 2021. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our publication today. See original article at this link.)
Photo Credit: SeeTree/jns.org
Another amazing innovation from Israel, helping to feed the world’s hungry while strengthening the environment! Thank the Lord for this incredible technology, and pray that it will quickly end up in the hands of those to whom it will be most beneficial, making the world a better and healthier place for everyone.
Indeed He says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.”
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