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simultaneous translator - 12.10.2013

Breaking the Language Barrier

Imagine being a new immigrant in Israel and needing to go through a major surgery at the local hospital. You might need to rely on a family member to translate for you, or hope that you somehow can get the message across. But now, at Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa, the barriers to living in Israel as an immigrant just got diminished.

simultaneous translator - 12.10.2013

A patient and physician test out the new translation device at Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa. (Ofer Golan)

Thanks to a newly activated simultaneous translation device, patients at Rambam can request to use a phone-like tool that translates conversations with medical staff in real time. The tool connects to a trained medical interpreting staff working around the clock at the Ministry of Health.

The patient speaks to an operator, who translates what the patient is saying to the doctor, and translates back to the physician – as if the translator was in the patient room and conversing normally with the patient and medical staff. All conversations are recorded and saved as part of the patient’s medical records.

This translation services are available 24 hours each day, except on Shabbat. Arabic, Russian and Amharic speakers can use the program at no cost. In the first week that the system was operational, there were 84 Russian calls, 22 in Amharic and 3 in Arabic, according to the Health Ministry. Most of the calls were made by elderly patients.

Because Israel is a melting pot of cultures, physicians at Rambam are skilled at addressing health care issues across diverse populations. Language fluency is a particular challenge, especially with the large number of immigrants in Israel from various countries. According to government statistics, about 15% of Israel’s population speaks and understand Hebrew at an intermediate level and less than 7.2% of the population has a weak or minimal grasp of the language. Thus, lack of language proficiency can cause many immigrants to forgo medical care.

“It is important that the communication between the patient and the medical practitioner will take place continuously and that the language be understood by both parties, in order that the patient gets the best and right treatment,” said Kobi Shir Moskowitz, the project’s coordinator, “With this service, we come today to a population that was previously only reached through casual interpreters, which were not always available immediately. Now, when you can talk to the patient in his own language and they can express themselves freely, we see the differences and the meaning for all parties.”


BREAKING: Israel, Jordan and PA Sign Historic Red Sea-Dead Sea Pipeline Agreement

Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, on Monday afternoon, December 9 in Washington DC, at the headquarters of the World Bank, signed an agreement on laying a water pipeline to link the Red Sea with the Dead Sea. The pipeline, which will take three years to complete, will help slow the drying up of the Dead Sea with the inflow of water from the Red Sea. It will also provide the region with millions of cubic meters of drinking water.

Regional Cooperation, and National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Minister Silvan Shalom signed for Israel. Water and Irrigation Minister Hazem Al Nasser signed for Jordan. Water Authority Minister Dr. Shaddad Attili signed for the Palestinian Authority.

The pipeline will be 180 kilometers long and will pass through Jordanian territory, channeling 100 million cubic meters of water per annum northward from the Red Sea. The estimated cost for the project is approximately $300-400 million, as communicated by the Israel Ministry of Regional Cooperation. While the World Bank will support the project with a cash injection, millions of dollars will be raised from donor countries and philanthropic sources.

Approximately, 80 million cubic meters will be desalinated at a facility to be built in Aqaba, Jordan on the Red Sea which will produce about 100 million cubic meters of drinking water. The Arava region and Eilat will receive 30-50 million cubic meters of water, while Jordan will receive 30 million cubic meters of water for use in its southern regions. In addition, Israel will sell Jordan another 50 million cubic meters of water from the Kinneret for use in the north. The project will cover Jordan’s need for drinking water for about a decade. About 30 million cubic meters of water from the Kinneret will be pumped for the Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria.

“This is a historic agreement that realizes a dream of many years and the dream of Herzl. The agreement is of the highest diplomatic, economic, environmental and strategic importance,” said the Minister of Regional Cooperation and Infrastructure, Silvan Shalom. “I am pleased that an investment of years has reached its hoped-for conclusion and will benefit Israel and the residents of the region as a whole,” he added.

Jordanian Water Minister Hazem Nasser spoke about the humanitarian aspects of the project: “This is an agreement with a humanitarian aspect, designed to aid those who need water. There is an ecological aspect as well since we are trying to save the Dead Sea.”

The head of the Palestinian Water Authority, Shaddad Attili stressed that in spite of the conflict, “the agreement is unrelated to the Oslo Accords. The beauty is that this is a regional deal and it is important to everyone to save the Dead Sea. Despite political issues and the conflict, we proved that we can all work together.”

Environmentalists are not happy with the decision, with many highly concerned about the environmental consequences. Some are warning that mixing Red Sea and Dead Sea waters could upset the unique chemistry of the Dead Sea and the ecosystem, while discoloring the Dead Sea’s famous blue waters. Other concerns highlight damage to coral reefs in the Red Sea as well as contamination to the underground water of Israel’s Arava desert.

 Anav Silverman writes for Tazpit News Agency.

The Snow & Ice Management Association’s Ice Storm Survival Tips

With a dangerous ice and snowstorm moving toward Baltimore, here are five tips on how to survive an ice event from the Snow & Ice Management Association.

>>TIP #1: Wear proper footwear. Proper footwear should place the entire foot on the surface of the ground and have visible treads. Avoid a smooth sole and opt for a heavy treaded shoe with a flat bottom.

>>TIP #2: Anticipate the ice. Be weary of thin sheets of ice that may appear as wet pavement (black ice). Often ice will appear in the morning, in shady spots or where the sun shines during the day and melted snow refreezes at night.

>>TIP #3: Plan ahead. While walking on ice-y sidewalks or in parking lots, walk consciously. Instead of looking down, look up and see where your feet will move next to anticipate ice or an uneven surface. Occasionally scan from left to right to ensure you are not in the way of vehicles or other hazards. When stepping off a curb, using steps, or getting into a car, be careful since shifting your weight may cause an imbalance and result in a fall.

>>TIP #4: Avoid taking shortcuts. Shortcuts are a good idea if you are in a hurry, but may be a bad idea if there is ice on the ground. A shortcut path, such as walking across a median in a parking lot, may be treacherous because it is likely to be located where snow and ice removal is not possible.

>>TIP #5: Stay home and be safe. During an ice event, spend some quality time at home. Forget spring-cleaning, now is a great time to tackle your basement, your office or a storage closet. Turn off your electronics–yes that includes your phone– and play a board or card game with your family. Take a book from your bookshelf–you know the one that you’ve been meaning to read and read it. Or have your family take turns reading a book out loud discussing it as you read.



The Associated Raises More Than $1.2 Million On #GivingTuesday

Baltimore residents stepped up this #GivingTuesday and showed their support of the Jewish community. At the conclusion of this national day of giving, The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore raised $1.264 million dollars, surpassing last year’s #GivingTuesday total of $1 million, the most raised by any nonprofit in the nation.

The money raised will go toward The Associated’s Annual Campaign, which strengthens Jewish life in Baltimore, Israel and around the world.

“We are so pleased with how the entire Baltimore community has responded to Giving Tuesday,” said Marc B. Terrill, president of The Associated. “The past two years have been a testament to the kindness and generosity that Baltimoreans continue to exhibit. We are excited by the conversations we had with our donors and constituents about the importance of both giving back and making a positive difference in the community where we live.”

The money was raised through an old-fashioned “phone-a-thon,” where hundreds of volunteers committed part of their day to call on donors.

As part of the #GivingTuesday initiative, The Associated joined ‘Bmore Gives More’, a city-wide effort to make Baltimore the most generous city in the nation. Spearheaded by GiveCorps, which provides fundraising software and expertise to nonprofits, the stakeholders, which also included Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake, raised more than $5 million. The effort was recognized by Henry Timms, founder of #GivingTuesday.

Now in its second year, #GivingTuesday was established by New York’s 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation as a way to create a national day of giving on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving. The goal is to make this effort part of the national consciousness, following the retail “holidays” of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Researchers in Jerusalem discover a building dating back to the Hasmonean period.

For the First Time: A Hasmonean Building Uncovered In The City Of David

In recent months, remains of an impressive structure from the Hasmonean period (second century BCE) have been unearthed in excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority in the Giv‘ati site, located in the City of David near the walls surrounding the Old City. Josephus wrote about Hasmonean Jerusalem, but it is only now that remains of a building are being exposed from this period of the city’s history

Researchers in Jerusalem discover a building dating back to the Hasmonean period.

Researchers in Jerusalem discover a building dating back to the Hasmonean period.

The building stands 13 feet high and covers an area of 689 square feet. The building’s broad walls, more than 3.3 feet thick, are made of roughly hewn limestone blocks that were arranged as headers and stretchers, a construction method characteristic of the Hasmonean period.

Although numerous pottery vessels were discovered inside the building, it was mainly the coins that surprised the researchers. The dating of these coins indicate that the structure was erected in the early second century BCE and continued to be in use into the Hasmonean period, during which significant changes were made inside the building.

Dr. Doron Ben Ami and Yana Tchekhanovets, the excavation directors on behalf to the Israel Antiquities Authority, stated that: “The importance of this discovery is primarily because of the conspicuous paucity of buildings from the Hasmonean city of Jerusalem in archaeological research, despite the many excavations that have been conducted to date. Apart from several remains of the city’s fortifications that were discovered in different parts of Jerusalem, as well as pottery and other small finds, none of the Hasmonean city’s buildings have been uncovered so far, and this discovery bridges a certain gap in Jerusalem’s historical sequence. The Hasmonean city, which is well-known to us from the historical descriptions that appear in the works of Josephus, has suddenly acquired tangible expression.”

Aryeh Savir writes for Tazpit News Agency.