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The Jewish Report Editorial

The many inventions of war



War brings out the best and worst in humanity. And we are certainly living through a world war against a virus. The battlefield is different, the enemy is invisible, but humans are all on the same side in this conflict. That’s in spite of some differing views on how we fight the enemy.

One of the incredible things about the worst kinds of wars is the amazing invention and innovation that stems from these awful times.

I couldn’t help wondering about this when reading about the so-called “miracle drug” Israeli scientists have come up with, and listening to talk about other potential medication that might help against COVID-19.

It also struck me that in one year, there have been so many vaccines created against COVID-19, each of them different, but all said to be effective.

Then I thought about Ivermectin, which isn’t a new drug, but something used to treat parasitic infestations. Somewhere along the line, as medical experts got more and more desperate to save lives and protect people from this coronavirus, they found that Ivermectin might be helpful. In fact, there are some who swear it could be much more than that. Read our story on page 3.

Then, there is much talk about this new drug in Israel that has successfully passed its first clinical trial.

The EXO-CD24 inhaler treatment, developed by Professor Nadir Arber at the Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, was tested on 30 patients with moderate to severe conditions. They all recovered, 29 of them within just three to five days.

This drug was initially formulated to treat cancer patients, and is meant to prevent a cytokine storm (when the body starts to attack its own cells). This reaction appears to happen in severe COVID-19 cases when patients develop acute respiratory distress syndrome.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis this week asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu if his country could participate in clinical trials of the drug. But, the truth is that it’s a long way from being proven to be a miracle drug, in spite of Netanyahu dubbing it so.

However, this is just further evidence of the amazing innovation people come up with in a war. In other words, in times of need, people do phenomenal things. Or, necessity is the mother of invention.

Have you noticed those foot sanitiser pumps at the entrance to almost every shop, building, or office block? That certainly wasn’t around before COVID-19.

While inventions abound around the world, Africa has its fair share.

Students from a school in Senegal built a robot to lower the risk of passing COVID-19 between patients and caregivers. The robot is remote controlled via an app. It’s able to move around the rooms of quarantined patients, take their temperatures, and bring them medicine and food.

This is just one of many inventions, most of which we will find out about only long after the pandemic is over. It often seems to happen that the inventions created in wartime don’t see the light of day for many years.

During World War I, a material that was five times more absorbent than cotton was used for surgical dressing for the first time. Red Cross nurses saw its benefit for their own personal hygiene, and the sanitary towel was created. Once the war was over, there was no need for it as a surgical dressing, but its second use took off, and women have been using them ever since.

Tissues, sun lamps, wristwatches, stainless steel, and zips were also just some of the inventions that date back to World War I. So, too, do vegetarian sausages and tea bags.

A tea merchant started sending tea in small bags to his customers during the war. It’s not known if it was on purpose or by accident that one of these bags landed up in water, but it resulted in what we now know as tea bags.

As for soya sausages, they are attributed to an invention by Konrad Adenauer, who was the mayor of Cologne (Germany) during the war, and later became the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1949. He researched ways of substituting scarce food items, like meat, with other ingredients, eventually resulting in these sausages.

World War II gave birth to the ballpoint pen, radars, photocopying, jet engines, penicillin, satellites, superglue, and freeze dry coffee. Each has its own story.

My point is that as we are witnessing the scramble to find solutions to stemming COVID-19 and the crises created by the pandemic, we see people creating marvellous products.

Zoom – which has become our most common form of online communication since the beginning of the pandemic – wasn’t the result of the pandemic. It was invented before, but found its footing at the beginning of the pandemic.

However, I’m sure there have been many other more innovative variations on it since the beginning of this war. These will probably lead to some phenomena down the line that will take our technological prowess many steps further. We will then look back at the amazing inventions from this time.

I’m sure those who have challenged themselves on the medical and scientific frontier, which is the frontier of this particular world war, are coming up with much more than just vaccines.

For all we know, someone may have stumbled onto the prevention of the common cold and flu while trying to find a cure for COVID-19, or a way of preventing malaria or tuberculosis.

We will find out down the line…

I know every week, we record history, but this week is special. Being able to capture a photograph of the first Jewish person to get vaccinated in South Africa is an astonishing coup for us. Down the line, people will always be able to see this history in the making. Dr Darren Joseph will go down in our history as being the first person in our community to get the vaccine and we have the visual proof.

Shabbat Shalom!

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