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PAGE 16A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, DECEMBER 18, 2015 J By Abigail Klein Leichman ISRAELI21c--They may not look like lunch to you, but to many people around the world, grasshoppers add a high-protein, low-fat crunch to their diet. And in true Israeli startup tradition, the Israeli com- pany Steak TzarTzar has innovated a way to lengthen the normally short breeding season of edible grasshop- pers by leaps and bounds. As a result, this costly and scarce source of nutritionwill be more widely available, all year long. It's no joke: Chockfull of whole protein, vitamins and healthful fatty acids, with no cholesterol or saturated fat, grasshoppers could be one answer to the chronic malnutrition affecting ap- proximately 805 million people, according to the United Nations. This is a serious social business opportunity. Steak TzarTzar was a finalist in the 2015 Social Innovation and Global Ethics Forum competition in Geneva, and is one of 24 food startups nominated for the second annual Food+City Food Chal- lenge Prize to be awarded in Texas in February 2016. Nevertheless, cofounders Dror Tamir, Ben Friedman and Chanan Aviv know that eating grasshoppers sounds funny to Western ears, so they play up the humorous aspect of their business to make it more palatable. The name of the company com- bines the cute Hebrew word for "cricket" combined with "steak," a word that makes many a Western mouth water. One way to get around the "yuck factor" will be using Steak TzarTzar grasshoppers as a basis for protein powders, a multibillion-dollar market. "There is a lot of interest from leading retailers such as Whole Foods," Tamir tells ISRAEL21c. Many other populations don't need convincing. In Uganda and some other Afri- can countries, grasshoppers (called nsenene) are con- sidered a national food. "An African will take a full fistful at a time, scooping them up the way Israelis scoop hum- mus with pita," says Tamir of his observations at Steak TzarTzar tasting events. "Even in Japan you can find imported grasshoppers in supermarkets, cooked in sauce," he adds. "There's also a huge industry of desserts from insects." Jumping into the food market Steak TzarTzar was found- ed about two years ago, but stayed under the radar until the Israel Export Institute in- vited the company to present to a group of foreign reporters last spring. The NutraIngre- dients reporter in attendance wrote afeature about Steak TzarTzar that led to more than 80 articles worldwide in many languages, plus radio, TV and speaking gigs. "At an event for Austra- lian young industrialists visiting Israel recently, each speaker before me talked abou.t the startup nation and high-tech, cyber--the usual buzzwords," relates Tamir. "When it was my turn, I said we have a lot of innovations in low-tech as well, and we're not ashamed of them." Still, there is a lot of research and development behind Steak TzarTzar. Tamir, an accountant- turned-entrepreneur, first parlayed his concerns about childhood obesity and nutri- tion into PlateMyMeal, a set of sectioned children's plates imprinted with dietary guide- lines to help parents serve the right foods in the right amounts. "I got so many reactions from all over the world about PlateMyMeal that I started reading more about nutrition and learned how a lack of protein in children's and young women's diets in Africa affects their growth, brain and immune system. Ben Friedman and I explored alternative proteins and stumbled across insects," says Tamir. "Grasshoppers have the greatest potential because they are the most edible in- sect around the world. About 1 billion people consume them, but they're considered a delicacy and there are no commercial grasshopper farmers, so 90 percent of edible grasshoppers are har- vested in the wild during a very limited season." Insect magician If they could grow the creatures continuously, they would have no competition for 11 months of the year and stood to make a tidy profit. "We found ChananAviv, an insect magician who knows how to 'talk' to small crea- tures," says Tamir. Aviv developed a method for breeding grasshoppers all year and helping them hatch in 11 to 14 days rather than in nine months as they do in the wild. He also optimized Guess what's hopping for lunch? the growth cycle and feeding materials to reduce cost. "Grasshoppers are picky herbivores, which is what gives them their excellent nutritional profile," Tamir ex- plains. The company's advis- ers include world-renowned entomologist Yael Heifetz from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Steak TzarTzar is now starting to commercialize, having closed its research farm near the Sea of Galilee and upscaling its produc- tion farm in Tnuvot, also in the Galilee. Experts from Polyam Pollination Services at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai are helping the company develop industrial-scale grasshopper farms. Naor Friedman "We already have pre- orders from all over the world, from retailers and dis- tributors in places we never thought of," says Tamir. "In addition, many universi- ties in Israel and around the world are interested in buying our grasshoppers to research their nutritional content." One of the two species sold by Steak TzarTzar will carry kosher certification. "This is an amazing op- portunity, but we need to scale up in order to increase capacity all over Israel," says Tamir. "A lot of farmers are interested in having us use their facilities. First we need to educate everyone and tell the story," By Sean Savage JNS.org In recent years, the so- called "Arab Spring" upris- ings, the Syrian civil war, and the growth of jihadist terror groups like Islamic State have countered the perception that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the root cause of instability in the Middle East. Adding to the mix, mutual concern over the Iran nuclear deal and declining American leadership in the region has made ties between Israel and some Arab states warmer than ever before. In line with this narrative, Israel recently announced that it is opening its first- ever diplomatic office in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Is the opening of the diplo- matic mission in Abu Dhabi a major breakthrough in Israeli relations with the Arab world? Or will long-held Arab beliefs about the Palestinian issue still put a damper on Israeli-Arab relations, despite the common threats and challenges? The Israeli office will not constitute formal diplomatic representation to the UAE, but instead to the United Nations International Renewable En- ergy Agency (IRENA), which has its headquarters in the Gulf state. Dore Gold, director-general of the Israeli Foreign Min- istry, visited Abu Dhabi in late November to discuss the future activities of the office and to finalize the opening of the mission, including meetingwith IRENADirector- General.Adnan Amin, Haaretz reported. The opening of the mis- sion follows a several-year process by Israel to establish Custom Pnnt Marketing lnv~ ~ ~ts Digital & C)l~et Printing Brochures ~- Booklets Direct Mail Services Forms & Letterheads Envelopes 407-767-7110 '-~ ~:~!:ii i~:i:!=~::':'- " 205 Nor S eet- FL 32750 Mention This Ad and Receive 18% a presence in the UAE. In 2009, Israel supported the UAE's bid to host the head- quarters of IRENA with the understanding that it would eventually allow Israel to have a diplomatic presence in the Gulf state. In 2010, Uzi Lan- dau, then Israel's minister for infrastructure, participated in an IRENA conference in Abu Dhabi, marking the first time an Israeli cabinet minister had visited the UAE. Shortly after the visit, the assassination of a Hamas ter- rorist leader in Dubai, which the UAE blamed on Israel, set back the process. But in 2014, Israeli infrastructure minister Silvan Shalom gave a speech at the IRENA conference in Abu Dhabi. Israel will now be the only country in the 145-member IRENA to have its diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi accredited solely to IRENA. Israel does have a history of diplomatic relations in the Arab Gulf states. During the 1990s, in the wake of the Oslo Accords, Israel established trade offices in Oman and Qa- tar. While those offices were eventually shuttered, Israeli diplomats still maintained low-level contacts within those countries, while it has long been believed that the Mossad spy agency maintains secret contacts elsewhere in the Arab world. The opening of the mis- sion may also mean that the leaders of the Gulf states view the Palestinian issue as less important than in the past, especially considering the large number of geopolitical challenges they face. The decline in oil prices, coupled with a U.S. retreat from the region and the threat of Iran and terror groups like Islamic State, may have changed the calculus of Arab Gulf leaders. "It is an indication that the Palestinian issue is not predominant in Gulf assess- ments-although it is still im- portant for Gulf populations," Simon Henderson--director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank--told JNS.org. Henderson described the opening of Israel's Abu Dhabi office as "not major but significant, and more signifi- cant than is being generally reported." A report by Sky News in Oc- tober suggested that Bahrain and other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are in negotiations to buy the Israeli-developed Iron Dome anti-missile system to defend against "a growing arsenal of Iranian missiles." "The Israelis have their small Iron Dome. We'll have a much bigger one in the GCC," Khalid bin Mohammed al Khalifa, Bahrain's foreign minister, said during a visit to London in October. Israeli Prime Minister Ben- jamin Netanyahu has made no secret of Israel's desire to work more closely with Sunni Arab states like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the UAE. Israel currently works very closely with both Egypt and Jordan--the only two Arab states who have peace treaties with the Jewish state--on military and security matters as well as economic issues. At the same time, Saudi Arabia has long promoted the Arab Peace Initiative, which was first proposed in 2002, as a means to normalize relations between the entire Arab world and Israel in exchange for Israel's complete withdrawal back to its pre-1967 lines. Over the past several years, there have been numerous reports of Israel cooperating with Saudi Arabia on the Iran nuclear threat, including reports that Israeli aircraft could use Saudi airspace to launch attacks on Iran's nuclear program. "Israel is working closely with our Arab peace partners to address our common secu- rity challenges from Iran and also the security challenges from ISIS and from others," Netanyahu said in his address to the United Nations General Assembly in late September. "Common dangers are clearly bringing Israel and its Arab neighbors closer," Netanyahu added. At the same time, during an event at the Council on Foreign Relations think tank, Dore Gold--who had not yet been tapped as director of the Israeli ForeignMinistry--and Anwar Eshki, a former Saudi general and ambassador to the U.S., revealed that they had been covertly conducting dip- lomatic talks to discuss Iran over a series of five meetings since 2014. Some Israeli analysts have argued that the geopoliti- ca~ situation is shaping up in Israel's favor from the perspective of relations with Arab states. "Due to America's gradual withdrawal from its obliga- tions in the region, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and the UAE now need Israel at least as much, if not more, than Israel needs them," Haaretz columnist Israel Harel re- cently wrote. "Israel's interests in the region are not dependent on energy sources or on exploit- ing competition between the superpowers. They are existential and immutable," he added. "Israel will be a loyal ally to those countries who need it." Yet the relationship be- tween Israel and Arab states, including the UAE, will likely still be limited in the near future by concerns about Is- rael among the Arab nations' populations. "Ordinary people in the Gulf would disapprove [of relations with Israel] and the Gulf leaderships cannot ignore local thinking," the Washington Institute's Hen- derson told JNS.org. But Henderson believes that going forward, what might help Israeli-Arab ties would be a gesture along the lines of former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat's visit to Jerusalem, which later led to the Camp David Accords and the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace treaty. "Perhaps a visit by a significant figure, either to Israel, or an Israeli to the Gulf," said Henderson, could help bring relations to the next level.