Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Good News from Israel

It's exciting to note all the buzz and activity in Israel around sustainable, renewable energy. Israel is positioning itself as a high-tech center for all things solar, water conserving, energy efficient, and post-petroleum. As I like to say, Israel's main natural resources are sun and engineer/entrepreneurs. They don't have oil to rely on, though they do say if Moses had turned right instead of left, the history of the world would look very different.
News about Shai Agassi's electric car initiative has been heard 'round the world, most recently reported on by Thomas Friedman. Micro-irrigation is an Israeli invention grown into an industry, exported around the world. Indeed, with the run-up in food prices, microirrigation is one of the technologies referenced to improve developing countries' food yields, and increasing food yields means increasing incomes for the world's hardworking subsistence farmers and their families. Microloans are extended for drip irrigation.
One of the most interesting projects I've learned about is through the Arava Institute, known to many COEJL supporters through its relationship with Hazon. The Arava is located at Kibbutz Ketura and trains young environmental professionals from many different countries - their education involves not only the technical aspects of ecology and planning, but coexistence, since many of them hail from countries with cold or non-existent relations with Israel. I learned much about its marvelous work when I cheered my husband David on the 2007 Hazon/Arava bike ride in Israel. Two Arava alumni, Illana Meallum and Mazen Zuabi, are working together on designing a biodigester which will create biofuel out of "biomass" which, in the case of Israeli Bedouin villages, equals raw sewage. Because Bedouins live in unincorporated villages, they have no formal plumbing infrastructure - so this technology, replicable once it's refined, will be a win-win: cleaning up sewage and creating a renewable source of fuel.
The list goes on and on, but the basic point is inspiring: Israel is indeed providing sustainably powered Light unto the Nations!

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