a different side of Israel

Tag: environment

Settlers Clashing With Police and Friendly Farming in the Jordan Valley

Police Commissioner, Dudi Cohen, determined that defense forces acted appropriately during the Havat Gilad incident last week, when 15 Jewish settlers were injured when a Civil Administration team showed up at the illegal outpost with police forces, to demolish the newly built structures. A clash ensued in which settlers threw rocks at the forces and the police were forced to shoot plastic bullets. Eight activists were brought into police custody.

west bank sustainable farmAnd on a more positive note, to the side of the Jordan Valley road, greenhouses and long palm trees ornament the vista, demonstrating the economic cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians.

Amid al-Masri, an agricultural landowner in the Jordan Valley said:

“Cooperation between us and Israel began at the end of the second intifada because we had much to learn from you…We cooperate with many Israeli companies on issues like de-infestation, irrigation and seedlings.”

A foreman at one of the Palestinian Authority’s foremost agricultural companies, Omad Hossam a-Zorbe, said:

“This project is funded by USAID and we now have 200 dunams (49.4 acres) of greenhouses. Most of the produce is for export, and whatever is left gets sent to the local market.”

Palestinian farmers are exporting their produce to countries with which they have trade agreements, through Israeli companies. Palestinians farmers also export produce from the Valley to Israeli farmers, bypassing the boycott of myriad European countries and economic bodies.

The Civil Administration is the organization supervising the cooperation; and is also responsible for instructing farmers and making sure they meet tough Israeli health standards.

An officer at the Civil Administration’s agriculture section, Samir Muaddi, said:

“We’re working with farmers and the Palestinian agriculture ministry to help them market their produce in Israel and make sure that the product we get is of a certain quality…Palestinians take part in seminars on modern agriculture and are exposed to Israeli and international innovations through the administration.”

Mazen Snokrut, the one-time Palestinian Economy Minister and now packing-house owner praised the project:

“This project is the best example of a win-win situation,” “This is an Israeli-Palestinian connection that has created trust between the two sides. We are working with no enemies here. We have joint creation with many companies from the Israeli economy – we buy their technology and seedlings and through them export to Europe and the US and even have Israeli agronomists here.”

It Is Time to Stop the Sun Like In the Days of Joshua

The Israeli solar energy industry is blaming government bureaucracy for its sluggish progress.

The Arab oil nations of the world have geopolitically isolated the Jewish Country since its founding.

This is not news.

So, in the green era that we are living in, it is not that Israel’s unpopularity in the Arab world does not provide an energy incentive. It does. What’s the hold-up?

The location of the country, so near to the equator, leaves us to question why we seem to be straddling behind everyone else in solar energy usage and development.

While not necessarily strapped for natural gas, solar water heaters on homes and buildings account for roughly 3% of Israel’s energy demands. That’s just not enough if we are in a race with North America and Europe (and not enough to bring down the formidable gas price).

“Solar for Israel is a survival tactic,”

Claims Karin Kloosterman of Green Prophet, but

“Consumers don’t have the confidence to buy into the idea. I’ve read reports that the Israeli government is trying to back pedal on their commitments and I’m not surprised. Bureaucracy in Israel is a nightmare.”

Rigid disjointedness at the PUA (Public Utilities Authority) is reportedly injuring small Israeli firms: Solar power vendors in Israel still need foreign partners for most bank loans and the PUA still demands opinions of “international consultants” for much of the product development process.

Israeli firm, SBY Solutions is threatening to sue the state because the PUA eliminated a requirement that developers of high-voltage solar installations perform overseas projects at first, to obtain licensing. SBY Solutions is currently working on solar projects in Eastern Europe.

According to Neal Ungerleider of Fast Company, Israeli companies catering to small customers are having better luck. MCO Industries signed a $50m deal with the Texas-based Sun Freedom, selling them solar water heaters at $800 a pop. Negev-based, Friendly Energy signed a $23.8m deal to develop photovoltaic panels for an industrial solar farm in Italy.

As far as domestic deals go, last month, the government gave permission to The Clean Wind Farm company to erect 80 large 2.5 megawatt wind turbines. However, some are skeptical that the Jewish Country does not have sufficient wind speeds to “sustain a robust wind power industry.”

Israel’s goal is to generate 10% of electricity from renewable sources by the year 2020. Doubtless, the goal is within-reach, but will it be enough?

Building Rawabi

Israel’s environment minister – supporter of Jewish settlements in Samaria – Gilad Erdan told Israel’s army radio it was “a mistake” for Israel to allow the Palestinians to build a city called Rawabi, north of Ramallah for “green” concerns.

And no – that is not envy.

The Palestinians, according to Erdan, have no proper plans for managing sewage or other waste generated from the city, that will house some 40,000 people at a cost of $700m.

Bashar al-Masri, head of the Bayti Real Estate Investment Co, that is jointly running the Rawabi project, said that AFP US-funded plans for a sewage and waste water treatment plant were well under way – to the contrary of Erdan’s accusations.

“The environment is very important to us and we are coordinating with the Americans over the sewage issue,”

He said, adding specifically that three US companies were competing over a contract for a waste water treatment plant serving Rawabi and the surrounding villages.

“Rawabi is well planned and we are ready for any investigation into what we do.”

Erdan said,

“At a political level, I don’t like the idea (that they are building) in territories over which there is a dispute about ownership and sovereignty,”

Continuing that

“on one hand, they are building thousands of housing units, while on the other side, every stone that is moved creates a scandal.”

“But let’s put that to one side,”

Erdan said, attempting not to mix politics with environmental issues,

“I have turned to the defense minister (Ehud Barak) and the civil administration and said: ‘OK, this train has already got under way, and this city will be built but let’s demand at the very least that it doesn’t damage the environment…”.

The civil administration is a military body of the Jewish country which runs civilian affairs in Samaria.

While Rawabi is being built in Area A, which is governed by the Palestinian Authority, the roads joining it to Ramallah and the surrounding area run through Area C, which is under complete Israeli military control.

Work on the project began in January and is being carried out by the Bayti Real Estate Investment Company and Qatar’s Diar Real Estate Company.

Israel’s Green Business Tycoon

Shari Arison
Mazal Tov to Shari Arison! Forbes recently unveiled a list of the “Top 10 Greenest Billionaires.” The Israeli heiress to the Carnival Cruise Line was included.

For Arison, profits and environmental sustainability are not opposing forces at all. Being environmentally friendly actually has increased her companies’ success.

In an interview with BusinessWeek she said,

“Sustainability is the key to our survival on this planet and will also determine success on all levels.”

Arison’s net worth is 3.4 billion dollars thanks to her lucrative companies such as Miya, a water company based on technology which eliminates water loss in transit.

While her father, from whom she inherited Carnival Cruise, was still living, the now 52-year-old tycoon did her best to stay out of the limelight. When she inherited a large chunk of the company in the late 90’s all of this changed.

Ms. Arison chose to focus her attention on the two largest assets in the estate: Bank Hapoalim, which is now Israel’s second-largest financial institution; and Housing & Construction Holding, the Jewish Country’s biggest construction firm.

Last year, Arison published a book in Israel in which she talks about her spiritual journey and lays out a vision for how to save the planet.

Now the english translation of her book, When the Spiritual and the Material Come Together, has been released in the U.S.

Arison holds that it is possible for businesses to succeed while benefitting their natural surroundings; and economies can thrive if they would only take the environment into consideration.

Arison has sold off her personal jet and yacht, switched to a hybrid automobile, and she even ordered a retrofit of her home to make it more environmentally friendly.

About her company, Housing & Construction she says:

“Within five years it will be a 100%-green company.”

The construction giant is taking steps in this direction by planning and building Israel’s first “green” neighborhoods in Kfar Saba and Netanya, and a huge shopping mall in Beer Sheva which takes into account the city’s desert conditions.

Her start-up, the Luxembourg based Miya, which she launched in 2006 is underwritten with $100 million of her own money. This is a consulting and audit company which advises municipal water utilities on how to reduce leakage from underground pipes.

Israel Grants Its First Ever ‘Green Campus Award’

Sami Shamoon College of Engineering was selected from over 60 colleges and universities in Israel to be granted the Green Campus Award by Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Protection.

Dr. Adi Wolfson, a member of Shamoon’s Green Processes Center in Beer Sheva, explained that the Green Campus Award judging committee looked at numerous markers to determine the prize, including courses offered, on-going projects for the campus and the surrounding community, and the commitment of students, professors and administration staff to environmental issues.

The Israel Ministry of Environmental Protection will formally present the award to Shamoon College this November at a national environmental conference.

The Ministry has also tapped Shamoon to be the model Green Campus, sending a presentation about Shamoon’s environmental activities to every campus in Israel.

According to Wolfson, Shamoon is the only Israeli college to offer courses in Green Engineering, which cover sustainability, green energy, green buildings and green architecture. Wolfson commented, “Our hope is that, along with the knowledge the students gain, will come a feeling of obligation to deal with environmental issues, both as students and in their future professional lives.”

With campuses in Beer Sheva and Ashdod, Shamoon College has extensive outreach initiatives to train parents, primary school students and teachers, and army officers about the importance of protecting the environment. The local towns benefit as well — non-Shamoon students can take a Shamoon course called “Chemistry and the Environment”, and college students lead environmental activities for the community and for grade schools in Beer Sheva and local Bedouin villages.

In addition to being the model Green Campus, Shamoon College of Engineering plays a unique role in Israel’s development. Shamoon recruits, produces and retains the brain trust in Israel’s southern region, which helps spur the area’s economic growth.

Recognizing Shamoon’s uncompromised academic excellence, Israel’s Council for Higher Education selected Shamoon to be the first and only college to open a second campus, in the port city of Ashdod.

Eighty percent of Shamoon students hail from Israel’s south, fulfilling the government mandate to make higher education more accessible to people living on the periphery. “We reach out to young adults who lack the typical opportunities,” Prof. Jehuda Haddad, Shamoon College President said. “We give them a vision – that of becoming professional engineers – to make better lives for themselves, and for all who live in Israel’s south. Then we give them a chance to realize that vision.”

Shamoon’s graduates are helping fill the shortage of engineers in Israel, especially in the southern region. Approximately 77% of Shamoon graduates stay in south Israel, employed at companies such as Intel, Amdocs, El-Op, Dead Sea Works (DSW), and Bromine Compounds.

The College’s architecture embodies its philosophy of innovation, aspiration and outreach. Designed by internationally acclaimed architect Haim Dotan, the famous “spaceship” building stands on the main street of Aleph, Beer Sheva’s oldest neighborhood. “This juxtaposition is symbolic of Shamoon College providing a bridge from the hardships of the past to the promise of the future,” commented Joshua Karlin, Executive Vice President of American Friends of Sami Shamoon College of Engineering.

For more information, contact Dahlia Greer, 310-339-1060, or Annabelle Stevens, 310-435-6996,

“Love Boats” or Garbage Barges? Cruise Ships One of the Earth’s Greatest Polluters

With the summer holiday season upon us, many people go on vacations abroad, including cruises on the Mediterranean, Caribbean, and other bodies of water popular with vacationing tourists. Enjoyable to say the least, these ships offer literally every amenity one can think of, including sports, mini shopping malls, dusk to dawn banquets and entertainment, like casinos. Most people booking tours on these ‘love boats’ fail to realize something that many environmentalists have been concerned about for years: that is, these floating ‘pleasure barges’ are one of the world’s worst maritime polluters. The amount of raw or partially treated sewage expelled, as well as garbage, and just things thrown overboard by passengers is mind boggling; causing severe and often non-repairable damage to the sea’s delicate aquatic infrastructure.

Many people still point fingers at the huge oil supertankers for being the bad guys as far as messing up the world’s seas and oceans. This is true up to a point, as the environmental damage caused by oil spills from a tanker colliding with another vessel, or running aground on submerged rock formations, can take years or even generations to repair (the Exxon Valdez incident off Alaska in the 1980’s is a good example). Cruise ships, which range from smaller ‘island hoppers’ carrying up to 400 people to giant mega vessels like the Queen Elizabeth II (a new version of which has a complete shopping mall inside), will make their ‘contribution’ to world maritime pollution this year as they have in the past. If you calculate the number of sailings against the number of passengers on board, by the end of the summer cruise season, it’s as if a city the size of Rome Italy or Philadelphia Pa dumped all their sewage and garbage into Davy Jones’ Locker. Compounded year after year, one can see the immense environmental problem this creates!

The Mediterranean Sea, one of most popular bodies of water for maritime cruises, is suffering from this problem more than any other body of water. The main reason: except for a very narrow outlet at the Straits of Gibraltar, this body of water is actually a large salt water lake! And what gets dumped into it stays in it, without a constant flow of large underwater sea currents to spread the rubbish around. This damage, combined with wholesale dumping of all kind of personal and industrial waste by literally all countries that have sea coasts on it, is spelling eventual disaster to a body of water that is as historic as Modern Man himself. Israel unfortunately contributes a good deal of marine pollutants from both industry and humans. We also ‘receive’ back a lot of this waste on our beaches, some of which originated on these cruise ships. At the moment, there doesn’t appear to be any kind of enforceable maritime laws to make cruise ship companies clean up their act. They will simply continue to dump their wastes into the briny deep until enough people decide that enough is enough and either these companies find a cleaner solution to their waste problems, or face being ‘dry docked’ and not allowed to sail.

Israel and other Mediterranean countries may someday need to extract a good portion of their drinking water from the sea via desalinization plants. What should concern us all is whether the pollution factor can be dealt with as well. And rubbish from all these cruise ships is simply not helping solve the Sea’s pollution problem.

Netanya’s Disappearing Natural Habitat

The city of Netanya, like many of Israel’s central population centers, has experienced a sharp increase in residential and commercial building during the past decade. With a population now surpassing the 150,000 mark, partially due to the influx of new Olim (immigrants) from the former Soviet Union during the early to mid 1990’s, this coastal city is experiencing a building boom that is very much evident in many areas including Ramat Poleg.
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Sewer water in the taps

This is an interesting one. An article in “Yediot Ahronot” today was about a report by the Environmental Protection Office in Israel, warning of a potential health hazard brought about as a result of the collapse of water purification plants in several local municipalities.

The report warns that a significant number of water purification plants are on the verge of shut down and that 10 of them have already stopped operating. The reason, local municipalities are not transferring the necessary funds for the operation and maintenance of these facilities, as required by law.
The result is that sewer water is being recycled back into the drinking water reserves and finally the taps at home. Yummy !

Dr. Yael Mason of the Environmental Protection Office claims “an ecological disaster may occur as a result of the flow of millions of cubic meters of sewer water into the Kineret (sea of Galilee) and sources of the Yarkon, potentially causing the pollution of drinking and fresh water sources”.

The report mentions 10 water purification plants that are collapsing or have collapsed due to unpaid financial obligations by the local municipalities.

The ministry of the Interior responded yesterday by saying that based under legal advisement, the ministry can’t force local municipalities to pay their debt to purification plants by holding back their budgets. The Environmental Protection Office can sue and fine the local municipalities that will cause them to improve their payment and fiscal responsibility.

Interesting….you would think that if the local municipalities had any fiscal responsibility to begin with the water purification plants would still be working. Suing the municipalities sounds expensive; I guess there goes the budget of the Environmental Protection Office.

Original article written by Nurit Palter for “Yediot Ahronot”.

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