One of the most dangerous creatures in the world is one of the smallest – the mosquito. Coming to the rescue is one of the smallest counties in the world – Israel.
By Kenneth Mokgatlhe
Who is not afraid of sharks but in 2019 they killed only two people, which is below the average of four. Yet malaria, carried by mosquitoes, kills more than 400,000 people per year, most of them babies and toddlers in sub-Saharan Africa. While much of the world is obsessed with the danger that which kills two a year, Israel, whose Jerusalem-based start-up, ZzappMalaria, aims to eliminate malaria – a mass killer – by applying Artificial Intelligence (AI). Towards this lifesaving goal – particularly for Africa where I am from – the company has grabbed the world’s biggest prize for innovation – the XPRIZE.
For those unfamiliar, XPRIZE is a non-profit organization whose mission is to bring about “radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity” through incentivized competition.
Developing a mobile app and dashboard to help eliminate Malaria, ZzappMalaria, won first place in the IBM Watson AI XPRIZECompetition, as well as the People’s Choice Award for the Most Inspiring Team. As part of the award, the company received a $3 million prize to continue its efforts to eliminate malaria from the world.
“The Zzapp team is deeply grateful to Xprize and IBM Watson for acknowledging the importance of the fight against malaria,” said Arnon Houri-Yafin, CEO and founder of ZzappMalaria. “We will dedicate the prize money to one ambitious goal: demonstrating that rapid malaria elimination is possible in Sub Saharan Africa.”
So how does it work? Zzapp uses AI to provide specific malaria-control strategies depending on the needs of each village or neighborhood. Then, it breaks down those strategies into clear and manageable tasks. Tasks are allocated to fieldworkers via its mobile app designed for local needs, such as battery consumption, internet access, and more. To date, the app has been tested in six African countries and has succeeded in increasing the effectiveness of operations designed to tackle Malaria.
Attracted by ZzappMalaria’s aim to eradicate malaria worldwide by developing a system to “plan, execute, and monitor large-scale and cost-affecting malaria elimination campaigns”, the 2016-founded company has won grants from the Gates Foundation and the Innovative Vector Control Consortium (IVCC) and has been conducting anti-malaria operations in Ghana, Zanzibar, Kenya, and Ethiopia.
“It is very gratifying to know that our technology is saving lives on a daily basis. In fact, our pilot product currently protects more than 300,000 people,” said Houri-Yafin. “ZzappMalaria’s app – which is GPS-based and works offline – is suited to work in the harshest conditions.”
“It simplifies our work considerably,” says Dr. Abebe Asale from the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, a research body in Ethiopia which specializes in malaria. “Despite the technology’s sophistication, the app and the dashboard are very intuitive and user-friendly. In an operation in the Amhara region in 2019, we located all of the water bodies, which is usually a great challenge. The technology saved us time and energy, and in prioritizing severely affected villages.”
Although malaria is not a major public health problem in South Africa as yet, the country needs to be better prepared in order to ensure that the disease does not burden our over-extended public health care sector. It can do so by adopting efficient measures such as the AI method developed by ZzappMalaria. The notion of “prevention is better than cure” should reign supreme in our heads to ensure that our public health is prepared.
About 10% of South Africa’s population (4.9 million) is at risk of contracting malaria, largely in the provinces of Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Kwazulu-Natal. This is a significant number that should be a concern to all of us in South Africa. Malaria is a curable and treatable disease as long as it is diagnosed as quickly as possible. However, it is fatal if not done so in the earlier stages. That is where this new app becomes so vital. So, while many countries of Africa are increasingly availing themselves of life-saving Israeli technology and expertise, South Africa should too for the health and future health of its people.
As the world is facing a life-threatening Covid-19 pandemic, we are able to see the importance of life-saving discoveries in reducing casualties. It is clear that failure to avail ourselves of new available technologies, the price to be paid would be higher than what we are paying presently
ZzappMalaria has inspired confidence in those who were in despair and had accepted malaria as part of their being. Now, thanks to this Israeli company, there is much greater hope that malaria would be eradicated in our lifetime.
About the writer:
Kenneth Mokgatlhe is a freelance writer and political commentator from Zeerust, North West Province, South Africa.
While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves. LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).
A peek into G-d’s ‘cook book’ for healthier living
By David E. Kaplan
When one thinks of ‘The Magnificent Seven’, one’s mind conjures up the immediate image of death and mayhem in a faceoff of firearms on an arid Mexican landscape. Its reference here is quite the opposite – about life’s longevity not its sudden end – more specifically – the seven culinary treasures from the bible that prescribe a healthy life.
On their long journey to the Holy Land, G-d promised the People of Israel “a land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig-trees and pomegranates; a land of olive-trees and honey (dates)” (Deuteronomy 8:8).
Commonly known as the ‘Seven Species’ (Shiv’at HaMinim), all have deservedly earned a mystical status amongst the Jewish People. Simply listed, they are:
wheat, barley, grape (wine), fig, pomegranates, olive (oil) and date (honey).
Kings and Priests (Cohanim) were anointed with holy olive oil, and the sanctification (the Kiddush) of the Shabbat (Sabbath) as well as of other Jewish holidays is conducted traditionally over a glass of wine. Throughout the centuries, special blessings (Berakhah) have been devoted to the ‘Seven Species’ which have appeared as symbols of prosperity, peace and wealth, and their images have decorated coins, stamps, state symbols and more.
While symbolically and religiously significant, it is their dietary and health value that is even more ‘illuminating’ today. After all, G-d promised:
“Thou shalt eat and be satisfied…”, and “… bless the LORD thy G-d for the good land which he hath given thee.” (Deuteronomy 8:10).
Is there any truth to the platitude, “we are what we eat’,” and hence worth being guided by the Lord’s cookbook?
Beyond their religiously symbolic value, is there any evidence that the ‘Seven Species’ from the bible are blessed with healthy attributes?
Studies have revealed that some of the ‘Seven Species’ carried unique health benefits for the Jews in the ancient land of Israel. Supported by medical findings, it is now established that these foods – when consumed in moderation – provide remedies no less beneficial for us in the modern era.
The bible speaks of grains, fruits and oil – all of which can be found in any modern food pyramid and are essential for a balanced and healthy diet.
Olive is all Heart
Olives – which are indigenous to the eastern Mediterranean Basin, played an important role in the daily diet of local residents from time immemorial. Olives were either consumed as pickled or as an oil extracted by a mechanical trapetum (ancient stone olive grinder).
While superior quality (‘pure’) olive oil was used by kings and priests for religious and civil ceremonies as well as for the lighting of the Menorah in the first and second Temples, from a dietary perspective, the high fat content of olives makes this fruit an important source of energy and it is assumed that olives and olive oil provided a significant portion of the daily caloric needs of the ancient Mediterranean population.
Much of the fats derived from olive oil are monounsaturated fats, which in contrast to polyunsaturated fats, carry only one double bond in their fatty acid chain, meaning they are less prone for peroxidation (an undesired process which in turn increases the risk for cardiovascular diseases).
Consumption of monounsaturated fats has been reported to lower the levels of the “bad” (low-density lipoprotein, LDL) cholesterol, and while still debated, monounsaturated fats may also increase the levels of the good” (high density lipoprotein, HDL) cholesterol. Both effects – decreasing of the ‘bad’ cholesterol and increasing the ‘good’ cholesterol levels – are known to be beneficial for our health while preventing cardiovascular diseases. Since the quality of the cholesterol in our body is no less important than its quantity, the heart-protective power of olive oil is not only due to its unique fat composition, but also can be attributed to its high potent antioxidants content, mainly polyphenols, a unique compound that may prevent harmful oxidation of the good and bad cholesterol
Prof. Michael Aviram, Head of the Lipid Research Laboratory in the Technion Faculty of Medicine and a member of Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, is a leading expert in cholesterol and heart disease research with a special interest in oxidative stress and the role of antioxidants in cardiovascular disease. According to Prof. Aviram, the unique phenolics and phytosterols which are present in olive oil, as well as in olive leaves, provide the potent antioxidant and cardio protection effects of the olive.
Research also showed that olive oil antioxidants may also act as antithrombotic, anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic agents.
And to ‘take one’s weight of our minds’, it appears that monounsaturated fats – the kind found in olives – may encourage weight loss. Olive oil consumption has been shown to breakdown fats inside fat cells and rid belly fat.
People who have the highest olive consumption eat fewer calories overall and are rarely overweight. Blood tests show they have higher levels of serotonin, a so-called satiety hormone that makes us feel full.
Olive oil is also used in many skin care products, where it acts as a natural moisturizer. Since research has shown that application of olive oil may prevent the formation of skin cancer in mice, one may wonder if ancient priests and kings – when selecting olive oil for their ceremonies – may have suspected its healthy potential!
A Hearty Snack
There is no other fruit like the pomegranate. Peel the thick reddish skin and inside, you will find a multitude of bright red sweet and sour arils, stacked carefully in a white and spongy pulp casing.
This complex and unique fruit holds a special place in Jewish tradition – a symbol for prosperity, beauty and wisdom. Pomegranate-like handles decorate the Torah scrolls and during the traditional Rosh Hashanah dinner, Jews all over the world ask the LORD: “May our merits be numerous as the seeds of the pomegranate.”
“Pomegranates are unlike any other fruit,” asserts Prof. Aviram. “They are packed with some of the most potent antioxidants known to man and have remarkable dietary benefits for protection against cardiovascular diseases”. He speaks passionately about his life-long work of unveiling the health benefits of various fruits and vegetables of which some are of the ‘Seven Species’. “We discovered in our research that certain cardiovascular conditions may be linked not only to the “bad” cholesterol (LDL) levels in the blood, but also to its quality – its oxidation state. Thus, people who have normal levels of “bad” cholesterol may still be at risk for developing atherosclerosis if their LDL molecules are oxidized.” Since we are constantly exposed to oxidizing stress in our daily life from smoke, chemicals, bacteria, viruses and other pollutants, our body’s need for antioxidants is immense.
Prof. Aviram argues that “What we really want at the end of the day is to reduce oxidative stress in our body in order to have less oxidized “bad” cholesterol. One way of doing it is by inhibiting the production of oxidized “bad” cholesterol by dietary antioxidants. We found that pomegranate juice contains high levels of antioxidants even more than red wine, olive oil and cranberries and that it can slow down LDL oxidation and its retention in the arterial cell wall.”
Yet, before rushing to order your juice, “it should include the peel and the membranes,” says Prof. Aviram “and not just the arils. The former offers the richest source of unique polyphenols and antioxidant properties.”
The fig tree — with its distinctive leaves and were used as clothes by Adam and Eve – is a ubiquitous part of the Israeli landscape. In biblical times the fig was eaten fresh or as a seasoning, in addition to being used to make honey and alcohol. The fig itself, ripe in midsummer, is best eaten straight from the tree in the late afternoon after being baked naturally by the sun. Dried figs covered in sugar are today a popular snack.
Like pomegranates, figs too are rich in unique polyphenols and antioxidants, of which some, according to Prof. Aviram may also play a role in preventing atherosclerosis in which an artery-wall thickens as a result of invasion and accumulation of white blood cells (WBCs) (foam cell) and proliferation of intimal-smooth-muscle cell creating a fibro-fatty plaque.
Figs are also high in fiber and are known to stimulate the digestive system. They are rich in simple sugars and minerals, and while fresh fruits can be picked from native and cultivated trees during early and midsummer, dried figs, which are rich in calcium, can be found in the markets all year round. Additional studies are still required to reveal all the secrets of this extraordinary fruit.
A Taste of Honey
Dates in biblical times mainly grew in the Jordan Valley, but with modern irrigation techniques the palms have also taken root near the Dead Sea and further south in the Arava. In the biblical era dates were made into honey, and many believe the notion of the “land flowing with milk and honey” referred to date honey. Today, dates are a popular sweet snack before or after meals and are exported to Europe where they fetch premium prices.
Two of the soft date varieties growing in Israel – the Halawy and Medjool – are indeed as sweet as honey. Not only sweet, dates also contain a variety of complex sugars, fiber, polyphenols and other antioxidants. Research from Prof. Aviram’s laboratory discovered that consumption of both Medjool and Halawy dates by healthy individuals, led to a significant reduction in their blood triglyceride levels, an observation that was attributed to their nutritional fiber content.
Furthermore, a diet supplemented with Halawy dates, have shown a significant decrease in the oxidative stress in the blood of trial participants, possibly due to its impressive antioxidative capacity which results from its unique content of polyphenols.
Interestingly, while the dates are sweet, the blood’s glucose levels and the body mass index of non-diabetic patients were not negatively affected. “We have begun investigating the connection between date consumption and fat levels in the blood and the results are encouraging.” Further research is planned to study the effect of different varieties of dates, which possess different profiles of antioxidants on oxidation of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and other lipids in the blood.
‘Wheat’ Your Appetite
While wheat and barley may have provided man in biblical times with much of their carbohydrate requirements, it is a role that persists to this day. Wheat remains one of the most important cereal grains in the world and while in addition to barley’s robust flavor, it’s claim to nutritional fame is based on its being a very good source of molybdenum, manganese, dietary fiber, and selenium, and a good source of copper, vitamin B1, chromium, phosphorus, magnesium, and niacin.
Barley grains and flour are still important ingredients in many health foods. The seeds are rich in nutritional fiber, and they have low glycemic index. Whole-grain barley may be helpful for regulating blood sugar and lowering cholesterol levels. Owing to their importance in nutrition and health, most of the meals in the Jewish tradition start with the consumption of bread and with the special blessing of “ha’motzi lehem min ha‑aretz” (Who brings forth bread from the earth).
So when the weather’s cold, a big pot of soup simmering on the stove warms the heart as well as the hearth and adding some whole grain barley to the pot will improve your health along with the flavour of whatever soup or stew you’re cooking.
Bread is not the only food to be blessed. A special blessing, “bo’re p’ri hagafen” (Who creates the fruit of the vine) is also dedicated to wine, which is known for its special role in the Kiddush on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. While excessive consumption of wine and other types of alcoholic beverages can be detrimental to health, studies reveal that a moderate consumption of red wine is good for the heart.
According to Prof. Aviram, red wine – unlike white – contains a variety of antioxidants including different polyphenols, which may reduce the level of oxidized “bad” cholesterol in the blood. One explanation for the “French paradox” – the surprisingly low mortality from coronary heart disease among the French people, who are known for their high animal fat diet – is their consumption of red wine with meals. Whether it is due to the red wine’s alcohol content, the specific Polyphenol content found in the region, or due to a completely different reason, is still need to be determined. It is still hoped that certain studies will show major health benefits from wine that may reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, Alzheimer’s and other life-threatening diseases.
The ancient Israelites who were promised a “land flowing with milk and honey” (Deuteronomy 31:20) came to a land blessed with the ‘Seven Species’. Thousands of years later, we are beginning to understand the unique value of these species and can only wonder what other remedies these plants can offer – not only for modern “Israelites” – but also the rest of the world.
This also might explain why when people the world over say “CHEERS” before bringing wine or beer to their lips, Jews prefer to toast – Le Chaim (to life).
While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves. LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO)
On Monday 26th October 2020, General Industries Workers Union South Africa (These workers have been on strike since 13 October 2020 and GIWUSA claim that they have “long opposed” the selling of Clover SA to Israeli Milco, which was approved by The Competition Tribunal in September 2019.
They state, “CLOVER’s bosses continue to view workers’ demands for a living wage and against labour broking with absolute contempt and disdain.”
They connected their view of Clover administration to Israel by stating:
“This arrogant attitude is consistent with the attitude of the imperialist Israeli regime which continues to commit atrocities against Palestinian people in the occupied territories.”
GIWUSA then stated that they are marching on the Israeli Embassy to hand over a letter of demand.
Letter By General Workers Union South Africa:
Why do we have to speak out?
I feel like this is something that I, as a Zionist and a person that supports fair employment, have to comment on as the anti-Israel movements hijack innocent people from their plight and misdirects them with false promises and a free meal.
It is intriguing how the sale of Clover was approved over a year ago and only now do “The Clover Workers” march on an Israeli entity, when they should be marching at Clover. They claim that this march is due to their “long opposed” sale of Clover to an Israeli company, yet they only “chose” to act 13 months later, which just so happens to be days after our fellow African state, Sudan, announces normalization of ties with Israel.
This timing cannot be a coincidence!
This is clearly a local dispute with nothing to do with the Israeli Government. The description of “The Clover Workers” is designed to make us feel like Clover’s collective employment force – which includes over 1,255 factory workers – are striking, while in the video it looks like 40 people.
Sadly, the Coronavirus pandemic has caused over 1 Million South Africans to lose their jobs this year and is sad and understandable how 3% of Clover’s staff are no longer under employ. Their statement about how their “bosses continue.. with absolute contempt and disdain” highlight how this is a long-term problem/dispute between these workers and their management from 2019 which predates the sale.
Nothing about “The Clover Workers” is discussed or addressed while all the focus is drawn towards the Israeli Government and the plight of the people of Palestine.
If the focus of the letter surrounds “The Clover Workers” who are striking, then why is a stance being taken against a nation and not their employer?
This was a march that is the total opposite of uBuntu where the GIWUSA have hijacked a group of people to service their own agenda and have done nothing to help the workers with their situation with Clover. In a time where Muslim nations such as Bahrain, Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, United Arab Emirates and every one of our BRICS partners(excluding South Africa) as well as multiple African Nations are either normalizing ties/partnering on projects with Israel, this feels like an attempt to show the public that our public do not support ties with Israel while nearly 80% of the citizens in Saudi Arabia do support it.
I call on the GIWUSA and The Workers and Socialist Party to free “The Clover Workers” from their control and to support them in finding their hopeful resolution with Clover and to avoid using anti-Israel sentiments to misdirect people who are already distraught.
About the Writer:
Yossi Malherbe is a South African historian that specializes in African and Middle east politics. He has researched in multiple global archives with a focus on “the tipping point” where foe becomes friend and regime changes come into affect.
While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves. LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (O&EO).
Plants having “A Field Day” in South Africa thanks to Israeli expertise
By David E. Kaplan
While South Africa poured cold water on the recent groundbreaking United Arab Emirate’s deal with Israel – expressing it was “regrettable” – Israeli companies are only too happy to provide water solutions to South Africa.
One such Israeli company is the startup SupPlant that develops a sensor-based system that autonomously waters crops according to gathered data, while optimising water consumption and alerting farmers of the status of their crops, the soil and the air.
SupPlant’s motto imbedded in its brand:
“More Produce, Less Water”
One of the biggest problems in agriculture is weather.
While South Africa’s regional rainfall pattern for the 2020/21 agricultural season is encouraging as the bulk of southern Africa is expected to receive an adequate rainfall throughout the growing season, previous years of substantially less rainfall resulted in adverse impacts on agriculture, water resources and hydropower generation in much of the region.
Very hard hit were South African farmers.
The SupPlant system processes hyper-local weather forecasts and provides the farmer with irrigation recommendations for a week ahead. As an example, when a large heat wave is approaching, its system will alert the farmer and recommend the necessary steps needed to overcome this heat wave without suffering crop damage while maintaining a reasonable use of water. SupPlant has accumulated years of experience in dealing with extreme weather events around the world – including South Africa – and thus is well positioned to advise its farmers globally.
Back to the Roots
Founded in 2012 and headquartered in Afula in Israel’s picturesque Yezreel Valley, SupPlant has been active in the South African market since 2017. It started with two farms in the Western Cape that yielded impressive results in citrus and apples then subsequently expanded to the county’s northernmost province of Limpopo.
SupPlant’s system assists farmers by providing the tools to maintain a correct irrigation regime all year long. It focuses on the needs of the crops and the changing conditions in the environment. “Using our system, farmers can manage their precious water resources correctly, prevent plant stress, reduce fruit loss, improve production, and maximize their crop potential year after year,” says Ori Ben Ner, the CEO of SupPlant.
In South Africa, “We have been able to decrease water usage by 37% in apple crops, increased lemon yield by 60% and Macadamia nuts have been increased by 21%. This is worth $4500 savings per hectare,” says Ori.
Apple Does Not Fall Far From the Tree
CEO Ben Ner is following in the footsteps of his revered grandfather, Avner Ben Ner, who was born and raised to be a farmer in a small village in the northern part of Israel. It was “Grandfather Ben Ner” who came up with the original concept based on his experience – literally and figuratively – “in the field”.
At 88, the elder Ben Ner is today still actively farming.
Very proudly CEO Ori reveals that “all of the experiments and R&D is done on grandfather’s original plot.”
Today, with climates so unpredictable that can change so rapidly, “we have to rely on the available technologies to communicate with plants and prepare them for any scenario,” says Ori. “Our mission,” he asserts, “is to equip farmers and agri-businesses to manage their water challenges with the most relevant and potentially effective agronomic insights.”
Today, SupPlant is a world leading company in the field of “IOT” (“Internet of Things”) relating to agriculture. By shifting away from antiquated irrigation methodologies, SupPlant’s unique technology significantly saves water and improves productivity.
How it works is that its artificial intelligence system analyses the data from the crops acquired through sensors which it then processes to provide irrigation commands.
A lot of farmers talk about “sensing the needs of their plants” but what SupPlant has found is a way to scale the sensing: “We place sensors strategically which transmits data to the cloud on what the plant is sensing. It then translates that data through the use of artificial intelligence and big data to irrigation recommendations,” explains Ori. “We use all the data we have accumulated about 31 crops from 14 countries to create the best knowledge base.”
SupPlant has partnered in South Africa with Nulandis to service the country’s agricultural sector by assisting its farmers achieve two goals:
– increasing crop yield
– reducing water usage
Listening to the Plants
Farmers can now listen to their plants and hear directly how they are feeling or even likely to feel! SupPlant’s new mobile app will allow farmers to monitor plots and control their water budget from anywhere. The mobile app will also send real-time alerts to the farmer in case the plants show a high stress level as it continuously monitors plants stress. In addition, it will alert when the soil is too moist, or a technical malfunction has occurred and will send advance notice and recommendations for dealing with extreme weather conditions.
This more intimate relationship between man and his crops reminded me of in the 1969 musical western classic Paint Your Wagon with Clint Eastwood singing “I Talk To the Trees”.
Who would have thought that in 2020 the trees are now talking to the farmer!
While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves. LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs
As India discovered, Israel is leading the way with precision irrigation by getting to the ‘root’ of the problem
By David E. Kaplan
The UAE’s historic deal with Israel made the news like an earthquake broadcasting to the world and the people of the region that Israel is not an enemy but a friend and potential partner.
Its intentions are not to invade but trade.
And proving that the agreement has the potential to foster real co-existence between the peoples of both countries, Israeli pop star Omer Adam has reportedly been invited to perform in the UAE. Adam is one of Israel’s most popular singers, with his single -“Shnei Meshugaim” – viewed over 61 million times on YouTube.
Cultural encounters are always the proverbial “hechsher” – the absolute approval.
Even if there are those who refuse to recognise a transforming Middle East landscape, the UAE-Israel deal is a call to look to the future rather than the past. Only earlier this month, it was seen how to be a prisoner of the past can prove existentially devasting as Lebanon has so tragically discovered.
India, which publicly kept a distance from Israel until the late 1980’s, has long changed its position and is benefiting enormously from Israel’s expertise in so many diverse fields.
In fact, quite literally – in the “field”!
Israeli company Netafim signed this August, a $85 million deal to provide irrigation solution to 35,000 farmers in India. Founded in 1965, today the company specialises in end-to-end solutions from the water source to the plant root and offers a variety of irrigation and greenhouse projects. One of the world’s largest irrigation companies, Netafim produces drippers, dripperlines, sprinklers and micro-emitters.
Back to the Roots
Precision irrigation feeds the plant, not the soil. That is a big deal because delivering water and nutrients straight to the roots, the farmer not only reduces costs but also cultivates higher yields of healthier crops. This is why famers in India are turned onto the deal.
The agreement involves the construction of Netafim’s irrigation systems for three large projects that cover 66 villages on 123,500 acres (50,000 hectares area) in the state of Karnataka in southwest India. The two-year project will include technical and agronomic support for five years.
Netafim will also train the Indian farmers to operate the advanced systems.
Field of Dreams
The impact of this deal will lead to a wider range of crops being cultivated to include – onion, chili pepper, corn, peanuts, beans and sunflowers.
The name of the game is partnership, and to arrive at this deal, Netafim joined forces with the Indian Infrastructure company, MEIL (Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Limited), which together will executethese projects to fruit’ion.
This is the way to do business and help people regionally.
“Especially in these days of global crisis,” said President and CEO of Netafim Gaby Miodownik. “The uniqueness of these projects is in their community model, which along with local government involvement, enables a huge number of farmers and villages to improve their livelihoods. The Indian government has always been extremely supportive of the agricultural sector, and now more than ever this support is important for securing the economic stability of local farmers and food security in the country.”
Deploying NetBeatTM systems for digital farming, enables real-time control of the irrigation systems using cloud technologies and allows access from any mobile device. “We intends to expand the community irrigation project model to other countries characterized by a large number of small farmers,” says Miodownik.
Interestingly, despite my native South Africa distancing itself diplomatically from Israel, it paradoxically remains commercially engaged, notably in agriculture and hydrology.
To this point, Netafim is in the vanguard!
If there are some in the ruling ANC government proving cerebrally sluggish, not so the country’s president Cyril Ramaphosa who in October 2019, lauded Israel’s entrepreneurship at the Women in Business Conference saying:
“Israel is leading by leaps and bounds, and they are actually innovative in a number of sectors of the economy, in agriculture, in maritime, and a number of other areas. They have shown that they can lead, and we can learn a lot from what they do. I find this very interesting and would like to know more.”
Only a few months before Ramaphosa’s praise of Israel admitting that South Africa would benefit by closer cooperation, Netafim South Africa in June was the platinum sponsor of the 2019 SABI (South African Irrigation Institute) congress where the theme was ‘Climate of Change and Opportunity’. Addressing the Congress, Michael Esmeraldo of Netafim South Africa said:
“Modern farming is not always only about new technology, high-tech machines and computers. A modern approach is also about making more efficient use of the resources that we have available. We have to use water, fertilizer and other inputs efficiently to get optimal benefit per unit of input.”
“a treedoes not know how it receives water, it merely requires a certain amount of water daily depending on the phenological stage, age of the tree and the climate.”
What is important:
“is to find the right fit for each specific situation, in other words choosing the correct irrigation system that will work in synergy with the resources you have available.”
This is Israel’s expertise!
Yet again, South African commerce and diplomacy travel in opposite directions. The ANC government response to the Israel-UAE normalisation deal – whose main state opponents were predictably Iran and Turkey, both a threat to regional peace- was “one of concern”.
In a SAZF (South African Zionist Federation) press release, its national chairman, Rowan Polovin, exposed the absurdity of South Africa’s position on the deal following it being well received by respected Arab countries Egypt, Oman, and Bahrain as well as South Africa’s major BRICS partners, India and China.
Proving once again how his country is characteristically out of step on the world stage, Polovin wrote:
“We encourage the South African government, to show leadership through positive re-engagement with Israel in ways that would by no means diminish her support for the Palestinians.”
Noting that further normalisation deals are likely to emerge over the coming months between Israel and other Arab and Muslim states, he concluded: “South Africa should be ready to welcome and encourage these positive developments in the interests of peace and stability in the region.”
Rather than “a stab in the back” as described by some detractors of the deal, it is more like “a shot in the arm” in the pursuit of changing the landscape to improves the lives of all in the region.
Ask the Indian farmers using Israeli technology!
To take a page from Netafim’s history of success:
“We’re farmers first and innovators second. We started in 1965, in the Negev desert in Israel, trying to grow crops in desert soil. So we know what it’s like to farm in extreme conditions. That struggle taught us how to combine precision irrigation, agronomic expertise and relentless innovation to help farmers grow more of any crop, in any climate, with less.”
Learn from the experts.
While South Africa advocates a “pullback”, most of the world will be following India and the United Arab Emirates to “partner”.
While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves. LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs
You can actually say, “This steak is out of this world” and it would be true; both literally and figuratively.
Earlier in the year, Lay Of The Land published an article titled ‘Israel Leading A Slaughter-Free Revolution For A Healthier World’ revealing on how the world’s first laboratory-grown steak was served up in Israel by Aleph Farms (Aleph being the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet) by isolating cells from a cow and cultivating them into a 3-D structure.
Founded in 2017 by Israeli food-tech incubator The Kitchen – part of Israel’s food processing company Strauss Group Ltd., in collaboration with the Technion, Alpha Farms is set to impact the nature and scope of the future of food by producing cell-grown meat that resembles a free range version.
For meat lovers, that all too familiar alluring sizzling aroma that is like a culinary aphrodisiac, will still be there.
The only difference is that the genesis of your T-bone, fillet, rump, sirloin or entrecote hails from a laboratory rather than a field. Having unveiled in December 2018 to much fanfare, the first prototype of lab-grown steak in the world, the Israeli enterprising entrepreneurs decided to take its curiosity to another scientific level!
The Next Frontier
In typical Israeli out-of-the-box fashion, Alpha Farmslaunched its idea into the stratosphere by conducting an experiment to manufacture its meat product on the International Space Station (ISS) some 248 miles (339 km) from earth.
The ISS is a low-orbit space station that serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory between five participating space agencies: NASA, Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada).
Aleph Farms explained that the project aims to demonstrate its mission of being able “to provide sustainable food security on earth and beyond by producing meat regardless of the availability of land and local water resources.”
Says CEO Didier Toubia who co-founded Aleph Farms together with Prof.Shulamit Levenberg:
“In space, we don’t have 10,000 or 15,000 liters (3962.58 gallons) of water available to produce one kilogram (2.205 pounds) of beef.”
The experiment, he said, “marks a significant first step toward achieving our vision to ensure food security for generations to come, while preserving our natural resources.”
To conduct the experiment in space, Aleph Farms teamed up with Russian company 3D Bioprinting Solutions, which develops implementations of 3D bioprinting technologies, and two American companies, Meal Source Technologies and Finless Foods, to carry out the process on September 26. As reported by Israel’s innovation news platform, No Camels cosponsored by the IDC Herzliya, “Aboard the Russian segment of the ISS, they used a unique technology of magnetic bio-fabrication, developed by 3D Bioprinting Solutions, to produce bovine, mummichog and rabbit myoblast/fibroblast constructs provided by Aleph Farms, Finless Foods, and Meal Source Technologies, respectively. All under microgravity conditions.”
In a statement released on October 7, 3D Bioprinting Solutions said that the joint project “lays the groundwork for renewable protein sources for long term manned missions.”
3D Bioprinting Solutions and Meal Source Technologies’ co-founder Aleksandr Ostrovsky said, “We believe that bio-fabrication of cultured meat in space has several unique advantages such as sustainability, personalization, and biosafety. What is more, creating cultured meat products in space may grant invaluable scientific insights for implementation of this technology on Earth.”
Hailing the experiment in space as a “successful proof of concept,” Aleph Farms said the cutting-edge research “in some of the most extreme environments imaginable serves as an essential growth indicator of sustainable food production methods that don’t exacerbate land waste, water waste, and pollution.”
These new innovative culinary methodologies aim to feed a rapidly growing world population predicted to reach 10 billion by 2050.
Assured of it venturing in the right direction, Aleph Farms cited a UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report – published in September – that argued that conventional animal farming methods contributed greatly to climate change, creating “a challenging situation worse and undermining food security.”
Said The Kitchen’s CEO, Jonathan Berger:
“The mission of providing access to high-quality nutrition anytime, anywhere in a sustainable way is an increasing challenge for all humans.” Whether “On earth or up above,” he continued, “we count on innovators like Aleph Farms to take the initiative to provide solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems, such as the climate crisis.”
This achievement, said Toubia, “follows Yuri Gagarin’s success of becoming the first man to journey into outer space, and Neil Armstrong’s 50th anniversary this year, celebrating the moment when the first man walked in space.”
While lab-grown steaks will likely not become commercially available for at least three to four years and the world waits, a video shows a group of people – among them Aleph Farm‘s vice president of research and development Neta Lavon – enjoying the steak-of-tomorrow alongside a tomato and zucchini pasta.
All these revelations have tongues not only wagging – but wanting to taste!
Israel may be a tiny country but its humanitarian outreach knows no bounds
By David E. Kaplan
Yes, we are all familiar with the line at the end of emails “Trees have feelings too, please don’t print this!”
It’s a reminder that “Paper doesn’t grow on trees” and we can all do our bit to help save our planet.
Some Israelis have opted to do more – a lot more and going to the heart of one the problem areas – the Amazon rainforest.
While the name ‘Amazon’ conjures up the immediate image as one the world’s most valuable companies, the threat to its namesake –hardly raises an eyebrow and yet, the ‘rainforest’ in South America is a crucial part of our life-support system, creating up to 20% of our oxygen.
Here’s why we need the world’s largest rainforest:
It’s also one of our best tools for keeping heat-trapping carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
All this resonated with the Israeli startup VeganNation that recently announced that it leased some 15,000 acres (60.7 square kilometers or 23.4 square miles) in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest for a ten-year period to protect the land from deforestation and wildlife poaching.
VeganNation is based in Ramat Gan, just outside Tel Aviv, with an office in London. Thomas says the startup employs approximately 20 people and works with 30 “ambassadors” across the world in places like Argentina, Brazil, India, and beyond, to spread its message.
“The Amazon rainforest might be located in Brazil, but its destruction affects us all, as climate change is a direct result of human activity and it’s in our hands to fight it,” said Isaac Thomas, the CEO and co-founder of VeganNation.
The startup also announced that it was partnering with four local soccer teams from cities near the entrance to the rainforest to raise environmental awareness. Thomas told the Israeli innovation news network, NoCamels, that “VeganNation is already a main sponsor of the teams – three men’s teams and one women’s team – and revealed that an additional four top-tier national teams are set to sign on to the initiative.”
Kicking For Eco-Goals
VeganNation’s initiative comes amid the devastating fires that have continued to burn in the rainforest since early August, releasing dangerous air pollutants into the atmosphere, severely damaging flora and fauna ecosystems, and endangering indigenous communities that live under the forest canopy. The fires are so intense that they can be observed from space.
“When we measure the destruction of the rainforest, we talk about football (soccer) fields as a unit, so we thought what if we use that same measure to save parts of it,” explained Thomas. To illustrate the point, the land leased by VeganNation covers over 5,500 soccer fields if we’re using the measure of large regulation-sized soccer fields of approximately 2.69 acres per field.
“VeganNation understands that promoting veganism is an important step towards fighting the global warming crisis and raising awareness through local environmental projects among the Brazilian community is key. Partnering with four Brazilian soccer teams further enables us toward our mission of working together to create a better world,” he says.
Thomas reveals that the initiative came about through his close connection with a family in the city of Manaus in Brazil that owns land in the rainforest and used to lease it to a US gas company . When the lease was up, Thomas proposed to the family to lease the land to VeganNation explaining that “it’s a win-win situation for everyone as we’re not polluting the environment.”
The Israeli startup raised capital through private investors and added celebrity vegan activists Jerome Flynn, of Game of Thrones, and actor and dancer Jenna Dewan, to its advisory board.
Thomas says VeganNation’s work in the sports world is of key importance and the startup is set to bring in “one of the top three football players in the world as an ambassador for sustainability.”
Environmental groups and researchers say the fires were started by humans at an accelerated rate probably by cattle ranchers and loggers looking to clear the land. The area of devastation in this year’s forest fires marks a 47% increase compared to 2018 according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research.
While deforestation had declined by 75% from 2005 to 2014 and Brazil was moving impressively toward a zero-deforestation policy, it started reverting back massively from 2015 onwards and now in 2019, it seems to have reached literally – a “devastating” peak.
Late last month, under heavy international pressure, and amid several public spats with world leaders rejecting aid offers, Bolsonaro finally issued an order to send over 40,000 troops to help fight the fires. Included in the global support are an eleven-member team of firefighters and rescuers from Israel to assist local authorities with search-and-rescue operations.
President Jair Bolsonaro who has good relations with the Israeli Prime Minister, accepted the aid from the Jewish state, which is understood to include 100 tons of fire-fighting material.
So, while Israeli firefighters will do what they can in the immediate term, the Israeli startup VeganNation is looking long-term – focusing on preserving Brazil’s home to 2.5 million animal species. Rainforest deforestation – which often takes place to raise and feed cattle for the meat industry – is one of the most important issues to tackle in the fight against climate change.
What also needs to ‘change’ are peoples understanding of the threat and this is where Israel’s VeganNation is looking to make a difference.
Its also about changing lifestyles.
Breath Of Fresh Air
Thomas exalts Tel Aviv as “number one in the world for vegan food,” having earned its title as the “vegan capital of the world.” Tel Aviv recently held the world’s largest vegan festival at the Sarona complex in June, attracting over 50,000 attendees. The city is home to some 400 vegan and vegan-friendly kitchens.
The Mediterranean diet, Thomas explains, “is naturally based on plants; there are salad bars everywhere in Israel. The basic Med diet is very complimentary to a plant-based lifestyle.”
Thomas met his co-founder Yossi Rayby while in Yeshiva (Jewish seminary) in Jerusalem some years ago. Rayby brought in Nati Giat and Shneor Shapira who all have a religious background, and some have maintained an Orthodox lifestyle.
“Judaism has a strong message that drives me toward making the world a better place, where we live in peace and harmony,” says Thomas.
Yes, its one thing putting out fires, but the real battle is to see that deliberate fires are not started in the first place.
Acknowledging that the Amazon rainforest creates up to 20% of the world’s oxygen – the Israeli startup VeganNation and the work it is doing is like ‘a breath of fresh air’.
Originally from South Africa, Paul Hirschson returned to Africa as Israeli ambassador to Senegal and six other West African countries. Following his tenure, he reflects on the experience with Lay Of The Land.
By Rolene Marks and David E. Kaplan
Seated in a bustling coffee shop in Tel Aviv Ambassador Paul Hirschson was far removed from downtown Dakar. Nevertheless, like Tel Aviv, Hirschson will tell you “Dakar is a cosmopolitan city whose identity is based on its melting pot of peoples.” Looking around at the packed tables of animated Tel Avivians besides us, it was hard not to recognise a similarity of ethnic diversity.
Housing 25% of the country’s population and 80% of its economic activity, “Dakar is Senegal’s veritable engine room,’ he says.
So is Tel Aviv Israel’s engine room!
Culture, climate and a history of overcoming adversity – “there are a lot of similarities.”
Dakar is one of Africa’s great cultural and economic hubs. It is also home to a unique MASHAV-supported project helping Senegalese learn drip irrigation. Before returning to Israel at the end of his tenure as ambassador, Hirschson visited agricultural projects Israel was supporting, such as small farms east of Dakar in the plains of Senegal, nestled beneath the giant baobab trees.
“Agriculture is the anchor of what we are doing there,” says Hirschson.
“There is no country more perfectly poised to help Africa than the State of Israel,” says Hirschson, who was Israel’s man in Dakar from August 2015 to August 2018. It was an active period of diplomatic outreach as an increasing number of African countries warmed to the State of Israel. “Bilateral ties between Israel and countries on the continent that the Jewish state had previously no established relations are growing,” he says. This is born out by Israel recently opening its twelfth Embassy in Africa, this time in Kigali, Rwanda and rumours abound of the possible establishing of formal ties with Sudan.
“Such relations are of mutual benefit,” he says. For Israel it represents a strategic outreach but for West Africa “we are able to provide Israel’s groundbreaking technologies in agriculture, cyber security, counterterrorism, medicine, water management and other fields. We help provide much needed solutions to many of the challenges facing the continent today.”
The history of relations between Israel and the African continent is both heartwarming and complex.
It would seem almost natural that African countries would seek to build bridges with Israel. “Many of these countries have a historical and political trajectory that mirrors that of the Jewish State,” points out Hirschson noting that it was the legendary Golda Meir, Israel’s first female Prime Minister who recognized as Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs in the 1950s, the great potential for Israel to help Africa.
“Meir recognized that African countries and Israel share similar tragic pasts, having endured multiple wars and struggles for independence against foreign powers who ruled their ancestral homelands,” he says.
Listening to Hirschson, we were reminded of Theodore Herzl, the founding father of modern Zionism also wrote about what he saw as two peoples whose mutual histories of slavery and colonisation mirrored each other.
“There is still one other question arising out of the disaster of nations which remains unsolved to this day, and whose profound tragedy, only a Jew can comprehend. This is the African question.Just call to mind all those terrible episodes of the slave trade, of human beings who, merely because they were black, were stolen like cattle, taken prisoner, captured and sold. Their children grew up in strange lands, the objects of contempt and hostility because their complexions were different. I am not ashamed to say, though I may expose myself to ridicule for saying so, that once I have witnessed the redemption of the Jews, my people, I wish also to assist in the redemption of the Africans.”
It is well over 100 years that Herzl wrote these empathetic words and “Israel is proud to be in Africa not to exploit but to enrich,” says Hirschson.
While today relations between Israel and the continent are strengthening, it seems that in West Africa “something quite extraordinary” is taking place reflected by the visits of Israel’s Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, over the last few years.
In 2016, Netanyahu became the first Israeli premier to visit Africa in nearly three decades, with a trip to Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda. A year later he attended a meeting in Liberia of heads of state from the West African regional group, Ecowas. Regrettably, an Israel-Africa summit that was supposed to take place in Togo in October 2017 was cancelled but the mood is changing reflected in the statement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when
Chad and Israel renewed diplomatic ties describing it as:
“a partnership… to forge a prosperous and secure future for our countries”.
Ambassador Hirschson has strong ties and a passion for the African continent. Born and raised in South Africa to a family that played an active part in the struggle against Apartheid, Hirschson has an affinity to the people of the continent.
He is most proud of his grandfather, Issy Wolfson who was an anti-Apartheid activist and a trade unionist and “the only union representative to stand in a parliamentary election.” Growing up in a family at the forefront of the anti-Apartheid movement, “has had a huge impact on me; it gets into the DNA.”
“Africa and Islam meet in a harmonious way in Senegal,” says Hirschson, a country which has had a turbulent and troubling history. “For 300 years, slaves were exported from a small island off its coast called Goree, where visitors can see the dank cells where people were imprisoned until shipped to the New World. The “Door Of No Return” still there, says it all! But from this tragic past has arisen a success story, a democracy in West Africa with a unique form of localised Islam and a colourful local culture.”
Hirschson says, he met with many in Africa “who identify Israelis with the West but are acutely aware that we are not European.” This impacts on their understanding and “although Muslims in Senegal and West Africa may have an affinity for the Islamic world and the Palestinian cause, they differentiate it from relations with Israel.”
Now, with Senegal last year joining the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member for the next two years – alongside Egypt, Japan, Ukraine and Uruguay – “it is potentially a very important ally for Israel.” The Embassy in Senegal is also responsible for six other countries in West Africa – Guinea, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde.
Hirschson explains that Israel is able “to have a unique conversation” with Africa. There is an explanation of ‘salvation’ why Africa became known for Jews as the “new exile from exile”.
“What few people are aware is that when Jews fled from the Spanish peninsular during the horrendous persecution of the Inquisition of the 15th century, it was to the African continent they first took refuge; this is why there were such large Jewish communities in north Africa from Morocco to Egypt.” When introducing himself in Africa, Hirschson would relate that “our first engagement with Africa was 3000 years ago when we were slaves in Egypt. The second was some 2500 years ago when the Iraqis (Babylonians) conquered our first state and a part of my people escaped south and were given refuge in Ethiopia. Our third engagement was 500 years ago when we were exiled from Europe during the Spanish Inquisition. And our fourth engagement with Africa is Israel’s outreach today as a nation state that is independent. Today, Israelis live all over Africa. Africans hear the same story as our story of being slaves, conquered, colonised, exiled, and regaining independence in modern times. It’s the same narrative.”
Situated in one of the most neglected regions in the world, Senegal as with many parts of West Africa are in dire need of both humanitarian and economic aid. During the 2014 Ebola crisis that placed thousands at risk, the tiny state of Israel was according to a statement by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in New York, the world’s largest per-capita contributor to halting the spread of Ebola in West Africa.
“We have the ability to win hearts and minds in places like Senegal,” says Hirschson. “Unfortunately, it sometime takes outbreaks of diseases or natural catastrophes like floods, landslides and earthquakes for the world to notice the scope of our contributions.”
In Guinea, with whom “Israel renewed diplomatic relations in 2016, we built in 2017 an Intensive Care Unit in an economically depressed neighborhood and ran an agricultural training course for Guinean agronomists in Israel.”
During the same period, “We established the only Dialysis Center in Sierra Leone and was the first country in the world to deliver humanitarian aid to Sierra Leone following the devastating mudslides which killed over 1000 people in 2017.” In 2015, “Twenty-five children from The Gambia and in 2018 the same number from Senegal were sent to Israel for life-saving heart treatment.”
Good relations with Africa can be mutually beneficial and “there is little doubt of an increasing appreciation of Israel by Africans. It is appreciated that Israel was the fourth country in the world to recognize Senegal’s independence.”
Ambassador Hirschson asserts that Israel is “a perfect match” for Africa with agricultural, water, security and smart phone technology.
“Our farming conditions are almost an exact mirror image of the Senegalese farms. It is almost ‘copy & paste’,” says Hirschson.
“We built hundreds of smallhold-family farms in Senegal and trained 1500 family farmers in modern agricultural technologies and systems.”
In recent years, Israel’s expertise in security technology is increasing sought. With the defeat of ISIS, “many of its members are returning home to Africa and pose a threat to fledgling democracies and the stability of fragile states,” says Hirschson. “This provides a fertile ground for terror, and Israel has the proven experience, expertise and technology to help. African countries are aware of the threat of fundamentalism, and poverty creates perfect conditions for extremism to flourish.”
An encouraging development, “is that some countries have come to understand that they can have friendly ties with both Israel and Palestinians; that it is no more a case of one or the other. This is a valuable lesson that more developed countries around the world can heed.”
Looking at Israel “through the lens of self-improvement and not only politics is mutually beneficial, and the next big challenge will be getting farming done right and hopefully convert farmers into entrepreneurs,” says the ambassador.
“Netanyahu’s warm embrace of Africa,” asserts Hirschson, “coupled with the growing needs of African countries is starting to bear real fruit.
With shared narratives and a growing affinity for each other, it makes total sense that the next great love affair with Israel is born in Africa.
*Feature picture: Having A Field Day. An animated Ambassador Paul Hirschson at a small farm project supported by Israel in Senegal. (photo credit: Seth J. Frantzman)
Two Young Israeli engineers introduce clean water to Ugandan community
By David E. Kaplan
Israelis have their eyes on Africa, not to exploit but to enrich.
Such was the motivation for two 26-year-old water engineering graduates Selda Edris and Mayes Morad, both from the Galilee who as students were shocked on discovering the level of poverty in rural Uganda.
“We were amazed by the living condition of the children,” said Morad. “We were exposed to horrible poverty and were shaken to see children shivering when it got cold, barefoot or with torn shoes.”
It was one thing to be “shocked”, but both asked the question:
“Can we do something about it? Can we make a difference?”
Following their graduation it was not the exotic beaches of the far east that attracted these idealistic engineers. Armed with their education, they wanted to volunteer and knew exactly where. The calling was clear; they wanted to help provide a specific Ugandan community with clean drinking water.
So, soon after graduating, Edris, from the Circassian village of Rehaniya, and Mayes from the Druze village of Beit Jann on Mount Meron in northern Israel, joined the HELPAPP organization and set off for a community in Uganda that pulled at their heartstrings. “There were 900 school children from the region that drank water from a nearby swamp that filled up in winter,” said Edris.
Although the three schools in the community boiled the swamp water before drinking, “this was hardly a safe solution” to the young Israelis.
Finding “a solution” proved challenging to the enterprising and innovative young engineers. However, Edris and Morad were finally able to install sinks and taps in the schools and connect them to a proper purification facility. When complete, 900 children had running clean water.
The reality of what they achieved struck home.
“When I saw how happy they were when they just turned on the tap and water came out, I thought to myself,” says Morad, “what in the world would make me, or my nieces and nephews who are the same age as these schools kids, feel so happy?”
The joy in the children’s eyes when they opened a tap to wash their hands and water came out stayed with her. “It’s difficult to imagine that there are children in this world who don’t have the most basic commodity – drinking water – only because they weren’t fortunate enough to be born in the right place.”
For Edris and Morad “Clean water is a basic right for every person in this world – regardless of where you were born.”
After providing a solution to supplying the schools with running water, the two Israelis initiated a Facebook fundraising campaign to buy shoes for many the children who ran around barefoot on the hard-arid African terrain.
We Shall Return
“We’ve helped hundreds of children, but we know there are so many others in other parts of Uganda, who don’t consider drinking water a given,” says Edris. “We want to come back to Uganda and initiate a larger scale operation.”
Ask a young teenager in Israel, the USA or Europe what they most want? The answers would not be even close to the answer a 13-year-old girl gave Edris. “All she wanted was clean water, clothes and an electrical light at home to light up the house when it gets dark. What we take for granted isn’t taken for granted in so many places around the world, and that’s sad. She broke my heart.”
It also broke Israel’s Foreign Minister Golda Meir in the 1950s. When the future Prime Minister was appointed Israel’s second Foreign Minister in 1956, Golda announced that a cornerstone of her foreign policy was to reach out to the African states emerging from colonial rule. The rationale for this was lost to many at the ministry. After all, the new countries were often poorer than Israel and facing greater security, environmental and other problems; what could they possibly help Israel with?
“Independence had come to us, as it came to Africa, not served up on a silver platter, but after years of struggle. Like them, we had shaken off foreign rule; like them, we had to learn for ourselves how to reclaim the land, how to increase the yields of our crops, how to irrigate, how to raise poultry, how to live together and how to defend ourselves…. The main reason for our ‘African Adventure’ was that we had something we wanted to pass on to nations that were even younger and less experienced than ourselves.”
That “African adventure” continues today inspiring young and talented Israelis like Selda Edris and Mayes Morad who could not stand idly by in the face of suffering.
Obsessed with Israel, South Africa ‘Downgrades’ into the abyss of absurdity
By David E. Kaplan
While South Africa speaks of downgrading its diplomatic ties with Israel, smarter countries to its north like Sierra Leone are benefiting from Israel’s amazing technology. Since March, the Jewish State is providing school children at St. Joseph’s Girls’ School in Sierra Leone’s capital of Freetown with clean drinking water extracted from the air.
Sound impossible? Not for Israel where the word “impossible” is absent from the Start-Up Nation’s lexicon.
The technology comes in the form of an atmospheric water generator known as the “GEN-350,” and is produced by the Israeli company Watergen which can produce up to 900 liters of water per day.
Situated in Rishon LeZion in central Israel, Watergen was set up in 2009 by entrepreneur Arye Kohavi, a former combat reconnaissance company commander in the Israeli Army.
The technology developed by Kohavi and his cadre of engineers, uses a series of filters to purify the air. After the air is sucked in and chilled to extract its humidity, the water that forms is then treated and transformed into clean drinking water. The technology uses a plastic heat exchanger rather than an aluminum one, which helps reduce costs.
Head Above Water
So, while in 2016 when a water conference to deal with the water crisis in South Africa was nixed because of the participation of Israel – considered the world’s no. 1 expert on water management – other countries in Africa like Sierra Leone are literally ‘tapping’ into Israel’s expertise in water technology.
“Watergen is currently operating in many African countries,” said Yehuda Kaploun, president of Watergen USA, “and even more announcements about other countries in Africa using our machines and technology will be forthcoming.”
With a weight of just 800 kilograms, the GEN-350 is easily transportable and can be installed easily. The GEN-350 units are provided with an internal water-treatment system and need no infrastructure except a source of electricity in order to operate.
Watergen’s efforts to make fresh, pure water available around the globe earned the company its place on the World Economic Forum’s list of the world’s top technology pioneers in 2018.
Yet, South Africa prefers to listen to BDS that says, “Israel water technology is not unique or special; such technology is widely available through other more friendly countries.”
So where are those other counties Lindiwe Sisulu, South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation – the wording a clear misnomer – who is championing the campaign to downgrade her country’s diplomatic relations with Israel?
Rather than turn to Israel for help, will Cape Town prefer the dubious honor of becoming one of the few – if not the first – developed cities in the world to run out of water?
Would BDS SA try influence Sierra Leone to follow silly Sisulu’s lead, where water pollution in the West African country is one of the leading causes of death and which has an average life expectancy of 56 years, one of the lowest in the world. Approximately half of the population has no access to clean drinking water, and a little less than three-quarters of urban dwellers have a safe water supply available for use.
Sierra Leone’s water sources – primarily consisting of ponds, unprotected wells and freestanding water – have been contaminated by mining and chemicals used in the agricultural industry. Water-borne infections and parasites have increased the probability of Sierra Leoneans contracting diseases such as typhoid fever and Hepatitis A.
Does BDS South Africa prefer contaminated water than to being contaminated by contact with Israel?
Other than being antisemitic, BDS’s arguments – do not hold water!
There is a line from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s, ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ that reads:
“Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink…”
The image is of a sailor on a becalmed ship, surrounded by salt water that he cannot drink.
Today, because of Israeli ingenuity, there is potential water everywhere.
From the remote corners of India and Vietnam, to the palm-lined streets of Miami-Dade County, Watergen is doing what was once thought unthinkable – extracting safe, inexpensive potable water from the air we breathe.
“We created a product that can really be the next major source of drinking water,” says Maxim Pasik, Executive Chairman of Rishon LeZion-based Watergen.
Fired up after his visit to Africa in mid-2017, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – re-elected this May 2019 – announced that year to the world from the podium of the UN when he addressed the General Assembly, about Israel transforming air into water. He was thinking specifically how Watergen’s revolutionary product could be used in various parts of Africa.
Watergen’s cutting-edge and patented GENius technology provides a low cost, abundant and renewable source of fresh and clean drinking water by extracting it directly from the atmosphere. It is a plug and drink solution, requiring only electricity and no infrastructure. The company has also sought alternative energy sources for areas with little or no electricity.
For every community size, “We can provide drinking water from the air in the most cost effective, efficient manner to produce the healthiest, and cleanest tasting drinking water,” says Pasik. The Large-Scale unit produces up to 6,000 liters of clean drinking water each day, the mid-scale GEN-350 unit up to 650 liters each day, and the Genny home unit up to 30 liters each day, all based on an average temperature of 27°C with relative humidity of 60%.
Providing fresh pure water directly from the atmosphere, “at prices that are up to ten times cheaper than local filtered well water (at developing world prices), we are talking about a game changer formany tens of millions who only have access to contaminated drinking water,” says Pasik.
Regarding rural areas where there might be no access to electricity, the company has come up with a battery-operated solution. Using a reverse osmosis process for filtration and purification, the battery-operated device has a water purification capacity of 1,200 liters a day, so it can serve villages or areas that need water in emergency situations.
With unsafe water being responsible for more death than war, Israeli ingenuity provides a lifeboat. Instead of searching below for solutions, Watergen found it above – in our atmosphere – and devised a way to ‘tap’ into this unlimited resource.
Watergen hopes to improve the quality of life of billions who suffer from poor water sanitation or accessibility to safe drinking water. “This is a humanitarian issue,” says Pasik. “We would like to maintain peace between people and save people’s lives. The project is priceless and is huge.”
Proud that “this solution comes from Israel,” he adds proudly “This is a Kiddush Hashem (Hebrew for sanctification of God’s name) and tikkun olam (Hebrew for repairing the world)”.
Which only goes to show that sometimes the solutions to problems are staring us right in the face!
Out Of Thin Air
By 2025, two-thirds of the world will face drinking water shortages.
Watergen’s systems can solve this problem and help sustain life moving forward.
If Moses brought forth water for the People of Israel in the desert by striking a stone, today’s Israelites are striking water from the air