The noble rhinoceros once roamed the plains of Africa in great numbers. South Africa once prided itself on great numbers of these creatures who attracted many around the world who visited the southern African state to see them as part of their safari experience. Sadly today, these modern-day unicorns are targeted and hunted for their horns; their killers believing the horns have medicinal or aphrodisiacal properties!
Poachers are predominantly from the Far East and as a result of their killing these “Big 5” animals, populations are dwindling at alarming levels and if nothing is done to protect and save endangered rhino populations, they could become extinct.
I cannot imagine a world devoid of these magnificent beasts!
South Africa has the largest remaining population of rhino in the world and is at the forefront of rhino conservation. There are a lot of concerted efforts of the ground to protect rhino populations as well as capture and punish poachers but there is an unlikely hero in this story – Israel.
Rhinos are not indigenous to the Holy Land so how come they are finding a new lease on life and thriving?
The Ramat Gan Safari Park on the outskirts of Tel Aviv has successfully brought rhinos from South Africa.
These horny South Africans are thriving in their adopted country and are managing to breed successfully.
The Ramat Gan Safari Park started their rhino conservation programme in 1974 and to date an estimated 31 calves have been born in captivity. The first baby rhino, born in September 1978 was a girl named “Shalom”. The birth of this little calf coincided with the signing of the Camp David Accords – the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt.
This rhino breeding programme is part of a global conservation effort to increase rhino populations. The white rhinoceros, also known as the square-lipped rhinoceros, is in the greatest danger. Some 78 zoos are taking part in a European breeding project that so far numbers over 300 rhinos. The Ramat Gan Safari has a larger herd than any in Europe! In October 2018, it was noted that the crash of rhinos at the Ramat Gan Safari currently numbers fourteen.
World renowned South African conservationist, Braam Malherbe, lauded the efforts being made by the Park and believes it is a model that should be implemented globally. As a commitment to breeding this highly endangered species, two young females were imported from Pretoria Zoo in 2012.
In recent years, the park has celebrated the birth of baby Terkel, Tupak, Tashi and Timor, all rare white rhinos born to their South African immigrant mother, Tanda. Calves have also been born to Keren Peles, one as recently as the 30th of December. The baby girl’s name is still unknown, but she made her entrance with a lot of energy and curiosity and decided to venture out of the maternity ward on her own. This was the second calf born to 31-year-old mother, Keren Peles, who was named after Israel’s singer-songwriter.
Celebrations have also been conducted for babies Rami, Kipenzi and many more!
In fact, life for rhinos is so good in Israel that a few have tried to explore the sites for themselves. Rhinos have escaped their enclosures at the Safari Park and have sauntered out into the park or the street – much to the absolute astonishment of passers-by!
These horned South African “olim” (immigrants) do not have to worry about dealing with the challenges that others have to deal with like bureaucracy, language and navigating day-to-day life.
In the quite sanctity of the Ramat Gan Safari Park they are assured that the only place a horn belongs is on a rhino.
There is something that is quite phenomenal when women bond. Women can connect in a way that is unique and on a different level to their male counterparts. So, imagine the possibilities of what could happen when you bring together women from very divergent backgrounds!
One Man’s Vision
Israel is a country of simplicities and complexities and gorgeous diversity. This is a country that has gathered in exiles from over 80 different countries and has rich and diverse minority communities making up roughly 24% of the population and contrary to what many of her detractors would have you believe, they enjoy full and equal rights as citizens with representation in the Knesset (parliament).
But Israel, being a country filled with paradox, means that sometimes there are chasms between the cultures and creative ways to break down barriers is exactly what is needed.
David Moatty, Director of WIZO (Women’s International Zionist Organisation) Afula Community Centre had a vision. What would happen if he brought together women from different cultural backgrounds to bond over something creative – painting?
The Olive tree has long been a symbol of peace. Its roots (pun very much intended!) stretch all the way to biblical times and are an iconic image for the Abrahamic religions. In Judaism, the olive tree and its oil, symbolises justice and mercy, and according to the Christian gospels, olives are symbols of sacrifice and love. In the Quran (the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims believe to be a revelation from God), it is written that the olive tree is the “world’s axis and the symbol of the universal humanity of the Prophet’.
Bonds of Friendship
They came from a variety of different backgrounds and ages with a common interest – to create art and perhaps make a friend or two. Women from all cultural and religious groups – Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Circassian and originally from places as exotic and diverse as Romania, Lithuania, Argentina, the Caucasian mountains and with a local flavour that included Nazareth, Umm-Al Fahad and Tiberius. Thirty-five women, aged between 17 and 80, painted glorious portraits of olive trees and weaved bonds of friendship that will last a lifetime.
The project is sponsored by a host of European WIZO Federations that include France, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Germany and the United Kingdom.
Through their mutual love for art, the women have fostered an environment of tolerance and sharing. Olive trees make no distinction between cultures and art is a universal language and this is evident in the exquisite portraits painted by the women. Each picture tells a story and transports you through their personal journeys.
Mali Schneiderman from Kfar Saba was seriously wounded in a car accident ten years earlier. Painting has helped her to heal and regain both her physical and mental health.
Hana Rozenstein, a Holocaust survivor, has painted her “Tree of Peace” in gratitude to the beautiful country she calls home. Sharing her story with the Arab women in the group has brought her a tremendous sense of joy, and Shuzanna Abu-Masoud, the sixth child in a religious, Muslim family, dedicates her painting to her mother who adores the multicultural contact between Jews and Muslims.
It is not just the paintings and their talented artists that tell a story. This project with its roots firmly grounded in tolerance and altruism, has found itself warmly received all over the world – even in the halls of the United Nations, where it has been showcased both in Geneva and Vienna.
Mention of the UN is guaranteed to raise the blood pressure of every Israeli as the institution seems to have a disproportionate amount of focus on the Jewish State but the Olive Tree project is living proof that accusations of practices of Apartheid and trumped up resolutions are figments of the imagination. The real work is done on the ground between Israel’s citizens. This is where peace is negotiated.
The Olive Tree project has recently been renamed “Shutafot le Derech” and the journey that it has inspired has not just been a tour of the world – helping to tell Israel’s stories of diversity and tolerance that are so seldom heard but do exist – but also healing.
It is here amongst the women, amongst the unbreakable bonds of friendship, where the roots of peace are firmly planted.
If donkeys had a public relations spokesman, Jester would be it. A nuzzle of the nose is all the payment he requires. Gali is the beauty queen with her grey coat and elegant black markings. She is also a bit of a maternal figure. Sooty has the longest ears and wiggles them proudly and Chicco has a long memory for kindness. Yalon steals your heart with his large foal eyes and gangly legs and Hope is a movie star with a penchant for a little something sweet. She is also in for a surprise because on Christmas day she will turn one year old and there is a party planned in her honour.
These are just some of the 250 cast of characters that call Safe Haven for Donkeys in the Holy Land their home.
The gentle and noble donkey is an iconic image that had long been associated with the Holy Land. Since the time of the Bible, donkeys symbolise peace, conciliation and humility and are ingrained into the imagery of all three of the Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Kings David and Solomon revered donkeys; Kind David kept a royal she-mule and King Solomon chose to be anointed on one instead of a grander animal like a thoroughbred horse or elephant. Jesus entered Jerusalem on the back of a donkey as a symbol of peace. In Islam it is believed that a donkey who had the power of speech, told Muhammad that it was the last in a line of donkeys ridden by prophets and was a descendant of the donkey ridden by Jesus in his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, which was also called Ya`fūr.
Sadly today, in a region that is often volatile and mired in conflict and conflagration, these humble, gentle creatures are often a casualty.
Donkeys have often been referred to as a workhorse, not because of their shared equine features but because of their ability and patience to bear heavy loads. This ability is sometimes exploited by some who use these sweet creatures as construction workers, over-burdening them with weight and materials.
In this region that can sometimes be a tinderbox waiting to explode, donkeys have been brutally abused by terrorists who have exploited them to make a political point. During the second intifada (Palestinian uprising) it was not uncommon for terror entities to pack these sweet creatures with explosives and direct them towards soldiers at checkpoints. In the last few months, as Hamas encourages rioters along the border between Israel and Gaza, so too have donkeys been used as weapons. One of the first weeks of protest saw donkeys draped in Israeli flags and set on fire. This outrageous act of animal cruelty and depravity has barely registered in the media. Donkeys are just not “sexy” enough a story.
Thankfully, there is an organization that is dedicated to the well-being and upkeep of these humble and noble beasts.
The sanctuary provides life-long care to over 200 unwanted and abused donkeys of all ages, but the work does not stop at the sanctuary gates. Safe Haven for Donkeys operates a mobile clinic that treats around 500 working donkeys, mules and horses across the Palestinian Territories as well as a permanent clinic in the city of Nablus. The mobile vet treats injuries such as those from poor harnessing, overgrown hooves and bad teeth are easily treatable and this goes a long way in helping to improve the lives of the animals who work so hard for so little.
Safe Haven for Donkeys has realized that education is just as important and help teach children and adults how to treat these animals with humanity and kindness and through the work with the owners of these animals, the team has made many friends and is treated with trust and respect.
“Our vets circulate and go to a different village every day to ensure that as many are treated as possible” says Abed, a caregiver whose dedication and love for his charges is evident.
The work done by this organization is evident in the happy, braying donkeys who despite all that they have endured, are friendly to the visitors who come to either volunteer or check out the sanctuary. The donkeys just love a cuddle and a scratch – and maybe a good old roll in the sand. After enduring so much abuse, Safe Haven’s over 200 personalities who proudly carry their names on their harnesses, get to live out their lives in peace and serenity in the gorgeous heart of Israel.
For a donkey called Hope and all the cast of characters, Safe Haven for Donkeys in the Holy Land is more than just a sanctuary, it is home. It is a veritable heaven for donkeys – and that is worth braying about.
For more information about the sanctuary and to contribute, visit their website:
As Beth Protea Retirement Home Celebrates 26 years it’s a story not about bricks and mortar but about people.
“What are you guys planning to serve for lunch?”
“Can you believe it? That was the first question asked by a bunch of South Africans at our first fundraising campaign in Haifa in 1985. We had no land to build on; we hadn’t raised a dime, and people wanted to know what we would serve for lunch,” relates Walter Robinson the founding chairman of Beth Protea, a retirement home in Herzliya primarily for the Southern African community in Israel. Dublin-born Robinson was quick off the mark.
“Well, if you don’t start donating, there will be no dining room in which to serve lunch!” replied the masterful fundraiser.
Nearly three decades later, and today himself a resident at Beth Protea, it is now Walter who asks:
“What’s for lunch?”
In October 2018, Beth Protea celebrates its 26th year.
South Africans in Israel have every reason to be proud. For a community that was the first to establish an immigrant organization (Telfed); pioneered the concepts of Absorption Centers and acquiring property to rent to their new Southern African immigrants at below market rentals, as well as initiating and promoting housing projects from the city of Ashkelon in the 1950s to the town of Kochav Yair and the community village (Moshav) of Manof in the 1980s, it was only natural, that at the dawn of the 1980s, serious thought was given to leaders in the community for the wellbeing of their seniors.
At that time there was a group who were “toying with the idea” – mainly to cater for parents who were left behind in South Africa. The concept found little traction until Robinson made Aliyah (immigrated) from Cape Town in 1981. Well known and respected for his communal work back in his adopted South Africa, the ad hoc group roped him in and within a few months of his arrival in Israel, he was chairman of a steering committee. “They allowed me to unpack my suitcases first,” he bellows with a boisterous Dublin guffaw.
Right Man For The Job
Walter once nearly ended up in jail and was rightly proud of it!
The year was 1944 and Walter and his Zionist chums at the university in Dublin started a newspaper called the Dublin Jewish Youth Magazine. One day, Walter opens the evening paper, and “I see this MP, Oliver Flanagan, questioning whether the directors of the DJYM have a license to publish and whether our articles had been submitted for censorship as required by wartime regulations. Both were serious offences, carrying prison sentences. Of course the answer to both was – NO,” says Walter, delighting in his mischievous past. Flanagan was a notorious anti-Semite who in his maiden speech in the Irish Lower House the previous year, had urged the government “to rout the Jews out of the country.”
Well Flanagan was not about to “rout” Robinson. “The owner of the paper’s printers was a great friend of Prime Minister Eamon de Valera and so if the printer could not go to prison, neither could we.” Walter’s Zionism continued to soar, culminating nearly fifty years later in his finest communal achievement – the opening of Beth Protea in 1992.
“We quickly changed the focus – not a retirement home for prospective immigrants but for the community in Israel. People, who had quite literally rolled up their sleeves and helped build this country.”
Now it was time to build a home for them. However not just a home, “but one that’s DNA was South African,’ said Robinson, “a home that felt like home.”
Benchmark of Excellence
Robinson quickly roped in a younger feller “who had a knack of asking the most intelligent questions.” And so began the partnership between Walter Robinson and Joel Katz that would steer the Beth Protea project in its formative years.
Bricks and motor ‘sprouted’, and like the ‘protea’, started to grow. The architect was another South African, Gert Gutman and while still under construction, South Africa’s State President, F.W. de Klerk visited where he was wined and dined in a ‘dining room’ on a floor of cardboard over sand and mud and between mounds of rubble.
While in the throws himself in transforming South Africa, de Klerk predicted amongst the rubble “this South African community is transforming the landscape of Israel.”
How right he was.
Beth Protea in Herzliya became the benchmark of excellence in caring for seniors, and in a few years the name ‘protea’ resonated across the land as its ‘seeds’ sprouted with other retirement complexes carrying the brand name – such as Protea Village further north and Protea Hills near Jerusalem.
The Magnificent Many
Joel Katz would become the first chairman of the Management Board and at the official opening in 1992, the guest of honor was the President of Israel, Chaim Herzog who expressed:
“One is never surprised at the admirable level of volunteering and performance on the part of South Africans in Israel. You have done it again by establishing Beth Protea, a golden retirement home for those in their golden years.” Paying tribute to the volunteers over the years, Katz spoke of the “lonely few” that grew to become “the magnificent many.” This 1992 observation holds even more so today as “volunteers from all walks of life continue to give freely of their time, energy, expertise and of course, their generosity, to upholding Beth Protea as a glowing example of retirement living and private initiative,” says current chairman Michael Silver.
Sensitive to the initial apprehension that the project would become elitist and only available to the wealthy – a feature of most new retirements homes in Israel today – the founders were determined that Beth Protea would be a non-profit association and established a fund, Keren Beth Protea to assist those in financial need. This is what distinguishes a community project such as Beth Protea from commercial, profit-motivated senior citizen facilities. The total financial assistance given by Keren Beth Protea over the last 26 years, is in itself a revelation of beauty.
Out of Africa
Wanting to learn firsthand about Israel’s specialized health care of its seniors, Dr. Harriet Chapasuka, a doctor from a clinic in South Africa’s northernmost province Limpopo, visited Beth Protea. Her husband Pastor Reuben Chapasuka, is President of the Cape to Cairo Israel Mission with churches across Africa that welcomes the Blue & White flag of Israeli innovation and ingenuity flying in the African breeze. “When I visit Israel,” says Pastor Reuben, “I always return to South Africa not with Israel’s ‘holy water’ but Israel’s ‘holy ingenuity’.”
Harriet, who shares her husband’s desire of tapping into Israel’s expertise “for our people”, visited Israel to explore its best practices of health care that could be replicated in rural South Africa.
With so many of the residents and staff at Beth Protea being former South Africans, Dr. Chapasuka felt, “quite at home.” Taken on a tour by the Director Lynn Lochoff, she visited the three sections: independent, the assisted living, and frail care unit. She met doctors and nurses and learnt about Israel’s unique health system where everyone is covered.
She visited the art studio and was amazed to see many of the paintings and sculpture reflecting the memories of the artist’s South Africa. “We remain so connected,’ she remarked and hoped the connection will be strengthened, particularly in the field of medical health.”
And the best answer to the first question asked way back in 1985, Dr. Harriette Chapasuka answered it after a desert, “the lunch – WOW! I loved it.”
For this writer, it’s the residents that makes Beth Protea special. Having interviewed many of them over the years, they all represent a microcosm of the history of modern Israel. There was the late Julie Slonim ( née Levinson) who arrived in 1946 from Johannesburg and recalls the day Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, declared Israel’s independence in Tel Aviv. Newly married to a lawyer, “we joined in the festive mood that had gripped the city and on Allenby Street’s Moghrabi Square, masses of people were dancing and shouting. Later we went to the fashionable Café Pilz overlooking the sea where we danced on the tables and our partners lifted us into the air.”
Reality set in on the drive back home to Haifa “where we were shot at by Arab snipers. Luckily we escaped harm. The coastal road between Tel Aviv and Haifa was no longer safe, and motorists were suddenly running the gauntlet. There we were earlier dancing with joy and now we were now officially at war.”
When Beth Protea opened its doors in 1992, one of its first residents was Rona Baram ( née Moss-Morris), a law student and trained nurse, who arrived in Palestine from South Africa in the mid-forties. A member of the Habonim youth movement, she joined Kibbutz Kfar Blum in the northern Galilee. During 1948, settlements in “our area were like fortresses, surrounded by trenches and barbed wire,” says Baram. “The Arabs ran a water canal across the only approach road to our kibbutz cutting us off entirely from the outside world. Post, food and medicine were dropped from a single engine plane that flew in low. Aside from having to deliver babies and care for the sick and wounded, it was a cold winter and we didn’t have enough food or fuel.” Baram recalls the letter from her parents in Durban, with the memorable line “We hope you’ve dug yourself in Rona and have enough ammo to last out the siege.” Baram would go on to establish Tipat Chalav, the first child-care clinic in Kiryat Shmona.
On the 6th June 1948, the late Maurice Ostroff, and fellow ‘Machalniks’ from South Africa, all volunteers responding to the call to fight in Israel’s War of Independence, were flying into Israel in a P.A.A.C. Dakota. Not sure of his position, the pilot radioed in that he was coming in on an emergency landing. Of all the places to land, he brought the plane down at the last remaining British-controlled enclave of Haifa. “The British officer on duty was baffled by the arrival of these “tourists” and asked Ostroff:
“Whatever makes you want to come to Palestine at this time. Are you crazy!”
“Just passing through,” replied Ostroff.
“We are pulling out of here,” the officer shouted, “but it won’t be more than two weeks before the bloody Jews will be yelling at us to come back.” While the British officer soon left never to return, Ostroff would serve out the war as a signaler, commanding a radio station near the Weizmann Institute. Nearly six decades later, Ostroff still had his antennae out and still locking horns with Israel’s enemies. From his fifth floor apartment in Beth Protea he daily monitored the world media on its coverage on Israel, responding to unfair bias by writing to newspapers, TV networks and political leaders around the world.
The late Sam Solomon was another first resident to Beth Protea. He had little interest in Zionism, but “I did have an interest in girls.” In the late 1930’s he was a young man living in Bloemfontein in South Africa. “I asked a pretty girl out on a date, but she told me she would only go out with me if I picked her up after a meeting at the Zionist Hall where an important leader from Palestine was talking. I was not keen to attend thinking it would be boring, but I arrived early and so with nothing to do, I sat in and was so taken up with what I heard about the Halutzchik (pioneering) way of life that three weeks later I was on a plane to Palestine.”
“Whatever happened to the girl?” I asked.
“Who knows”” replied Solomon. “After that night, I never saw her again and my first job in arriving in Palestine was building the road from Tel Aviv to Haifa.”
At a special Beth Protea event some years ago, the late Herman Musikanth, a “financial whiz” who worked very closely with Walter to get Beth Protea literally “off the ground”, quoted the words of Albert Price written in the early 1800s:
“What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and this world is – and remains – immortal.”
He concluded with, “I believe that Beth Protea is probably as immortal as one can get.”
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.
This should be good news for much of the world, particularly Africa.
Checking into my room at a top hotel in Cape Town, South Africa in November 2017, I was astounded to see that covering the plughole in the bath was a plastic yellow duck with a red beak.
“That’s cute”, I thought, “probably for the kids to play with.”
The duck was in lieu of a bath plug and, on the wall, was a notice stating that due to the severe water shortage in Cape Town, they were kindly asking the guests to take a shower instead of a bath. However, should the guest prefer a bath, “We request that you come to the reception desk with your duck and in exchange you will receive a plug.”
On the underside of the duck was the hotel suite number.
To avoid embarrassment, my guess is few guests opted for a bath!
This indicated the ‘depth’ of the water crisis in South Africa at the time.
However, thankfully to rainfall in 2018, the City of Cape Town said on its web site earlier in 2018 that Day Zero had been “pushed out to 2019.”
The reality is that because of infrequent rainfall and unsophisticated water management, many regions of Africa are facing a water crisis.
In 2015, NASA’s satellite data revealed that 21 of the world’s 37 large aquifers are severely water-stressed. With growing populations, and increased demands from agriculture and industry, researchers indicated that this crisis is only likely to worsen.
The Red Line
Just as wars over oil played a major role in 20th century history, many today argue that water is surpassing oil as the world’s scarcest critical resource and predict that many 21st century conflicts will be fought over water. One such prophet of doom is Rajendra Singh, known as the “water man of India,” who has said “The third world war is at our gate, and it will be about water, if we don’t do something about this crisis.”
It was not such a long time ago when Israelis would ask daily:
“What is the level of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee)?” It was an everyday concern and conversation piece.
Sadly, it was never a question whether it was below the ‘Red Line’ – only by how much below!
So dire was the water situation in Israel.
On the brink of a water catastrophe, Israeli authorities ran relentless ad campaigns urging its citizens to conserve water even as it raised prices and cut supplies to agriculture.
They never introduced Cape Town’s duck idea!
Those days are over.
Following the building of desalination plants, Israel has shown that one of the driest countries on earth now makes more freshwater than it needs.
It was time for Israel to focus on helping other countries.
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 water potentially everywhere.
From the remote corners of India and Vietnam, to the palm-lined streets of Miami-Dade County, one Israeli company 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 announced to the world from the podium of the UN when he addressed the General Assembly in September, about Israel transforming air into water. He was thinking specifically how Watergen’s revolutionary product could be used in various parts of Africa.
Earlier in 2017, Watergen made headlines at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC when American lawyer, author and Harvard Law Professor Emeritus, Alan Dershowitz, spotlighted this unimaginable achievement when he presented the company’s GENius device, generating water out of thin air on stage.
It was time for the people on the ‘world stage’ to get a taste of things to come.
Where better than in the most populous nation in the world – India.
Following the official opening in September of ‘Drinking Water from the Air for the People of India’ in the presence of the Israeli Ambassador to India Daniel Carmon, and the Chairman of the New Delhi Municipal Council, Naresh Kumar, the citizens of New Delhi were invited to sample the future. For an entire month they could enjoy, free of charge, Watergen’s clean drinking water from the air at the entrance to Charkha Museum in Connaught Place.
“Watergen is proud to be a partner in the long-standing and fruitful cooperation between Israel and India. We will make great strides in changing the lives of the citizens of India for the better and provide clean and safe drinking water from the air,” says Pasik.
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 for many 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.
Committed to solving India’s drinking water crisis, Watergen is meeting the global demand for clean and safe drinking water in regions all over the world with joint ventures in India, the U.S., Latin American countries including Brazil and Mexico, as well as Australia, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, CIS countries, African countries, and China.
In the U.S., Watergen is speaking with officials at federal and state levels to set up preventative measures against contaminated water sources. “We are committed to ensure every human being has access to their right to clean and safe drinking water,” says Pasik.
Which is exactly what Pasik affirmed to UN Secretary General António Guterres during his official UN trip to Israel in August 2017. Pasik expressed that Watergen can meet as many as 11 of the 17 UN 2030 Sustainability Development Goals, urging: “We do not have to wait until 2030. This solution is immediate. Time is human lives. Watergen‘s technology will improve the lives of billions and save the lives of millions around the world.”
Also in 2017, Watergen’s humanitarian and environmental efforts were underscored when it worked with the American Red Cross and FEMA to assist people first in Texas and then in Florida by providing clean and safe drinking water in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
Supported by Watergen technicians, two large scale and two mid-size GEN-350 units were set up in Port Arthur, Texas where a water reservoir had been contaminated by Hurricane Harvey denying the local community access to safe drinking water. In response to Hurricane Irma, and with the direction of FEMA and the American Red Cross, Watergen then moved operations from Texas to Florida.
While Watergen is ready to respond “Anytime, Anywhere,” when faced with emergencies, “we must respond even faster,” said Pasik. “We are gratified to have been able to bring some stability to the people in both Florida and Texas during this difficult time by providing clean and safe drinking water from the air.”
His Head Above Water
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 treated and transformed into clean drinking water. The technology uses a plastic heat exchanger rather than an aluminum one, which helps reduce costs.
“The atmospheric water generators developed by Watergen allow the production of four liters of drinking water (one gallon) using 1 Kilowatt of energy,” says Pasik.
“Other atmospheric water generating devices, by comparison,” avers Pasik, “consume three to four times more energy, or effectively three to four times less water per energy unit.” As the price of water is influenced by the price of electricity, “this makes Watergen cheaper than similar solutions offered by other companies.”
While Watergen‘s water is still more expensive than desalinated water, “it is the best and cheapest alternative when desalinated water cannot be used because of poor infrastructure.” For developed markets, the Watergen solution is much cheaper than mineral and purified water in bottles, and avoids the use of plastic bottles which are an environmental hazard.
“If pipes are damaged, you cannot drink the water because of pollution. Underdeveloped countries have a lot of problems with their water infrastructure. In developed locations, like Michigan, California and Illinois, the pipes are very old,” says Pasik. In the U.S. the infrastructure will be changed, but it will take time. “In the meantime,” says Pasik, “we can provide the alternative solution for drinking water. People may shower with pipe water, but can drink water from our products.”
Tapping Into Air. Invited by the U.S. Marine Corps and National Guard, Watergen participated in a 3-state emergency responder drill alongside ZAKA (voluntary community emergency response teams across Israel) in May 2017 showing the Israeli company’s ability to dispense clean and safe drinking water during a crisis.
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 “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!