Back To Africa

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.

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Hands On. Ambassador Paul Hirschson in West Africa.

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.

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Israel’s Man In West Africa. Ambassador Paul Hirschson in front of the iconic Mosque of the Divinity in Dakar. (photo credit: Seth J. Frantzman)

“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.

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Facing The Press. Israeli Ambassador to Senegal Paul Hirschson speaks at a press conference, September 2015. Photo: Israel au Sénégal / Facebook

“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 Outreach

“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.

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Israel – A Friend In Deed. As there is no Israeli embassy in Sierra Leone – one of the poorest countries in the world according to UN indicators – Israel sent in 2014 medicines, clean water, blankets and other needed items via its embassy in Senegal.

Shared Experience

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.”

Helping Hand

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.”

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Field Of Dreams. With Israel’s helping hand, lettuce is grown on a MASHAV farm in Senegal. Photo: MASHAV

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.

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Conversing Over Coffee. Lay Of The Land correspondents David E. Kaplan and Rolene Marks with Ambassador Paul Hirschson (right) for exclusive interview in Tel Aviv.

“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)

Cleansing Experience

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.

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Dirty Water. A major cause of children’s illness and death in 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.

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“Clean Water”. Young Israel engineering graduates Selda Edris (left) and Mayes Morad providing water solutions in Uganda (Photo: Gali Margalit)

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.

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Normal Life. Extracting dirty water from swamp in rural Uganda.

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.

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“I feel beautiful for the first time”. Every day Helen had to choose how to use the little water she had. Now that she has a steady source, she says she feels beautiful for the first time.

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?

She explained:

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.

 

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A refugee camp in Uganda, 2018 (Photo: AP)

 

Dumb & Dumber

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.

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Israel In Africa. Students receiving clean, fresh water extracted from air at St Joseph’s school in Freetown, Sierra Leone from an Israeli invention. (photo credit: DRUSSO/SHTEVI PHOTOGRAPHY)

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.

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Water Crisis In Africa. Israel has solutions.

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.

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Ready To Respond. Watergen USA built an emergency response vehicle to take GEN-350 atmospheric water generators to disaster zones to provide drinking water from air. Photo: courtesy

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.

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GEN-350 Medium Scale atmospheric water generator.

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!

Water Everywhere

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.

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Israel In India. One of the first countries to try was India where you see here a Watergen unit in New Delhi.

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.

“Game Changer”

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.

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Watertight Relations. Providing water out of air in India – (L-R) – Tenny Cherian, Chief Operating Officer, Quality Services, TATA Projects with Michael Rutman, Member of the Board of Directors, Watergen Israel. (PRNewsfoto/TATA Projects)

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.

Modern Miracle

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

 

 

 

 

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Cool It

“What, harnessing the blazing sun for cooling instead of heating?” Leave it to the Israelis!

By David E. Kaplan

An Israeli company, SolCold has developed a new paint that convert sun’s rays into cool air-conditioning. The double-layered nanotech coating is a potentially game-changing electricity-free solution for cooling buildings or equipment in intensely sunny climates. This makes it ideal for Central and South America, the entire Middle East and all of Africa – from Cairo to Cape Town.

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Coating materials that protect against fire, water or extreme temperatures are nothing new. But an Israeli high-tech paint doesn’t just protect surfaces from the sun. SolCold actually uses the sun’s power to activate a cooling mechanism, effectively providing air conditioning without electricity.

How does it work?

SolCold’s unique paint – “no thicker than a business card” – is applied to a surface of an object, where the sun’s radiation triggers a reaction in the material. This reaction then converts the heat accumulated on the object it is applied to – into radiation. This radiation is then emitted in a process called ‘anti-Stokes fluorescence’ – invented by electrical engineer Yaron Shenhav, the co-founder and CEO of SolCold – thus providing the cooling effect.

SolCold’s material functions as if it were a thin layer of ice that gets thicker and cooler as the sun gets stronger,” explains Shenhav. “We are focusing first on homes and shopping malls, but it can be applied on the roofs of cars and this can help save gasoline.”

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Cool It With Paint. A special paint will make houses cooler without electricity. (Photo: Chanchai Boonma / Shutterstock)

Energy Saver

“When applied to the rooftops of buildings, the material can help save up to 60% in energy costs,” says Shenhev, “which translates into annual cost savings of +$10,000 per building.” There’s also a major positive impact on the environment – saving on these energy costs means a considerable reduction in CO2 emissions. “We are not just saving costs, but also helping protect our environment at the same time.”

SolCold’s product is generating interest for coating anything from chicken coops to cargo ships, malls to stadiums, cars to planes, satellites to hothouses, military equipment to apartment houses.

How did such an early-stage company receive so much attention already?

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THE SUN ITSELF COULD SOON BECOME A LOW-COST AIR CONDITIONER…

Cool Heads

SolCold first made the news in June 2016, when it was one of six Israeli companies handpicked by the US State Department and the White House to participate in the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in California.

And then, in October 2017, SolCold was a finalist in the deep tech competition at the Hello Tomorrow Summit in Paris.

Addressing the summit to an excited audience, Shenhav began:

“Yes, we are in Paris, the City of Lights, and above all these lights that we admire, there is the greatest, strongest light – the SUN. And while the sun is our greatest source of light, it is also our greatest source of heat on this planet. And whether here in Paris or in Tel Aviv, my home town, or LA, Beijing and practically everywhere on this planet, when the sun shines it emits radiation, which is absorbed by everything around us from buildings to cars, and in return it creates heat. So, this is the equation we know today – the stronger the sun, the hotter it gets. But we at SolCold have an alternative equation. We have a material that actually harnesses the suns energy into active cooling; meaning for us the equation is: the stronger the sun, the cooler it actually gets.”

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Sunny Side Up

Potential imitators do not concern SolCold’s super cool team because the technology is so complicated.  “We gathered a unique combination of knowledge in the worlds of thermodynamics, nanotechnology and quantum physics,” says cofounder Gadi Grottas, “and have been working on it for the past four years. We have also registered a PCT patent, which is pending before being published.”

Grottas expects the product to be affordable and to offer a quick return on investment.

He reveals that the materials used in the coating:

–  all exist in the market

–  are 100% “green”

–  free of carbon emissions

– are activated by free energy from the sun.

When tested in a lab using a sun simulator, SolCold’s double-layered coating cooled an object by 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) using the equivalent of only 1% of the sun’s energy.

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Cool Heads. The SolCold management team, (left – right): Cofounder Yaron Shenhav, technical leader Prof. Guy Ron and Gadi Grottas. Photo: courtesy

“The paint could decrease electricity consumption by up to 60% and is expected to last for 10 to 15 years before needing a new coat,” says Grottas. 

This is no “sugar coating” it – this coating is for real and is transformative.

In hot weather, electricity grids become strained as people use their air conditioning day and night. In Israel, the national electric company frequently issue warnings during summer — when temperatures soar over 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) — to use air-conditioners more sparingly, lest the grids shut down. Inevitably, electricity bills skyrocket.

The idea came to Shenhav sitting in his Tel Aviv apartment one sweltering summer over fours ago. “My air-conditioner was barely functioning – it was struggling to cope and came up with an idea which initially involved optic cables.”  This he later abandoned in favour of harnessing the sun’s radiation for cooling.

Cool Idea

“Now imagine what would happen for example,” says Shenhav, “if all the buildings in Tel Aviv have this coating on the roof. The entire city would consume 60 percent less energy in the hottest days of summer, and when that happens, our power plants would need to produce 60 percent less electricity – meaning much less CO2 (carbon dioxide) would be released into the air by the power plants.”

This is an enormous environmental benefit, asserts Shenhav.

The big question then is what happens in winter with less sun? While “the cooling effect would be reduced by 50% due to more rainy days when clouds hide the sun,” cooling will nevertheless still occur. At present, SolCold is targeting warmer climates such as the sun belt in the US, Central and South America, southern Europe, the Middle East, parts of China, Oceania and Africa.

Playing It Cool

Grottas has visited South Africa as part of promotion where there was interest among egg farms “because hot weather stresses laying hens and greatly reduces their productivity.”

It would also be extremely beneficial in rural South Africa for schools and hospitals.

 

Vision for Africa.  This could be a game-changer in rural South Africa.

 

But Shenhav envisions entire cities in hot climates using SolCold to coat residential and commercial buildings, which would consume less energy and therefore reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.

“Our technology can cool anything under the sun,” he says.

With the material able to be applied to most surfaces, SolCold’s potential is infinite.

The Herzliya-based startup is currently raising funds and has begun trials. Commercial and residential buildings in Israel and Cyprus are waiting to get the trial SolCold treatment.

Meanwhile, says Grottas, the company has received hundreds of inquiries regarding orders and distribution rights — which he estimates to be worth around $100 million — from places including Africa, Australia, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, China, France, India, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Mexico, Philippines, Turkey and the United States.

Out Of This World

SolCold also has its sights on cargo, automotive, space and military markets, estimated at a total of almost $100 billion.

Satellite and space applications especially could prove a huge market for us,” says Shenhav.

“In space, there is the problem to cool down equipment where there is no air to conduct heat and so expensive internal systems are used to isolate and ventilate,” he explains.

Therefore, “opportunities arise in space for our cooling coating that emits the heat via radiation.”

The same cooling principle may have huge potential for the military, in its application on specific hardware. There may also be an added advantage that the paint could in theory “also serve as a camouflage against infrared detection.”

No ‘camouflage’ can hide the sheer genius of Israel’s coolest new invention. Wherever its hot in the world, leave it to the Israelis to cool things down!

 

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Out Of Thin Air

By David E. Kaplan

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.”

Not so.

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.

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Alternatives for Africa. People lining up for water in an informal settlement outside of Johannesburg, South Africa

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.

Water Everywhere

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.

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Israel’s Lifesaver. Water-Gen’s technology uses a series of filters to purify the air, take out the humidity and transform it into clean drinking water. (YouTube screenshot)

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.

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This Should Not Be! An Indian woman and her daughter carry a bucket of water in the streets of Pushkar Rajasthan (Liron Almog/Flash90)

“Game Changer”

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.

 

Going Global

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.”

Life Saver

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.

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Helping America. Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert III, second from left, Water-Gen President Yehuda Kaploun and Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez toasting Water-Gen in Miami Gardens, Florida, June 20, 2017. (Courtesy of Mendy Studio)

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.”

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Toasting Tomorrow. Water-Gen’s executive chairman Maxim Pasik (left) with Prof. Alan Dershowitz in the Water-Gen booth in the 2017 AIPAC village (Courtesy: Water-Gen)

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.

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Tapping Into Air. Invited by the U.S. Marine Corps and National Guard, Watergen participated in a 3-state emergency responder drill alongside ZAKA in May 2017 showing the Israeli company’s ability to dispense clean and safe drinking water during a crisis.

 Modern Miracle

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!