‘Charging’ Down the Drag

Tel Aviv-Yafo is paving the way for electric roads of tomorrow

By David E. Kaplan

Electric vehicles can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but it was previously tried in Israel and literally didn’t “get us far”. The challenges were daunting – high cost of batteries, charging stations were too few and far between, and recharging took far more time than a fill-up at the pump. Israelis are hardly endowed with much savlanut (Hebrew for “patience”), so the electric car ended up going down the proverbial cul de sac!

So it was back to the drawing board whereby reaching higher meant researching lower, resulting in an ‘electric road’ rather than the ‘electric car’.

Transport of Tomorrow.  A bus “charging” along a busy Tel Aviv street.
 

This is the idea of Israeli start-up ElectReon, which is to electrify the roads to recharge vehicles as they are driven.

An ‘electric road’, ‘eroad’, or ‘electric road system’ (ERS) is a road which supplies electric power to vehicles travelling on it but today, in 2020, it is far more than just an idea!

In partnership with the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality and Dan Bus Company, ElectReon have launched a pilot project to install wireless electric roads for charging public transportation in the city.

The initiative, which aims to reduce pollution and advance urban electric transportation uses wireless technology and requires no charging stations in public spaces.

The first of its kind in Israel, the pilot will be carried out between Tel Aviv University Railway Station and Klatzkin Terminal in Ramat Aviv – a two-kilometer route including 600 meters of electric road.

Revolutionary Road. A vehicle equipped with a charging receiver drives over copper coil charging strips at the Electreon test site in IsraelCredit(Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times)

The Chosen Path

Along this select road of the pilot project, specially-equipped electric buses will travel while being charged directly from an under-road electric infrastructure.

Down the road, following the tests expected to be completed within two months, a Dan Bus Company electric bus will commence regular journeys on the route, serving passengers traveling to Tel Aviv University.

This pilot project is integral in Tel Aviv-Yafo’s municipal policy of attaching monumental importance to electric vehicles and reducing air pollution in the city. Stated in a press release, the City will move forward on “constructing electric roads to encourage energy independent public transportation.”

To this end, Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality signed a recent collaboration agreement with Israeli company ElectReon – the developer and installer of electric road systems – for charging electric vehicles while traveling.

Testing Times. A charging receiver attached to the back of a car at the Electreon test site. (Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times)

Street smart

The construction of an electric road to charge public transportation vehicles will make,“Tel Aviv-Yafo the first city worldwide to roll out the technology for charging buses on a wide scale. In doing so, the city will evaluate the possibility of additional electric transportation, including public transportation, distribution trucks, and private and autonomous vehicles.” asserts the Municipality

Says Tel Aviv-Yafo’s upbeat Mayor, Ron Huldai:

We are constantly working to reduce air pollution in the city, and our strategic action plan to prepare for climate change has placed the fight against pollution at the top of the municipality’s environmental agenda. If the pilot is successful, we will evaluate – together with the Ministry of Transportation – its expansion to additional locations in the city.”

Black & White. An illustration of a bus being charged during travel.

Adds the City’s Deputy Mayor, Meital Lehavi:

We welcome that Tel Aviv-Yafo is a groundbreaking experimental laboratory for Israeli technologies, including electric roads. Transforming a road into an electrified surface and a means for charging, through advanced and effective infrastructure, will enable the acceleration of the transition to electric buses. Relying on direct charging of vehicles from the road itself will remove the need to establish charging stations or be operationally bound to terminals.

With electric transportation assisting municipal efforts to reduce air pollution and noise and assist the transition to green modes of transport, the trend will undoubtedly contribute to improving the quality of life and the environment for residents and visitors to the city. “We have no doubt,” continues Lehavi, “that, if the wide-scale experiment is successful, it will not only benefit the public, but also save resources, improve the operational efficiency of public transportation, and maybe even a new world-class method of electrification will emanate from Tel Aviv-Yafo. This is another milestone in advancing municipal policy on sustainable transportation.”

Behind the Wheel. “This project has the potential to move the electrification revolution to mass implementation,” says Noam Ilan, a co-founder and VP of Electreon. (Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times)

Electrifying News

ElectReon CEO and founding partner Oren Ezer, says “we are delighted” that the first electrified public route is being established in Tel Aviv – a global leader in the field of innovation and smart transportation.

The pilot will be a display window to the world, showcasing the ability to charge urban public transportation.”

And the world is watching.

Noting the challenges – technological and financial – Dan Becker, Director of the Safe Climate Campaign in Washington, says “If it works it could be a real game-changer for electric vehicles.” A strong advocate for lower emission vehicles, Becker  adds “It would free the vehicle from the plug. It would allow smaller batteries, the most expensive component of the vehicle. And it would reduce their weight so there would be less weight for the vehicle to schlep along.”

Going Global

Over time, ElectReon executives aim to go global and make “all-electric city transport” the wave of the future.

This project has the potential to move the electrification revolution to mass implementation,” said Noam Ilan, a company co-founder and vice president for business development.

While the ElectReon system will still require vehicles to carry batteries, these batteries however will be far smaller and lighter because the vehicles will constantly recharge and therefore will need minimal storage capacity.

Executives assure that roads can be easily retrofitted, and nearly two-thirds of a mile or one kilometre of road can be outfitted during a night construction shift.

The Road Ahead. Following the success of public transport, the aim is for private cars to follow the way of public buses.

An asphalt scraper machine can dig a shallow trench in the road, while a second vehicle installs the charging strips and covers them with fresh asphalt. Power is delivered to the road from the electricity grid by power inverters installed on the sides of the road.

Once the strips are deployed, “roads would rarely if ever need to be dug up for repairs,” says Ilan.

And on the question of economic sustainability, Ilan insists that ElectReon has an almost limitless potential revenue stream from tolls on its roads and systems to bill registered vehicle customers for the electricity they use. “Revenues would likely be shared with local utilities,” he said.

Today a pioneer in developing electric road technology, ElectReon has come a long way since it was founded in 2013 by a few engineers from Elbit Systems, a prominent Israeli aerospace company with global operations.

Going Green. A vehicle powered by ElectReon technology ‘charges’ ahead. (photo credit: ELECTREON WIRELESS)

With roughly 20 employees, their lab is “decidedly makeshift”, with the look, as Clifford Krauss of The New York Times described in an October 2019 article “of a high school electronics lab.” He noted amusingly that the charging apparatus for the test track was rigged to the back of a car using a Thule bike rack and metal rods, while “surf boards leaned against the walls for breaks” at a nearby Mediterranean beach.

Is this not typically Israeli and quintessential Tel Avivian – being super ‘charged’ while simultaneously casual in lifestyle? Assures company co-founder,  Noam Ilan, “such breaks SPARK creativity.” 

No doubt!

Whether from surfing waves today to the ‘wave of the future’ of electric roads of tomorrow, Israel’s city of Tel Aviv-Yafo ignites the way forward.

Let’s go for a ride“. ElectReon – Dynamic wireless charging



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

‘The Magnificent Nine’

Israel makes the cover of Time as 9  of its inventions feature on the Magazine’s  100 best inventions of 2019

By David E. Kaplan

Every year, TIME magazine highlights the Best Inventions that are making the world “better, smarter and even a bit more fun”. In choosing their 2019 list, TIME solicited nominations across a variety of categories from its editors and correspondents around the world, as well as through an online application process. Each contender on the list is evaluated based on key factors, including

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Cover Story. Nine Israeli inventions or innovations are among Time’s Top 100

– originality

– creativity

– influence

– ambition

– effectiveness

The result: 100 groundbreaking inventions that are changing the way we live, work, play and think about what’s possible. Amongst the Top 100 that appears in print in TIME’s December 2 – December 9 are nine Israeli-made creations.

Here are the nine Israeli innovations that appear in Time’s top 100:

Seeing Is Believing

I was first exposed to this invention over a year ago when I walked into my uncle’s sitting room in Rehovot, south of Tel Aviv and saw him reading. Reading! He is virtually blind but there he was, wearing his glasses reading the morning paper. Then I saw he had a device and soon leaned it was a  MyEye 2.0 by OrCam.

It was great, we could argue over politics!

The MyEye 2 is a lightweight smart camera that attaches to virtually any frame of a pair of glasses. Using AI technology, it instantly and discreetly reads printed and digital text aloud from any surface, recognizes faces, products, money notes and more, all in real time. The intuitive device is operated by using simple hand gestures and has more than 20 voice-activated commands. It is designed for all ages, can be used with any level of vision loss and does not require an internet connection.

The portable, finger-sized device can be discreetly clipped to eyeglasses or sunglasses to read out texts from books, newspapers, product labels, and restaurant menus and can even scan barcodes, identify faces and currency, and tell time even without a watch.

“This is the world’s most advanced artificial vision device for people who are blind, partially sighted and have reading difficulties,” OrCam Director of Media and Communications Rafi Fischer told NoCamels last year. The device is gesture-motivated, so the user only has to point to the piece of text to activate the device or hold their hand out to stop the audio of the reading.

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A Word In One’s Ear. No more for those with failing sight need to miss out on enjoining their favourite literature.

“Fitting all this power into such a small device is like “putting an elephant into a small closet,” OrCam co-founder Amnon Shashua told TIME. Shashua is also famously the co-founder of Israel’s Mobileye, which develops vision-based driver-assistance systems. Intel acquired Mobileye for $15.3 billion in 2017.

 

Offering CONCRETE Solutions

Man’s love of the ocean and building on its coast is all very well for man – not always for the ocean! The problem lies in the detrimental impact of eco-unfriendly concrete.

Step in an Israeli company ECONcrete – an environmental tech company founded in 2012 by marine ecologists Dr. Shimrit Perkol-Finkel and Dr. Ido Sella. Listed in the “design” category of TIME’s list of 100 Best Inventions of 2019, ECONcrete develops sustainable concrete for constructing ecologically active infrastructures in coastal and marine environments as well as in urban landscapes.

The company uses “a technique known as bio­mimicry, relying on the shapes, textures and size of natural systems to dictate how the company builds its products,” so they blend in with their surroundings and are less intrusive to marine ecosystems.

Earlier in 2019, ECONcrete was listed by Fast Company on its “World’s Most Innovative Companies” of 2019. The company was also featured in an episode of the popular web series Nas Daily.

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Below The Surface. ECOncrete is proving that development and sustainability don’t have to be at odds.

With nearly half of the human population living along coastlines, coastal development, and increasing coastal urbanization  are inevitable. Concrete is the main construction material globally, accounting for over 70% of Coastal and Marine Infrastructure (CMI).  Nonetheless, it is a poor substrate for biological recruitment, and is considered toxic to many marine organisms, mainly due to its unique surface chemistry which impairs the settlement of various marine larvae.

Now, ECOncrete, with a suite of innovative, science-based solutions, is proving that development and sustainability don’t have to be at odds.

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“Pitch To Rich”. ECOncrete was honored to be the winner of the event hosted by Virgin Atlantic and Calcalist. ECOncrete’s CEO and Co-Founder, Dr. Shimrit Perkol-Finkel (right) presented its innovation to Sir Richard Branson (3rd from right).

 

Bring To A Head

A world leading survey of health conditions across 195 countries found that, in every year from 1990 to 2016, migraine attacks remained the second-largest global contributor to years lived with disability. They come with a huge economic cost, too, causing an estimated 25 million sick days to be taken in the UK alone each year. But compared to their health and economic burden, migraines remain one of the world’s most under-funded diseases.

Step in an Israeli medical tech company Theranica that has developed a migraine-zapping wearable device Nerivio and featured in Time’s list in the “health care” category.

The device, worn on the upper arm, provides migraine treatment through neuromodulation therapy, altering nerve activity by way of targeted delivery of a stimulus. The treatment is like “a personalized pain-relief programme,” according to the Netanya-based company.

“We are honored to be recognized by TIME and thrilled to see Nerivio listed alongside inventions that are shaping the future,” said Alon Iron, CEO and co-founder of Theranica.

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Getting Ahead. Developed by med-tech firm Theranica, its device, “Nerivio” provides acute treatment of migraines. (Photo via Theranica’s website) Medical Devise Of The Year

“At Theranica, we believe that migraine solutions should be affordable and accessible. We are proud of the non-invasive, low side-effect and drug-free alternative that Nerivio offers and remain dedicated to bringing effective relief to individuals around the world living with migraine.”

 

Home Diagnosis

The “health care” category on the TIME list also featured the remote medical examination device TytoHome developed by Israeli tele-health company Tyto Care. A handheld examination device, TytoHome comes with attachments to examine the heart, lungs, skin, ears, throat and abdomen, as well as measure body temperature, to enable remote diagnosis of acute care situations like ear infections, sore throats, fever, cold and flu, allergies, and more.

The device allows users to perform these comprehensive medical exams and send the information to a primary care provider.

The device, at $299, was recently made available to purchase at over 300 Best Buy locations across the USA. It’s also available online.

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Easy Diagnosis At Home. An ear exam with a Tytocare TytoHome device.

“Tyto Care’s mission has always been to make high-quality healthcare accessible on-demand, from any location to as many people as possible,” Tyto Care CEO and co-founder Dedi Gilad, said in a statement. “We are honoured to be included on TIME’s Best Inventions list for 2019. This recognition signifies the ground-breaking impact TytoHome is having on people’s day-to-day lives and we are excited to continue to deliver the best virtual care experience to consumers across the globe.”

Gilad co-founded Tyto Care alongside Ofer Tzadik in 2012, after spending many days and nights in emergency care as a parent of young children.

As reported in NoCamels, “Dedi Gilad was a young father of two dealing with fevers, fussy eaters and his daughter’s chronic ear infections when he did what few exhausted parents of young children do – he launched a startup!”

Tytocare is a telehealth company bringing medical exams to the comfort of our homes. And like all good ideas, it was born out of necessity. Gilad was spending hours day and night at the emergency room with his daughter, getting exposed to germs in hospital waiting areas and losing countless hours of sleep, only to receive the same diagnosis every time.

 

Home Alone – no more!

Want a beer, ask Temi, an Israeli developed robot, billed as the world’s first intelligent, mobile, personal AI robot. Featured in Time’s list in the “home” category, the 3-foot-tall personal robot with a 10-inch touchscreen for a head is the creation of Israeli startup Robotemi.

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Mr. Robot. Temi Israel CEO Yossi Wolf with one of the company’s personal robots. (Photo: courtesy)

Retailing at for $1,999,Temi can answer questions, order groceries, play music and videos, make calls, control your smart home, follow you around your house (except up or down stairs), and call for medical assistance. Users can control Temi remotely from any location in the world via the app and command different actions.

Temi has won a number of prestigious awards over the past year, including 1st prize in the field of robots and drones at the Shanghai CES Asia 2019 Exhibition, a Gold Award in the Personal Robot category at the prestigious Edison 2019 Awards, and the best robot in CES Las Vegas according to Tom’s Guide and the International PC Magazine Award for Best of MWC 2018.

Founded in 2015, Robotemi is headquartered in New York City, has an R&D lab in Tel Aviv and a business and manufacturing location in Shenzen, China. Earlier this year, the company announced that world-renown Israeli mentalist Lior Suchard was joining as chief brand officer (CBO).

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Touchscreen Temi. A bedtime story with Temi. (Courtesy)

 

Out Of Thin Air

If Moses brought forth water for the People of Israel in the desert by striking a stone, today’s Israelites strike water from the air.

Instead of searching below for solutions, Watergen found it above – in our atmosphere – and devised a way to ‘tap’ into this unlimited resource.

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Tapping Into Air. Using the company’s GENius technology, the “Genny” is capable of producing between 25-30 liters (6.6-7.9 gallons) of water per day from thin air.

The Israeli company Watergen, which  hopes to improve the quality of life of billions who suffer from poor water sanitation or lack of accessibility to safe drinking water, developed a patented technology that makes drinking water “out of thin air”. It is its at-home appliance called the Genny that featured on the TIME magazine list in the “social good” category.

In the aftermath of the raging fires that wiped out much of Paradise, California, a truck pulled up to a group of residents and rescue workers, parched after a day of cleanup. The driver came out, pointed to a machine in the back and said that the device could pull water out of thin air. He flipped a spout and out came clean, drinkable H20.

“They literally walked around the truck and they kept on trying to figure out where this water is coming from, what magic are you guys doing?” recalled Yehuda Kaploun, the president of Watergen USA.

The device, which looks like a water cooler, is a generator capable of producing between 25-30 liters (6.6-7.9 gallons) of water per day using the company’s heat-exchange GENius technology. The generator first collects water vapour in the air and then cools the air at its dew point, after which the water goes through physical, chemical and biological treatment followed by a mineralization process to maintain its cleanliness, tastiness and healthy quality.

The Genny retails at an estimated $1,500, according to TIME. Watergen’s generators have been used in countries like India, South Africa, Vietnam, Sierra Leone, China, Uzbekistan, and the US.

 

Come Fly With Alice

While “These are the largest windows in a commercial aircraft,” noted one observer, that is not what won it its listing in the Time magazine list in the “sustainability” category.

In June 2019, Israeli aerospace company Eviation Aircraft debuted “Alice” – a prototype of the first all-electric commuter aircraft. Alice is a battery-powered nine-seater which Eviation hopes will help transform urban aerial travel through a “flying taxi” concept. CEO Omer Bar-Yohay has called it “Uber meets Tesla in the sky,” with commuters of the future travelling at a fraction of the costs of conventional jetliners ushering in a new era “of flying that is quieter, cleaner, and cost-effective.”

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Flight Of Fancy. Eviation’s exquisite looking Alice.

Regional trips will be “cheaper than a train ticket” and far more considerate for the environment. The idea of curbing carbon emissions by half by 2050 – an eco-friendly pledge by the aviation industry – is another reason many of the major airlines are exploring electric options.

Alice is “capable of flying with nine passengers at 240 knots and a range of up to 650 miles [1046.07 km],” says Bar-Yohay.

“It’s basically a huge battery with some plane painted on it,” Bar-Yohay told reporters.

“This plane looks like this not because we wanted to build a cool plane, but because it’s electric,” he said, “You build a craft around your propulsion system. Electric means we can have lightweight motors; it allows us to open up the design space.”

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News Was Electrifying. Eviation’s electric aircraft on display at the opening of the 53rd International Paris Air Show at Le Bourget Airport near Paris, France, June 16 2019. (REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol)

In 2018, the company was selected as the winner in the transportation category of Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas Awards.

Alice is sure going places!

 

Hello, Meet ElliO

Making the “special mentions” category on the TIME’s list is ElliQ, is a robotic companion created by Israeli company Intuition Robotics.

Designed to help the elderly “stay engaged, independent and connected to family and friends,” the tabletop social robot mimics human movements and responds to voice, gaze, and touch. ElliQ offers tips and advice, responds to questions, engages throughout the day, makes appointments, reminds those in its care about medications and can suggest content to watch and set up chats with friends.

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Engaging Fellow. The small tabletop robot helps the elderly connect to the outside world and keep active and engaged. ElliQ can suggest content to watch, give reminders about appointments, and set up chats with friends, among other functions.

Useful for those who cannot easily operate a smartphone, ElliQ is meant to address the issues of isolation and loneliness among senior citizens by reading out messages, displaying photos, and answering video calls.

Founded in 2015 by Itai Mendelsohn, Dor Skuler, and Roy Amir, Intuition Robotics’ ElliQ was named the Best of Innovation Winner in the smart home category at CES 2018.

 

Giving Back

Also in TIME’s “special mentions” section was Israeli insurance tech company Lemonade with its “Giveback” charity component.

Lemonade’s concept was coming up with a fresh brand that through the use of technology rather than relying on brokers, it could break into the huge and rather staid insurance market.

Customers answer a set of simple questions through a chat with the company’s bot, “Maya,” and, in seconds, can get their home insured. It takes 90 seconds to get insured – says the company’s website  – and three minutes to get paid, if and when a claim is made.

Unlike traditional insurers, Lemonade takes a flat fee — one that would normally go to the insurance brokers — and sets aside the remaining funds for claims. In a good year, when there’s money left unclaimed, the company does not pocket the money but donates it to causes their customers choose.

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Dynamic Duo. The co-founders of Israeli insurance tech company Lemonade, Daniel Schreiber (left) and Shai Wininger. (Photo: Ben Kelmer)

Founded in 2015 by Israeli entrepreneurs Daniel Schreiber and Shai Wininger, the Lemonade Giveback’s mission is “to transform insurance from a necessary evil into a social good.” They have designed Lemonade to bring out the best in people, while giving society a push for the better.

When users sign up, they choose a charity or non-profit organization they care about, and once a year, Lemonade tallies up unclaimed money pooled from policyholders who chose that same cause and donates it to the organization.

Tens of thousands of members are supporting causes they care about, simply by getting a Lemonade insurance policy. As the Lemonade community grows, the social impact emerges stronger.

The philosophy of Lemonade’s  Schreiber may apply to all of Israel’s inventions for 2019. “Great digital brands,”  writes Schreiber, “transcend borders. Whether in Chicago, Paris, or Singapore, today’s consumers listen to music on Spotify, ride with Uber, and stay at Airbnb. Consumers are increasingly cosmopolitan, socially aware, and tech-native.”

Israeli inventors and entrepreneurs are in tune with this, hence their phenomenal global success.

We can look forward to a no less exciting 2020 for Israeli inventiveness!

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.

 

Cleansing Experience2
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.

image009 (17)
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.

image011 (2)
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!