The Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya will launch the country’s first undergraduate degree in sustainability this fall, within a relatively new department established with donations from some of Israel’s heavier polluters.

While the school – officially called “the School of Sustainability Founded by Israel Corp, Israel Chemicals Ltd. (ICL) and Oil Refineries Ltd. (ORL)” – opened its doors in fall 2010, and allowed students from other degree programs to take courses, the dedicated bachelor’s degree is new.

Students will able to enroll in the BA program in fall 2012; they will have a choice of two tracks, sustainability and economics, or sustainability and governance.

The school aims to give the country’s future decision-makers the tools to deal with issues of the 21st century, a subject that greatly affects the public and business sectors all over the world, the IDC said.

The school’s NIS 7.5 million endowment comes from the Ofer family’s Israel Corp, Israel Chemicals and Oil Refineries, which are collectively responsible for several of the nation’s large-scale environmental problems, including major oil spillages in the Kishon River, as well as the need for a complete salt harvest in the Dead Sea’s southern basin. The overflowing waters in the basin, a result of mineral extraction on the part of Israel Chemicals, caused the government two weeks ago to make Israel Chemicals liable to pay for 80 percent of this future harvest.

A spokeswoman told The Jerusalem Post that the school is striving to become an international player and a respected strategist within Israel, where it aims to “serve as a platform for debate and dialogue between the public sector, private sector, environmental organizations and green technology innovators from Israel and the world.”

“With respect to the name of the school, the contribution of organizations and business to academic institutions is an accepted practice in leading universities all over the world, while maintain academic independence and integrating top researchers into the field,” the spokeswoman said. “Our goal is and remains training future leaders to contribute ethically and practically to society, while maintaining academic integrity and a commitment to the truth. IDC thanks Israel Corp., ICL and ORL for their contribution that helps us sustain our mission.”

The curriculum for the new degree will be based on those of top-tier American schools, with an added emphasis on aspects unique to Israel, the university said. Among the featured topics will be sustainable economic development, longterm national plans for the water and energy markets, international visions about entrepreneurship and decision- making in the sustainability realm and energy. Faculty members will include the dean of the school, Prof. Mordechai Shechter, former chairman of the University of Haifa’s Department of Natural Resource and Environmental Management; Prof. Uri Marinov, the first director-general of the Environmental Protection Ministry; Prof. Arza Churchman, former dean of the Technion’s Faculty of Architecture and Planning; Dr.

Yael Pereg, former senior researcher at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute; and Dr. Karni Lotan, a judge with expertise in environmental regulation.

“Decisions in the sustainability field have become an integral part of the public and private sectors,” Shechter said.

“Environmental changes that influence areas of our lives reveal on one hand, fertile ground for green initiative, and on the other hand, require environmental legislation and limited corporate responsibility.”

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