Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and National Infrastructures Minister Dr. Uzi Landau
signed a Memorandum of Understanding in Jerusalem on Sunday establishing a
“Sister Lakes” relationship between Lake Michigan and the Kinneret, to foster an
educational exchange for research toward maintaining the two very critical
bodies of water.
Some issues of common interest between the two leaders
include maintaining water quality, preserving fisheries, eliminating harmful
invasive species, curbing algal proliferation and keeping water levels high –
all of which are crucial to supplying ample water to the respective populations,
the officials said.RELATED:
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In forging the partnership, Landau and Quinn said
they hope to see a direct exchange of ideas and work on projects in both places.
Illinois has already formed such collaborations for Sister Lakes (and Rivers)
with Poland, Korea, Ireland and Japan, and will soon be establishing one in
China, Quinn told The Jerusalem Post after the ceremony.
to have comparisons with other bodies around Earth,” he told the Post, pointing
to Israel as a leader in sustainability.
“Israel is certainly showing the
During his speech, Landau said that Israel too could benefit from
the partnership, as administrating the country’s water needs “is a delicate
equilibrium between our environmental needs and all of our other needs –
agriculture, industry, domestic use.”
Meanwhile, however, he also
expressed confidence that research being conducted in the Kinneret would help
those conducting similar studies in Illinois.
“Lake Kinneret, like the
rest of our country, may serve as a laboratory for lots of other problems taking
place in the world,” Landau said, citing Israel’s Mediterranean climate, desert
and plentiful soil as perfect microcosms for international research.
we simply go on with this agreement and join hands there is much to achieve,” he
The two lakes also have many distinctions from one another that
could benefit research, according to Prof.
Barak Herut, director-general
of Israel Oceanographic & Limnological Research, who led a tour of the
Kinneret for Quinn and his delegation on Friday.
“The large differences
between the two lakes make their comparison an attractive natural laboratory,”
Herut said, noting that Lake Michigan is 350 times the size of Lake Kinneret.
“This might explain why our partnership should really be called Sister Lakes,
not Twin Lakes.”
Herut’s office, which is affiliated with the Earth
Sciences Research Administration in the National Infrastructures Ministry, will
be leading the collaboration from the Israeli side, while the Illinois
Department of Natural Resources will head the American team, Herut
During his tour on Friday around the Kinneret, Quinn said he
visited the Mount of the Beatitudes, a kibbutz and the fishing village of
Capernaum, where he lunched on St. Peter’s fish that tasted “pretty good” and
understood the importance of protecting fisheries.
In Lake Michigan,
fisherman are currently battling a particularly invasive species, the two-meter,
50-kg. Asian Carp, which “literally as it’s coming up river and hears a
motorboat, comes out of the river and knocks people off of their boat,” he
To combat smaller invaders – algal blooms – Illinois has
banned the use of phosphorous and fertilizers that encourage growth, the
But one way to ensure a healthy Lake Michigan and
Kinneret is by fostering public support through the establishment of official
“friends” groups “where people band together and work for clean water,”
according to Quinn.
“We would want to work with you on a ‘Friends of the
Sea of Galilee’ so that people all over earth who have read the Old and New
Testament can [give their support],” he said.
Quinn’s entire trip to
Israel was “totally his own initiative,” according to Michael Kotzin, executive
vice president of the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, whose group
organized the governor’s visit.
“We are pleased to act as a catalyst for
steps that have practical implications and also symbolize the value in bringing
people together to the benefit of both Israel and Illinois,” Kotzin told the
Others joining Quinn included Illinois State Senators Jeffrey
Schoenberg and Ira Silverstein, and Skip Schrayer, chairman of the Jewish United
During the visit, which began on Tuesday, Quinn also met with
President Shimon Peres, Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Shalom Simhon,
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and Ron Dermer, senior adviser to Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the governor told the Post.
visited Better Place, where Quinn told the Post he enjoyed driving an electric
car. Illinois, he explained, has just approved a $10 million budget to install
electric vehicle infrastructure.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, the governor
participated in a ceremony at Ben-Gurion University in which the Negev
institution and the University of Illinois at Chicago signed an Agreement on
Academic Cooperation for faculty and student exchange and joint research
projects, also expanding existing public health partnerships, a spokeswoman from
the Jewish United Fund said.
But even this partnership stems back to
water, according to Quinn, who told the Post that “part of public health is
clean water.” Stressing the historical importance of hydrating liquid, both
Quinn and Landau cited legendary 19th-century American novelist Mark Twain
during their speeches.
Referring to The Innocents Abroad
, where Twain
wrote about his 1868 travels, Landau spoke about how the author describes “those
years when he was traveling on a mule through a desolate land.”
mentioned the Lake Kinneret, but it wasn’t as flourishing as it was today – it
was a place that suffered from much of the phenomena of a dry country that he
came across then. If you travel across Lake Kinneret today, it’s a different
story,” Landau said.
“Since the modern Jewish return to our ancient
homeland, much of the attention has been focused on the environment and Lake
Kinneret...all that has turned the Kinneret into a major body of
drinking water in Israel.” Also quoting Twain, who lived along the Mississippi
River, which borders Illinois, Quinn said, “When it came to water he was an
expert – he said, ‘Whiskey’s for drinking and water’s worth fighting for.’” Gil
Hoffman contributed to this report.