HANUKKA MENORAHS in Jerusalem 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
If Judah Maccabee were alive today, he would be driving from Modi’in to the
Western Wall in a Better Place car charged with solar power.
This Hanukka, a record 2.8 million cars are clogging Israeli
roads and filling up on more than 4 billion liters of gasoline since the last
Festival of Lights. This means that the descendants of the Maccabees are
spending about NIS 30 billion on oil for transportation, with a chunk of it
going to regimes that don’t exactly appreciate the idea of religious freedom –
especially for Jews.
It’s as if the Maccabees decided to buy their oil
from the Greeks.
Without any sense of environmental or global
responsibility, we also burned a record 3 million tons of expensive and
polluting fuel oil for the production of electricity at a time when the solar
industry has had nothing but roadblocks put in front of it by the Finance
Ministry. In fact, we spent 16 times more on burning oil for electricity than
the annual budget of the Environmental Protection Ministry.
celebrates a tiny bit of oil that fueled eight nights of light. But a world
dependent on oil fuels religious extremism, a certain country’s nuclear program
and war. The Jewish state has yet to celebrate the Festival of Lights with solar
power making up a sizable portion of its energy footprint. In fact, this year no
more than 2 percent of Israel’s energy is powered by light – about 350 megawatts
– while Germany has an installed solar capacity of 35,000 MW.
the Warsaw Climate Change Conference ended without any meaningful action on
climate change, even as a deadly typhoon hit the Philippines and tornadoes
blasted through American towns. It is commendable that Israel can deploy an IDF
rescue team to the Philippines, but Israel is firmly part of the problem of
climate change and not asserting leadership in mitigating the root causes of
these super storms.
The world, including Israel, puts hundreds of
millions of people at risk because we do not take responsibility for the carbon
While Israel acting alone to drastically reduce emissions will
not affect the pace of the melting of the ice caps, we have a special
responsibility to be a model standing up to the tyranny of oil in transportation
and in electricity production.
Here is how to swap oil for light:
First, the Israeli government needs to lift the restrictions on solar power by
increasing the quotas. By lifting the quotas now, next Hanukka another 2000 MW
of solar-power projects could be green-lighted, creating green jobs, improving
air quality and reducing carbon emissions. With a little bit of leadership,
Israel could also easily raise its renewables target for 2020 from a paltry 10
percent to the modest European Union standard of 20%.
• Second, the
government and the IDF should mandate that by 2015 20% of their fleets, paid for
by our tax dollars, should be for electric vehicles. That alone could have saved
Better Place, assuming the Transportation Ministry would allow the electric
• Third, invest in energy storage. Imagine Israeli universities and
the hi-tech sector incentivized and supported to crack affordable grid-level
This would allow countries like Israel, which is 60%
desert, to transform its energy sector from burning fossil fuels to providing
renewables 24 hours a day. The economic impact, while saving the planet, could
be even greater than the natural-gas find.
• Fourth, divest from oil.
Ensure that state and other pension funds are not invested in oil companies, and
call on the Jewish world to follow. In North America alone, the Jewish
Federation endowments hold $15 billion, with investments in the oil sector
dwarfing investments in Israel and in alternative energy.
debated how to light the hanukkia, and this debate could be instructive to us.
Shammai argued for the first night to have the full nine candles burning,
reducing a candle each night. In other words, start off the holiday bright, and
end in darkness. Hillel, however, won the day (and night), arguing that our
mission is to celebrate the increasing of the light. Just as Judah the Maccabee
successfully led a small group against a world power, it would be nice to see an
enlightened Israel take on Big Oil by swapping oil for light in transportation
and energy. Now that is a miracle worth fighting for and hopefully
celebrating.Recognized by CNN as one of the leading green pioneers
worldwide, Yosef I. Abramowitz serves as CEO of Energiya Global Capital, a
Jerusalem-based solar developer, and also served, briefly, as president of
Better Place. He can be followed on Twitter @KaptainSunshine