Clean and Green

A Day with KKL-JNF's German/Israeli "GreenXchange" Program "This mission is a way to connect to KKL-JNF, and connecting with KKL-JNF is connecting with Israel."

KKL_270911_A (photo credit: KKL-JNF)
(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
"This mission is a way to connect to KKL-JNF, and connecting with KKL-JNF is connecting with Israel." Yehudit Perl-Strasser, who is responsible for KKL-JNF's Young Leadership program, was describing the "greenXchange" program, during which twenty young Israelis and Germans spent the week between September 18-25 on an intensive and ecologically oriented tour of the country. "The idea behind the mission, which is comprised of ten Israelis and ten Germans," Yehudit said, "is to reach out to the younger generation. The average age of the group is 29, all professionals in various environmentally-related fields. Young people today perceive themselves in a global context, so the ecological content of the visit is very important for them. Our focus is on love for Israel, pride in Israel, outstanding ecological projects and making a global impact.
"The group was organized by Shira Lazarovich, Annette Heimann and Lena Mechik, and the cost of the trip for participants was subsidized thanks to a generous donation from ISTRATradeLinkLtd. Over 100 people applied for the mission, from which twenty were chosen. We hope that as a result of understanding the complexities of Israel's environmental issues and how KKLKKL-JNF deals with them, they will become a positive voice for us in Germany. The Israelis and also the Germans are interested in meeting people with similar interests and commitments and networking with them. Future plans include creating a joint environmental project and implementing it. In addition, a follow-up seminar is planned for a year from now in Germany."
The group's itinerary focused on KKL-JNF projects in the south and central regions of the country, including visits to the Kfar Saba biofilter, the Yarkon river restoration project, water reservoirs and R&D stations, among others. We joined them for a very informative and intense day in the Arava and western Negev deserts.
Kibbutz Lotan – Think Globally, Act Locally
The day's first stop was at Kibbutz Lotan, an ecological community located deep in the Arava desert. The group was met by Alex Cicelsky of Lotan's Center for Creative Ecology, who showed them around the village and explained about the residents' ideology and experience: "We are looking for sustainable methods of enabling daily life and for good engineering systematic that take care of the world and take care of people.  For example, we are interested in what is known as 'embodied energy', which means looking at the strings of energy that goes into any given product. This way of thinking led us to the conclusion that the best building materials for the structures on our kibbutz are earth and straw. It's not easy to make homes livable here in the Arava. In the summer, the average daytime temperature is 43 degrees, and it goes down to 30 degrees at night. Our homes are super insulated and the windows are positioned in a way that takes advantage of the sun's position during different times of the day and the year. This sort of building reduces energy consumption by 70%!"
Alex showed the group cookies being baked in a solar oven and a solar cooker that uses reflected sunlight. He also explained about recycling projects and low-energy night lighting. The group was very much impressed by the attention paid to every detail and how no expenditure of energy was taken for granted. Alex also noted that KKL-JNF, with help of it's friends in USA and Australia, was a major supporter and backer of Lotan: "KKL-JNF has been with us since our inception and continues to support us. KKL-JNF projects here include developing the bird watching nature reserve, earthworks, constructed wetlands for biological sewage treatment and building an educational building. In addition, KKL-JNF has recently agreed to fund our solar energy research project, for which we are especially grateful."

Yarden Tenenbaum from Shaked, Israel, the founder and co-CEO of "Adam KKLLeAdam – Leadership for Tikkun Olam", spoke to us at Lotan about being part of greenXchange: "I read about the mission in a KKL-JNF newsletter. It's been an amazing week, meeting the people and learning about the environmental issues. The program is structured in an interesting and comprehensive manner.  People in Israel are not really aware of all of KKL-JNF's fields of activity, so this has been an excellent opportunity for me to learn about them."
Haran Bar On, an Israeli ecological policy analyst currently living in Berlin, agreed: "To be perfectly honest, I originally felt that having anything to do with KKL-JNF was very foreign for me, due to previous misconceptions about the organization. After four days, my opinion changed radically. I actually hadn't realized that KKL-JNF was an ecological organization that is involved in so many and diverse environmentally-related projects throughout the country. You could say that I went from being on the sidelines and mildly opposed to KKL-JNF to being relatively supportive and looking forward to future collaborations."
On the other hand, Yamit Honikman Perez, a project coordinator at the Ministry of Environmental Protection, was more familiar with KKL-JNF's environmental orientation due to her profession: "This exchange program came at exactly the right time for me. I was looking for something that would expose me to what's going on ecologically in other parts of the world. Working in Israel, I often feel as if I'm in a bubble and I thought about going abroad for awhile, and then the possibility of participating in this exchange group came up. I've gotten everything I was looking for in a very concentrated manner over just one week. We have a lot to learn from the Germans, there are a lot of areas in which they are considerably more advanced than we are.