Keeping our heads above water

As I gaze out of the window, the heavens seem poised to deposit another deluge of Israel’s most precious natural resource. I smile as the twitter site Kinbot tells me that the Kinneret has risen another 20cm in the last 48 hours. It is not by accident that our ancestors were led to a land where agricultural success depended on what fell out of the sky. Water dominates our religious calendar and it also dominates our technological achievements.
The big story of the week was the signing of an agreement with China that will benefit Israeli water technology companies to the tune of NIS 1 billion. China realises that it requires the Jewish State’s expertise in water efficiency to support the massive agricultural projects required to sustain a huge population migrating from farming communities to urban areas. Meanwhile, in Europe, Israel’s Blue I Water has just completed a successful pilot monitoring the quality of water in the Spanish city of Barcelona. Blue I Water will now roll out their Low Energy Analyser to over 40 other areas of Spain. 


Over in Africa, the Israeli-managed Tahal Group has signed a $97.5 million project to design, construct, expand and upgrade the drinking water systems in the Kumawu, Konongo and Kwahu regions of Ghana. Another innovative company – Israel’s Water-Gen – produces drinking water on the move, out of thin air. The system is designed for military vehicles and can be powered by solar energy or more traditional electrical sources. Whilst on the subject of solar energy, this new video shows the first and largest solar power farm in the Middle East – at Kibbutz Ketura. It will generate 40 megawatts of power – enough to satisfy a third of Eilat’s electrical requirements.


Israel is among the leading exporters of water technology and know-how in the world. The National Council for Research and Development has just reported that in 2010, Israeli companies exports of technological services, licensing agreements, patents and the like for all technology areas amounted to $9.5 billion. And the technology is environmentally-friendly too. Israel came second to Denmark in Cleantech’s Global Innovation Index. Let’s therefore hope that UNESCO will keep its promise to correct its report of scientific achievements for 2005 to 2010 and insert some mention of Israel in its on-line addendum to the report.
The Dead Sea is a unique body of water that now can be explored from a different angle – underwater. An experienced diver, Avraham Bresler, is now leading tours deep below the world''s saltiest sea. And as the rain turns to snow in Israel’s capital city, Jerusalem prepares for its first Ice Festival, to be held at the Old Railway Station. The festival will feature dozens of massive ice sculptures, depicting major sites around the city, animals and children’s stories. There will also be an ice-skating rink at the site.


Accompanying the wonder of Israel’s snow and ice, it is appropriate that Israel’s star ice sportsperson Brad Chalupski launched Team Israel’s entry into the World Championship bobsleigh and skeleton competition at Lake Placid. He may have only achieved 29th place in the men’s skeleton, but Brad wore his newly-painted Magen David helmet proudly and was heralded on his first run by one of his fans with blasts on a shofar.
If you were wondering what exciting medical achievements Israel has made last week, you’ll have to wait for my next blog. Except for two with a liquid connection. Firstly, scientists at Israel’s Technion have developed ‘nanocapsules’ – tiny containers made of natural materials that can protect medicines from being broken down by stomach juices until they reaches the intestines. This allows medications to target more precisely the required location of cancers, inflammation and other gastro problems. The second is the discovery by a team of scientists from Bar Ilan University, Hadassah University and Hebrew University that the gene SIRT6 controls the aging process in mammals. Activators such as resveratrol (found in red wine) increase SIRT6 levels and could extend the human life span. I’m sure that the 20,000 visitors to ISRAWINEXPO 2012 will be interested in that news.
So let’s end by celebrating the highest seasonal rainfall for four years. The National water company Mekorot has even been able to dismantle the Kinneret dam that was built to allow its pumps to work. With the new desalination plants soon coming on line, the hope is that the dam will never be needed again. And may the nations of the world continue to flood us with requests for our technology.
Michael Ordman writes a weekly newsletter containing Good News stories about Israel.
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