KKL-JNF exhibits innovation at Expo Dubai 2020

Leading the fight against climate change, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael showcases Israeli technologies and promotes global cooperation in the UAE.

 KKL-JNF youth delegation. (photo credit: KKL-JNF)
KKL-JNF youth delegation.
(photo credit: KKL-JNF)

The Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) has concluded a successful first three months as largest partner at the Israel pavilion in Expo 2020 Dubai.

Since its opening in early October, the Israel pavilion has greeted many senior personalities from across the world, alongside royalty from the United Arab Emirates. This reflects an effort to promote cooperation with KKL-JNF in the fields of sustainable development and the fight against the recent climate crisis.

The Israel pavilion is a project led by the Foreign Ministry. The pavilion is designed without walls, for maximum openness for attendees of Expo 2020 and beyond who are invited to the Israel pavilion. The KKL-JNF exhibits the latest innovation in the pavilion and advanced technologies offered by the KKL-JNF and developed in recent years.

KKL-JNF is a non-governmental organization that, according to a special law of the Knesset, operates as the National Forest Service and the Israel Land Authority.

“One of the key areas at the Dubai Expo is the area of sustainability, which includes the fight against climate crisis, environmental protection issues, ecosystem conservation, the search for alternative energy sources, the fight against desertification and more,” said Ronnie Vinnikov, head of KKL-JNF’s Resource Development and External Relations Division.

 THE ISRAELI pavilion. (credit: KKL-JNF) THE ISRAELI pavilion. (credit: KKL-JNF)

“These are at the core of the KKL-JNF’s day-to-day work, and participation in the World Expo in Dubai allows us to share the capabilities, achievements and knowledge we have accumulated in the KKL-JNF’s 120 years of existence,” Vinnikov added. “The Expo is an opportunity for the creation of regional collaborations for the KKL-JNF in its fight against the national and regional climate crisis.”

Among the royalty who visited the KKL-JNF pavilion was Sheikh Hamdan Ben Zaid (the ruler’s representative in the region). The KKL-JNF’s representative at the expo, Nave Shachar, spoke in presence of the sheikh about the KKL-JNF’s advanced technologies for agriculture in desert conditions, as well as the KKL-JNF’s desire to expand cooperation between Israel and the UAE. 

 HIS HIGHNESS Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed receives a framed photo from KKL-JNF. (credit: KKL-JNF) HIS HIGHNESS Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed receives a framed photo from KKL-JNF. (credit: KKL-JNF)

This event also hosted the Moroccan investor and philanthropist Mohamed Dekkak, who praised the work that the KKL-JNF is doing for the environment, and spoke about the opportunity that this period creates for the people of the region.

The event, which featured four companies in the field of construction technology with an emphasis on sustainability and the environment, was also attended by representatives from the Oman pavilion, who were impressed by the extensive knowledge on issues of regional development in a desert environment.

‘Youth is the future’

As noted, one of the key issues featured in the Expo was sustainability and climate change. The Israel pavilion, alongside the KKL-JNF, hosted a number of activities in that area, including a youth panel on the topic of youth education and informal education solutions in the fight against climate change. 

Leaders of 25 different youth organizations from Israel and the UAE attended a series of lectures and panels on the importance of youth in efforts to reverse climate change and provide for a more sustainable future.

From the Israeli side, Shlomi Castro, CEO of the Israeli Council for Youth Organizations, headlined the event with a lecture on youth being the drivers of social change. Other Israeli guest speakers include the former director-general of the Science and Technology Ministry and director of KKL-JNF’s Education and Community Division, Sar-Shalom Jerbi. 

“The education delegation to the Expo is a dream come true,” said Jerbi. “It is fulfilling the dream of generations to create a real connection between Israel and the countries and peoples surrounding it. There is no better way to do this than through education. 

“Peace always starts with education, and when you bring organizations and youth movements together under a shared vision for the future like that of KKL-JNF – this leads to a real, long-term connection.”

  HIS HIGHNESS Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed received this framed photo from KKL-JNF. (credit: KKL-JNF) HIS HIGHNESS Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed received this framed photo from KKL-JNF. (credit: KKL-JNF)

The Expo was also an opportunity for the KKL-JNF to host and participate in a variety of events with the Israel government to promote environmental and energy issues. 

KKL-JNF and Israel’s Construction and Housing Ministry had a joint hybrid event for Sustainable Regional Planning: Balancing Development and the Environment. Also, Israel’s Environmental Protection Ministry and KKL-JNF have teamed up to present Israel’s accumulated knowledge, experience and preparedness for climate change through nature-based solutions.

“KKL-JNF, as Israel’s largest environmental NGO, continues to be leading Israel’s efforts that make it a global player in the fight against climate change. We continue to promote large-scale research projects that put Israel at the forefront of tackling the climate crisis and desertification process that is going on throughout the region,” said KKL-JNF chief scientist Doron Markel.

KKL-JNF, said Markel, was in the process of developing a brand-new Global Center for Combating the Climate Crisis.

“This international innovation center will be tasked with creating technological solutions to assist in the fight against climate change. We hope to foster an atmosphere of international cooperation to promote these advancements, namely with Persian Gulf countries and other regional actors,” he added. Israel is considered a world leader in water recycling, drought-resistant crops, solar energy and the health challenges involved in climate change.

‘Naturally accessible’

The Expo in Dubai was also an opportunity to engage and promote a social agenda. During November, KKL-JNF marked the International Day of People of Determination in a series of events alongside Access Israel NGO, Start-Up Nation Central, and the Regional Cooperation Ministry, which hosted a range of start-ups in the Israel pavilion. The start-ups, from both Israel and the UAE, presented attendees with their most advanced accessibility technology. 

“Accessibility in the open is completely different from accessibility in an urban park. When planning a new project, we try to integrate with existing topography, preserve any type of soil, rocks, unique trees or archaeological sites; and at the same time, meet the requirements of the law and regulations,” said Merav Davidian, KKL-JNF’s chief accessibility planner and director.

Davidian took part in a special event at the Israel pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, which featured five up-and-coming Israeli access-tech companies with cutting-edge solutions, hopefully incorporated in KKL sites soon.

Her role includes not only planning modern sites and preservations, but also making sure that forestry, diverse wildlife, and complex terrains and ecosystems in Israel are not damaged and affected by construction and alterations made to KKL-JNF sites, parks and recreational areas.

“We plan with accessibility integration embedded within, so that it does not harm the nature of the place. We’ve renovated over 300 different sites and locations in the past year with many more still to come. It is usually technology that assists us with incorporating accessibility in an environmentally-friendly manner,” she said.

The events featured groundbreaking technologies. As part of the unique presentation created by Access Israel, the visitors were invited to perform an urban obstacle course that enabled able-bodied people to experience the type of access challenges that disabled people who use wheelchairs or who are blind/visually impaired experience daily. 

The Israeli technologies on display at Expo2020 Dubai also included an Automatic Speech Recognition device developed by Voiceitt; medical technology and innovative communication technologies produced by EyeControl; an AI-based motion control system that analyzes wheelchair seating positions developed by ReSymmetry; and a panoramic, 3D photography system that identifies accessibility obstacles in a range of terrains, including urban environments.

“Accessibility is a guiding principle at KKL-JNF, which offers 350 accessible sites in Israel,” said Davidian. We will persist in our efforts to make Israeli nature accessible to all, while protecting the environment and the topography.”

This article was written in cooperation with KKL-JNF.