Bar-Ilan hopes boost in environmental researchers will make positive change

University to add 50 more researchers over next five years.

Bar-Ilan University will add 50 more researchers over the next five years and many of them will focus on the environment, University President Moshe Kaveh said last week during a breakfast in honor of environmental activist Morris Kahn. Bar-Ilan University was already making notable contributions, Kaveh said. For example, Bar-Ilan researcher Prof. Amnon Albeck is working to understand and counteract bio-terror agents. Prof. Yigal Cohen is making Israel's 'Napa Valley' eco-friendly through reduction of agricultural contaminants and development of alternatives to hazardous farming materials and Prof. Steve Brenner is investigating the potential impact of global climate change on the Mediterranean basin. A Bar-Ilan University team, along with colleagues from several countries, also gathered at a week-long workshop in Eilat at the beginning of April to monitor trends in aquatic photosynthesis - an important procedure which assists in tracking the ongoing process of global warming. "Any changes in the well-being and rates of primary productivity (photosynthesis) in the oceans have a feedback loop on the atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases," said Dr. Ilana Berman-Frank and Prof. Zvy Dubinsky, of Bar-Ilan University's Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences. Kahn, founder of the environmental group Zalul, sharply criticized the Israeli government's handling of environmental issues. "While there is an inherent conflict between economic development and the environment, it is the government's responsibility to protect the environment, but they have failed by and large in this respect, partly due to lack of funding and lack of vision by the Environment Ministry," said Kahn. "We are polluting our environment, exhausting our non-renewable sources of energy, jeopardizing our water supply, damaging our marine ecology and almost making fresh air a luxury. This summer we are going to face a severe water shortage. Our government seems to be incapable of planning for the future water requirements and we are about to pay the price," said Kahn, the founder of Coral World International, a company that owns and operates underwater observatories, including one that has become Eilat's most popular tourist attraction. "Here in central Israel we often cannot swim in the sea because five million cubic meters of sewage sludge are pumped into the sea by municipal authorities and this is not a pretty sight," continued Kahn. However, he ended on a more positive note, saying: "We can and will make a change in Israel and also be a light unto the world."