When Jonatas Santana decided to study at the IDC, he had no idea he would be part of Israel’s campaign against COVID. Similarly, when Enrique Feinholtz enrolled at the IDC, the last thing he would have imagined was that he would be running a national mask clean-up project and create an app to help Israel’s beaches deal with environmental pollution caused by a pandemic.
Since the start of COVID-19, Jonatas originally from Brazil, currently in his third year in his BA in Sustainability and Government at the IDC, has been organizing the delivery of food packages to Holocaust survivors and the elderly.
Meanwhile, when Enrique from Mexico and his friends in their second year in their BA in Sustainability and Government at the IDC, saw how the facemasks were littering Israel’s beaches, they were determined to act.
Firstly, they ran a beach clean-up project and on October 30th they were part of the world “Biggest Clean-Up Day” and cleared all the plastic and disposed of the face masks on the beaches.
Secondly, they went a stage further and developed an app - TrashTag - which would map out and report where they found trash on the beaches.
This type of initiative and innovation is precisely what the IDC is trying to instil into their students – giving them the confidence to become green entrepreneurs even before they have learned the theory on the course!
Both Jonatas and Enrique are in the words of Prof. Yoav Yair - Dean of the School of Sustainability, “doing exactly what we are trying to teach them. Don’t talk - but get involved and solve."
"We place an emphasis on practical solutions. Using the analogy to a football game, I tell our students – ‘Don’t sit in the balcony and watch - get on the pitch and play and affect the result.’"
“My educational philosophy is “Tikun Olam” (improving the world) which gives us all a responsibility to improve our planet. That’s what I try to inculcate in the students – that green entrepreneurship can make the world a better place.”
Yair continues, we instill in our students a “do it” attitude. “I believe our young, fresh students are a real asset. “Some see millennials as snowflakes. But I view them as really great students – they are impatient and want to come up with solutions. We hope to teach them about green entrepreneurship after they have worked it out for themselves.”
“Apart from ‘TrashTag’ another start-up our students have created is Gaia Eco Solutions by Noam Revach and his colleagues,” Yair says. “Yet again, our students created it even before learning about green entrepreneurship in the third year of the course. Revach and his partners had already established their own company before they graduated.”
Like the rest of the IDC, the BA Sustainability and Government Program has adapted to the COVID reality remarkably well.
“I believe, in these difficult times, students actually feel safer in Israel than in other countries. All the classes are on Zoom and recorded so there are no time zone difference problems. Students can login from wherever they are in the world and listen to a recording of a class. “
“We give them no leeway on their studies - they still must submit assignments and take tests a month from now. We did shift their exam time to 5.30 p.m. Israel time from 10 a.m., for students on the East Coast and European and Eastern countries – China and Japan,” says Yair.
“Actually, like on the other schools at the IDC, we have seen a 15 % increase in registration due to Israeli students who, because of COVID, can’t travel abroad.”
“While COVID had caused our extensive extra-curricula activities – like the parties and beach cleaning which the students love, to stop - the Jewish students still have activities according to the Health Ministry regulations, like kabalat shabbat, prayers and meals,” says Yair.
With regard to the degree program itself, there are currently 90 students in this double major, from the US, Europe, South America and Africa. There are also a few Israelis who choose to study in English. “There is an interesting mix of globals and locals – who want to make the planet better and greener,” Yair says. The undergraduates are younger than average Israeli track. Some of them come fresh from high school, 19 years-olds and are 4-5 years younger than regular Israelis who usually start aged 23/4 after post-army travel.
The BA Sustainability and Government Program is unique in that it combines environmental studies with sustainability and government and offers students many courses on most topics –energy, water, food, air pollution, human effects on the environment, sustainability and smart cities and transportation.
Most graduates from the degree course stay in Israel and many of the Jewish students make aliyah (immigrate to Israel), which is a key factor for the IDC. Some even move to Israel before they start in school. They also have students who were “chayalim bodedim” (lone soldiers) at IDF before enrolling at the IDC.
Recruiters prefer graduates from the BA Sustainability and Government double major, says Yair. "They look for graduates who know about environmental economics, renewable energy and corporate social responsibility – they certainly find them from the program."
“All our graduates get jobs afterwards,” says Yair. “Some work in start-up companies, which may not be directly related to the degree, but the skills we teach them make them highly employable. For instance, planning, speaking in front of an audience, academic writing, creative writing, and world knowledge. Employers are looking for students who know what’s happening in the world and the big issues we face today. We teach them that!”
The degree program teaches students the “17 SDGs’” – the 17 sustainable development goals. All UN member states signed they will teach them these. The aim is to go back to sustainable development - to make sure the planet isn’t destroyed.
Prof. Yoav Yair, an atmospheric physicist, says that the reason why he decided to run this degree program was because he was worried about climate change – what it does to Israel and the world. “Israel is sensitive to climate change as the Middle East is on the border and will get less rain and higher temperatures, and we need to be ready with solutions” he concludes