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Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

It’s a political season, and the issues that drive us at Pitaron Park are part of the discussion. During his speech at the Republican National Convention last night, Rudy Giuliani praised VP hopeful Sarah Palin’s plans regarding off-shore drilling, and then led the convention floor in a chant of “Drill, baby, drill.” Thousands of people were chanting in support of an environmentally risky, quick fix solution to oil shortages that might not even decrease domestic gas prices.

A few minutes later, Giuliani went after Barack Obama for flip-flopping on the issue of Jerusalem; while speaking at an AIPAC conference in June, Obama called for Jerusalem to remain Israel’s “undivided capital,” but then shifted his opinion shortly after to reflect a more moderate position. Even as an Obama man, I can see how this move could register as nakedly political to those who don’t want to Barack the vote. However, I consider the continual efforts of the right to paint any shift in opinion or understanding of an issue over the course of time to be “flip-flopping” as childish and ignorant. I do not remember when learning became un-American; perhaps that’s what happens when you don’t believe in evolution.

There is a basic lack of complexity inherent in both of Giuliani’s positions. Finding solutions for sustainable energy is a key challenge today, and it is true that weaning ourselves off foreign oil is a critical piece of that puzzle. But, given concerns over peak oil and pollution, the answer is not to tear up our own country in search of another hit of that delicious black stuff, but wide-ranging, revolutionary re-imaginings of how we can reduce energy usage in our lives as well as how we can provide ourselves with the energy we need (bonus: wind and solar power programs could create many more jobs for Americans, in addition to providing more sustainable energy solutions).

Similarly, with regard to Jerusalem, the easy, quick fix answer for a politician in the US may be to keep AIPAC, the OU and the other “voices” of the American Jewish community happy by praising an undivided Jerusalem without question, but any realistic look at the situation recognizes the growing Palestinian population of Jerusalem (which creates serious demographic issues), the insistence of Palestinian groups on the importance of the city, and the fact that more and more Israelis are becoming ambivalent about living there. I am not saying Jerusalem should be broken up no matter what, but making promises without accounting for the possibilities that could occur is short-sighted at best.

True sustainibility and true Judaism, especially with regard to Israel, involve deep complexity of thought and careful examination of how we live our lives. This may involve occasionally rethinking our previously held opinions or taking risks with new ideas, but we must move forward and keep our minds open, otherwise we will never grow and develop. Think about it.

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A bit ironic, don’t you think?

Three weeks ago, the World Bank organized three public hearings to discuss the Red-Dead conduit, a plan to import water into the rapidly waning Dead Sea from the Red Sea in the south. Over the last 30 years, the Jordan River (the Dead Sea’s primary source of water) has been diverted for agricultural use. These diversions, along with naturally occurring evaporation, are reducing theDead Sea by as much as one meter a year.

The project is expected to cost around $15 billion. On the surface, it seems like a viable option, one that could even exist as a peaceful symbol of cooperation between Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority. But Hannah Doherty, in an article titled, “Can the Dead Sea Be Brought to Life?“, points out that the Red-Dead conduit might not be the most sustainable option:

By introducing water of a different density and composition to the Dead Sea, however, engineers may drastically alter the very thing they are trying to save. The Dead Sea is rich in calcium, while the Red Sea is rich in sulfate; mixing the two could create a surface layer of gypsum. New algae growth might also change the buoyancy of the water and alter its blue water to appear red. These critical changes could damage the tourism industry in both Israel and Jordan.

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As an alternative to the diversion project, environmentalists and local geologists propose rehabilitating the Jordan River. According to Dan Zaslavksi, a former Israeli water commissioner, regenerating the flow of the river to bring water to the Dead Sea will cost no more than $800 million, substantially less than the $15 billion estimated for the Red-Dead plan, Al Jazeera reported. Critics also suggest reforms in the chemical industries on both sides of the sea.

I encourage you to read the full article and am curious to see what the course of action will be.

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Taglit-Birthright Israel, what an amazing experience. Any qualified candidate for this program is an absolute fool if they don’t take advantage of it. There are so many different types of trips that cater to different preferences (anything from Orthodox-based to outdoor inspired biking ventures) that it’s almost silly. Please, go if you can.

This post is actually a follow up to something I wrote a few months ago titled, “Is Tel Aviv a Sustainable City?“. While I was traveling I kept a close eye out for signs of sustainability across the country. After looking at my notes (scribbled throughout my tattered Moleskine), it looks like my report is fairly optimistic. Talking to our tour guide, I learned that even though the “green movement” hasn’t quite hit Israel yet, the framework is certainly there. The country, through it’s remarkable technological resources and innovations, continues to draw in solar and energy-related companies, and it seems as if it’s only a matter of time before a tipping point sends Israel to the forefront of the sustainable movement.

Two particular things I noticed:

1) Many of the places that we stayed have toilets with two options for flushing. The smaller button produces a water flow just great enough to flush liquids, while the larger button, well, it gets rid of the bigger stuff. I had quite a fun time experimenting with both! It seems like this technique saves a lot of water, which in Israel is certainly a concern. The Sea of Galilee, which supplies roughly 30% of Israel’s water, is drying up more and more each year. Israel, the founder of drip irrigation – which saves a significant amount of water – is definitely ahead of the game when it comes to water conservation. I haven’t heard about this toilet technique anywhere else in the world…have you?

2) Strewn throughout the country are several large recycling areas for plastic bottles. The bins, usually placed on street corners, are supported by Aviv Recycling Ltd. The site explains that up to 50 such constructions exist in a given municipality. I saw another web address on the outer label, but the site is completely in Hebrew. Can any of our readers, or other authors, translate this (http://www.ela-el.com)?

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Last week’s edition of the Jewish Journal (the Los Angeles Jewish weekly) was a “green living” issue, one of four for the year, in which they dedicate space to “eco-friendly organizations and businesses.” A meta-article of sorts was written by Rabbi Daniel Greyber, the director of Camp Ramah in California, entitled “Green Endowments Mean Big Returns for Non-profits.”

In the article, Rabbi Greyber details how the camp he runs has begun to utilize solar energy in providing energy for the camp, thanks to a major donation. In addition to presenting the expected “solar energy means a smaller carbon footprint” argument, Rabbi Greyber makes a few other, less intuitive points over the course of the article. For example, there is the point that by reducing dependence on foreign oil, not only is the United States strengthened, but so is Israel, by virtue of giving less support to the “oil-rich” countries that, to put it lightly, aren’t necessarily always Israel’s best friends.

There is also the financial aspect. By Rabbi Greyber’s estimation, their solar installation saved them over $36,000 last summer, with savings likely to increase over time. Interestingly, the financial, rather than the environmental or sustainability, component is what motivated the donor, David Braun to donate; he states that by funding this project, he gives “a gift that can keep on giving.” Incredible to think that not only can being green be the right thing to do, but also the financially savvy thing to do as well. Unfortunately, non-profits do not benefit from the tax breaks for going green that corporations do (by virtue of the fact that they are tax-exempt). Rabbi Greyber suggests (and we at Pitaron Park certainly back him up) that perhaps there should be incentives created to give similar benefits to non-profits in order to create the environmentally (and financially!) sustainable systems for themselves. Fortunately, progress is being made on this front in Congress which should “level the playing field,” and hopefully it will come sooner rather than later.

The most important lesson, however, seems to be cited earlier in the article. By having this installation at a summer camp for kids, the teachability factor here is extremely high. This is not an isolated project, but rather right in the middle of a camp filled with children for all to witness. By placing a solar energy project front and center (literally and figuratively), Rabbi Greyber and the staff of Ramah California teach a valuable lesson in (to use his own words) “preservation of…natural resources and the power of partnering with nature.” Hopefully this is a lesson that more organizations will take upon themselves to teach in such a visible way, not only to demonstrate the importance of sustainability for themselves, but also for future generations.

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