Going Green Jewishly

Israeli Researchers Working on Innovative Project to End Global Water Shortage

Mon, 07/27/2015 - 7:00am
Researchers from Ben-Gurion University, Technion, Hebrew University, and Australia’s Monash University are working to develop “water sensitive cities
By: Maayan Jaffe, JNS.org, in ShalomLife.com

California headlines this month scream “water shortage”—but the shortage is not limited to the western United States. According to a recent report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, while the demand for freshwater resources is increasing, the supply remains constant and many regions are starting to feel the pressure. The report states that water managers in 40 of 50 states expect water shortages in some portion of their states within the next 10 years.

Amid this grave prognosis, a new Israeli research project might make the Jewish state an important part of the solution.

In what is arguably one of the most innovative water research consortiums to date, researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Australia’s Monash University are working to develop “water sensitive cities.” The description for the project, which is funded by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), says that water sensitive cities adopt and combine decentralized and centralized water management solutions to deliver water security. The data gathered from the project may be used to support development of urban master plans in cities in Israel and around the world.

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Why Dangerous Sinkholes Keep Appearing Along the Dead Sea

Mon, 07/20/2015 - 7:00am
by Tanya Lewis, Staff Writer, LiveScience
For millennia, the salty, mineral-rich waters of the Dead Sea have drawn visitors and health pilgrims to its shores. But in recent years, gaping chasms have been opening up without warning along its banks, posing a threat to such visitors and tourism in general.

Nestled between Israel and the Palestinian territories to the west, and Jordan to the east, the Dead Sea is famous for is extreme salinity (34 percent salt, almost 10 times as salty as the ocean), and for having the lowest elevation on Earth, at 1,407 feet (429 meters) below sea level.

But for the past few decades, the sea has been shrinking rapidly, due to the diversion of water from the Jordan River (which feeds the Dead Sea) and mineral mining from its waters in the south. The water's surface is currently receding by about 3 feet (1 m) per year, according to Hanan Ginat, a geologist at the Dead Sea and Arava Research Center, which runs under the auspices of Israel's Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

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Colony Collapse: Catskills Bungalows Hit By Zoning

Mon, 07/13/2015 - 7:00am
Venerable Jewish vacation spots to be replaced by upscale housing
By Jas Chana for The Scroll in Tablet Magazine

The Catskills bungalow colonies that have played host for countless Jewish vacationers for decades are now becoming extinct. On Monday, the Times Herald-Record reported that new zoning regulations in Sullivan County, NY, updated last October, have encouraged developers to replace the bungalow colonies with “new year-round summer homes, townhouses and modulars.” This is partly because the old bungalows no longer meet state building codes. For example, the Times Herald-Record reports that the bungalows were built on “stilts or cinder block piers” not actual foundations. The re-zoning is also a decided attempt to reduce clutter and restore the open countryside that has been destroyed by the sheer number of bungalows scattered across the county.
“Those towns have updated their zoning laws to create less density by specifically prohibiting bungalow colonies,” reports the Times Herald-Record. Those towns include Sullivan County’s largest—Thompson, Bethel, Liberty, Mamakating and Fallsburg.”

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Israeli scientist makes better sesame seed, wins award

Mon, 07/06/2015 - 7:00am
Using ancient breeding techniques and cutting-edge genetic markers, Dr. Zvi Peleg is improving the crop yield of this exasperating plant, and its nutritional value as well.
By Ruth Schuster for Haaretz

Sesame seeds are enormously popular but they have been a frustrating crop for farmers for thousands of years: the plant is hardy enough but its yields are low. Now a scientist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has developed methods to improve sesame crop yields while improving the seeds' nutritional quality too. In recognition of his work, Dr. Zvi Peleg has been awarded the Kaye Innovation Award for 2015.

Peleg's basic technique is as ancient as agriculture itself: selective breeding. You pick promising plants and cultivate and breed them while junking the inferior ones. But choosing which sesame plants to breed and which to throw out is based on cutting-edge genetic marker technology, Peleg explains to Haaretz.

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Agrolan Develops Portable Pollution Monitor

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 7:00am
Israel’s Agrolan Ltd. has unveiled a new mobile device that can measure air pollution. This is a groundbreaking development since until now only huge machines – which obviously must be kept stationary – could detect minute contaminants in the air. Now people will be able to take pollution monitors with them wherever they go.

The Golan Heights based Agrolan engages in the development of products that improve the environment. It has begun to market the first air pollution gauge of its kind in Israel. It is only slightly larger than a mobile phone and with it people can easily measure the amount of fine particulate matter suspended in the air at any point. The display has 6 background colors which highlight various pollution levels and with it pollution can be detected both indoors and outside.

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Texas and Israel’s Technion team up to build water system

Mon, 06/22/2015 - 7:00am
From Technion: Israel Institute of Technology

California could learn a thing or two about innovative water technologies from university researchers in Israel and Texas, whose joint desalination project won the Honorable Mention award in a USAID competition. A prize of $125,000 grant will be used in the near future to build a groundwater treatment plant in Jordan.

Driven perhaps by a common pioneering spirit or the aridness of their land, researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel and the University of North Texas teamed up to enter the competition held by USAID— the United States Agency for International Development. The competition’s goal was to develop innovative technology for producing food and potable water in the Third World, using sustainable alternative energy. “By 2050, global water demand is expected to increase by 55%, and 70% of global water use occurs in food production,” said Christian Holmes, USAID Global Water Coordinator.

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Netanyahu: Israel Will Make the Most of Natural Gas Deposits

Mon, 06/15/2015 - 7:00am
PM responds to allegations of natural gas 'cartel,' resignation of antitrust authority chief; 'We won't repeat the mistakes of others.'
By Ari Soffer for Arutz7Sheva

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has vowed that Israel will act as soon as possible to tap into massive natural gas deposits off the Israeli coast, and said he won't allow the process to be delayed by the ongoing controversy over allegations it is being monopolized.

"We will not repeat the mistake that other countries made when they sought ideal solutions for their gas and sometimes for their oil and as a result of which both the gas and the oil have remained below the seabed or underground," Netanyahu declared at the start of Tuesday's cabinet meeting.

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Aided by the Sea, Israel Overcomes an Old Foe: Drought

Mon, 06/08/2015 - 7:00am
By Isabel Kershner for The New York Times

JERUSALEM — At the peak of the drought, Shabi Zvieli, an Israeli gardener, feared for his livelihood.

A hefty tax was placed on excessive household water consumption, penalizing families with lawns, swimming pools or leaky pipes. So many of Mr. Zvieli’s clients went over to synthetic grass and swapped their seasonal blooms for hardy, indigenous plants more suited to a semiarid climate. “I worried about where gardening was going,” said Mr. Zvieli, 56, who has tended people’s yards for about 25 years.

Across the country, Israelis were told to cut their shower time by two minutes. Washing cars with hoses was outlawed and those few wealthy enough to absorb the cost of maintaining a lawn were permitted to water it only at night.

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Could An Israeli Invention End Cooking As We Know It?

Mon, 06/01/2015 - 7:00am
From The Jewish Week

Plenty of mobile apps help consumers order meals for delivery or offer recipes.

But a new app developed by Israeli entrepreneurs will actually prepare the food for you on your kitchen counter.

While not quite as fantastical as it sounds — to use the app you also need a coffeemaker-sized appliance called The Genie — the invention promises to prepare mess-free, all-natural, healthy food in just seconds.

Described by one writer as “like a Keurig [coffeemaker] for food,” the device, which looks sort of like a fancy rice cooker, uses Keurig-like single-serving, disposable (but in this case recyclable) pods.
Genie creators Ayelet Carasso and Doron Marco told Reuters the food in the pods will be nutritious and free of preservatives, the ingredients kept fresh simply through freeze-drying technology.
“The dish can be anything, it can be a meal like chicken with rice, like couscous with vegetable or an amazing Ramen or even a chocolate soufflé or any other desert that you want,” Carasso told Reuters. (The product does not appear to have its own website yet, nor is it featured on the site of Marco and Carasso’s White Innovation company.)

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How Jewish Is Jewish Environmentalism?

Mon, 05/25/2015 - 7:00am
The wildly popular movement relies on simplified and selective readings of traditional sources. We deserve better.
By Julian Sinclair for Mosaic

A remarkable feature of American Jewish life over the past 40 years has been the growth of Jewish environmentalism. From origins on the fringes of the community, dozens of organizations today enlist tens of thousands of Jews every year in a plethora of activities that include the “greening” of synagogue buildings, organic farming, and environmental lobbying under a Jewish umbrella. The Union for Reform Judaism devotes several pages of its website to a programmatic initiative aimed at “integrating Jewish values, learning, and actions that promote shmirat ha-adamah—protection and renewal of the world.” In the annual observance of Tu b’Shvat, once a footnote on the liturgical calendar, Jewish environmentalism has even created its own holiday.

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How Israeli Desalination Technology Is Helping Solve California’s Devastating Drought

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 7:00am
By Betty Ilovici, NoCamels

Four years of devastating droughts in California have pushed cities and counties in the Golden State to seriously consider turning to the one drinking source that is not depleting anytime soon – seawater. With the Pacific Ocean abutting their shores, water desalination may be the much-needed solution for Californians. But desalination has its disadvantages, the chief ones being the high costs and the potential environmental damage.

To address these challenges, California is turning to the world leader in cutting edge desalination technology – Israel. A $1 billion desalination project is already underway in San Diego County – which will be the largest seawater desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere – and Israeli engineers have been called in for their expertise.

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How a Biblical Edict Became a Boon for Palestinian Farmers

Mon, 05/11/2015 - 7:00am
Naomi Zeveloff at The Forward

Just beyond the Israeli military’s Al Hamra checkpoint, the Jordan Valley opens into a checkerboard of red soil farms that make up the Palestinian village of Froush Beit Dajan. It is a land under Israeli occupation. But occupation notwithstanding, in early October, an intricate year-long transaction was underway in the village that crosses this stubborn region’s usual ethnic, religious and geographic lines.

Soon after the Jewish new year of Rosh Hashanah, workers in Froush Beit Dajan loaded boxes of young cucumbers with yellow blossoms still attached to their stems into a truck bed shaded by a blue tarp. The cucumbers were destined for Israel, where, to the consternation of some Israeli Jews, they would be sold almost exclusively to the ultra-Orthodox.

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Extinct Tree Resurrected from Ancient Seeds is now a Dad

Mon, 05/04/2015 - 7:00am
APRILHOLLOWAY for Ancient-Origins.net

Ten years since the Judean Date Palm was miraculously brought back to life following the chance discovery of seeds in the 2,000-year-old ruins of Masada, the male date palm tree named Methuselah, the only one of his kind, has become a father.

For thousands of years, the date palm was a staple crop in the Kingdom of Judea, as it was a source of food, shelter and shade.  Thick forests of the palms towering up to 80 feet and spreading for 7 miles covered the Jordan River valley from the Sea of Galilee in the north to the shores of the Dead Sea in the south.

So valued was the tree that it became a recognized as a symbol of good fortune in Judea.  It is chronicled in the Bible, Quran and ancient literature for its diverse powers, from an aphrodisiac to a contraceptive, and as a cure for a wide range of diseases including cancer, malaria and toothache.
However, its value was also the source of its demise and eventual extinction.  The tree so defined the local economy that it became a prime resource for the invading Roman army to destroy.  Once the Roman Empire took control of the kingdom in 70 AD, the date palms were wiped out in an attempt to cripple the Jewish economy. They eventually succeeded and by 500 AD the once plentiful palm had completely disappeared, driven to extinction for the sake of conquest.

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Israel installs record-setting solar field on Knesset roof

Mon, 04/27/2015 - 7:00am
From Israel Hayom

Israel has installed solar panels on the roof of its parliament building, creating what it calls the largest solar field of any national assembly in the world.

The office of the parliament speaker says energy generated from some 1,500 solar panels will provide 10% of the electricity used at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, and saving approximately $400,000 annually.

"We have here 4,600 square meters [1.1 acres] of photovoltaic panels and this makes the Knesset the greenest parliament in the world and it's part of an amazing, extremely exciting project called Green Knesset that contains altogether 13 projects of making the Knesset more friendly to the environment," said Knesset spokesperson Yotam Yakir.

The array of solar panels, according to a Knesset press release, provides a capacity of 450 kilowatts.

The Knesset is also advancing other energy-saving projects, like installing energy-saving light bulbs, automatically shutting down lawmakers' computers at the end of each workday, and using water from air conditioning systems to help irrigate the gardens surrounding the building.

The statement says the measures will reduce the Knesset's energy use by a third.

Scientists will also conduct ecological research on the parliament roof.

The Knesset unveiled the solar field in a dedication ceremony on Sunday.

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Why Earth Day is a Jewish Holiday

Mon, 04/20/2015 - 7:00am
By Robert Rabinowitz for COEJL

April 22 is Earth Day. The very name makes many Jews nervous. A special day to celebrate the Earth sounds suspiciously pagan, bringing to mind images of Druids conducting fertility rites at Stonehenge or modern witches dancing to invoke nymphs in a misty forest glade. Perhaps what makes us so wary of this modern festival, first celebrated in 1970, is the idea of introducing the Earth as a “being” or moral agent with its own needs and mystical powers. And yet, ironically, the Bible is full of references to the way in which the Earth responds to the behavior of the people who live on it. The book of Leviticus, for example, warns the Children of Israel that immorality will cause the Land of Israel to “vomit” them out (Lev. 18:24-28, 20:22). In the shema prayer, it describes both the earthly benefits – rain, fertility and abundance – for listening to the commandments and loving God, and the costs – drought and famine – for ignoring God’s word (Deut. 11: 13-21). One compelling way to read this text is to think of it as suggesting that a major way for us, as individuals and as a society, to judge our actions and policies is by their environmental consequences. The shema warns: “Beware that your heart be deceived and you turn and serve other Gods and worship them” (Deut. 11:16). The “other Gods” need not be idols, but could just as well be the idolizing of wealth and power that often has profound negative environmental consequences. As we know, corruption and oppression frequently lead to poverty and hunger.

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Court approves removal of Rishon Lezion beach restaurants

Mon, 04/13/2015 - 7:00am
The owners of the five restaurants must destroy and evacuate their facilities by April 20, the Rishon Lezion Magistrates Court ruled.
From JPost.com

The Rishon Lezion Magistrates Court approved the evacuation of five beachside eateries in the central Israeli city on Tuesday, accepting the state's previous decision on the subject and rejecting the business owners' appeals.

As part of the "Coasts Project" run by the State Attorney's Office and the Environmental Protection Ministry, and according to the stipulations of the 2004 Coastal Environment Law, the state has issued removal orders for the five restaurants in question – built without permission on the Rishon Lezion beach, a Tel Aviv District Attorney's Office statement said. The aim of the project is to restore the country's coastal resources and provide the public with free passage on the beaches, the statement said.

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