German and Israeli Students Dream up Green Transportation

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The program was initiated by JNF-KKL Germany and other partners, and launched about a year ago to mark the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany.

The Creating a Future for Transportation delegation of young people from Germany has been visiting Israel as part of a unique environmental education program for high school students from Israel and Germany that puts special emphasis on sustainable transportation.
“I believe that the future is based on ties and collaboration between young people from different parts on the world,” declared 18-year-old Linus Bornemann from the town of Bielefeld in Germany. “Together we all need to take action to conserve the environment, for the sake of our own futures and those of our children, too.”

The program, which was initiated by JNF-KKL Germany and other partners, was launched about a year ago to mark the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany. Activities included shared study through a specially designed internet site in Hebrew and German. To conclude their studies, the students created their own environmentally conscious transportation project and presented their original ideas in short video films.

“Sustainable transport is an issue that affects the lives of all of us,” explained Sharon Ryba, one of the program’s initiators, who is in charge of education at JNF-KKL Germany. “Environmental activities help young people to get to know a new country, while from our point of view this is also an opportunity for us to display KKL-JNF’s environmental contribution.”

Eleven teenagers from three German high schools who had won the first three places in the video film competition took part in the tour. For eight days they visited a variety of sites in central and southern Israel in order to get to know the country and learn about transport-related and environmental projects.

The fascinating tours included a visit to a number of KKL-JNF projects: they volunteered in Sataf, where ancient agricultural practices have been revived at a restored site in the Judean Hills; they learned about forestry work in Eshtaol Forest; they observed desert agricultural research at the Ramat HaNegev Research and Development Station; and they visited Ben Gurion’s hut at Sde Boker.

Bus, bicycle or solar car?
Together with three of her friends, eighteen-year-old Uli Dahms of Königs Wusterhausen initiated a project for improving safety for child cyclists. On a particular day they asked primary-schoolers to bring their bikes to school, and local police paid a visit to check that their bicycles met all the required safety standards. This original project won the girls first prize in the competition.

“We decided to encourage the use of bicycles, because they’re a green form of transportation, but we also realized that it was important to protect the safety of the children,” explained Uli.

Her fellow group member seventeen-year-old Susanne Linke spoke about joint activities they had shared with the Israeli youngsters: “We live in different places and there are a lot of differences between us, but it was actually thanks to these differences that we discovered that we have a lot to learn from each other,” she said.

Other noteworthy films made by the German delegates dealt with a car powered by solar energy and wind (second place) and the production of clean energy from hydrogen (third place).

The Israeli representatives likewise made impressive films on a variety of issues, including: using a bus instead of private cars to travel to youth movement meetings in Gdera (first place); a solar-powered application for organizing transportation for young people in Shoham (second place); and using a bridge to link two school campuses in Petah Tikva (third place).

Neot Hovav: Industry that conserves the environment
The delegation’s tour of the Negev began with a visit to Neot Hovav, Israel’s first eco-industrial park. There the visitors learned about the interaction between industry, the environment, society and the economy. This modern industrial zone that has sprung up amid the desert landscapes conscientiously conserves the unique natural features of the region. The park extends over an area of some 25,000 dunam (approx 6,250 acres), provides a living for ten thousand families and constitutes a remarkable model of sustainable industry for Israel and the rest of the world.

“The eco-industrial park is committed to principles of green growth and to the development of links between all partners in the enterprise: the refuse from one factory is the raw material for another,” explained Neot Hovav Regional Council’s Environmental Unit Manager Nir Hasson.

Over thirty gas, chemical, metal, plastic recycling, agricultural pesticide and drug production companies are located in the Neot Hovav Park. “In the past local factories used to stream their effluent into the gullies, causing very serious environmental damage,” explained Nir Hasson. “Today we treat the effluent, prevent pollution of the groundwater, soil and air, and limit unpleasant smells.”

Ramat HaNegev Research and Development Station: Making the desert bloom
At their next stop the delegates discovered how it is possible to make the desert bloom with green fields and orchards that produce harvests in the very heart of Israel’s Negev desert region. The secret, of course, lies in advanced research and development of the kind underway at the Ramat HaNegev facility. At its Desert Agriculture Research Center scientists develop ways to grow, irrigate, fertilize and tend crops, and adapt them to suit the unique conditions of the region.

Experimentation topics include irrigating with brackish water, developing new crop varieties, optimizing water-use efficiency and even the development of marine agriculture. This expertise is not kept secret, but is distributed to farmers within the region. Students from developing countries come to visit, learn from Israeli technology and return home with the tools necessary to promote agriculture in their native lands.

The delegates were welcomed at the facility by Yanai Zausmer, a researcher at Beersheba’s Ben Gurion University who specializes in trees, agriculture and ecology. “Research centers similar to this one are scattered all over the country, and each one is adapted to suit the specific conditions of the area where it is located,” he said. “Climate, soil type and water composition all have a great effect on crops.”

The visitors, of course, did not pass up the opportunity to visit the research and development station’s orchards and greenhouses, and thus were able to see for themselves how pomegranate and olive trees grow on the sand dunes, and observe the cultivation of tomatoes, peppers and a variety of other vegetables.

“We have to increase environmental awareness. I believe that we members of the young generation have the power to bring about change,” declared eighteen-year-old Gilior Arnon of Frankfurt as the day’s events drew to a close.