The 7th greenXchange seminar, which took place this year in Israel from September 6-12, was the catalyst for the generation of ideas and exciting partnerships between 24 talented and highly motivated young professionals from Israel and Germany. Organizers declared this year’s event as the most successful to date.
What is greenXchange?
greenXchange is a program founded by KKL-JNF and JNF-KKL Germany to serve as a platform to promote cooperation between young Israeli and German professionals on their way to becoming future leaders in the field of environmental sustainability and protection. To get accepted to the program the candidates must either be studying for their masters or doctorates, or already working as professionals in their respective fields. Half the participants are from Israel while the other half are from Germany.
The location of the annual seminar alternates between the two countries. Each candidate is committed to attend two consecutive seminars over two years (once in each country).
Water and renewable energy
The program consists of lectures and tours related to environmentalism throughout the designated country. This year, the seminar included a visit to the Knesset where the participants met Knesset member and environmental activist Yael Cohen Paran. They also toured places such as the town of Maale Adumim on the outskirts of the Judean Desert, areas along the seam line between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and the Dead Sea and Ein Gedi. Each site visit was accompanied by an explanation of environmental issues and solutions regarding sewage, water supply and water conservation.
One of the highlights of the trip this year was a visit to the Mekorot Water Filtration Plant at Eshkol in the Galilee, where the participants were presented with a close- up look underground at the activities of Israel’s primary water supplier. They learned about Mekorot’s crucial role in realizing the Zionist vision. In addition, Mekorot happens to be the 7th largest water company in the world.
The greenXchange participants also visited the Solaris Synergy Company plant at the Mekorot site. The Solaris system enables energy production from solar panels that can float on bodies of water. Solaris’s first commercial production faculty is in operation in Singapore. Company technical advisor Elad Betser told the group that KKL-JNF one of the system’s firm supporters right from the very beginning, and one of the project’s major investors.
Regarding the seminar and tours themselves, greenXchange coordinator Liri Eitan-Draisaid that the seminar participants played a pivotal role in deciding the program agenda and organizing the events.
“A big change that took place this year – the participants wanted to contribute some of their own expertise to Israel in general, and to their host KKL-JNF in particular. Anat Gold of KKL-JNF Planning Department welcomed the idea and asked them to produce suggestions for two new building projects in northern Israel that are currently in the design phase. She told the participants that, if accepted, there is a good possibility that some of their proposals would be incorporated into the plans.”
Green building brainstorm
One of the building projects concerned is the planned center for young leadership at the KKL-JNF Field and Forest Center in Tzippori, and the other is the Visitor’s Center at the Hula Lake Park which will be entirely rebuilt.
The group enthusiastically took on the challenge. Members were divided into six groups of four, each group comprising of 2 Germans and 2 Israelis.
Participants toured both facilities and were presented with in-depth explanations of the role of the planned structures and future expectations.
Their proposals were presented on the last day of the seminar to a panel comprised of KKL-JNF Northern Region Landscape Architect Mor Din, Noa Tal of the KKL-JNF Planning Division, KKL-JNF Education Officer at Hula Lake Park Inbar Rubin, Upper Galilee and Golan Heights Regional Director Aviram Tzuk, and KKL-JNF emissary to Germany Dr. Schaul Horev, who was the founder of greenXchange.
Horev said at the outset that he was thrilled to hear of this new development.
“This is the first time that such a group of highly educated and highly motivated individuals, who really want to have an impact on the environment, have connected in this way with KKL-JNF and its goals, and I hope that this trend will continue for the benefit of all.”
Almost every participant made suggestions and offered ideas to further their group’s proposals.
For example, Martin from Berlin suggested that instead of creating a large car park and electric vehicle hiring facility at the Hula Lake Park visitor’s center, it would be better to create an offsite location, far from the Hula, where commuters would board electric shuttle buses to come to the Park. “The space that is saved”, he said, “could then be allocated for the benefit of the migrating birds”.
Another idea, concerning the car parks at both sites, was presented by Israeli Environmental Consultant Ester Peled, who suggested that the parking bays could be covered by solar panels, which would serve the double purpose of generating green electricity and providing shade.
KKL-JNF Northern Region Landscape Architect Mor Din said that the ideas she heard were way beyond what she expected.
“You all amazed me. I myself benefited greatly from hearing the ideas. I want to thank you all for making the effort to think outside the box and show us aspects connected to our planning that we had not taken into consideration.”
She promised to let the group know which ideas will eventually be integrated into the actual design.
The start of exciting partnerships
German participant Philipp Aepler, a researcher in climate and environmental economics at the London School of Economics, said that greenXchange provided him with a view of Israel that he would never have seen on his own.
“Despite what one reads about Israel, taking into consideration all the other problems you have in this region, I believe that the country as a whole, and KKL-JNF in particular, is doing an admirable job in environmental protection.”
Ester Peled said that she benefitted greatly from the program.
“Israel lacks enrichment programs for environmental professionals. greenXchange provided a possibility for me to network and meet new people and hear new ideas. I met Shiri from the Ministry of Environmental Protection and together we found a possible solution to a problem that is bothering one of my clients.”
In turn,Shiri Hefer, who is a senior consultant at the Ministry of Environmental Protection, explained:
“One of my responsibilities at the ministry is to find a solution for glass bottle recycling. Today Israel exports its used glass bottles. We want the glass manufacturers to recycle glass here. I have just heard from Ester that Israel’s biggest road construction company Solel Boneh is interested in using ground glass for road surfaces. The problem is that there is no entrepreneur in Israel that has invested in machinery that can sort and grind recycled bottles into powder. With this new information that I received here at greenXchange it will be easier for me to arrange governmental assistance to draw investors in the expensive equipment. If that works, we will put an end to the export of Israel’s glass. It will be a win-win solution for all.”
German participant Nicole Glass, who works part time for KKL-JNF in Munich and is currently studying for her Masters Degree in Environmental Engineering at Munich University, said that she was thrilled to take part.
“Funnily I only found out about greenXchange several months after I started working at KKL-JNF. It feels like the program was tailor made for me. I now have a new perception of KKL-JNF that I did not know about, and also this been very enriching for my studies at university. It has been extremely interesting. I am looking forward to participate in part two, which will take place in Germany next year.”