Israel

100 Water Heroes: Dr. Elion Schwartz

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Executive Director of the Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership

Dr. Elion Schwartz is the Executive Director of the Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership, an organisation that seeks to build “a sustainable future for Israel rooted in environmental health and social justice” (Hyman, 2010). In addition to his work with the Herschel Center, Elion is the Director of Shaharit, “a synergistic mix of thinktank, leadership incubator, and community organizing hub that is nurturing a new social partnership among all of Israel’s communities, building a future rooted in the common good.”

In terms of his work with the Herschel Center, Elion stresses the importance of a collaborative approach to environmental sustainability:

“We bring together Jews and Arabs, religious and secular, Oriental and European Jews, believing that environmentalism should reflect a larger, inclusive vision for the society.”

One of the Heschel Center’s initiatives is the Environmental Fellows Program that seeks to encourage and develop Israel’s next generation of environmental leaders. They have also fostered a network of Israeli schools that are strengthening environmental education and awareness amongst their students.

In addition to these initiatives, Elion works at the Melton Center for Jewish Education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he lectures “advanced degree courses in Judaism and environmental education, the interrelationship between Zionism and the environment, environmental policy and ethics” (Hyman, 2010).

Elion is one of our #100WaterHeroes for his contributions to achieving sustainability in Israel through environmental education and social justice.

100 Water Heroes: Benjamin Kahn

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Environmentalist and Marine Biologist

Benjamin Kahn is an Israeli Environmentalist and Marine Biologist. Benjamin’s core focus is on protecting and conserving Israel’s coastline, specifically the Red Sea reef. Benjamin is the Founder and Chairman Zalul, an NGO that is committed to preserving Israel’s seas and rivers. In addition to his leadership of Zalul, Benjamin is also the Founder and CEO of Atlantium Technologies, a water purification technology firm. He is also President of Coral World International Ltd., “an operator of marine parks that specialises in ecologically-friendly tropical life systems in symbiotic environments.”

Benjamin’s entry into environmentalism came when he returned to Israel after having lived abroad. He frequently snorkelled in the Red Sea as a child, and was devastated to witness the immense degradation of its coral reef. This realisation prompted Benjamin to get involved and he noted, “I knew that if the reef was going to survive, someone had to fight for it.”

Benjamin was named as one of Time Magazine’s Heroes of the Environment in 2007, for his impactful leadership of Zalul.

Benjamin is one of our #100WaterHeroes for dedicating his career and life to protecting and conserving Israel’s coastline.

100 Water Heroes: Gidon Bromberg

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Co-founder and Director of EcoPeace Middle East

Gidon Bromberg is the co-founder and Israeli Director of EcoPeace Middle East, the only regional organisation that brings together and works with Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli environmentalists. Their main goal is “the promotion of cooperative efforts to protect our shared environmental heritage,” that furthers sustainable development and fosters peace in the region.

With offices in Amman, Ramallah and Tel-Aviv, EcoPeace Middle East is dedicated to achieving environmental sustainability that is sensitive to regional issues, and does so by hiring Palestinian, Jordanian and Israeli researchers to understand issues and “develop a common vision as to how [they] might be able to influence decision makers, the media and the general public.”

Prior to co-founding EcoPeace Middle East in 1994, Gidon obtained a Bachelor of Economics and an LLB. He continued on as a New Israel Fund fellow and completed his Master’s degree in International and Environmental Law. He has published over 20 articles surrounding Middle Eastern environmental policy and water security. In 2008, the founders of EcoPeace Middle East were named Heroes of the Environment by Time Magazine.

Gidon is one of our #100WaterHeroes for co-founding the only regional organisation that connects Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli environmentalists who seek to promote sustainable development and foster peace in the Middle East.

Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/gidon-bromberg-276504

Twitter@gidonb

100 Water Heroes: Eli Raz

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Geologist and Researcher for the Dead Sea and Arava Research Center

Eli Raz is an Israeli Geologist and Researcher for the Dead Sea and Arava Research Center. He is widely thought of as the area’s most knowledgeable expert on sinkholes, a topic that is particularly pertinent in terms of the Dead Sea. Eli estimates that there are over 3000 sinkholes on the Israeli side of the Dead Sea, something that will continue to degenerate without active solutions.

The Dead Sea is typically fed by the Jordan River but, with unsustainable agricultural practices and various other harmful human interventions, it is fast disappearing. A significant part of this crisis is the dropping salt water levels, meaning that “fresh groundwater wells up and dissolves layers of salt, creating large underground cavities, above which sinkholes form” (Lewis, 2015).

Eli does feel a certain level of frustration, as he has been trying to alert authorities to this deadly issue for years, stating, “For more than 30 years, I’ve been studying them and trying to warn everyone—especially government officials—that if we don’t do something about the situation in the Dead Sea, the sinkholes will swallow us up.” His proposed solution involves rehabilitating the Jordan River and making use of desalination to supply the Israeli population with water. Integral to this, however, is “a systemic, cooperative regional approach to water sharing” (Prince-Gibson, 2013).

Speaking on the issue, Eli noted, “Water should not be a reason for conflict—there isn’t enough to argue about, certainly not in the Dead Sea basin. Water should be the reason for smart, regional cooperation.”

Eli is one of our #100WaterHeroes for his invaluable contributions to sinkhole research and for raising awareness of the disappearing Dead Sea.