Tuesday dawned brighter and earlier than almost every day on Otzma so far (except for our hikes the first two days). We boarded a bus at 6 am(!) for a day of learning about Israel and the Environment.
I have to preface this blog post with a question posed by one of my fellow Otzmanikim at the end of the day. He asked, "If Israel is so environmentally conscious, why is there still garbage everywhere?"
Unfortunately, it's a valid question. Just last week, at the beach in Haifa, we walked a trail strewn with forgotten wrappers and water bottles, on our way to what was otherwise one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever been on.
Beautiful beaches aside (though we will definitely come back to those!), the focus of most of the day was on the many ways that Israel obtains and conserves its limited water resources.
We first went to a stream called Nachal Sorek, for a short hike and text study on the importance of rain in Judaism. There were many signs warning us not to swim in the water. Why? Because the water in this stream is treated sewage water. It was an interesting place to talk about the importance of rain and water in Judaism, but living in Israel really makes you appreciate every drop! It's something I can definitely appreciate more after the summer we just had in NY.
After a short break for the text study, we continued on our "hike" as the sand we were walking on got deeper and deeper. Soon, if you listened closely enough, you could hear the sound of crashing waves! Then, we crested a small sand dune and were greeted with this amazing view:
Our hike continued after lunch to the seaside Palmachim Kibbutz (the very same Kibbutz where I spent a day on the beach with a friend 3 years ago!).
Ok, now that I've gotten your attention with pretty pictures, on to the cool stuff. The State of Israel is doing some pretty incredible things with water. We visited a school where they are doing way more to conserve water than just taking shorter showers. From planting gardens on the roof with elaborate drainage systems to catch and reuse the water (planting on the roof utilizes otherwise wasted space, and keeps the rooms underneath cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter), to reusing the gray water leftover from washing dishes in the cafeteria to water plants. Many plants are natural filters, so they can even grow fruits and vegetables with this water. They also grow vertical gardens on walls - you could reach out a window and pick a strawberry!
In addition to small facilities like the one we toured at the school, there are also several larger Waste Water Treatment Plants and Desalinization plants. We were able to check out one plant where raw sewage is turned into water suitable for watering plants and irrigating fields - making the desert bloom and making incredible use of the limited supply of water.
Our final stop of the day was not about water, but about energy use instead. Israel (along with Denmark) was chosen to be one of the test markets for a complete rollout of a new electric car concept - Better Place. We visited the Better Place visitor center and showroom and most definitely left wanting electric cars! Thanks to Israel's small size, it was completely feasibly to outfit the entire country with charging stations and battery switching stations, none more than 40 km from each other. Thanks to Better Places' switchable batteries, if you wanted to drive from Tzfat to Eilat, you could, without a lengthy break to charge your car. These cars could truly reduce the county's (and the world's) dependance on oil, which could have some major influence in this region - environmentally, politically and otherwise. We also got to ride in the cars, and they are very smooth and unbelievably quiet!
So that was Education Day 2. Very interesting and informative. I love these chances to get a small taste of life in Israel and some insight on topics I may not have otherwise had the chance to learn about and I'm excited to learn even more. My showers are already shorter than they were at home, and I'm conscious not to waste even a drop of water.
Our next Education Day takes us to Jerusalem for Yom Kippur. I can't even begin to describe how excited I am to spend the holiest day of the year in the holiest city in the world. Amazing.