This week’s Torah portion, Chukat, tells the story of the Israelites’ arrival to the wilderness of Tzin. Upon arrival in the Israelites did not find the abundance of resources that they had expected when leaving Egypt. How did they react to this challenge? With complaints and anger. The Israelites complained to God about the lack of water, pomegranates and figs. This parsha also includes the famous story of Moses striking the rock out of anger instead of speaking to it to bring forth water.
It is fitting that Chukat is the parsha of the week, as Sci-Tech Israel began our journey on Thursday and Friday discussing land and water resources in Israel. On Thursday, we heard from entrepreneur Assaf Luxembourg, who told us the story of Israel as a “Start-Up Nation.” He explained the creative energy that flows through the culture of Israel. He taught us about the Chutzpah of Israeli’s, which has lead it to have the highest concentration of start-ups in the world. Assaf also spoke of the challenge Israel faces with respect to water. Similar to the Israelites in the Torah, when pioneers arrived in Israel, they were faced with a barren land and very limited water.
Yesterday, we explored the geography and resources in the Golan Heights. Our day began on Mt. Bental, where we overlooked Syria and learned about the relationship between Israel and its many neighbors. When driving by Lake Kineret, Moose, our wonderful guide, explained that the Kineret used to be the main source of drinking water in Israel until innovative technologies led to new water sources. Now Israel recycles 80% of its waste water! Later in the trip we will visit Kibbutz Lotan, where we learn the mechanisms of the natural wastewater treatment and use it to water their crops. Israel also has constructed many desalination plants, to monopolize on its long Mediterranean coast. Both practices have led Israel to have a sufficient amount of water for the first time ever. Instead of complaining like the Israelite in Chukat, modern day Israelis tackle challenges with innovation.
Water was a major part of our day yesterday.During our hike through Banias we began our water quality tests, which we will perform on each of the water sources that we visit this summer (Jordan River, Mediterranean Sea, Dead Sea, and Red Sea). The participants tested the pH and temperature of the Jordan river and also a freshwater spring nearby, and discussed the different factors that might influence temperature and pH. Our day continued with rafting on the Jordan River, during which the group bonded through races and splashing fights.
Together with our friends on Mitzvah Corps Israel, the URJ’s social justice focused Israel trip, we welcomed in Shabbat at Kibbutz Afik, overlooking the beautiful Golan Heights. After Shabbat T’filah this morning, we were joined by entrepreneurs from Israel’s Reform Movement, including the Chairman of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, Reuven Marko. Lior Ben-Tsur taught us how to turn an idea into a product, using Vibrant, a pill not yet in production, as a case study. Reuven Marko, one of the creators of the original iPhone shared his story of innovation and led us in a listening exercise. Lastly, in the afternoon, Shmuel Marko from SodaStream, guided us through flavor creation and tested our skills as we developed new soda flavors.
What an opportunity to learn from such talented and engaging entrepreneurs!
Although we’ve been together for just over 48 hours, it seems as if we’ve all been friends for a lifetime. Everyone is looking forward to the exciting week ahead!