Tel Aviv, Aug. 11 – Nineteen senior diplomats representing nations from four continents learned about Israeli development programs around the world and witnessed a revolutionary electric car project on the fifth day of a fact-finding mission to Israel.
The 18 Washington-based ambassadors and one other senior diplomat visited the headquarters of Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation (MASHAV) at Kibbutz Shefayyim just north of Tel Aviv, where they were briefed about programs in agriculture, education, medicine, emergency response and gender equality offered by Israel around the world.
More than 260,000 participants from 140 countries have benefited from the agency’s training programs since its inception in 1958 when Israel was only 10 years old and a poor country itself.
“We cannot build infrastructure but we can build human skills and human capacity and that’s where we focus our efforts,” said Ilan Fluss, MASHAV’s director of policy planning.
Israel runs programs in Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and several countries with which it has no diplomatic relations. Among current programs are a three-year project to teach the latest horticulture techniques to farmers in Ethiopia, a demonstration farm showcasing agricultural and irrigation technologies in Kenya and a neonatal care program in Ghana.
Israel leads the world in drip irrigation techniques that can vastly increase agricultural yield in environments where water is scarce. The diplomats saw a demonstration of how simple techniques that rely on gravity can turn arid areas into high-yield fields within weeks.
From Shefayyim, the diplomats traveled a few miles south to the headquarters of “Better Place,” a unique program that aims to place hundreds of thousands of electric cars on roads within a few years, diminishing the world’s dependence on oil.
Entrepreneur Shai Agassi explained how Israel is the testing ground for the project, which is about to be launched in Israel and Denmark. The car, built by the French auto-maker Renault, will soon go on the market priced competitively with traditional gasoline-powered vehicles, backed up by a nationwide system of charging stations and dozens of places where depleted batteries can be exchanged within seconds.
“I am busting the biggest monopoly on earth – oil,” Agassi said.