Israeli team brings water expertise to SA
A top-level delegation from Israel is heading to South Africa next week to engage with local authorities at the coalface of the country’s water challenges. It includes the director of Israel’s Water Authority, Yechezkel Lifshitz, who recently signed a memorandum of understanding on innovation and the development of water resources with Morocco as part of the historic Abraham Accords.
The delegation will meet local government and provincial officials, entities, and representatives from Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, and the Western Cape. It will also engage with the Jewish community, business, and diplomatic sector on Israeli technology, as well as with communities affected by water-related challenges.
“South Africa has a multitude of issues regarding our water infrastructure and accessibility,” says South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) director of public policy, Benji Shulman. “Israel, a former desert, has transformed itself into a world leader in water technology and agriculture, and literally made the desert bloom. There have been several interactions for some time now with Israeli water technology companies and organisations working in South Africa.
“For this reason, the Jewish National Fund of South Africa [JNF SA], Keren Kayemet LeIsrael [KKL-JNF], the Israeli embassy in South Africa, and the SAZF created a high-level water delegation to South Africa, so that experts in Israel might assist in solving the same problems for all South Africans.”
The other Israeli visitors in the team are Yehonatan Bar-Yosef, KKL-JNF water quality management and ecology expert; and Orna Toeg, the head of the South Africa desk at KKL-JNF.
“The delegation brings together a wealth of policy, governance, and practical experience that can assist high decision makers in the way that they approach the question of water sustainability in South Africa,” says Shulman. “South Africa has excellent technical people in this field, and we hope this will contribute to continued partnership on this issue.”
“Among the delegation are officials who have worked around the world on the issue of water,” Shulman says. “It’s an incredible opportunity to bring this experience to South Africa, and shows that there’s room for co-operation between Israel and South Africa.
“Solving water-related challenges is a complex and difficult process, and getting the correct information and experience when designing an approach to policy or any other solution is the first step in making sure that all South Africans have access to clean, drinking water,” says Shulman. “Israeli technology and innovation can be used to solve a number of South African problems if all we do is ask for its guidance and expertise. This working visit helps us make that first step towards improving inter-state relations with Israel, which remains one of Africa’s most valuable partners for development and success.”
Though the African National Congress government is known for being anti-Israel, Shulman doesn’t think it will prevent these engagements. “Municipalities have a constitutional responsibility to provide water for their residents. Any attempt to prevent them from doing such would result in a break of their executive code of conduct.
“There’s broad support for Israel among many South Africans, local businesses, and organisations,” he said. “Providing new opportunities for partnerships to improve lives is an excellent way of strengthening the bonds that already exist between the two societies.”
Michael Kransdorff, the chairperson of JNF SA, says, “This is one of the highest-level Israeli delegations to visit South Africa in years, and has the potential to have a major impact on strengthening relations between the two countries literally at ground level, where it actually makes a difference in peoples’ lives. We would like to thank KKL-JNF for making this delegation a reality. It highlights its longstanding special relationship with the South African Jewish community.”