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Sharing knowledge for a sustainable future

Towards a sustainable future: young Germans and Israelis are working together on water technology research.

Sarah Fantl , 21.08.2020
Israel is the world leader in wastewater recycling.
Israel is the world leader in wastewater recycling. © AdobeStock

“To be honest, I was a little hungry by the end of my exchange in Hamburg. I missed Israeli and kosher cuisine,” jokes Moshe Ben Sasson, alumnus of the Young Scientist Exchange Program (YSEP) and its current project manager in Israel. He naturally considers the advantages of cooperation much more important: “Exchange strengthens our relations, and researchers can learn a lot from each other. That benefits both countries and ultimately research worldwide. Despite the difficult past, Germany is a strong and important partner for us today.” This is why the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Israeli Ministry of Science, Technology and Space (MOST) established the YSEP in 1999. It enables young scientists to conduct research together on the subject of water technology. They can work in the respective other country for between one and six months with a YSEP scholarship.

Combining different research perspectives and approaches is very productive.
Shani Ben Moshe, YSEP-Alumna

The countries of the Middle East suffer from water shortages, which could become even worse in the future if solutions are not found for improving the use of water. Israel already has effective technologies adapted to the region, such as desalination plants that filter seawater and make it usable for agriculture. The country is meanwhile also the world market leader in wastewater recycling. Because of the complicated relationships with neighbouring countries, however, this know-how has hardly spread beyond the country’s borders. Germany is also working on innovative water technology solutions. Two participants report on their experiences with YSEP:

“I deal with very specific issues that are a problem in our region. The exchange confronted me with new environmental problems, but their solutions are also useful to us. On the subject of water purification, for example, the combination of knowledge and experience from the two countries often generates very creative ideas. For us in Israel sustainable approaches to water supply in local agriculture are not only economically important, but also an absolute must in the face of the shortage of fresh water. A solution that applies to a specific problem in one country can often also apply to another problem in a different country. That’s why combining different research perspectives and approaches is very productive. The research facilities and test setup I had available in Germany were great. Our research aimed to investigate biogeochemical processes in water purification systems. The laboratory I visited specially built a six-metre-long soil column that was filled with earth from Israel. We were provided with all the measuring equipment we required to be able to carry out important experiments. Although the focus was naturally on scientific exchange, I was very pleased that my hosts welcomed me so warmly and also showed me the country. Germany is very beautiful and quite different from Israel; it was really fascinating.”

“Israel is a very dry country with towns in the middle of the desert, but the water supply system works very well, primarily due to the use of desalination plants. That surprised me. We can benefit from this knowledge in Germany. The two countries have quite different problems, but we can nevertheless find meaningful solutions to these problems if we carry out research together, above all in bioeconomy. Israel is generally very innovative when it comes to using water and solar energy in sustainable ways. My focus is on textile-reinforced concrete. Concrete is normally used in building in combination with steel, but steel is very sensitive to water, which is why we are working on increasing the use of textiles. And, especially in the construction field, Israel is very innovative and environmentally aware. On the subject of plastic waste, however, perhaps Israel could also learn something from Germany, since we’re a little ahead there. My colleagues even pulled my leg sometimes about how meticulously I pay attention to how much plastic I use. We all got along very well together in the team – despite many different religions. Interchange was frank and interesting. Especially because of the past, exchange – scientific or otherwise – is very important.”

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