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October 9, 2009

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, OCTOBER 9, 2009 PAGE 21A By Dina Kraft KIBBUTZ MA'ABAROT, Israel (JTA)--Shaul Daniel, 66. has spent most of his life on this kibbutz, working the land: fields of avocado, corn, wheat, chickpeas and cotton. But now. like most kibbut- zim and moshavim, a team of foreign workers--in this case, Thais do the agricultural labor at Kibbutz Ma'abarot. "When I die, I don't think anyone will even know the way to our fields,!' says Daniel, a lifelong member of Ma'abarotwhose parents were among the kibbutz's found- ers. Established in 1934, Ma'abarot is among Israel's most prosperous kibbutzim. "It's hard for me that we no longerwork in agriculture ourselves anymore. I think it builds a person up and helps make a group into a cohesive, united whole," he says. "Today there is not the same motivation to do hard, physical labor." A century after the first kibbutz was founded along the shores of the Kinneret. the kibbutz movement is finding success in the 21st century by shifting from its more ideological, socialist and agricultural roots to industry and, in a growing number of cases, varying degrees of privatization. Some kibbutzim are strug- gling for their survival. But more are undergoing a re- naissance as they liberalize policies of communalism. With their reputation for high quality of life, kibbutzim are finding more and more younger people are choosing to stay on the kibbutz, and newcomers from the city are eager to move in. Kibbutz Ma'abarot is a few miles east of Netanya. With its lush green lawns, close-knit social network, sought-after schools and brand-new neighborhood of two-story, pastel-colored houses, it's flooded with Girls at a kibbutz in the Galilee celebrate Shavout. Amnon Gutman Kibbutz member in a wheat field at Kibbutz Lahav in the Negev. second-generation members who want to return to live here with their spouses and young families. The wave of returnees to Ma'abarot began about a de- cade ago, when the kibbutz came into money thanks to flourishing manufacturing. Ayal Margolin Materna, one of Israel's leading baby milk formulas, is made on the kibbutz, as is a phar- maceutical factory and two companies that make popular brands of dog and cat food. "Now suddenly everyone wants to join the kibbutz," Daniel says. Of his three adult children, two have moved back to the kibbutz and are raising their children there. Nearby, Kibbutz Mishmar Ha'Sharon has a waiting list ofpeoplewanting to move in. The kibbutz, where Defense Minister Ehud Barak grew up and his mother and a brother still live, is financially stable but had been facing difficult times until 2004, when its members voted to privatize. ~n opting to privatize, Mishmar Ha'Sharon joined 179 of Israel's 270 kibbutzim that made the same choice. Privatization relieves kibbut- zim of the significant financial burden of fully covering all members' needs--including food, health, education and even water and electricity bills. Members at privatized kibbutzim receive differential salaries if they work on the kibbutz; those who have jobs outside can keep their income. To keep the kibbutz run- ning as a community, mem- bers pay social service fees. The kibbutz's earnings from industry also are funneled back into the communal pot. "Five years later I can say the decision to privatize was the right one," says Ronen Simcha, the general secretary of Mishmar Ha'Sharon. "The members' standard of living has improved and the kibbutz is run better. "We saw that staying in place was going to lead to a social rupture and a financial 'crisis." Established in 1924, Mish- mar Ha'Sharon has 199 mem- bers. The kibbutz expects 30 percent growth in the next two years. Like most kibbutzim, Mishmar Ha'Sharon needed time to recover from the economic trauma of the 1980s. whi~ch threatened to doom" the movement into extinction. With the Likud Party in power, the days when the kibbutzim were a pet project of successive socialist-oriented Labor gov- ernments were gone. At the time. Israel was struggling with hyper-inflation, and kibbutzim found themselves millions of dollars in debt. A government-adopted plan to help kibbutzim repay their debts over an extended amount of time helped lead the re- covery. But in the 20 years it took for that recovery to be felt. some 20,000 members left kibbutzim. Today, Israel's 270 kibbutzim have an overall member population of 120,000, plus about 20,000 children, sol- diers and others whose official membership is pending. The recovery for the kib- butzim has been striking. Less than 10 years ago, about half of Israel's kibbutzim were considered financially unstable. Today that number is down to about 15. Kibbutz Lotan, a small "kibbutz deep in the Arava Desert about a 40-minute drive north of Eilat, was among the kibbutzim that pulled themselves back to a stable position. Formed in 1983 by a mix of American immigrants and native Israe- lis affiliated with Israel's arm of the Reform movement, Lotan stabilized with the help of a local agricultural association that let it repay its debts slowly. Its income is derived most- ly from its date groves also tended by Thai workers--and program for eco-tourism, which include workshops in organic gardening and re- newable energy. Other tourist draws are a bird-watching center, a guest house and an ecological park. Lotan has considered privatizing but has remained a cooperative kibbutz. "The traditional model of kibbutz still suits us," says kibbutz member Daphna Abel. "We find lots of posi- tive things from being a cooperative community. It is something that helps us invest in our social relations. It's the glue that safeguards our community." She says the decision to hire Thai workers to help with the date groves was a difficult one, but ultimately "we had to dealwith the marketplace's realities" in order to compete globally. "The goal today is eco- nomic survival." says Aviv Leshem, spokesman for the Kibbutz Movement. an umbrella group of the kib- butzim. "Cooperative living is still all right for some, but not all. Ultimately, every kibbutz has to think of itself as a business." By Dina Kraft TEL AVIV (JTA)--It's a new way of beating swords into plowshares. Israel, which long has been a global leader in mili- tary technology, is adapting its technologies to develop green advances. Technology borrowed from btfilding helicopter propellers is being used to produce more efficient wind turbines. Israeli know-how constructing satellites is being applied to improve solar power. "We definitely leverage a lot of know-how in a variety of disciplines including materials, chemistry, ther- mal dynamics--accumu- lated from our experience with military and home- land security technology for developing renewable energy technologies," said Meni Maor, vice president of business development for Rotem, a Dimona-based company that commercial- izes technologies first used in Israel's defense industry. The company is some- thing of a case study on the subject. In the past three years, Rotem has begun to focus on renewable energy technology with projects on solar and hydrogen power, wind energy and bio-fuel. BrightSource Energy, which is developing the world's largest solar thermal plant in Southern Califor- nia, is piloting its technol- ogy at Rotem. "The whole world is highly motivated to invest in the clean-tech sector as people search for interesting tech- nologies for more effective energy generation because of the threat of global warm- ing and cost of oil prices." said Maor. noting Israel's special security-motivated reasons to reduce the global dependence on oil, much of which comes from Arab states. As part of that goal, Israel recently signed onto be one of the first countries to pilot the driving of environmen- tally clean electric cars on a large scale as part of a project sponsored by the company Better Place, in partnership with automak- ers Renault and Nissan, The robotics for charging the batteries in the cars is based in part on aerospace technology. Another example of the transfer of military tech- nology to clean tech is work being done by Israel Aeronautics Industries. one of the country's most promi- nent defense companies. Its researchers are tapping into their experience in aeronau- tics to develop wind energy and wind turbines. One way is by uging soft- ware used to calculate the optimization of the aerody- manic profile of an airplane wing to make a better tur- bine blade. The company hopes other research-and- development experience will lead to the creation of a higher-performance, lower-weight wind turbine that costs less. "We are identifying the potential of IAI engineer- ing to provide added value to the clean-tech sector in general and wind turbines in particular." said an IAI official who spoke on condi- tion of anonymity because of the security-related nature of the work. "We are trying to identify what assets we can bring and provide on the market end." IAI also is working to help create What is being called "clean,. green aircraft" as part of a European initiative. joining forces with Airbus to develop an environmentally friendly system for airplanes taxiing at airports aimed at saving fuel and decreasing noise levels and air pollu- tion. The technology would use a system that allows planes to taxi to and from the gate without using their jet engines. In addition to technolo- gies being transferred from the military world to the clean-tech sector, there is also manpower transfer. A growing number of retired army officers and scien- tists are playing leading roles in Israel's clean-tech industry. Yom-Tov Samia. a re- tired general and former head of the Israel Defense Forces' Southern Com- mand. handles the invest- ment firm Israel Corp's clean-tech investments. Moshe Kaplinsky, a former IDF deputy chief of staff, is now CEO of Better Place's Israel operation. Samia spoke recently at a gathering of industry professionals sponsored by the investment firm Israel Cleantech Ventures as part of a panel of former IDF officials now working in clean tech. "It's a lot of fun to workin this field. I'm driven by the sense of curiosity it fosters," he told an overflow crowd. ."There is also a sense of national responsibility to what we are doing." Haim Azulay/Flash90/JTA Wind turbines in Israel, such as these seen near Kibbutz Ein Zivan in the Golau Heights, are being improved by tech- nology created for military helicopter propellers. Elad Frankel. CEO of Aqwise, an advanced waste- water treatment solutions company and veteran of a prestigious intelligence unit called 8200. spoke of how experience gained in the army is good preparation for the industry. He said itwas in the army that he learned to analyze complex problems and come up with solutions with lim- ited resources. "In the army we learn how to follow through on a mis- sion." Frankel said. "And now we have the clean-tech revolution, which is doing good things not just when it comes to water and energy. It's also giving Israel a name in a more positive industry."