Although drinking alcohol is considered to be Haram or forbidden for Muslims, alcoholic beverages are becoming increasingly popular in Israel, and among Christians in the Middle East where growing vineyards and producing wine and vinegar has ancient historical roots.
Even though it has no peat moss or bogs, the Holy Land is about to start producing whiskey.
Producing quality distilled whiskey in the Land of Milk and Honey has been tried in the past, but has not been successful. This situation may change, however, due to efforts by a trio of young Israeli entrepreneurs who are determined to produce quality single malt whiskey that could rival anything now being produced in the world’s finest whiskey distilleries.
The trio: Tomer Goren, Simon Fried and Nir Gilat want to go a step beyond the average blended Scotch whiskey offered by large commercial distillers and produce a fine aged “single malt” product that will hold its own, quality wise, against traditional whiskies distilled in either the hills and moors of Scotland or the green glades of the Irish Emerald Isle.
To top everything off, the trio’s Milk & Honey whisky products are to be strickly kosher; so much so, that even the most discriminating ultra orthodox Jew will be able accept it. The whiskey will be made under strict rabbinical supervision and will be made from strictly kosher basic ingredients.
A renowned British chemist and scientific consultant for the whiskey industries, Jim Swan, will serve as the master distiller for the enterprise and will be instructed in Jewish kosher food production laws as well.
Israel’s previous experience in producing Scotch whiskey occurred more than 40 years back when a local spirits producing company, National Distillers, opened a Skotch Whiskey distillery in the Galilee development town of Carmiel in 1971. This was done under guidance from a Scottish company who provided the manufacturing know how.
For a while, the blended whisky product they made and marked under the Ascot label was received well by both the Israeli public and by purchasers abroad; until the Scotch Whiskey Association together with manufacturers of well known Scottish brand whiskies sued National Distillers for misleading the public into thinking their product produced in Carmiel was true Scotch whisky. This ended the ill fated venture and put the idea of producing Israeli distilled whisky into the deep freeze – until now.
In order to produce a fine product like single malt whiskey, the ingredients must be undergo a fermentation and aging process that takes at least 3 years until it can be marketed. In order to provide income during this time (until the first batch is ready for sale) the trio plans to produce other alcohol products, including beer.
“We dreamed about whiskey, but in the coming years we’ll produce gin, rum, bourbon and local liqueur until the time for marketing our whiskey arrives, things will be interesting for us,” said Tomer Goren to Haaretz.
They also need to find ways to come up with funds available to produce their products as local banks are not keen on giving loans for making alcohol-based products.
Goren says that they want Israelis to be proud of having such a fine product as single malt whiskey made locally and not only imported. When asked how another whisky product will affect the problem of excessive alcohol consumption the trio has an answer for that as well: “It’s very easy to blame the alcohol companies for all the bad things that happen to us (as a result of alcohol consumption related problems), but in the final analysis, it’s all a matter of education about the culture of drinking,” says Goren to a local paper.
More on alcohol in the Middle East:
Ancient Wine Press for “Pauper’s Wine” and Vinegar Unearthed in Israel
Boycott Wine Until Vineyard No Longer Animal Death Trap?
Why Muslims Don’t Drink Alcohol
Drinking Beer in Cans and Other Middle East Regional Recycling Problems
Photo of distillers Goren, Fried and Gilat by Daniel Tchetchik
Extreme winter weather has been causing severe climate changes all over. The includes the Middle East, where a freak December winter storm paralyzed Jerusalem and Amman and brought snow to Cairo for the first time in 100 years. Will the Middle East experience a Polar Vortex?
Let’s see what’s been happening: a change in the wind pattern of the annual winter Polar Vortex has put much of North America into the deep freeze, and caused serious flooding in many parts of Europe.
What is causing these drastic weather pattern changes? Why are they resulting in such severe cold that makes temperatures in parts of the earth’s Northern Hemisphere comparable to temperatures on Mars?
These questions were addressed to meteorologists who study the annual polar vortex phenomena and its deviations this winter which have caused so much extreme winter cold and snow (see below).
In an interview broadcast on the Democracy Now news site, Jeff Masters, director of meteorology at the Weather Underground meteorological site, explained what is happening and whether there is any connection with the phenomenon of global warming.
Masters told D.N. that the Polar Vortex is a normal, annual event in which the winds of the Jet Stream, combined with long periods of Arctic darkness, cause extreme cold and high winds to persist in northern Arctic regions.
According to Masters: “when you get all that cold air up there in the Arctic, it tends to drive stronger winds. And those winds blow counterclockwise around the pole in a vortex; and those winds tend to isolate that cold air from the rest of the world. And so, that cold air can stay cold.
“When that happens to slosh over where we are (the USA), boy, we sure notice it.”
He believes that what is causing the Polar Vortex to dip down into the continental USA is a slowing down of jet stream wind velocity that is causing the winds to “dip down in long meandering loops”.
Masters considers this extreme change in the polar vortex wind patterns a “once in 20 years event” and that there is not definite proof that it is connected to global warming. He did say, however, that rises in the earth’s surface temperature is causing the polar ice caps to melt faster, resulting in less reflection of the sun’s rays from normal ice cap fields.
This Jet Stream wind “meandering” may have caused the Arctic weather loop that dipped down to the Middle East last month and resulted in as much as a meter of snow in Jerusalem and other higher areas, as well as Cairo’s snow storm (above photo).
When summer arrives in a few months, the cold and snow of this unusual winter weather may well be missed when the wrath of global warming again brings searing temperatures to much of the Middle East.
Illustration and satellite photo of Polar Vortex change in North America by Accuweather.com
Egypt can offer more to desert tourists than camels: In the ancient land of the Pharaohs, desert-dwelling invertebrates have often been part of Egyptian folklore, including scarab or dung beetles which are known to navigate by the stars. Now spiders join the story.
Desert spiders have not been a major part of Egyptian hieroglyphic art, but a one of a kind type of ”spider art” has now been discovered carved on rocks in Egypt’s western desert. The spider art, said to be around 4,000 years old, was discovered carved into a wall and found in a sandstone wadi in the Kharga Oasis, located in Egypt’s western desert almost 100 miles west of Luxor.
Spiders are quite numerous in Africa’s desert regions and because some of them having dangerous bites, they may have been incorporated into ancient religious beliefs.
Worshiping spiders in ancient may also be connected to an Egyptian goddess named Nit or Neith who was said to have been the goddess of weaving, war and hunting. The weaving attribution is drawings and images of Neith often show her carrying a bow and arrows linking her to war and hunting.
The spider connection comes from Neith weaving or spinning a woven design, like a spider’s web as part of her role in Creation.
Other small invertebrate desert dwellers, particularly scorpions also have Egyptian religious connotation. Scorpions, which are related to spiders, also have eight legs as well as painful and often fatal stings.
Ancient Egyptian writings tell about an ancient Egyptian king possibly called Selk or Weha; and also known as King Scorpion. Selk was said to be the second of two kings or chieftains of that name during the pre-dynastic period of Upper Egypt, called the Protodynastic Period.
The lower kingdom included the entire Nile Delta region. The significance of the Scorpion King is that he helped to unite the two kingdoms into one major kingdom at the end of the Protodynistic Period. Ethiopia at odds with Egypt over the Nile could make use of a uniting king these days. Spider or otherwise.
As the spider art paintings are said to be very old, they represent a more ancient concept of Egyptian folklore, and may have been carved out of high respect for the desert spider species whose venomous bites were obviously feared and respected.
Read more about other desert invertebrates, including locusts and scorpions:
Scarab (Dung) Beetles Navigate by the Stars
Swarms! Algeria, Libya, Mauritania and Morocco on High Alert for Desert Locusts
What Camels and scorpions Teach “Dayma” Tourists in Egypt
Sunday was Mawlid an-nabī, the observance of the birth of the Islamic Prophet Mohammed, but unlike Eid al-Fitr (Little Eid) or Eid al-Adha (Big Eid), Mawlid is a low-key celebration marked by a quiet focus on the prophet’s life and an uptick in eating and charitable acts.
It’s also an official holiday, which spells road-trip to me; so goodbye grey and frosty Amman, and hello southern Dead Sea, where even in the earliest weeks of January you can catch a mean sunburn and breathe balmy, mineral-thick air.
A friend picks me up at 11 AM, and we head to the Dead Sea highway – an amazing strip of asphalt that drops you approximately 3000 meters in less than 30 kilometers. Temperatures will raise from 50F to 68F by the time we reach our destination. Ears pop, sweaters strip off, windows open and we stop along the way to pick up some provisions.
Three deliciously roasted chickens ($8.20), three meter-wide flat-breads fresh from the oven ($0.85), with a couple water bottles ($.80) means lunch for two (with take-home enough for two more) for under ten bucks.
We continue our descent and choose one of the many highway pull-off spots to park and perch on the cliffside and devour our food. (Sweet surprise to see those chickens came with a mountain of pickled veggies and fries). Sit and listen to turquoise wavelets lap the salt-caked shoreline. Watch the craggy mountains on the west bank fade in and out through hazy skies looming above the sea.
There’s Lot’s Cave (free admission includes epic trekking around the excavated ruins) and The Museum at the Lowest Place on Earth (free admission to see some of the world’s oldest preserved textiles) where the story of the Jordan Valley is presented in beautifully clear story-boards.
Driving directions from Amman can’t be more straightforward (“drive south on the Dead Sea road”) and the trip is stuffed with endless amusements such as impromptu parades of sheep, donkeys and goats and small children. Take care to be alert; and use the idle driving times to pick roast chicken from your teeth.
We head into Safi village to stop in on the women’s guild, a Green Prophet favorite, to see what the artists are up to today (to be covered in another story!). A current project involves dying wool culled from their sheep (and camels!), spinning it into yarn, and crocheting fiber bracelets (see image below). Handmade bracelets in a naturally-dyed gift pouch for under $5!
The Safi craftswomen load us up with cups of sugared sage tea before we hit the road. Aim to be back in Amman by nightfall, but couldn’t resist one last pit-stop to watch the sea turn silver and the sky start it’s evening performance.
Today’s adventure was concentrated – we have to be at work tomorrow – but our six hours door-to-door day-trip could easily extend to a weekend if you take time to fully explore the sites mentioned here.
In springtime, add a day of Dead Sea dipping at the public beach for about $14 (buying you access to swimming pools, freshwater showers, toilets and food concessions).
A day of these eye-opening natural and man-made wonders will set you back less that a week’s worth of franchise coffee drinks. Puts me in mind of the ancient Chinese saying, “Choose what you like and pay for it”.Museum photos from Dr. Konstantinos Politis; all others by author
I introduced Green Prophet readers to environmental e-learning and Laurie updated us with details on Mitx, Coursera and Udacity environmentalism courses in Februrary 2013. A new term has just begun with a wide selection courses related to environmentalism. So this is a good time for a refresher on how Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) work.
I will also provide a list of upcoming courses in green energy, sustainability and other aspects of environmentalism.
MOOC courses are made possible by the Internet. Course lectures are delivered via streaming media, often Youtube or podcasts for off-line viewing, sometimes with embedded examps and quizzes. Electronic textbooks are made available either to read on your computer or via an iPad, Kindle or other ebook reading device. But one of the most interesting aspects of these courses is that they are global.
I’m currently signed up for Pennsylvania State University’s course entitled; Energy, the Environment and Our Future which introduces itself with, “Get Rich and Save the Earth…Or Else! Learn about the past, present, and possible futures of human energy use.”
Its first assignment asks students to tell stories about their experience with energy and submit pictures which explain what energy means to them.
Here is the interesting thing about this and other MOOC courses. It isn’t possible for its instructor, Dr. Richard Alley, or any other instructor to grade the thousands or tens of thousands of assignments which are submitted globally. So some assignments are graded by computers and others are scored with a peer-to-peer ranking system. Engaging and controversial discussions are supposed to rise to the top.
There is also an advantage in scoring, commenting and critiquing other people’s work which encourages people to give each other feedback. I found that this worked reasonably well in University of Illinois’ Introduction to Sustainability course.
Yes, it is possible to game the system by having a group of friends vote for you and take advantage of your timezone, for the most part people taking the course are good and MOOC courses don’t succumb to the academic equivalent of an ecological tragedy of the commons.
The new year brings us many more new courses. I’ll begin with the courses which begin early in January 2014. Some began this week so if you’re interested, sign up so you can catch up on the lectures and homework!
- January 2014 – Global Sustainable Energy: Past, Present and Future from the University of Florida.
Students will explore energy consumption patterns including individuals, countries and the entire globe. These patterns will include all sectors of the global economy from fully developed countries to developing nations. New energy sources will be investigated and international solutions to future needs will be analyzed.
- January 2014 – Climate Change in Four Dimensions from the University of California at San Diego.
This course views climate change from a variety of perspectives at the intersection of the natural sciences, technology, and the social sciences and humanities.
- January 13, 2014 – Energy 101 from Georgia Institute of Technology
As a society and individually, we use energy every moment of our lives to improve our quality of life. Energy 101 will develop the big picture and connect the details of our energy use, technology, infrastructure, impact, and future.
- January 13, 2014: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers an even more specialized environmentalism course entitled, Introduction to Environmental Law and Policy
Environmental law may be the one institution standing between us and planetary exhaustion. It is also an institution that needs to be reconciled with human liberty and economic aspirations. This course considers these issues and provides a tour though existing legal regimes governing pollution, water law, endangered species, toxic substances, environmental impact analyses, and environmental risk.
- January 21, 2014: The Age of Sustainable Development from Columbia University in New York City.
The Age of Sustainable Development gives students an understanding of the key challenges and pathways to sustainable development – that is, economic development that is also socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable.
- February 14, 2014: 12.340x: Global Warming Science via edX/MITx OpenCourseware which is unfortunately experiencing technical difficulties at the time of this writing.
- Ongoing: Technology Entertainment Development (Ted) has numerous environmentalism talks available for viewing at any time.
We’re more than a week into the year 2014. Are you ready for a New Year’s resolution to learn more about the environment? If so, MOOC environmentalism courses are ready for you!
Photo of girl with laptop via Shutterstock.
A former soldier in the Israeli Defense Force, Roee Magdassi knows how bulky and unsteady camping grills can be. Now a student at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, he created Stakes – an awesome new grill that makes standard iterations look like dinosaurs.
“During my military service I experienced walking long trails while carrying heavy loads,” Magdassi told Wired. “Therefore, I understood the importance of designing light weight equipment.”
The 27-year-old Industrial designer conceived of Stakes as an alternative. It has a 13-inch by 10-inch cooking surface and – as Wired puts it – “folds up to the size of a paper towel tube when not in use.”
Stakes is comprised of three titanium stakes that are easily punched into the ground with a rock. But instead of having a fixed plate, Magdassi incorporates steel wires that thread through holes in the stakes.
This flexible setup not only takes the bulk and clank out of camping gear, but it also makes it very easy to create a steady plate even in places where the ground is hard since the wires have enough play that the stakes can be pulled in different directions until placement can be made.
Whereas the aluminum cooking pots and gas canisters that most people use on camping trips are typically wobbly on uneven ground, the triangular shaped wire grid establishes a brilliantly stable surface, and more of it, making it easy to cook up kebabs, fish, veggie burgers, and other camping goodness.
Albeit a brilliant idea for army forces, one that is likely to be exceptionally popular among future Israelis, Stakes is also perfect for backpackers – especially since it eliminates the gas canister, which is often troublesome for those who fly from their homes to their backpacking destinations.
Three years ago, Qatar won the right to be the first Middle Eastern country to host a World Cup in 2022; after much speculation, FIFA’s Secretary General Jerome Valcke publicly ruled out the possibility that the competition will take place in summer.
Since winning the bid with designs of spectacular solar-powered stadiums, the Emirate has insisted that it will provide comfortable facilities for both athletes and visitors, but Valcke is adamantly against the idea of a summer event.
Previously, the Secretary General recently he said he would defer to medical specialists to determine whether it is safe to hold the games in Qatar in summer, when temperatures average between 95 and 113 degrees Fahrenheit. But on Wednesday, he took a more definitive stance.
“The dates of the World Cup will not be in June or July. I think it will be played between November 15 and January 15 the latest,” he told France Inter Radio on Wednesday.
“If you play between November 15 and, let’s say, the end of December, it’s the time when the weather is the most favourable,” Valcke added.
But it seems that Valcke spoke out of turn, because FIFA was quick to release a statement that no firm decision has been made about when the 2022 World Cup will take place – a reflection, perhaps, of a division within the organization.
“The precise event date is still subject to an ongoing consultation process,” FIFA said in a statement released a short time after Valcke’s comments were splashed around the world. ”As the event will not be played until 8 years’ time, the consultation process will not be rushed and will be given the necessary time to consider all of the elements relevant for a decision.”
Qatar’s organizing committee claims it is prepared for anything – a summer or a winter event, ABC News reports.
“During the FIFA Executive Committee meeting in October, it was agreed that FIFA would enter a period of consultation on the ideal time of year to host the World Cup in Qatar — with a recommendation expected after the World Cup in Brazil,” they said on Wednesday.
“We await the outcome of this consultation period. We will be ready to host the World Cup regardless of the outcome.”
This may be one of the most controversial World Cups in history. The weather’s not right, working conditions are said to be akin to modern day slavery, and Zaha Hadid got all kinds of heat for publishing renders of a stadium said to look like a vagina.
It seemed that finally the summer/winter debate had been settled, but apparently not. The confusion ensues. Stay tuned.
Dom Arquitectura designed 4 Houses in Jeddah, a large city in western Saudi Arabia, where summer temperatures often surpass 109 °F. Hit the jump to find out how the studio used Islamic and passive design to keep the homes cool.
While temperatures in the Gulf countries may be steadily rising as climate change escalates, it’s always been hot on the peninsula.
Lacking modern conveniences such as air-conditioning, pre-industrial builders devised several ingenious methods to keep building interiors comfortable, many of which were lost to contemporary designers.
Recently that has begun to change.
While using earth construction is still uncommon, studios such as Dom Arquitectura are beginning to incorporate ancient Islamic techniques such as mashrabiya screens, courtyards and plants into modern construction for non-mechanical climate control.
The 4 Houses in Jeddah are arranged around a central courtyard in a fairly uniform pattern mandated by the site’s layout. While the symmetry may appear rather dull, it was important to the design team to not only meet modern aesthetic standards, but also to ensure functional homes with a gentle environmental footprint.
The ground floor zocalo was built with concrete and wood and the floors rise from that foundation in a fairly standard open box style.
Like traditional Islamic buildings, the central courtyard filled with natural light and plants provides natural cooling thanks to cross ventilation; sliding shutters act like a second skin that create a transition zone between the main interior and outside.
The mashrabiya-like wall screens not only provide ventilation, but also views and a sense of privacy. The homes’ lower level walls are particularly well-screened from the outside, while the upper levels are more open.
Saudi Arabia is wealthy enough that its residents still have high standards and there is very little incentive for most citizens to embrace green building, so it is especially rewarding to see such thoughtful design coming from the Gulf country. Hopefully we will see more like it in the coming years.
Canada is up there on environmental awareness and monitoring contaminants in seafood. It was one of the first countries in the world to talk about the dangers of mercury from industry in fish, and now concerned citizens are comparing scary data on fish and seafood products from Japan after its 2011 nuclear meltdown.
Are you eating radioactive caesium? Read on for the list of what to avoid.
According to this source you should avoid eating the following products that come from the western Pacific Ocean. It’s a good reason for shark fin soup eaters (shark fin soup can give you brain damage) to stop the cruel practice, with tuna seaweed and carp on the list as well.
Cesium was found in these groups:
• 73 per cent of mackerel tested
• 91 per cent of the halibut
• 92 per cent of the sardines
• 93 per cent of the tuna and eel
• 94 per cent of the cod and anchovies
• 100 per cent of the carp, seaweed, shark and monkfish
The problem with fish and seafood products is that it’s very hard to trace the source of the products you buy in a regular supermarket or outdoor shuk. If you live in the Middle East you can opt to buy locally caught produce (but be mindful of local mercury reports and what’s in the fish from pollutants at sea), buy farmed fish from land-based pools, or buy from sustainably harvested sources that might be flown in from countries in safe zones.
According to the report on Reader Supported News, some of the fish and products mentioned above were caught hundreds of miles from the Japanese coast. When the reactor blew it emitted an estimated 10 to 100 times more radiation to the sea than the Chernobyl reactor explosion, according to sources in the report.
Japan meanwhile is the only country really monitoring what’s in its fish and seafood products.
According to the story the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which monitors food safety, says it is aware of the numbers but says the amounts of cesium detected are small. They have stopped testing the products coming to Canada from Japan.
“Approximately 60 per cent of fish have shown to have detectable levels of radionuclides,” it said in an emailed statement. “The majority of exported fish to Canada are caught much farther from the coast of Japan, and the Japanese testing has shown that these fish have not been contaminated with high levels of radionuclides.”
Japanese data on the other hand, shows something else: “In November, 18 per cent of cod exceeded a new radiation ceiling for food to be implemented in Japan in April – along with 21 per cent of eel, 22 per cent of sole and 33 per cent of seaweed.
“Overall, one in five of the 1,100 catches tested in November exceeded the new ceiling of 100 becquerels per kilogram. (Canada’s ceiling for radiation in food is much higher: 1,000 becquerels per kilogram.)”
“It’s completely untrue to say this level of radiation is safe or harmless,” said Gordon Edwards, president of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility.
Dangers of exposure to radioactive materials has led one Canadian Dr. Dale Dewar to check and limit what her grandkids are eating when they come to visit her. “We suspect we’re going to see more cancers, decreased fetal viability, decreased fertility, increased metabolic defects – and we expect them to be generational,” she said.
If you want to know what’s okay to eat, Tafline has put together a list on sustainable fish and seafood options from the Monteray Bay a while back, but we suppose that sardines from the Pacific will now be taken off the list.
Moderation is probably a safe bet if you don’t know what you are eating when it comes to fish and seafood. Pregnant and nursing women, and small children should limit their intake of most kinds of fatty fish at all times due to exposure to mercury and fat soluble pollutants. Now add fish and seafood with cesium to the list.
For the eco curious and health conscious Wikipedia has an extensive entry on this issue here.
Coal power plants are one of the reasons why there is so much mercury in seafood. Time to start aquaponics farming I guess. And getting more solar power to the grid.
Read the whole story on Reader Supported News
Image via Dan Century
Unlike medication, there are no warning ads that come with your car. The highest road accident fatalities in the world can be found among drivers in the Middle East with Saudi Arabia topping the charts. Care about how your community drives, and your kids? Share this video produced by NZ Transport Agency in New Zealand.
It shows in slow motion what goes through the heads of two men the moment they are about to crash.
Whether you are in Jordan riding in the backseat of a Subaru with no doors, or in Qatar in a luxury SUV, there is no car in this world that can save you from death by auto. Watch the video, and share it. Please. The idea here is that other people make mistakes. Drive cautiously to prevent terrible outcomes.
Walking, cycling and public transport is always the better way to go within cities, if you can.
Do you dream about working towards a greener future in the Middle East but simply don’t know where the good jobs are? If so, you might want to head over to the 7th World Future Energy Summit (WFES), where Masdar Institute of Science and Technology and Reed Exhibitions are hosting a “Green Career Fair.”
Since green jobs are something of a new thing in the Middle East and North Africa, it may be hard for some people to know where to find them.
The Green Career Fair provides a platform for potential employers and employees to meet, and on site workshops, a Career Advice Desk, and HR professionals will provide insight into the kinds of jobs that are available in the renewable energy field in particular.
In addition to providing a map to green jobs for people seeking work, the fair allows companies who are seeking skilled employees to advertise current openings and interview people directly at the fair. This process helps cut down the cost and time typically associated with attending and conducting numerous interviews.
“Platforms such as the Green Career Fair offer emerging clean energy professionals the right channel for their professional development through engaging with industries in the field to discuss future trends in clean energy capacity building,” said Dr Behjat Al Yousuf, Masdar Institute’s dean of students.
Naji El Haddad, who is the director of WFES, noted that the fair offers the ideal setting to bring together people who are either directly or indirectly involved in the renewable energy sector, and those who wish to be.
“Building sustainable communities across the Mena region is of vital economic and strategic importance for future sustainability,” said El Haddad. “There is an increasing need for youth to develop careers in renewable energy sectors.”
Three companies who will be present at the fair include Eden Energy Group, Microsol, and Acwa Power. In addition to advertising available jobs, they are also interested to convince young graduates and professionals of the benefits of getting involved with the green economy, as opposed to the fossil fuel industry, for example.
“It is a proven fact that renewables, with particular reference to distributed generation, create the maximum local jobs per megawatt,” said J Vishwanathan, Microsol’s director. ”This was proven even in high-cost countries such as Germany and Japan. The same is relevant to MENA.”
The Green Career Fair will be co-located with the second edition of the International Water Summit and the inaugural EcoWASTE exhibition, also hosted by Masdar, at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center, from January 20-22, 2014.
Green Prophet will be there, so be sure to pop on by to say hello.
Image of male engineer via Shutterstock
Last year, Israel’s parliament announced plans to run entirely off solar energy by the end of 2014, but it turns out the Knesset is going even further to clean up its act. The new “Green Knesset” project will completely overhaul its ethos to stand as a symbol of the country’s environmental revolution.
Israel has long been a pioneer in clean technology, renewable energy, and water conservation, but for the longest time, so many of the nation’s brilliant inventions, such as BrightSource Energy’s utility scale solar energy plants, were shipped elsewhere.
The nation that spurred such smart ideas was not yet ready to incorporate them. But that has appeared to change, and in a big way.
While there is no question that the pursuit for oil and natural gas will always be Israel’s achilles heel, at last the nation’s leadership has embraced the wisdom of exploiting renewable sources of energy and conserving natural resources that do exist, including water that is in such short supply.
At the turn of the new year, the Knesset unveiled an outline of their Green Knesset project, which broadly aims to teach everyone who works in and around the parliament building to act in a manner that is ecologically, economically and socially sustainable.
While critics will no doubt find fault with this plan given the prevailing political conditions, there is something quite radical and fresh about the government’s intention.
In addition to implementing 12 specific projects in 2014 and 2015 that will reduce the building’s energy and water consumption, including a 48,000 square foot solar field, replacing all existing bulbs with more energy efficient LED lights, switching out the current air conditioning system with a new energy center and recycling water produced during air-conditioning for use in irrigation projects, the Knesset will actively engage employees and Knesset members in a systemic reconstruction.
National Infrastructure, Energy, and Water Minister Silvan Shalom said, “The Green Knesset project will be a source of pride for Israel and will inspire other countries. Encouraging energy efficiency, saving electricity and advancing the use of natural gas and renewable energy will reduce pollution, preserve the environment and save a lot of money.”
Computers will be programmed to shut down every night and studies will be conducted to improve the irrigation system on the grounds to optimize conservation, and this won’t happen in the shadows. Everyone will be involved in order to create a new culture of sustainability. This same culture will hopefully follow people home and spread like a fan to the rest of the nation until conserving water and energy and recycling becomes as natural to Israelis as breathing.
$2 million will be set aside in the Green Fund to finance the Knesset’s greening, and new energy and water conservation measures are expected to save $290,000 per year.
Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz said, ”At a time when my office is leading an environmental revolution in industry and in the residents’ homes, the symbol of the country must become a leading element in the green revolution, because it is the Knesset’s duty to protect the next generations, and protecting the environment is the way to do it.”
Lead image courtesy the Knesset
With outstanding infrastructural improvement due in large part to projects launched by the cutting-edge real estate development company, Empire World, Erbil in Iraq is making a name for itself. Now is a chance to meet this ancient/new city, thought to be one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world.
Hundreds of villas and dozens of business and residential towers, replete with modern amenities, have sprouted up between new green spaces and roads.
The following video advertises Empire World’s influence in Erbil for the new year:
Erbil’s rich history
Despite the planning and building for the future, Erbil has not forgotten its rich history. It is regarded as one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, even believed by some to be the oldest.
Nestled on top of a hill, the Citadel is a vision in ochre. Unlike the citadels of nearby major cities like Cairo, Egypt, or Aleppo and Damascus, Syria and Amman in Jordan, this citadel is not merely a military structure from the past.
Renovations to the Erbil Citadel which started in 2007 have restored hundreds of buildings inside into extravagant homes, hotels, museums, shops, and archaeological research centers. Among the primary tourist attractions inside the citadel is the Kurdish Textile Museum.
Nawzad Hadi, the governor of Erbil, has expressed his view that Erbil is soon to be the “new Dubai.”
City-wide renovations continue, and new complexes and skyscrapers are cropping up as a result of bringing new, futuristic investors on board.
As increasing numbers of tourists roll into the Erbil International Airport, these major developments will be invigorated. But will they be sustainable?
Photo of Erbil Citadel from My Erbil Facebook page
Pomegranates and their ruby-like seeds are one of the fruits that define the Middle East, or at least the Levante side of the Middle East. Even though suspect pomegranate seeds were traced to an outbreak of hepatitis this past summer in the United States (organic fruit at that!), we have to let bygones by bygones.
Not just at New Year time, but all year time. Read on why.
Did you know that pomegranates seeds actually symbolize the new year in Turkey? Some people smash them on the ground at weddings and at new years to celebrate.
Did you also know that pomegranates are so packed with vitamin C and antioxidants that the fruit is believed to stave off heart disease, arthritis and some cancers? Researchers from the Technion in Israel have found that eating pomegranates while taking statins may significantly reduce cholesterol levels and hinder oxidation of cholesterol in blood and cells. In short: Eating them could prevent you from suffering a heart attack or stroke.
This is what Professor Michael Aviram and his research team discovered.
Their research was published in January 2014 in the scientific journal Atherosclerosis, and its findings show that the combination of statin and pomegranate concentrate helps delay risk factors affecting the onset of atherosclerosis and its consequences – heart attack or stroke.
The leading risk factors for the development of atherosclerosis (the formation of cholesterol deposits in artery walls that can block blood flowing to the heart and brain) and its outcome – heart attack or stroke, involve both the quantity and the quality of blood cholesterol.
“Our job is to provide treatment to lower blood cholesterol levels and to delay cholesterol oxidation,” explains Aviram. “Although statin therapy effectively lowers cholesterol levels in patients diagnosed with heart and cardiovascular diseases, it has only modest effect on curbing oxidation. Moreover, high doses of statins can lead to side-effects – involving primarily significant muscle pain. We are looking to find a treatment without unwanted side-effects,” Aviram said. Pomegranates seem to be able to do the job, they report.
Some researchers have found that it is also an aphrodisiac. Eve’s secret weapon?
The pomegranate fruit, which is traced to Iran some 5,000 years ago, may be the fruit of temptation from the Garden of Eden mentioned in the Bible. I have a pomegranate tree in my yard in Israel, and every year around the Jewish New Year in the fall, the fruit is ripe for the picking. Jewish people use the fruit as a decorative item on the Rosh Hashanna table: it symbolizes mitzvot or good deeds for the year to come. (Read: 4 Reasons To Eat Pomegranates on The Jewish New Year.)
The seeds can be boiled down to use as a molasses in sauces or just tossed into salads as they are. Kids love to eat the seeds and picking them out requires great hand-eye coordination. A wonderful job for a toddler to test out her dexterity as you prepare the meal. Just be ready for a messy face and fingers.
Your body will thank you.
Recipes for pomegranate lovers:
Lamb kebabs marinated in pomegranate molasses
Almond torte with pomegranate molasses
How to make pomegranate mollases
Fesenjan, Persian Chicken in Walnut Sauce
Image of pomegranate face from Shutterstock
Dubai rang in 2014 with a record-shattering fireworks display. In an effort to break the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest fireworks extravaganza previously held by Kuwait, the emirate exploded a whopping 400,000 fireworks in less than 10 minutes.
Choreographed by America’s Phil Grucci, Dubai’s fireworks display was spread across 100 kilometers and lasted six full minutes.
The event took 10 months to plan and more than 200 pyrotechnicians arranged around The Palm and The World artificial islands ensured the display went off without a hitch.
Fireworks used were purchased in China, Spain and the United States, according to The National, and were hauled to the launching site by a long series of trucks.
We’re being given the challenge of breaking the world record,” said Grucci, who has worked in Dubai in the past, “so the scale of this is nothing that anybody has had the opportunity to oversee.”
Kuwait’s previous record was shattered by Dubai’s over-the-top performance, where nearly 100,000 fireworks were set off every minute.
“[Kuwait's] firework display stretched over 5 km (3.11 miles) of seafront, started at 8 p.m. and lasted 64 minutes,” according to the Guinness World Record website. “Event organizers Parente Fireworks srl and Filmmaster MEA produced the event, which included the pyrotechnic display and a lights and sound show. Preceding this, an airshow was staged in the afternoon.”
Albeit impressive, the show somehow undoes all of the small steps that Dubai has taken over the last year to become a little less environmentally destructive.
While those that saw the show were extremely impressed and lauded Dubai’s efforts to draw tourists to the city, some commentators expressed regret over the extraordinary expense and extravagance.
“When I see this and remember that Gaza has been without electricity for 40 days,” said Oussama Bargougui on YouTube “I really feel ashamed to be Arabic.”
Screengrab from Dubai Media video
The current road linking Abu Dhabi and Dubai, E111 is said to be one of the most dangerous, which killed roughly 9 out of 100,000 people in 2012, but the new state of the art E311 highway will be one of the world’s greenest.
Just three years ago, when I started writing for Green Prophet, a project like this was virtually unheard of. While murmurings about clean technology, renewable energy and maybe even recycled materials had begun to emerge, there existed no supply chain of more earth-friendly materials to support any fledgling green initiatives. This I saw with my own eyes.
Now so much has changed, in large part thanks to government-sponsored Masdar (see photos of our trip to Masdar here), which among its many accomplishments established The Future Build, a brilliant platform that allows architects, designers, contractors and clients in the construction industry to source materials rated to the highest environmental specifications.
This in turn encourages suppliers to improve the quality of their product and enables Abu Dhabi to push their widespread “greening” initiatives even further.
The emirate’s Department of Transportation (DoT) has teamed up with the the Urban Planning Council (UPC), the Estidama program team and the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, along with an international consortium of road planning experts, to design and plan a new green road to link the UAE capital and Dubai.
Devised as a template for future roads, the new highway will be constructed with state of the art materials designed for optimum safety and security, including recycled materials such as asphalt and aggregate and rubber tires, and it will require less maintenance in the long run.
Part of the DoT’s Surface Transport Master Plan, the E311 will also be illuminated with renewable energy such as solar power, in order to reduce the project’s overall carbon footprint.
“The DoT has undertaken several studies to guarantee that the best possible approaches are being utilised ensuring that the project will bring the defined objectives,” according to local paper Emirates 24/7, “one of which is building modern and environment-friendly roads as opposed to the traditional ones.”
Construction on the pilot road will being in early 2015.
Image of Dubai/Abu Dhabi road sign / Shutterstock
See the images: These very rare textiles were found in the Wadi Murabba’at caves south of Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. Why is this ancient find so exciting for the Jews?
Ancient Jews had dyed their holy garments purple, crimson and indigo blue, the most prestigious clothes colors in ancient times – so prestigious that fabrics dyed those colors were as valuable as gold.
Some reds, purples and blues were processed out of plants, but the most brilliant, steadfast colors came from varieties of the marine Murex snail or the cochineal bug.
Until recently, only two fabric swatches from the Roman period had been positively identified as bearing Murex dye, out of thousands found in the Judean Desert, the Negev and the Arava. But research now proves that three other fabric pieces were dyed with ancient world’s most expensive colors. Read about another exciting discovery – 3000-year-old public water works in Jerusalem.
One hundred and eighty specimens were analyzed with advanced instruments for identifying dyes (using HPLC). Most were dyed with plant extracts, but two, apparently parts of tunics, were double-dyed with Murex trunculus and the cochineal insect.
A third was first dyed, then exposed to sunlight in order to produce a deep blue. This is the same process used to make the sacred techelet color, which was lost for centuries and only recently re-discovered.The wool of this same blue piece was spun locally, while the purple and crimson have characteristic marks of imported wool.
An entire garment dyed this color would have been expensive indeed. To us, 2000 or even 3000 years later, the mere discovery of a piece of it, and confirmation of the dye, is exciting.
“The importance of this fabric is extremely significant as there are practically no parallels for it in the archaeological record,” stated Yoli Shwartz, Israel Antiquities Authority spokeswoman.
Na’amat Sukenik, of the Israel Antiquities Authority, conducted the research with Prof. Zohar Amar of the Dept. of the Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology, David Illuz of the Dept. of Life Sciences at Bar-Ilan University, and Orit Shamir, curator of organic materials at the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Purple was the color with the highest status among the Greeks and Romans. There were times when only Caesars and their families wore purple and anyone who dared to wear the royal color was punished by law. Brilliant blues and crimsons also indicated status and wealth, and became so profitable that ancient rulers monopolized the manufacture of these colors.
The Murabba’at caves were the refuge of Jews resisting the Roman army during the time of the Bar-Kochba revolt, 132-136 A.D.. While it’s not certain, it might be that the fabrics found there belonged to some of them. Another theory is that Roman soldiers who occupied the caves after the Bar-Kochba revolt had bought some of the fabrics locally, or brought them from Italy.
Although I’m no scholar of antiquity, the first theory makes the most sense to me. How could a common soldier have afforded such expensive clothing, unless it was stolen or looted? Because surely army commanders wouldn’t have been living in the caves.
On the other hand, I can easily imagine a harried Jewish woman, about to cross the desert, hoping to survive in a cave with a crowd of other determined refugees, stuffing the best of her possessions – the things she couldn’t bear to part with – into bags. A beautiful tunic would have folded up easily and not taken much space in her luggage. It would have been a reminder of better times. It would have been the sign of her hope to wear it again, in freedom, someday.
More Archaeological Discoveries In Israel:
- King David’s Palace Discovered
- Mysterious Ancient Underwater Mound In Sea of Galilee
- Ancient Wine Press Uncovered
- New Stone Age Figurines For the Hunt in Jerusalem
Photographs by Clara Amit, courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority
We’re not the biggest fans of all the Middle East’s skyscrapers - the Burj Khalifa, the Kingdom Tower coming to Saudi and other soaring glass towers, because of their high environmental impact. Which is why we got such a kick out of these awesome candles from China.
Dubai and other Gulf cities have grown up so fast. Once empty tracts of vast desert land have been replaced with row after row of tall, glass clad buildings – many of which are unoccupied.
Gone are the simple days of subsistence fishing and pearl diving. Now we have air-conditioned shopping malls and fancy gold-plated cars (even if they are biodiesel.) And we’re alone in our nostalgia for the “good old days.”
Beijing has gone through a similar transformation.
There are at least as many towers dominating the Chinese capital as Dubai’s and Doha’s, including the world’s second tallest tower – the Shanghai World Financial Center, and one artist is so tired of the change, she designed a series of tower-shaped candles just so that she could watch them burn down.
In addition to creating replicas of Doha’s Palm and Aspire Towers, Jing Jing Naihan Li, who has worked with renowned architects Ai WeiWei and OMA in the past, designed models of several American and Chinese skyscrapers as well.
It took the artist two years to design and mould the candles, which are each one foot tall, and were originally unveiled at Beijing Design Week in 2012.
“I’m tired of modernity,” Naihan told Bundshop, an online website that sells the candles. ”I like watching these buildings burn and melt into artistic pieces. I light these for fun, I think I’ve burnt 20 sets just myself.”
If you’re also tired of modernity and would like to see Doha’s Palm or Aspire Tower burn to the ground, you can, but it’s going to cost you!
The minimum selling price for these skyscraper candles is $39, though the more elaborate models are pricier, but we must say, it’s better to burn one of them down than it is to set alight the real thing!
For more than 3000 years, Jews dreamed of recovering a lost blue dye called techelet. Using clues laid down over 100 years ago by one rabbi in Poland, and another in Israel, Ptil Techelet, the Association for the Promotion and Distribution of Tekhelet, has succeeded in tracking down the dye’s source and reviving it. We’ve posted on another Jewish revival, one a bit earthier: Jewish beer.
Jews are Biblically commanded to wear ritual fringes – tsitsit – “on the corners of their garments.” The Biblical passage continues: “And God said to Moses, say to them that they shall place upon the tsitsit of each corner a thread of techelet (a rich blue color). And you shall see it and remember all the commandments of God…”
In ancient times, a blue techelet thread was knotted among white ones, as described to Moses. To fulfill the commandment of tsitsit, Jewish men throughout the ages have worn a short, four-cornered wool or cotton shift with ritual fringes attached to each of its corners. At given times during prayer, or at any time, a man holds the tsitsit up and looks at it, to remind himself that his actions should be imbued with holiness. This distinctive blue thread was the reminder.
And why blue? Jewish sources say that blue, reflecting the color of the sky, reminds one of God’s heavenly throne. Regarding it keeps one’s thoughts focused on holiness. The blue dye was obtained from the digestive gland of a particular marine snail, Murex trunculus.
Although indigo and woad plants also yield blue dyes, only dye from a sea animal is considered the legitimate source of color for the blue thread. While other Murex varieties yield purples and reds, only Murex trunculus yields sky-blue techelet.
Along the northern coast of Israel and up into Lebanon, dyeing houses took in harvests of the sea snail and cooked them for many days in salted water with fenugreek; or in urine. Near Tyre, archaeologists have found large mounds of snail shell remains, indicating where local dyeing industries flourished in Biblical times. Remains of the techelet snail have also been found on Mt. Zion, Jerusalem, indicating an ancient dyeing industry there.
Techelet was an expensive dye, obtained through a labor-intensive, long-drawn-out hand process that yielded the blue coveted by Jews and Gentiles alike. Fabrics dyed this color, along with purple and crimson, were as valuable as gold. Dye from marine snails and its attendant industry were so important that images of the Murex snail were imprinted on a number of Roman coins. Below is one showing a Roman eagle with the Murex snail between its claws.
Ancient Roman and Greek ruling classes adopted sumptuary laws to enforce privilege and social distinction, making it illegal for anyone but themselves to wear blue, purple, or crimson clothes. The Roman governments eventually monopolized the dyeing industry. Jews were consequently forbidden to produce techelet. The Muslim conquest of Israel in the 7th century brought new prohibitions against the manufacture of techelet. As the Jewish dyeing houses closed, the secret to making techelet was lost.
But the dream was never totally abandoned. In 1889, the head of a Polish hassidic sect, Rabbi Gershon Henoch Leiner, traveled to Italy and witnessed blue dye being made from the black ink secreted by cuttlefish. The ink was boiled together with iron filings and a form of potassium. Rabbi Leiner was convinced that he had discovered the source of the techelet. Some say that the rabbi was fooled by an Italian chemist who saw a chance to cash in on a new market, because any organic material takes on a blue dye when boiled with iron filings. In any case, his theory was rejected by all but his own followers.
The next investigation into techelet was undertaken by Rabbi Isaac Herzog in 1913. In his scientific doctoral thesis, the Jerusalem sage claimed that the authentic source of techelet is the Murex trunculus snail, basing his theory on its discovery by French zoologist Henri Lacase Duthiers, in 1857. Below is a page out of Rabbi Herzog’s thesis.
Under the right processing conditions, the snail’s digestive gland produces a rich sky blue color. The snail itself has all the physical markers described in the Talmud. The Ptil Techlet organization has proved Rabbi Herzog’s theory to be correct.
Ptil Techelet held a conference celebrating 100 years of techelet research this week in Jerusalem. Speakers and panelists included scientists, archaeologists, historians, a specialist in ancient languages, and prominent rabbis.
From left to right: Prof. Zohar Amar, Dept. of Archaeology, Bar-Ilan University; Prof. Ilan Sharon, Dept. of Archaeology, Hebrew University; Prof. Horowitz, Faculty of Science, Hebrew University, and Dr. Baruch Sterman, a founder of Ptil Techelet. The founders of Ptil Techelet described their search for Murex trunculus, how they tested ancient harvesting methods and recreated the ancient cooking process themselves. There was a live demonstration of the dyeing process.
It was thrilling to see the techelet actually forming itself under our own eyes. Although the salty, rotten smell was less than pleasant, it brought a feeling of experiencing the same exact thing that ancient people did.
Ptil Techelet is researching ways to farm the Murex trunculus snail, in order to establish a sustainable way of continuing production. They are concerned with issues of over-fishing and preservation of the snail for future generations.
This, then, is techelet.
- Tu B’Shvat, The Jewish New Year For The Trees
- First Etrog Tree In Holy Land Discovered In Jerusalem
- Traditional Jewish Burial Rites Are Green
Ptil Tekhelet is also on Facebook
At last, Dayma is offering the kind of eco-tour we’ve long dreamed of. The same people who showed students what scorpions and camels can teach us about sustainable design have now developed two new, affordable tours that put nature at the heart of the Egyptian experience.
Since ecotourism is the latest buzz word, a lot of companies throughout Egypt profess to offer a sustainable holiday. And to some extent, many of them do.
There are beautiful getaways built from natural materials in the traditional manner, and other off grid travel options – in Sinai, for example, where life is by nature still sustainable since civilization hasn’t completely suffocated the region.
But we haven’t yet seen, until now, a tour offered by people who genuinely know and understand nature – one that offers more than a cursory glance at the birds, the bees, and the country’s numerous natural wonders.
Come 2014, Dayma will be offering two new immersive tours.
One is a four day trip to Sinai’s St. Katherine, a destination people usually visit in order to say they have climbed the highest point of Egypt. But there is so much more to see in and understand about the area’s desert, mountains and oases, a message Dayma has solicited the help and wisdom of local Bedouin people to convey.
In addition to demonstrating how it is possible for the local people to survive among what appears to be a barren, unforgiving landscape, the local people will teach visitors about the myriad medicinal plants that occur naturally – the mainstay of an enduring, self-sufficient culture.
They’ll even have a chance to tinker with their own natural remedies, under careful supervision of course.
Dayma is also offering a four day trip to Nubia and Lake Nasser in Aswan, an entirely different environment that boasts lush vegetation and great biodiversity, where the local Nubian people have developed a rich and storied tradition reflecting their unique circumstances.
This tour involves an in depth exploration of Nubian culture, history, song and food. The first day ends with a group meal prepared by group leaders and participants.
On the last two days of this trip, Dayma’s experienced leaders will teach visitors about Lake Nasser’s unique freshwater ecosystem, along with the birds, crocodiles and aquatic creates who make it home.
No doubt visitors will also catch a glimpse of what ails these two vastly different ecosystems. Climate change, poaching, pollution and general neglect have had a serious impact on all of Egypt’s natural systems, as is the case of just about everywhere on the planet.
But through Dayma, both local Egyptians and foreigners have an opportunity to experience nature as it should be. Without barriers and without walls, in order to better understand what is at stake if we continue to act as though human beings are something apart from the land, the rivers, and the sea.
Both trips are just 2,800 EGP or $400, which is very reasonable for people who want a genuine eco tour. Contact Dayma’s Noor Noor for the details.