The Israel Factor

Witnessing Israel’s Development Through The Prism of Israel Bonds
By James S. Galfund

As he convened the historic September 1950 conference leading to the creation of Israel Bonds, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion told delegates, “You will have an opportunity to see something of what is being done in this country, (which) you will see on the slopes of Jerusalem, in Galilee, on the shores of the Mediterranean, in the vast spaces of the Negev.”
Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion welcomes Israel Bonds leadership to Jerusalem

Renowned as a visionary, even Ben-Gurion could not have foreseen the sheer scope of Israel’s development in these regions, and Israel Bonds, the organization he founded, played a significant role in making it possible.
Earlier this year, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon declared, "The unbeatable combination of Israel Bonds and Israeli ingenuity has helped make so much possible."

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Finance Ministry Director General Shai Babad with Israel Bonds senior management during an August 23, 2018, visit to the organization's corporate headquarters in New York (Photo: Shahar Azran)

Witnessing Israel’s rapid development is an extraordinary experience. I recently had my own opportunity to visit Israel for a look at three areas in which the country has exceled – water solutions, sustainability and transportation. 
Water Solutions 
The National Water Carrier, a frequent stop for Israel Bonds delegations, is arguably Israel’s most iconic undertaking. Begun in the late 1950s, the carrier stretches from the Sea of Galilee to the Negev, and was instrumental in the realization of Ben-Gurion’s determination to “make the desert bloom.”

Members of the Israel Bonds staff delegation pay a visit to Israel's iconic National Water Carrier, the nation's most ambitious infrastructure project (Photo: James S. Galfund)

But there was a problem. As Israel’s population grew, the amount of water needed for drinking rose exponentially. Increasing amounts of Israel’s scarce water resources had to be diverted from agriculture to the growing requirements of its citizens.
That’s where Israel’s well-established reputation for innovative solutions came into play. With the Mediterranean Sea as the country’s western border, desalination became an obvious answer. Now, eighty-five percent of Israel‘s drinking water comes from the sea.
Today, Israel’s water supply is no longer dependent on nature. Even in the event of a major drought, Israel still would have sufficient resources to meet the needs of its population.

Vineyards in the desert region of Arava highlight Israel's successful approach to innovative water solutions (Photo: James S. Galfund)

Israel is at the forefront of groundbreaking technology and innovative environmental solutions.  An outstanding example of the way in which Israel combines the two is the Shafdan wastewater treatment plant, located five miles south of Tel Aviv. 
Over the course of a year, Shafdan treats 35.6 billion U.S. fluid gallons of wastewater that supply fully 70 percent of the irrigation needs of the Negev and 10 percent of the water needs of the entire country.  

The Shafdan wastewater treatment plant provides 70 percent of the Negev's irrigation needs and 10 percent of the water needs of the entire country (Photo: James S. Galfund)

Another example of Israel’s cutting-edge approach to green solutions is Ariel Sharon Park, once a massive landfill that is now a model of sustainability. At one time, the huge landfill contained so much trash that it rose to a height of nearly 200 feet and was dubbed ‘Trash Mountain.’
Today, thousands of Israelis flock to Ariel Sharon Park to enjoy its hiking trails, bike paths, artificial lakes and groves of trees. International representatives from countries including China, Sri Lanka and Mexico have also come to the park seeking advice that will enable them to benefit from yet another example of Israeli ingenuity.

Ariel Sharon Park's tranquil lake, complete with floating lily pads and a border built from recycled concrete, is a far cry from the waters of the former landfill that were once referred to as 'garbage juice' (Photo: James S. Galfund)


The Tel Aviv Metropolitan Mass Transit System, is, according to a spokesperson for NTA, the the government-owned company responsible for the design and construction of the project, "Israel's biggest infrastructure project of all time."  When the Red Line, the first phase of the project opens in 2021, it will be a transformative moment for the Greater Tel Aviv region. It is projected 70 million people will utilize the system annually, with daily ridership approaching a quarter of a million passengers. Trains over 55 feet long, with a 450-person capacity, will stop at stations every 3-5 minutes, depending on the time of day. It’s estimated the Red Line will inspire between 80,000-100,000 liberated drivers to leave their cars behind. 

Looking down at the Allenby Street Red Line construction site, 82 feet below ground level (Photo: James S. Galfund)

With 34 stations,10 of which will be below ground, the Red Line is expected to cost $4.34 billion, due in part to unique challenges inherent in constructing tunnels in close proximity to the Mediterranean Sea. Unlike the Tel Aviv – Jerusalem fast rail, which entailed digging through hilly, rocky terrain, engineers in Tel Aviv had to tackle sand and water. At one point, scuba divers were sent in to cast a concrete floor when the shaft was covered by water. A more conventional approach was the utilization of massive tunnel boring machines, each stretching nearly 500 feet in length and weighing 1,800 tons. Eight were used in the excavation of Red Line tunnels.

It's anticipated that the mass transit system will have a positive impact not only on transportation, but lifestyle as well, as can be seen by the large number of commercial projects being built all along the Red Line.

A massive 1,800-ton boring machine excavates a Red Line tunnel (Photo: James S. Galfund) 

"A Good Day for the World" 

Famed investor Warren Buffett, a loyal advocate for Israel Bonds who participated in three Bonds event in a span of just 18 months, summed up Israel's innovative spirit when he declared, "I believe (Israel) is one of the most remarkable countries in the world.” Buffett stated that May 14,1948, the date Israel declared independence, “was a good day for the world.” He called Israel bonds "a deserved endoresment of a remarkable country."

Warren Buffett calls Israel bonds "a deserved endorsement of a remarkable country" (Photo: Shahar Azran)