This is another in my Good News Friday series, bringing some good news about Israel in time for Shabbat.
The 2012 World Food Prize has been won by an Israeli-American scientist, Daniel Hillel for his work in micro-irrigation:
Hillel’s work, which was inspired during the 1950′s when he was living in the Negev desert, has enhanced food yields in dry regions of the world by maximizing limited supplies of water in those areas.
“I know that my work has not been in vain, to have it recognized at such a level internationally,” Hillel said. “One works mostly in the field or a community or in a far away country and the effect accumulates gradually until at last, if one is lucky, is recognized. So this award is very gratifying.”
Hillel’s system of irrigation uses continuous drops of water to hydrate crops, replacing a system which flooded land intermittently, which wasted water in areas where the resource is scarce.
The Jerusalem Post adds:
Growing up as a young boy on a Jezreel Valley kibbutz in what was then Palestine, Prof. Daniel Hillel became fascinated with plants thriving in less than favorable conditions.
“That’s where I discovered and became enthralled by open spaces – and land and water and plants and sunshine,” Hillel, now 81, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday evening.
Established in 1987 by Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Norman Borlaug, the $250,000 prize recognizes “individuals who have contributed landmark achievements in increasing the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.”
Iowa businessman John Ruan III now endows and serves as the chairman of the prize, which was originally endowed by John Ruan, Sr.
Hillel is receiving the prize for his groundbreaking work in micro-irrigation and his success in bridging cultural gaps to solve a global issue.
“Today we have a laureate from a region of the world never before recognized, and a new area of scientific achievement,” said World Food Prize Foundation president and former US ambassador Kenneth Quinn over a live Web-stream from a State Department press conference.
After traveling to the United States for high school and both his undergraduate and master’s degrees – at the University of Georgia and Rutgers University respectively – Hillel returned to Israel in 1951 to work for the Agriculture Ministry. Soon afterward, he joined a group of 12 settlers who established the community of Sde Boker.
“About a year later, we were visited by a familiar man with frizzy hair, who was driven in a Cadillac with a military convoy to see the region,” he explained.
“Incidentally he saw our little encampment. He said, ‘What are you doing here?’ We said, ‘We’re trying to make a go of life in the desert.’” When then-prime minister David Ben-Gurion asked if they were accepting new members, the kibbutz community figured he was joking.
“But he wasn’t,” Hillel said. “He turned the convoy around and returned to Jerusalem. Within a few weeks, he resigned from the government and joined the settlement.”
Hillel was in charge of putting the elderly Ben-Gurion to work, and the two soon became close – so close that the former prime minister arranged a mission for him with Burma’s head of state at the time, to help develop that country’s northeast region.
Mazal tov Professor Hillel! Kol hakavod on your important work, and thank you for bringing honour to our country as well as to yourself.
Another item of nice news is that the stars of the popular American TV crime series CSI are currently visiting Israel, and are apparently having the time of their lives (h/t Mum):
CSI: Miami star Jonathan Togo (Ryan Wolfe) says the bar mitzvah ceremony he watched at Jerusalem’s Western Wall on June 4 bore little resemblance to his 1990 coming-of-age party in Braintree, Massachusetts.
He’d learned in Hebrew School about Judaism’s most sacred existing site, but it didn’t fully resonate until he was standing there with fellow CSI cast members during an eight-day trip arranged through Israel’s Foreign Ministry.
He says he was particularly struck by the international nature of the modern state with its rich, open culture based on democracy.
“The fact that it sprung out of the desert like an oasis — you’re constantly reminded of what an accomplishment that is in a very short period of time,” says Togo. “People from many different places brought the best aspects of where they’re from in the world to create as close to a utopia as I’ve ever seen.”
Perhaps we should send Jonathan Togo to speak to the authors of the ridiculous Global Peace Index who found that Israel is one of the least peaceful on earth.
Miller relates that “the outstanding climate makes me feel like I’m home in Los Angeles.”
As a Christian, he says he “had very high hopes for Israel and it’s lived up to and surpassed what I had in mind,” despite hurting his knee while horseback riding in the Galilee. “I’ve had such an eye-opening experience — a really nice glimpse into the culture and lives of Israelis and the Jewish people. We’ve been exposed to a lot of things culturally I’d never seen before, and it was much more fun than I expected it to be.”
For Buckley, an Irish Catholic familiar with the Bible, “the whole trip is like reading a storybook and then getting to participate in the storybook and have it come alive.”
If I wasn’t already living in Israel, these reports would make me want to jump on a plane and come here immediately!
Shabbat shalom everyone.