VIP barbecue by the pool. Champagne. Red carpets. Internationally recognized musicians. No, it wasn’t a glitzy awards show, just the launch of Kibbutz Ketura’s solar field, the first of its kind in Israel. It marked a turning point for renewable energy in Israel.
We all know that Israelis love to boast how green their country is–after all, they say, every home has a solar panel on its roof! “We heat all our water with the sun!” they cry earnestly. However, in most other environmental areas, Israel has been lagging behind other countries. Indeed, it took Arava Power Company roughly five years to make their dream of a solar field a reality.
Yossi Abramowitz, co-founder of APC, recalls that he was shuttled between twenty-four different government offices before getting the necessary permits to open a solar field.
Cutting the ribbon includes and is not limited to (left to right) Yossi Abramowitz, Dr. Einat Wilf, Dr. Wolfgang Bischoff, MK Orit Noked, Udi Gat, Dr. Uzi Laundau, Ed Hoffland, and David Rosenblatt
The launch itself was an incredibly festive event, including tours of the kibbutz, champagne, international rapper Shyne, and fireworks. Our day started in the early afternoon, when nothing much was really going on. There were schoolchildren visiting the kibbutz, students from the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies handing out hats to visitors, and a red carpet covering the dusty desert ground.
We were given a tour and shown some of the other innovative ventures that Kibbutz Ketura is involved in, including a small-scale algae farm, and according to kibbutzniks, the best coffee and cheesecake in Israel.
David Rosenblatt, Yossi Abramowitz and Ed Hoffland addressing the crowd.
The most unique thing, to me, was the familial atmosphere of the launch. Everyone was happy and excited to be there. You could tell that these weren’t businesspeople out to make some money–they were there in hopes of making the world a better place.
And indeed, there was a large emphasis on “tikkun olam,” the Jewish concept of fixing the world. “This is the worlds first solar field with a neshama (soul),” said co-founder of APC David Rosenblatt. One such example is the tithing of the solar field.
According to the traditional Jewish law of “pe’ah“, the owners of a field must leave the four corners of his field unharvested so that the poor may take from his field.
Similarly, the corners of Ketura Sun’s solar field have been dedicated to four different non-profit organizations, who will, over the next twenty years, benefit from the funds earned by each corner. The organizations are Jewish Heart for Africa, Bustan, the Elie Weisel Foundation for Humanity, and the Red Mountain Therapeutic Riding Center. Aside from that, Ketura Sun is committed to working with the local Bedouin communities, who hope to build the next solar field on their land.
Every good party needs a scandal, however, and this one was certainly no different. Rumors of SBY Solar blocking the event were flying, however, they weren’t taken all too seriously. “It’s a shame,” said Yossi Abramowitz, co-founder of APC.
“There’s doing business in good faith, and then there isn’t,” said an APC rep. Neither seemed to perturbed by the allegations, and were content to enjoy the days events, which culminated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony where Dr. Uzi Landau, minister of National Infrastructure, Dr. Wolfgang Bischoff, CEO of Seimens International, and singer David Broza, among many others, addressed the crowd with words and songs of goodwill.
The final event of the evening? International hip-hop artist Shyne performing his new single, “Solar Energy.”