Mayor Rahm Emanuel made a whirlwind official visit to Israel this week that brought together about three dozen Chicagoans -- including JUF leaders -- from the water, tech, entrepreneurial, health care, academic and investment sectors.
The visit had two goals: To build on Chicago's status as a leader in finding solutions for water issues in Israel, the Middle East and the world; and to create new business relationships -- and strengthen longstanding ones -- among Chicagoans and Israelis.
Highlights of the trip included inking seven collaborative agreements between Israeli and Chicago institutions. Examples were:
- A multi-institutional science and applied water research MOU between Technion - The Israel Institute of Technology and Chicago Current's Research Consortium, which is comprised of Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois (Urban-Champaign), the University of Illinois (Chicago), the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago and the Chicago Department of Water Management.
- Northwestern University's Center for Water Research and the Zuckerberg Center for Water Research at Ben-Gurion University ;
- A City to City Agreement between Chicago and Tel Aviv promoting collaboration on river rehabilitation.
Another programming highlight was an academic roundtable of seven Israeli universities and six Chicago-area research institutions exploring even further collaborative research between Chicago and Israel. Also, Emanuel gave the keynote address on water, climate change, and inclusive economic growth at the annual WATEC conference, highlighting Chicago's strengths as a leader in all three. (Watch a video of Emanuel's remarks)
Emanuel also spoke about the trip on WTTW's "Chicago Tonight."
Sara Crown Star, one of the two JUF Executive Committee officers on the trip, said, "It was a fascinating and productive trip where many relationships and opportunities began. I was thrilled to be included with such a stellar group."
Also part of the delegation accompanying the mayor was Israel Consul General to the Midwest Aviv Ezra.
"The trip was an opportunity for leaders across many diverse fields to discover ways to use their resources, brainpower, and creativity to work together and cultivate a win-win environment," Ezra said. "Israel embodies risk-taking, ingenuity, and innovative thinking that together with brilliance in Chicago can stimulate ideas for the city of Chicago, as well as find solutions to challenges worldwide."
Ezra points out that one these challenges is worldwide water scarcity. With 60 percent of its geography in the desert, Israel has found solutions to water shortages to now provide enough water for not only itself, but also its neighbors.
"Israel is also an expert at water desalination, purification, and water recycling which can protect public health and strengthen economic development," he said.
Israeli and Chicago partnership has already proved fruitful, Ezra continued, with the recent opioid joint study by the University of Chicago, Harvard University, and Israel's Ben-Gurion University that became of the first of its kind to quantify the impact of opioid abuse on critical resources across the U.S.