In first, Israeli scientist speaks at Cuba environment conference

Doron Markel, chief scientist of the Jewish National Fund, addresses Havana gathering about Israel’s efforts to adapt to climate change

Doron Markel, left, with members of Cuba's Jewish community and KKL-JNF leaders, in Havana, Cuba, July 2019. (Courtesy KKL-JNF)
Doron Markel, left, with members of Cuba's Jewish community and KKL-JNF leaders, in Havana, Cuba, July 2019. (Courtesy KKL-JNF)

An Israeli scientist from the Jewish National Fund presented at an international conference in Cuba, in what the organization called a first for an Israeli scientist.

Doron Markel, who serves as the Jewish National Fund’s chief scientist, participated last week in Cubambiente, a conference held July 1-5 in Havana, run by the Latin American nation’s environmental agency and ministry of science, technology and environment.

According Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund, the fund’s official name in Israel, this was the first time an Israeli scientist has been invited to present in such a situation, participating alongside 30 other countries at the 12th iteration of the international environment conference.

The event gathered researchers, authorities, educators, and specialists who dealt with issues surrounding the environment and climate change in order to encourage cooperation among countries and the exchange of knowledge and sustainable practices, as well as present opportunities for economic growth and environmental protection.

In his comments to the conference, Markel spoke about Israel’s efforts to adapt to climate change.

Illustrative: Cars traveling down a busy street in Havana, Cuba. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

“The effects of climate change can be seen in the Middle East with drier winters and hotter summers,” he said. “In Israel, adaptations to changing climate are carried out by KKL-JNF in the field of forestation to fight the spread of desertification. The issue of water requires a strategic plan to transfer desalinated water to disconnected areas in the region and desalination brine to the Dead Sea. Water scarcity is a growing problem in the Middle East and helping our neighbors today can help create a better and safer tomorrow for us all.”

Speaking to the Jerusalem Post daily, Markel said he saw his participation as a bridge.

“Science can serve as a bridge. While it is known that our states [Cuba and Israel] don’t have a formal relationship, scientists can collaborate, and it can be a starting point,” he said.

Cuba is home to some 1,500 Jews today. With the 1959 Revolution, an estimated 15,000 Jews who lived in the country left for the United States and Israel. Cuba and Israel have not had official diplomatic relations since 1973.

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