Documenting how Israel Combats Global Warming and Desertification

Monday, November 20, 2017 12:24 PM

“I believe these films we are producing in Israel will be very warmly received because the problems we deal with are universal."- Albatros Media Foundation

The Albatros Media Foundation from Panama embarks on a mission to Israel to document and film Israeli efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change and desertification. We joined the group on Tuesday, November 15.
“Our foundation in Panama promotes awareness of environmental issues in Latin America, and especially the problems of global warming. As a result we are very keen to showcase the successes of Israel in these fields.”

This was the message of Alejandro Balageur, the Director of the Albatros Media Foundation, while touring Israel with his film crew to make a documentary series on the subject. “We want to change people’s perceptions of environmental matters in order to improve the condition of the world we live in.”
Their packed schedule included a trip to the Arava region to film farming communities that live and thrive in this desert region. The group was invited to take a close up look at the fields and hothouses, which produce some 60% of Israel’s fresh farm produce for export in a climate that soars to over 40 degrees Celsius in the summer, and can drop to below freezing in the winter. The group met with scientists and researchers at the Yair Research and Development Station in Hatzeva, who explained how agriculture is able to flourish here. The R&D station carries out applied research to find solutions agriculture despite the challenges of the desert climate and the scarcity of water.
The 4-member crew from Panama was comprised of Director Alejandro Balageur, Producer Cristobal Bouroncie Seoane, and two camera and sound operators, brothers Rodrigo and Matías Balaguer Saenz. They came to Israel under the auspices of KKL-JNF and the Israeli Embassy in Panama. Tour coordinator in Israel was KKL-JNF’s Nicole Seltzer
Water was a recurring subject on their agenda. In central Israel, they visited the impressive Mishmar HaSharon Reservoir, which stores rain and floodwaters from the nearby Alexander River. The lake has a capacity of one million cubic meters and was established by KKL-JNF for farmers in the Hefer Valley to irrigate their citrus, avocado, tomato, cucumber and flower crops during the dry season.
The film crew was lucky to be visiting the facility during November, because this is the season when flocks of migrating pelicans arrive to rest during their flight to East Africa. KKL-JNF Ornithologist Yaron Charka told the crew that the reservoir is populated with fish put there exclusively for the visiting birds by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Fishing Division of the Ministry of Agriculture.

“Adult pelicans eat about one kilogram of fish daily while in Israel, to “fill up” and store energy for the remainder of their long journey”, he said. 
The crew then travelled north to Hula Lake Park to video the internationally acclaimed bird park and lake that was once a malaria-infested swamp. Here, tens of thousands of cranes splashing in the water provided the backdrop for the filming. Charka told his guests that some one billion birds of 390 species pass through the area each year on their way to warmer climates. He said that KKL-JNF is closely monitoring the patterns of movement of the different flocks that arrive.

“We have a bird ringing station. Each bird we catch is measured, weighed and tagged. Our information is shared openly with everybody around the world. We found that global warming is having a huge influence on bird migration patterns. Expanding deserts in Africa are probably the reason why so many cranes prefer to remain in Israel over the winter.”
Director Alejandro Balageur and his team travelled with Deputy Director of KKL-JNF’s Southern Region Itzik Moshe to the Yatir Forest in Negev. The visitors were very interested to hear about the Bedouin residents of the areas they passed on route to the forest. At one point in the journey, they asked to stop to film a couple of camels on the side of the road. Itzik Moshe took the opportunity to point out that the barren desert landscape before them is exactly what the area of the Yatir Forest looked like before planting began in the 1960’s by new immigrants to Israel.
After arriving at the forest, while Itzik prepared for a lengthy interview, the crew launched their camera drone to fly over the green 15,000 acre expanse of tree covered woodland. During the interview Itzik explained methods of KKL-JNF water harvesting in the desert, which includes the creation of limans. “The liman technique involves planting trees inside shallow depressions in the sand, where water collects, forming a small dam. Limans not only harvest water from flash floods but also provide shade and water for livestock and wild animals,” he said.
After filming at Yatir Forest, the crew from Panama was escorted to the KKL-JNF nursery in Gilat, which is a testing ground to find out which trees and plants from around the world can be suitable for growing in Israel. On-site to meet them was nursery director Pablo Chercasky who was able to converse with them in his native Spanish. He gave them an overview of the nursery’s mandate.

“We aim to produce strains of trees and shrubs that can thrive in semi-arid regions where annual rainfall is below 350mm. The nursery supplies saplings and seeds for Israel’s forests. Another major role of the facility is to provide information and expert assistance of technologies developed by KKL-JNF in subjects such as desert afforestationwater reclamation and conservation, and soil erosion prevention.”
Producer Cristobal Bouroncie Seoane said that while in Israel he realized that the Albatros Media Foundation is similar to KKL-JNF in that it promotes ecology and environmental activism and distributes its film productions for free.

“The series we aim to produce in Israel will be broadcast on over 700 TV outlets throughout Latin America. The benefit of such exposure is enormous, and that is made possible through the Albatros Media Foundation, because of the great work KKL-JNF is doing for the environment, ecology and education.”
Film Director Alejandro Balageur said that there is great thirst in South America to hear about environmental solutions, especially amongst young adults.

“I believe these films we are producing in Israel will be very warmly received because the problems we deal with are universal. Global warming and desertification are frightening phenomena that are becoming worse as time goes by. The message we bring from Israel is one of hope. We will show our audience that there are solutions, and that now is the time to act.”