Water Mission to Israel: Heading Over

12/15/12Follow @jmatheson

It always plays out this way—a kernel of an idea starts the ball rolling, followed by months of increasingly refined planning, a flurry of activity in the endgame, and then it’s GO time. I recall this operating rhythm well from my military days, and it’s been the same over the past dozen-plus years working with startups.

This time, it’s the Massachusetts Water Mission to Israel. What started as an unplanned conversation between Governor Deval Patrick and Israeli Water Cluster icon Booky Oren on the March 2011 MA-Israel trade mission has evolved over the past year into the launch of a water cluster in Massachusetts and now a high-impact water industry-specific trade mission. Plus or minus today, some 40 Massachusetts-based water researchers, executives, investors, and government leaders are finding their way to Tel Aviv, where the five-day trade mission will kick off Saturday night with a dinner in the Port of Tel Aviv.

Right now I am sitting in the United Club in Newark waiting for the 10:55pm overnight flight to Tel Aviv. I am here with Chris McIntire of Xylem and Gil Arie of Foley Hoag. Gil was born, raised, and spent the first part of his professional legal career in Israel and came to the U.S. in 1999. Chris is a seasoned international traveler and business executive, but this is actually his first trip to Israel. I have been to Israel a number of times over the years, both in my military days and for commercial purposes. So the three of us are really a cross section of the trip—each going to learn, to reconnect with old friends and, for Gil, family.

While the agenda is packed and will be exhausting, its density provides busy folks like Gil and Chris an efficient and impactful way to experience Israel, to learn from and contribute to their water expertise, and to hopefully create some long-lasting professional and personal relationships. These types of international outreach efforts are the key bridges that need to be built to enable Massachusetts-based innovations to have a truly global impact.

I will be writing a daily (at least) Travel Blog from the Trade Mission, sharing some of the highlights and insights. You can learn more about the trade mission and delegation and one of the main events, the W.E.T. Revolution. You can follow the delegation’s activity on Twitter at #MWIM.

Finally, my personal thoughts go out to all the families in the lovely community of Newtown, CT. The collective mood of the airport and travelers is subdued as a result of the shooting, and one can hardly escape the TV coverage around the airport. When tragedies like this happen, it puts everything else in life in appropriate focus. It does compel us that are fortunate enough to not have been directly impacted to recommit to making the world—and our communities—a better, safer, and happier place.

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  • Chris Noble

    Palestinian access to water (even from the Jordan river and aquifers below Palestinian lands) is severely limited by the Israeli government, and diverted to the “settlements”. Since the West Bank economy is mostly agricultural (by necessity — Israel also limits the import and export of industrial materials and finished goods), Israel-controlled water access is a potent weapon in the conflict. We technologists can claim that it is someone else’s problem and that we are just involved in the technology and making money from it. But we know that is not true. Jim, I hope you and the other members of the delegation try to visit “the other side”, the hidden side of visits to Israel, or at least raise the issue with your hosts. For some background data see http://www.ifamericansknew.org/cur_sit/water.html