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February 25, 2018 7:34 pm

Helping the African People Is Right — and Will Also Help Israel

avatar by Dov Lipman

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As Israel approaches its 70th birthday, Israelis and supporters of Israel can be proud of the contributions that Israel is making to the world.

While most think about technologies such as Waze, Mobileye and computer chips when discussing Israel’s contributions, the reality is that Israel’s efforts go much deeper — to the most basic of humanitarian needs. Israel has truly assumed its biblical mission to be a “light unto the nations.”

One of the greatest examples of Israel fulfilling this role is an organization called Innovation: Africa.

Twenty years ago, an Israeli woman named Sivan Ya’ari traveled to Africa. When she saw the degree of poverty in remote villages there, she decided to do something about it.

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Having now traveled to these villages myself, I can say with certainty that if you have not visited remote African villages, you have not witnessed the meaning of “poverty.” Some 620 million people in Africa live without electricity, and more than 300 million do not have access to clean water.

Lack of electricity in medical centers means that doctors and staff don’t have refrigerators for medications and vaccines. It also means that women who give birth at night must do so in the dark, or — if they can afford it — using a kerosene lamp. And most significantly, many qualified doctors won’t work in a medical center without electricity — leaving these villages with sub-par medical treatment.

And the problems don’t end there.

Students in schools without electricity are limited to studying in daylight hours — and, of course, have no access to computers. As a result, the best teachers and administrators won’t work in these schools, and the students don’t receive a meaningful education. Lack of access to clean water means that women and children must also spend most of their days searching for water and carrying it back to their villages, often having to walk for hours. And the water that they do find is usually horrifically polluted.

Not having clean water then means health problems and improper nutrition, and provides no basis for commerce or an economy. And sadly, in the more extreme circumstances, lack of water and electricity leads to death from thirst and other maladies that should never be life-threatening.

Sivan created Innovation: Africa ten years ago — in order to use Israeli technologies to bring electricity to schools and medical centers in African villages — and to help provide them with access to clean, fresh water.

Innovation: Africa now works in eight African countries, and — to date — has helped over one million people in 170 villages.

Thanks to Innovation: Africa, solar panels are installed on the rooftops of schools and medical centers, and solar-powered pumps draw water from underground aquifers and bring water to the center of villages. Some 350,000 children have been vaccinated thanks to the organization’s efforts, and many villages are flourishing with education, health and commerce — especially after the introduction of Israeli drip irrigation.

Aside from the inherent good in Innovation: Africa’s work, it also serves to remind or educate people all around the world about what Israel truly is, the good work that it does, and how much greater it can be.

Helping people with Israeli technology demonstrates, once again, that Israel not only stands for human rights, but is leading the world in fighting for them.

Innovation: Africa’s website and Facebook page feature videos and pictures of people in eight African countries singing and dancing in gratitude to Israel. Hundreds of Africans make comments like: “Thank you for coming from Israel to take us away from the darkness,” and “We thank Israel for having come to give us water. You are our fathers and mothers from Israel.”

This truly is an example of the promise that God made to Abraham in Genesis 12:3 that “the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you.”

Innovation: Africa is a registered 501c3 in the United States, and is funded by private donors, including many schools and communities that have joined together to adopt villages — donating $50,000 for a water project that impacts thousands of people in numerous villages, or $18,000 to provide electricity for schools or medical centers.

Even bar and bat mitzvah children have chosen to make Innovation: Africa their simcha project, and now have schools or medical centers dedicated in their names. The most remarkable aspect of these sponsorships is the fact that it’s a one-time donation — but provides these villages with electricity or water forever.

There is still a lot of work to do. Far too many villages are waiting for this life-saving service. Innovation: Africa will continue to reach out to them, and — with caring partners all around the world — plans to reach its goal of revolutionizing 1,000 villages by 2025.

This is just one example of many different efforts that Israel and Israelis have undertaken to make the world a better place and to share Israel’s light with the world. As we approach our state’s 70th birthday, we most certainly have much to be proud of — and real reason to celebrate.

Dov Lipman is a former member of Israel’s Knesset and currently serves as Executive Vice President for Government and Community Affairs at Innovation: Africa. 

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