What If One Billion Dollars A Year Were Used To Buy Israeli Alternative Energy Thchnology?

By Tsvi Bisk

The economic, social, environmental, political and Jewish potential of “multi-purpose,” “multi-dimensional” alternative energy, national-universal projects boggles the mind.

The real challenge for Jewry in the 21st century is to develop concepts of “multi-dimensional” and “multi-purpose” giving. To leverage philanthropic dollars to generate multiple effects- much as smart investors leverage investment dollars to generate multiple effects.

As others in this debate have indicated, we must replace the either/or decision making of how to divide the Jewish philanthropic dollar with “national/universal projects” that have both Jewish and universal impact inherent in them. Let’s replace the concept of the philanthropic Chinese menu- 20% of giving to column ‘A’ (Jewish causes) and 80% of giving to column ‘B’ (non-Jewish causes)- with projects which are by nature 100% Jewish and 100% universal.

The Energy Example

In my recent book The Optimistic Jew: a Positive Vision for the Jewish People in the 21st Century (Maxanna Press, 2007) I expand on this concept, devoting an entire chapter to “The Jewish Energy Project” in which I identify petrodollars as a “Jewish Problem” (financing anti-Semitism, terrorism and nuclear weapons). I suggest Jews formulate a coherent energy policy aimed at creating political alliances and economic instruments to help downgrade oil as the dominant international commodity.

In a separate article for a non-Jewish publication entitled “The Energy Project” (The Futurist, January- February 2007) I wrote: “For the sake of our shared environment and international security, the time has come for the West to formulate a coherent energy policy dedicated to downgrading oil as the dominant international commodity.”

It is clear to me that there is a real correlation between “narrow” Jewish interests and universal interests regarding the energy issue. In addition, the issue itself is multi-faceted- environment, economy, alternative energy, security etc.

How Would It Work?

The giver (or local Jewish community) would buy Israel alternative energy technology and donate it to a local hospital. This would have the following multiple effects:

1. Israel gets more immediate economic benefit than if the money were just donated to a public bureaucracy. Research shows that a dollar spent in the private sector has one and a half to twice the positive economic impact (jobs created and economic activity stimulated) than a dollar spent in the public sector. In other words $10,000 dollars spent on Israeli technology would have the same or more economic impact as $15,000 donated to an Israeli charity.

2. Israeli gets more long term economic benefit by establishing itself as a major world player in the alternative energy market, just as it is in the world water technology market.

3. The local Jewish community and Israel gets good PR. Imagine a headline “Jewish Community Contributes Israeli Energy Technology to Local Hospital.”

4. The local community benefits- energy costs of the hospital decrease, enabling it to expand services in other areas.

5. You create a paradigm around which you can form coalitions with many non-Jewish groups to address an issue that is both an existential threat to the Jewish people and a grand-strategic threat to the West- i.e. the power of petroleum.

6. Such a project might appeal to non-involved young Jewish people and stimulate them to get involved with a Jewish project, thus it becomes another tool to fight assimilation and growing alienation from Israel.

The concept of “national-universal projects” addressed within Jewish frameworks has been anticipated by people like Ruth Messinger, who founded The American Jewish World Service (as well as other organizations).

It’s Already Happening

Following a talk I gave this past summer in Minneapolis, attendees organized The Minnesota Jewish Energy Project (MJEP) dedicated to implementing the above concept in their local community. (If you are interested in creating a similar organization in your state or community I suggest you contact Brian H. Davis, the founder of MJEP at: brian@minnesotajewishenergyproject.org).

Real Numbers of Jewish Giving to Israel

Israel’s GDP this year (2007) will be over $150 billion. Assuming that all Diaspora contributions and Israel Bonds total about $1.5 billion dollars, this would be equivalent to only 1% of Israel’s GDP.

Now ask the following question: “What if $250 million dollars of this money were used to buy Israeli alternative energy technology- what would be the long term impact of that policy on Israel’s economy and Israel’s ability to solve its own social problems without having to go like a beggar for handouts. What if one billion dollars a year were used to buy Israeli alternative energy technology?”

The economic, social, environmental, political and Jewish potential of “multi-purpose,” “multi-dimensional” giving within the framework of national-universal projects boggle the mind.

Let’s discard the Chinese menu method of giving and adopt the above integrated approach.