Israeli Academics Join UCLA Conference on Urban Sustainability

Israeli Academics Join UCLA Conference on Urban Sustainability

UCLA Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies, May 25, 2016 - Six Israeli sustainability experts joined colleagues from UCLA and across the United States last Thursday, May 19 at UCLA’s first-ever Smart and Sustainable Cities Conference. The Israeli speakers offered insights into urban sustainability practices and policies in Israel, a country that has been a leader in the field for decades.

“We only scratched the surface here today,” said Yoram Cohen, director of the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies and organizer of the Conference. “There is a wealth of knowledge and experience in Israel with sustainable practices. And because California and Israel share many of the same environmental challenges, it made great sense to exchange information on ‘what works’ in both locations.”

The Israeli experts were featured on all of the conference’s panels, which covered transportation, energy, water, the built environment as well as the digital city and sharing economy. The panelists offered insights into the designs, technologies and policies being implemented in Israel.

Issues covered by the Israeli panelists included investment inequity and safety concerns with regards to transportation systems, solar rights in Israel compared to those in the United States, public ownership of water in Israel, the need to adapt public spaces to changing needs, and the important role of information in ensuring sustainability.

Several of the Israeli participants emphasized the need to integrate a range of solutions to address sustainability challenges in the urban environment.

“We have to see the city as a network,” said Tamar Gavrieli, Director of the Urban Sustainability Project at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies. “Everything we do must be done with a holistic approach.”

Mayor Eric Garcetti joined the conference to deliver the keynote address. The Mayor acknowledged the importance of Israeli technology and policy approaches in the conversation on the future of urban sustainability.

“We are humble enough to know we can learn a lot from others,” Garcetti said in his address.

After his remarks, the Mayor sat down with Peter Kareiva, the Director of UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, to discuss his vision for the future of Los Angeles.

The conference was organized in partnership with the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies. The Israeli sustainability experts included Valerie Brachya and Tamar Gavrieli (Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies), Evyatar Erell (Ben-Gurion University), Eran Feitelson (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Sheizaf Rafaeli (University of Haifa) and Uri Shamir (Technion-Israel Institute of Technology).

UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, the California Center for Sustainable Communities, Luskin School of Public Affairs, Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Grand Challenges, Water Technology Research Center and the Ziman Center for Real Estate joined as conference partners and presenters.

The conference was supported by generous grants from the UCLA Interdisciplinary and Cross-Campus Affairs, Israel Institute, The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, and Y&S Nazarian Family Foundation, as well as sponsorships from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Netafim, CGI, and the National Water Research Institute.

Following the Conference, the panelists and other sustainability leaders convened for a Friday morning, May 20 roundtable discussion. Over thirty participants took part in the roundtable to discuss in more depth the policy changes needed to make cities sustainable, and the similarities and differences between policies and conditions in Israel and the Los Angeles region.

The experts plan to publish their deliberations and proposed solutions to advancing sustainability in the urban environment in California, Israel and across the globe.

“The professors from Israel offered tremendous insights into how to effectively tackle urban sustainability issues, especially in the realm of water management and urban planning,” said Mark Gold, Associate Vice Chancellor for Environment and Sustainability.

“Clearly there are many similarities between Israel and Los Angeles County in population, in spatial area and climate and we learned a great deal about successful approaches in Israel and how they could potentially be applied in our region.”


By Jack Schwada, Communications Associate, UCLA Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies