Israeli deputy consul to Florida comes to UF

Published: Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 9:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 9:00 p.m.

As deputy consul general of Israel to Florida and Puerto Rico, Paul Hirschson represents the state of Israel, serving as a link between these places that are geographically far apart.

He gives the Israeli foreign ministry a picture of what is going on in this area, which along with input from colleagues around the world, helps with decision-making.

Though his department spends the vast majority of time focusing on people outside the Jewish community, Hirschson describes the Jewish people of Florida -- one of the largest Jewish communities in the world -- as "door openers to the rest of society," and he said he maintains a strong relationship with them.

Hirschson, who was in Gainesville Thursday night speaking at the Reitz Union, said the Jewish people of Florida are extremely concerned with the security of Israel.

"The ultimate way (to peace) is through peaceful relations with your neighbors," Hirschson said. "That is the strategy Israel is trying to implement."

Commercial relations with Israel, and the relationship between Israel and the Jews living outside Israel, is very important to Florida’s Jewish community, Hirschson said.

In the minds of Israelis, Hirschson said, Florida is seen as a holiday destination. Floridians need to present the state as a potential business destination as well.

"There are relationships to be built and Israelis aren’t aware of this," Hirschson said. "I think we are both missing out on an opportunity."

There is a lot to be learned from Israel, such as its green technology, Hirschson said. In terms of life sciences and renewable energy, Israel has something to offer, he added.

Israel is number one in the world in terms of water recycling, Hirschson said. Israel recycles 70 percent of its wastewater, while Spain, which is number two in the world, recycles 12 percent.

"If we don’t get, all of us, our water policies in place fairly quickly," Hirschson said, "we are going to find ourselves in 30 years from now in the same very uncomfortable place that we find ourselves today with respect to energy and oil."

In addition, for over 30 years, construction in Israel requires use of solar panels on the roof, Hirschson said. For about 10 months a year, Israelis shower with solar-heated water, he said.

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