NEAR EAST REPORT AIPAC'S BIWEEKLY ON AMERICAN MIDDLE EAST POLICY

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Researchers in Ohio and Israel are working together to combat agricultural pests and diseases.
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Ohio and Israel have signed an agreement to foster cultural exchange in dance, music, arts education and the visual arts.

State-to-State: Ohio and Israel

Ohio is one of many states that have forged close ties with Israel—particularly in agriculture and in the arts.

Partnership in Agriculture

The Buckeye State is home to some of America’s richest and most fertile farmland. The state comprises 75,700 farms and uses 14.3 million acres of land for agricultural purposes alone. This industry employs nearly one in seven Ohioans and generates about $93 billion in revenue for Ohio—almost a fifth of the state’s GDP.

Israel’s total land mass is less than half that of Ohio’s farmland. Only 20 percent of Israeli land is naturally fertile, and agriculture represents a mere 2.5 percent of the country’s GDP. Thus, the two states are seemingly on opposite ends of the agricultural spectrum.

However, Israel is somewhat of an agricultural marvel. Despite its small size, the Jewish state has developed a multitude of innovative agricultural production methods and, remarkably, is able to produce 95 percent of its own food requirements. And, this has not gone unnoticed. Ohio farmers and business people have forged a symbiotic relationship with their counterparts in Israel, benefiting both agricultural communities.

In 2002, the Negev Foundation worked with farmers, as well as government, academic and business entities, in both Israel and Ohio to launch the Ohio-Israel Agriculture Initiative to improve agricultural ties between Ohio and Israel.

This collaborative effort has enabled Ohio and Israel to tackle common agricultural problems. Both states encounter diseases in plants that threaten their crops and animals. A fungus and a microscopic type of roundworm are the culprits. Randy Rowe, a plant pathologist at The Ohio State University, has been working with Israeli scientists at the Volcani Institute to address this issue. Rowe and the Israeli scientists have been conducting preliminary research on the causes of these plant diseases; this joint investigation could ultimately lead to alternative methods of controlling them.

In February 2006, a group of 29 Ohio farmers traveled to Israel to learn how Israelis handle such agricultural issues as water management, milk processing and urban expansion. During the trip, members of the delegation met with farmers, agronomists and businessmen and attended Agritech, the International Agricultural Exhibition in Tel Aviv.

Israel’s agricultural prowess impressed the Ohio delegates. Daniel Corcoran, who raises soybeans, wheat and alfalfa on his farm near Waverly, Ohio, commented that he was “intrigued” by Israel’s ability to grow enough crops in the desert to feed 7 million people. “Hopefully, there are things we can bring back here,” he said.

The agricultural know-how of Ohio farmers equally impressed Israeli farmers. Ram Ben-Dor, who has run an Israeli farm for two decades, believes that he can learn from Ohio farmers. Ben-Dor said that Ohio farmers could help Israelis develop technologies to increase their productivity and levels of global competitiveness. BACK TO TOP

Partnership in the Arts

Beyond cooperation in the agricultural sector, the ties that bind Ohio and Israel together extend into the art world.

In 1996, the Ohio Arts Council (OAC) signed an agreement with Israel on cultural exchange. “The renewal of this agreement is a tremendous opportunity for the Ohio Arts Council to increase opportunities for Ohio artists and arts organizations abroad,” noted OAC Executive Director Wayne Lawson. The agreement fosters an exchange of projects between Ohio and Israel in dance, music, arts education and the visual arts—allowing Ohio and Israel to share their rich cultural histories. As a result, Ohio artists have enjoyed residencies in Herzliya, an Israeli coastal resort town. In addition, an Ohio-Israel film festival was organized, and the OAC’s Riffe Gallery presented “Aspirations: Toward a Future in the Middle East,” an exhibition featuring work by Israeli and Palestinian photographers.

Israel and Ohio have capitalized on each other’s strengths, particularly in the agricultural and arts spheres. The Israel-Ohio relationship is indicative of the endless opportunities for cooperation between Israel and the individual states in our country.

For more information on the relationship between Israel and Ohio, visit the Jewish Virtual Library.

AIPAC Diamond Summer Intern Alana Abramson contributed to this article. BACK TO TOP