ICE | The Israel Chemist and Engineer

6 The Israel Chemist and Chemical Engineer Issue 4 • August 2018 • Elul 5778 Op-Ed A chain reaction for peace Given the tumultuous political situation in the Middle East, it is important – perhaps now more than ever – to foster new grassroots collaborations in the region. Imagine a room with Israeli, Palestinian, and Syrian scientists collaborating on regional issues while also building friendships. For many, this seems impossible. At the Malta Conferences, this is the norm. The eighth Malta Conference (Malta VIII) was held Dec. 10- 15, 2017, in Malta. Malta VIII had workshops that focused on chemical, biological, and nuclear security; air and water quality; sustainability of energy and materials resources; medicinal chemistry, organic and biochemistry, biophysics and biotechnology; science and technology education at all levels; and entrepreneurship and innovation. A total of 26 oral and 39 poster presentations were given in the workshop sessions by participants from the Middle East and Morocco. During the workshop on entrepreneurship and innovation, participants dove in and envisioned companies that would require cross-border collaboration. For example, Israeli and Gazan participants developed the concept of a start-up company, Every Drop Counts, for the conservation of water resources. Every two years since 2003, top scientists from throughout the Middle East have come together to tackle regional issues despite the hostility among their governments. At the Malta Conferences, the goal is to create a critical mass of scientists to start a chain reaction for peace, to stop demonizing the unknown other, and to resolve regional problems. More than 600 Middle East scientists and 15 Nobel laureates are now in the network. Politicians see national boundaries; the environment does not. Many aquifers in the Middle East are shared, and pollution knows only one sky.Therefore, nomatter how polarized politics can get, there are many environmental issues that one nation alone cannot solve – only regional collaboration can truly have an impact. So at this year’s conference, a resolution concerning water quality in Gaza was drafted and approved overwhelmingly by the participants from the Middle East. This resolution, coauthored by scientists from Israel and Gaza, addressed the most critical aspects of the humanitarian water crisis in Gaza while calling on “the international community to establish a Zafra Lerman This is a guest editorial by Zafra Lerman, president of the Malta Conferences Foundation, and Ben Margolin, a volunteer writer for the Malta Conferences Foundation. Email of Zafra Lerman: Zafra Lerman is the President of the Malta Conferences Foundation, which has been using science as a bridge to peace in the Middle East since 2001 by initiating cross-border collaborations on issues including environment, water, science education, chemistry and nuclear security, energy, and climate change. Prof. Lerman holds a BSc and MSc in chemistry from the Technion and PhD from the Weizmann Institute of Science. She conducted research on isotope effects at Cornell and Northwestern Universities in the US, and the ETH, Switzerland. She founded and was head of the Science Institute at Columbia College Chicago where she developed an innovative approach of teaching science using art, music, dance, and drama, which proved to be successful with underprivileged students around the globe. From1986-2011, she chaired the Committee on Scientific Freedomand Human Rights for ACS and is the vice-chair of the Board of the Committee of Concerned Scientists, working tirelessly on human rights around the world. She has received over 40 international awards for her work, including the Presidential Award from President Clinton (1999); Royal Society of Chemistry, England, Education Award (2005); CRDF Global George Brown Award for International Scientific Cooperation (2007); AAAS Award for Science Diplomacy (2015); the Andrei Sakharov Award from the American Physical Society; the Peace and Justice Award from the UN NOVUS summit (2016); IUPAC Distinguished Women in Chemistry or Chemical Engineering Award (2017). She was honored three times by the US Congress with speeches about her work in 2002, 2004, and 2013.