Greenstar Field Report


A very pleasant and productive day in Jerusalem and Ramallah.

The two computer systems were released by Customs and delivered to PEA Headquarters in Ramallah, no duty or taxes due, free and clear to go to Al-Kaabneh. Our Dr. Fuad Abulfotuh, fresh in from Cairo, made this happen through gentle persuasion with Federal Express.

Met at length with Gideon Bromberg of EcoPeace at their East Jerusalem offices. Also at the meeting was Samar Husary of the Palestinian Hydrology Group.

They are giving us a prime spot in the Village Centers conference program to present the Greenstar award to the PEA, and will distribute our press release to the attendees. They are assisting us in translating the release into Arabic as well.

We have scheduled a followup meeting on Monday to discuss how products from the Al-Kaabneh area can be identified and put on the Web. They may bring some other NGO representatives, and business people, to the lunch.

Dr. Fuad also contacted a source in Haifa for deep-discharge lead gel batteries, 24 2-volt units which have been used for one year in a desalination project. He negotiated a great price for them, a total of $1560, including delivery and a 1-year warranty; considering that their advanced design gives them a projected life of 10-12 years, we are satisfied that this is a good choice. The batteries will be delivered to Al-Kaabneh on Saturday.

We visited at length with PEA representatives at their headquarters in Ramallah, capital of the Palestinian Authority. Ahmad Abu-Sabha gave us a lot of time; we discussed local products available in the Hebron-Yatta-Carmel-Al Kaabneh area; since he grew up there, he knows a lot about the pottery, carvings, wool carpets and other textiles unique to the area, and will introduce us next week to business people. This is the foundation of "", a website to be run by the villagers. I will get extensive photographs and product samples.

Ramallah is like a wild-west town; raw, unfinished, construction and rocks everywhere, full of energy, happy people going somewhere fast. Some areas quite well-off, with homes and condos that would look natural in Sherman Oaks. Everything is changing fast, and the pioneer excitement of the Palestinians is infectious. In five years, we won't even recognize this place.

We also discussed procuring selected, approved CD-ROM software for use by the school in Al-Kaabneh, and Ahmad is contacting the Education Ministry for appropriate sources.

We reviewed topographical maps of the region, which suggest that line-of-sight connection across about 15 straight-line kilometers between Hebron and Al-Kaabneh may be possible. We'll see when we do a site survey, but this offers hope that the spread-spectrum FreeWave radio telecommunications solution may work.

Also met at length with Director-General Omar Kittaneh, gave him a complete update on the project, and he was very pleased. We got him thinking hard about the ecommerce aspects of Greenstar, and he responded well to the Greenstar economic model -- create a center of income based on local initiative, and many of the funding problems that hold back solar/health/education projects in the developing world begin to dissolve. He will be eager to provide connections in the PA Trade Ministry to facilitate this work.

Dr.Kittaneh took us out to a wonderful oasis restaurant in Ramallah, where the four of us reflected at length on the meaning of life, the origin of the universe, the unity of religions, the roots of peace and other issues (no kidding). I had my first taste of an apple-flavored Turkish waterpipe, and a unique local Taboon chicken dish.

We also discussed the Palestinian Strategic Plan, which lays out the needs for development assistance from Europe, the US and others for the next ten years. Dr. Kittaneh is interested in seeing support for Greenstar-type local initiatives and ecommerce activities, and may include them in future revisions of the plan and funding requests to DOE, USAID and others.

All in all, a good start. Tomorrow we'll be in Al-Kaabneh all day, seeing first-hand what needs to be done to complete mounting, wiring and casing of the equipment. We have a local man lined up to build wooden cases for the inverter and battery array, and hope to test and connect all elements, and flip the "on" switch, by the end of the day Saturday.

...Michael North