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Fostering Peace Through Potable Water

Amer Sweity, 34, recently became the first Jordanian citizen to earn a doctoral degree from an Israeli university – and is likely the first foreign national from any Arab country to earn this distinction. An expert in desalination, Sweity’s research at Ben-Gurion University focused on the process of turning seawater into potable (drinkable) water.Sweity’s interest in water research is not at all surprising given that his home country suffers from a severe water shortage.According to the World Health Organization, Jordan has one of the lowest levels of water resource availability, per capita, in the world.“The pressure from the Syrian refugees is making it even worse,” said Sweity about the nearly 1 million Iraqi and Syrian refugees who have crossed into Jordan because of the Syrian Civil War that has been raging since 2011.In the Jordanian capital Amman, where Sweity’s family lives, water flows to people’s taps at home only once a week. “It’s like that even in the winter, and it’s been like that for around 20 years,” said Sweity.Although Sweity has applied for post-doctoral positions in Holland, Israel and several Arab countries, he said he is committed to returning before too long to Jordan to help increase water desalination efforts there. In particular, he’d like to be involved with the Red Sea-Dead Sea Canal Project, a major collaboration between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority backed by the World Bank to provide drinking water to Eilat and Aqaba and raise the level of the Dead Sea.Considering that Sweity had never met a Jewish person and knew no Hebrew before moving to Israel for his studies, he transitioned to the Holy Land remarkably well. He taught himself to read, speak, and write Hebrew fluently within three years and made friends of various religious backgrounds.Sweity himself acknowledged that his motivation to complete his doctorate and to conduct research in desalination goes well beyond merely bringing pride to his family.“I want to do something for the coming generations in all the countries in the region. Science doesn’t stop at borders,” he said.We love that Israel fosters this kind of cross-cultural education and wish Sweity much luck in his work!

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