Chicago has abundant water, from the Chicago River to Lake Michigan. Israel is situated in the desert-like Middle East where water is a precious commodity. But it is water that has brought the city and the country together in several new ventures.

Chicago Mayer Rahm Emanuel visited Israel this week to sign agreements with Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology focusing on water research.

The Technion agreement is with Chicago’s “Current,” a platform for positioning the Windy City as “a global leader in developing and deploying technology for the next-generation of water infrastructure.”

The Technion will collaborate with Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago and the Chicago Department of Water Management.

Emanuel said he wanted Chicago wanted to partner with Israeli institutions because of the country’s high level of expertise in water reclamation, recycling, desalination and purification.

“Working together to develop solutions to water challenges will strengthen economic development and protect public health in both Israel and the US and far beyond,” Emanuel said.

He traveled from the Technion in Haifa down to Beersheva, where BGU’s Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research and Northwestern University’s Water Research Center entered into a collaboration agreement involving student exchanges, post-docs and new research projects.

“We are bringing together the heartland of America with the Holy Land,” Emanuel quipped. “We are bringing both the Mideast and the Midwest together.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, top left, and Aviv Ezra, consul general of Israel to the Midwest, top right, witnessed the signing of an MOU by BGU President Prof. Rivka Carmi; Prof. Dan Blumberg; Prof. Aaron Packman; and Prof. Fruma Yehiely. Photo courtesy of Ben-Gurion University

BGU had collaborated previously with the University of Chicago in a project led by Prof. Moshe Gottlieb from BGU and Prof. Matthew Tirrell from UC. Emanuel was present during the signing of that agreement in 2013.

The mayor also signed a cooperation partnership with the city of Tel Aviv focusing on general innovation and technology.

Five startups associated with the SOSA  tech hub in Tel Aviv’s trendy Florentin neighborhood made presentations to Emanuel and his delegation.

The five companies included Optibus, a vendor of mass transit software based on artificial intelligence; POP Medical Solutions, which has developed the FDA-cleared NeuGuide for treating pelvic organ prolapse; Water-Gen, which is building a “plug and drink” technology to extract water from the air; Myndyou, a data-driven platform for monitoring Alzheimer’s patients and improving their care; and PixCell Medical, which produces portable diagnostic products for blood testing.