WINNIPEG — The central Manitoba city of Portage La Prairie and the communities that constitute the Valley of Springs Regional Council, Mo’atza Azorit Bik’at Beit She’an, in northern Israel’s Beit She’an Valley are now twinned communities.
The official sister city partnership agreements were signed May 1, with simultaneous signing ceremonies in Portage and in the Valley of Springs.
Portage La Prairie is a city of some 13,000, about a 45-minute drive west of Winnipeg on the TransCanada Highway. The Valley of the Springs council is bounded by the Jezreel Valley in the west, the Lower Galilee in the north, the Jordan River in the east and the Jordan Valley and Samarian hills in the south. About 9,700 people live in the 16 kibbutzim and six moshavim in its municipal territory. The city of Beit She’an lies in the centre of the territory, but is an independent municipality.
“Our two regions have a lot in common,” Portage Mayor Irvin Ferris said. “We both have an economy based largely on agricultural and food processing. We both have a food development centre. We are looking forward to technological exchanges related to agricultural as well as increased trade and perhaps some tourism. Also, perhaps schools in both places can get involved so children here and in Israel can learn about each other’s culture.”
Ferris said the shidduch between the two communities was arranged by Daniel Shindleman, a former resident of Portage La Prairie whose Winnipeg-based brothers, Sandy and Robert, are among Western Canada’s leading property developers. The Shindleman family are also prominent philanthropists who have contributed greatly to their former home town.
Daniel Shindleman himself lives in Zurich, Switzerland, where he is director of Bridgemer Investment Properties Ltd., a Canadian-Swiss group that provides investment and financial advisory services to families and companies.
“We focus on agriculture, infrastructure and real estate, in Canada and globally.” “As part of our search for new technologies to help agriculture, from seed to post-harvest, I have been making trips to Israel to meet innovative agri-tech businesses,” he added. “These include startups as well as research institutes.”
He said Bridgemer bridges the gap between idea and on-the-ground implementation of new technologies to improve the quality and quantity of agricultural production in a sustainable manner that does not impair the world’s limited resources.“We arrange field trials and do other work to have these innovations put in service. It is part of our agricultural investment program.”
As part of his search for innovation in agriculture, Shindleman visited the Valley of Springs, including the Eden Agricultural Research Station, located there in early January 2015.
“When I was there, I realized how I felt at home,” he said. “I looked around and saw field crops similar to what one sees on the Canadian prairies. And, in particular, it reminded me of my hometown. A sister city pairing made clear sense to me. Portage la Prairie in Manitoba, and Valley of Springs in Israel are prime agricultural centres, have significant nearby waterfowl and other bird populations, offer eco-tourism, and complement each other.
“Their respective advantages in agriculture can be applied jointly to pursue global goals of food security and expansion of markets. It is an innovation partnership to realize global potential. I am very excited about what can be done, and I am very happy to be a part of pursuing that potential. Portage has the land and skilled farmers. Valley of Springs has innovation and skilled agri-scientists. It’s a great combination.”
Although he left Canada in 1991, Shindleman notes, he still comes back regularly every year and always visits his hometown.