Sunday, December 20, 2009

Weekly Report - December 13th -18th, 2009

Hanukah is usually a quite week at the institute. The students are in classes but life slows down a bit as most of Israel goes on semi-vacation:

  • The week started with a dedication ceremony for the Center for Sustainable Agriculture's new office expansion and new tractor funded by the Vivian and Ed Merrin Family Foundation Grant. Students, staff, faculty and friends were invited for a ribbon cutting ceremony, candle lighting and a jelly donut feast.

  • Monday night, the Sababa Steering Committee met to discuss submitting Timna Park to be declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The declaration would help to protect the park and the surrounding area from over development. Sababa Steering Committee members also discussed alternative locations for the proposed resort hotel that is being developed near Timna Park.
  • On Wednesday, Shir Harel, the Arava Institute's webmaster from Ben Or Consulting came to the institute to discuss new media strategy - website, youtube, facebook, flicker etc. Shir first met with all of the staff and went over website statistics. Since the summer, the website has almost doubled its site visits. In addition, the website now appears on page 5 when googling "environmental studies" - previously we had disappeared from that search. In the coming months the institute will develop it youtube profile and become more organized in terms of facebook presence.
  • On Wednesday night, the students lite the Hanukah candles in the dinning room of the kibbutz, sang the blessing over the candles and sang a Hanukah song.
  • Thursday, the Executive Committee devoted time to finalizing the 2010 institute budget.

David Lehrer

Monday, December 14, 2009

Weekly Report November 29th - December 11th, 2009

OK - it has been two weeks since I have had a chance to write something for the blog.
  • In fact the week of November 29th to the 4th was a fairly quite week at the institute. The students were all studying, the staff members were all working and meeting. The only exciting thing that happened that week was on Shabbat, I rode my bike to Eilat and then went diving.

Last week however was a bit more exciting.

  • Cecil and Sharon spent Sunday and Monday interviewing 20 Jordanian students in Amman.
  • On Monday night, a tremendous amount of rain poured from the skies all over Israel including in the Negev and the Arava. On Tuesday morning on my way to an 8:30 meeting with Avigad Vornshak, the Director of the Blaustein Institutes at the Sde Boker Campus of BGU, I came to Nahal Faran, which looked like the Colorado river. I could not cross the Nahal and it did not look like the water would subside any time soon. I turned my car around and drove back to the Arava road (route 90) and headed north. I turned off at the Maaleh Acrabim (Scorpion's Ascent) road. It is an amazing back road climb out of the Arava Valley onto the Negev Heights plain. The road is a narrow twisting steep climb of a few hundred feet almost straight up. At the top, I continued on through the Big Machtesh (Crater) finally arriving at Yeroham. This is the route we once sent the Chalutzim Riders on the 2007 Israel Ride (there is a reason we call them the Meshugaim). I was finally able to get to Sde Boker only a half hour late.
  • Elli Groner and I met Avigad Vornshak. We had an excellent meeting in which we worked out the kinks of the financial arrangements for the Masters Program for North American students, discussed how to move forward on the Energy and the Environment Masters Program and discussed the possibility of collaborating on an Israel Studies program.
  • Wednesday morning, Elli and I met with Shaul Krakover, the Dean of the BGU Eilat campus in order to finalize the details of the legal agreement that we are signing with BGU.
  • That same morning, Professor Pua Bar (Kutiel) the new Academic Coordinator from BGU gave a lecture to our Masters students at their weekly Masters Seminar. Professor Bar (Kutiel) is an Ecologist in the BGU Geography department in Ber Sheva.
  • In the afternoon, over 20 people attended the brainstorming session on the establishment of the Arava Center for Sustainable Development in Arid Lands. Dr. Shmuel Brenner will head the new center which is a partnership with the Southern Arava Research and Development Center at Yotvata and the Dead Sea Arava Science Center. The new center will provide research, training programs and extensions services to developing countries around the world suffering from a lack of water and desertification. The center will partner with the Israeli Foreign Ministry on the Millennium Villages project as well as other partner organizations.
  • Thursday afternoon, the Academic Department held an open day and hosted 10 potential Israeli students at the institute. The potential students met current students, staff, were interviewed and tested for English proficiency.
  • Friday afternoon, the Arava Alumni Peace and Environmental Network (AAPEN) Alumni Conference subcommittee met on Skype in order to plan for the Alumni Conference in February.

David Lehrer