- Once every six months, Miriam Sharton, the Associate Director and I have a private feedback session with almost every member of the staff. Sometimes, Miriam and I sit together with a staff member and sometimes we meet seperately with an individual member. It is an opportunity for the staff member to raise issues, give feedback to the administration and in general express how they are feeling at the institute. It is also an opportunity for Mriiam and I to give feedback, both positive and negative to staff members basically to ensure that lines of communication remain open. This feedback system has been a tradition at the Arava Institute for almost 10 years and has been extremely helpful in flaging problems and maintaining a positive work atmosphere. This past week, Miriam and I met with about 25 staff members in order to give and receive feedback. Sometimes these sessions simple and sometimes they can be difficult but no matter what, they are always important.
- Clive Lipchin and Shira Kronich came back from Kenya where the Arava Institute ran a course on Rain Water Harvesting for two groups of farmers. The course was funded by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is part of a new initiative at the Arava Institute, headed by Dr. Shmuel Brenner, the Arava Center for Sustainable Development in Arid Lands (ACSDAL) which provides training and extensions services to peoples from the developing world.
- During the week of July 18th to the 22nd, Arava Institute alumni, Yair Teller, Abeer Abu Sara and Leora Smith began a new alumni project in Susiya, a Palestinian Village in the West Bank building biodigesters to deal with the problem of animal waste while providing clean burning methane gas for cooking and heating. Leora and Abeer ran a parrallel environmental education program for children in order to expose them to environmental concepts.
- On Sunday, July 25th, Dr. Michael Beyth, the Chairman of the Arava Institute Board of Directors met with our two Israel resource development consultants, Neal Levy and Shlomit Yarkoni from Ben Or Consulting regarding our Israeli Resource Development Work Plan. We discussed different avenues for development in Israel and how to position the institute in terms of Israeli donors. We expect to receive the work plan by the end of September.
- That afternoon, I stopped in on ECOWEEK, an international meeting of "green architects" who are spending the week looking at sustainable building design in Israel and Palestine. The Arava Institute is one of the sponsors of the conference. Judy Bar Lev, the institute's office manager and expert on Palestinian permits and Jordanian visas obtained permits for a number of Palestinian architects to attend the conference. One of whom is interested in coming to the institute in the fall. Donny Ornstein, an Arava Institute faculty member represented the institute at the opening session. http://www.ecoweek.netfirms.com/ecoweek.gr/ecoweek2010_BJ/index.html
- Tuesday, Friends of the Arava Institute (FAI) past Board Chair and current Board member, Eric Berzon and his wife Danielle Ruymaker arrived at the institute for a few days of meetings and relaxing. Eric and Danielle got a tour of the institute, met a number of different staff members, participated in a staff meeting and of course got a tour of Dr. Elaine Sollowey's experimental orchard.
- Another visitor on Tuesday was Sam Yosefowitz, from Switzerland, who together with Rennselar University would like to fund a project he calls, an Agricultural Oasis, an independent desert farm that provides itself with its own purified water and energy. If the institute receives the grant, the project will go under the auspices of ACSDAL and will be a partnership between the Arava Institue and the Southern Arava Agricultural R & D Center.