Thursday, June 16, 2011

Director's Report May 1st to June 17th

To Director's Blog Readers'

I apologize that I took a two month break in writing the blog. The last two months have been very intense and I was not able to keep up with the blog.  Things have calmed down a bit and I have finished the two courses I was taking at BGU - Quantative Research Methods and Evolutionary Ecology, so I will try to go back to producing the blog about once every two weeks.  The following report is not everything that has happened in the past two months but some of the major highlights.

Arava Institute student receives prestigious award for hydrogen production research

The World Renewable Energy Congress 2011 (WREC 2011) is an international scientific event that occurs once every two years. Most of the topics in the WREC 2011 focused on renewable energy technology and renewable energy applications. Arava Institute Ben-Gurion University Joint Master’s student, Bara Wahbeh had the chance to present his Master’s research; “Hydrogen Production by Boron Hydrolysis” that he is performing at the Arava Institute under the guidance of Dr. Tareq Abu Hamed, the Arava Institute’s Director of the Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation. The research simulates Hydrogen production in a car, by reacting steam with boron particles, the products of this reaction are Hydrogen gas, steam and boric acid (no green house gases are produced). During Bara’s presentation at the conference, he also discussed the advantages of Boron over other elements and compounds, as well as the hydrolysis technology compared to other technologies that are used to produce Hydrogen. Hydrogen production on board a car can overcome some of the obstacles facing Hydrogen use in vehicles such as the need for infrastructure to supply and store Hydrogen fuel. Bara’s paper was selected by the scientific committee of the conference as the winner of the “Best Paper Award within the topic Fuel Cells”.

Peace Building and Environmental Leadership Seminar (PELS) Trip

From May 18th to the 20th, Arava Institute students went on a three day study trip. It started off with a hike on the ridge of Machtesh Ramon. Following that the students headed to the Sderot-Gaza area where they went to Moshav Netiv HaAsara, along the Gaza-Israel border. While there, they met with members of Other Voice, an organization that was created three years ago to continue dialogue and contact between Gazans and Israelis from the Sderot area. Besides hearing from Israeli members of Other Voice, the students were also able to speak with an individual from Gaza in order to get an idea of what the conflict is like there. Later in the day the students met with 9th graders from a regional school in Sderot. The students asked them questions ranging from what they think their government should be doing to help them to asking what it was like during Operation Cast Lead. The final part of the day in Sderot consisted of going to the JNF Sderot Indoor Recreational Center which is an indoor protected playground for the children of Sderot. The students organized and environmental art project with them the children. That evening the students spent the night at the Adamama Ecological Center in Netivot.

The next day the students travelled to the West Bank to the archeological site of the ancient village of Susya in the southern Hebron mountain region, where they were given a tour from a resident of the nearby Jewish settlement of Susya. The students saw the ancient synagogue and walked through some of the underground buildings. Students also asked questions about what it is like living in a settlement and how did the settlers from Susya get along with their Palestinian neighbors. After that, the students went to the Palestinian village of Susya which is next to the Jewish settlement. They received a tour from Arava alumni, Yair Teller and Abeer Abu-Sara of the bio-digester project that Arava Alumni projects has created and spoke to the villagers. The students learned about ongoing issues with the settlers. The students met members of the Villagers Group, an organization of Israelis and others who are working to help villages like Susya. The Palestinian villagers of Susya have set up a community center, which hosts groups and has programs throughout the year. The students split up into three different groups. One group went to plant trees that were donated by Dr. Elaine Solowey, another group worked on an environmental art project and the last group played with children from the village. At one point, students witnessed a confrontation between settlers and Palestinians over where the settlers' sheep could graze. That evening the students were divided and hosted by families where they had dinner and slept.

The final day of the trip was in Jerusalem where the students met outside the Knesset with Likud Knesset Member Benny Begin, who gave an impassioned speech about what he believes, are the history and truths of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Following MK Begins talk, the students heard from Christopher Gunness, a spokesperson for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). The students received an in depth briefing of the situation for the refugees in Gaza and in the West Bank and were very interested in what he had to say. The PELS trip was a unique opportunity for Arava Institute students to hear a wide range of narratives from Israeli’s and Palestinians. Report submitted by Josh Neirman.

Alumni Gathering in Jerusalem

The Alumni Department spent many hours over the month working on the submission of permit requests for Palestinians to attend the International AAPEN Gathering hosted by the Israel AAPEN Committee in late May. Additionally, visa requests were made for several Jordanian alumni. The visas and permits were received in time for the alumni to attend the gathering in Jerusalem. The International AAPEN Gathering took place on May 27-28, in Jerusalem. The main goal of the event was a social gathering with the possibility of discussions for developing regional activities. Around 50 people attended the gathering which included a number of workshops, meetings and discussions. Alumna Inna Filkovski led a gender circle, Assaf Katz and Liel Maghen facilitated a communication circle about the current situation in the Middle East, and Yoel Vierba helped organize and facilitate a session to focus alumni towards creating a new project. The gathering ended with a high level of energy and a feeling of family, new connections made amongst alumni from different years of study, and a team of people formed to plan the next social gathering.

AIES Night

On Monday, June 6th the Arava Institute held this semester's AIES night when students present their research from Independent Study and Masters Research. This semester there were five poster presentations and over twenty power point presentations. The students received high praise from their instructor, Dr. Clive Lipchin and the Director of the Academic Program, Dr. Elli Groner. The event lasted close to 4 hours but the time seemed to fly by, as each presentation was well thought out and interesting. The topics ranged from the feasibility of implementing a carbon tax in Jordan to hydrogen production via metal hydrolysis. It was a pleasant evening and included great desserts provided by AIES staff. The audience consisted of students, staff, kibbutz members and residents from the region. Report submitted by Josh Neirman

David Lehrer

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