Friday, July 8, 2011

Director's Report June 19th to July 8th

Speech to Students at the End of the Spring Semester 2011
It is my privilege to have been the Director of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies for the past 10 years. I became the Director as the second year of the Intifada Al Aqsa began and just 10 days before the 911 Tragedy. For the past 10 years, the Middle East has remained a turbulent and unstable part of the world going from crises to crises and conflict to conflict; the Second Intifada, the second Lebanon War, The Gaza Withdrawal and the Gaza Operation/Invasion, Katyushot on Kiryat Shmona, Kasamim on Sderot, the Flotilla and then there is the wider Middle East conflicts – the Second Gulf War, Iran and this year – uprisings in Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen.. Notice how so many of these conflicts start with the Second… Doesn’t that say something about our region? Are we trapped in a house of mirrors where we can only see ourselves and are doomed to walk around in circles repeating history and our own mistakes?

For 15 years, the Arava Institute has offered Middle Eastern and International students the opportunity to break through the mirrors and the stereotypes and to meet the other. For many of you it is your first time to really get to know the human side of the other side. Through wars, uprisings, political and military conflicts, the Arava Institute continues to wave the banner of “Nature Knows No Borders”. The institute continues to shine the light on a different path presenting a different paradigm for the Middle East. You have sat side by side in class, studying Ecology, Ethics and Water Politics together; you have slept on the beach together, hiked through dry desert valleys and braved pouring rain. You have disagreed over politics and over what to bring to the pot-luck dinner and you have agreed that there must be a different way to solve the Middle East conflict and that Elli gives way too many quizzes. You have had the incredibly unique opportunity to experience what life could be like in the Middle East without conflict.
It is not just a one time opportunity. Your teachers, staff and fellow students have given you the tools you need to go back to your home communities and to create a different paradigm. Like Bill Murray in Ground Hog Day, who discovers that the way to get out of the endlessly repeating loop in which he was caught was to stop looking at himself in the mirror and to start seeing the world through the eyes of others. I hope that your experience at the Arava Institute has enabled you to see the world through the eyes of your neighbors and that you will be able to carry this new view of your neighborhood back to your friends and family in order to enable them to envision a sustainable Middle East without conflict and a world living in peace. Thank you and good luck. - David Lehrer

Sababa at the Knesset
On June 22nd, an urgent gathering of the Knesset Finance Committee was called to discuss the mining in the Samar Sand Dunes. Five Sababa members and 16 representatives from other environmental organizations took part in the discussion. The meeting ended with the committee calling on the Israeli land Authority to stop the plan to mine sand in the Samar Dunes until surveys are conducted for alternatives such as mining below the surface of already mined areas, using sand from Timna waste piles and importing sand from Jordan. The support of Knesset members for our campaign to save the Samar dunes gives us proof that our mission in Sababa is important as the only grass roots environmental organization protecting and promoting sustainable development in the Arava.

Provided by Taal Goldman

Sababa in the Hevel Eilot Region
Sababa has taken on the challenge of leading the discussion of sustainable development in the region. On June 26th, a hot Monday afternoon, 50 people from the region came to a Sustainable Development Workshop to discuss future plans in the Arava and ways we can promote sustainable development and lifestyle. The two hour session resulted in a list of ideas and projects for Sababa to take on as new campaigns and a draft for a joint vision of the Arava. This is the first step in a one year project. We hope that by the end to present to the Chairman of the Regional Council a proposal of a new sustainable development policy to be used as guidelines for regional growth.
Provided by Taal Goldman

Across Borders
From June 26th through July 24th, AIES, in collaboration with Dickinson College, is hosting part one of a two-year project entitled Across Borders. In 2011 the focus is on managing transboundary environmental resources in the Middle East. Seventeen young emerging young professionals from the United States are actively participating in seminars at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies and in the field, on site visits in the Negev, the Jordan River Valley, and the Red Sea coast. The group will travel through Israel, Jordan and the Sinai peninsula. The goal of this two-way exchange project is to allow professionals from the Near East and the United States to explore and develop a substantive, nuanced understanding of those complex forces that impact the management of trans-boundary environmental resources through interdisciplinary studies and complementary experiential learning.
The AIES faculty coordinator is Dr. Clive Lipchin, and research intern Kristina Donnelly is the program coordinator. Dickinson staff are Bryan Bartosik-Velez, Senior Associate Director for International Services, and Prof. Ed Webb of the Political Science and International Studies departments.
Provided by Tali Adini

Jordanian Recruitment Trip

Sharon Benheim and Brenda Hausler traveled to Amman last week(June 27-29). Fifteen potential students were interviewed. Visa forms and application materials are currently being collected. In addition to our 6 continuing Jordanian students, we have accepted one new Jordanian student and are hoping to review another 5-6 candidates. Our Jordanian representative organized the intensive interview days, and many alumni came to visit and lend a hand.
Provided by Brenda Hausler

English Ulpan
The Institute received funding to do a pilot English language ulpan with Western Galilee College, in an effort to encourage Arab Israeli students to apply to the Arava Institute. The English Ulpan is going to open at the Western Galilee College on November 1, 2011. It was decided, after some feedback, that having an intensive ulpan, 5 mornings a week in the month of July was not going to be successful. People expressed interest in a longer program with evening hours. Dr. Hussein Tarabeah is our program coordinator. We are working closely with Liliana Caminer, the director of the college, and with Haya Shenar, the English Program Coordinator.
Provided by Brenda Hausler

Dickinson Summer Course

For the month of July the Arava Institute is running the Dickinson College Summer Sustainability Program. This program has 8 students who are accompanied by Dr Marcus Key from the Department of Earth Sciences and Joseph Priestley Professor of Natural Philosophy at Dickinson. The Sustainability Program is an introduction to the unique aspects of the desert environment and its natural resources and provides an understanding of the environmental challenges that are connected to human settlement in the Southern Arava. The course is divided into two main sections: Natural History of the Desert and Development Challenges in a Desert Environment. The AIES faculty coordinator is Dr Uri Gordon and the program coordinator is Josh Neirman.
Provided by Cathie Granit

Center for Transboundary Water Management
As part of the GLOWA research project, a training workshop was held at the Institute for Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian water professionals. The workshop, held from June 19th through the 24th, was focused on building proficiency in the use of a model-building software called WEAP, Water Evaluation And Planning. Over twenty participants from all three countries spent five intensive days with an instructor from the Stockholm Environment Institute, another partner in the GLOWA project, learning about the software and building models.  The workshop was sponsored by GLOWA-Jordan River, an interdisciplinary project addressing water scarce regions under the impact of climate and global change. GLOWA-Jordan River is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
Provided by Abby Lutman

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