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Madonna’s hits and Earth Science field trips

During the first week of May, an Arava Alumni Expedition brought eight people together for a three days’ journey in the western mountains of the Dead Sea. The expedition started at the EcoME center just outside of Jericho and from there it combined long hiking sessions in the mornings, communal meals, camping outdoors and various sessions aimed at energizing and rejuvenating the body, heart, mind and spirit. Thank you to Liel Maghen, who coordinated and planned the alumni expedition.

This year AIES was fortunate enough to receive a grant from the Office of Public Diplomacy at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv. As part of this grant, we were able to host a number of guest speakers during the semester. From Wednesday May 16th to Saturday May 18th, students participated in a workshop called “Mediation, Collaboration and Creativity” run by our guest lecturers from Vermont – Tom Bogdan and Susan Sgorbati from Bennington College and Rabbi Michael Cohen.  Rabbi Michael Cohen’s workshop discussed environmental lessons from the Bible, reflections of an environmental activist, and the relationship between home, land and identity. Tom Bogdan’s workshop “The Power of Song: A Way to Mediate Differences” pushed students to discover a little more about the importance of their voices while teaching them fun and inventive songs and vocal exercises. Susan Sgorbati’s workshop “Solving the Impossible: Emergent Structuring for Intractable Conflicts”’ introduced how emergent improvisation is a useful skill that can be used to resolve disputes that are seemingly impossible. Susan also held two creative sessions on improvised dance and movement for students and staff.

As part of the same grant, Ben and Sarah Manski came to the Arava Institute a week later to host an environmental leadership workshop. They offered discussions on relevant and interesting topics including corporate power, green economy and austerity policy. These topics have been at the center of discussions inside and outside the classroom, and the students enjoyed having insightful constructive conversations between one another and the Manskis.

Thank you to our guest lecturers for the thought provoking, engaging, and enjoyable sessions they facilitated.

On Thursday May 17th , the students ran an ‘Open Mic’ creative culture night on campus. Some sang songs and recited poetry they wrote, while others performed capoeira dances and showed short animated video clips. This event was a great way to get the creative juices flowing for the students.

 Thanks to everyone who participated!

On Tuesday May 22nd, Hanan Ginat took his Earth Science class on a field trip to the Timna Valley. Leaving just after sunrise, the students applied their knowledge of geology to understand out how the geologic features were formed in the region. The trip was a great way for students to learn about the geology, geomorphology and copper mining in Timna Valley, as well as an opportunity for exploring the area and seeing its beauty.

Near the end of May, Tareq Abu Hamed flew to New York and Denver to present his work in the field of renewable energy. Mehnaz Afridi, a member of the Friends of the Arava Institute and Director of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Interfaith Education Center at Manhattan College, arranged a gathering in Manhattan in which 15 people attended (including three AIES alumni). Tareq spoke about the Arava Institute and the Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation. Tareq also attended the World Renewable Energy Forum in Denver where he presented a paper called “Assessing Renewable Energy Potential in Palestine.”

From May 29th through the 31st, Amélie Joseph coordinated a small crew of students and interns to help her collect insects in the Arava valley. Amélie is a research intern for the Arava Institute Center for Long Term Ecological Research (LTER). The goal of the expedition was to collect types of insects that are living in or eating the acacia trees, in order to gain further knowledge about declining population of acacia trees in the Arava. Many macro invertebrates (ants, spiders, beetles, inchworms, caterpillars, etc.) were collected and will later be analyzed by Amélie and Elli.

As part of a Faculty Fellowship Summer Institute program funded by the Jewish National Fund, nine American faculty members from various universities visited the Arava Institute on Sunday June 3rd and Monday June 4th. The visit was an excellent platform for networking and exchanging ideas in the areas of research and academics, and a great opportunity for initiating conversations that may lead to future academic partnerships in North America.

As a member of the Peace NGO forum, the Arava Institute received 4 free tickets to the Madonna concert that was held in Ramat Gan on Thursday June 4th. Congratulations to AIES staff members Abby Lutman, Michelle Shachar, Diana Spinrad and Cathie Granit who won the internal raffle and attended the concert! The tickets were donated by Madonna to all the member organizations of the Peace NGO forum. Abby, Cathie, Michelle, and Diana sat with other NGO’s such as Peace Now and Neve Shalom under a big “Working for Peace” banner, and Madonna made a special mention of the work of the NGOs during the show.

The semester is winding down as students are in the midst of final exams and preparing to part ways on June 21st. Keep an eye out for the next blog to read about end of the year events, the progress of the new dorm construction, and more!

Thank you to Michelle Shachar, Liel Maghen, Rafael Stern, Amélie Joseph and Brian Hoefgen for their photos.

Miriam Sharton

Executive Director

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