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Solar desalination, YEEPI and research presentations

ImageRepresentatives of the Osprey Foundation visited the Arava Institute on June 4th and 5th to meet with Clive Lipchin, Erica Spiritos and Tareq Abu Hamed.  Ericia Spiritos was Clive Lipchin’s research intern and she spent her spring semester designing and building a prototype solar desalination system that was generously funded by the Osprey Foundation. Erica gave an excellent professional presentation about the need for renewable energy and water treatment for rural off-grid communities in Gaza and demonstrated the solar desalination system that she worked as part of the Center for Transboundary Water Management.

ImageImageTwelve students presented their Independent Study projects at ‘AIES Night’ on Wednesday June 6th. Students presented a range of topics including mud building as an alternative building method in the desert, bio-char as a sustainable energy source, and environmental health hazards within Negev Bedouin societies.  I would like to thank Uri Gordon, Brian, Barbara, Lindsey, Raja and others who contributed to ‘AIES Night’ by mentoring students, organizing the presentations, baking refreshments, and ensuring a smooth and successful event.
On Friday June 8th, I accompanied Abby Lutman, Uri Nusinow, Tali Adini, Tamer Jumah and Brian Hoefgen to Sachnin for the final conference of the Youth Environmental Education and Peace Initiative (YEEPI), a project funded by the US State Department that brings Jewish and Arab pupils together to raise environmental awareness though cooperative environmental education activities and dialogue.  To celebrate and summarize the 2011-2012 school year activities, the pupils from the YEEPI program from10 Jewish and Arab schools around Israel gathered in the environmental building of the town association of environmental quality in Sachnin. The event started with the YEEPI program’s key leaders (many of them AIES alumni) meeting with their pupils and orchestrating a group discussion and activity. At the same time, a conference was held between educators and headmasters of the schools that participated in the YEEPI program to reflect upon the year’s activities. A representative from the Ministry of Education gave a presentation and listened as the educators expressed their enthusiasm and desire to continue with YEEPI activities in their school. The event ended with the students dancing dabke, drum circles and short speeches by individuals involved with the program. About 200 high-school students and 20 headmasters and lead teachers were present for the celebration.

One June 17th and 18th, the Arava Institute hosted a group of 15 environmental professionals from Gaza and the West Bank who work for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  The group came to study the interface between water treatment, renewable energy, and food security. The group also visited the biogas projects in Susya village in the  Southern Hebron hills in the West Bank and in Abu Rabia in the Negev.  The UNDP visit concluded with a discussion about potential collaboration and a tour in the AIES Research and Visitors Renewable Energy Park and the experimental agriculture orchards on Ketura.

The following week, a group of 35 Jordanians and Palestinians came to the Arava Institute as part of a MASHAV  (Israel Foreign Ministry training program) course to learn about solar energy desalination. The next MASHAV course will be held in November with a focus on renewable energy and sustainable development.  As part of the program the participants will attend the Eilat Eilot International Renewable Energy Conference in Eilat.

Last week, Tareq Abu Hamed and Tareq’s research student and Arava alum, Bara Wahbeh, attended the International Conference on Hydrogen Production in Seoul, South Korea.  Tareq and Bara were invited to  Seoul to give a presentation about the Boron research they have been conducting at the Arava Institute. This conference will give them the opportunity to submit their paper to the Hydrogen Energy Journal.

Final exams ended on Monday the 18th. The academic program final party was on Tuesday the 19th and the staff, students and interns alike celebrated the end of the semester together. The students and interns departed on June 19th.  We were sad to say goodbye to an amazing group of students and alumni, and wish them luck and success in their journey towards the next chapter in their lives, and in their new role as AIES alumni.

Recently, we were shocked to learn about the demolition orders have been issued to the Palestinian village of Susya, threatening to destroy a marginalized community with which we have a long standing working relationship. Our thoughts and prayers are with our friends and partners in Susya.  A letter was sent from the Arava Institute to Defense Minister Ehud Barak urging him to cancel these orders. The letter was sent to Minister Barak with a copy to many of our political contacts.

Thanks to Amélie Joseph, Lindsey Zemler, Erica Spiritos and Brian Hoefgen for their photos.

Miriam Sharton

Executive Director

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