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Arava Institute Director’s Blog: January 2013

The fall semester 2012 has come to a close at the Arava Institute, as we said goodbye to yet another group of courageous young environmental leaders. January brought us final exams, graduation, presentations of final research, and a farewell party. I would like to thank the students, faculty and staff for yet another successful semester, and am looking forward to meeting the next group of students come February.

David Lehrer

AIES Night for Fall 2012 Students

AIES students got the opportunity to present their semester-long research projects to felloomarw students and staff at AIES Night. Always a highlight of the semester, the night is part academic, part celebratory, as the students and staff get to see their hard work finally come to fruition. This semester’s slate of research was extraordinary and especially diverse. Examples of projects include: Open Public Spaces in Eilat, Water and Wastewater Use in the West Bank, the Domestication of Wild Plant Species, and Effective Bedouin Integration in Space Planning. The research was the product of an Independent Study course lead by Dr. Ilan Stavi, and each student was paired with an advisor who guided them on a specific research venture. As usual, our staff was extremely proud of the students for their hard work. And, as a true testament to the power of the AIES community, we were thrilled to see that many members of Kibbutz Ketura also attended the presentation to learn from and support the students’ work. Congratulations, students! Submitted by Cathie Granit and Kayla Santosuosso

The Launch of the Public Council for the Arava Institute in Israel

On Friday, January 11th, at the Peres Center for Peace in Tel Aviv, the inaugural meeting of the Public Council for the Arava Institute was held.  The purpose of the Public Council is to raise awareness of the work of the Arava Institute in Israel and to increase financial resources from Israeli sources. Over 70 people attended the launch, including,  former member of Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) Yael Dayan, the Israeli Ambassador to Jordan, Daniel Nevo, and Israeli actress, Karen Mor.  To help get the Public Council off the ground, we invited TIMG_0558zipi Livni, the head of the Tnuah (Movement Party) who is running in the Israeli elections for the Parliament.  Ms. Livni had come directly from a debate held that morning at an Israeli high school in Rehovot where the atmosphere was negative and depressing.  The students shouted down Ms. Livni’s message of a need for a political settlement with cries of “there is no partner!” accompanied by cheering and clapping.   Ms. Livni entered the Peres Center for Peace, clearly shaken and distracted.  We moved into the small room where Ms. Livni and others would speak.  The program was hosted by former Ambassador to France, Daniel Shek , the Chair of the new Public Council.  The first speaker was Professor Alon Tal, founder of the Arava Institute who gave an historical perspective and talked about the institute’s achievements.  Then two alumni stood up to speak, an Israeli alumna who studied at the institute in 2006 and a Palestinian woman who studied with us in 2011. The Israeli woman spoke about the impact that the institute has had on her life and the Palestinian alumna spoke about her interest in Israel and learning more about the “other”.  Both women passionately described their transformational experiences at the Arava Institute.  Then Tzipi Livni stood up and it was obvious that something had happened to her in the very short time since she had walked into the Peres Center, distracted and upset.  Tzipi told the audience about the morning event at the Israeli High School in Rehovot, how depressing it was and how upset it had made her, but how sitting in the Peres Center, listening to the Arava Institute alumni, had lifted a burden from her chest.  With just a few simple words from our alumni about their experiences at the institute and their own vision of a better world, hope and a belief in the possibility of peace had returned to Ms. Livni.  We believe that this message of hope that was rekindled in Tzipi Livni by our alumni will be passed on to other leaders in Israel and throughout the Middle East.   As the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Arava Institute, Professor Yacov Karni said in his closing speech, we must never give up on our beliefs and our hope.

Alumni Profile: Lindsey ZemlerLindsey

Lindsey grew up in Boulder, Colorado in a home in the mountains. Hiking, nature, yoga, and stories have always been part of her life and currently she loves traveling, learning about culture, and contributing to sustainable communities. At the University of Colorado she studied English Literature, Political Science and Jewish Studies and had leadership involvement with a local sustainable food group and Alternative Spring Breaks. As a junior she studied abroad at Hebrew University in Jerusalem studying the Middle East and Hebrew.

After graduating from college Lindsey spent two years with the Arava Institute, first as the Alumni Projects Intern and then as a Program Associate. Her involvement with AIES, the kibbutz community and the region was influential and a deep learning experience. Most recently Lindsey has been living in Northern California working on the Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival as the Festival Assistant. Beginning this February she will be an intern at Neve Shalom Wahat-al-Salaam working in the development department. Submitted by Cathie Granit


Intern Profile: Kayla Santosuosso

KaylaKayla Santosuosso, the new Administrative Assistant, joined the team at the Arava Institute this month. Kayla holds a B.A. in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies from New York University with a focus in Arabic. During her time in NYC Kayla worked for the NYU Office of Sustainability, helped to run several food co-ops, and interned for the Arab American Association of New York. Though she’ll certainly be missing her city life, Kayla is transitioning into Ketura smoothly—using her free time to brush up on her Arabic, hike the mountains behind the institute, write, shoot pool, and travel. Kayla aims to be a US Foreign Service Officer in the Middle East, particularly within the area of environmental conflict resolution. She is thrilled to be at Arava, and feels very fortunate to work with such a talented, passionate group of students and staff.

AIES Student Achievements:

The Institute is proud to announce three significant student achievements this month.

BrianLeilaLeila Hashweh and Brian Hoefgen have both been accepted to pursue their Masters at Ben-Gurion University. The programs will take place at the Albert Katz International School, Blaustein Institute for Desert Research at the Sde Boqer Campus of BGU.

Leila has been accepted to the M.Sc. program in Hydrology and Water Quality, specializing in Water Resources under the supervision of  Professor Eilon Adar (BGU) and Dr. Clive Lipchin (AIES). Leila will work on the Habsor watershed taking an interdisciplinary approach to water management.

Brian has been accepted to the M.Sc. program in Desert studies, specializing in water irrigation and soil under the supervision of Dr. Shimon Rachmilevits (BGU). Brian will work on the agriculture of vines.

GrAbraaduate student and Program Associate Abra Berkowitz successfully defended her Master’s thesis this month. Abra used qualitative methods and recent planning theories to examine the Abu-Basma Regional Council, a new Bedouin municipality established to plan 13 formerly unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev. She plans to enjoy the coming semester at the Arava, and then go in search of a PhD.

Submitted by Elli Groner

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