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Director’s Blog: June 2013

Public Council for the Arava Institute meets with Minister of Environmental Protection, Amir Peretz

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The Public Council for the Arava Institute held its second meeting in Tel Aviv on Friday, June 28th at the French Cultural Institute on Rothschild Ave.  About 30 members of the Public Council, Arava Institute staff and Arava Institute alumni gathered to hear Minister of the Environment, Amir Peretz speak about the dangers of Israel ignoring our environmental problems as well as the conflict with our neighbors.  As Public Council Chair, Daniel Shek stated in his introduction of Minister Peretz to the gathering, Amir Peretz is a member of the Peace Camp, is the Minister of the Environment and a champion of the south of Israel and therefore the best partner for the work of the Arava Institute. Minister Peretz was clearly moved by the speaches of the two students who just completed their year at the Arava Institute, Leilah Hashweh and Neriah Greniman.  Minister Peretz responded to the speeches of he two students by emphasizing the need to work together with our neighbors to protect the environment and the strategic importance of a peace agreement with the Palestinians.  The gathering was also an opportunity to say farewell to our good friend and colleague, Dr. Tareq Abu Hamed, who talked about how important the 5 years that he spent at the institute on Kibbutz Ketura has meant to him.  I want to take this opportunity to express my personal gratitude to Tareq for all that he has contributed to the Arava Institute and to me personally. I wish you good luck at the Ministry of Science but know that the Arava Institute is always in your heart. It has been a very exciting month of June including AIES night, the end of the semester, visits from Public Council members and the Indian Ambassador to Israel and more. There is only so much of this month we could fit into this blog.  Happy reading.

David Lehrer

Congratulations and Farewell to Dr. Tareq Abu Hamed

Tareq

Dr. Tareq Abu Hamed, the Director of the Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation at the Arava Institute for the past 5 years, is leaving the Institute this month. We are incredibly proud to announce that he will be accepting the position of Director of Applied Sciences in the Ministry of Science, an opportunity that he undoubtedly deserves and that will afford him the chance to impact research and scientific advancement throughout the country.

When Tareq interviewed for the job of Director of CREEC in 2008, we knew instantly that it was the perfect match. He was an experienced researcher who also possessed all of the qualities of a good director – personable, focused, a skilled manager, and someone with vision. The staff remembers that on his first day of his job, he was handed the application for two major grants which he had to complete within that week. Tareq, as is his nature, accepted the challenge without hesitation, eventually securing funds from both grants without breaking a sweat. He has continued with this exceptional dedication and flexibility since day one. His role as Director of CREEC has grown over the years to reflect this very unique adaptability he possesses  teaching students, directing research, securing ongoing funding for the center, and helping it to grow in magnitude.

Under his leadership, the Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation, funded by the Greater Toronto Jewish Federation and the United Israel Appeal,  has worked to develop a graduate program in renewable energy, obtained and constructed its first laboratory, and overseen the development of a research and visitor’s park at the institute. It has also produced unforgettably talented students who have partnered and co-authored with Tareq on research and publications. In the meantime, Tareq has gained recognition throughout the scientific community in the region for his work in renewable energy generation, specifically hydrogen production and boron hydrolysis, on which he has published profusely.  He has won numerous awards including the Best Paper Award for the World Renewable Energy Congress (2011) and the Dan David prize for Social Responsibility with Emphasis on the Environment (2011).

Tareq has become a truly beloved member of our staff, revered for his hard work and dedication both in the office and in the classroom. He is marked by a consistently pleasant disposition, reliability, and a willingness to help. As for the students, he has undoubtedly served as a role model– not only to our Arab students, who see him as a source of inspiration and have always had a special kinship with him, but to all of our students alike. Tareq was also loved and highly respected by the members of Kibbutz Ketura where he, his wife, and his daughters lived for several years.

So it is on behalf of the entire community from Kibbutz Ketura and the students and staff of the Arava Institute – that we’d like to wish Tareq and his family heartfelt congratulations also on the occassion of the birth of their new baby boy, Jad!  We look forward to seeing his accomplishments accrue on the national level for years to come. It has truly been an honor to have Tareq has part of our team and community. Submitted by Kayla Santosuosso

Eliza Mayo Joins Staff as Director of Development

bio-photo3 (1)Eliza Mayo, the new Director of Development, is a member of Kibbutz Lotan where she has lived since 1990. Eliza has served on Lotan as manager of the date orchards, general secretary, coordinator of PR and fundraising for Lotan’s Center for Creative Ecology, and twice as business manager (CEO) of the kibbutz. From 2003 – 2007, she was the coordinator of Sababa–  a public action branch of AIES that united local residents and AIES students for local environmental action. Eliza has a Master’s degree in international development with a thesis in environmental economics, a passion for communal living and a penchant for dabbling in arts and crafts. Eliza is married to Rabbi Simcha Daniel Burstyn and lives with two beautiful  teens, Amalia and Reuven, and one dog, Murphy (who is not named for the law.) As Director of Development, Eliza will oversee existing and new fundraising and grant writing efforts of the institute. Eliza is thrilled to be back working at AIES.

AIES Researchers Produce a Pre-Feasibility Study for the Med-Dead Conveyance

Med-Dead cover page

A new pre-feasibility study, conducted by the Center for Trans-boundary Water Management at the Arava Institute, provides a comprehensive summary of previous research done on the Med-Dead conveyance, describing four different potential Med-Dead solutions from a historical, economic, engineering, environmental and political perspective. The Arava Institute undertook this research hoping to highlight the potential for the Med-Dead conveyance to contribute to water security, energy security, and food security in the region, factors which have implications for regional cooperation between Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian territories.

“I believe that if we can prove that it is a feasible project, environmentally and economically, it will happen. The political problems can be solved,” says Professor Uri Shani, former Israeli Water Commissioner.

The report gives a comprehensive overview of the history of the project. To this end, it explores prior engineering analyses as well as international agreements such as the Oslo Accords and United Nations resolutions.  A conveyance of the proposed size would be a major infrastructure engineering undertaking.  Therefore, the report details technical components of this project including water pumping, energy generation, and regulation reservoirs.  Finally, it analyzes the benefits and drawbacks of the multiple conveyance routes that have been proposed, as well as the impact that this proposed conveyance will have on the Dead Sea.

Full reference:  Samuel E. Willner, Clive Lipchin, Shira Kronich, Tal Amiel, Nathan Hartshorne and Shae Selix. 2013. A Pre-Feasibility Study on Water Conveyance Routes to the Dead Sea. Arava Institute for Environmental Studies.

Submitted by Shmuel Willner

AIES Alumni Spend Summer Abroad in the States

Yousre OdehYousre Odeh, from Nablus, Palestine, will be spending his summer at the Hotchkiss Summer Portal, leading environmental studies activities inside and outside of the classroom. Yousre was a student at AIES from 2009 to 2010, and has also been part of the student life team in the past. He has a degree in wind power project management from Gotland University in Sweden. “It is interesting to see high school students coming from all over the world to express their concerns and to work to protect the environment,” says Yousre. Ran Menashe will be participating in an internship as part of the Keep Chicago Beautiful project. The program is designed to provide participants with environmental tools, seeing how different organizations deal with environmental problems, visiting the Metropolitan water reclamation district, and talking to students about being environmentally conscious. Ran grew up in Ra’anana, Israel and studied at the Institute in 2011. For the past few years he has been focusing on group facilitation, workshop and tour guiding for families, kids and students and is looking to pursue environmental education. Good luck to Yousre and Ran!

Members of the Public Council Visit AIES, along with the Indian Ambassador!

SAMSUNGSince the launch of the Public Council for the Arava Institute in January, efforts have been made to increase membership in the council, and to encourage current members to visit the Institute. We were pleased to host two members, Keren Mor and Bruria Albeck, who made on on-site visit to the Institute on Sunday, June 2nd. Ms. Mor and Ms. Albeck were greeted by Executive Director David Lehrer, met with students, toured the campus, and had a Q&A session with staff. We are all hopeful that other members of the Public Council will follow the example of Keren and Bruria and visit us soon!

While Keren and Bruria were meeting with the students, we were also honoured to hosting the Indian Ambassador to Israel, Mr. Jaideep Sarkar. The ambassador became aware of AIES after Kibbutz Ketura member Daphne Shimson-Musnikow, originally from India, was given the honor of carrying the torch in this year’s Independence Day ceremony. The Ambassador spent the afternoon on Kibbutz Ketura, visiting with members and businesses, and was able to meet with AIES students as well. Submitted by Judy Bar-Lev

AIES Faculty and Alumni Publish Article in Journal of Arid Environments

Arid Environments

Congratulations to alumnus Hila Sagie, and faculty members DrAvigail Morris and Dr. Elli Groner, for being published in the Journal of Arid Environments this month. Their article, titled “Cross-cultural perceptions of ecosystem services: A social inquiry on both sides of the Israeli-Jordanian border of the Southern Arava Valley Desert” explores local resident perspectives on ecosystem services in the hyper-arid Arava Valley/Wadi Araba, which spans across both Israel and Jordan (and is the home to AIES!). Ecosystem services, as the article thoroughly explains, “is an increasingly popular precursor for crafting sustainable natural resource management and land use policy, and is an inherently multi-disciplinary endeavour.” The research addresses both kibbutzim and Bedouin villages, engaging in in-depth interviews with stakeholders in both regions. The article was also co-authored by Daniel Orenstein, of the Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning at Technion, as well as Yodan Rofe, of the Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The research helps to avoid common problems including the disregard of important and unique social and cultural perspectives when identifying ecosystem services.

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