As you will see from the Blog, this month has been especially busy; the Israel Ride, the Academic Program Negev Trip for the students, the Dead Sea and Arava Science Center Acacia Tree Conference in Aqaba and the Public Council for the Arava Institute’s trip to Jordan. I myself have been on the road since returning back from my last US fundraising tour to the West Coast at the end of October and I am writing these words now after just completing an exploratory fundraising and student recruitment trip to the UK and am about to embark on an end of the year funding trip around the US. At the beginning of last week however, I was privileged to accompany 14 members of the Public Council for the Arava Institute on a two day trip to Jordan to engage with Jordanian officials and meet Arava Institute Jordanian alumni. The trip which was led by Public Council Chair Ambassador Daniel Shek (former Israeli Ambassador to France) included a tour of the Dead Sea with Dr. Samer Talozi, from the Jordan University of Science and Technology who discussed water issues in Jordan, the Red Sea Dead Sea Conduit and scientific cooperation with the Arava Institute. In addition the Public Council met with a senior Jordanian personality, was invited to the home of Israeli Ambassador to Jordan Dani Nevo’s home for a gourmet dinner cooked by the Ambassador himself, meetings with Jordanian alumni and touring of Madava and Mount Nebo from which Moses saw the Promise Land which he was not allowed to enter. Israeli Actress Karen Mor, a member of the Public Council joined the trip. This is the first annual Public Council tour of the region and will certainly be followed by future tours,
The Israel Ride- what a success!
The 13th annual Israel Ride took place from October 29th to November 5th. Over 130 participants joined the ride to help raise money for the Arava Institute and Hazon. This was the 4th ride that I personally coordinated. It is hard to imagine how it feels to take part in the actual event after over a full year of planning. Following two years of low numbers it was exciting to see many bikes line up in the assembly “room” the day before the ride. It was even more amazing when the entire group exited Ashkelon together on the second day. We exchanged stories of personal fulfillment and achievements, and sighed with relief when it was all over.
As the Ride Director, I am responsible for much of the behind the scenes logistics: the accommodations, mechanics, transportation, security, medical personnel, and of course our wonderful crew. All in cooperation with the folks at Hazon and Friends of the Arava Institute who worked tirelessly on marketing and customer service, and with my unbelievably skilled partners this year, Amit Chertoff and Andrea Doubilet who helped with the logistics. The joke this year was that I was the “Wizard of the Ride,” an invisible force that pulls it all together. As the wizard, I was able to put forth: some good ideas (brain); compassion (heart); a whole lot of praise for the courage of crew and riders; plus a little bit of chutzpah (nerve) to be able to survive planning another ride – and for me this year’s ride was a great success. Submitted by Tali Adini, Eco-paths Director
The Negev Trip
From November 18th to the 20th, students and interns spent three days touring the Negev desert, accompanied by Lex Paul, Dr. Elli Groner, and Dr. Avigail Morris. The trip was based on a look at the ecology, anthropology, and politics of the Negev region. The journey began early in the morning with a hike up the Makhtesh Ramon led by Dr. Yaron Finzi. Students learned about ancient Ammonite fossils and took in breathtaking views of the giant crater. In Mitzpe Ramon, the group met Mayor Roni Marom as well as inspirational community organizers that created gardens and cooperatives. The day ended with an overnight stay at the Bedouin village of Wadi Ariqa, where Salaman Al Azazme spoke about his unique relations with the regional council.
The next day, various students presented their independent field projects. The presentations included the Sustainability Laboratory in Wadi Attir and biodigester education for Bedouin women. From a lookout point over Gaza near one student’s kibbutz her grandparents who founded the kibbutz spoke to the group. These interactions brought a personal touch to the trip and made the whole experience more meaningful. That night was spent at a Jewish homestead on the edge of a nature reserve. The last day, the group walked to various types of Jewish settlements in the Negev region ranging from single family eco-lodges to small suburban-type communities. The trip ended with group reflections and a hike in Mitzpe Ramon. The trip was a meaningful experience for the students that challenged, inspired, and ultimately brought all closer together by the end. Submitted by Aviva Gottesman
Dead Sea & Arava Science Center Sponsor Acacia Conference
The Dead Sea & Arava Science Center sponsored an Acacia conference in Aqaba, Jordan from November 21-23. The acacia tree (pictured to the right) is a keystone species in the Arava Valley on which most other species in the valley depend for food, water or habitat. The Acacia Tree is also the symbol of the Arava Institute. The participants in the conference included some students and interns from AIES, researchers from the Science Center, students and researchers from Hatzeva, and researchers from Jordan. Elli Groner gave a presentation on ecosystem integrity. Intern, Tara Gron presented on soil testing, and intern, Casey Alexander gave a presentation on monitoring acacia trees. The group went on field trips to two different wadis (river beds), where they split into groups and exchanged information on monitoring. This included taking soil samples, monitoring acacias (A. tortillis and A. radiana), and monitoring biodiversity. All in all, the conference was a success and further strengthened the collaborations between the researchers from Israel and Jordan. Submitted by Tara Gron
Arava Institute Alumni at the Dead Sea Arava Science Center Conference in Aqaba
Arava Profile: Martin Schlatzer
Martin Schlatzer spent the last two months at the Arava Institute conducting research on climate change in the hyper-arid region in the Southern Negev as well as on global scale. He focused on collecting precipitation data from the past 15 years. The study was centered around four areas in the South Negev region: Yotvata, Eilat, and Paran in Israel and Aqaba, Jordan. Before coming to Israel, Martin worked as a Scientific Researcher at the Institute of Meteorology in Vienna at the Department of Water, Atmosphere, and Environment. Upon completing his Masters degree in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Vienna, Martin worked on writing his book, Animal Production and Climate Change. Martin’s final presentation at the Arava Institute was ‘Food Matters, the influence of nutrition on climate change, environment, and nutrition security.’ Submitted by Yelena Galperina