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Director’s Blog – David Lehrer’s Welcome Speech to the Spring ’16 Students

 

Welcome to the students of the Arava Institute, Spring Semester 2016.  Against all odds, we gather together 36 students and 7 interns from Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Europe, Asia, North America and South America, together with our staff and faculty because nature knows no borders. The lack of security, hope and a real peace process must not dissuade us from our mission to build bridges between peoples based on our common environmental concerns. Our shared environmental resources, water, air and land are under attack, not from terrorists and not from armies but from careless overuse and misuse, unrestricted development and a lack of concern for our future. This week, Israeli newspapers, TV news programs and social media are filled with headlines about the pollution crisis in Haifa, some labeling it, a “nuclear bomb”!

 

Babies in Haifa’s most polluted areas are being born with substantially lower weights and smaller heads than in cleaner parts of the northern city, a new study has found.

The study also concluded that adults in these areas suffer a higher incidence of cancer. Haaretz  Feb 1st, 2016

 

After a week of attacking the researchers for revealing incomplete data, the Israeli Health Ministry finally acknowledged that officials have known for several years about an excess of morbidity in Haifa due to cancer, asthma and heart problems. Haaretz Feb 9th, 2016

People are literally dying from pollution in the Middle East. The lack of a peace process and the claim that there is no partner for peace are just excuses for not taking action.  Air pollution, degraded aquifers, invasive species, climate change and pandemics know no borders. Here at the Arava Institute we prove every day that there is a partner for peace and that we can only tackle the environmental and social challenges that face us if we work together. Whether building a gray water system for a Palestinian farmer on the West Bank, devising an off-grid solution for desalinated water in Gaza, or providing a sustainable way to manage organic waste through bio-gas production in the central Negev, the Arava Institute’s students, faculty, researchers and alumni are reframing the paradigm for relations between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East. Instead of an endless cycle of violence and mutual destruction, we demonstrate what can be gained from peaceful cooperation, sustainable development and mutual respect and trust.  The Arava Institute provides a unique opportunity to combine academic studies of the world’s most critical environmental and social issues with the acquisition of essential skills for cross cultural dialogue and peace-building. I hope you have all bought your A game, because we certainly have brought ours.

Good luck to us all.

 

The breakdown of students :

6 International students from the US, Europe and Indian

15 Israelis including 1 Palestinian Israeli

8 Jordanians

7 Palestinians

7 interns from the US, Israel and Palestine

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