Course Descriptions

Each course at the Arava Institute is three credits.

Alternative Energy Science

This course examines the utilization and storage for renewable technologies such as wind, solar, biomass, fuel cells and hybrid systems and for more conventional fossil fuel-based technologies. In addition, it will study the environmental consequences of energy conversion and how renewable energy can reduce air pollution and global climate change. Lastly, it will evaluate the regional environmental problems and the role of the renewable energy in solving these problems by focusing on new developments in renewable energy technologies.

Click here to download the syllabus.

The Basics of Organic Food Production

This course presents information about small-scale organic food production, its potential and its problems. Students will also explore the social and economic aspects of producing one’s own organic food and engage students in practicing soil enrichment techniques, composting, container gardening and keeping small livestock as well as seed saving, food storage, food preparation, slow food movements and the active preservation of heirloom fruits vegetables and animal breeds.

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Biodiversity of Sand Dunes

The aim of this course provides the students with hands-on experience in studying biodiversity by exploring its sharp decline and the human-made crisis that ecologists are trying to solve. Some of the important questions are: What species exist, and how many? How do we evaluate the abundance and the richness of species? Why is biodiversity so important? How do we set priority regions for conservation based on biodiversity? We will learn about the ecosystem changes of sand dunes including natural and anthropogenic processes. In addition, we will study the development threats to the dunes and the politics behind them. These questions and others will be dealt with before, during and after sampling several taxonomic groups on sand dunes.

Click here to download the syllabus.

Collapse: An Anthropological Approach to Environmental Studies

The aim of the course is to explore the collapse and sustainability of ecosystems as a result of human activity by investigating the role of culture in human – environmental relations and the contribution that cultural theory can make to environmental discourse. The course is divided into three parts.

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Comparative Environmental Law

Students in this course will learn how laws are used to help protect natural resources and the environment. The course will begin with a general survey of basic legal concepts, practical theories and judicial systems that are commonly used around the world today. After laying a strong legal foundation, we will explore specific environmental topics and discuss how domestic and international environmental laws are used to protect those particular resources. Wherever possible, actual court cases and real-life examples will be brought to illustrate how environmental laws are used as a practical tool of positive environmental change. Later in the semester, we will discuss various ways that lawyers and lawmakers around the world are working to encourage compliance with environmental laws and developing creative enforcement mechanisms to deter violators. Also, there will be a class field trip to Jerusalem. The course will conclude with a mock trial that will incorporate the entire semester’s lectures and class discussions into a comprehensive group exercise.

Click here to download the syllabus.

Conflict or Cooperation? The Politics and Economics of Trans-border Environmental Issues

This is an interdisciplinary course examining the environment threats and opportunities facing the Middle East (specifically: Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon) and what role the environment can play in promoting cooperation between sworn enemies. The course will look at four areas of both conflict and potential cooperation: water supply, air quality, renewable energy and biodiversity conservation. We will begin by examining traditional methods of diplomacy and conflict resolution before exploring methods of economic cooperation through market mechanisms and structured environmental mediation. Students will participate in a series of simulated water negotiations to integrate the knowledge and tools learned during the course. Finally, we will examine how environmental activists and professionals are taking a leading role in building the foundation for trust in the region. The course utilizes economic tools, history, natural resource management and social theory to approach some of the most relevant and challenging issues of our era, whose lessons may be applicable around the globe.

Click here to download the syllabus

Critical Social Sustainability

Sustainability, it seems, is everywhere—in activism, ecology, popular culture, and industry. In the face of economic and environmental crisis, and unprecedented rates of urbanization, the term has become omnipresent and at times overused across various social arenas and in policy circles. This is perhaps an indication to a deep shared desire for a sustainable future. But the increasing popularity of the term presents us with competing and at times contradictory meanings and application of the term that poses challenges for sustainability scholarship and practice.

This course looks at sustainability and its arguably contradictory win-win goals of economic growth, environmental integrity, and social equity, from perspectives developed in human, critical & urban political geography. The course is organized in roughly three parts:

Click here to download the syllabus.

Desert Ecology

This course will teach the principles and processes of desert ecology. The course starts with an introduction to deserts of the world and why deserts are considered hazards for life. Then we study adaptations to the hazards of deserts and then move from the individuals to the desert food-web and ecosystem and study what makes deserts special. The course ends with studying human-nature interactions including ecosystem services and desert management.

During the course the students will study a variety of field work methods which will lead to essays. The topics are: biodiversity of arthropods, soil quality index and acacia tree health. The students will learn how to calculate ecological indices using excel and how to use them for their own data. Students will work in pairs on 3 topics, collecting data in the field, calculate the indices and write a report on each topic. At the end of the semester each pair will present their work in an oral seminar.

Evaluation includes 3 essays based on the students data collection, reading quizzes, a midterm exam and a final exam.

EcoHealth

Eco-Health focuses on the integration of knowledge at the interface between ecological and health sciences by incorporating different sciences, including natural, social and health sciences, and the humanities. This course examines how changes in the biological, physical, social and economic environments impact human health and public health.

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Ecology of the Arava

This course will present an overview of the ecology of the Arava Desert. In this course, basic principals of ecology and then desert ecology will be introduced. Student will learn about desert food webs, interaction between ecosystems, pollution and other risks to the conservation of the Arava. We will study the link between the Arava ecosystems. We will study plants, arthropods, mammals and birds of the terrestrial ecosystem and the principles and wildlife of the sea. While learning about different ecosystem and taxon we will study the anthropogenic impact on wildlife.

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Environmental Education: from Theory to Practice

This course begins with a historical overview of the main themes and different concepts and approaches to environmental education in the world in the 21st century, and then examines various methods of learning and teaching about the environment and the connections between the environment, education and the community. There will be one daylong, local field trip. Each student will prepare a personal project that will include developing, and optionally, running an environmental program for school-aged children.

Click here to download the syllabus.

Environmental Leadership Seminar

In the Environmental Leadership Seminar (EL), students and interns explore environmental leadership from a unique regional perspective and in the context of their own multicultural campus community. EL introduces environmental leadership through a range of sessions and workshops held over each semester. While working together as a community and in small groups, participants explore a wide range of topics including environmental entrepreneurship, project management, holistic models for environmental living, and environmental policy and politics. In addition, each semester, EL welcomes guest speakers who bring a wealth of knowledge about current environmental initiatives.

Environmental Mediation & Conflict Resolution

This course explores the theory and the practice of mediation with an emphasis on environmental conflicts. In the first part of the course, students will get a general overview of conflict engagement and various approaches to mediation. Although the focus of the course will be environmental conflicts, a few of the classes will also touch upon mediating international and violent conflicts. Regional environmental conflicts such as in Ramat Hovav, Ein Gedi. and Nahal Tzalmon will be used to examine the mediation process. Students will gain some practical tools with hands-on experience in mediation. In the academic portion of the class, students will be expected to research a mediation topic of their choice.

Click here to download the syllabus.

Environmental Politics

We live at a time when planetary ecologies appear to be most threatened and vulnerable, and global environmental problems − from climate change to biodiversity − have become pressing political concerns for the global economy.  This class examines different international politics, actors, processes, and structures that have emerged in the arena of global environmental politics. Topics include: global and regional environmental problems, agreements, and structures of governance; the politics of climate change; actors, tensions, processes, and theories in global environmental politics; grassroots environmental politics.

Click here to download the syllabus.

Environmental Science

This course is designed to give an overview of environmental science, focusing on global environmental issues. The course will look at past and present environmental issues and the chemical and physical tools that assist in the study of the environment. The course will cover air pollution, the water cycle and environmental issues associated with water, hazardous substances, global warming, ozone depletion and acid rain. Each student will choose a specific topic to research and present to the class. There will be one field trip associated with the class.

Geographic Information System (GIS)

The course is an introduction to the concepts and application of geographic information systems and science (GIS). It is designed for students without former GIS experience. It focuses on the use of GIS for scientific inquiry and on its application for real-world problem solving. Different types of GIS spatial analysis are studied and applied such as suitability analysis, surface analysis and 3D analysis. Case studies from various environmental research domains are used as demonstrations. Each lesson is comprised of a theoretical introduction and of an exercise. The exercises include training on the ArcGIS® Desktop software package. The final project consists of designing and applying a GIS analysis model relevant to the student’s field of interest.

Click here to download the syllabus.

Hebrew for Students on the MASA Program

Taught by Liat Elman

In this course we will learn the basics of the Hebrew language; the Hebrew alphabet, reading, writing, conversation vocabulary, useful expressions, slang and more… Class time will be used mainly to develop verbal communication skills in a present form. During the semester (according to the class leave) we’ll start learning past form.

We will explore aspects of the Jewish culture; holidays, customs, heritage. In addition we will get a taste of the Israeli folklore through music, art, humor, slang, food…

Independent Study

This seminar provides a framework for students interested in pursuing an independent research project while enrolled in the undergraduate program. Students are matched up with an academic advisor from the Arava Institute or elsewhere in the region whom they meet with on a weekly basis. Research should centered around work that can only be done in Israel, the Palestinian Authority, or Jordan, such as working with particular communities or dealing with a region-specific issue. All types of research are possible, whether they are scientifically or sociologically based. The seminar can also act as a support for research the student is currently undertaking at their home university. All students are required to write a research proposal, give an oral presentation at the end of the semester and write a final research paper.

It is expected that students undertaking the seminar have some prior experience in conducting research. Framework includes support in research design, research writing and presentation of results.

Offered spring semester.

Introduction to Environmental Science

This course is designed to give an overview of environmental science, focusing on global environmental issues. The course will look at past and present environmental issues and the chemical and physical tools that assist in the study of the environment.

The course will cover air pollution, the water cycle, and environmental issues associated with water, hazardous substances, global warming, ozone depletion, and acid rain. Each student will choose a specific topic to research and present to the class.

Click here to download the syllabus.

Introduction to Earth Science

This course will include introduction to Earth Sciences – Geology, Geomorphology and Climatology. The courses include exploring the connections between earth systems (Geosphere, Hydrosphere, Atmosphere and Biosphere) and the different aspects associated with the natural history of the Arava Valley. The course will include two one-day field trips.

Click here to download the syllabus.

Introduction to Ecology

This course teaches the basic terminology, principles and ideas of ecology while also covering history of the science, its evolution and links to other sciences. Subsequent lectures will examine these ideas looking at different ecological scales: individuals, populations, communities and ecosystems. Human ecological issues will also be discussed where relevant within the framework of the course.

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Introduction to Environmental Ethics

This course provides an introductory survey of key issues and debates in contemporary environmental ethics and philosophy, introducing students to varieties of environmental thought in their philosophical and cultural contexts, and exploring the glossary and principles of the definition of ethics. We will read and discuss some central texts in environmentalism; compare and contrast schools of thought (such as deep and social ecology); explore the interaction of environmental, social and political issues; and clarify our own values and life choices surrounding these questions. Key topics include: animal liberation, environmental ethics in western and non-western religions, deep ecology, eco-feminism and social ecology.

Click here to download the syllabus.

Introduction to Environmental Policy

This course defines environmental problems and considers the roles of scientists, civil society, media and the policy-making community. Applying this knowledge to Israel’s land use policy, students examine how decisions are made in practice – for example, in the case of the proposed Solar Power facility in the Arava. The course then looks in depth at each type of environmental policy and how they have been implemented. Finally, we scale up to regional and international environmental policy and analyze how policy is made when multiple countries are involved and the environmental challenges vary by geography.

By its conclusion studies have a toolbox of policy options to address environmental challenges at the local, national, regional and global scale, including: planning, economic policies, command and control, and economic incentives and disincentives.

Click here to download the syllabus.

Introduction to Environmental Science

This course provides an overview of environmental science, focusing on past and present global environmental issues and the chemical and physical tools that assist in the study of the environment. The course covers air pollution, the water cycle and environmental issues associated with water, hazardous substances, global warming, ozone depletion and acid rain. Each student will choose a specific topic to research and present to the class. There will be one field trip associated with the class.

Click here to download the syllabus.

Introduction to Sustainable Agriculture

This course presents an overview of approaches to sustainable agriculture, comparing environmental impacts of sustainable agriculture to conventional agriculture. Subjects include crop diversity, smart breeding, permaculture, bio-intensive agriculture, large-scale organics, water-saving techniques, IPM and restoration ecology. Students complete essay questions in an open book exam, do a project of their choosing, take one field trip, and visit and evaluate crops in the experimental fields at Kibbutz Ketura.

Click here to download the syllabus.

Methodology & Research Seminar

This seminar provides a framework for students interested in pursuing an independent research project while enrolled in the undergraduate program. Students are matched up with an academic advisor from the Arava Institute or elsewhere in the region whom they meet with on a weekly basis. Research should centered around work that can only be done in Israel, the Palestinian Authority or Jordan, such as working with particular communities or dealing with a region-specific issue. All types of research are possible, whether they are scientifically or sociologically based. The seminar can also act as a support for research the student is currently undertaking at their home university. All students are required to write a research proposal, give an oral presentation at the end of the semester and write a final research paper.

It is expected that students undertaking the seminar have some prior experience in conducting research. Framework includes support in research design, research writing and presentation of results.

Click here to download the syllabus.

Peace-building Leadership Seminar

In line with the Arava Institute’s mission to generate capacity-building for conciliation and cooperation, all students and interns participate in a weekly Peace-building Leadership Seminar (PLS). In this seminar, students engage in dialogue exploring issues of culture, religion, identity, coexistence, and the current political situation, while developing competencies in intercultural understanding and empathy.

PLS builds on the conviction that the social and political relationships within and between groups in the region have a significant influence on environmental practices, public policies, and grassroots environmental activism. PLS takes advantage of the Arava Institute’s own community as a microcosm of the region, building the tools and understanding necessary to foster environmental sustainability, social justice, and respect in the broader society. Every student, no matter the country of origin, has the opportunity to contribute significantly to this ongoing dialogue.

PLS sessions take place weekly throughout the academic year, with each session addressing different aspects of the program’s learning objectives. PLS group activities and one-on-one discussion groups contribute to students’ developing a repertoire of respectful and consensus-building interactions. In addition, each semester, PLS welcomes guest speakers who bring a wealth of knowledge about current coexistence initiatives.

Click here to download the syllabus.

Society and Environment

This is an introductory course to the environmental social sciences. Students will acquire knowledge of central theories and approaches in the social sciences, and of their application to environmental issues. A special emphasis is given to the interaction between social structure, technology and ideology in shaping environmental changes and responses to them.

Click here to download the syllabus. Please note that the updated 2016 syllabus will be uploaded soon.

The Bible as a Key to Environmental Thought

This survey course will analyze the environmental dimensions and lessons of the book of Genesis and other books of the Bible, and at times from other traditions as well. Through the use of mostly contemporary commentators the text of the Bible will also be read as an environmental text. The course will also examine the scores of references to nature and the environment with an eye to asking how and why they are used in the biblical narratives. On another level the text also forces us to confront and explore our relationship with the environment. In addition the course will explore the prevailing universal themes of journey, exile, family dynamics, and personal growth with the understanding that our interaction with the environment can only be better understood if we understand ourselves better. At times this course will also look at the Biblical texts through a Conflict Resolution lens.

Water Management in the Middle East

This is a compulsory course during spring semester that introduces the major issues engaging efficient water management in the Middle East. The goal of the course is to provide students with an overview of the challenges facing policy makers and water experts in effectively managing these resources and negotiating over their equitable allocation.

As water scarcity is a reality in the region, it is critical to explore the ways and means for sustainable management of this resource in the face of growing demand and dwindling supply and the associated regional plans for water allocation among the countries of the region. By concentrating on the Jordan River Basin and associated groundwater resources students learn how these waters are managed and shared. Although the basin is shared by Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, the course will focus on the first three riparians. The course will include a field trip covering the Jordan River Watershed. A guest lecturer from the Palestinian Authority and a guest lecturer from Jordan will participate in the course.

Click here to download the syllabus.