Trips, technology, and trans-boundary tales

On Thursday May 3rd, AIES students had the opportunity to travel to the Dead Sea and meet 16  students from the University of Saskatchewan’s Edwards School of Business. The Saskatchewan students are part of a special course entitled Mining and Entrepreneurship in Israel and Jordan – An International Tour.  The Dead Sea Works factory produces 3.7 million tons of potash every year, which was one of the driving points for their trip. Assaf Zohar, a guest lecturer of the Arava Institute and head of the Masters in Sustainability program at Trent University, initiated this partnership between the two groups. To read more about the Canadians’ ten day trip to the Middle East, feel free to check out their student blog at http://esbtour398.ca/.


The students and interns of AIES recently returned from a two day Dual Narratives PELS trip to Jerusalem. The group traveled to the area of Jerusalem and the West Bank in order to hear a large range of perspectives regarding environmental issues and the conflict in the region.

On the first day, students helped to collect 200 bags worth of garbage in Jabal Mukaber as part of an alumni clean-up day with local youth.  Afterwards they heard from two speakers working for Engineers Without Borders who told the group about upcoming projects involving biogas and cleaning up the polluted watershed in Kidron Valley. The group then headed to Silwan to meet with Rotem Moore, an Israeli who guided a trip around the heavily disputed neighborhood, and Doron Spillman and Eddie Aloni held a lecture/discussion section on the relevant issues. The tour finished at the home of a Silwan native, who related his personal experiences of living in an area of conflict. At the end of the long 12 hour day, Brian acted as DJ for a dance party to help students let off steam from the thought-provoking day.

The following day included a presentation on obstacles to peace from the Israeli perspective with Neil Lazarus, a discussion with a resident of the politically disputed town of Gilo, an in-depth conversation with Rabbi Shlomo Riskin from Efrat about the rabbi’s beliefs and his connection to the land, and an inspirational visit to the Max Rayne Hand in Hand Bilingual School, where Jewish and Arab students study together in both Hebrew and Arabic. After several sessions about the conflict, many students felt that this last component was essential to rekindling feelings of hope. To see Jewish, Muslim and Christian children laughing and interacting with each other in both Hebrew and Arabic brought a fresh view of the practical applications of their AIES PELS program.After a packed two days, the students came back fired up, confused, inspired, and with plenty of fodder for future conversations. Huge thanks to Michelle and Barbara for organizing the trip!!!
Cathie and I recently returned from two days of “Tech Camp” in Ramat Gan, which was organized and sponsored by the Hilary Clinton Foundation. The main goal of Tech Camp is to empower women through technology, so the program paired technologically savvy people with about 100 women from all over Israel to share ideas on how to bring low cost technology to their organizations. The Tech Camp participants discussed and worked on problems specific to their organizations, learned about effective storytelling and existing campaigns that use technology to empower women, and networked with other women from a variety of NGOs.
During the first week of May the Arava Institute held a conference to officially begin the European Union Trans-boundary Water Basin Management Program. Invited to the conference were our partners from the Office of Regional Cooperation (ORC) and partners on the project. Five Palestinian and five Jordanian partners came to participate in the conference, meet one another, and begin working meetings. In addition, the participants were invited to attend a student panel to hear students’ personal experiences of their time at AIES.
Recent achievements:
  • After several months of planning, Ben Gurion University approved the Arava Institute academic program as a minor in “Environment and Society”.  Starting this fall semester 2012 students can study one year at the Arava Institute, and the courses will serve as a minor (hativa) and will be officially part of their undergraduate program.
  • The Arava Institute was officially approved this month as a branch of the Foreign Ministry’s MASHAV program.  As a branch of MASHAV, the Arava Institute will be offering three or four courses every year in various topics related to sustainable development including water management, sustainable agriculture, and renewable energy to participants from developing countries around the world.  We were honored this week to host Mati Cohen from the Foreign ministry MASHAV program to kick off the Arava Institute’s new project.

Thank you to Brian Hoefgen and Tess Zinnes for your photos, and to Brian and Shannon for your updates!!

Miriam Sharton

Executive Director

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The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies

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D.N. Hevel Eilot 88840, Israel 
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