Director’s Blog: April 2014

IMG_0067During the month of April the Arava Institute celebrated a number of spring holidays, including Passover, Easter and Earth Day. This month, the Arava Institute has also celebrated a number of Institutional triumphs including the largest semester in our history, a sold out Israel Ride for this coming November and a sold-out upcoming alumni conference in Madaba Jordan. April has also seen the successful hosting of the FAI Annual Public Forum and Board meeting as well as the second Annual North American Alumni Conference.  I had the opportunity to attended these events, spending the last 10 days in April in the US where I was hosted by the Friends of the Arava Institute (FAI).  I went to Boston, West Hartford, Philadelphia and Washington DC, meeting supporters of the Institute and sharing updates of our ongoing work.  Most of the time, I was accompanied by Dr. Gonen Sagy and Nairooz Kupti; two Arava Institute alumni. Gonen is the Director of the Arava Institute’s Youth Environmental Education Peace Initiative and Nairooz is one of the program’s youth leaders.  Gonen, Nairooz and I had the opportunity to speak to groups all down the east coast, culminating in the FAI Public Forum in Washington DC. The Public Forum was part of a two day annual Board meeting which was held for the second year in a row in DC.  The FAI Board meeting itself was attended by 30 Board members and FAI staff.  I want to thank the FAI staff and board members who helped facilitate a very successful trip.

While away from my desk, the day-to-day business of the Institute is orchestrated by an exceptional faculty and staff. One of those exceptional staff members, Yelena Galperina, my administrative intern, is unfortunately leaving us this week after six months of wonderful service.  Of Russian origin, Yelena, came to us by way of Boston where she grew up.  Yelena had experience working with international students and was able to apply those skills in her work at the institute.  Yelena has helped the Institute host  hundreds of visitors in the last six months as well as put together and edit the “Director’s Blog” each month.  She has been an invaluable assistant to me and I will miss her.  Please enjoy reading Yelena’s last AIES “Director’s Blog”.  David Lehrer

Arava Institute Water Trip

Water tripThe annual Arava Institute Water trip led by Dr. Clive Lipchin and sponsored by USAID took place April 1st through 3rd. The trip focused on a variety of water sources in the region including the Dead Sea, the Sea of Galilee, and Auja spring. Auja is a Palestinian village located in the Jordan Valley in the West Bank. On the first day the group of students and interns explored the ecological state of the Dead Sea and the industries and politics that impact it. One highlight was a tour of the Palestinian Salt Factory on the Dead Sea where students learned about the small, sustainable Palestinian business. The group spent the first night at EcoMe, an eco-village centered around co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians and sustainable living. In the village of Auja, students installed solar panels on the roof of a house and enjoyed a dip in the Auja Spring. The trip ended around the Galilee watershed with a water hike and a picnic lunch. Submitted by Aviva Gottesman and Yelena Galperina

Ecology of the Arava Sand Dunes Expedition

DSCN4326From April 8th through 11th, Dr. Elli Groner, Professor of the Ecology of the Arava organized a four days workshop on the Biodiversity of Samar sand dunes. Professor Uri Shanas, his Teaching Assistant,  Yael, and students from Haifa University joined Arava Institute students.  The students collected data and learned to identify, measure, and observe mammals, reptiles, beetles and spiders living in the Samar sand dunes. Included in these animals was the allusive sand viper Cerastes gasperettii, which was spotted once during the day and twice more during the night safari. Arava Institute and Haifa University students not only learned methodology of how to collect scientific information and learned about sand dunes, but they also enjoyed the interactions between the two education institutions. Submitted by Elli Groner

Dedication of the Grossman Family Student Lounge

DSCF0735On April 29th, the Arava Institute was honored to host Jerome and Susan Grossman, representatives of the Grossman Family estate along with representatives of JNF-USA for a special dedication of the student lounge. During the ceremony, students shared their studies at the Arava Institute. Students also discussed  heart-warming stories that highlighted the important role of the student lounge as a safe public space. The Arava Institute community greatly appreciates the Grossman Family Estate’s meaningful donation. The student lounge has been an anchor for student life fostering creative community interaction and stronger social bonds. It has also helps create a positive space for multicultural community at the Arava Institute that is vital to our collaborative work. Submitted by Eliza Mayo

Arava Institute Profile: Shmuel E. Willner

Shmuel Willner picResident Scholar, Shmuel Willner has been working at the Arava Institute since 2011. A native of Finland, Shmuel earned his M.Sc. degree in Economics and Business Administration from the Aalto University School of Economics. Before moving to Israel, Shmuel became involved with KKL-JNF Finland and continues to serve as the board member. He is passionate about researching environmental economics, energy strategy, and energy security. Shmuel’s past research projects included the Mediterranean Dead Sea Conveyance. Shmuel is now in the process of applying for PhD programs in Israel. In addition, Shmuel is a regular contributor to his Jpost blog, “From Green Finland to the Yellow Arava.” Submitted by Yelena Galperina






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The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies

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D.N. Hevel Eilot 88840, Israel 
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