Beginning of Spring 2024 semester

Last week we welcomed the 26 participants of the Spring 2024 semester to the Arava Institute campus in Kibbutz Ketura. With the ongoing war posing various challenges to our recruitment and admissions work, we are happy to be able to host this group of students and interns from Israel (including Jewish and Palestinian citizens), South Africa, the United States, Kenya, Morocco, and Germany. Together, they will study transboundary environmental cooperation, taking a variety of classes from the ecology of sand dunes and water management to cooperation over shared resources in times of conflict.

A central component of the academic program is the chance for community building outside the classroom. During the orientation week, participants visited Timna Park and the Eilat Birding Center, and went on hikes to explore the natural flora and fauna surrounding Kibbutz Ketura, beginning the process of studying the Arava region that will carry on throughout the semester in their classes and research projects.

Orientation week is also the kick-off for another key pillar of the Arava Institute’s program: cross-cultural exchange. Students and interns participated in community building exercises and participant led skill-sharing workshops, which will continue during the entire semester.

They also met in their first session of the Dialogue Forum, the semester-long seminar on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In order to accommodate the different make-up of this semester’s student body, the Dialogue Forum program has been modified to include a variety of narratives, so as to keep align with the program’s core values. Each week, students and interns will explore together through conversations, storytelling, films, and lectures the roots of the conflict, national identity, their own personal histories, and how to understand personal responsibility, privilege and power in the face of injustice, and violence in the modern Middle East.

Three new courses have been added to the Institute’s curriculum this semester. Dr. Miri Lavi-Newman will be introducing students to the field of Political Ecology through her class Changing the Intellectual Climate: Climate change as a social-political problem. By using the history, meanings and critical debate surrounding the term “Anthropocene”, as an entry point into the wider field, students will come away with not only a deeper understanding of major themes within political ecology, but also their own ability to critically assess major works within the field.

Alumna Dr. Rina Kedem has returned to the Institute to teach Conflict or Cooperation – the Politics and Economics of Trans-Border Environmental Issues. In Dr. Kedem’s class, students will examine the relationship between politics, economy and the environment, focusing on environmental conflicts and cooperation in Palestine/Israel, its bordering territories and the inherent tension that arises between nationalizing projects and sustainability.

Our final new course of the semester is Green Building & Socio-Economic Values with Dr. Elise Machline. In this class, students will gain knowledge on green building policies and practice from an international point of view, learning how to evaluate whether, as implemented, green building actually decreases energy consumption and thus greenhouse gas emissions.

We wish our students, interns, lecturers, and academic program staff a meaningful semester!

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