Director’s blog: Celebrating 25 years

The last month has been full of motion for me. After my trip to the COP26 together with Deputy Director Eliza Mayo in early November, I traveled to the United States to introduce myself to our supporters, and spread my vision for the future of the Arava Institute. From Boston, through Denver, Palo Alto, and Berkeley, to New York I met with great enthusiasm for our mission, and was able to successfully raise funds and further support for our work.

One of the highlights of my trip was meeting Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations. We discussed the potential for the Arava Institute’s involvement in UN activities on climate change and environment, leading to the decision that the Institute would apply to be an official UN observer organization.

Upon my return I jumped straight into ongoing preparations for our public 25th anniversary event on December 21st, in Jaffa. During the event, hosted by actress Keren Mor, we will celebrate the work and achievements of the Arava Institute with performances and blessings, and will present Dr. David Lehrer, Executive Director of the Institute for the past twenty years, with an award of appreciation for his work. Other appearances include Achinoam Nini, Mira Awad, Yossi Tzabari, and Minister Tamar Zandberg. Additional Arava Awards will be presented for their contributions to environmental and social justice to singer-activist Shaanan Street, politician-activist Dov Khenin, and the Palestinian organization Damour for Community Development, represented by Shaddad Atili and Ashraf al-Ajrami. I would be honored to welcome you at our celebration – tickets can be purchased here.

This event marks a high point that will allow us to look back on 25 years of transboundary environmental research and cooperation. It is now time to leverage our successes thus far, to widen the impact of our efforts in the region, with a focus on climate change and shared society, and to expand our academic program. As part of this strategy we have begun the process of establishing a new, larger campus, which will be built according to the latest LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards, and serve as a living lab for our students and interns. Our new campus will generate its own energy, desalinate its water, treat its wastewater, and include hydroponic and aquaponic gardens, giving its residents the opportunity to study and experience these sustainable technologies first-hand, and later implement them in their home communities.

This is just one example of implementation of our strategic vision to advance cross-border climate justice and resilience in conflict zones, regionally and globally, which of course reaches further into all of the Institute’s departments and activities, be it research, our long- and short-term academic programs, our alumni community, or the Track II Forum and its Center for Applied Environmental Diplomacy. I am excited to be leading the Institute into a new phase of cross-border environmental activity, and look forward to its development in the next 25 years.

Dr. Tareq Abu Hamed
Executive Director

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