Director’s Blog: January 2014

I would like to begin my post by thanking all of the students, staff, and faculty that made the 2013 fall semester a wonderful learning experience for everyone. Looking forward to the 2014 spring and fall semesters, there are many new and exciting developments to report.

Student recruitment is on the rise. For the fall 2014 semester, we have set a goal of 50 students and 15 interns, which would fill up both the new Acacia dorms (the JNF dorms) and the older Argania dorms.

These students’ academic experiences will be enhanced by the numerous faculty and research advancements currently underway at the Institute. We are proud to introduce the Bley Stein Visiting Professorship program, which will enable the Arava Institute to annually host a leading academic in one of the fields of study at the Arava Institute.  With the support of a major JNF donor, the Arava Institute hopes to further enhance the Research and Visitors Park and to find a new director for the Center for Renewable Energy and Energy ConservationThe Center for Trans-boundary Water Management, led by Dr. Clive Lipchin and assisted by Dr. Shlomo Kimchi, will complete the instillation of off-the-grid greywater treatment and reuse systems in Israel, Palestine and Jordan. The next step will be to install gravitational drip irrigation systems, developed by Netafim, Israel’s leading irrigation company, which will enable agriculture in areas that lack electricity and infrastructure such as the Bedouin communities and Negev villages. In addition, the Center will be setting up monitoring and water analysis stations along the Besor River as a pilot for cross border cooperation on river clean up and restoration programs between Israel and Palestine. The Arava Center for Sustainable Development, directed by Dr. Shmuel Brenner, which is devoted to research, training and extension services in the developing world, is planning on implementing a first ever training program at the Arava Institute to prepare volunteers to work abroad in programs like Furrows in the Desert (see the article below) and other volunteer programs in the developing world.  The first participants in this program will be our own Arava Institute Spring Semester students.

Arava Institute alumni will also benefit from changes in the coming year. Thanks to a generous donation from a 2013 Israel Ride Alum, the Arava Institute will be able to hire a new Alumni Coordinator and to increase the attendance of the spring Alumni Conference by 50%; enabling 150 participants to join the annual event.  We will also see the convening of the second annual North American Arava Alumni Network in DC in parallel to the annual Friends of Arava board meeting and the first annual European Arava Alumni Conference in London this summer.  The United Kingdom will also be host to new fundraising efforts, including an event at the House of Lords. Other development undertakings include three events held by the Public Council for the Arava Institute in Israel. The Public Council, chaired by Ambassador Daniel Shek,  is looking to double its membership this year from 30 to 60 members and will implement the second Public Council Trip to Jordan and West Bank Palestine.   

Finally, the Israel Ride appears to be on track to exceed our recruitment goal of 170 riders this year, with already 120 riders signed up for the November 2014 ride.  Spaces are limited so sign-up today! David Lehrer

Yotvata salt flat seminar

Yotvata Salt Flat conferenceOn January 1st, the Arava Institute and the Dead Sea and Arava Science Center hosted a seminar on the Yotvata Salt Flat in Kibbutz Yotvata. Dr. Hanan Ginat made a presention about the geological aspects of the area and spoke of the cooperative educational project between Israel and Jordan. Roy Talby, an ecologist at the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) and an Arava Institute alumnus spoke about fauna and flora around the salt flat. Archeologist, Uzi Avner talked about the remains of different ancient civilizations that used to live in the region. Arava Institute’s Jordanian Program Associate, Asem Magableh gave the point of view of the salt flat from Jordan. Other speakers presented on environmental threats of the train plan and the red-dead canal on the salt flat. Afterwards, Dr. Hanan Ginat and Dr. Benny Shalmon lead a short tour of the Yotvata salt flat. The event had a very successful turnout of 120 participants who came from all over the Arava region and Eilat.   Submitted by Hagar Ben Shlomo


AIES Fall 2013 Final PartyIMG_1705

On January 14, the Fall semester Final Party, themed Arava in Wonderland, marked the end of the semester. The event took place in the brightly decorated student lounge where students arrived dressed as characters such as the Caterpillar, Alice, and Lewis Carroll. The evening began with games and laughter then moved on to the award ceremony where each student received their formal certificate of completion of a semester at the Arava Institute. In addition, the Campus Life Team presented their own humerous awards. The night ended in dancing as cheerful students and staff celebrated the end of a terrific semester. Submitted by Aviva Gottesman


Furrows in the Desert and Brit Olam Visit the Arava Institutephoto (5)

On January 21, the Arava Center for Sustainable Development, ACSD, Furrows in the Desert (FID), Amit Eliyahu and representatives from Brit Olam, the institute’s partner in the project in Africa, met to discuss the ongoing projects in Turkana, Kenya. FID teaches farmers in Turkana, Kenya how to be more sustainable. The training projects include land preparation, solar water pump technology, gravity fed irrigation system, as well as the basics of how to grow and harvest crops. While stationed in Turkana year round, the FID farm manager and volunteers continue to support the training of the farmers as they graduate from the FID training program and successfully  establish their own farms in Kenya. Submitted by Amit Eliyahu and Yelena Galperina 

Workshop on Sustainable Agriculture in Desert Regions

DSCF0368January 27-30, the Center for Transboundary Water Management held an international workshop on the definition of sustainable agriculture in arid regions. The workshop was part of a European Union Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) action, which brings together researchers from across Europe who collaborate on interdisciplinary problems, in this case, the question of water management in desert agriculture under various climate change scenarios. The workshop included field trips to examples of intensive and extensive agriculture in the region, including Dr. Elaine Solowey’s experimental orchard and a discussion on the meaning of “sustainability” in dry lands in developed and developing nations. The workshop was cosponsored by the Southern Arava Agricultural Research and Development Station at Kibbutz Yotvata and formed the first day of the R&D Station’s 50th anniversary. Submitted by Gigi Strom

Arava Institute Visiting Professor Profile: Thomas Henry Culhane

T.H.On January 12, the Arava Institute hosted a visit from T.H Culhane, Mercy College Visiting Faculty Researcher  and his students. As part of his class curriculum, “Psychology of Eco-Friendly Development” at Mercy College, T.H took his students to study abroad in Israel to explore the different environmental technologies and biogas systems. While living in Egypt, T.H founded  Solar CITIES, whose name stands for it’s mission: connecting community catalysts integrating  technologies for industrial ecological solutions.  T.H holds a PhD in Environmental Analysis and Policy in Urban Planning from UCLA.  T.H Culhane is a recipient of the National Geographic Emerging Explorer Award. After leaving Israel, T.H Culhane and Arava Institute alum, Yair Teller traveled to Brazil to build a biogas digestor in a school in Favela Nitaroi. Submitted by Yelena Galperina


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