Director’s Blog: July 2015

The tragic news from Jerusalem and the West Bank this past week makes it difficult for me to write an optimistic introduction to a blog which is supposed to be about cooperation and hope in the Middle East. Instead I must send my condolences to the Dawabsheh family on the death of their 18 month old baby, Ali. We wish a speedy recovery to the Dawabsheh family, victims of terror, and to all those who were stabbed in the terrorist attack at the Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem. The current culture of violence, extremism, intolerance, incitement and hate in the Middle East will only lead to more deaths of innocent civilians, Israelis and Palestinians, young and old, religious and non-religious, members of this minority or that minority. When the leaders on all sides recognize that it is their responsibility to detoxify the public discourse and to lead the Middle East into an era of peaceful dialogue, cooperation, freedom and hope, such horrific incidents will become a thing of the past. This month’s blog is dedicated to a more hopeful future.

David Lehrer

My condolences to the Banki family for the loss of their daughter, 16 year old Shira Banki, who stood up bravely for freedom and dignity.  David Lehrer


Furrows in the Desert 5th graduationOn July 16th, 35 new farmers celebrated the completion of their intensive course at the 5th graduation of trainees of Furrows in the Desert in the town of Kaikor, Kenya and are now working in their own plots back home. Subsequently the second workshop for the members of the new Saint Isidor’s Turkana Farmers Association began, with a total number of 82 attendants for three full days. The aim is to strengthen their organization, to encourage more self discipline, to foster a team spirit, and to develop their sales and marketing skills. The hope is to multiply the number of families in Turkana, an arid region in northern Kenya, who produce enough for themselves and are able to sell the surplus.  This month we bid farewell to Gil Korati, our farm manager, and welcome Roy Kagan, his successor, accompanied by his wife Tiki. Abdullah Ovadia Domneik, one of our volunteers from South Sudan, is also going home to start farming there. Thanks to all who support this program!  Submitted by Albert Salvans


Regional Energy seminarOn July 14th, residents of the Hevel Eilot Regional Council, the southern most regional council before Eilat, gathered for a seminar on the topic of Energy. The event also marked the inauguration of the new auditorium in the renovated building of the Center for Regional Cooperation in Research and Development in the Fields of Science, Renewable Energy and Agriculture. The seminar consisted of a number of lectures on the newest aspects of energy research, a lively discussion led by Yossi Langotsky, on Israel’s natural gas reserves, a visit to the Capital Nature laboratory, a tour of the new 40 MW solar field at Kibbutz Ketura and the Off-Grid Technology Village at the Arava Institute. The seminar was a joint initiative of the Arava Institute, the Dead Sea & Arava Science Center, Eilat-Eilot Renewable Energy Initiative, the Hevel Eilot Regional Council, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, Capital Nature, Alga-Technologies, the Jewish National Fund, and the Jewish Federations of Canada-USA. One of the highlights of the event was a speech by Dr. Jürgen Kleinwächter from Tamera, Portugal, who spoke about energy storage in greenhouses. Dr. Kleinwächter later also visited the Arava Institute and specifically the Arava Center for Sustainable Development.  Submitted by Shirly Hackam  Ifrah.


CTWM Site VisitsThe CTWM team recently made two trips to greywater treatment sites for the USAID funded project ‘Mitigating Transboundary Wastewater Conflicts’ (MTWC) in the West Bank. Greywater is waste water produced from showers, bathroom sinks and in some cases, kitchen sinks.  The first visit was to Halhul near Hebron, to see a constructed wetland (CW) system installed in February. The system is working well and is currently providing treated water to irrigate an orchard. The homeowner is very satisfied with the system and with the additional water he has gained. Later the same day, the team visited a new Membrane Bio-reactor (MBR) system installed in a different household in Halhul. MBR is the newest technology for treating greywater and can treat up to 2.5 cubic meters of water per day. Representatives from the Crown Family Philanthropies joined CTWM for this visit. The next week, CTWM went to the Al Medina Club near Nablus, where an MBR system will be installed. The Director and an engineer from the House of Water & Environment, Palestinian partners on this project, also joined this site visit. The engineers worked together to finalize the plan for construction of the system at the club.  Submitted by Abby Lutman


Peres meetingOn July 5, members of the Public Council, alumni and staff of the Arava Institute were honored to meet privately with former Israeli President Shimon Peres at the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa.  In an enriching and insightful session, President Peres discussed his vision for the future of the region. Notably, he spoke about science as the one factor that advances the greater good for all without detracting from any, which is why the Peres Center, under his helm works to advance science and the environment in the Middle East as a means to promote peace and development.  In the many years of his activity, President Peres has worked, perhaps more than any other Israeli politician, to promote a vision of co-existence and cooperation in our region. The Arava Institute is proud to cooperate with the Peres Center in advancing this vision, most recently operating biogas trainings for a joint Israeli-Palestinian project.  Submitted by Eliza Mayo


Open Day Tel AvivJuly 2015 saw two successful AIES Open Days. On July 9th, an Open Day was held in Tel Aviv at the offices of Friends of the Earth Middle East. AIES staff met with Israeli, Palestinian, Ugandan and Armenian candidates. A second Open Day took place on the AIES Campus in Kibbutz Ketura on July 23rd with candidates from Israel and the US. This followed an earlier Ketura open day last May. The AIES team and candidates braved the heat, toured the Institute and met with the staff and interns. Recruitment efforts in Israel are overseen by the Middle East Recruitment Coordinator, Gili Brenner, and assisted by the alumni ambassadors. We would like to thank Friends of the Earth Middle East for their kind assistance.  Submitted by Gili Brenner



YEEPI Crowd FundingOur groundbreaking alumni initiative which creates ongoing partnerships between Arab and Jewish Israeli high schools is restarting this fall. These partnerships focus on a common goal – the health and protection of our shared environment.  By partnering Arab and Jewish school classes, the program aims to reduce tensions and conflict between Jewish and Arab Israeli students by addressing mutual environmental issues. Environmental education serves as a neutral ground and common, non-political interest to bring together open minds and build bridges between two often segregated segments of Israeli society.  The program has more schools wanting to participate than funding, so we are pleased to announce that during August, running up into the new school year, we are launching a crowd-funding campaign to help support this important process. In light of the recent racial tension in Israel, this program is now more important than ever with its unique approach to changing the religiously and ethnically segregated education system by helping teens to get to know each other and form meaningful bonds. Watch this blog and our Facebook page for the campaign launch! Submitted by Eliza Mayo


HannahI am 27 years old and grew up in Berlin, Germany. I came to Israel on a study/travel/volunteer/enjoyment trip after finishing high school and decided to move here immediately. I am a member of Kibbutz Lotan, Ketura’s neighbor and enjoy living there with my husband and our two small sons. For the past four years, I have slowly been working on acquiring a BA in Education in addition to working in various administrative and education related jobs and I hope to finish my degree next year. In my free time I like to bake, read and surf the internet. At the Arava Institute, I have replaced the Administrative and Development Interns as a permanent staff member; I have been enjoying discovering the many activities and aspects of the Institute, and am most excited to meet a new semester of international students in September. Submitted by Hannah Kadish


AIES_Emerrick headshot_Zemler-3994150714I am 22 years old and I will be finishing my MSc next year at the Institut Polytechnique LaSalle in Beauvais, France. I grew up in France, but lived in England as a child for five years. I came to the Arava Institute to discover a new country and culture, as well as to acquire new professional experience. I am interning at the Center for Hyper-Arid Socio-Ecology with Dr. Elli Groner as my supervisor; currently I am studying the influence of red paleosol units (a type of soil) on vegetation in wadis. In my free time, I enjoy sports and museum visits; I am also a sailing instructor.  Submitted by Emmeric Gourjon


The Arava Institute is pleased to report on an independent project that two of our alumni recently undertook to promote environmental education for teenage girls in the village of Rahme, a Bedouin village located just opposite Kibbutz Ketura, in Jordan. Earlier this summer, two of our alumni, Amjad Hijazen and Elena Juodisius, ran a workshop for 22 young women between the ages of 15 and 17 to raise their awareness of environmental issues and to inspire them to take on leadership roles. The two-day workshop took place at the Rahme Women’s Association and included discussions on current global and local environmental issues and presentation by the participants of possible solutions to some of the local problems they identified. At the end of the workshop, the group also examined how some of these solutions could be implemented on a small-scale level by the girls in the near future. Plans for the continuation of the project include follow-up visits and advanced workshops, regular contact with the facilitators in Rahme and possibly an expansion of the project to members of the community. Submitted by Elena Juodisius

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