Director’s Blog: November 2015

This week, Israel lost two very important leaders. On a national level, we lost one of our great political leaders and our moral compass, Yossi Sarid, may his memory be a blessing.  I first met Yossi when he was a young upcoming politician in the Israeli Labor Party. My wife Barbara and I hosted him at our house in the early 80’s when he came down to speak in the area.  Yossi was one of the “Young mavericks from the Kfar Hayarok (Green Village)” a group of young politicians which also included, Avrum Burg, Yossi Beilin and Amir Peretz. Their dream was to overturn the old, labor dominated national institutions such as the Histadrut, the National Health Organizations and the Jewish Agency. To some extent they succeeded but Yossi became frustrated with the Labor Party and moved over to the further left party. As part of a coalition government with the Labor Party, Yossi Sarid served as Minister of the Environment and then as Minister of Education. Many on both the right and the left agree he was one of Israel’s best Ministers of Education. Yossi led his party into victory and then into defeat. Hard on himself as he was on others, Yossi immediately resigned after the elections accepting full responsibility for his party’s downfall. In politics, Yossi always spoke his mind and was a man of integrity. After retiring from politics, Yossi continued to be a voice of reason in a sea of insanity, through his weekly column in the newspaper Haaretz. They just don’t make politicians like Yossi anymore. יהיה זכרו ברוך

On a more personal level, the members of the staff of the Arava Institute and the entire Hevel Eilot community are in mourning over the loss of Marjorie (Gigi) Strom, blessed be her memory, a member of Kibbutz Samar, survived by her husband Ofer Ben Tovim and their children, Yael, Yotam and Avshalom. Gigi was the Scientific Editor for the Arava Institute from 2007 to 2014 when she left the Institute to become the director of the Southern Arava Research and Development station. Gigi first came to the Arava as a volunteer on Kibbutz Ketura. Barbara and I were her adopted kibbutz family while she was on Ketura. A few years later Gigi made Aliyah to Kibbutz Lotan, then married Ofer and moved to Kibbutz Samar. Gigi’s strong analytical mind helped the region make sense of the agricultural data gathered from the region’s date plantations and dairy farms. When Gigi joined the staff of the Arava Institute, she brought her rational thinking and superior writing skills to the Development Department, helping to make sense of the research concepts developed by the Institute and the Dead Sea and Arava Science Center’s scientists. Gigi was passionate about the work of the Institute and especially the cross border cooperation between Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians as exhibited by both our academic and research programs. Gigi’s first love, however was the agricultural branches of the Southern Arava, and when the opportunity arose to become the Director of the Southern Arava Research and Development Center at Yotvata, Gigi jumped at the chance with the full support of her colleagues at the Institute. Sadly, soon after Gigi’s became Director of the R&D Center, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer which finally took her life this week. Gigi was an amazing human being whose contributions to her family, her kibbutz, the Institute, research, the environment, agriculture and the community of Hevel Eilot will be deeply missed.  יהיה זכרה ברוך

David Lehrer

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