Innovation and Sustainability: Showcasing the Arava Institute’s Fall Semester Interns’ Projects

The Arava Institute’s semester program includes both students and interns, whose research is often conducted off campus and thus less known by their peers. The recent Fall 2023 intern fair gave participants the opportunity to learn about the interns’ research and initiatives, reflecting the Institute’s mission of sustainability and cross-cultural collaboration. Communications intern Atman Errachid shares a sample of the interns’ presentations.

Dor Demirel: Preserving Bedouin Culture through the Land of Tents Project
Dor Demirel is leading an initiative called ‘The Land of Tents Project.’ This web based project aims to preserve and celebrate Bedouin culture, specifically in the area between Mitzpe Ramon and Sde Boker in the Northern Negev desert. The project is interdisciplinary, offering tourist experiences while simultaneously building a comprehensive database of Bedouin traditions. It is particularly timely, as it addresses several contemporary challenges. Amidst national tensions and the adverse effects of war, such as missile attacks, the Bedouin community finds itself at a crossroads (mainly due to their lack of shelters). This project seeks to preserve the cultural identity of the Bedouins, promote social cohesion, and provide educational insights into their unique practices.

The importance of the Land of Tents Project extends beyond mere cultural preservation. In a rapidly changing world, where external factors increasingly influence the younger generation, the project serves as a bridge to understand and integrate Bedouin culture with broader Israeli society. The openly accessible database serves as a search engine for tourist, and is also an educational resource, offering insights into and promoting Bedouin customs like tribal area markings in the desert, and their unique culinary practices.

Naomi Geri Naslavsky: Assessing Community Attitudes towards Climate Change
Naomi Geri Naslavsky’s work revolves around understanding local community attitudes toward climate change in the Southern Arava. This pre-survey will set the stage for a more extensive study as part of a US Government Middle East Regional Cooperation (MERC) grant. The project studies the health of Acacia trees, which are pivotal to the ecosystem on both sides of the Israeli-Jordanian border. The surveys aim to gather valuable data that will inform policy-making, and contribute significantly to regional environmental strategies.

The project is not only collecting data, it is also creating a foundation for informed decision-making. It engages local communities and helps them understand their perceptions of climate change to hopefully help draft more effective environmental policies. The pre-survey stage, which tests various questions for the final survey, is critical in ensuring the relevance and accuracy of the data collected.

Joshua Epstein: Enhancing Pollination and Natural Pest Control
Joshua Epstein is conducting a research project focused on implementing flower strips alongside orchards to boost pollinator activity and enhance natural pest control. This innovative approach was introduced during a trip to the research and development center, where he involved students in a simulation. Participants represented different elements of the ecosystem, such as farmers, wasps, dates, moths, and flowers, to visually demonstrate the interconnectedness of these components in agricultural systems.

The project aims to increase the efficiency of pollination in orchards, which is crucial for crop yields. By promoting natural pest control methods, it also reduces the reliance on chemical pesticides, encouraging a more sustainable and environmentally friendly approach to agriculture.

Eyas: Green Building Certification and Its Impact
Eyas’ project is centered around the impact of green building certification on housing costs. By utilizing Geographic Information Systems (GIS), he is mapping the ‘green premium’ in real estate across various Israeli municipalities. This research is part of a broader eco-district project focused on urban neighborhood planning and sustainable building methods, including those used during construction.

The significance of this research lies in its potential to guide urban development in a more sustainable direction. The project aims to provide a comparative analysis of green building standards between American and French laws, and how the Palestinian Authority deals with these standards. This comprehensive study aims to summarize findings, and proposes how to apply these planning methods in the city of Hebron. It suggests a neighborhood redesign that incorporates both sustainable practices and a deep understanding of local politics.

Floridalma Miguel Francisco: Investigating Onion Growth in Varied Conditions
Floridalma Miguel Francisco is studying the interactions between irrigation water salinity and nitrogen fertilization, focusing on the cultivation of onions. This study involves varying the concentrations of salinity and nitrogen in fertigation water, and observing the resultant differences in onion yields.

This project aims to develop fertigation protocols that increase salinity efficiency, which is particularly crucial in regions with limited freshwater resources, thus contributing to more sustainable agricultural practices by optimizing the use of available resources, and ensuring food security in challenging environmental conditions.

Atman Errachid: Aligning the Arava Institute with the UN SDGs
Atman Errachid is evaluating the Arava Institute’s activities’ alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This involves assessing and potentially enhancing the ways in which the Institute communicates its alignment with these goals both internally and externally.

This project is a vital contribution to the Institute’s mission of promoting sustainable practices and education, both within the Institute and to its broader audience.

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