Arava Institute for Environmental Studies https://arava.org a leading environmental and academic institution in the Middle East, working to advance cross-border environmental cooperation in the face of political conflict Fri, 14 Aug 2020 14:13:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.2 https://arava.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/cropped-AravaInstituteLogo1-32x32.jpgArava Institute for Environmental Studieshttps://arava.org 32 32 World Peace One Falafel at a Time – A New Non-Profithttps://arava.org/2020/08/world-peace-one-falafel-at-a-time-a-new-non-profit/ Thu, 13 Aug 2020 16:09:37 +0000 https://arava.org/?p=35719 by Lee Frankel-Goldwater and Zack Korenstein

We imagine a world in which peoples of all walks of life and political orientations can share a meal together in peace and harmony. We believe that by sharing a simple meal together boundaries can disappear, discussion becomes possible, and healing can begin. We are World Peace One Falafel at a Time, and we would like to share our story with you.

About 10 years ago in New York City, a group of Jewish and Palestinian Americans joined together at a local restaurant for dialogue around the Middle East conflict over plates of fresh falafel. After many conversations, press coverage, and inspiring moments we realized we had found something special. We had sown the seed of an idea that reignited as a 501c3 non-profit this past year. At the heart of our work is a gathering and conversation around a shared plate. For those amidst the Middle East conflict, falafel represents a common ground, it is shared memories though we may yet to have meet each other, it is a starting point for shared experience, it is a starting point for commonality.

Founded by two Arava Institute alumni and a mutual friend, World Peace One Falafel at a Time has started on a journey to support these depolarizing conversations around a shared plate of food. Our aim is not to have one such meeting of a thousand, but 100 meetings of 10, to support peace-building efforts by local activists and facilitators across the world. Inspired by our time at the Arava Institute, we believe that through our shared efforts as a community, anything is possible.

Already, five Arava Institute alumni from across North America and the Middle East have volunteered to learn the skills for holding One Falafel gatherings as our first group of facilitators. We are excited to support them in creating peace-building conversations around challenging topics in their local communities. We are fortunate to have developed incredible partnerships in support of this work as well, among them with the CU Boulder Dialogues Project and the Friends of the Arava Institute. Our goal is to create a network for action in support of peace and conflict resolution that knows no borders. Through these partnerships and our growing network we are learning how and taking action to do so.

We are honored to be Arava Institute alumni and to connect alumni together for this important mission. We would love to hear from you if you would like to get involved or have ideas to support our next steps. You can sign up with your email address here or visit our website to learn more.

Despite the pandemic which has impacted many of our lives, our nonprofit has made incredible strides. We are gearing up to have our first in-person gatherings when it is safe to do so and digital gatherings before then. In the midst of these trying political times, we believe this work is more important than ever.

Lee Frankel-Goldwater and Zack Korenstein are alumni of the Arava Institute from 2010 and 2000, respectively. Lee lives in Boulder, CO and is a PhD student at the University of Colorado, focusing on education and environmental governance. Zack lives in Brooklyn, NY and works in environmental health & safety consulting. They co-founded World Peace One Falafel at a Time in January 2020.

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COVID-19 Testing in Wastewaterhttps://arava.org/2020/08/covid-19-testing-in-wastewater/ Tue, 11 Aug 2020 13:49:11 +0000 https://arava.org/?p=35699 The Arava Institute is starting an exciting new research project to help fight the coronavirus. Dr. Clive Lipchin will lead a 12-month study to test wastewater in Bedouin villages for COVID-19.

Detection of the coronavirus in wastewater can help identify outbreaks early, isolate hot spots, and prevent the spread of disease. This can help officials know when to end lockdowns and when to reinstate them. It provides more efficient and useful data than individual testing, because wastewater reveals the virus levels of the entire community’s population, including asymptomatic carriers.

Researchers in the US, the Netherlands, and Israel are just starting to learn how to use wastewater COVID-19 testing to track the spread of the disease. However, those studies are focusing on large urban populations with centralized wastewater treatment.

The Arava Institute’s research will focus on off-grid Bedouin villages whose wastewater remains untreated or poorly treated, left flowing in the environment, or collecting in poorly managed cesspits—which may mean that residents are at a higher risk of COVID-19 infection.

This study will contribute to the greater scientific community’s understanding of how this viral disease spreads in remote areas. It will also benefit these vulnerable Bedouin populations by guiding the public health response and translating research findings into evidence-based policies, with the help of focus groups in the communities and local public health experts.

“With this research, we aim to help these higher-risk populations and increase regional cooperation,” says Dr. Lipchin, Director of the Center for Transboundary Water Management at the Arava Institute. “Our existing wastewater management projects and partnerships in these Bedouin villages have positioned this new initiative for success.”

This project has been funded by a generous Jewish National Fund (USA) donor.

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Anti-Annexation Camp – Alumni Activismhttps://arava.org/2020/07/anti-annexation-camp-alumni-activism/ Mon, 13 Jul 2020 19:23:56 +0000 https://arava.org/?p=35550
poster reading
photo by: Shosh Weiner

During the Spring 2020 semester, Arava Institute students and interns experienced lock-down together during the most intense months of the coronavirus pandemic between March and June of this year. Since campus life activities had to be limited and adjusted due to social distancing requirements and facilitators’ travel limitations, we had to find creative ways to connect, and educate each other about the Palestinian and Israeli perspectives on the conflict. This included informal, self-facilitated dialogue circles, film screenings, and interactive events to commemorate Israeli Memorial Day and Nakba Day.

In early June, attention on campus centered on the impending annexation of the West Bank, a design of the so-called “Deal of the Century” presented to the region by US President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. In a community of Americans, Israelis, and Palestinians, the planned annexation could not be ignored. A few students created and facilitated a presentation to explain the Deal and discuss some of the expected outcomes. It was one of the most well-attended student-led presentations of the semester. Students and interns were mainly concerned by the lack of information provided by either the US or Israeli governments on what would happen on the ground, and how these leaders expected the lives of Palestinians and Israelis to change due to the annexation plan. By the end of this first meeting, a group of participants decided to abolish their plans for a post-semester camping trip to the Jordan River, and instead use the time leading up to the July 1st annexation deadline to make our views known to Israeli government and the public. We decided to camp in Jerusalem, in front of the Knesset.

Concurrently with final exams, projects, and moving out of the Institute campus, we drafted a statement of our stance on annexation, and began to connect with other activist organizations, including Women Wage Peace. Our stance is as follows:

  1. We oppose the annexation.
  2. The inequality and constant danger Palestinians have to deal with as a result of the occupation is unacceptable and has to change.
  3. Annexation will make a two state solution impossible and enlarge the security instability in the area.
  4. The effect on the Palestinians living in the to-be-annexed territory is not mentioned in the annexation plan.
  5. Palestinians are being treated as a political tool and not as human beings.
  6. We demand negotiations in any future decision that affects both people.

On June 15th, just five days after leaving the Institute, we met with Arava Institute alumni in Tel Aviv to discuss the motivations for and the logistics of launching a 10-day protest camp outside the Knesset. In addition to the six points listed above, our group established early on that the values of the camp would be demanding peace, encouraging dialogue, and promoting the humanity of all people.

Momentum picked up quickly as participants around the country developed informative materials, acquired necessary equipment and permits, wrote and distributed press releases, and forged connections with other organizations – all within six days.

event with Women Wage Peace
photo by: Yarden Schwartz

On June 21st, we established our camp in the Rose Garden with tents, laptops, and a fiery passion for change, ready to get to work. Over the course of the next 10 days, we met with public figures and Knesset members, hosted an event with Women Wage Peace, held workshops with activists of an older generation, and panel discussions/networking sessions with our peers in Peace Now, Hadash, Breaking the Silence, and other groups. We used these conversations to embody the values with which we established the camp. Among the groups also protesting in the Rose Garden was the Yesha Council, representing settler communities in the West Bank. Individuals from our camp and members of the Yesha Council engaged in respectful conversation on topics of human rights, striving for an open dialogue similar to what students and interns experience during the program at the Arava Institue.

alumni in white protesting with signs
photo by: Barak Talmor

On June 25th, ten of the camp’s participants took our message of justice to the streets of Jerusalem. Dressed in eye-catching white to represent peace, we silently carried signs through the market with slogans such as, “Annexation is a human rights violation” and “No to annexation, Yes to peace”. One participant read aloud an open letter to the Israeli public, written by a Palestinian friend. In the letter, the writer speaks beyond leaders of either government to the heart of all people, calling attention to the need for freedom in order to pursue dreams and secure a better life for the next generation on both sides. “I am a human who hates no one”, he says, “I only fight against the occupational powers not against individuals”.

MK Iman Khatib-Yasin signing Knesset members bingo card
photo by: Barak Talmor

Another highlight of the 10-day experience was the attention given by the media and by Knesset members. Camp representatives gave interviews for Galatz radio, Channel 12, and Knesset TV, and the camp was mentioned in an article about annexation protests in Ha’aretz. We made a special effort to attract members of the Knesset to the camp for dialogue, whether they supported annexation or not. Throughout the 10 days several Knesset members visited and spoke with participants, who checked off their names on a large sign resembling a Bingo scorecard: Iman Khatib-Yasin, Ayman Odeh, Sondos Saleh, Orly Fruman, Tamar Zandberg, Boaz Toporovsky, Yair Golan; and former MKs Mossi Raz and Dov Khenin.

It is mid-July, and annexation on-the-ground is still hard to understand or monitor. Camp participants are maintaining communications and adapting to design sustainable activism in the ongoing cause for peace and justice in the region. Projects include film screenings and a blog, aimed at exposing both Israelis and Palestinians to anecdotes from the other side in order to promote compassion and values of human rights. Though the status quo is not supportive, neither with words nor funding, our group remains motivated; we are part of a generation that refuses the trap of hatred and oppression, and instead insists on cooperation.

Submitted by Amelia Liberatore

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Letter to KKL: Eviction of the Sumarin family from their homehttps://arava.org/2020/06/letter-to-kkl-eviction-of-the-sumarin-family-from-their-home/ Sun, 28 Jun 2020 11:58:07 +0000 https://arava.org/?p=35465

Since 1996 the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies has brought over 1,000 Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian, and international students together on its Kibbutz Ketura campus, where they have been provided with the tools needed to learn to live and to work with each other. We expect our graduates to take the message of environmental cooperation beyond the academic framework into the field, and put what we teach into action. Therefore, we join together with our alumni in this request that the eviction of the Sumarin family cease.

The Sumarin Family has faced decades of legal harassment by Himnuta, a Keren Kayemet LeYisrael (KKL) subsidiary, in an attempt to remove them from their home in Silwan, in concert with the Ir David Foundation (Elad). These three bodies are working together in an attempt to evict the Sumarin family from the place that has been their home for over thirty years, through an unjust and discriminatory application of the ‘Absentee Property Law’. The Israeli government has acknowledged that the ‘Absentee Property Law’ had been abused in many cases, and promised to refrain from using it in this way, but it is being used against the Sumarin family.

As an Institute dedicated to advancing environmental cooperation and dialogue in the region, we believe that, through its subsidiary Himanuta, KKL is advancing a political agenda contrary to what we believe should be the core purpose and mission of Keren Kayemet. Using force against this family stands in opposition to Jewish and humanitarian values. Jewish tradition gives powerful voice to these values. As Rabbi Jack Cohen taught, “The miracle of Sinai was that human beings came together to found a society not based on exploitation, but based on justice and taking care of the vulnerable.”

Israel faces many real, serious and difficult challenges at this time. If Israel is to fulfill the vision of Israel as a democratic State influenced by the best of Jewish values, then when it comes to the situation in Silwan we call on the KKL and Himanuta to cease legal proceedings against the Sumarin family, and reach a solution which will let the family continue to live in their home.

David Lehrer
Executive Director
Arava Institute for Environmental Studies

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End of Spring 2020 semesterhttps://arava.org/2020/06/end-of-spring-2020-semester/ Thu, 18 Jun 2020 09:09:33 +0000 https://arava.org/?p=35432
group of women in the desert, seen from behind raising their arms to the sky
photo by: Victoria A. Zieminski

Last week we said goodbye to the students and interns of the Spring 2020 semester, our ‘covid cohort’. The 57 participants from Palestine, Jordan, Israel, the United States, Ireland, Kenya, France, and Canada remained on campus together for almost two months of full shut-down without visits home, travel, or even walks to the grocery store. They were considered a ‘household unit’, and continued living together while taking online classes and participating in many peer-led community activities either online or in small groups.

While all our alumni are brave at breaking down boundaries, deeply listening, learning, and sharing together of their politics, cultures, and hearts, this semester also braved the uncertainty of a global pandemic together, far from their families and communities of origin. Their unique journey is perhaps best expressed through these excerpts of the poetic speech held by a Palestinian and an Israeli-American student at their graduation ceremony:

We did it!! Asinoo et ze! Khalasna!

We are honored to have this moment and be able to tell you how much you mean to us. So, listen closely.

You are too beautiful. You return the purple to my face, telling me: how dare you remain indoors as the sun sets, remember another day.

Your curiosity is infectious, through you I learned how much I don’t yet know.

You blew me away, teaching me about ethnic cleansing, Jewish history, and trust all in the same sentence.

You taught me that people are innately good, and your words penetrated beyond my soul. Thank you, I needed it.

You didn’t give me a moment to forget what inspires me, you manage fire with expert hands, I look to my future with hunger thanks to you.

You didn’t have much delicious food, but you pushed me to look at things a new way, to combine what was there already into excellence on my plate

You let me down, I know you could have done better.

The journey you took me on made me see the unseen and do the unexpected. You showed me the good we share as Palestinians, and that life can be so joyful.

You challenged my communication and my opinions, you left me vibrating with thoughts for days. Thank God we had facilitators, each other, and ourselves.

My Israeli hippie friends, I wish that you’ll change others the way you changed me. I am blessed for the time we spent, for your positive, loving humanity.

You held my whole body when I cried that one time, maybe two times. I’m better for knowing you.

You reminded me how language is the window into who we are, never missing the beauty of a word, inspiring me to do the same.

You sang me out of oblivion. You made me dance for real.

My housemate, with the food and the smoke, I love you so much. You don’t know how much I’ll miss you when you are far.

You made me laugh my absolute ass off, you have a talent for light.

You showed me how much life there is in the soil that I don’t even know about.

Walla, you didn’t say much with words, but your presence made me safe, made me feel family around me.

You fixed everything, you answered each question, you made it all so much better, it wouldn’t have happened without you.

You insisted on understanding, and you asked what the rest of us were afraid to.

What you cooked was so full of love, though I can never get full enough!

You made me unlearn, question, and find my own voice again.

Your presence made me wonder, why it took me so long to come here.

[…]

They say that a liberal arts education teaches people how to think. But I think it mostly teaches you how to listen — in your classes and in your readings, in your meetings and PLS sessions, both face to face and through Zoom lectures, you’ve been listening. You’ve listened to your professors, facilitators and to your peers. And from listening, questioning is born: What do we owe ourselves, and what do we owe others? What is the nature of the universe, and what is our role in it? How best might we alleviate the suffering we see around us and also inside ourselves?

You learned about these questions at the Machon [Hebrew: Institute], but you won’t leave them here. And while making your voice heard on those questions is vital, you’ve also learned here that your voice gets stronger the more that you listen — not just listening to loud voices, but also to those that are hard to hear because they have been systematically silenced.

[…]

This  group is home to those who know that we can’t confront systemic problems alone: occupation, racism, climate change, we are lucky to see partners in this fight all around this place. You made the Machon in these last months. But, it’s not a blank slate. It is something breathing and growing; it has a history: we now belong to this family without question. We have long lost relatives that have walked from the dining hall to the campus since 1996. And we were not alone. The staff and the faculty continued to keep this place running furiously even where every other place of study was closed.

[…]

To all of the students and interns, to the entire Machon, you are the community that held us up for months. You allowed us space to take the picture in our heads of justice and of change and bring it out into the world. Thank you for this incredible start. Till we meet again.

We salute the Spring 2020 ‘covid cohort’! May they go on to do great things and bring the change the world needs now.

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COVID-19: Research updateshttps://arava.org/2020/05/covid-19-research-updates/ Sun, 31 May 2020 10:16:26 +0000 https://arava.org/?p=35332

The Arava Institute has maintained a relatively high level of activity in our research centers and other departments throughout the pandemic. Here is a quick rundown of the progress made over the past few months:

  • Center for Transboundary Water Management (CTWM) – In the middle of the crisis, CTWM managed to install a second Vertical Green Wall Wastewater Treatment and Reuse System in Um Battin outside of Beer Sheva. In addition, Dr. Clive Lipchin is now exploring the possibility of testing sewage water to measure the level of COVID-19 infection in a community before members of the community are symptomatic.
  • Center for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) – Having suffered major damage from a number of extreme storms during the spring, the team has been working hard to fix the damage, finish the work on The Shelter Garden for Endangered Desert Flora, in honor of Sonia Twite, and replace dead Argan trees with new saplings. Students have been voluntarily coming down to the experimental orchard to plant trees and help with the repair work.
  • Center for Renewable Energy & Energy Conservation (CREEC) – Dr. Tareq Abu Hamed has been working with partners at the Dead Sea Arava Science Center and the University of Arizona to develop a proposal for an initiative called Agrovoltaics, which looks at the efficacy of growing plants in shade created by solar panels in open fields. This is an area which the University of Arizona has been studying for years; there is now an agreement to run a pilot research project in the Arava. The research will be funded by the new JNF Joint Institute for Global Food, Water and Energy Security.
  • Track II Environmental Forum – While the pandemic prevented face-to-face meetings with our Palestinian colleagues, the fact that we moved all meetings (and not some meetings as before) to Zoom created some efficiencies. We were able to move forward on a number of projects:
    • We are in the process of purchasing a second atmospheric water generator from Watergen, the Israeli company that supplied the first 800 liter a day unit to Abassan Al-Kabira. The second much larger unit, which produces 5,000 liters a day of drinking water, will be delivered to the second largest hospital in Gaza City.
    • The Arava Institute placed the order for a neighborhood mobile wastewater treatment system with a Palestinian company, PalSolar, which is having the system built in Turkey and will then be brought to Abassan Al-Kabira, Gaza, hopefully by June. The system will process about 100 cubic meters of sewage water per day (servicing about 1,000 people in the village) and the water will be sold by the municipality to local farmers for agricultural use.
    • The Charcoal Project team has identified a site in Taybe to run a pilot charcoal project test in order to make sure that the “green kiln” will meet Israeli emissions standards. The representatives of the Israeli Ministry of Environment have expressed support for the pilot and the Farmers Rights and Save the Environment Center in Yabed, Palestine, are full partners.
    • The Young Professionals Forum (YPF) has become especially active during this period when everyone is sheltering in place. Taking advantage of the shutdown, the YPF team has initiated weekly Zoom meetings for a very active and nationally diverse group of young professionals. The programs have included discussions, brainstorming, and capacity-building workshops. A number of Arava Institute alumni are active in this network.
    • Another recent Track II initiative began when the Israeli head of the Sha’ar HaNegev regional council, which borders Gaza, reached out to the Arava Institute asking us to help them implement their long-term strategy of building bridges and positive relations with their Palestinian neighbors. Understanding that neither population is going anywhere and that neither population will be able to flourish if their neighbors suffer, the council asked the Arava Institute to help them connect to residents in Gaza. We convened a meeting of the regional council staff and our Palestinian partners, Damour, and decided on a number of positive steps, which included a mask production project as an immediate response to the COVID-19 crisis and longer-term plans.
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Alumni reflections: Sharing, caring, learning, and dancing together – the unlikely effect of Coronavirushttps://arava.org/2020/05/alumni-reflections-sharing-caring-learning-and-dancing-together-the-unlikely-effect-of-coronavirus/ Mon, 25 May 2020 11:29:58 +0000 https://arava.org/?p=35269
group of alumni sitting in circle outdoors
Photo by: Marcos Schonholz

It is hard to conceive of many silver linings of the current pandemic. According to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center, as of Saturday, May 23, the coronavirus has infected over five million people and claimed over three hundred thousand lives worldwide. Like the majority of the world, confined in our homes in Amman, Tel Aviv, Ramallah, New York City, Johannesburg, Paris, and Santiago among many other cities, we, the Arava Institute’s alumni, turned to the internet to connect, share, care, and learn together, from each other, over a series of alumni-led Zoom sessions. Given the vast geographic spread of our community, organizing in-person meetups, which before this pandemic, would happen multiple times a year, was often both expensive and logistically arduous. Palestinians needed permits, and Jordanians required visas to enter Israeli territory, while our international alumni, primarily based in North America, were an expensive flight and many hours away, prompting us to divide alumni activities in between the US and the Middle East.

It is remarkable how this transition to this new virtual world came very naturally to us. Right as governments world-wide began issuing stay-at-home orders around mid-March, our alumni took initiative and organized regular weekly sessions, sometimes even multiple times a week. The topics of these sessions have reflected the very diverse and wide-ranging interests of our community. From learning creative storytelling techniques to developing GIS maps and applying them to understand environmental challenges to taking a deep dive into the world of sustainable fashion to sharing sound strategies of personal finance, learning Arabic, artistic- co-creation and even a virtual dance party, our list of topics is virtually unlimited and will continue to grow.

We realized, right from the start of it all, that as the world drastically changes around us, this will lead to accelerating fundamental changes to the nature and culture of work, education, and social relations. More and more people will work or study remotely, from home, a cafe or a co-working space, or even while laying down on the beach or sitting under a tree in the park. What makes our alumni community inherently adaptive to this profound transition is its small size and geographic spread. Many similar educational institutions have similarly vast geographic spread, but our small size, ethos, and raison d’être make us uniquely intimate, nimble, and able to reach out and include everyone who wants to take part in our activities.

This is certainly not to say that we aren’t eagerly looking forward to the day in which we could go back to organizing our in-person meetups. The virtual space, while it enables us to bridge distances and transcend political borders, is not a sufficient substitute for our physical intimate circles of learning and growth that we have built together over the years. But the silver lining of this impending seismic societal shift lies in our realization that – now we were forced to take nearly all of our lives online, even briefly – we have a tremendous opportunity to build upon and complement our physical meetups, in all corners of the globe, with more and more virtual follow-up discussions, study-sessions, and well, dance parties!

Submitted by Mohammad Azraq, 2010-11 alumnus

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Alumni network activities during the coronavirus crisis – an alumna’s viewhttps://arava.org/2020/05/alumni-network-activities-during-the-coronavirus-crisis-an-alumnas-view/ Sun, 24 May 2020 09:31:53 +0000 https://arava.org/?p=35244

Screenshot of alumni Zoom callAt the beginning of global lockdown/quarantine/stay at home orders, I, like many, reached out to my friends from afar, especially those from my semesters at the Institute. Finally, after four years, we had a good excuse to have a virtual reunion. Apparently there’s nothing like a pandemic to bring you closer to your friends and loved ones. I was not surprised to see that other Arava alumni had similar thoughts to connect with each other virtually. Nor can I say that I was shocked by the variety of offerings from our diverse alumni community. From yoga classes to storytelling workshops to a lecture about the Amazon rainforest to a four-hour alumni DJ-ed dance party, and so much more, we’ve got a lot to give, share, and teach. These Zoom workshops clearly show the collective pushback against social isolation by the Arava community. If this doesn’t encapsulate our strength, adaptability, and resiliency, I don’t know what does.

I was honored to be able to give a virtual lecture to the Arava community. I recently completed my master’s degree in Transboundary Water Governance and Diplomacy. My decision to go back to school to study transboundary water conflict and cooperation was a direct result of my year as an intern at the Institute’s Center for Transboundary Water Management. So it was doubly special for me to be able to share my master’s research with the community that inspired my studies in the first place. Everything comes full circle, doesn’t it?

These days, much of the world has been forced to find connection in different ways. Zoom calls don’t necessarily replace the intimacy of an in-person interaction, nor do they ease the anxieties of not knowing what the future holds. But for me, at least, they bring back a partial sense of normalcy, and remind me that there are still other important issues in the world that don’t have to do with COVID-19. Plus, how could you turn down a virtual dance party with all of your friends? I am so proud to be part of the global Arava alumni community, and our collective effort to connect with each other, if only through a screen, exemplifies just how strong and capable of greatness we are in the face of crisis.

Submitted by Jaclyn Best, 2015-16 alumna

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An open letter on annexation to Member of Knesset Benny Gantzhttps://arava.org/2020/05/an-open-letter-on-annexation-to-member-of-knesset-benny-gantz/ Thu, 14 May 2020 20:57:44 +0000 https://arava.org/?p=35169

Dear MK Gantz,

We are writing to you out of deep concern regarding the proposed annexation of parts of the West Bank. As environmental experts and veterans of cross-border environmental cooperation, we believe annexation of parts of the West Bank would have a grave impact on our ability to continue to safeguard Israel’s natural resources and our ability to strengthen Israel’s resilience in the face of climate change.

The Arava Institute’s alumni community includes more than 1,400 Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian, and international leaders who participated in our environmental study program on Kibbutz Ketura in the southern Arava. We promote sustainable solutions for food production, wastewater treatment, drinking water, and renewable energy in rural communities in the Negev, West Bank, Gaza, and southern Jordan. Our scientists have formed cross-border partnerships with their Jordanian and Palestinian colleagues, sharing data, collaborating on scientific studies, and building bridges of trust. We believe that annexation will imperil this critical work on both sides of the border, work that is undertaken by scientists, environmentalists, academics, and many others to promote peaceful cooperation in the face of conflict and impending environmental stress.

In recent years, with the launch of the Track II Environmental Forum, whose mission is to advance cross-border environmental agreements between Israel, the PA and Jordan, we have enlisted international diplomatic partners from the EU and the US, as well as international institutions such as Oxford University, in order to create a framework for cross-border environmental cooperation and peace-building. Through intifadas, wars, and rocket exchanges with Gaza, the Arava Institute has kept lit the flame of hope.

We at the Arava Institute fear that the new government’s current path towards annexation risks extinguishing the ability of the Arava Institute, and other peace-building organizations, to continue the critical work we carry out with our Palestinian and Jordanian partners. This work is not part of the right/left political spectrum, and it has been supported by Israeli governments over time; our constituency is the planet earth and the human beings who populate it.

We understand that Prime Minister Netanyahu has the votes to pass an annexation bill, even without support from Blue and White. This does not, however, absolve you from your responsibility for the consequences of such a vote. You led your party into this coalition; we urge you to do whatever you can to stop or slow down the annexation of parts of the West Bank, for the sake of peace through a Two-State Solution, and for the sake of the future of the State of Israel.

Sincerely,

Amb. Daniel Shek
Chair,
Public Council
Arava Institute

Prof. Eilon Adar
Chair,
Board of Directors
Arava Institute

Dr. Deborah Sandler
Chair,
Track II Environmental Forum
Arava Institute

David Lehrer
Executive Director,
Arava Institute

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Ramadan celebrations on campushttps://arava.org/2020/05/ramadan-celebrations-on-campus/ Tue, 12 May 2020 19:28:43 +0000 https://arava.org/?p=35160

traditional Iftar foodRamadan is an Islamic religious occasion that is practiced every year all over the world. It is considered the month of giving, and bonding with your family members, friends, and the poor who live in your community. Every year, Muslims from all over the world fast from sunrise until sunset as a way of practicing self-control over life essentials such as water, food, sexual interactions, and smoking, and to have a sense of understanding the struggles of the less fortunate, as well as encouraging charity.

Everyday at sunset, all family members gather to break their fast at the traditional Iftar meal at a table filled with all kinds of good food. Plates of food will go around the whole neighborhood from each household as a way of sharing.

This year due to the coronavirus crisis, when all those observing were unable to go home to be with their families, our small but diverse community on the Arava Institute campus decided to celebrate this holy month together – Muslims, Christians, and Jews. We began by organizing a “Ramadan information day” on campus the day before Ramadan. The day included six different stations; at each of them one or two Muslim students led an activity focusing on one aspect of Ramadan – traditions, tables, religious backgrounds, etc. – while the other students moved between the stations in small groups to adhere to current social distancing guidelines. The following day, many participants on campus joined the fast, and the last hours before Iftar were spent cooking, laughing, and setting tables together for previously assigned small groups. The atmosphere was very familial and cozy, and a lot of traditional Arabic dishes and desserts were cooked; smiles and laughs were shared everywhere. It was the most memorable Ramadan we had experienced so far. Ramadan Kareem to all humanity all over the world, may God bless us all in this holy month of love and forgiveness.

Submitted by Beesan Jamoos

Also: Read about this spring’s Passover and Easter celebrations on the Arava Institute campus

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