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 Sun, 24 May 2020 10:34:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3.3 https://arava.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/cropped-AravaInstituteLogo1-32x32.jpgArava Institute for Environmental Studieshttps://arava.org 32 32 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 At 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 […]

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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 […]

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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 Ramadan 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 […]

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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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Easter celebrations on campus during the coronavirus crisishttps://arava.org/2020/04/easter-celebrations-on-campus-during-the-coronavirus-crisis/ Mon, 13 Apr 2020 19:55:29 +0000 https://arava.org/?p=35050 The Easter festivities on the Arava Institute campus were put together by some of the Christian students who introduced some of their familial traditions, and taught the history of the holiday. Activities were organized in a rotation in small groups to respect the current social distancing guidelines in Israel. There were three Easter themed stations. […]

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The Easter festivities on the Arava Institute campus were put together by some of the Christian students who introduced some of their familial traditions, and taught the history of the holiday. Activities were organized in a rotation in small groups to respect the current social distancing guidelines in Israel.

There were three Easter themed stations. The first station was to create Resurrection Rolls, a croissant-type pastry with a marshmallow inside. The pastry represents the tomb and the marshmallow represents Jesus, and when baked, the marshmallow disappears just as Jesus did in the tomb.

The second station was painting and dying eggs. Some eggs were hard boiled, while some had been blown out to remove the egg from the shell, and all were painted or dyed in the classic Easter tradition.

The third station was a talk on the history of Easter and the meanings behind the current traditions. From the Easter bunny and chocolate to the story of Jesus Christ, this talk gave those who do not celebrate Easter an understanding of the holiday. To top off the night students went on three separate Easter egg hunts.

After the event was over people responded very positively to the activities which they dubbed “very fun!”. In a time of uncertainty and distancing, it was wonderful to bring people together in small groups to learn something they might not have independently, and also just have some fun.

Submitted by Victoria A. Zieminski

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

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Passover celebrations in the midst of the coronavirus – a student viewhttps://arava.org/2020/04/passover-celebrations-in-the-midst-of-the-coronavirus-a-student-view/ Mon, 13 Apr 2020 19:46:55 +0000 https://arava.org/?p=35045 Passover celebrations all across the Jewish world this year looked radically different than anything we have seen before, this goes without saying. Already, dozens of pictures are flooding social media showing how families and communities adapted their customs to the rules of ‘social distancing.’ In this way, the Arava Institute was no different; the entire […]

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Passover celebrations all across the Jewish world this year looked radically different than anything we have seen before, this goes without saying. Already, dozens of pictures are flooding social media showing how families and communities adapted their customs to the rules of ‘social distancing.’ In this way, the Arava Institute was no different; the entire community overcame countless obstacles to celebrate Passover in the most meaningful way possible. For much of the Jewish world this spring, Passover, the holiday that epitomizes freedom in the Jewish narrative, is a story of finding freedom despite isolation. At the Arava Institute this spring, however, Passover is a story of celebrating our community and being together.

Under normal circumstances, Passover break is a time where participants in the program have an opportunity to split up, travel, and experience the holiday individually. The campus is usually closer to empty, and those who choose not to travel get to participate in a Seder prepared by the members of Kibbutz Ketura. On the eve of Seder this year, in contrast, our campus was more alive than it has ever felt.

Due to the national and kibbutz coronavirus restrictions, the entire Arava Institute community of sixty would have to be on the Kibbutz over the holiday. Gathering in groups larger than ten people to celebrate, however, was forbidden. Rather than letting these rules limit the possibilities, the Arava Institute family came up with creative ways to work with the restrictions as guidelines for a new, unprecedented Passover experience. A group of over a dozen campus leaders rose to the occasion and volunteered to ‘host’ six unique Seders. Through an amazing amount of work and preparation, the hosts each designed a unique flavor for their Passover Seder; and they coordinated resources from the kibbutz through the dedicated campus life team and program administrators.

As the sun rose over Jordan’s red and brown mountains on the day of the seder, the atmosphere of a holiday was palpable. Most people slept in extra late because of the break from classes and the long night ahead of them. By noon, every residential unit had several cultural dishes sizzling and stirring for the evening. At a certain hour of the afternoon, a hush fell over the Arava Institute as dozens of students and interns all made phone calls home to a score of different countries, connecting with the people that they perhaps had planned on seeing this week. Despite being separated from home, however, there was an intense feeling of gratitude among everyone that the Arava Institute would be together for this holiday and not involuntarily spread out across the world as was the reality for so many.

In a matter of minutes as the sun set, tables unfolded, tablecloths spread, and every last reserve of wine appeared. Residential units transformed into the most formal dining halls, decorated with bouquets of fresh desert flowers and laid with a diversity of cuisines. Institute participants all dressed in beautiful holiday outfits (many upcycled from second-hand fabrics) gathered into ‘families’ of ten or fewer. Mizrachi customs, political discussions about freedom, and spiritual meditations all took place simultaneously in six different corners of campus. The diversity of styles at the Seder tables allowed space for all of the members of the community, no matter their background, to have a rich, fulfilling, and fun night. Even the participants who had never experienced a Jewish holiday before this semester felt comfortable contributing and participating in their Seders. For hours under the full moon, the Arava Institute campus rang with a hundred songs about springtime and freedom. It was the kind of Seder eve where everyone forgot where the Afikoman was hidden but didn’t care since nobody wanted the night to end.

Submitted by Shmuel Berman

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

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COVID-19 Messagehttps://arava.org/2020/03/covid-19-message/ Thu, 19 Mar 2020 19:00:40 +0000 https://arava.org/?p=34901 Firstly, we hope you and your families are safe and secure. As the impact of the novel coronavirus unfolds, we are grappling with the impact that this virus has on all of us. We recognize that this global crisis has generated uncertainty and insecurity for everyone. Here in Israel, we have benefited from our location […]

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Firstly, we hope you and your families are safe and secure. As the impact of the novel coronavirus unfolds, we are grappling with the impact that this virus has on all of us. We recognize that this global crisis has generated uncertainty and insecurity for everyone.

Here in Israel, we have benefited from our location and isolation on Kibbutz Ketura, in a relatively thinly populated part of the country in southern Israel. However, we are still taking all of the necessary precautions and following the regulations instituted by the Israeli government. People are not eating together in the dining hall, no gatherings of more than ten are permitted, and visitors are not permitted.

The Arava Institute is committed to allowing our students to complete their semester. We are moving all of its classes to remote learning, which students may participate in on campus or at home. At this point, student travel, and largely all kibbutz travel, has been curtailed.

At the Friends of the Arava Institute office in Boston, we have postponed in-person meetings and programs scheduled over the next 6 weeks. That said, we are accessible over phone and email and Zoom. Once the situation is calmer for all of us, and we have settled into a ‘new normal,’ we plan to offer video briefings. We know that isolation is another dangerous byproduct of this pandemic. We hope to keep in touch through social media and personal outreach.

At this time of pandemic and concern, we wish you and your families continued well-being. We thank you for your thoughtful partnership and support. Please feel free to be in touch with us, and we send you our best wishes for your health and safety.

We will post more updates throughout the crisis. For now, check out this article for insight on the impact of the novel coronavirus in Israel and Palestine, quoting Arava Institute Executive Director David Lehrer.

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Climate Stress and Regional Riskshttps://arava.org/2020/03/climate-stress-and-regional-risks/ Wed, 18 Mar 2020 14:05:59 +0000 https://arava.org/?p=34893 On Thursday, March 5th, in the shadow of the ever growing global and regional COVID 19 Coronavirus crisis, the Arava Institute, in partnership with Oxford University, the European Union and our Palestinian colleagues, convened a conference on Climate Stress and Regional Risks: The Jordan River Basin in memory of Dr. Noam Segal. Noam was an […]

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On Thursday, March 5th, in the shadow of the ever growing global and regional COVID 19 Coronavirus crisis, the Arava Institute, in partnership with Oxford University, the European Union and our Palestinian colleagues, convened a conference on Climate Stress and Regional Risks: The Jordan River Basin in memory of Dr. Noam Segal. Noam was an Arava Institute alum and research colleague who sadly passed away last year from cancer. Noam initiated a study at Oxford University to examine the nexus between water and energy in the Jordan River Basin, in order to mitigate the impact of climate change by optimizing natural resource use and infrastructure. Over 80 Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian and international stakeholders met at the Jaffa Theatre to discuss the impact of climate change on the Jordan River Basin and strategies for regional cooperation to confront the crisis. Water, energy and climate experts discussed the risks the region faces. As a global climate hotspot, the rise in average temperatures in our region is expected to exceed average global temperature increase, the drop in precipitation will increase water scarcity in the region, and the demand for energy to cool our houses and provide desalinated drinking water will accelerate. Climate change will not only impact water and energy resources but also commodities dependent on those resources such as food production and public goods like public health. The Syrian civil war, the uprising in Lebanon, the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the influx of refugees into water-stressed Jordan all signal that we are facing a regional crisis which cannot be solved by each individual country on their own. Israel may be able to mitigate some of the impacts of climate change through its technological creativity but in the long-run, if the countries surrounding Israel collapse, Israel too will face potentially devastating challenges from the deterioration of shared resources, the flood of desperate refugees looking for food and water, and the threat of epidemics which know no borders.

Photo by: Benny Gamzo

Throughout the day, as experts discussed the growing threat to the planet and to the region from climate change, the audience continued to receive the latest updates on the spread of the novel coronavirus, and reactions of governments around the world, as well as here in the region. While there seems to be a great deal of uncertainty, confusion and anxiety, it is very clear that COVID 19 is a global threat requiring drastic and coordinated action between countries around the world. The threat to humanity of an average increase in global temperature above 2 degrees centigrade is far more devastating than the coronavirus. In order to stop the existential threat to the human race from climate change, a coordinated effort on a global scale must be implemented, in many ways, mirroring the efforts being made by nations, acting responsibly and in concert to stop the spread of this novel virus. This may be a dry run for how the world can take on climate change. Our success in beating this virus may give us the faith we need, in ourselves, to do what needs to be done for humanity to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

David Lehrer, Executive Director

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Track II Young Professionals Forum meeting in Cyprushttps://arava.org/2020/03/track-ii-young-professionals-forum-meeting-in-cyprus/ Mon, 09 Mar 2020 10:51:14 +0000 https://arava.org/?p=34782 After numerous local meetings, fostering and creating a strong network of Young Professionals from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, the Track II Young Professionals (YPF) forum convened a regional meeting at the end of January in Nicosia, Cyprus, to broaden its circles of engagement. The YPF network, funded by the European Union […]

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After numerous local meetings, fostering and creating a strong network of Young Professionals from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, the Track II Young Professionals (YPF) forum convened a regional meeting at the end of January in Nicosia, Cyprus, to broaden its circles of engagement.

The YPF network, funded by the European Union and the US Embassy to Israel, with its approximately 40 committed participants, active in diverse fields, who have met more than 8 times for various workshops or community building projects, presents an invaluable opportunity to now move into a collaborative project ideation and implementation phase.

This workshop brought together approximately 30 emerging environmental leaders from Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and other MENA countries, to learn effective tools and strategies in environmental advocacy in support of regional integration.

The workshop focused on the regional approaches to advocacy skills, in an attempt to explore in-depth the relationship between environmental advocacy projects on the ground and the promotion of regional policy development. This workshop was a continuation of the previous YPF regional gathering held in Jordan in late 2019, in which the above needs arose.

Regional experts from Turkey, Palestine, and Israel using their extensive experiences to provide critical exposure to the interconnected environmental challenges currently facing the eastern Mediterranean region conducted the workshop. Participants studied and analyzed case studies, engage in hands-on group exercises and explored ways to leverage their collective expertise to overcome barriers to communication, build and strengthen their professional network to move their career forward.

The next step for the Forum is engagement with regional actors to design and implement cross-border initiatives across the Middle East and North Africa. We will do so by employing the regional and international advocacy tools required to accomplish this, and by recognizing the need to promote specific policies for a broader impact.

The participants of the YPF have direct experience with the immense challenges facing cross-border cooperation in the region. Nevertheless, they have made a commitment to continue and further develop this process, in belief that our commonalities are greater than our differences, and that we must work together to create a positive change on the ground.

Submitted by Dagan Ben Zvi

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Saul Pilchen on why he honored his parents at the Arava Institutehttps://arava.org/2020/02/saul-pilchen-on-why-he-honored-his-parents-at-the-arava-institute/ Wed, 19 Feb 2020 15:28:40 +0000 https://arava.org/?p=34585 Saul Pilchen is a donor to the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies (AIES) and a two-time Israel Rider. He and his family recently chose to memorialize his parents with a gift to the Arava Institute for the Biblical & Ancient Date Grove Visitors Center and Greenhouse. During the 2019 Israel Ride, the dedication was held […]

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Saul Pilchen is a donor to the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies (AIES) and a two-time Israel Rider. He and his family recently chose to memorialize his parents with a gift to the Arava Institute for the Biblical & Ancient Date Grove Visitors Center and Greenhouse. During the 2019 Israel Ride, the dedication was held at the Arava Institute.

My Dad passed away in 2015, and my Mom died in 2018.  I decided to support the AIES Visitor Center and greenhouse, featuring Dr. Elaine Solowey’s work, to honor my parents as my folks were strong Israel boosters, lifelong learners, and cared deeply about efforts to bridge cultures in the region as a path to peace.  In years past, I shared AIES stories with my parents as I became more involved and knowledgeable; they thought AIES’s work was very cool, particularly the cross-border/cultural efforts.  They also thought that the Israel Ride was really cool, given my passion for road cycling.

All of this came together in a beautiful fashion this past November, during the Israel Ride (my second), when we arrived at Kibbutz Ketura in time for the dedication of the new Visitor Center–featuring the contribution of the Pilchen family in honor of Bernard and Erna Pilchen, z”l.  The remarks by David Lehrer and Dr. Solowey to the cyclists and others present, regarding the mission of the Institute and the outstanding science (including Methuselah and his new friends!) done by Dr. Solowey, were so moving, and to see my parents’ names on the building with the mountains in the background brought me to tears.  I’m so blessed to have been present at the Kibbutz at that time, and to have had an active hand in the development of the AIES campus.

-Saul Pilchen

Learn more about the Israel Ride

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Alumni Conference 2020: The Alumni Community’s next decadehttps://arava.org/2020/02/alumni-conference-2020-the-alumni-communitys-next-decade/ Mon, 17 Feb 2020 13:01:34 +0000 https://arava.org/?p=34549 This year’s Alumni Conference was held on January 16th-18th in Kibbutz Ketura with over 150 graduates, spouses, children, members of Institute staff, and guests. The central theme of the conference was the future of the alumni community. The conference registration on Thursday afternoon quickly turned into an exciting gathering, as graduates from Israel, Palestine, and […]

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photo by: Marcos Schonholz

This year’s Alumni Conference was held on January 16th-18th in Kibbutz Ketura with over 150 graduates, spouses, children, members of Institute staff, and guests. The central theme of the conference was the future of the alumni community.

The conference registration on Thursday afternoon quickly turned into an exciting gathering, as graduates from Israel, Palestine, and Jordan, some after years of not visiting the Institute, greeted each other and met friends from other countries. This informal beginning of the conference was followed by a festive reception over vegetarian dinner. The evening included opening words by Executive Director David Lehrer, an alumna address about climate change in the region, a trivia game, and farewell contributions by alumni and staff to Judy Bar Lev who is retiring after 15 years of coordinating visas and permits for students, alumni and researchers to attend all Institute activities. The formal reception was followed by a party until the early hours of the morning.

After an early yoga class on Friday morning for those who succeeded in getting up early, the participants met for a dynamic panel discussion on graduates’ involvement in environmental and political activism.

The day continued with two sessions of elective workshops run by alumni for alumni. Alumni participated in one of the following workshops: Non-violent communication, exploring the Extinction Rebellion movement, bilingual yoga, leadership and mindfulness, Israeli Climate March: planning the Institute block, a lecture about the extinction of bees, a video conference with a Gazan peace activist, a lecture on green building, and two brainstorming sessions on the development of the alumni community.

After lunch, everyone met again for an opportunity to hear about each other’s current activities during short TED-style lectures. This was followed by some unstructured gathering time before joining the kibbutz Friday night dinner.

On Saturday morning one of the graduates took interested peers on a birdwatching walk through the desert, followed by brunch on the campus lawn. The conference continued with an in-depth discussion on the future of the alumni community, led by Eliza Mayo, Deputy Director of the Institute, and Dr. Suleiman Halasah, alum and co-director of the Institute’s Jordan-Israel Center for Community, Environment & Research, with break-out discussion groups reviewing the alumni community’s vision, structure, communication, regional gatherings and planning calendar, as well as the question of re-entry of alumni to their communities after their studies.

photo by: Marcos Schonholz

The conference was concluded with a mindfulness session during which the experience was summarized and processed in a series of brief meditations and conversations. This year’s conference was planned in an effort to be more environmentally sustainable, including no new plastics, no printing of schedules, and an all vegetarian menu.

This year’s conference was, sadly, also marked by the unexpected resignation of Tamara Rejwan, well-loved Alumni coordinator who played an essential role in connecting and strengthening the alumni community in the last 5 years. We thank Tamara for her hard work and commitment to the Institute, and wish her the best of luck in the future. We would also like to thank alumnae Randa Obeidat and Sharon Nahome who stepped up as a temporary Alumni Coordinator team to organize and run this conference.

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