Director’s blog: Starting 2022 with Hope

At the beginning of January we said goodbye to the 40 students and interns of the Fall 2021 semester. We are proud to have continued running our academic program throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, adapting activities and procedures when necessary, to allow future environmental leaders to come together and study the environmental challenges of the Middle East, and how to solve them cooperatively in the face of political conflict. I especially appreciate the efforts made by our academic department in maintaining this program during these challenging times.

During the short semester break, the Institute is busy with activities. We are currently preparing for the Spring 2022 semester, which is expected to include approximately 45 students and interns from Israel, Palestine, the United States, and – for the first time in two years – Jordan.

We recently hosted some of our new Board of Directors members to introduce them to the Institute’s current projects and developments. It was especially nice to welcome to our board Manar Saria-Weiss, 2009/10 alumna, who also shared her experiences as an environmental activist with the Fall semester participants during her address at their graduation ceremony.

Next month our Track II Environmental Forum will be holding a joint workshop in Cyprus with the Oxford Martin School, to discuss the progress on our research project on regional modeling of natural resources in the Middle East. This is the first ever in-depth regional modeling and forecasting of natural resources, particularly energy and water, undertaken over the past three years by the Oxford Martin School and leading scientists from Israel, Jordan, and Palestine. Accessing completely new data, and agreeing on methods of collection, analysis and projection, the team is already publishing results on regional energy, water, health, national security, and more. This modeling will provide easily understandable and reliable information, and offer policy makers strategies and options for cross-border economically viable projects.

On February 9th-10th we will be hosting a conference on Cross-border perspectives: Energy poverty and climate change in the Middle East at Kibbutz Ketura in cooperation with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. The conference will discuss how the increasing manifestation of climate change, such as heat waves and extreme weather conditions, affects people’s lives, and the environment. It will include discussions on energy poverty in Israel’s different regions and sectors, the link between climate change and its effect on society in the context of energy poverty, and examples of international solutions to solve energy poverty, as well as an in-depth tour of the Off-grid Demonstration Village at Kibbutz Ketura, which presents off-grid infrastructure and technologies as a test-field for innovation. Speakers include representatives of government institutions, non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, and the public sector. Registration for the conference is now open here.

In addition, I have been invited by the municipality of Florence as a keynote speaker at “Mediterranean Frontier of Civilization” conference in February, which will be attended by 200 delegates from Mediterranean municipalities, including Palestine, Israel, and Jordan, and include a welcoming address from Pope Francis. I am hoping to use this opportunity to forge some direct connections to municipalities in the West Bank and Jordan to aid procedures on the Institute’s environmental diplomacy projects.

Lastly, I am excited to have been chosen as a member of the newly established Israeli Climate Forum. The Forum, initiated by President Isaac Herzog and chaired by Dr. Dov Khenin, includes representatives of governmental bodies, NGOs, academic and environmental institutions in Israel, who will meet regularly to address the climate crisis, and discuss Israel’s response to it.

Despite winter weather storms and a record temperature low and the 5th COVID wave of Omicron which preoccupy our energies and hearts, we start 2022 with hope for and in our work on cooperation, sustainability and justice in our region.

Dr. Tareq Abu Hamed
Executive Director

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