May 7

Two encouraging pieces of news. Five of the seven Watergen systems that we deployed in Gaza have survived the war according to our partners at Damour. As you’ll recall, these systems generate clean drinking water and prior to the war they provided 10 million liters of water. We have also been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for our “ground-breaking work in the fields of dialogue and diplomacy, climate engagement, education, and research.”

Academic Program

The fall 2023 semester began a month before the war. We paused the program only for a few days. Israeli, Palestinian, American, and other international students were on campus during the fall. Most of the students remained on campus, to continue learning together and supporting each other. The curriculum continues to be broad allowing students to take environmental courses in basic science, applied science, and the environment through a social science lens.

Some of our students were called up for reserve duty after October 7. It was not easy for anyone – not for the Jewish students going to war and not for the Palestinians seeing their classmates in uniform. While in the reserves, two of our students wrote a song, Guard Post in the Arava, in which they expressed that there are other ways to guard your country, and one of those ways is to work tirelessly for peace. Together with their Palestinian and international friends at the Institute, they translated this song into Arabic, English, and Hebrew.

Recent ecological study trips focused on the local Arava region and included a bioblitz (a biological inventory of flora and fauna). During the bioblitz a species of dragonfly never seen in Israel was found, and the Arava Institute was among those credited with the discovery.

Students went on a three-day combined Dialogue Forum/Spring Semester study trip that blended peacebuilding and environmental themes. The itinerary included:

·         Traditional geopolitical tour of Jerusalem

·         Overnight visit to the Jewish-Arab coexistence village, Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam

·         The al-Fura’a Bedouin school and the Arava Institute’s off-grid technologies hub

·         FeelBeit, a joint Palestinian-Israeli community center for art making and events

·         Sinsila, an East Jerusalem community development initiative

 Our students, in a series of interviews and speeches, shared beautiful words of hope and aspiration. Please find attached to this document, their words that express the hope in the face of challenges of the last seven months at the Arava Institute.

Other project work that is moving forward

Agrivoltaic pilot project | The Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation has completed a one-year pilot project to harvest crops using an Agrivoltaic system (AgriPV). Based on early findings, we are enthusiastic about the potential for AgriPV to become an important mechanism for maximizing crop yields, efficiently delivering water to plants, and generating renewable energy in dryland environments.

Off-Grid Hub for Climate Resiliency | This pedagogical hub at a Bedouin high-school in al-Fura’a that serves 3,500 students will be a model for off-grid communities that lack wastewater treatment infrastructure. This is the first and only off-grid classroom in Israel or the region. The hubs have 5 components: wastewater treatment, solar power, conversion of waste into energy for cooking and heating (biodigesters), atmospheric water generation, and community gardens using recycled water. The Institute plans to build six more hubs at off-grid Bedouin schools throughout the region.

Planning for “The Day After” in Gaza: Jumpstarting Hope | The Institute is creating a plan for rebuilding Gaza’s infrastructure. With a coalition of Israeli and Palestinian NGOs, the initiative is creating a plan to introduce decentralized water and energy treatment systems which will address public health and humanitarian needs. This ambitious plan, with our friend David Lehrer as lead manager, will be launched at a conference in Tel Aviv on June 7.

Bringing the Institute’s Dialogue Pedagogy to American Campuses | FAI is working with several universities and potential donors to share our techniques in civil discourse and compassionate listening around highly divergent views. These are skills faculty and administrators will then be able to share with their colleagues and students. Universities can move towards integrating the skills of dialogue and respectful engagement into their methodology of teaching. This is intended to serve two purposes: help offer a different model for discourse on campuses and support this initiative and the Institute. We are approaching new donors who are interested in combatting the current crises that so many universities face today.