In southern Israel, Palestinians and Israelis are grappling with environmental issues.Japanese navy



a The motto of Israel’s Arava Environmental Research Institute is “Nature knows no political borders.”

Professor Tarek Abu Hamed of the Araba Institute.

For the past 26 years, the Araba Institute for the Environment has established that working together on environmental issues that affect all people in the Middle East is an effective way to build cooperation between communities that have been locked in conflict for generations. We have been working on the premise that this is the case.

Located in Kibbutz Keturah, just north of Eilat in Israel’s southernmost tip, the student body of the Arava Institute is one-third Israeli Arab, one-third Jewish Israeli, and one-third Israeli Jewish. It is made up of international students from neighboring Arab countries.

Throughout the semester, these students will work together on solutions to issues such as climate change, water scarcity, and cleanliness, building trust and collaboration.

176 year old American congressman. The Awards for Scientific Progress awarded the David and Betty Hamburg Award for Science Diplomacy to Dr. Tarek Abu Hamed, executive director of the Arava Institute, at its annual conference in Denver last week.

“I am a strong believer in connections that use science, environment and climate research as a tool to bring people together. This is science diplomacy,” Hamed said. Japanese navy He said this in an interview after the award ceremony.

BBorn in East Jerusalem in 1972, Hamed was the first Palestinian to head the Araba Institute.

Educated at the Weizmann Institute in Turkey and Israel, Hamed has been with the Arava Institute since 2008, except for three years as acting chief scientist at the Israeli Ministry of Science. He was the highest-ranking Palestinian in the Israeli government.

He returned to the Alava Institute and was appointed Executive Director in 2021.

Hamed’s abilities as a science diplomat were put to the test on October 7, 2023, when Hamas brutally attacked Israel and the Gaza War began. Unlike many other educational institutions in Israel, the Araba Institute has remained open since the war began.

“The students decided to be with each other,” Hamed explains. “Palestinians, Israelis, and international students have decided to remain as one community and continue the semester.

“We had four Israeli students, and they were called: Milim It was heartwarming to see Palestinian students in the West Bank calling Jewish students in Israel to wish them safety and safe return. ”

Hamed explains that this unlikely friendship stems from the consistent and organized dialogue sessions required of all students at the Araba Institute. The dialogue forum will be run by three facilitators: an Israeli Jew, a Palestinian, and an international.

“For six hours a week, students talk about politics, religion, culture, family stories, and personal stories.

“When students come to the Araba Institute, some of them — mainly Arab students — say, ‘No, no, I’m here for science. I don’t want to talk about politics.

“And we say, ‘That’s fine, but in order to be a student here, you have to go to dialogue.’

“At the end of the semester, when you ask them what the highlight of the semester was, they say ‘dialogue.’”

Hamed says dialogue sessions are controversial.

“We watch them cry. They scream. It’s a very heated discussion, but the students manage to build understanding and trust and see the humanity in the other person.”

As Hamed says, the institute is in a remote location. Students share the same classrooms, the same cafeteria, dorm rooms, and live together 24/7 during the semester.

That makes them a community. That creates a sense of solidarity.

Hamed admits that the war has brought about some tough emotions. “The situation is terrible. There are feelings of sadness, anger and revenge. It’s difficult… It’s very heavy for both the student and the partner.

“You have friends in Gaza. You have friends in the military. You have partners in Gaza who have lost their families and homes. We must have space in our hearts for both peoples. It’s really difficult to maintain that balance.”

That said, Arava Institute has managed to maintain relationships with diverse partners.

“I am very proud that since October 7th, we have not lost a single Arab partner, not from the West Bank, not from Gaza, not from Jordan, not from Morocco. And that is because there is trust. .”

TThe Arava Institute is implementing projects in Gaza for the construction of systems to treat wastewater, recycle wastewater and produce potable water. “We are doing this work with our Palestinian partners in full coordination with the Israeli military,” Hamed said.

“We are currently working with our partners in Gaza on projects for the day after the end of the war.”

However, this does not mean that the operations of the Alava Institute have not been affected by the war. International conferences and programs scheduled to invite international researchers, including groups from the United States, to the institute had to be canceled.

Nowadays, the number of registrants is decreasing. “Due to the war, we were unable to obtain permission for Palestinian students to come and study at the institute,” Hamed said.

Hamed said the Arava Institute is currently working on a number of “attractive projects,” including off-grid wastewater treatment and growing crops under solar panels.

The institute is also looking to expand physically. Currently, Kibbutz Ketura’s facilities can accommodate his 35 students each semester. The plan is to rebuild the institute at the same location to accommodate 150 students.

Most of the Arava Institute’s funding comes from the Boston-based Friends of the Arava Institute. Denverite Michael Mars will serve as immediate past president.

“We see this campus as a regional hub for climate change research in the Middle East and North Africa.”

TAlek Abu Hamed feels the award he received in Denver for science diplomacy could not have come at a more appropriate time.

“Science diplomacy gives people the opportunity to interact with others through science. We use this science diplomacy to help people understand the human being in others.

“The first time I experienced it was when I was in high school, working and volunteering on a kibbutz. That was my first encounter with my Jewish neighbors. This direct interaction gave me the opportunity to see the humanity of my neighbors.

“That’s why I chose this path.”

Copyright © 2024 by Intermountain Jewish News

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