A Friend of New Mexico: The Arava Institute of Israel Has Been Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize

A Friend of New Mexico: The Arava Institute of Israel Has Been Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize

by Ron Duncan Hart

The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, located in the Negev, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for its “groundbreaking work in the fields of dialogue and diplomacy, climate engagement, education, and research.” The Executive Director of the Institute, Dr. Tareq Abu Hamed, an Arab Israeli, was a guest of the Santa Fe Distinguished Lecture Series last year. His talk “Environment and Peace in the Middle East” can be on the Jewish Learning Channel at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5dOcc4-QcE.

The Arava Institute does crucial environmental research on water conservation and sustainable agriculture as it works with leaders from across the region, including Israel, Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, and other interested groups. The Institute trains students from the above named regions about regional environmental problems and how to implement “climate resiliency programming”. Dr. Abu Hamed said that one of the primary goals of the Institute was to build trust among the students with the goal of building a future group of leaders across the region who can move beyond the conflict and collaborate on shared critical environmental and political issues.

On June 7, 2024 the Arava Institute launched a collaborative project with the Gaza based Damour for Community Development group to bring needed water, sanitation, hygiene, and energy services to the Gaza Strip after the devastation of the current fighting. The war and fuel shortages have damaged much of the wastewater treatment in Gaza, giving rise to the risk of disease in the crowded enclave. Since these two organizations have worked together previously to bring off-grid, solar energy solutions to Gaza and the West Bank, they plan to expand programs for clean drinking water, wastewater treatment, and recycling rubble from damaged structures into new building materials. The Times of Israel article on this collaborative project gives more details --  https://www.timesofisrael.com/israelis-palestinians-to-launch-joint-bid-to-bring-humanitarian-aid-to-post-war-gaza/.

The Arava Institute has had a relationship with New Mexico for many years, thanks to the Jewish National Fund and local supporters. In 2018 Dr. Clive Lipshin, director of the program on water resources of the Arava, visited New Mexico and gave the talk, “Israel’s Gift: A Water Solution for the World”, which can be seen on the Jewish Learning Channel -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlvumJf939Q. In 2019 the former director of the Arava, David Lehrer was in Santa Fe, and did a program with the Trade and Advanced Technology Center of the Santa Fe Community College. You can see his talk at --  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6QrShXuqCc. Later, Prof. Charlie Shultz, who directs the sustainable agricultural program at the SFCC visited the Arava and brought back enthusiastic reports about what he observed there.

Perhaps, the most important supporters of the Arava Institute in New Mexico have been David and Brenda Jaffe, who have been actively involved for many years. Talking about the Institute David Jaffe said, “We really do believe, as the leadership and alumnae of the Institute believe, that peace will only be achieved when people start talking to people, and this is one of those places where people can talk about shared concerns.” See the “Short Introduction to the Arava Institute” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RKCKVIC2EHA for more information about the Institute and the thoughts of the Jaffes.

We congratulate the Arava Institute and its Executive Director, Dr. Tariq Abu Hamed, for the honor and recognition of being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and we hope their newly initiated project on Gaza will be a significant step forward for the people there. Go to https://arava.org to learn more about the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies and the work that it does to change conflict to peace and collaboration in the Middle East.

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