Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi
Working to protect people and our shared planet.

Arava Institute Delivers Solutions for Peace & Sustainability

Renewable Energy Tour at The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies. Photo credit and courtesy of AIES.
The Arava Institue for Environmental Studies creates practical and sustainable solutions which build trust. Photo by and courtesy of AIES.

As the climate crisis worsens, and war between Israel and Hamas continues to rage, there is still some good news! The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies (AIES) is a proven model to deliver practical solutions for sustainability and peace. Led by Dr. Tareq Abu Hamed, a brilliant Palestinian citizen of Israel and recognized leader in environmental science, diplomacy and education, over the past decades AIES has brought together nearly 1,800 Palestinian, Jordanian, Israeli, and international students to learn and prepare to meet the Middle East’s environmental challenges with innovative peace-building solutions and ensure a sustainable future for the region.

With on-the-ground projects, cutting-edge research, and a university-accredited academic program, AIES works to protect fragile shared environmental resources, eliminate conflict over these scarce natural resources, and serve as a model for constructive peacemaking for wider areas of conflict.

Equipping today’s students to be tomorrow’s Environmental Leaders

Over a university-accredited semester, a roughly equal number of Israeli Jewish, Arab (Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian, Moroccan) and other international students live, eat and study together. Through classes, holiday celebrations, trips, dialogue sessions, and more, students get to know each other as individuals, beyond the stereotypes and they engage in transformative dialogue work.

The impact of October 7 & the current Israel-Hamas conflict

Said Dr. Tareq Abu Hamed, “What happened on the 7th of October is really horrible. It’s something that neither the brain or the heart can handle. Indeed, this had a significant impact on the work that we do. We do a lot of transboundary work with our Palestinian partners, both in West Bank and also in Gaza, and almost one third of our students are Arabic speakers, and some of them are from the from the West Bank. So, it had an impact to, especially on the projects that we have on in Gaza and also in the in the West Bank.”

He explained that during the first weeks of the war, the war put a pause any new projects in the in the West Bank because of the security situation and because of the closure on the on the West Bank. However, he points out that they are still in touch with their Gazan partners. Their academic program is still, thankfully, running. Today they continue discussing new projects and for the day after the war a Marshal plan for Gaza is discussed now with their Palestinian partners.

Dr. Tareq Abu Hamed leads the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies. Photo credit & courtesy of AIES.

Said Dr. Abu Hamed, “We decided to continue the semester, regardless of the war. And we still have Palestinian students at the Aruva Institute in Kibbutz Ketura. They are studying together. They are not ignoring what’s happening, they are discussing it. But we have a dialogue forum where students and interns discuss the political situation, culture, religion and that helps them to build understanding of the other and to build trust.”

Dr. Abu Hamed points out that, “To do work in this in this region is easy — there are a lot of international organizations, foundations, private donors, that support projects in the Middle East. These projects do not build long-lasting relationships within the region. Our difference — our unique approach — is actually based on the trust based on equal partnership based on dialogue and we use environment, we use science. We use the projects that we have on the ground as a diplomacy tool to connect between people. Once you build understanding, once you build a trust between partners.”

“Even if projects end, this partnership continues, the friendship continues, and this is what we need in this region. The scarcest resource in the Middle East is not oil. It’s not water, it’s not energy resources. The scarcest resource in the Middle East is trust. So, without building trust, these partnerships will not be sustainable.”

How can trust be achieved? According to Dr. Abu Hamed, “If you want to reach a just solution for any challenge in the in the Middle East that should be based on equal partnership and trust between partners.”

While the magnitude of the current conflict is extremely high, the current war is not the first time that The Arava Institute has faced such challenges. According to Dr. Abu Hamed, “We are in communication with our Gaza partners on a daily basis, even during the war, and we asked them about the projects that we have in in Gaza, the devices that we managed to send in into Gaza, with the mission of the Israeli army and we asked them, how are these systems? Are they functioning? As I said, this is how we do sustainable projects in the in the region — by keeping that communication channels open.”

He continued, “Also, during this we receive a lot of solidarity messages from our Palestinian partners, from our Jordanian partners, from our Moroccan partners. Partners are what we need in this region during the not only during the honeymoon days. We need people to ask about our safety and our families during the war. We also do the same. We have a continuous communication with the with them asking them how are you? How are you doing? Are your family? Is your family safe? And they answer us and that’s what we what we need, and we continue.”

The tremendous impact of the Arava Institute can also be seen by the success of their alumni and their connections to each other. They actually implement the mission and the vision of the Alawa Institute in the villages and the towns in Israel, Palestine, Jordan, West Bank, Gaza, they become professors, and they delivered the message of the Arava Institute to thousands of students and people in their countries they established non-governmental organizations, companies that are related to climate change and environment.

Said Dr. Abu Hamed, “Coexistence and democracy is not granted. You have to work very hard to maintain it. Where should the folks begin from? From kindergarten and everyone from the age of four to the age of 100 onto 120.”

For more information more about The Arava Institute go to

Special thanks to Eugene Barlaz for converting an audio interview into text.

About the Author
Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi is the co-founder/director of the Mizrahi Family Charitable Fund (a DAF). She has worked directly with presidents, prime ministers, 48 governors, 85 Ambassadors, and leaders at all levels to successfully educate and advocate on key issues. In July, 2023 Mizrahi was appointed to serve as representative of philanthropy on the Maryland Commission on Climate Change. She has a certificate in Climate Change Policy, Economics and Politics from Harvard. Her work has won numerous awards and been profiled in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Inside Philanthropy, PBS NewsHour, Washington Post, Jerusalem Post, Jewish Sages of Today, and numerous other outlets. Mizrahi has published more than 300 articles on politics, public policy, disability issues, climate and innovations. The views in her columns are her own, and do not reflect those of any organization.
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