The Desert as a Meeting Place for Environmental Studies and Peace Building

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

By Susan P. Stern, Ben-Gurion University Of The Negev

Where Students from the Middle East and Around the World Come Together

Issues of natural resources distribution, control and utilization are subjects being addressed all over the world, and nowhere are these issues more relevant for study and exploration than in the Middle East.

Resources such as water, issues of land use and energy have been sources of regional conflict for years, but recently the study of the environment has become increasingly connected to every aspect of our scientific, social, economic and political discussions. As a result, efforts to confront the results of past mismanagement of natural resources can now serve not only to combat environmental degradation, but also as an opportunity for renewed cooperation between peoples and countries with histories of conflict.

Governments and civilian organizations have mobilized to face these challenges, and students all over the globe want to learn tools to manage and reverse negative environmental consequences. In response to these global crises, academic institutions in Israel have developed international programs to meet the challenges facing the region and the world. The Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies are two related institutions working together on programs designed to address these challenges.

FlowerBen-Gurion University of the Negev serves as a center of research in the areas of alternative energy, water resource management, global desertification challenges, and other topics.

International Students interested in study abroad can study in English in Semester and Year-Long Focused Academic Tracks that address these issues through the Overseas Student Program on the main campus of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beer Sheva, Israel.   

“Sustainable Development and Environmental Justice,” for example, is a semester-long program which addresses these topics using the Negev Desert as a case study of the impact that development in desert areas has on the indigenous and new populations.

The history of the development of the region is explored in a social, economic and political framework.

We also explore the history of the area by using biblical texts to compare societies living in the region during biblical times and in modern times to trace how society has dealt for centuries with environmental challenges of desert lands.

Focus is placed on the cultural and religious attitudes and teachings of the different peoples who share this desert home and how these influence how we care for our natural resources and utilize technologies to take advantage of them and their consequences.

Arava Institute for Environmental Studies

The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, founded in 1996, is accredited byBen-Gurion University of the Negev. Located on Kibbutz Ketura on the Israeli-Jordanian border about 30 miles north of Eilat, Israel and Aqaba, Jordan is the premier environmental teaching and research program in the Middle East, preparing future Arab and Jewish leaders to cooperatively solve the region's environmental challenges.

At the Arava Institute of Environmental Studies you will find students from Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, the US, Canada and Europe studying together to find methods of cooperative problem-solving and developing tools for conflict resolution in the area of environmental challenges that can be translated into tools for solving other pressing issues facing the region.

There are also graduate degrees and research opportunities available at the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Studies at the Sde Boker campus of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.