Thursday, December 3, 2009

5 PhDs and Me

Weekly Recap

Where have I been…

  • Last week, our entire class went on a Negev Field trip.
    • We visited a legal one-family-farm, Yeruham (a Development Town), unrecognized Bedouin villages, a massive industrial park, a stream of pollution, the first Bedouin woman entrepreneur, and government environmental efforts.
    • We met with lots of people along the way.
    • I feel that we heard a lot important stories and overall the Institute structured a well-balanced experience.
    • At another time I will write about an occurrence with the group that is still being discussed today.

  • We celebrated Thanksgiving with Palestinians, Jordanians, Israelis, Canadians, Australians, and, of course, Americans. Not to mention Christians, Jews, and Muslims. We had a pot luck feast with lots of tasty food. I made cranberry-pineapple aspic and a large jello shot (see photos in AIES album)!

  • Mike Schwartz came for Shabbat and we had a great time. Best of all, he brought a homemade pecan pie!

5 PhDs & Me (and Bill)

This year I am interning with the Tal Fund and personally working with Alon Tal. After he won the Bronfman Prize in 2006, Alon created this fund with the mission of: "expeditiously supporting effective community activism that seeks to preserve Israel's air, water and land resources and to encourage sustainable development in Israel."

On Tuesday I traveled with the board to do some site visits for potential grantees…

  • I got up at 5am to travel with Bill, whom I’ve mentioned before (my Kibbutz cycling buddy) and is Alon’s best friend and board member, to meet the group.

  • At times during the ride there were seven of us squeezed into a small Mazda van-type vehicle (definitely not an American minivan!). As intimate as we were, I felt very undereducated. When the first guest arrived, Alon was introducing all of us and it went something like this, from front to back of the vehicle: “Meet Dr. Orr Karassin, Dr. David Tal, Dr. Yonina Rosenthal, Mr. Adi Segal, and Mr. Bill Slott.” Remember, Alon and the guest also hold PhDs. Not that either of us (Bill is a Cornell graduate) is stupid, but it was funny to have these introductions and then see these two dummies crammed into the two back seats…what I called the peanut gallery!

  • We saw (photos to the right):
    • Attempts at environmental efforts in Rahat, an underserved Bedouin city. This is a very difficult project, because it will also take a sociological change on the side of the community. The best part here was that we stopped at Ahmad’s home, where we were treated to real Bedouin hospitality in his personal tent…none of this large tent tourist stuff that big groups usually see.

    • Next, we went to Arad where, for the last ten years, they’ve been fighting the building of a chemical factory that will emit large amounts of phosphates. Not good for you.

    • Finally, we saw the very important efforts to ban the construction of a hotel on the beach in Palmahim, one of the only undeveloped areas on the coast. With some funding, there’s a lot of promise for this project.

  • The best part was the picnic lunch Alon packed for us, which we ate in the middle of a JNF forest!

  • As we returned to Ketura, Bill and I were talking about the Fund. He mentioned that as esteemed as the Board of Trustees looks, it’s basically Alon’s birthday party, with his best friends, parents, wife, and kids (and maybe one or two outsiders). But, then Bill realized that this isn’t so strange, because most of the big foundations (which have a lot more money than the Tal Fund – like Ford, Vanderbilt, and Bronfman), began with families sitting around a table giving away money.

Finally, as little attention as she may want, I need to wish my little sister, ORLI, a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

She turned 17 yesterday and now, not only can she drive, but she can run all the errands that I was formerly assigned. MAZAL TOV!



  • Is it a good or bad thing that I have been to every rest stop in Israel so many times that as soon as I get off the bus I know exactly where to go to the bathroom?

  • As I traveled through the country on Tuesday, I realized that the development here is very strange. They literally dropped towns and forests in the middle of the desert, with no surroundings, and hoped for the best…it didn’t always work out!

  • I really don’t think kibbutz, at least in the middle of the desert, is for me…
    When Bill and I stepped off the bus at 9pm, after a full day of travel, he said: “And now you have a real taste of what it’s like to live here. And, that’s when you realize it’s easier to never leave!” He was slightly joking, but there’s definitely a lot of truth there…

Shoutout #40: Evyatar Asher – We met this summer and now we’re GREAT friends. U DA MAN! Thanks for always checking in and taking care of me in your country. And more importantly, THANKS for being the 40th follower!

Shoutout #41: Becca Farber, how come I have not heard from you yet? Welcome aboard! You are a great environmentalist and it was a pleasure working with you last year as our team pioneered JTS EcoReps. I hope you are having a good time in Israel and hopefully we can hangout when I get to J-Town.

P.S. For those of you who have been thinking about eating recently, I urge you to read this piece: The Carnivore’s Dilemma

P.P.S. I love all of Eliav's posts, but there's something about this one that really struck an emotional chord in me. For those of you who are camp/Ramah people, I think you’ll really enjoy this... A Return trip to Ramah in New England, an emotional journey

P.P.P.S. So…Chelsea is engaged to a nice Jewish boy…WHO CARES! But, did you hear they were at JTS for Kol Nidre? Apparently, she and Arnie are friends from Stanford!