The Arava-Australia Partnership Steering Committee convened in the Arava in the middle of June for the second time this year. We were pleased to have UIA Australia President Mr. Jack Smorgon and his wife Val, Partnership Co-chair Ron Finkel and Southern Partnerships Supervisor Eitan Shaul among the attendees.
On Monday afternoon, in the hot, dry weather characteristic of the Arava, we were hosted on Moshav Hazeva by Regional Development Subcommittee Head Gilad Alon for a talk with Arava Development Company Director Eyal Blum. The talk focused upon regional development, expansion of the Trainee Center, establishment of an Academy and more. Many ideas were discussed, and we have much work before us. We in the Partnership are proud and excited to take part in the development of the Arava!
On Tuesday morning after breakfasting heartily at the beautiful art gallery of Naomi Rotem, a local sculptor, we drove to Yair Station - the Research and Development Station and Science Center situated next to Moshav Hazeva. Every year in February an Open Day and the largest agricultural exhibition in Israel are held on the Station. The reason for this visit was to hear a panel of researchers from the Dead Sea and the Arava Science Center. The panel was joined by a guest from the Partnership and by Sagi Ben Yosef, the designated Keren Hayesod Shaliah to Sydney.
The panel was led by Dr. Gidon Winters who is researching Acacia trees in the Arava, and joined by Dr. Rivki Ophir who is researching desert flora with medicinal properties that could cure cancer and degenerative diseases of the brain (such as Alzheimer's), Dr. Niva Blum who established a facility for growing zebra fish which are used as models for research into Alzheimer's, Dr. Sarit Ashkenazi-Polivoda whose research focuses on chronometric dating and environmental, ecological and oceangraphic restoration, and local resident Oded Keynan, studying for his PHD at Tel Aviv University and Macquarie University in Sydney, who is researching the biology and social behavior of the Arabian babbler, birds living according to complicated social systems characteristic to the Arava (and it is with pride that we note that Dr. Blum and Dr. Ashkenazi-Polivoda are among the region's second generation settlers).
The panel provided us with a glimpse into the fascinating world of the Science Center researchers and gave us a more comprehensive picture of their work and a chance to see our Partnership funding in action.
Later in the morning we gathered on Sapir to hold the semiannual Steering Committee meeting. The Meeting was opened by Mr. Ron Finkel and Mr. Peter Rabin, Partnership Co-chairs, with thanks and with best wishes to Ilana Meisels who is just now stepping down from her position as Partnership Activities Coordinator in Melbourne. Jack Smorgon welcomed Sagi Ben Yosef who is joining the Partnership and noted that this is an additional step in the reinforcement of the connection with the Jewish community in Sydney.
The meeting included discussion of the progress of projects which the Partnership takes part in funding, including the Arava Leadership Academy, Art in the Community, the Science Center (which we visited that morning), and more, and a review of the Australian delegations which visited the Arava and the visit of Tamara Bruce (see separate article).
The meeting was joined by Jewish Agency representatives who presented the business to business (B2B) project, which aroused a great deal of interest among our Australian partners.
The meeting concluded with a lively discussion of the joint Steering Committee meeting slated to take place in Australia in December 2012.
At the end of the meeting we were joined by the members of the youth delegation to Australia and the two teachers from the Arava (Hedva Shuner and Gili Feiner) who will be volunteering next month at Bialik College. The delegation members received the blessing of Jack Smorgon, with hopes for the continuation of the warm and close ties between the two communities.