The Politics of Water: Study It Dead or Red

women swims underwater with flippers in the red seaWorld Water Day is every year on March 22.

Here at Green Prophet, we love writing about water, probably because water issues are such a big deal in the region. Now at Tel Aviv University, water and politics has become an international course of action. The following is a news item about a new undergrad water course happening this summer — bound to be a splash for both foreign students and locals.

In Israel, there is the Sea of Galilee, the Red Sea, the Dead Sea – and even the Mediterranean Sea. Israel is home to some of the world’s most diverse and unique bodies of water, yet a sustainable source of drinking water for the region, is yet to be secured.

For the first time ever, TAU’s Porter School of Environmental Studies, is opening its classrooms, and Israel’s waterways, to overseas students. Through a new summer course, English speaking students are invited to enter the scientific and political discourse on the region’s precious water resources.

A new three-week summer session in Environmental Studies is planned for this June, when 30 students will come to Tel Aviv University to study marine conservation, river rehabilitation and coastal ecosystems – among a broader spectrum of courses – all which have huge implications for the region’s fragile environment.

“Water in the Middle East is no longer just an environmental concern, but a political issue as well,” says Prof. Hudi Benayahu, the Head of the Porter School.

“Allocation of water resources, their well being, and wastewater treatment are developing into additional sources of conflict between Israel and its neighboring countries,” he explains.

The interdisciplinary course will take its students through the ecological, ethical, political, and legal issues that form the backdrop to environmental tensions in the region. Researchers are hoping that university students from nearby Middle East countries will join in, because when it comes to water, everyone in the region shares a similar fate.

The Porter School’s summer course offers 6 academic credits to participating students. The course will include three weeks of classes and field trips to the Mediterranean Sea, Sea of Galilee, Dead Sea, Ein Gedi and the Red Sea. Participants will be given a thorough introduction to Israel’s environment with an emphasis on freshwater and marine water systems.

“We have carefully a chosen program that connects both the hard and soft sciences,” says Arie Nesher, the professional director of the Porter School, who notes that the students will also get the opportunity to enjoy the highlight of the course: leisure fieldtrips to different water resources.

Planned activities include day and night snorkelling in the Red Sea, barbecues, and hikes around waterfalls and streams in Israel’s lush north.

A tentative schedule of the classes will cover courses such as Environment and Health; The Climate Crisis and the Middle East: a view from the social sciences; Water Law Around the World and in Israel; and The Northern Red Sea Reefs: An ecosystem at the edge of global coral distribution.

Concludes Prof. Benayahu, a marine biologist, “All of Israel waits for the rain. We dream about water, we fight for our water. There is probably no other environmental issue more relevant in this region, especially in light of global warming.”

The summer course is organized by the Porter School, Israel’s only interdisciplinary environmental graduate school, running masters, doctoral and post-doctoral programs aimed at advancing excellence in environmental teaching and research. Credit for the course will be given through Tel Aviv University’s internationally recognized Overseas School Program.

For more information see here.

Image credit: Fiona Ayerst

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