Human Challenges



The workshop steering committee: Dr. Yoav Avni, Geological Survey of Israel, Dr. Noa Avriel-Avni, Dead Sea and Arava Science Center and Prof. Steve Rosen, BGU


The great challenges of living in arid and hyper-arid regions around the world are permanent shortage of water, limited food resources and inherent uncertainty regarding water availability, in terms of its quantity and spatial distribution. These challenges dictate the main weaknesses of desert societies that, according to the existing paradigm, are prone to suffer from a permanent risk of collapse. However, in the Middle East deserts, human societies are known since prehistoric times traversing the entire hyper-dry Holocene. This fact suggests that the simple common paradigm ascribing high vulnerability to desert societies needs to be re-examined.

This session is dedicated to papers focused on various aspects of social – ecological resilience of desert societies from short and long-term records. We invite contributions from different disciplines: geomorphology, ecology, archeology, sociology, education and more which (i) introduce new data and techniques to quantify and compare components of socio-ecological resilience in various datasets; (ii) identify patterns (in time/ space) of drivers (biotic, abiotic, social) of stability and resilience; (iii) test key assumptions and predictions of social-ecological resilience theory.

The goals of the workshop are formulated as following:

  1. To better understand desert environments, their environmental changes and their relations to arid land societies. To attain better insights into both arid environments impacts on humans and vice versa.
  2. To elaborate on the processes of adaptation of desert societies to divers desert environments. To evaluate their resilience versus their vulnerability related to their interaction with neighboring sedentary societies, especially in the exchange of goods, technologies, and ideas in diverse case studies from different desert regions.
  3. To formulate the new concept of "resilience and collapse", accurately and richly, in the context of human societies in drylands.
  4. To develop insights into future adaptations to desert conditions. What contemporary societies can learn from societies living in arid lands?



Co-Conveners: Miri Lavi-Neeman, Arava Institute and Orit Ben Zvi Assaraf, BGU



A Book talk and discussion

November 16th 18-19:30 pm Israel time

18:00-18:10 Introduction:

Food education, uneven geographies of climate change, unrecognized Bedouin villages, and education for climate justice.

Miri Lavi-Neeman, Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, Orit Ben Zvi Assaraf, BGU



convener: The Golda Meir MASHAV "Carmel" International Training Center

Sarah Wilner, Deputy Director, The Golda Meir MASHAV "Carmel" International Training Center (MCTC)


This panel will discuss the challenges women face in a changing environment and in feeding families and communities in dryland areas. Women play a crucial role in the production and preparation of food, and need to be included in all decision making policies regarding developing the drylands for sustainability and combatting and preventing desertification. Panelists will also discuss the Sustainable Development Goals, gender mainstreaming and how to integrate gender as a cross-cutting issue in all activities.


1. Challenges faced by women and feeding the drylands

2. SDG’s and gender equality

3. Gender mainstreaming in development

4. The link between gender and the environment

5. Women and sustainable environment


One of the main outcomes of the Rio+20 Conference was the agreement by Member States to launch a process to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will build upon the Millennium Development Goals and converge with the post 2015 development agenda. As a member of the “Global Sustainable Development Criteria” (GSTC) initiative, Israel is committed to the promotion of sustainable communities worldwide.

MASHAV, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, through its affiliate the Golda Meir Carmel Training Center (MCTC), shares Israeli knowledge, best practices and experiences regarding sustainable development and women’s empowerment, gender equality especially concerning environmental development, community development, and leadership development.





Dr. Suleiman Halasah- Integrated Green Solutions, Jordan and Arava Institute for Environmental Studies

Rina Kedem- Dead Sea and Arava Science Center and Arava Institute for Environmental Studies.


Numerous communities around the world are affected by political conflict between countries, particularly in border regions. Since geopolitical borders are manmade, they often cross natural resources, habitats or unique landscapes. Therefore, border-region communities tend to share the impact of conflict as well as natural resources and environmental challenges, all of which affect their daily lives (Arieli, 2012; 2015; Conca & Dabelko, 2002; Jacoby, 1973; Levy, 2009; Ratner et al., 2013).

Although many violent conflicts have ended in agreements, they continue to suffer from implementation predicaments and continue to be volatile. Predicaments include lack of direct implementation of items of the agreement, lack of follow up and enforcement, as well as violation of agreement items (Bekoe, 2016; Braniff, 2012; Bruch et al., 2009). Post-conflict regions are prone to reoccurrence of conflict on one hand, while on the other, official peace agreements can facilitate joint solutions to shared problems and needs (Rustad & Binningsbo, 2012). The environment can be a catalyst of cooperation and conflict, with the potential to improve or induce existing conflict and post-conflict conditions, particularly in border communities (Bruch, et al., 2009; Madani et al., 2014; Rustad & Binningsbo, 2012)

Environmental cooperation between countries became essential and dominant in global environmental governance strategies since the second half of the 20th century. The effectiveness and implementation of international environmental regimes has been vastly researched (Jackson & Buhr, 2015; Mushkat, 2013; Young, 2001; 2011). Yet there is very little or no specific reference to the environmental regime between countries in post- conflict relations

The southern border communities in Israel and Jordan are both under constant threats of desertification and global climate change. Environmental and scientific cooperation efforts have been practiced since the signing of the Peace Treaty between Israel and Jordan in 1994. International agencies, universities and local NGO’s have been involved in such cooperation which produced by now rich experiences and conceptual frameworks

Some of the questions which will be discussed in the suggested panel include:

  • To what extent does research cooperation improve well being of communities and their specific resilience in facing desertification and global climate change?
  • • Is the scientific cooperation a goal or a method in achieving other tiers of cooperation and what theories approach these different approaches?

    • What are the challenges researchers experience in promoting such research and its specific potential contribution in the field of desertification?

    • What are the methodological challenges to asses the contribution of collaborative research and how can they be mitigated?

    • What are the recommendations experienced researchers can provide for promoting more collaborative research?

    This session is dedicated to papers focused on various aspects of scientific collaboration in post-conflict situations, namely Israel- and Jordan. Topics can include: the contribution of such collaboration to natural systems as well as community resilience and cooperation, the methodological challenges in assessing the success of such collaboration, and specific research on the topic of climate change, desertification and their cross-border nature and mitigation strategies. Contributions are invited from natural and social science disciplines as well as an invitation to test key assumptions and predictions of environmental peacebuilding theories.

    The session will introduce and discuss theory and case studies of environmental cooperation through desert research. Case studies form around the world and specifically from Israel and Jordan will be presented as well as the challenges and opportunities of such collaboration. Whether the collaboration is motivated by science or a wish for good relations it can serve the wellbeing of the environment and the cooperation itself. Nevertheless, its contribution to community wellbeing and desert literacy must be assessed.

    The session will include local speakers from Israel and Jordan and an international expert from the field of environmental peacebuilding.



    Co-Conveners: Nadav Davidovitch, BGU, and Maya Negev, University of Haifa


    Desertification is a multifaceted environmental and health challenge in drylands. It is expected to significantly worsen, leading to a further increase in surface temperature, solar radiation, soil moisture and dust storms. The combined impact of climate change and desertification is expected to have deep influences on public health, from food insecurity, water pollution to the spread of infectious diseases and increase in mental health problems especially among vulnerable populations. This panel will discuss the various health effects, taking case studies from various countries and regions.



    Moderator: Alon Tal, Department of Public Policy, Tel Aviv University, Co-Chair, Zafuf





    Co-Conveners: Nadav Davidovitch, BGU, and Maya Negev, University of Haifa


    A transcontinental tour including Australia, Kenya, Israel and the United States, bringing live examples of the relationship between environment, health, desertification and climate change. The tour will include short clips portraying social, health and economic angles, and will be discussed in the context of the covid crisis and a sustainable exit strategy.

    Presenters to be:

    Sam Dorevitch, University of Illinois at Chicago, School of Public Health

    Prof. George Ogendi, Department of Environmental Science, Egerton University, Kenya , OR Dryland Research Training and Ecotourism Centre, Chemeron, Kenya

    Colin MacDougall, Flinders University, Adelaide & University of Melbourne, Australia

    Fareed Mahameed, Clive Lipchin , The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, Israel - "Decentralized wastewater treatment and reuse for marginalized communities in arid regions: a case study from the Bedouiin community in Israel"

    Dr. Na'amah Razon, University of California, San Francisco, USA



    Convener: Prof. Dan Blumberg- Vice President for Regional and Industrial Development- Ben-Gurion University of the Negev


    This session will focus on an effort being conducted in the Negev region and specifically in the city of Beer-Sheva to build an Innovation District. The District will be shaped upon research strengths in the region that can be leveraged to ignite economic and social growth. One of the three main vectors we are promoting focuses on Desert life technologies, henceforth “Desert Tech”.