By Yonit Yogev, 2nd Year MES Student & MES Ambassador.
Two days and I’m already hooked.
The energy, excitement and deep commitment to mission and vision of this one-of-a-kind institution are palpable throughout the hallways.
Ramat HaNadiv Memorial Gardens and Nature Park is a 1,000+ acre gem of a nature preserve in the hills just south of the Carmel Mountains, close to the coast about mid-way between Haifa and Tel Aviv, Israel. When Israel was first forming as a state, Mayer Amsel Rothschild, a modest German from a highly respected business family in Frankfurt, became enamored with the fledgling state, and so began his lifelong relationship as benefactor of towns, founder of businesses, and well-loved encourager of dreams.
His family continues to carry out his mission, and the current institute called Ramat HaNadiv has become a center of cutting edge science as a station for Long-term Ecological Research (LTER), conservation and restoration research; a center for Environmental Education (utilizing Master’s and PhD-level educators); a place of peace and shelter for many groups who benefit from their Horticulture Therapy program and gardens; for the extensive volunteer and outreach program, and as a haven of green and beauty for its visitors in the gardens as well as on the trails of the nature park. Feeling they had accomplished much and were ready to work towards future goals, Ramat HaNadiv launched a project more ambitious and far-reaching than any they had yet attempted: The Partnership for Regional Sustainability.
The Partnership launched in 2014, and includes 6 local municipalities and townships, all of which are connected to the Nachal Taninim (Crocodile River) watershed system. An Arab village, which unfortunately is known as the poorest in the entire country, is also one of the partner towns. In mind-boggling juxtaposition, Zichron Yaakov, one of the more well-to-do towns in the area is also a partner. Ramat HaNadiv, for its part, has a goal of getting this partnership up and running so that within three short years they will be able to more or less turn over the reins to the group as a whole.
Because Ramat HaNadiv is run by the well-endowed Rothschild Foundation, they are able to do things most organizations can only dream about. It affords them the luxury to carry out multiple large-scale projects simultaneously, and has engendered a warm, supportive work environment in which a relatively small group of people are able to accomplish huge goals.
Sustainability is not yet a household word in Israel.
The political situation and culture of militarism in the country keep the citizens preoccupied and in a constant state of alert. While the focus of this blog piece is not political, the results and the reality in terms of the environment are clear. Sustainability is not at the top of the priority list for the majority of Israelis. Over the years of the country’s connection with the US, a culture of consumerism has come up as well. What this means for Ramat HaNadiv is that they are not only learning just how complex and multi-dimensional such a huge undertaking is, but they are also, in essence, attempting to change the very culture—the way people think and act about every aspect of their lives. They hope to push forward the concept and the every-day behaviors of sustainability in a place where most of the population is still far from realizing its critical importance.
So where do I fit in?
I set up an individualized internship with someone I know here, who it turned out, is the director of the Partnership. One of the things I was able to do early on was introduce them to Community-based Social Marketing (CBSM). While their philosophy clearly fits in with its foundations, CBSM is in an embryonic stage here. It’s very gratifying to have been able to connect them with the CBSM professionals in Israel. Since what the Partnership represents is a sea-change in culture and every-day actions and behaviors, CBSM will be crucial for the success of the program. Secondly, I am helping create a model for Citizen ‘Science’ projects, with hopes of getting one ready to launch before I leave. As is often the case with internships, one often feels like one is getting the hang of the place just in time for it to end! With a model in place, they will hopefully be able to utilize it for other similar projects, and we hope to hire someone part time to carry the project through. Citizen science or monitoring programs require that a fair bit of attention be paid to the volunteers, keeping them informed of how their data is being used, making sure they feel helpful and appreciated. In this case, in line with sustainability’s underlying philosophy, we would like the volunteers from the community to have a major say in all aspects of the study, and most especially in the long-term, when the search for solutions at the root level of the problems being mapped begins in earnest.
All in all, I have learned a huge amount in my short time here, been inspired by how much a small group of dedicated people can accomplish in a short time, and feel blessed to have had this opportunity.