The last week of October was orientation week. We began on Monday and Tuesday with meetings on campus at Tel Aviv University. I had to temper my expectations for organization as the University runs like the rest of Israel - they don't seem to get too concerned about the details. ID cards weren't ready, course offerings were not finalized (and therefore neither were syllabi), online access was not yet available, and yet we were being asked to meet deadlines utilizing these tools. To our program coordinator's credit, it appeared that our class was considerably more organized than other programs. But she was running into the same institutional barriers that we were, and working feverishly to address them. As an American who immigrated to Israel about 10 years ago, she has been wonderful in helping us navigate this new experience.
Wednesday and Thursday of orientation consisted of a "Tiyul," or field trip. We were taken north to Israel's national water carrier, Mekorot, for a tour and lectures about the country's water sources. Israel has only one fresh water lake as I have mentioned before - the Sea of Galilee, known locally as the Kinneret. It also has two natural aquefers in the north. Already over 30% of their water comes from desalination, and this is expected to become 50-70% in the next 5-10 years. They re-use grey water (waste from homes) at a rate of 78%, far beyond any other country in the world. They treat it, then send it out for agricultural use.
We stayed overnight at a simple kibbutz hotel, common in the north, then visited one of the few significant year-round water sources (I would call it a stream, but they call it a river). It is in the Banias Valley (We visited this site with my dad last May, when it was rushing full of muddy water from spring rain. This time it was clear.)
Our last stop was the Hulu Valley, where feeding practices have made it a major stop on the bird migration from Europe to Africa and back. We saw pelicans and cranes by the thousands. They gave us a brief demonstration of the bird research they do here, and I released one of the tiny tagged birds.
In case you are interested in learning with me, our pre-program reading included:
3. Hardin, Garret "The Tragedy of the Commons",