Better World

Shir Gilo

Making Neighborhoods More Walkable

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Shir Gilo

 

Shir Gilo first encountered the Urban Clinic when she participated in a public tour, and it left a great impression upon her. She loved how the Clinic connected theory with reality on the ground, integrating people’s lives with planning. Later, when choosing a graduate program, Shir found herself drawn to the possibility of combining theory and practice, developing social solutions alongside physical ones – and creating a better city.

She enrolled in the Hebrew University’s master’s program in Urban Planning and eventually took the Urban Clinic’s course. She decided to work on a project that had been proposed to the Clinic – developing a solution for Pisgat Zeev, neighborhood in northern Jerusalem plagued by morning traffic jams.

After some serious legwork, observing and meeting with stakeholders, it was decided to focus on two adjacent schools, where administrators and parents were committed to encouraging walking.

“There are many benefits to walking to school. The kids become more familiar with their neighborhood, it can be a social experience, they learn to solve problems, develop independence, take responsibility, get exercise, and so much more. Worldwide, it is common for students to walk to school, often in organized groups. There is no reason that Israeli schoolchildren cannot walk like their peers in Japan, England, and Canada.”

Shir, working with her classmate, Devora, got to work: They plotted student addresses in a geographic information system (GIS), in order to identify the best possible route for the largest number of students, avoiding steep inclines. They distributed a questionnaire and learned that some kids already walked, while other parents were interested in making a change. At the same time, they learned that the neighborhood had walking paths, but these were situated on side streets, often set back from the road.  

Ultimately, Shir and Devora identified three different walking paths – and suggested ways to improve each one. These ranged from physical changes (crosswalks, speed bumps), community adaptations (crossing guards, walking groups), and proposed regulations (speed limits, strict ticketing of cars parked on the sidewalk).

After such an intensive process, They submitted her proposals to Pisgat Zeev’s neighborhood planner. But Shir wasn’t done. She decided to write one of her seminar papers on encouraging walkability, specifically in hilly cities. Motivated to make an impact, she submitted her final paper to the neighborhood and regional planners, the Urban Clinic, and the Jerusalem municipality.

“The Urban Clinic is demanding; it sets very high standards. You can’t just sit back and learn – you need to work hard. Dr. Emily Silverman guided me every step along the way. It was, by far, the best experience I had at the Hebrew University.”

To read about Shir’s environmental work advocating for the Jerusalem hills, click here.

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The Career Center

The Career Center
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Seeking to provide its students not only with a stellar academic and professional education but also with assistance in finding suitable and fulfilling employment following their degree studies, in October 2019 the Hebrew University opened the Hebrew University (HUJI) Career Center, which operates in conjunction with the Student Union and partners in the Jerusalem municipality.

In the tradition of universities in the United States, the new HUJI Career Center offers Hebrew University students and graduates a range of services, from individual career counseling, through lectures and workshops designed to hone job market skills, to large-scale mediated encounters with potential employers.

The Hebrew University is seeking to more firmly establish the existing activities, some currently funded from various temporary sources, and to expand the activities and services offered to University students (including targeted services for specific populations such as Arab and Haredi students), thus providing all students with the optimal preparation for securing appropriate, rewarding employment following their graduation.

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From Street Dweller to Law Student

Yedidia Ashur
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Yedidia Ashur grew up in an ultra-Orthodox community in Jerusalem. In his mid-teens be began straying from the religious lifestyle, eventually leaving home. He lived on the streets or with friends, worked whatever jobs he could find, and often got by on strangers’ kindness.

In the spring of 2018, when he was 22 years old, Yedidia received a phone call out of the blue. A stranger was on the other side of the line, inviting him to his home for the Passover Seder. This man, an accomplished academic and engineer, had received the number from a friend who had hired Yedidia for an odd job. During the Seder, Yedidia shared his life story. Immediately after the holiday, the man called Yedidia again, drove to pick him up, and took him to the Hebrew University. He helped with the bureaucracy and paperwork – and Yedidia was enrolled in the Joseph Saltiel University Preparatory Center’s program.

"I felt that I’d met Elijah the Prophet."

The Joseph Saltiel University Preparatory School prepares youngsters for academic study, replacing the need to complete the matriculation exams. The program offers six specialized tracks, and graduates receive preferential consideration for admission to the Hebrew University.

The last time Yedidia was in school, he’d been a 14-year-old yeshiva student. Now, he worked harder than he’d ever worked before, studying up to 18 hours a day. Besides attending classes, Yedidia received extensive support from a slew of tutors. He met regularly with an English teacher who gave him private lessons and helped with his homework. During the fall semester he, along with a few other students, met with a math tutor. After getting the hang of it, he left the group and received private math tutoring from an economics student. As he was studying in the Social Sciences track, graduation required writing an original research paper. Yedidia wrote about the influence of globalization on soccer violence, supported by a private tutor with whom he met throughout the process.

In addition, the engineer continued to offer help, academic and otherwise. Yedidia was driven – with his eye set on law school. As a youngster living on the street, he’d been taken advantage of by employers, cellphone companies, banks – because he hadn’t known his rights.

"They say that knowledge is power, and this holds even more true for knowledge of the law. I was taken advantage of because I didn’t know my rights. I want to help others who are in my situation – helping them avoid predatory pitfalls."

Mid-year, Yedidia received a generous grant from a donor, enabling him to work less and study more. He eventually graduated from the Saltiel Preparatory Program and was accepted to the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Law. He began his studies this fall, backed by a generous scholarship that covers his tuition and living expenses. He hopes to double major in education, in order to gain additional tools for working with at-risk youth.

Reflecting back on the last few years, Yedidia recalls how higher education wasn’t even on his street-dwelling friends’ radar. They thought he was weird; today, another friend is studying to be a structural engineer, and others are considering following in their footsteps. As for his personal Elijah, he admits that he’s never done such a thing and will likely never do it again. He and Yedidia remain in close contact.

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Evaluating Public Spaces for Community Use

Gali Sheskin

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"For me, life is not about how you occupy your day but where you spend it. I see my mission as working to improve people’s immediate surroundings and thus enhancing their quality of life."

Gali Sheskin’s bachelor’s degree is in sociology, anthropology, and art history from the Hebrew University. While she greatly enjoyed her studies, she wanted to influence people’s experiences in the real world. As she began her master’s degree in geography and urban and regional planning at the University, Gali realized the Urban Clinic was the obvious address for her. She enrolled in the Clinic's elective course, excited to learn about planning, urban renewal, and to work with various stakeholders to foster dialogue in this field.

"It was important for me to contribute to society, in particular in neighborhoods that suffer from poor services or inter-community tensions. Through the Urban Clinic's highly professional staff, I have gained the academic training and practical tools to be able to listen to the residents’ concerns, understand the issues, and work with professionals and locals to bring about change. Especially in underserved neighborhoods."

 

 

Every student at the Urban Clinic must conduct a field project, and Gali decided to carry out hers in Jaffa, where she had recently moved. Though the city is blessed with a rich history, a beautiful seafront, and tourism, it grapples in part with a multi-racial population not at ease with one another's culture, needs, and sensitivities. One site where inter-group tensions played out was the community center in one of Jaffa's most underprivileged neighborhoods. While the center's mission is to host cultural, educational, and social events for all, in practice, each segment of the population regarded it as “the other groups’ turf.”

 

 

 

The community center in Jaffa (photo by Racheli Malki)

Rather than embracing diversity, differences had turned into spatial boundaries, not to be crossed. The center’s director had approached the Urban Clinic for advice before the Coronavirus pandemic, and as the country gradually emerged from lockdown, Gali Sheskin became involved.

Gali’s worked to identify outdoor spaces that could host communal activities in the era of social distancing. But before ‘hitting the ground,' she conducted research, reviewing international literature on how communities share public spaces when resources are limited – not just in times of crisis – and also contemporary articles on post-lockdown public activities to see how other places were moving forward creatively. Next, Gali mapped and rated 15 public spaces based on her own set of parameters, including safety aspects, current usage, potential public nuisance, adjacent buildings, accessibility, and social features. She also spoke to a range of people from the Jaffa community itself – residents, an urban-planner, activists, and a social worker – to hear their feedback, experiences, and suggestions.

"The Urban Clinic allowed me to channel my energies into improving people’s relationship with their neighborhood and having an impact on their wellbeing. I really believe in learning from people in the field: if you want to plan spaces that will serve people, you have to speak to the people themselves."

Finally, Gali presented her findings, setting out her photographs, a map, and her grading of each of the 15 sites’ suitability. Out of these, Gali recommended seven. She also proposed specific activities for each location – such as board games, story-time, a movie screening, a community garden, and a women’s running group – along with a list of the requisite equipment or accessories. The center’s leadership was extremely impressed with the breadth and depth of Gali’s work and is planning to involve local residents in implementing her suggestions in the near future. The hope is that, looking forward, this process will encourage greater participation and inter-community harmony.

"The Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality is now considering expansion and adaptation of this Jaffa project to other parts of the city too. And the Hebrew University is conducting a scientific evaluation of the project’s impact. Through our paradigm of nurturing urban leadership and local knowledge for just and inclusive cities, we are able to find meeting-grounds, literally and figuratively, for diverse groups within the same neighborhood."

-     Dr. Emily Silverman, Founding Director of the Urban Clinic
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Scholarships for Graduate Students and Projects in East Jerusalem: Creating More Equitable Cities

Urban Clinic

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The Hebrew University's Urban Clinic, in its quest to create more equitable cities, combines knowledge and practice to strengthen local community leadership and help rejuvenate neighborhoods. However, some sectors have less access to resources and services; systematic urban planning, from grassroots upwards and with the clinic's guidance, can make all the difference to underserved areas. 

The Urban Clinic is thus well-positioned to work with residents and local professionals to address the inadequate infrastructure and public services in East Jerusalem. To this end, the clinic raised funds and established scholarships for Arab students studying towards a master’s degree. Priority is given to projects that take place in East Jerusalem and to students who are themselves residents of East Jerusalem.

"I couldn’t think of anything more sacred than donating my resources towards improving the Hebrew University’s Urban Clinic, the city of Jerusalem, and the State of Israel."

- Jonathan Russo, supporter of the scholarships

Since 2015, these scholarships have enabled 19 Arab graduate students to study both the academic and practical sides of urban planning. These motivated and accomplished students are hand-picked, commit to improving their Hebrew, participate in Urban Clinic meetings, and develop a project in East Jerusalem. Since most of the students come from or live in East Jerusalem, they know only too well the challenges their neighborhoods face. Through the Urban Clinic’s training, they gain the skills, confidence, and knowledge to work with local planning professionals and the Jerusalem municipality, as well as initiate small-scale projects to enhance public spaces and help allocate limited resources wisely. 

For example, in an attempt to address the dire need for housing caused by the difficulty obtaining building permits, one student researched the legal aspects of land registration in East Jerusalem. Another student involved East Jerusalem high schoolers in analyzing and mapping the inadequate parks and outdoor spaces near their homes; together they submitted proposals for improvements to the Jerusalem municipal professionals responsible for developing public open spaces.

"These scholarships empower Arab and Palestinian master students, giving them the professional tools to work as urban-planners in their own community. The Urban Clinic’s ethos and methods teach them how to work within the system to bring about change. Seeing them graduate, obtain jobs in the field, and continue devoting their energy and knowledge to making Jerusalem a more equitable and livable city, is very satisfying."

-    Anonymous supporter of the scholarships 

Meet Aya Eghbaria, a recipient of this scholarship, and read about her projects in East Jerusalem here.

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Creating a More Just Society Through Planning

Aya Eghbaria

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Aya Eghbaria is a master’s student in geography and urban and regional planning. She earned her undergraduate degree in psychology and law, completing her law internship at the Tel Aviv Public Defender’s office. Aya has also volunteered with many civic and human rights organizations. Through these experiences, she has become aware of the different ways to create a more just society.

"I realized that as a lawyer, I was working to rectify existing problems. I wanted to figure out how to prevent some of the problems from happening in the first place. In Arab towns, many of the most severe problems revolve around issues of land, housing, and zoning – and urban planning is a way to change these. When I first heard about the Urban Clinic’s approach to spatial justice, and the tuition scholarships available to become an urban planner, I knew the Hebrew University was the place to pursue my master’s degree."

Aya joined two of the clinic’s projects dealing with East Jerusalem.  The first is a team project on affordable housing and urban planning. They are working with community groups to identify practical and creative methods to generate new, affordable homes.  The second project addresses the lack of registered land titles for homes in East Jerusalem. Without registration, landowners cannot obtain construction permits or mortgages, or make any changes to their property. The team is investigating similar situations internationally and trying to bridge between government and community groups. 

"I’m glad I joined the Urban Clinic from the beginning of studies, as it has helped me better understand my work as a planner and my professional future. The clinic plays an important role, translating academic knowledge to real-life situations."

Aya would like to continue studying for a doctorate, but also values working with people and communities. In this sense, Aya perfectly exemplifies the Urban Clinic, which strives to bridge academia and practice.

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The Urban Clinic: A Town Square

Luisa Venancio

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Luisa Venancio is a PhD student in urban and regional studies, as well as a staff member of the Urban Clinic. She studied architecture and planning in her native Brazil, before moving to France to study for a master’s degree, where she remained to work in humanitarian architecture, including planning post-disaster, low-cost, and cooperative housing. 

Luisa came to realize that projects might fail, not because they were poorly planned, but because they were not planned together with the community they served. Thus, in 2016 she moved to Israel to begin Glocal, the Hebrew University’s International Community Development program. Yet unable to stay away from planning, she immediately became involved with the Urban Clinic. For example, through the clinic she presented to Israeli planners the case study of Medellín, a city in Columbia that undertook a radical, innovative project of social urbanism.

Glocal’s highlight is, undoubtably, the 4-month internship; Luisa decided to intern with Islam Idaes, an Urban Clinic colleague who was the planner for three East Jerusalem neighborhoods. In one of these neighborhoods, a girls’ high school was going to be built. Islam suggested that Luisa teach 9th graders architecture and together develop their vision for the new school, which could be presented to municipal decision-makers. The project was a success, and additional fund raising made it possible to hold an exhibition and publish a tri-lingual booklet. For her thesis, Luisa interviewed the girls about their experiences during the project.

"Everyone seemed in favor of this project, it was in the consensus: teaching girls architecture, technology, and urbanism. So many people offered to help, perhaps because I was an outsider [to the conflict] and they saw the potential for the kids."

With the Urban Clinic playing such a significant role in her studies, Luisa knew she couldn’t leave. She has remained on the Urban Clinic’s staff, while beginning her PhD. She currently works on Urban95, a project focused on toddlers’ experiences living in cities. She’s also a teaching assistant for the course, Big Cities for Little Children. Luisa’s doctoral research will be in this vein, examining the effects of the urban environment upon young children.

"The Urban Clinic has become one of my homes in Jerusalem. It is like a town square, where people come together to share advice, come up with creative ideas, and help one another. My time at the Urban Clinic and living in Jerusalem has taught me to listen and get things done in a polarized environment."

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Community Development: Theory Meets Practice

Jean Claude Muhire

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Meet Jean Claude Muhire, Glocal Alum (2014/15)

Jean Claude Muhire was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, to Rwandan parents who fled the 1959 ethnic violence. His father teaches primary school, while his mother raised Jean Claude along with his five siblings. When he was seven, his family returned to Rwanda. 

Growing up, his family wasn’t necessarily poor, but finances were tight. Jean Claude received a government scholarship to study fundamental and computational physics at the National University of Rwanda. While he was more inclined towards people-centered fields, such as public health and development, he made the most of it. During his studies he began volunteering, and later working, for the non-profit organization, Spark Microgrants. He would assist communities as they planned, designed, and carried out projects with their micro-grant. 

After graduating, Jean Claude began the Global Health Fellowship, a leadership development program that included training at Yale University. He then spent a year driving social impact projects with vulnerable communities through Health Poverty Action, a non-profit organization working in rural Rwanda. By that time, he was ready to take his next academic step, and applied to Glocal. 

Entering the program, Jean Claude hoped to gain a theoretical framework for understanding his experiences in the field. Glocal’s classes introduced him to new concepts, such as program evaluation, population dynamics, and critical thinking. In particular, he remembers one discussion focused on critiquing a model for giving money directly to people, rather than funding NGOs.

"I was adamantly opposed to directly giving money without any strings attached. I believed that people needed training, not cash. Handing $1,000 to a family who’d never even had $10 – they couldn’t possibly know how to use it wisely."

For his internship, Jean Claude returned to Rwanda to work with World Relief, a faith-based non-profit organization. He helped saving groups (neighborhood-based loan/credit unions) digitalize their transactions, using a donated smartphone. 

After graduating, he returned to Rwanda and began working for GiveDirectly, paving the way for the non-profit to begin working in Rwanda. It took over two years, but he succeeded. Suddenly, the theoretical discussion in class became a practical reality.

"I came to understand that people living in extreme poverty have priorities. They are in the best position to decide what they need. One family replaced their grass roof with one made of more durable materials. Another family, who’d always slept on the floor, bought mattresses. We take these things for granted, such as getting a good night’s sleep."

Five years after graduation, Jean Claude now runs his own consulting business, helping non-profits establish their operations in Rwanda, such as a multimillion-dollar poverty alleviation outcomes fund through an organization called Instiglio. He also works for the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation, managing programs and partnerships with government institutions, think tanks, trade unions, and civil society organizations that promote social protection and governance.

"My experience at Glocal was mind-blowing.  What I do today is pure development work. How I negotiate or design a program, evaluate the program, or understand its impact on partners – I learned it all at Glocal. In addition, a master’s degree from the Hebrew University opens many doors and helps me build bridges with different partners. Having a degree from such a prestigious university gives credibility to my CV."

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Creating a Welcoming City Post-Coronavirus Lockdown

Welcoming City Image

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In a world reimagined due to the Coronavirus, where social distancing, hygiene regulations, and governmental restrictions are infused into nearly every activity, cities find themselves needing to reinvent the public arena. The Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality, home to nearly half a million people, was determined to combat the fear and the economic slump engendered by the stay-at-home measures, while also ensuring the existence of a welcoming, green, safe, and equitable city following the easing of restrictions. 

Thus, the municipality turned to the Hebrew University's Urban Clinic, renowned for its expertise in community planning projects, to help develop its exit strategy from the lockdown. The Urban Clinic's combination of academic depth and practical experience placed it in a unique position to guide the municipality and develop creative solutions. 

The Urban Clinic, in partnership with the Urban Innovation and Sustainability Lab at Tel Aviv University, performed a triple role. As convener, they established the forum for the exit strategy, bringing together some 50 specialists in transport, welfare, housing, economics, sociology, and architecture. These included professionals and academics, as well as decision-makers from the Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Beersheva municipalities. The Clinic's role in enabling all these people to brainstorm together, virtually, was crucial. 

In its second task, as curator, the Clinic organized and moderated a series of weekly Zoom meetings, with break-out sessions to analyze each topic in depth. The Clinic carefully tailored these meetings to facilitate information exchange, creative thinking, and open discussions. 

The Clinic’s third function was pedagogical: to educate the forum’s members by preparing summaries of the literature and experience from abroad on post-lockdown scenarios, while creating an efficient format for taking practical steps and reaching concrete outcomes. Time was of the essence: residents were itching for normalcy, yet it was clear that the exit strategy also had to be sound, making all the difference to the residents’ quality of life and the ongoing management of the pandemic.  

One of the forum’s primary objectives was providing services for the city’s vulnerable denizens. The challenge was to provide their needs within public venues, while also maintaining social distancing. It became clear that sharing spaces was going to be vital.  With the Clinic’s guidance, the forum identified underutilized locations. For example, they recommended using schools in the afternoon and community centers in the morning. In this way, community activities and social services could be safely provided. This format was hugely successful and is expected to serve as a model for other cities in Israel.   

 

An in-depth article about Hadas, a member of the Urban Clinic heavily involved in these efforts, can be found here.

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Bringing Clean Water and Green Energy to Villages in Rural Africa

Gabby Samad Image

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Gabrielle “Gabby” Samad grew up in the United States. As an undergraduate student of communications with a minor in global poverty, she had the opportunity to spend a semester in Brazil. After graduating, she worked as a community organizer, first in Brazil and then in the United States.  

Gabby knew she wanted to earn a master’s degree in development and Glocal was a perfect fit. She also decided to make aliya. Entering the program with a few years of hands-on experience, the program gave her tools for better understanding development work. Without doubt, the highlight was her internship in Rwanda. Putting her degree in communication to good use, Gabby did marketing work for Health Poverty Action, meeting with project beneficiaries and sharing their stories with the world.

Even before graduating, Gabby found a job with Innovation Africa, a non-profit that brings Israeli solar power, water, and agricultural innovations to rural villages in Africa. 

"I found my dream job – combining international field work into my practice. By bringing solar power to schools and clinics in Uganda and Malawi, facilities are now able to stay open into the night, allowing more people to benefit from education and healthcare. By providing clean and accessible water to communities, these villagers have, for the first time in their lives, access to clean water – something we usually take for granted. Water is life."

A video clip of Gabby talking about her experiences in Rwanda is available here.

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Helping Non-Profits Grow Professionally

Orly Heiblum

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Orly Heiblum grew up in Mexico City and chose to study hotel management. After working in hospitality for a year, she decided to pursue a different direction for her career. Luckily, around that time her then-boyfriend (now husband) was sent to do his national service in San Cristóbal de las Casas, a small town in the southern state of Chiapas. While living there, Orly found her calling – the social sector. She got involved with two local non-profit organizations that did community work. At the same time, she and her husband founded an organization, Desde los Altos, that provided health-related services to people living under the poverty line.  

After moving back to Mexico City, Orly found work with Filantrofilia, an organization that helps non-profits monitor, evaluate, and improve their operations, while maximizing their impact. A few years later, Orly and her husband decided to make aliya, so he could continue his surgical training at Hadassah. 

Orly began seeking academic opportunities in Israel. When she found Glocal, the Hebrew University’s International Development master’s program, she knew she’d found what she was looking for.

"Glocal was a perfect fit for my experience and interests, and it was even in Jerusalem! My two favorite aspects of the program were the academics, which gave me a deep understanding of the world of development work; and social, I met inspiring people who are doing amazing things around the world."

For her internship, Orly volunteered with Kuchinate, a collective of African asylum-seekers in Tel Aviv. Her role included helping the NGO make their processes more organized and professional. She also organized events and taught workshops to the women, with an emphasis on management skills.

"I really enjoy the field of evaluation. By helping organizations adapt their work to meet best practices, NGOs are able to achieve more – more efficiently. These are powerful tools, and I know that I can make the social sector more professional."

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The Intl. School of Agricultural Sciences: A Global Community

World Map

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The Division for External Studies was established in 1988 to provide English-language programs in the agricultural, food, and environmental sciences. In 2015 Prof. Moshe Coll from the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment established The International School of Agricultural Sciences, as the home of all the international activities and programs carried out in the Rehovot campus.

Nearly 3,000 participants from around the globe have attended graduate degree programs and short training courses and workshops at the International School. The map below shows where our students have come from - and where they're making a difference today!

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Mapping Out the Post-Lockdown City

Hadas Tzin

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"They say, ‘Give a man a fish, feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime’. The Urban Clinic empowers people to contribute to their communities and neighborhoods, and promote their wellbeing. That is my end goal: to harness my academic knowledge and practical experience to influence facts on the ground and forge cohesive communities."

Hadas Tzin’s journey to the Urban Clinic commenced upon completing her bachelor’s degree in social work. Knowing that she wanted to help people from all walks of life feel a sense of belonging, she started her career in a community center in an underserved neighborhood of Jerusalem. She quickly realized how urban planning affects the very basics of everyday life and empowers some communities to flourish, while others are left behind. Once Hadas heard from colleagues about the Urban Clinic, she decided to take the next logical step and tap into its academic and practical expertise on urban renewal and community planning. She registered for the Hebrew University’s master’s degree in urban and regional planning, and took the Urban Clinic’s elective course.

Every student at the clinic has to volunteer at one of its projects. Hadas was excited to work with the forum set up by the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality to plan the city’s exit strategy from the Coronavirus lockdown.

"This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work in a multi-disciplinary team of high-level professionals and decision-makers and apply the knowledge I had acquired at the University to challenging, real-life situations. The forum’s task was to assess the use of public spaces for community activities while complying with new social-distancing requirements. Our teamwork was intense, since we understood that our efforts would directly impact the residents’ quality of life, and their confidence to leave their homes and renew their participation in society."

Hadas’s role was both academic and practical, drawing on her training from the Urban Clinic. She prepared study material for the forum on ‘the day after’ scenarios by scouring international literature and participating in global webinars on post-lockdown strategies. She mapped outdoor spaces that could be adapted for public activities by walking around, speaking to local business owners, and assessing car and pedestrian usage.

"The forum was an enlightening experience. My take-home lessons for my job as a community social worker have been immediate; with my colleagues at the community center, we have also mapped out which public spaces in the neighborhood can be used for summer family activities. I really hope that, in this way, the residents will be able to leave their homes and together, at a distance, have fun with their families and revitalize their neighborhood."

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Achieving a Deeper Understanding of the World

Skylar Inman

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Skyler Inman grew up Houston, TX. As an undergraduate student at Yale, she studied English language and literature, with a concentration in nonfiction creative writing. She began writing for The Globalist, a quarterly international affairs magazine run entirely by undergraduate students. During her time there, she participated in three annual reporting trips – to Vietnam, Bosnia and Serbia, and Peru. She spent her summers interning at various magazines. 

After graduating, Skyler received a grant to spend a year in Israel and produce a storytelling podcast about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She named the show Intractable.  This experience pivoted Skyler in two entirely new directions. First, it was the beginning of her career in radio journalism. Second, as her podcast progressed, Skyler found herself with more questions than answers.

"I was frustrated with the media at the time and wanted to broaden my understanding of the themes that emerged from my recordings. I was eager to academically investigate the impact of development work on peace, conflict, and identity."

 

 

Friends had recommended Glocal, the Hebrew University’s International Development master’s program, and Skyler decided to apply. Entering the program, she was thrilled to be surrounded by people who thought deeply about the same issues as her and found the program’s classes to be a grounding experience. 

For her internship, Skyler worked with Mesila, an organization that works with the families of migrant workers and asylum-seekers in Tel Aviv. She carried out an evaluation for the social work team, as they helped parents to children with special needs realize their rights. As a result of Skyler’s study, Mesila has identified new avenues for programming.

"Thanks to Glocal, I better understand how the world works: international aid, international debt, economics, post-colonial theory – and more. My thinking has been greatly enriched. As a journalist, I’m able to take a more nuanced approach and offer listeners a more thoughtful experience."

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Ana Benitez, Honduras, MSc in Environmental Quality Sciences

Ana Benitez

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Ana Benitez, born and raised in Siguatepeque, a small town in central Honduras, is the youngest of four siblings. Her parents have always been strong proponents of education and environmental preservation, saying that it’s the best inheritance they could give to their children. When it came time to select a path, Ana chose to pursue her passion, earning a degree in Environmental Sciences and Development at Zamorano University.  

After graduating, Ana was looking for opportunities abroad when she came across the International School of Agricultural Sciences. She is now at the end of her second year, working towards a Master’s in Environmental Quality Sciences.

"One thing I love about Israel is how my professors, no matter their degree of expertise, are accessible and humble with their knowledge. They show an interest in my learning and encourage me to ask questions and share my opinions. My advisor, Prof. Emeritus Dr. Shlomo Nir has even invited me to his home for holidays, sharing his family’s traditions with me."

Ana’s research focuses on how to optimize the use of granulated micelle-clay complexes to remove bacteria and non-ionic herbicides from water, with the potential to positively impact both public health and the environment.  

Looking forward, Ana hopes to continue to doctoral studies focused on water purification, and to apply in practical ways what she has learned upon returning to Honduras. 

The Coronavirus Shutdown

It was hard for Ana being so far from her family during this period of extreme uncertainty. Yet through daily phone calls home, Ana realized that staying in Israel was the best decision. She was also able to proceed with her research with no disturbance. 

Prof. Nir called and emailed Ana on a daily basis to check in and report progress on their paper – which was published during the shutdown! Prof. Nir even brought Ana special holiday dishes over Passover, and the International School staff also provided students with a listening ear and ensured they were up-to-date on the regulations.  

In addition, being on campus helped Ana meet new people, including Israeli and international students whom she wouldn’t have otherwise met.

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