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Town Square Academia: Academic & Local Experts Building Bridges of Knowledge with Local Activists to Reduce Injustice

Town Square Academia is a grassroots initiative, established in 2011 by an activist group of academics, residents and students situated in a biodiversity hotspot along the Jordan River, an extremely peripheral and diverse area. The program builds bridges of knowledge, trust and intercultural dialogue, using science as a pro-active tool for recognizing local knowledge and resisting environmental and social injustice. In practice, academic and local experts co-lead ten free courses and three action groups each year, bringing together hundreds of Bedouins, Druze, Muslims, Christians and Jews, religious and secular, conservative and progressive, Palestinian and Israeli-Jews that co-produce a stronger sense of place, new data and a more just science-based policy. This long-term collaboration helps the community to augment its knowledge and generate change via academic tools, whereas the scientists gain new perspectives and information that help to improve their research innovation and the clarity of their pedagogy. 


Local Experts خبراء محليون Academic Experts خبراء اكادميون

Shadia Alhaib, Bedouin Plant Collector

شادية الهيب، جمع نباتات للأكل والعلاج  

Tel.+972-549762474; [email protected]

Associate Professor Ayelet Shavit, Philosopher of Ecology and Evolution

بروفيسور اييلت شابيط،  فلسفة البيئة

Tel. +972-507277200; [email protected]

Nawal Alhaib, Female Bedouin Heritage

السيدة نوال الهيب، التراث النسوي في المجتمع البدوي

Tel.+972-546338705; [email protected]

Associate Professor Mustafa Abbasi, Historian of Palestinian Arab Society

بروفيسور مصطفى العباسي، تاريخ المجتمع العربي الفلسطيني

Tel.+972-48181540; [email protected]

Moshe Kakon, Identity and Environment: Sephardic Jewish History and River Clean-Up

 موشي كاكون، الهوية والبيئة، تاريخ يهود المشرق ونظافة الماء    

Tel.+972-544456019; [email protected]

Professor Giora Rytwo, Environmental Physical Chemistry Scientist

بروفيسور جيودا ريتفو،عالم بيئة وعلوم (كيمياء-فيزياء)

Tel. +972-4-7700516; [email protected]

Hoda (Nadim) Eid, Psychological Resilience and Coping with Stress within Arabic Community

المعالجة النفسية هدى (نديم) عيد، الحصانة النفسية وكيفية التعامل مع التوتر في المجتمع العربي  

[email protected]

Yael Silver (Ph.D. Candidate), Building Community-Academia Partnerships

ياعيل سيلفر (طالبة دكتوراه)، بناء الشراكة الأكاديمية الجماهيرية

Tel. 972+ 542455582; [email protected]

Sarit Elimelech, History, Local Pride and the local Environment
in the Periphery

سريت أليملخ، تاريخ، الاعتزاز والبيئة المحلية في الأطراف

Tel. +972-529242942; [email protected]

Najah Ibrahim (Ph.D. Candidate), Pro-Active and Innovative Education in Peripheral Communities

نجاح إبراهيم (طالبة دكتوراه)، التربية الحديثة، الفاعلة والمبتكرة في مجتمع الأقليات

Tel.+972- 505071676; [email protected]

Ali Nimer, Traditional Bowdoin Horsemanship  

علي نمر اللهيب
مربط اللهيب

تربية الخيول العربيه الاصيله، وتعليم ركوب الخيل 



A Bridge Over Troubled Waters

Climate change differentially impacts human society, deepening its existing eco-social gaps. Here are two examples – from an Arab and Jewish settlement – resisting such injustice. At the heart of the historic Bedouin village of Tuba was a local stream, now physically inaccessible and politically transparent. Until recently no trail led to it, the young generation was detached, and its name disappeared from online and physical maps. Two local experts, Shadia and Nawall Albaib, together with an academic historian, water scientist, ethno-botanist and philosopher of ecology co-built a series of courses on their Bedouin heritage. It led to an action group that compiled high quality biodiversity data via traditional methods of plant collecting and tracking, established a trail in honor of its indigenous roots, won state recognition and sponsorship and conduced countless Jewish-Arab meetings.

Another example is the border-town of Kiryat Shmona. Its rich local history, biodiversity and beautiful streams ignored by tourists, incoming college students and even by many town residences, who migrate to the more affluent settlements around it. Again, it was a pro-activist partnership, local experts working with professional historians, philosophers and scientists from Tel Hai College, UPenn and Harvard. Co-designing long-term biodiversity surveys and nature-based education programs for changing the city’s image, making the data interoperable to iNaturalist and to Israel’s Museum of Natural History, co-building a new science-based policy for stream restoration, co-authoring and wining a 10 million NIS grant to test and implement this policy.

Many such examples exist in Town Square Academia, producing publications for the academics, national prizes for the locals, and a platform for a true and equal collaboration between academia and community.

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