“I believe the world was created with imperfections so that humans can have the privilege of being partners with the Almighty in the act of creation. It’s not just about preservation, but working and protecting our ‘Garden of Eden.'”
The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies is a unique environmental education and research program in the Middle East, that prepares future generations of Arab and Jewish leaders to cooperatively solve the region’s environmental challenges through richer and more innovative peace-building solutions. The Arava Institute has educated more than 1,500 students from Israel, Jordan, Palestine, and other countries to advance an environmentally sustainable future for the area. Founder Alon Tal’s trailblazing advocacy efforts include founding the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, which has filed hundreds of legal actions on behalf of the public interest in Israel’s courts and has won impressive victories for the causes of environmental quality and the preservation of natural resources. Between 2010 and 2013 he served as Chairman of the Green Movement, Israel’s Green Party which led to the election of the country’s first Green Knesset member. Through the Tal Fund, he continues to garner support for grassroots activism to address Israel’s key ecological challenges.
Alon Tal is an environmentalist who understands that ecology is a uniting force that bridges differences among the people of the Middle East. He is the Founder of Adam Teva V’Din (the Israel Union for Environmental Defense), Israel’s leading environmental advocacy organization. In 1996, he founded the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, a unique education and research program that prepares future Arab and Israel leaders to work together to remedy the region’s environmental challenges through innovative peace-building solutions. Tal is also a founding board member of Ecopeace, a Jordanian-Israeli-Palestinian environmental organization that works for regional advocacy and cooperation on a range of environmental issues including the restoration of the Jordan River and the establishment of transboundary peace parks.
Tal received his Ph.D. from Harvard University where he served as a consultant to the Environmental Protection Agency. He was appointed Professor of Environmental Policy at Ben Gurion University of the Negev in 2004. In 2016 he was appointed Professor and Chair of the Department of Public Policy at Tel Aviv University.
Representing the Green Zionist Alliance and the Conservative Movement on the International Board of Keren Kayemet le’Yisrael (JNF) from 2004 to 2016, Tal became Chair of its Land Development Committee which oversees forestry in Israel. In that capacity he oversaw the implementation of new sustainable forestry practices, solidified JNF’s annual support for cycling and bike paths, established a scientific advisory board of experts and doubled the funding for research. Tal also initiated a new program—the first of its kind—to prioritize JNF assistance for Arab communities across Israel.
After he received the Charles Bronfman Prize in 2005, Tal directed the proceeds to creating “the Tal Fund” which provides grants to grassroots environmental initiatives. To date, more than $800,000 has been distributed to 40 environmental organizations and initiatives.
From 2006 to 2014, Tal chaired the bi-annual Conference on Drylands and Desertification at Ben Gurion University, in conjunction with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, which brought together 600 participants from 63 countries to consider key issues involving sustainable development in the drylands. In the past Tal has represented Israel at the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. He has served as a mediator among government agencies, developers, and environmentalists on complex development issues.
In 2010, Tal became Chair of Israel’s Green Party, “the Green Movement,” which elected their first candidate to Israel’s Knesset in 2015. He established the Israel Forum on Demography, Society, and Environment which first convened in 2015 at the Weizmann Institute. For many years he has been concerned about the rapid increase in Israel’s population and its environmental impact; in 2016 he published The Land Is Full, Addressing Overpopulation in Israel, a topic he lectures on throughout Israel. In 2016 he co-founded “This is My Earth” (TiME) a ‘crowdsourcing’ initiative that buys biodiversity hot-spots around the world in partnership with local environmental groups. Already the organization has 1,000 members from more than 40 countries.
Tal has written and edited nine books, including 2013’s All the Trees of the Forest. He has also published more than 100 academic articles, chapters, and reports and is a regular contributor to the Times of Israel, Haaretz, and The Jerusalem Post. His book, Water Wisdom: Preparing The Groundwork For Cooperative And Sustainable Water Management In The Middle East was jointly edited with Professor Alfred Abed Rabbo and published by Rutgers University Press in 2010.
In recognition of his work, he has received numerous awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award for Environmental Protection from Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Protection as part of Israel’s 60th anniversary celebration and the 2016 Haiken Prize for Best Original Israeli Book on Geostrategic Topics (for The Land Is Full). The Marker, Israel’s national economic magazine, named him among their “100 Influential Israelis.”
Tal’s work has been covered in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, various other international publications, and NPR. He continues to play fiddle and mandolin with the noted Israeli bluegrass band The Arava Riders. He lives in Maccabim, Israel with his family.
AWARD PRESENTATION: Alon Tal
Working together can yield benefits far beyond those accomplished by working alone. Preserving environmental health is no exception. Alon Tal continues to transform many of the leading environmental institutions in Israel and the Middle East.WATCH HERE