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Special Topics in Environmental Policy and Culture (390-0-25)


Water in Arid Lands: Israel and the Middle East


Elie Rekhess
Crowe Hall 5-149

Aaron Packman
2145 N. Sheridan / Tech A314
Office Hours:

Meeting Info

Annenberg Hall G29: Wed 4:00PM - 6:50PM

Overview of class

This seminar will explore how the availability of water has shaped the development of civilizations and driven innovation in water technologies. The course will investigate historical dimensions of water in Israel and the Middle East, focusing on ancient civilizations and the water infrastructures that are essential tools in aiding the development of water-poor societies. We will use this historical context as a stepping-stone to transition into a more recent history of the Middle East, focusing on the challenges that the nascent state of Israel faced following the influx of millions of immigrants. We will then examine efforts to develop the necessary water resources needed to support the burgeoning population as well as the irrigation projects designed to convert barren desert land into cultivated agriculture. This more recent history will help to set the stage for discussions regarding geopolitical conflicts over land and water that continue to this day. We will evaluate regional climate and water in the context of current and future geopolitical conflicts, reviewing recent advances in water technologies spurred by these limitations as well as the potential development of combined social and technological solutions for long-term water sustainability in Israel and the Middle East. We will end the course with discussions regarding opportunities for global translation of innovative water technologies and water-management solutions developed in Israel to other water-poor regions. In addition, the course will host a symposium featuring international experts. It will explore how water access and control contributes to trans-boundary politics and how recent advances in Israeli water technologies may serve as a model for sustainable water development in other water-poor regions of the world.

Registration Requirements

Juniors, Seniors and Grad Students in any school. Freshmen and Sophomores may be able to enroll with a permission code if space is available.

Learning Objectives

The course will provide an overview of the climatic and geographical limitations on water availability in Israel and the Middle East, discuss ancient and modern societal responses to these limitations, and define opportunities for development of sustainable solutions for regional stability and prosperity.

Teaching Method

Group work
Class participation
Writing assignments

Evaluation Method

Paper, final
Class participation
Writing assignments
Paper, mid-term

Other (see below):
Written progress report and outline for seminar paper: 20% Final paper: 30% Weekly position papers: 25% Presentations & discussion participation: 25%

Class Materials (Required)

Reading materials will be distributed through Canvas.

Enrollment Requirements

Enrollment Requirements: Reserved for Students who are Juniors, Seniors, or Graduate students in any school