Thursday, June 11, 2009

Going back to Israel

Yup. It's true. I'm going back to Israel.

Do you ever feel like things just come together a little too smoothly...too easily...too perfectly? I mean, I don't really believe that things are "meant to be" or anything like that, but every once and a while, something happens to make me wonder. This is kindof like that.

In March, I came back from Israel with no plans (or job prospects) and, as my daily dose of NPR constantly reminded me, the job market was...let's just say...less than stellar. To be perfectly honest, I was less worried than I probably should have been; I mean, I had two part time jobs doing what I love to do -- rock climbing -- and I was (am) perfectly happy to delay my entrance into a real job and take some time to recover from the insane pace of MIT.

But one day, while killing time on the internet, I saw some info about an MIT-Technion exchange program that included an email address for the contact person in Boston. Randomly, I sent him an email asking if I could come by his office and chat about potential architecture opportunities. David emailed me back to let me know that they take applications for the regular program in the fall, but that this year it just so happened that there was some grant money available through the Sloan business school to fund projects related to renewable energy research in Israel. The deadline was only a few days away, but he said, if my work had anything to do with environmental issues/sustainability, I should write a proposal.

It does...and I did.

In a second bizarre coincidence, Isaac Meir, an Israeli architect and researcher at the Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research, had just been on campus two weeks prior, meeting with David about the potential for research collaborations with MIT students and alumni. Meir's work deals specifically with architecture in extreme environments. The Institute, which seeks to promote models for the development of the desert is part of Ben Gurion University, and is located on a satellite campus at Midreshet Ben-Gurion (a communal settlement in the Negev, near kibbutz Sde Boker, famous for being the final resting place for David + Paula Ben-Gurion).

For the Institute homepage, click here.
For a brief overview, written by the director, click here.
For a look at the Center for Desert Architecture, click here.

While I know next to nothing about desert architecture specifically, I have some experience dealing with extreme environments, and was very excited at the prospect of tackeling a site where the constraints are as stringent as (though climatically, nearly the opposite of) Antarctica.

The next thing I knew, I was emailing Isaac Meir about details for a summer research project, booking a plane ticket and filing for an Israeli visa. The plan is to leave July 7th, work at the Institute for 3 months, then do some traveling (and climbing!) around the region for a month or so. I'll update with more details and info about the project later...but at least this is a start.

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