GREENinMED partners explore local tourism establishments and sustainability initiatives in Israel in the Southern Arava desert, Israel


In late May, the Arava Institute and our GREENinMED partner Kinneret College hosted the project steering committee for a two-day study visit in the Hevel Eilot region. GREENinMED is a European Union funded transboundary project with partners from Spain, France, and Israel, which aims to increase water and energy efficiency and sustainability in the Mediterranean tourism industry.

During their visit to the Hevel Eilot region the partners from the Spanish Chamber of Commerce, Capenergies, Kinneret College, and the Arava Institute had an opportunity to explore local tourism establishments and sustainability initiatives:

  • At Kibbutz Lotan’s Center for Creative Ecology, participants discovered low-tech green building methods and solutions for water and energy efficiency, such as biogas digesters, straw bale mud-building, and solar ovens and stoves. They also discussed the integration of small-scale tourism businesses into local communities.
  • The Neot Smadar Guest House presented a unique view on eco- tourism in the desert, leading to a discussion on the over-all sustainability of tourism in general. As Gadi Beilis, the establishment’s manager, put it: “People leave the homes they already have, to go to a place far away – probably with a polluting vehicle – to stay in an otherwise unused building and eat somebody else’s food, use somebody else’s water, electricity, supplies, and equipment. There is nothing environmentally friendly about this.” The group also visited the Neot Smadar Art Center, and learned about the Kibbutz’ approach to communal living.
  • After these two small-scale guesthouses, the Six Senses Shaharut provided a completely different perspective. This luxury hotel’s mission is to provide tourists with a high-end comfortable stay in a very remote location, while keeping its negative environmental impact to a minimum. The first Israeli hotel to receive the LEED Certification from the US Green Building Council, it relies on treating its own wastewater, a solar power plant, smart energy and water efficient technologies, various green building methods, and a general attention to sustainable use of the naturally present resources of the area.
  • At Kibbutz Ketura the team visited Israel’s first solar field, and the Off-grid Technology Demonstration Village at the Arava Institute, an exhibition and active testing ground for new developments that provide off-grid solutions to energy needs in communities, making some of them very relevant as an option for more energy efficiency in hotels as well.

This visit presented an opportunity for the entire team to explore different types of Mediterranean tourism, and innovative water and energy management tools, as well as strengthen their personal connections.