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Ecologically minded study abroad in Israel
In addition to the environmental opportunities that the school provides to its students, AHA is also home to one of the largest geothermal energy systems in the world - a water-sourced system that is used to heat and cool 440,000 square feet (about 40,900 square meters) in 29 buildings, but has the capacity for 700,000 square feet (some 65,000 square meters), the school said. The system, which was installed at the school's opening in 2001, is expected to pay for itself by Spring 2013.
"We are really lucky to experience the ideas that are started here - that's what AHA is trying to do," said Julia Sagerdahl of Greensboro.
"It's really helpful for us if we bring back some of the things we learn here back to our school."
On the grounds of the youth village, experimental biological filtration ponds are being used to purify gray water, water from sinks and showers that can be cleaned for reuse. After seeing and learning about gray water, Roochvarg said she is determined to implement a similar system at AHA and will be speaking to their administrators about it.
"If you can collect water and use it for free, then why not use that instead of city water," added Matthew Menghert of Greensboro.
Another initiative on the Mossensohn campus that the students found impressive was the vegetation being grown on the sides of many buildings, which slashes the need for air conditioning and heat by providing natural insulation, according to Ross Abramson, originally from Princeton, New Jersey.
"I want to try to bring back some of these things to AHA," Abramson said. "The cool thing about AHA is that it's not just a select group of students who want to change things - everybody want to join."
Not only did their time in Israel expand their environmental horizons, but it also has caused several of the students to reconsider their future plans. Sagerdahl said that she could definitely see herself living in the country, and is looking into gapyear study options before attending university. Meanwhile, Yuval Ely, who was actually born in Israel but whose family now lives in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is no longer reluctant about army service: "I decided I'm going to the army."
On Thursday, the students will finish their 10-week session in Israel, but not without first planting trees near Jerusalem, according to Sagerdahl. This end to their trip is particularly special to the students, as each year they plant trees at their own school, they said.
"Now we have the opportunity to use our hands and put the trees down," Roochvarg added.
As far as water-saving in Israel goes, the students noticed that "it's a lot of small things" that everyone must do to contribute to the overall conservation effort, according to Menghert.
"We literally changed our faucets so that you could easily get the water heated," said David Mitchell, dean of education at Alexander Muss, who called the students "a lovely group."
"Even the toilets [in Israel] have different options," Menghert said.
"After millions of uses of a toilet, that really amounts to something. If you were to do that in America I can only imagine how much we'd save."