Before I give you my musings, please listen to the personal story of Amer Sweiti. Amer was born and raised in Amman, Jordan where he earned his degree in Land and Water Management from the Hashemite University. Before joining the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies (AIES) in 2007 he worked as a Soil Mechanic and Civil Survey supervisor in Amman. He has now started his Master's degree at the Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheva. Amer embodies the reason why I participate in this Ride. He is a committed environmentalist and an idealistic young man dedicated to the pursuit of peace and coexistence in the Middle East. In deciding to join an institute of higher learning in Israel, Amer had to overcome many practical barriers and strong opposition, even ostracism from his own family and friends, but decided to plow ahead because (in his own words)..."I do believe that what I'm doing is the best for the coming generation". At AIES a diverse student body from various Arab countries, Palestine, the US, Europe and Israel, have the opportunity to live together, study together, struggle together to grapple with the environmental --and unavoidably political-- issues facing the region and become close friends in the process. Amer's personal story is truly inspiring. He has gone back to Jordan since joining AIES and has managed to overcome the opposition of many of his former detractors. Not only that, he has succeeded in recruiting additional students for AIES. In youngsters like Amer and through the work of AIES, Israel is finding partners to create valuable and lasting human and professional links with Palestinian and Arab folks. The AIES' mantra of using the "tool" of environmental cooperation as a way of building bridges across political borders and furthering the cause of peace, is a tangible and resounding success. They need and deserve our help.
Rode on a charity bike ride with staff and students. Superior people, trying to do a difficult job in difficult times. The aims of the institute are high level: promoting environmental concerns in the Middle East, and encouraging Arab/Isreali cocoperation.
I had a great experience with Arava! Living and studying with students from diverse backgrounds was quite a privilege and I formed special friendships and bonds that continue to grow after all these years. Thank you to all from AIES for your remarkable program.
I have hosted many events for the arava institute over the past 6-7 years. The most enriching aspect has been to host students as they come through the bay area, some involved in internships related to their studies and others enriching their lives with post grad studies. The discussions we have had with these students have greatly widened our perspective of the middle east, our children have become different people because of their interactions and connections, we have made connections with Muslims, Christians, Jordanians, Palestinians that we otherwise would never have made. The dedication of these students has given us inspiration to feel that maybe the world, not just the middle east, can really become a better place. The graduates of this program continue to work constructively in their fields of study, they continue to work transborder, they communicate with one another, they have formed lifetime friendships and have already made significant contributions to the environmental world.
I participated in the Arava Institute 2008 Israel bike ride to help fund raise for Arava. I visited the Arava Institute and met with students and faculty. I was struck by the relevance of its mission and the passion and energy directed toward achieving hat mission. The Arava Institute is making an important contribution to its geographic and political region not only academically but by bringing the divergent student population together and fostering better understanding, respect and long term friendships that can transcend hostile political borders and barriers.
I was fortunate to have participated in the Israel Ride 2007, which I believe was the largest attendance in the brief history of that event. It was enlightening to meet current and former students of Arava Institute, as well as the incredibly capable staff. These kids are the backbone of what might someday be a region that lives peacefully with its neighbors. I hope to participate in the 2010 Israel Ride!!
As a student of the Arava Institute, I was granted the opportunity to be part of the most remarkable social and environmental movement in the region. Cohabitating, eating, learning, and working with people of varying (not to mention historically conflicted) geographic origin as well as religious preference taught me a great deal about cultural sensitivity and the importance of trust in this era of globalization. No place nor program has ever enabled me to grow so much and also contribute so much as the Arava Institute. I am so proud to have been a part of the program, and continue to spread the knowledge I gained as a student here with all people who cross my path.
As a professional in the non-profit world, I admire the professionalism with which the organization is run. It remains committed to its mission and focusesits energy to result in the greatest benefit for the environment and co-existence in the Middle East
As a student at the Arava Institute, it was a life changing experience. It was an extraordinary opportunity to know and live with the "other". I had the chance to develop my leaderships skills, learn about Judaism, Environment, Palestinians, Jordanians, politics, and love. It is so unheard of to have these kind of experiences in the Middle East where people have so many biases and fears that stop them from knowing and loving people different from themselves, politically, religiously, and nationally. I also had the opportunity to work at the Institute for another academic year. Raising money for scholarships and getting internships where hardships at the time (10 years ago). Since then, the institute has grown in its impact and influence on the environmental and peace community world wide. Scholarships continue to be an essential component of providing local leaders the opportunity to live, study, and work together on issues that mutually concern them. If the institute had 10 million dollars it would be able to have world wide influence, prestige unrecognizable today!
In the desert, students live, study environmental issues, and hear the "other" - many for the first time. The Arava Institute is an amazing place where these experiences lead to shared goals and actions for global healing and peace.