I attended the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies as a student there my junior year of college. The Institute is not only of a high academic caliber; not only does it engage incredible and motivated participants and coordinators; not only does it lead to research in sustainability and environmental cooperation; but most importantly the Institute is a place of peace. This is a value that every religion in the world shares and is demonstrated every day at the Arava Institue.
I ride every year to raise money for an extraordinary institution, the Arava Institute, that started as an environmental organization but soon learned that it does little good to stop polluting on your side of the river if the Arab village upstream is still putting waste into the water. From here began an experiment of Israelis and other Jews working with Palestinians and other Arabs. The efforts have been difficult but rewarding as the Arava Institute has provided an example of how to learn to work with enemies and become friends with your enemies as you learn to work on common goals.
The FAI is a unique organization that merges environmental issues and middle east peace making all in one. It has a wonderful and creative executive director and a dedicated board working tirelessly for funds to support the Arava Institute.
As a former student and staff member of the Arava Institue I can say that it is an absolutely amazing institution. I learned so much during my time there and met people from other cultures that I am still in touch with today. As a current resident of Toronto, I have made use of my connections with other Arava Institute alumni to continue to do multifaith work here in Toronto.
I first learned about the Arava Institute during a visit to Kibbutz Ketura in 2007. Shortly after my return to the US, an aquaintance mentioned the Israel Bike Ride. I immediately registered and spent the seven months raising substantial funds to support the Arava Institute and preparing for the ride. It was the most incredible experience of my life. Meeting the students and hearing about their work and the leadership seminars was a high point of the bike trip. This is a unique way to support a unique organization, which is one of a kind. Friends of the Arava Institute does a terrific job telling the Institute's story in the US and thereby attracting the support the institute deserves.
My daughter and I went on a bike ride to support the Arava Institute this past May. We had the opportunity to meet some of the alums from the Arava as well as had a chance to visit the Institute. We could not have been more impressed. We met people, who had life changing experiences because of the Institute. Their understanding of other cultures increased exponentially. The educational experience to work together to optimize the resources in the Middle East makes so much sense. I can only hope that more people from a variety of cultures take advantaage of the opportunities available to learn more about this wonderful resource/ institute located in a part of the world that needs to be appreciated more than it already is.
The FOAI and AIES are two of the most wonderful organizations I've participated in. They are working together to build a cohort of leaders across cultural, religious, and national boundaries that recognize one another as fellow humans with the same needs and wants.
I've had the opportunity to see the relationships that developed between Arab and Israeli students, when we had a Palestinian and an Israeli student from the Arava Institute staying at our home. Their closeness and level of cooperation was truly amazing. It revived my feelings of hope for the future of the Middle East. Since then I have had the opportunity to meet numerous students and alumni and made a visit to the Arava Institute. They are truly an inspiration. After 11 years of struggle just to survive, there are now enough alumni of the program to see the impact they are beginning to have in their own communities and governments. The Arava Institute's is all about transborder cooperation and the building of personal relationship and trust that advance both the effect on the environment and progress towards peace.
I visited Arava as a participant in the Israel Bike ride in 2007, and with the Friends of Arava support presented a program recently to gain knowledge and support for Arava in the Northwest of the US. Though peace building is in a way secondary to its academic purposes, Arava represent a huge hope in the deeply cynical maze of mid east feelings. The young men and women I met there are some of the most amazing people I've known. As a long time environmental activist in the US, I am also impressed by the sophistication of Arava's environmental programs, especially compared to the overall rather undeveloped Israeli environmental movement.
Friend of the Arava Institute supports work that gives us hope - working on the idea that nature has no borders and that people bond over common goals, creating a new generation of Middle East environmental problem solvers will help bring peace as well as a healthier earth.