My Name is Yara Dahdal, and i was a student for one semester in the Arava institute for environmental studies. Its a great place to be in the middle of the desert, also the experiences i gained their are priceless as Palestinians, Isrealies , Jordanians and people from all over the world learn how to leave with each other and over come all barriers.
I had a really hard semester at the Arava Institute, I won't lie. I didn't really understand how real peace was possible at all between such different people. But I believed in the power of the environment and shared resources as the backdrop for a mutual understanding. My learning experience wound up being an awakening process I will never forget: I studied with some of the greatest lecturers I have ever come across. But above all I came to deeply understand, through intense workshops and daily life, that peace is possible - as different as we all are. This is the gift I received from the Arava Institute.
My family spent five days at Kibbutz Ketura and had the opportunity to see the work being done by the Arava Institute. It was truly inspiring to see young people from many differnt cultures, countries and religions working together to solve their mutual problems and help overcome prejudices in the process
I studied at the Arava from 1999-2000. The program provided me with a cutting edge environmental education from the top experts in the field in the Middle East. Most importantly, through group study projects, dialogue activities and community living arrangements, the venue provided an unparalleled opportunity to build networks and environmental partnerships across the region...a network that thrives even when the political outlook is dismal.
The year I spent at the Arava Institute profoundly changed the way I look at Israel. It both strengthened and challenged my Jewish Zionist values by introducing the unique perspectives of diverse sectors of Israeli society (and the entire Middle East). In addition, I gained the practical tools needed to become active in Israel's environmental movement. My experience at AIES continues to inspire me to help create a sustainable future for the land and people of Israel.
I am writing both as a former student and as a former staff member in saying that the Arava Institute was a life changing experience for me. With help from the Friends of the Arava Institute, I, an American Jew, had the opportunity to live in the Southern Arava Desert in Israel with Israelis, Jordanians, Palestinians, and other international students living coexistence while promoting cross border environmental cooperation. I lived at the Arava Institute for 10 months. I was a student for the Fall 2007, then I worked as the intern for the Ecopaths office and helped organize the annual "Israel Ride," in May 2008, and afterwords served as the student life coordinator for the 2008 summer course. As a student, classes opened my eyes to the necessity of working as a global community, across political and conflict borders to preserve our frail planet. As a staff member for the Israel Ride, I understood how the message of the Arava Institute is so powerful that it brings Jewish communities from all over the world to ride for its cause. And as a coordinator for student life, I experienced how, despite cultural and religious barriers of the staff and students alike, the office of the Arava Institute successfully run an multicultural and inclusive program that does not just preach coexistence and cooperation, but lives coexistence and cooperation.
I studied at the Arava Institute in the Spring of 2005. Since my semester there, I can't seem to get away from the Middle East. Now I live in Jerusalem and work in economic development in the West Bank, and not a day goes by without me thinking of my Arava experiences or where my colleagues are. A great institution training the future leaders (both environmental and other) of tomorrow!
The Arava Institute was one of the most profound & meaningful experiences in my life. I gained so much from my time learning at the institute. The broad spectrum of traditional academic in classroom learning & adventurous hands on out in the world learning opened my mind to a multitude of possibilities. It inspired & continues to invigorate my work every day as Jewish Educator & Movement Therapist. The institute served as a gateway & catalyst in my creation of NefeshBliss, a system of Yoga & Dance Therapy rooted in Torah which I teach to all ages all over the world. Thank you Arava Institute!