Friends of the Arava Institute
October 29, 2009
My name is Elan Gerzon. I was originally born on a kibbutz in northern Israel, founded by my grandparents as refugees, and at a young age moved to the states. That being said, I have grown up exposed to several perspectives of cultures, often those cultures who seem to stay in conflict. But when I arrived back in Israel, to be a student at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, I actually learned that i knew very little about anything, regarding the history of the culture I come from, and that of those that so many Jews and Israelis regard as enemies, if not at the very least, strangers. I was forced to wrestled with the conundrum of having descended from a culture of refugees whose wounds reacted through creating another culture of refugees. I learned a great deal about the depth of my past, and no longer felt that the world of those "strangers," who identify themselves as either Arabs or as Palestinians, was as alienated from my life as before. I had to question a great deal of the education i was brought up with, while coming into an ever-deeper empathy and understanding of why the world may be the way it is today. My own Jewish identity has grown in such a sense that I could hardly imagine who I might have continued to become without the Arava Institute as a corner-stone in my own life's maturity. The lessons I learned regarding the inter-relationships between Israel and the Palestinian Authority's and the land they live on, have been invaluable. The questions raised as a student there always brought more questions than answers, which is quite an accomplishment. The connections and friendships I have with people of all ages from several otherwise conflicting backgrounds, are a rare occurence among young Israelis, let alone US. Americans. My work as a student with Dr. Elaine Solowey has ever since focused the rest of my life. The courses that the Arava Institute provides, and the intimate experience we cannot get away from so far south in the desert, gives every student a chance to find an intimate passion through so many inter-disciplinary fields of study, that their cohesion inevitably creates a kind of diversity, no other program in Israel, Jewish or otherwise, has yet even attempted, on such a scale. I am now and forever will be deeply indebted to all that the Arava Institute has taught me.
AIES alumn 2004-05
What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...
its constant evolution, and its undying effort to keep bringing together people from backgrounds who have few chances to meet, under a canopy that ultimately attempts to keep serving the environments we come from.
How frequently have you been involved with the organization?
About every six months
When was your last experience with this nonprofit?
Volunteer & interned in sustainable agriculture research with Dr. Elaine Solowey.