Arava Institute Alums Reflect on Kibbutz Life

Bryce Haver ’20, Staff Writer

On Feb. 13, alumni from the Arava Institute came to Dickinson College to participate in “The Dia-logue Project: Environmental Cooperation in the Middle East.” 

At the event, alumni discussed their experiences at the Arava Institute. There, they worked to solve environmental challenges that facing the Middle East while developing relationships and mutual understanding. 

The alumni that spoke at this event included Shira Fisch, Mohammed Jarad and Sarah Braverman. Along with discussing their decision to study environmental cooperation at the Arava Institute, both Fisch and Jarad discussed their respective experiences growing up in Israeli and Palestinian families.

The 60 students that participate in this program at the Arava Institute are divided into thirds: “approximately one third Jewish Israeli; one third Arab, including Palestinians from the West Bank, Jordanians, and Arab citizens of Israel; and one third international students, primarily from North America.” The program takes place on Kibbutz Ketura, which is a rural desert community in Israel. The Kibbutz is an ideal location because of how centralized it is and the numerous environmental opportunities that surround the area and because of the sense of community that the Kibbutz provides. Since the community is small, students are integrated in local holidays and Shabbat on Friday nights. 

The course set-up is similar to Dickinson College in that students are expected to take four to five courses. The courses are interdisciplinary and include both environmental studies and science. Students can take classes in both research and policy. An example of an Environmental Science class was called “Biodiversity in Sand Dunes” where students would set traps in sand dunes to observe the types of animals that live there. The only class that is mandatory for all students to take is a peace building leadership seminar. Within this group are three facilitators: one is Isreali, one is Arab, including Palestinians from the West Bank, Jordanians and Arab citizens of Israel and one is international. While there was never a set topic, it revolved mainly around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Students drew upon their personal experiences to discuss the conflicts roots, the effects it has today and what can be done to resolve it. Jarad, born and raised in the West Bank, mentioned that it was “Difficult at first to hear the Israeli narrative.”  

The seminar delves into how this conflict influenced students’ lives, give context to the environmental issues they are studying, among other topics.