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Director’s Blog – A Safe and Sane Haven for Dialogue

As is our practice, and in light of the recent terrorist attacks in Tel Aviv, Petah Tikvah, and Jerusalem, we gathered the over 40 students and interns from this semester, together for an open community meeting on campus. Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians as well as students from North America, Europe, Asia and South America all sat together in our student lounge. The mood was somber, as this diverse group of students — many of whom arrived in Israel just a few weeks ago — began to absorb the harsh reality of the conflict in the Middle East.

The goal of our community meeting was to assure the students that their safety was first and foremost in our minds when planning the program, and then to open the meeting for a wider discussion and conversation. Students expressed their concerns and perspectives, but in general, the atmosphere was one of camaraderie and hope.

We mourn the loss of life and pray for the speedy recovery of the victims. It is times like this when the Arava Institute’s students’ and staffs’ resolve is tested. Do we really believe that peace is possible between our peoples? While we do not claim to have answers to the senseless random violence, the Arava Institute’s students prove on a daily basis that what we have in common is much greater than that which separates us. We are proud of the fact that even at times like this, the Arava Institute remains a safe and sane haven for dialogue, debate, and cross-border environmental cooperation.

David Lehrer

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