Last week, the Institute sadly said goodbye to the spring semester 2016 students. The week began with the first day of Ramadan, the month long Islamic celebration of prayer, fasting, reflection and charity; the month in which it is believed that the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Mohammed. The week ended with the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, celebrating the handing down of the Torah to the Prophet Moses and the Jewish People. In between these two occasions of faith and reflection, our students finished their final exams and papers, packed up their things, held a final party and began to say goodbye to faculty, staff, kibbutz friends and fellow students. On the final evening of the semester, the students were thrust back into the harsh reality of the Middle East as the tragic news of the heinous terrorist attack by two Palestinians on innocent civilians in the heart of Tel Aviv began to flood the internet, radio and TV news stations. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. I am also mindful of the difficult transition our students must make when they return to their homes in Amman, Hebron, Tel Aviv, Jericho, Jerusalem, Denver, Umm al-Fahm or New York. Faced with the harsh reality of hate and xenophobia, will they be able to hold on to the light of hope and trust which was ignited during their journey at the Arava Institute? Only time will tell.
During Shavuot, we read how Ruth, the Moabite, decides to remain with Naomi the Israelite, making her home among another people. About 8 years ago, Dr. Tareq Abu Hamed, a Palestinian resident of Tsur Baher in East Jerusalem moved down to Kibbutz Ketura with his family in order to establish the Arava Institute’s Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation (CREEC). After 5 years at the Arava Institute, Tareq was offered a position in the Israeli Ministry of Science; eventually becoming the Ministry’s Deputy Chief Scientist, and even filled the position of Acting Chief Scientist for a few months as the highest ranking Palestinian in the Israeli Government. On June 1st, 2016, Tareq left his position at the Ministry to rejoin the staff and faculty of the Arava Institute as the Director of Academics and of CREEC. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Alex Gusarov who served as the Director of CREEC for the past two years. We are thrilled and proud to have Dr. Tareq Abu Hamed once again on our staff, and look forward to him and his family spending more time with us in Kibbutz Ketura. Tareq’s professional contribution to the Institute as a researcher and lecturer are matched by his commitment to its values of dialogue, cross-border environmental cooperation, peace and improving the lives of everyone in the region. Welcome home Tareq!
After writing this blog, we began to receive the sad news of the terrorist attack in Orlando, Florida. Our prayers and thoughts are with the victims and families of this monstrous crime, with the LGBT community, the people of Florida and of the United States and victims of terror and violence everywhere.