On April 3rd, the Friends of the Arava Institute celebrated the 20th Anniversary of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies at our Fourth Annual Public Forum in Cambridge, MA.
Executive Director of the Arava Institute, David Lehrer shared highlights of major accomplishments of the Arava Institute from the last 20 years and keynote speaker, Ophir Pines-Paz, member of the Arava Institute’s Public Council in Israel who also served as the Israeli Minister of Internal Affairs and the Minister of Science, Culture, and Sport, spoke about the Arava Institute as a rare actor in the Middle East political discourse — a key player committed to cooperation from the very beginning.
Subsequent presenters, including Dr. Shmuel Brenner, Director of the Arava Center for Sustainable Development; Mira Awad, Palestinian-Israeli singer-songwriter, activist, and actress; and Yair Teller, Arava Institute Alumnus ‘09-‘10, and founder and Chief Scientist of HomeBiogas, emphasized using collaboration on environmental issues as a key framework for addressing other areas of disagreement. By focusing on the environment as a unifying regional asset, more opportunities for dialogue open between Israelis, Palestinians, and surrounding neighbors.
Alumni Panel speaker, Rebecca Lash (’15) continued this discussion stating, “We are not going to wait around for leaders to make decisions; we’re building something from the ground up. It is really important to show people that peace-building is not just a top-down thing. Organizations like the Arava Institute can empower people and we can also be a voice for human rights.” The impact of the Arava Institute extends beyond just personal and professional development and opens doors for the future environmental leaders of the Middle East and the world. As Yair Teller alluded, investing in the Arava Institute is like throwing a pebble into a pond – the ripples of impact grow and grow.
Thank you to those who attended the 2016 Annual Public Forum and for engaging in important dialogue about peace and environmental sustainability in the Middle East!