In early June we said goodbye to the 32 students and interns of the Spring 2021 semester. This group went through one of the certainly more tumultuous times at the Institute, and the world at large of course.
The Israeli and Palestinian participants began their journey together on our campus in late February, as Israel was coming out of its third Covid-19 lockdown, still hoping that they would soon be joined by a number of international participants. As time progressed it became evident that current international travel restrictions would not make it possible for others to participate in the program. The semester nevertheless included a small number of US American participants who had already been in the country or were able to join due to special circumstances.
When Covid-19 vaccines became more widely available in Israel, and many health-related restrictions were lifted, the participants were able to engage more with the Kibbutz Ketura community at large, and enjoy each other’s company in a variety of activities.
In early May political tension in the region rose first in Jerusalem, and subsequently in Gaza and everywhere in Israel, leaving our students to cope with the diversity in their unique group on a new level. During the weekend between the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday and the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, a hate crime was committed on our campus, when unknown perpetrators sprayed a graffiti saying Death to Arabs on a dormitory wall. While it was a shock to all of us to watch our “peaceful bubble” burst, this also resulted in a heartwarming gathering with the Kibbutz Ketura community, and a lot of interesting and fruitful discussion on appropriate ways to react. The participants themselves came up with a number of action plans to reinforce their shared values for justice and peace for all in the region.
The semester was concluded on June 10th after a few days of summary activities, and a festive graduation ceremony, followed by the traditional student-run final party. We wish this new group of alumni much success in their future paths, and can’t wait to hear of their exciting endeavors!