An Intern’s Impact Weekend Reflections

Last weekend the students and interns of the Arava Institute participated in a jam-packed weekend of discussions, activities, and lectures. It was a thoughtfully crafted, collaborative effort between our Campus Life (CL), Peace-building Leadership Seminar (PLS), and Environmental Leadership (EL) teams. We discussed topics including climate change, the Israel-Palestine conflict, and activism. As expected, the weekend precipitated thought-provoking discussion, debate, and narratives, and reminded me how powerful collaboration and discussion can be as an agent for change. Usually weekends on campus are a time where people go home, or find solitude to rest and reset before another week of hard work, but this weekend campus was buzzing with energy and human connection. Inside and outside of the planned activities I was reminded of the uniquely inspiring and truly special community we have cultivated over the past few months. I genuinely believe in the power of the people around me here to create change in the world.

The weekend kicked off with members of our CL team talking about leadership at the community level, and scaled up to leadership within the public sector. We heard from the founders of אקלים אחד مناخ واحد One Climate which is a movement that seeks to explore the intersectionality between this region’s ecology and climate problems with the current military occupation. One of the founders, Muna Shaheen, humbly shared her inspiring story and left a profound impact on me by exemplifying strong female leadership.

The second day we reflected on the power of imagery, discussed the power of social media, and learned about online safety from two of our PLS facilitators, Sarah Benazera and Baraa Aslih. They compiled photos shared on Instagram over the last year or so that carried heavy stories with them, and had us individually identify those that were most impactful to us. We then broke out into small groups and discussed the photos and tried to write a series of captions aimed at Israeli, Palestinian, and international audiences. This demonstrated how one event can be viewed differently based on the words used in the media. As a photographer, I was especially inspired by this session because it reminded me how impactful a single moment can be in creating change if captured artfully. We also had a session with Dr. Michael Alexander, PLS Coordinator, during which we discussed impacts of climate change in our home communities across the US, Canada, the UK, and in Israel-Palestine. We also told stories of climate injustice, which exposed the unfortunate global trend of the most marginalized communities being unproportionately affected by climate change and environmental problems. The weekend concluded with an activity led by EL Facilitator and Arava Institute alumna Lindsey Zemler (EL) that highlighted the beautiful connections and strengths within our community at the Institute. I walk away from the Impact Weekend feeling grateful for my community and experience here at the Institute, and feeling inspired and equipped to make change after I leave..

Submitted by Samantha Stovall

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