In line with Arava Institute’s aim to generate capacity-building for dialogue and cooperation, all students and interns participate in a obligatory Peace-building Leadership Seminar (PLS). During weekly sessions, participants engage in dialogue on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, overseen by three facilitators (Israeli, Palestinian, international). Together, participants discuss the current political situation and its historical roots, sharing personal experiences and family stories from different sides in the conflict. These stories raise questions around universal issues of identity, national ideologies, power and privilege, coexistence and personal responsibility. In this process, students are challenged to look critically at their own views, cultural values and understanding of history.
By engaging weekly with these issues in a multi-cultural group setting, the participants develop competencies in intercultural understanding and empathy. Additional workshops on storytelling, empathetic listening, and other communication skills help students in the dialogue process, and contribute to developing a repertoire of respectful and consensus-building interactions within the student community.
PLS is not meant to lead to political agreement among the students. In fact, the dialogue reveals ideological differences between the sides, as reflected by the students themselves. Together, we explore how to live within these differences, as individuals and groups. This builds on the Arava Institute’s understanding that the social and political relationships within and between groups in the region have a significant influence on environmental practices, public policies, and grassroots environmental activism.
The PLS dialogue process integrates within the Institute’s own campus community as a microcosm of the region and beyond, building the tools and understanding necessary to foster environmental sustainability, social justice and respect in the broader society.
Every student, no matter the country of origin, has the opportunity to contribute significantly to this ongoing dialogue. The PLS dialogue is enriched by guest speakers, films on the conflict, and an intensive mid-semester trip.
This seminar is not for academic credit.
Facilitators : Dr. Michael Alexander, Baraa Aslih and Sarah Perle Benazera
PLS is made possible by the support of the Glickman Family Foundation.
Al Glickman had an amazing ability to find creative solutions to impossible situations.
He had clear values and pursued them. This differentiates crucial priorities from attractive clutter – the necessities from the desires.
Because he was able to listen, and because he valued people, he was able to find a solution which met everyone’s needs. He didn’t worry about negotiating away the whims.
This made him quite endearing – he had many, many people who referred to Al as their best friend.
He is remembered for his love of family and his generous nature.
THE HANNS SEIDEL FOUNDATION
The Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF), founded in 1967, is a political foundation affiliated with the German Christian Social Union (CSU). The foundation is named after the former prime minister of Bavaria and party chairman of the CSU, Dr. Hanns Seidel. The foundation began its project work in Israel in 1979 and in the Palestinian Territories in 1994. The HSF is committed to implementing activities in the service of democracy and peace. The various projects focus on creating a shared society, strengthening democratic participation, and furthering regional cooperation.
The HSF sees its contribution to “The Irmgard Baum Peace Building Leadership Seminar” also as a natural and necessary continuation of German history and responsibility. Irmgard Baum, a German Holocaust survivor and refugee, used part of the German government reparation money to support the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, which addressed her concerns for peace, democracy, the environment, and the creation of mutual understanding between people.
As a German political foundation, the HSF acknowledges the German past and places importance on its special responsibility for the existence and security of the State of Israel. This can be achieved by continuing Irmgard Baum’s legacy as a Jewish Holocaust survivor and her solid support for values of peace, democracy, and coexistence.
Please click here to read more about the foundation’s commitment to peace, democracy, and environmental regional cooperation.
Born in 1924, Dortmund Germany, daughter of a prominent livestock dealer, Irmgard Baum was one of the last Jews to escape Nazi Germany, departing in 1941 on an unlit train into occupied France. She walked through the Pyrenees into Portugal, before escaping Europe for the U.S.
Working initially as a live-in domestic to a Jewish family, in Erie, she moved to New York City where she took up employment in Welbilt Corporation and rose to the position of Controller of this prominent appliance manufacturing company.
In her later life, Irmgard invested much time and generosity into her synagogue congregation, Temple Anshe Hesede, in Erie. A committed and active community member she created the Baum Family Endowment which today funds High Holiday music, Scholars in Residences programs, in addition to youth programs that focus on the importance of philanthropy.
In 2005, Irmgard learned about the Arava Institute through conversations and visits with students and representatives from the Arava Institute. Although suffering from a terminal illness she decided that the combination of environmental studies, research programs, and initiatives for peace in the region were important to her.
Irmgard committed $1.5 million, her assets from war reparation payments, to supporting scholarships for future students and transboundary environmental projects at the Arava Institute. Her enthusiasm lives on with the 2008 establishment of the Irmgard Baum Peace Building and Environmental Leadership Seminars.