Every student who comes to the Arava Institute grapples with Israeli-Arab conflict, but Anwar Dabbour is in a slightly different situation than most: she is a Druze Israeli, and identifies with both the Israeli and Arab sides.
“I feel I belong to both people,” Anwar says. “Because I understand both—I am Israeli, and I have similar cultural connections and language with Palestinians. I feel I can help find a common ground and help them find the will to understand and respect each other.”
The Israeli Druze are a small ethnic and religious Arab minority, comprised of about 139,000 people. They are Arabic-speaking Israeli citizens, but not exempt from military service, like other Israeli Arabs; around eighty percent of Druze men serve in the IDF.
“Palestinians and Israeli Arabs have a stigma against the Druze, because we serve in the army,” Anwar explains. “I want to change that by interacting directly with them, and show that we are the same people.”
When Anwar first arrived at the Arava Institute, she worried that some students would be wary of her, due to her Druze identity. But since then, she has made some close friends, and is happy that she could show them that “it isn’t all black and white, and not just ‘us against them.’ It is complicated.”
She loves her classes at the Arava Institute and finds them challenging, but rewarding, especially her Political Ecology class. She says that PLS, the Peace-Building Leadership Seminar, takes a lot of energy. On the first day, the facilitators asked all the students what was the most conflicted thing in their lives at the moment, and Anwar answered, “Finding a balance between my Israeli identity and my Palestinian heritage.”
She is very glad to be at the Arava Institute. She grew up with a strong connection to nature and has always wanted to study the environment; she comes from Beit Jann in Upper Galilee—the only village inside a nature reserve in Israel, the Mt. Meron Nature Reserve. After her studies at the Arava Institute, she plans to pursue her undergraduate degree at Ben-Gurion University.