Nestled in the southern Negev Desert, Arava is located on the progressive, pluralistic Kibbutz Ketura. On a regular day, students at Arava take courses in which they confront environmental issues first-hand, including the unsustainable use of water through industrialized agriculture, take part in communal meals with the rest of the kibbutz, explore the desert and have late-night discussions about regional issues and cultural differences. On Shabbat, there are beautiful services filled with richly chanted prayers that are reminiscent of those at my home congregation.
Some of my most positive experiences at Arava took place at the Peace Building and Environmental Leadership course, which provided a safe space for students to come together and discuss the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, listen to each other’s ideas and opinions, and occasionally hear insights from Arab or Jewish leaders. Under the guidance of Uri Gordon, we learned how to direct our environmental activism productively, communicate with officials and mobilize within existing systems.