It has been a relatively quiet two weeks at the institute since my last posting, at least as compared to the turmoil taking place in the rest of the world, the natural disaster in Japan, the revolutions accross the Arab world and the increased violence between Israelis and Palestinians. In contrast, Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian and international students participated in this year's annual soccer tournament on Ketura:
Pini Lutman Soccer Tournament - On Monday the 14th the Arava Institute men's team participated in the "Tournir Pini", an annual soccer tournament in memory of Pini Lutman, a kibbutz member who passed away over 15 years ago. The men's team was matched against Kibbutz Samar, the defending champions of the tournament. The Arava Institute team was made up of eleven student, staff and faculty members from Israel, Jordan, Palestine, America and Turkey. It was a very tight match through out and Samar took the lead in the second half, scoring, after colliding with the Arava goalie. With Samar leading 1-0 the Arava team put a lot of pressure on Samar's defense and eventually scored on a nice crossing shot. Regulation time came to an end and the game went to penalty kicks (PKs). The initial PKs were best out of three and both teams made one. Then the match moved to sudden death penalty kicks. It kept going back and forth with both teams goalies blocking many shots. It wasn't until the 9th PK that Samar finally scored. The men's team put up an amazing effort and their match was actually the closest any team had against Samar until they won 4-1 in the finals.
On Wednesday the 16th the Arava women's team had their first match to defend their title. They first played against the Kibbutz Ketura team. In the first half the Arava team dominated and entered half time up 2-0. In the second half a few errors by the Arava team led to Ketura scoring and making it a 2-1 contest. However, the women's team came together in the end to hold of Ketura.
On Friday the Arava women's team played Kibbutz Yotvata in the finals. It was an extremely hot afternoon and both teams were battling against each other and the heat. Kibbutz Yotvata scored mid way through the first half and halftime came with a 1-0 lead for Yotvata. In the second half the women's team gave it their all but ended up coming up just short on multiple occasions and the whistle blew with Kibbutz Yotvata winning 1-0. It was an amazing effort by our women's team and I'm sure they will be back in the finals next year. Congratulations to both teams! Reported by Josh Neirman
Trip to US
I just spent a week in the US at a conference at Brown University and some time with our new Executive Director of the Friends of the Arava Institute, Dan Schachter along with our Chair, Seth Morrison and our Director of Development, Rabbi Michael Cohen. In the aftermath of the horrible terrorist attack at Itamar, I wrote the following message from the conference in Brown to our students:
Message to Arava Family
I am currently attending a conference at Brown University called "Israelis and Palestinians: Working Together for a Better Future". The conference is sponsored by the Elga K. Stulman Fund and the Watson Institute for International Studies of Brown University. The purpose of the conference is to expose students and faculty from Brown University to the myriad of cross border Palestinian and Israeli cooperative organizations such as Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI), All for Peace Radio, Peace Research Institute in the Middle East (PRIME) and the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies (AIES). The conference started in the evening with an informal dinner for the conference speakers. I met old friend such as Gershon Baskin, Hanna Seniora and Eyal Naveh. I met new friends from peace organizations such as Maysa Baransi-Siniora, Mossi Raz and Galia Golan. I also met Professor David C. Jacobson, the Director of the Judaic Studies program at Brown and our host for the conference. This was the conference that Dr. Tareq Abu Hamed was supposed to attend but could not because he never received an answer from the US Consulate for his visa application.
On the first morning of the conference, the participants woke up to the horrific news of the terrorist attack on the Itamar Settlement, and the slaughter of the Fogel family including the unthinkable murder of an infant. We were all in shock, Israelis and Palestinians alike, at this inhuman act which is difficult for any human being to comprehend. It was a very surrealistic feeling to be in the cocoon of an American university campus, about to hold academic discussions on Israeli/Palestinian cooperation, only to be confronted by the reality of terrorism in the Middle East. Every panel session opened with a condemnation of this heinous act but we did not allow the violence in the West Bank to overshadow the message that we came to deliver to the students and faculty of Brown University. The message, of course, is that there is an alternative to the violence. The resolution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians can be achieved through peaceful means. The overall consensus of the conference participants was that 70% of the Palestinian people and 70% of the Israeli people agree on a two state solution, yet our leaders do not have the ability to lead us to a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
In addition to the human and personal tragedy of the cold blooded murder of the Fogel family, this is a tragedy for the Palestinian and Israeli people because it feeds the flames of hatred and pushes the Middle East towards the precipice of another cycle of violence. Unless Palestinians and Israelis commit themselves unequivocally to a condemnation of violence and all forms of military aggression, we will find ourselves locked into a never ending brutal struggle with one another that will leave many more victims like the 5 members of the Fogel family.
I am deeply saddened by the senseless murder of the Fogel family and my prayers go out to Tamar, Roi and Yishai. Most of all, I pray that the Fogel family are the last victims of this tragic struggle and I strengthen my commitment to help find an end to the violence in the Middle East and my resolve to work towards a just, secure and peaceful resolution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine.