The Dialogue Project: Bringing the Conversation to Notre Dame

Author: Karli Siefker

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Last Thursday, the Dialogue Project, a traveling program featuring alumni from the Arava Institute, visited Notre Dame. The Arava Institute is headquartered in the heart of the Negev Desert in Southern Israel and brings together Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian, and international students in conversation around sustainability and opportunities for environmental peacebuilding. The Dialogue Project featured a panel of two former Arava Institute alumni, one Israeli and one Palestinian, who talked about their experiences at the Institute and the opportunities the work it is doing to heal divisions and foster a more sustainable future. In her introduction to the talk, Professor Rachel Novick, Director of the Minor in Sustainability, described the conversation as engaging “the core of what Notre Dame is about: peace-building, care for our common home, and global engagement.” 

The two alumni, Shira Fisch and Mohammed Jarrad reflected on the Arava Institute’s mission, sharing their academic, research, and extracurricular experiences at the institute. For Fisch and Jarrad, the program has informed and equipped them as advocates for environmental, social, and political justice. The intersection of environmental science, engineering, justice and peacebuilding, leadership, conflict resolution, and political science is at the core of the Institute’s mission, not only for visiting students, but also for its interns, faculty and staff, and network of alumni all around the world. 

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Jarrad also appreciates the opportunity to find “shared-ness” in history. For Jarrad, this demands action from individuals: “if we wait for a political solution, it might be too late for the environment.”This process led Fisch and Jarrad to discover the importance of open communication and challenging narratives. Both alumni emphasized the importance of communication as a means of establishing peace. For Fisch, the program helps students “dare to question our truth, our narrative,” finding commonality which surpasses borders. In sharing narratives as such, she realized “I don’t know how much I don’t know, and how much I have to learn.”

The Arava Institute deeply impacts its students, who in turn impact the world with renewed perspectives, deepened understandings, and field experience. When asked the greatest lesson he learned, Jarrad was quick to answer, “Acceptance. Be open, always say the truth, speak up for what you believe in. Always be willing to work for change.”

Interested in the Arava Institute’s work or visiting yourself? You can find more information on their programs for undergraduates and post-graduates at their website.