Like a sand dune slithering across the desert landscape covering and swallowing anything in its way, the Arab Revolutions have tenaciously spread across the Middle East. In the midst of that dramatic change I found myself earlier this spring in Dubai. I had been invited to attend the United States-based World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists as a representative of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies. The Institute brings together Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian, Jews, Christians, Muslims and other college students from around the world to Kibbutz Ketura on the Israeli-Jordanian border to train them as environmental leaders. What I discovered in the United Arab Emirates was a confirmation of what we teach and model in Israel at the Arava Institute.
I have travelled most of my life, including a two year trip around the world while in college, and more recently to the Palestinian Authority and Jordan for my work with the Arava Institute. I cross from Israel into Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, in some ways with the ease of crossing from my home in Vermont into Massachusetts, but in other ways deeply aware that I am crossing a chasm of cultures, politics and history. Anticipating travel to Dubai, I was excited and at the same time not exactly sure what would be my reception.