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Thursday, March 14, 2024


by Betty Cohen

Fathom deputy editor Jack Omer-Jackaman speaks with Tareq Abu Hamed and Eliza Mayo of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, an academic research centre operating with the premise that cooperation on environmental issues that impact all the people in the Middle East is an effective path to building cooperation among communities that have been locked in conflict for generations. The student body of the Arava Institute, located on Kibbutz Keturah, just north of Eilat in the southernmost part of Israel, is comprised of one-third Israeli Arabs, one-third Jewish Israelis and one-third internationals from neighboring Arab countries. Over the course of an academic semester, these students work together on solutions to issues such as climate change and water scarcity and cleanliness, while developing trust and working relationships. (Source: Intermountain Jewish News, February 22, 2024)

I sit on the stone patio
of the apartment
on a kibbutz
in the desert
which settlers
have brought to bloom.
Trees cast shadows 
patterning the red bricks
with shadows of leaves.
Indoors ten-inch tan tiles
form the cool floor
of the rented furnished
two bedroom apartment.
This visit is to meet
my newborn great-grandson.
The air is thick with silence,
the sky pale blue.
Prior to settling in the desert
to make the desert bloom,
his father, my grandson,
lived with me.
When the kibbutz
was newly formed
a neighboring Palestinian farmer,
across the border,
came to present the kibbutz
with a camel,
his token of Peace,
which still reigns
here in the Arava.

Betty Cohen, a Princeton NJ resident, is now in Arava to see her great-grandson. She introduced this poem via Zoom to her Princeton-area weekly poetry workshop colleagues.