Trip Blog — Day Four

May 31st, 2016

Editor’s Note: Lili Kalish Gersch, Director of Alumni Engagement at Project Interchange, and Dan Elbaum, Assistant Executive Director and Managing Director of Regional Offices at AJC, are in Israel with Project Interchange’s delegation of University Presidents and Chancellors and will be blogging about the delegation’s experiences.

David Ben Gurion once said “In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles.”

On Saturday, Project Interchange saw a minor miracle of our own. We took 7 University Presidents to the Israel Museum and only stayed for an hour and a half. In truth these academics could have stayed a week in an institution that has been ranked as one of the world’s leading art and archaeology museums, but they reluctantly boarded the bus to go on to the Dead Sea. During our time at the museum, the presidents were hosted by James Snyder, the Museum’s Director, and had a private tour of the Shrine of the Book and saw the special exhibit about the untold story of the Egyptian presence in the land of Israel.

While grousing about on the bus about what they did not have time to see, they learned more about Israel’s geography and history. The presidents then heard the story of Masada and learned about the fortress’ unique place in Israel’s national ethos. Then came lunch and a mandatory dip in the Dead Sea. After several days of history and politics, the group was delighted to have an hour of levity and experience the unique sensation of floating in the lightest place on Earth. Perhaps not surprisingly, the trip was very profitable for Ahava Dead Sea products (lotions, oils, soaps, etc) which many of the presidents purchased before getting back on the bus.

Finally, we arrived at the Old City of Jerusalem. After observing the city and learning more of its history from the Mount of Olives, the presidents entered the Jaffa Gate and approached the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. With the chants of the priests bouncing off the ancient walls, the presidents approached the final stations of the Via Dolorosa, the walk that represents the final episodes of Jesus’ Passion. The church has been a major Christian pilgrimage destination since its creation in the fourth century, as the traditional site of the Resurrection of Christ.

The “light day” ended with some shopping and an evening on their own which was spent together discussing religion and Middle East politics. Tomorrow, we are off to Ramallah in the Palestinian Authority to learn more about education and public opinions in the West Bank. Oh, and yes, many of the presidents are talking about coming back to Israel in the future in order to have more time at the Israel Museum.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Project Interchange.