Blog Day 3

December 7th, 2016

Note: A delegation of University Provosts and Deans is in Israel with AJC Project Interchange. The delegation is accompanied by Melanie Maron Pell, Director, AJC Director of Regional Engagement.

Day 3

Our morning began at the remarkable Rabin Center in Tel Aviv, at which we traced the arc of Israel’s remarkable history and efforts to make peace through the life and career of Yitzhak Rabin. We learned of the two competing visions for Israel’s future after the Oslo Accords - one version (Rabin’s version) believed that peace was the only option for survival even if it was painful, and the other version rejected the notion that any Israeli leader should ‘concede’ to Arafat and Arab demands. This division reached its apex when a right wing law student assassinated Rabin at the conclusion of a massive peace rally in 1995. Several participants were struck by the profoundness of Rabin’s legacy and of the many “what if’s” had he lived.

We then traveled north to the port city of Haifa, a vibrant and diverse community that is home to the Technion, Israel’s technology institute (or “Israel’s MIT”). The sheer brainpower concentrated in this one institution is breathtaking, and it was exciting to hear from top administrators about the Technion’s programs, successes and new ventures such as the Technion Guandong Institute of Technology scheduled to open in China next year. We also learned that there is funding and an eagerness for more Palestinians to come and work alongside Israelis on issues of common concern but it is very difficult to recruit. We discussed various mechanisms for collaboration, and I hope that exciting developments might result from this meeting.

We enjoyed lunch with members of the impressive faculty and then headed south back toward Tel Aviv. Along the way, we saw Arab villages in Israel proper and Palestinian villages in the West Bank, as well as portions of the security barrier.

Sometimes the best things happen in unexpected places, and that sums up our final visit of the day to Ono College. This remarkable institute of higher education strives to make higher education accessible to those who may have thought it out of reach. We heard from Tova Hartman, Dean of Humanities, about Ono’s commitment to meeting their diverse students “where they are” and not forcing them to contort themselves to adapt. Most strikingly we heard from three remarkable students: a young Muslim woman, a Haredi (ultra Orthodox) man and an Israeli originally from Ethiopia. Hearing their personal stories and their personal aspirations and goals was truly moving and inspiring. One participant who expressed early on her desire to learn about how Israeli universities address diversity said “I came to learn how you do this in Israel, and I have learned a great deal by being here today.” Another participant said that the visit to Ono was “an honor, a privilege and life-affirming.”

We saw, in action, efforts in Israel to make the world better through innovation and discovery at the Technion and through a commitment to truly embracing and engaging diversity at Ono College. It was another full, thought provoking day.

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