Final Blog University Provosts and Deans

December 11th, 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 6 - Final Blog

It’s hard to believe this is our last night in Israel. It seems like we just got here and yet our first day feels like it was so long ago. We have been blessed by perfect weather on this trip, and today was no exception. The shining white city of Jerusalem really sparkles against the bright blue sky.

We began our day with an inspiring visit to United Hatzalah, an all volunteer emergency service that operates all over the country. The model is based on the idea that people in the community, in the neighborhood, are the best first responders because they can be on-site in an instant. Seconds and minutes matter in life or death situations, and United Hatzalah has created a sophisticated dispatch system that allows volunteer paramedics to reach those in need extremely quickly. In the major cities of Israel, the response time averages 90 seconds, and across the entire country the average is 3 minutes. This is a full 3-5 minutes faster than an ambulance, so the ability of United Hatzalah volunteers to reach the injured and stabilize them until the ambulance arrives is a vital, life-saving service. It was inspiring and remarkable, and yet another unexpected jewel we discovered in Israel.

From there, we made a quick stop at Oscar Schindler’s grave before visiting King David’s Tomb and then heading into the Old City. In the Old City, we began in the Jewish Quarter where the residents were bustling around preparing for Shabbat (the Sabbath). It’s hard to imagine what it is like to live in such a holy and ancient place and to be surrounded at every turn by the history of your people and faith. We left our prayers at the Western Wall along with thousands of others.

From there, we went through the Muslim Quarter, which is full of bright colors and fragrant spices and eager shopkeepers. We reached the Via Dolorosa and the Christian Quarter and spent some time in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, believed by many to be the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection. On top of the church, we saw the Ethiopian church - truly layers and layers of religious significance to so many people.

Our group got to see and hear and smell and taste the Old City in all of its frenetic and sometimes chaotic glory. It was a whirlwind of history and of sensory input.

We ended our evening - and our week - by welcoming Shabbat with a lovely group of guests. We lit candles, we blessed the food and the wine, and we enjoyed a lovely evening of food and song and company.

We had a chance to share some reflections, and one of the participants noted how grateful she was that Israelis had opened up their homes and personal stories to us and how special that was. She noted that it doesn’t matter what you read - nothing can tell the story like experiencing it first-hand. Another participant said he leaves with a lot of hope because he sensed a genuine good will and desire to be peaceful from both the Israelis and Palestinians with whom we met. Another said that he arrived knowing a fraction and returns home knowing still a fraction but a bigger fraction. They are all so grateful and so moved by this experience, and it will inform their personal and professional lives for years to come.

I hope they will all find their way back to this exhilarating land soon, and I hope I can as well.

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