Campus Leaders Blog 3

January 3rd, 2017

Note: A delegation of Campus Leaders from Brown University is in Israel with Project Interchange. The delegation is accompanied by Seffi Kogen, Assistant Director, AJC Campus Affairs, and Rachel Craig, Senior Associate, AJC Project Interchange.

Our first two days of 2017 were jam-packed, as we went beyond intro-level and took a deep dive into the topics at hand!

First up was noted Israeli author and essayist Etgar Keret, who shared, in his own darkly comical way, his views on Israel’s future. By analyzing the language used to discuss the conflict, Etgar challenged us to change our thinking. Then, he got our day off to a really special start by reading his story “The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God.”

When we left Etgar, we drove to Tel Aviv University to hear from Professor Asher Susser, who gave our group a comprehensive briefing on Israel’s strategic environment. It’s crucial, as we form our opinions on Israel, that we understand the threats Israel faces, and how it reacts to those threats.

The best meal of the trip (per several of the students) came at our next stop, Yasser al-Horani’s nursery. There, on low tables, among potted plants, we heard the story of Yasser’s family, and enjoyed his traditional Palestinian falafel. We saw him interact with his friend, Grisha Yakubovich, a colonel in the IDF reserves, who later showed us Israel’s narrow waist from a hilltop high in Alphei Menashe.

We concluded the day at Givat Haviva, an inspiring institution working toward creating a shared society between Jews and Arabs. In Israel. Mohammed Darawshe told us about his efforts to combat racism in Israel’s Jewish and Arab youth through exposure to the “other.” The success rate he cites for his programs is impressive, heartening, and gave us hope.

Tuesday was a big day for us as well. We loaded the bus bright and early, and set out for Ramallah —the latest stop in our pursuit of…even more questions! Our wonderful guide, Eemad, taught us a great deal about Palestinian life, and when we heard from our first speaker, Dr. Khalil Shikaki, we felt even better informed in our ongoing quest.

Next, we visited Zaman, an upscale coffee shop in Ramallah, and met with the company’s managing partner, a powerful, driven, and impressive woman named Huda El-Jack. We spent a great deal of time chatting with Huda (and perhaps even more time chewing over her every word once we were back on the bus) and learned a ton, including why many Palestinian businesspeople reject the movement to boycott Israel.

From Ramallah, we crossed back over into Israel, and drove to the capital city of Jerusalem, to visit the Knesset (Parliament). In addition to a quick tour of the building, we heard from Amir Ohana, the first openly gay Member of Knesset from the right-wing Likud party, and from Ksenia Svetlova, an MK from the center-left Zionist Union. The students greatly enjoyed picking out the points of disagreement between the two.

Finally, we wrapped up our day with a delicious dinner and a thought-provoking lecture from Dr. Tal Becker, a long-time member of the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiating teams, laid out for us the nature of the conflict—and, crucially, the nature of the disagreement between the two sides.

Now, off to bed before our very last day together.

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