Sunday, June 18, 2017

"We extend our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace"

One thing that can be said of Israel is that there is no shortage of perspectives. Last week, our class had the opportunity to meet with members of the Knesset from across the spectrum. MK Taleb Abu Arar, a member of the Joint List, had some pretty extremist views. Among those that stood out to me were: Jews have no ties to the Temple Mount, Jews didn't start coming to Israel until 1917, and his blatant objection that Palestinian terrorism exists. I was shocked the MK felt no shame in making these bold statements. Did he truly believe what he was saying? Or does he know that he is factually inaccurate but he doesn't care about truth because it hurts his agenda? Can peace be achieved with this mentality? Irrespective of his views, this meeting was my favorite of the entire week. I appreciate him taking time from his schedule to meet with us. And I agree with him that more Arab-Israelis should vote so that their voice can be heard and they can be better represented in the Israeli government. 

We also heard from Jeremy Man, who is apart of the Jewish Home Faction and an advisor to the Deputy Defense Minister. Jeremy is on the opposite spectrum of MK Arar. The Jewish Home opposes a two-state solution because they do not think it will bring peace to neither the Israelis or the Palestinians. In Jeremy's reasoning, he explained that each time Israel vacated land, they ended up on a worse strategic position and the security situation deteriorated. And in just one example, it is true that after Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, rocket attacks increased exponentially. And if not for Israel's expertise in military technology with the Iron Dome system, many innocent citizens would have been murdered from these rockets. But is the answer to just throw up your hands and give up? Jeremey thinks the answer is to annex Area C, and worry about A and B later. Gaza, he says, is a whole separate issue. 

MK Dr. Anat Berko met with us as a Representstive of the Likud party, which is the current party in power here in Israel. Berko had many interesting points but the one that stood out to me most was this quote: "They [the Palestinians] don't want to be inside us, they want to be instead of us." This is a common sentiment among the Likud party; that the current Palestinian leadership is not a partner for peace. And while one can argue that the current leadership in the PA is doing more harm to their people than good, the reality is that the Israeli government must still negotiate with them because they simply have no other option. In an effort to assuage the longing for sovereignty among the Palestinian people, Israel will have to extend the olive branch yet again to advance peace. Tactically, strategically and with good will. As was stated in Israel's Declaration of Independence almost 70 years ago, "We extend our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East."

One of the biggest take aways for me from the Knesset meetings this week is the fact that all these views *are* represented in the Knesset and members are able to openly criticize government policy, which just reinforces the reality that Israel is a democratic state. Whether you disagree with a specific policy does not negate the democratic nature of the state of Israel, which offers citizens freedom of speech, religion, expression and elections. 

Signing off for the last time. Israel, it's been great. See you next time✌🏼


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Wrapping Up Israel

As my experience in Israel concludes I feel overall more familiar with the major aspects of Israeli society and culture. From the larger topics, like the Israeli Palestinian conflict and regional water security issues, to the cultural aspects like Israeli sternness and refusal to stop for pedestrians at crosswalks, I can say that I have gleaned a some of what makes this country unique.

Highlights of this trip for me have included the normal tourist sites, like the Dead Sea, Al Aqsa Mosque, and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. However, the most intellectually interesting aspects of the trip for me was meeting with members of the Knesset. I had originally decided to go on this trip because I felt I needed to learn more about the Israeli Palestinian conflict in general, and more specifically about the ideologies that fuel it. As a student focusing on Middle Eastern and North African studies in both my undergraduate and graduate career I had neglected to learn about the conflict. What the meeting with the Knesset members gave me was the perspectives of Israelis political parties on conflict. Seeing the differences in what each party thought was the leading cause of the conflict, the historical events each considered to be relevant, and the language each used to describe either the Israeli government or the Palestinian leadership was eye opening. More then anything, this experience showed me how truly complex and tense the situation within Israel is.

Another experience that will stick with me was our class’s afternoon we spent in a Druze village. While I had heard about the Druze people before this trip, I had not known anything other then their name. However, over lunch and tea we learned about their cultural norms about marriage, religious practices, some of their venerated figures, and how their society is changing as they modernize. This was one of the most interesting cultural experiences I have had while abroad. Also, as an aside, the Druze food is phenomenal.

Wrapping up this trip I feel a strange yearning learn more about Jerusalem and the tension that seems to almost permeate every facet of life here. Amongst the beautiful historical structures and places of major religious significance are people who find themselves profoundly divided. Being near such tension is like nothing I have ever experienced. This city is a sincerely strange place.

About to be Over

To what shall I describe SIS Summer Abroad in Israel to? Fun, angst, or sights and sounds of Israel.

The trip is an awesome experience of education and tourism, of politics and cyber security, of water crisis and land ownership in Israel. Prior to this trip I did not know about the two other ethnic nationalities in the state of Israel that is the Druze and the Bedouin each with interesting culture and hospitality.

During the period I discovered living here is expensive especially food and mineral water. We also visited the Bahai Gardens. The garden attracts tourist from all over the world. It is a posh garden that endears my heart to live there. Another great discovery of this trip is the type of food people eat here. Often it is stand up lunch. My favorite is Humus!

Meetings in the Knesset were very interesting at most complex given different schools of thought within the Knesset. The left wing leader was impressive on what she will do if by omission she becomes Prime Minister. She says she would go to Abbas and that she will never depart till a solution is reached and signed. Both MK's from the Likud party and Joint party are too far apart from reality.

Visiting Yad Vashem and Mt. Herzl - Israel's National Cemetery is important. Walking through the Hallowed halls of Yad Vashem I was touched by one particular inscription. It reads "It is not about how many Germans Killed, It is about how many Jews saved."

Finally, the trip to Golan heights with lunch at Golan Brewery is a choice I greatly recommend. Sincere thanks to Hebrew University the Rothberg International School, all our guest speakers, our shuttle drivers and our tour guides.

Chiz O Chukwu

Friday, June 16, 2017

Never Again.

IDF soldiers learn about the suffering of their people at the Holocaust Remembrance Center. Never Again.

-Diliman Abdulkader 

"I will give them in My house and in My walls yad vashem."

Thursday morning we visited Israel's Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem. It was powerful. After walking through the museum and revisiting the history of the horrors that took place during the reign of Hitler, you are led to an overlook outside the museum that is simply breathtaking. Moshe Safdie, the museum architect, purposely constructed the museum to lead to an overlook of the land of Israel so that visitors can remember the necessity of having a state for the Jewish people. A home and safe haven for Jews all around the world so that never again will they have to flee violent anti-Semitism and have nowhere to go. Today Israel offers Jews around the world a home with open arms. Thousands of Jews are coming to Israel from Europe (specifically Western Europe), in an attempt to escape the recent rise in anti-Semitism there. The overlook in Yad Vashem brings a sense of relief. Israel has not only become a safe haven for Jews but also many other persecuted minorities in the Middle East including Christians and homosexuals. 

Shabbat Shalom,

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


The previous two days we traveled to the Knesset and talked with various members of the Knesset. We met with various political parties, from the Joint List to the Likud. It was interesting to hear the different members view points on a wide range of topics, from Arab-Israeli relations to Israeli national security. Additionally, we even briefly stopped by the Knesset's equivalent to C-SPAN.  


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Golan Heights and the Sea of Galilee

This past weekend we had the opportunity to travel to the Golan Heights and the Sea of Galilee. I was blown away by the views and the history of the region. I had previously traveled to a Jordanian town called Umm Qais, that overlooks the Golan Heights and the Sea of Galilee.
Looking out into Syria from the Golan Heights. 


"We extend our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace"

One thing that can be said of Israel is that there is no shortage of perspectives. Last week, our class had the opportunity to meet with me...