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. 


Monday, June 12, 2017

A Small Collection of Photos from Haifa, Nazareth, and Jerusalem

Part of the Bahai Gardens in Haifa, Israel. The Bahai faith has several million adherents worldwide and is headquartered at its World Center in Haifa.

The Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, Israel. This is the front of the Basilica.

Goods and street art on display at Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda open air market.

A group of officers in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) touring the walls separating East Jerusalem from the West Bank.

A view from East Jerusalem of the wall that divides it and the West Bank, completed in 2003. The wall is formally known as the West Bank Barrier.

All photos taken by Brian Stonecipher.

Human Dignity a Core Value in Peacebuilding

 During this SIS Summer Abroad celebrating 50yrs after the 5days 12 hrs war what has changed?

Today we did a multi-perspective tour with Ir Amim Tours'. As the day went by it became frustrating seeing the level of division and the lack of environmental dignity in certain areas of the city of Jerusalem. Some of the areas visited today evoked great passion and overwhelming emotion for me. The simple fact is that it is not looking good.  Because no matter what you look like, how you speak, who you love or what you profess decency and cleanliness is next to godliness. It accounts for your dignity.

So today, I speak about human dignity and security following this outing. It is very inspiring. Our tour guide understands the subjects very well. She took time answering our many questions that ranges from everything and anything you might think of. The big deal today was the huge wall that separates the two sides. It drove down business in the area making the area vulnerable. Because a man without dignity has nothing to lose or protect and therefore can be nefarious. Therefore part of security measure could be creating opportunities against an idle mind.

I also wondered how children on both sides interact and what they make of it? Giving this environment my mind flashed at the UN Charter on the rights of children. That children have rights to citizenship, his or her identity, including nationality, name and family. That a child should have the right to clean drinking water, education, health, freedom of expression, children should be protected from all forms of physical or mental violence, to diminish infant and child mortality.

This is how we do peace education. This is how we reform society. Children are suffering as victims and some instances as perpetrators. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu says, "Without Forgiveness, There is No Future" We are in the City of Jerusalem. We are in the world that cries out in pain from terrorist attack - a world that desperately needs some tender loving care - a world that desperately needs to have total forgiveness and reconciliation enacted. This is equity. This is justice.

Chiz Chukwu

So today was walked through this crazy tunnel in what is debated to be the City of David.  Whether or not this is true is fiercely debated, but the tunnels underneath were carved before biblical times.  What we walked through was a tunnel which carried water to the city underground and was the only water supply to the city when it was repeatedly besieged.  Surprisingly, water still flows in it, and we all got wet.  In addition these tunnels are extremely cramped in spaces so we got pretty cozy.  This was yet another amazing part of this program, and I'm continually surprised (in a good way) that regardless of how tired we are, we can still have an absolute blast doing something as small as walking through a wet tunnel.  I think this weekend trip was my favorite part of the program; I've heard lots about the Golan Heights from Professor Ziv's capstone class and finally being there, hiking in the mountains, and looking into Syria was not only amazing but incredibly humbling, considering the history of the area.  Even though we only have a few days left, they will be packed with meetings with members and associates of the Knesset, and hopefully we can get a quick selfie with Bibi!  If that happens, I'm totally posting it!


Sunday, June 11, 2017

The 50 Year View

Saturday's trip to the Golan Heights was the moment I had been waiting for since we arrived in Israel. The day began with an early wake-up in Tiberius to go hike down a cliff overlooking the Sea of Galilee. From the far-reaching valleys and rolling hills, to the glistening of the sun on Lake Tiberius, the hike was a perfect way to start a day full of rich history and culture. After our morning hike, we journeyed to Tel Dan to visit the nature reserve and the site of the former Canaanite and Danite city and walls.

Following lunch in a very unique brewery between the '49 and '67 lines, we then trekked up past multiple IDF bases to Merom Golan, to visit a former Syrian bunker. Located along the former 'third bunker line' of the Syrian equivalent of the Maginot line, the bunker was right on the de facto border with Syria. Manned by UN forces, with some tunnels open to the public, the bunker offers a unique perspective and look into the conditions of the Syrian defenses pre-1967.

The telescopic binoculars  allowed us to look up-close into Syrian territory, where we were able to observe destroyed buildings and the quotidien activities of the people across the border. The panoramic view, which allowed for a glimpse of Lebanon as well as Syria, was so peaceful that one forgot momentarily they were 30km from ISIS and al-Nusra.

Overall, the days' journey was spectacular, not only for traveling through multiple borders and regions, but for traveling through time; by seeing the fortress and caves by the Sea of Galilee which predates is by three millennia, visiting the city and temple of the Danites, and fast fowarding to the modern border with Syria.

Friday, June 9, 2017

ChiZ WiZdom, Vol. I

Faith is life experienced in a spiritual disposition. It is in the presence of that which the human mind is aware of, that of which nothing greater is conceived of. Today I experienced it from the Mount of Olives through the Mountain top, Via Dolorosa through Christian, Muslim, and Jewish neighborhoods. The high point of today is the visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. I felt the presence. The emotion physically and emotionally was super. Like the Ethiopian eunuch and Philip after hearing the good news and coming across water, nothing is short of baptism. So I did at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher I jumped the line. It sounds cool and crazy. It means more to me than silver and gold. Yeah I did. It is real. It is a reality. I did not want to be another apostle John who ran to the tomb on Easter Sunday yet was afraid to jump in. Yes there is a Peter in me. I jumped in, what a blessing sharing in His glory. 

The second highlight was lunch of hundreds of Shekels. As we continued through Via Dolorosa the thought of Jesus being sold for thirty Shekels gave me pulse. Was it so bad that the he collected thirty shekels then? Has anything changed on how we treats others? Or are we eager to get rid of them. May be the political leaders may reflect on the present situation with the eyes of faith.

This is a journey of grace and mercy. This study explores the six day war. How it redefines life in the state of Israel, Palestinian and its territory fifty years later. I am heart broken by the poor standard of living in the PT. You smell poverty and lack of integration or assimilation in the midst of the Children of Abraham. Jerusalem to whom shall we go? Salem oh Salem give peace to your children and your first inheritance. May peace be upon Jerusalem.

- ChiZ Chukwu

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

I had the privilege of going inside The Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem. What an amazing experience! A historical shrine to Muslims around the world, not only through religion but politically as well. Due to the ongoing political environment, only Muslims are allowed into the mosque, the reason why my classmates were not able to enter. However, it is important to note that many mosques allow anyone to enter regardless of their faith. As I approached the gates into the mosque, a kind gentleman asked for my name to confirm that I was Muslim. Once inside, men and women prayed separately on opposite sides but both genders were able to walk around freely. Directly under the massive dome was a rock in which Muslims believe is the site where Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) ascended into heaven. Enjoy the photos!

-Diliman Abdulkader

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Today, Bastien and I decided to get back to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  After standing in the line for about a half hour, we were able to go inside.  It was absolutely incredible standing there, at the holiest spot in Christianity.  This morning, we were also fortunate enough to be able to visit the holy sites of Islam and Judaism (the Western Wall and the Mosques on the Temple Mount).  I think having a group of mixed faith not only made the experience far more rewarding in terms of us learning more about them, but also made us appreciate these places on a larger and more personal level.  All of these site visits were led by an Israeli from Jerusalem, who was consistently getting extremely frustrated with practically everything we did.  At first it was intimidating, and then became slightly amusing.  I think  I'd have to say that, apart from the glorious beaches of Tel Aviv, today was my favorite day yet!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

A Small Collection of Photos from Tel Aviv

This is down a small side street in Old Jaffa. Even small street corners like this are gorgeous. 
This is in Dizengoff house, otherwise called Independence Hall. From here, in 1948 David Ben Gurion proclaimed the state of Israel underneath a portrait of Theodor Herzl.

Rabin Square, known as a meeting place for activists and a place for demonstrations. Formerly known as Kings of Israel Square, it was renamed after Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated here in 1995.
The Yitzhak Rabin memorial, located just south of Rabin Square to commemorate his life following his assassination.

All photos taken by me.
-Brian Stonecipher

Conflict, Narrative, and Mediation

I've been reflecting on how the narrative that frames a conflict affects the ways in which peace can be achieved. If crucial parts of a conflict's story are missing from one side's narrative, it can close side A from being willing to see themselves in the Other, in side B. And if side B remains the Other, outside of my humanity, only a threat, why would I initiate reconciliation?

On Thursday we went to Israel's Independence Hall, where, following the British Mandate, Israel declared itself a sovereign state. It was a remarkable experience, fascinating to sit in the room and consider the highs and lows of Jewish history, feeling the emotional power of finding a homeland just three years after the Holocaust. Missing from the video and spoken presentations, however, was any mention of the Palestinian people. Instead, in awe and mystery, we were told the stunning story of how, one day after independence, five Arab nations decided to attack Israel. I was left wondering if our museum guide didn't know the other half of the story, or if the museum purposely avoided it.

On Friday we met with Anat, a former SIS student who works for Peace Now, an organization focused on moving the Israeli position toward a peaceful, two-state solution. One thing she mentioned was that Peace Now educates youth in Israel about things that they are not taught. She intimated that we know things about this conflict that the local youth do not. This was striking. She also discussed the context in which these youth have come of age—following the second Intifada—compared to her generation that grew up following the Oslo Accords. How does our narrative increase or limit our chances for peace?

I wouldn't argue that this outside knowledge can make a third party mediator more sensitive to issues than the people who live within the world of conflict every day. This is naive. However, this reflection has made me consider how beneficial a mediator in a conflict is. How can someone in Conflict Resolution help both sides see themselves in the Other? How can a mediator help expand a narrative so that both sides can move toward peace?

- Bruce Pearson

"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...