WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2015 – DAY 3
I woke up later than expected – 6 AM. Showered, got dressed and went down to breakfast with Adrienne. The food was similar to yesterday: veggies, fruits and pastries. My favorite was the date honey. I also ended up spilling coffee trying to split the 2 shots of espresso I tried to put in a cup. I dropped a spoon too. But otherwise, it was smooth sailing. At our table, we spoke about the incarceration system and a little about religion.
I ran upstairs and got my jacket and phone, and boarded the bus. On the long bus ride, I didn’t sleep much to my disappointment, but instead I had a worthwhile conversation with Matt about things we liked and didn’t like, the scenery and maybe, a few other things I can’t remember now.
8:45-9:45am Israel’s Challenges on the International Stage w. Dr. Ronnen Hoffman, founder of International Institute for Counter-terrorism and his TA. Gur.
When the bus stopped in front of the security gate in an unkempt field, bordered by orange trees and electrical wires, I didn’t know where we were. Upon reading a sign that asked for student identification, I realized we were at the IDC.
Cranes, construction and parking lots in Herzilya surrounded IDC. It’s an institution of esteem; its tuition as a college is around 10,000 US dollars, which is much more than the typical Israeli college. It’s also stereotyped for fashionable and rich students. A great faculty. Well-connected. Unlike Wellesley, and aside from a security entrance and tree filled with oranges, the buildings are close together and obviously, new and modern. The people on campus looked older than us, most likely due to their services with the IDF. Maya led us on a roundabout tour on the campus and finally into a building. We sat in a conference room and waited for our first speaker.
The lecture with Dr. Hoffman, a political psychologist, and his TA was largely focused on the media representation of Israel. They concluded that Israel is more isolated to resolve threats, not from organized militaries but asymmetric terrorist organizations due Western apathy and IGO inefficacy. They asserted that that most Israelis support the two-state solution and are willing to withdraw from territories, only if compromising partners are trustworthy (i.e. not Hamas and sometimes the Palestinian Authority). They too asserted that the stated goals of the BDS movement is stop Palestinian occupation, attain equal rights for Arab Israelis and promote the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel via divestment and political sanctions. However, for Dr. Hoffman, the unstated goals were a one-state solution and the delegitimization of the Jewish state. Yet, aside from assertions (of which we didn’t have to discuss the facts), humanity was invoked. How individuals felt that the BDS movement was directed against them, but they wanted to see the Palestinian flag raised, regardless. We also talked a lot about why the SJP movement is successful: it moves by trends based on climates and its underdog (David v. Goliath) movement is successful. In this lecture, religion wasn’t the concern. Rather, they cared about people and set the solution in exchanging conversations over the borders (whether written in pen on a map or constructed in society).
10:00-11:00am Live Radio Broadcast at the Ofer School of Communications w. Rona Zahavi, head of IDC International Radio, media students and Dean Latar.
The second speaker was the Dean Noam Latar: a sweet elderly man who knew much about Wellesley since his time in MIT. Dean Latar spoke about the synergy between classical and new media through his program, NoCamel. The mission of the organization was to recognize that Israel is not only a problem but solves problems, in the face of the branding difficulty that encompasses the country. Again, there was neither contention that one side was right and the other wrong nor that Palestine was not suffering. Rather, the lecture focused on academic: producing journalists that understand they can’t be objective, but feel impassioned by balanced reporting.
We then watched an impassioned movie about Daniel Pearl, the journalist killed in Pakistan, and then went to the broadcast station.
The broadcast station seemed as legitimate as the WGBH station I visited in high school. The interviewer was a student dressed in basketball shorts, a zip-up hoodie and a beard. He was from Ottawa, Canada and asked great questions. I was broadcasted with Matt and Lizzy. I was a little nervous to do so – given the overwhelming complexity of the experience so far – but the conversation was simple. What are the criteria of the opinions column (straightforward)? Where do we find hard-hitting news (YikYak, maybe?)? Was Israel different than we expected (the country was beautiful but complex and complicated and not something that can be described in a sentence)? Rachel and Jacob said she appreciated what I said, which made me happy and validated.
Listen to the broadcast on IDC’s Sound Cloud!
We then left the IDC to head off to Ariel, the settlement (this term is contended) in the West Bank, which was only 20 minutes away. As the bus traveled along Road 5, the flat land evolved into rocky mountains with square houses nestled in between trees. Matt said that was what he imagined Israel looked like; I thought it would look like Tel Aviv.
We stopped at the entrance of Ariel, where a man, originally from New Jersey, named Avi boarded. Avi Zimmerman is the Executive Director and seemingly on the pathway of becoming mayor. He is honest to his truth and passionate about Ariel. His mission was to convince us that he was intelligent and right in his love for Ariel. That Ariel was the better option for the Palestinians and necessary for Israel.
12:00-1:00pm Lunch at Hummus Abu Dushi Restuarant
We ate at Hummus Abu Dushi, a restaurant owned by a Palestinian and Jew near the industrial zone. The restaurant was chosen by its symbolism and for its kosher, delicious food. I asked Avi about the historical rights of the Palestinian and Jews. He spoke against biblically motivated settlements and about the difference of stewardship and ownership. He spoke about how when he first visited Israel at the age of 14, he did so with the intent of figuring out whether or not he would live there. At the restaurant, we celebrated Jacob’s birthday.
1:15-3:30pm Beyond the GreenLine: A History of Settlements, with Avi Zimmerman, Head of the Ariel Regional Development Fund in Ariel
After leaving the restaurant, we stopped at a vantage point in front of the Milken family art center (note the funder) and spoke about the map of Israel in the theater. That is, the strategic security placement of Israel in the West Bank. Avi argued that Ariel was necessary to maintain control and security of Samaria. He pointed to the 9-mile width of Israel and spoke about the capability of any military to come barging through. Ramallah was not on the map he gave us.
Outside, Avi pointed towards the Western Wall and emphasized the importance of a fence to deter Palestinian attacks. He took us to the industrial complex to speak with Yuri, a Soviet Union Jew who was now the manager of the sweets factory. Avi wanted us to realize that the boycott was hurting the jobs and lives of Palestinians who worked in the factory at a higher salary than they would get in Palestine. That the boycott was the nice, fun politics of men in air condition buildings and that the Arb men who worked in the factory loved their lives. After all, one of them had left Kuwait because of problems and he found peace here. During our conversations, Avi translated the words of the men.
At this factory, only the Israelis could park near the factory with their yellow license plates. The Palestinians with their green and white plates had to park outside the factory and security check point (now along the road due to the building of a new gas station). A few weeks ago, a factory worker had tried to stab the IDF soldiers in the security entrance, but the woman soldier neutralized (in the words of Avi, i.e. killed) him. Avi said that the factory workers forsook the terrorist. Avi quickly transitioned to speak about the diversity of the workers, the great presence of Palestinian workers in the factory and the importance of the export goods (notably to Muslims in Belgium).
We then went to Ariel University and spoke with a British Jew who was an administrator in the university at the communications skills. Unlike the journalists from the night before, he argued for the importance of education and said that Ariel made hirable students. Most of it was uninteresting. 700 Arab Israelis are enrolled in the school. 10 Palestine ID students. The university wasn’t as beautiful at IDC and it was a lot colder. And empty.
Every Palestinian needs work or student papers to get into Ariel, but after a few questions, the man maintained that the university was interested in having Arabs join the university and staff.
Avi implied that the medical hospital (Avi said that this was for the Palestinians too since the clinics were unavailable via security threats and lack of papers), the university, etc. were collateral to insure that Israel would keep the faculties. He pointed out a Palestinian city – decrepit, square houses with black water tanks and burning of garbage – nearby and asserted that Israelis who went into Palestinian towns were putting the IDF soldier’s lives at risk.
We talked about the meaning of a settlement: a colony, temporary, and occupying. Avi pointed to the new buildings and said, “Permanent.”
5:30-6:30pm Border to Border: Israel and its Neighbors w. Professor Asher Susser, Senior Fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern Studies
After a long drive in the rain, most of us were emotionally exasperated. We sat down again in the conference room in order to speak with Professor Susser from Tel Aviv University, who had taught at many American universities and including Brandeis in 2007/2008. A version of his talk is available in Coursera, but in all, it clarified a lot of the confusion I had. Professor Susser spoke about the three deficits of the Middle East, concluded by Arab researchers at UN: democracy, first world education and gender equality. The Middle East is a poorly performing economy with rapidly growing populations which creates the current disaster that is the region. If the US couldn’t address its lesser job unemployment crisis, how will the Middle East find jobs for 50 million people in the next years? The solution is either immigration or civil war. The major dilemma of the Israel is to either live in constant fear of or retaliate severely against Hamas. And it has a low margin of error – 10 miles. But for the solution, Israel should withdraw from the West Bank and take a political risk. Israel cannot exist as a Jewish state and simultaneously control the lives of millions of Palestinians; the settlements are political and not necessary. Doing nothing is the worst of all choices; Israel has unilaterally withdrawn and it can do it again in order to stabilize itself in the power vacuum of the Middle East. The two-state reality is the best solution to the dilemma of constant fear; as Israel will never be a free people in its country if the Palestinians are not free in their own.
Professor Susser also spoke about the BDS movement and how its arguments liken the Palestinians to African-Americans (police brutality) and to Mexicans (the Mexico border). The question begs, “if the US is doing that too, why don’t you boycott the US too?” He found the BDS movement prejudicial and perpetuating, as it’s easier to boycott Israel than China. Is there a 2 million people limit, that once it’s surpassed, people claim humanity and won’t boycott, as in the case of Pakistan or China? Why is the BDS movement so strong in the UK when the country doesn’t give Israel money, unlike the US which provides $3 billion and could argue responsibility?
Israel wants normalization, but the BDS movement is against its legitimacy.
6:30pm Review and Reflection at the hotel
After the arduous day, we reflected as a group. The take-away was that there wasn’t one narrative and that it’s confusing and unclear. I was baffled but I loved hearing my groupmates’ informed perspectives.
We had a short break and then went out to dinner at this bohemian yet gardenlike place. I had falafel. We then sat outside under heat lamps and laughed amongst each other on Dizengoff Street, where three days later, a mass killing would happen.
We retuned to the hotel and went to bed.