Israel Reflections 2015–Day Four: Class at Tzfat

On day four of the trip, we joined Professor Yael Efron’s class at the Tzfat Academic College School of Law for a joint negotiation class.  A close colleague of mine, Yael conducts her class similarly to ours here at Marquette and we were lucky enough to join her on her first day of the semester.   Spoiler alert–the students below describe the card game BARNGA–and I’m happy to share the materials if anyone would like.

 Student Marcus Hirsch describes the exercise:

Upon entering the classroom, we were joined at tables by Israeli students, and began mingling.  After introductions, instructions for a negotiation exercise were distributed and a card game commenced.  The game required individual interpretations of the rules, and forbid verbal communication from the participants – in Hebrew or English.  This led to an even greater learning experience, even as it caused massive frustration, confusion, and uncontrollable fits of laughter from the participants.  In the debriefing after the game, the participants not only came to understand how miscommunication and lack of information can lead to problems, but learned that these problems are cross-cultural and cross-linguistic.

Ethan Sebert noted the broader lessons from the experience:

I thought that the negotiation class that we sat in on with the students from Tzfat was a great experience because it helped me realize in practice the concepts that we went over in our negotiation classes.  During the class, we conducted an exercise from our American negotiation class with the Israeli students. Students are not allowed to speak to one another but travel between tables, each of which is instructed to play the same game with slightly different rules at each table.  This game is helpful for conflict resolution classes because it forces individuals to adapt to a different set of rules each time someone moves a table.  This can create confusion, as the people moving are used to a certain set of rules and have to learn the rules at the new table but must learn the rules without speaking.  This is an excellent metaphor for conflict resolution, as people often go into disputes speaking a different language, literally and metaphorically.  I think it is important for people to realize that disputes often arise and are difficult to resolve because people are not playing by the same rules, just as in the game.

Although the game alone was interesting from a negotiation theory/dispute resolution concept perspective, I thought the discussion after the game was almost more enlightening because both students from the United States and Tzfat often used the same terminology for some of the concepts.  This helped me realize that the educations of both sets of students were similar and that international students taking negotiation/conflict resolution courses are learning the same concepts. This will hopefully make international deals, whether business or peace making deals, come easier as negotiators will have a similar basis of knowledge.

Additionally, I thought that it was interesting that the students at Tzfat were not that much different from us.  I went into the trip thinking that the Israeli education system would be entirely different; in reality, I felt the students were very similar to us. The fact that they were taking similar courses and learning similar concepts really helped me to put that realization in perspective.  In my opinion, I think this realization is a major issue within every conflict.  I think it helps to resolve conflict if the parties realize they are not that different.  Exploring connections and commonalities is an excellent way of building bridges and an important part of conflict resolution because it can serve as a basis for bringing parties together through acknowledging the similarities on both sides.

Another great part of Tzfat was the street that was full of different artist shops.  I thought that this was a very cool part of the trip because the street was like no other street that I have ever seen before. To try and describe it in words would not do it justice.  The amount of shops and the different pieces of artwork that were available on this street was unmatched by anything I have ever seen.  It was also fun and very fitting for a conflict resolution course to be able to haggle over prices.


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