Israel Reflections Overview and Wrap Up

As I close these blog posts, I wanted to both give a table of contents to all of the posts for those that might have missed these and add my own thoughts at the end.  I will say again that I was so very proud of the students that came on the trip and the reflections that they wrote–it really was an honor to be able to do this with them.

Our first day posts on Jerusalem included reflections on:

Day two included more legal reflections on:

Day three was the visit to the south and had posts on:

And our final day focusing on ongoing issues, recovery, and resilience:

  • Visiting Hostage Square (and meeting hostage Evyatar David’s cousin Metal)
  • Recovery–visiting the Schneider Children’s Hospital (which had welcomed the released child hostages last fall)
  • Understanding the Law and Law Schools–reflecting on hearing from Cochav Elkyam Levy on the investigation of sexual violence by Hamas and meeting with Bar-Ilan law school dean Michal Alberstein
  • Listening & Hope–hearing from speakers Professor Guy Itzchakov and Dr. Oded Leshem to increase our own skillset as we returned home

Being been back for just over a month, and reflecting on this trip, it remains clear to me how important education can (and should) be in understanding this conflict and in continuing to build the skills we need for conflict management.  I share so many of the conflicting views of the speakers with whom we met:  Empathy for victims of Hamas does not eliminate empathy for children in Gaza; condemnation of Hamas actions does not equal complete approval of Israel government actions; a desire for a cease fire with all of the hostages released today does not equal a desire for a cease fire at all costs.  The ongoing challenge of holding competing thoughts seems to be one that does not play well on social media or on US campuses at the moment.  But it is the one that I hope to hold onto, to model, and to teach.

Having just celebrated Passover, the idea of competing thoughts fits with the holiday–Israelites celebrate freedom from slavery but are warned to be vigilant against the next oppressor; they are saved because the Egyptians are drowned in the sea but God admonishes the angels not to celebrate as the Egyptians were also God’s creations.  We need to lean into this complexity as a skillset–as my eloquent brother-in-law put it last week discussing the Seder in Tablet magazine:

If the condition of the Palestinians stands at the forefront of your concern, now is the time to push yourself and find a way to also give voice to Israel’s right to self-defense and self-determination. If it is the continued defense and well-being of Israel that informs your every breath, then model how to stay true to your principles and not ignore Palestinian suffering in the process.

We all know that it is no small thing to find empathy and voice for a point of view you might not wish to understand.  Turning back to hope…our last speaker defined hope as both a wish for something to happen and an expectation that it will happen at some point.  So I am definitely clinging to his idea that hope is a human evolutionary need–and the hope that this particular conflict will move to a more peaceful phase as soon as possible.

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