As readers of the blog know, I have had the wonderful opportunity to take students on trips learning about dispute resolution.  My most recent trip was to Northern Ireland in 2020 and I also did a trip to Cuba in 2016.  But the “regular” trip has always been to Israel—examining the legal system, peacebuilding, and sightseeing—and, at my lovely new institution, that was plan as of last fall.  After October 7, I cancelled our planned trip for January.  So many people in pain and crisis—I could not see how to fulfill my educational mission. 

After visiting in December on a personal visit and talking to lawyers on the ground, I realized that many were now willing and eager to talk about the future of shared society in Israel, the evolving legal issues from the attack and the war, and the peacebuilding that needs to happen between Israel and Palestinians, as well as the broader Arab world. 

So…off we went last month as part of a class here on international peacebuilding (from likely one of the few US institutions that would permit its students to go)…and I am delighted to share over the next couple weeks reflections from the students about what they saw and what they learned.  I believe that we learn best about conflicts by talking to the people involved and while this trip was more limited in days and in the variety of voices we heard, I know that each voice was valued and added to the student perspective. 

I was also ably abetted by colleague Michelle Greenberg-Kobrin, who, among her many other hats here at the school, runs our filmmakers legal clinic, teaches negotiation, and also has extensive connections in Israel.

Our first day was in Jerusalem, where the general theme was the shared city of Jerusalem.  We started off by hearing from Rana Fahoum.  Ms. Fahoum is the Director of the Center for Shared Society at the Shalom Hartman Institute. She founded a junior high school for girls in a seamline neighborhood in East Jerusalem, was later appointed by the Ministry of Education as the superintendent responsible for all elementary education in East Jerusalem and has served as the head of the YMCA in Jerusalem.  In short, as a Muslim Palestinian woman first working for a Christian organization and now a Jewish one, her perspective was incredibly valuable.  (You could hear more about shared society from her on this podcast.)

As student Jane Weiss outlined:

Our first day of the trip started with an amazing speaker Rana Fahoum.  We learned that Palestinians in East Jerusalem are not citizens of the state of Israel. While they do hold Jordanian passports, they are not citizens of Jordan either. Ms. Fahoum’s work at Shared Society tries to build relationships between Jews and Palestinians within Israel. She explained to us that one effort is by teaching Arabic in all schools. All Palestinian children learn Hebrew, while Israeli schools teach Arabic as an elective. Shared Society stresses that each society must learn about each other, which begins by listening to each other. She stressed that she is hopeful for the future, and, importantly, the way we behave today will impact the future.

Our next stop was to dive into the City and start touring….