July 8th, 2013
Northeastern students love to highlight the value that is endowed by our emphasis on “experiential learning.” Through professional experience and trips abroad, we seek to take material presented to us in academic settings and expand upon it in foreign environments. Back in November, I, as I would presume my 15 classmates did as well, decided that the dialogue program to Israel would be the quintessential combination of academic and experiential learning.
Today, on just our sixth full day here in Jerusalem, we got the ultimate balance of the two. Per usual, the day began at 9:00 with our political science course as guest lecturer Arye Naor elaborated upon Professor Shinar’s recount of the Israeli state and its origins. In the latter half of the morning session, Professor Shinar took over to introduce, in a classroom setting, the Israeli-Arab conflict and what happens when the two contenders increase their levels of radicalization.
While the opportunity to attend classes at Hadassah is invaluable, the programs away from the classroom thus far have proved to be just as valuable. In the afternoon, the group took a short hike through the valley by our apartments to visit the Israeli Museum. Much like the familiar exhibits at the Museum of Fine Arts at home in Boston, I was surprised at the multitude of exhibits housed at the museum. From Pop Art sculptures to one of the world’s oldest collections of masks, the museum housed works that captivated each member of the group. After an hour of freedom to explore the contemporary space, the group reconvened for a tour of the Israeli art exhibits. The path of the tour was chronological according to the dates of the pieces, ranging from as far back as before Common Era, and all the way up to the 20th and 21st century questions of modern Israeli identity (i.e. “the modern Jew”).
Our visit to the museum inadvertently served as the perfect transition into our evening at the King David Citadel, where we attended a sound and light shower that detailed the history of Jerusalem. One of the most shocking realizations thus far in my “experiential learning” in Jerusalem has been the continual level of safety felt by not only the entire group, but also the city. Despite protective factors such as the city’s diverse population, its distance from some of Israel’s greatest threats, and the defense mechanisms utilized by the IDF, precaution is always necessary. Shortly into the showing at the citadel, sirens sounded signaling all inhabitants of Jerusalem to seek shelter.
Despite the level of calm maintained by both the Northeastern groups as well as other visitors and inhabitants of Jerusalem, the instance was one that emphasized the reality of the situation, a reality separate from what we see one the news outlets describing an “escalation in tensions.” These realities, rather, are the ones I believe Northeastern set out for us to realize. They are realities that connect our academic material to our experiences abroad, providing us with greater senses of perspective and comprehension to return home with in August.