Even though this is my blog, I want to use this post to talk about the dual society of people studying abroad in Haifa. Before I came to Israel I assumed that everybody studying here would be studying Hebrew and want to be in Israel because it's Israel. At Haifa, especially, that's not the case. A lot of people came to the university to study Arabic and Arab culture, and Israel is as close to that as they could get.
This weekend is Memorial Day and Independence Day and because we don't have class on Monday or Tuesday my friends and I decided to get out of Haifa and go explore Tel Aviv. Which is where I am, sitting in the common room of the hostel. We came with a big group, 9 people to celebrate my friend's birthday on Friday night. On Saturday, our group split up. Half stayed in Tel Aviv and half went on to Ramallah in the West Bank. Now, it's important to note that these friends of mine purposefully went to the West Bank on Israeli Independence Day because they wanted to go see Palestinian protests in the West Bank.
For me, this idea is crazy. I came to Israel to experience Israel and it's hard for me to comprehend wanting to leave Israel on Independence Day to go to the West Bank. But that was exactly their point. Much of the Middle East is unsafe for Study Abroad right now (Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, etc) and maybe their school didn't have a study abroad program in Jordan. And because they couldn't study abroad in the West Bank, Israel was the closest they could get.
My friend group is pretty split on the political spectrum of the conflict, but we're actually able to have civil conversations on the conflict all the time. We don't avoid talking about it, and we've mastered the idea of criticizing somebody's idea, not the person themselves.
This weekend is just a perfect microcosm of who comes to study abroad at the University of Haifa. Some people come to Haifa to experience Palestinian culture, and some people come to study Israeli culture. And we're able to talk about our differences and share experiences.
That's a way more valuable experience about conflict resolution than anything I could read in a textbook.