UConn Hillel Publicity
UConn Hillel's Discovery Trip to Israel
UConn Hillel returned in January from its first ever Israel Discovery Tour, which brought 20 student leaders, both Jewish and non-Jewish, on an intensive and experiential 10-day trip. Funded by a grant from the Maccabee Task Force (MTF), the trip provided students the opportunity to explore the region’s complex history, grapple with nuanced political and religious realities, and explore the conflict from various perspectives.
Unlike many other well-known trips to Israel, this trip took students into the heart of the conflict. Students heard from a broad range of voices including David Benjamin, former chief legal advisor for the Israel Defense Force, Mohammad El Masri, Secretary General of the Fatah Movement, Khaled Abu Tomeh, an Arab Israeli journalist who covers Palestinian affairs for the Jerusalem Post and Lt. Colonel Eyal Hagbi, former commander of the IDF’s Gaza Brigade. Participants visited the Palestinian Authority, Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria, the AIDA Refugee Camp, Ramallah and major Israeli cities to get a first-hand look at multiple perspectives of the current situation. This exposure will help students better understand the complexities inherent to the region and diffuse previously uninformed anti-Israel sentiment.
Students stayed on a kibbutz by the Sea of Galilee, visited Yad Vashem, the Golan Heights and went to the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Temple Mount. Through a visit at the Peres Center for Innovation and Peace, they had an interactive tour where they learned about the meaningful programs focused on promoting peace between Israel and its neighbors as well as the multitude of Israeli innovations in science, technology, and medicine. They also had the opportunity to hear from leaders within Israel’s various ethnic minority communities including those from the Druze and Ethiopian communities.
Edina Oestreicher, UConn Hillel Executive Director, who staffed the trip along with Israel Fellow Sapir Frieman, said that “This trip comes at an opportune time when anti-Israel sentiments are rising across campuses. By preparing our student leaders to factually tackle these challenges, we look forward to creating opportunities for coalition building and meaningful dialogue.”
By connecting some of UConn’s most promising student leaders to each other in order to engage in meaningful conversation and learn from one another, this trip is part of a much broader strategic plan. Working with UConn Hillel, other faith organizations and cultural centers as well as university leadership, the students will participate in follow-up events that celebrate positive aspects of Israel and engage in outreach that will leverage the impact of the trip.