Reflections on a Study Abroad Term at the University of Haifa by Rebekah Averett
The end of my third week studying at The University of Haifa is drawing near, however, the thrill and excitement of being here continues to grow.
I feel the impact of my experiences in Haifa as they shape my worldview and understanding of the conflict in the Middle East. The focus of my studies is Terrorism and Response as well as Peace Psychology.
It’s kind of a funny story how I ended up here. I go to school at The Kings College located in the Financial District in New York City. Last April I was sitting in a sandwich shop beside my apartment building where I befriended an eighty-six year old man named Henry Rosenberg. What started as a simple exchange about what type of salad we were eating turned into a two hour conversation about politics, religion, Israel, and the University of Haifa.
Henry and I’s conversation was full of joy and laughter. As we were talking, I shared with Henry some of my adventures and experiences in Israel from the previous summer. He was amazed and excited that someone my age was passionate about Israel. He immediately insisted I go back to study. It was in that moment my life changed – Henry offered to pay for me to study at The University of Haifa, blessing me with one of the greatest gifts of my life.
Each morning when I wake up and walk to class I am humbled, remembering that I am here because of Henry’s gracious gift to me (a person who was a mere stranger two hours before he offered). I did nothing to deserve such a gift, but I am making the most of every minute of it.
It’s pretty incredible how deep relationships can grow and develop within three weeks. My five classmates are now my family. We have experienced so much life together – from getting lost everywhere we attempted to travel the first week to helping each other navigate through difficult hikes through river valleys, to challenging each other in discussions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we have been through much together. My new friends and I are growing together as we work through difficult ideas that are new to us; we are pushed to think outside ourselves and our old understandings.
Every human longs for connection and love. It has been cool to see how when five strangers are placed (outside of their control) into the same setting or group, they are able to look past differences and unit together. Even in just three weeks each one of us has contributed to the life of every member in the group.
I am learning about the history and language of Persian from my friend Pegmon. Chris teaches me a new fact everyday about European history and the Bible while Ashira teaches me how deeply problematic the issue of race remains around the world. She is open about her experiences as an African American women who learned in an all-white classroom, from a white teacher, about the history of slavery. I am learning from Adon what it is like to be a Mexican Jewish Man living in Mexico while Amanda teaches me how important it is to consider the psychological patterns when analyzing the conflict in the Middle East.
A small part of each one of my classmates’ story and life is now apart of mine; I will cherish and hold on to them forever.