Profile: Gabriel Sanders '17
Major/minor:Economics and Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies/Near Eastern and Judaic Studies minor
Term abroad and Program: Spring 2016; Hebrew University
Reason you chose this program: I always knew I wanted to spend part of my junior year of study, abroad in Israel. My mom spent her entire junior year abroad at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and my brother spent his at Tel Aviv University. My sister followed suit of my brother, and I followed my mother. You can say it's a family tradition. Jerusalem is the sacrosanct locus of Israel and Palestine and the home to the religious triumvirate of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. I pursued the degrees I am studying, furthered my proficiency in Hebrew and Arabic, and explored the complexities and intricacies of the Middle East and the Israeli and Palestinian conflict.
Favorite classes: My courses on Palestinian Modern History and Contemporary Israeli Identities taught me about issues surrounding Israeli and Palestinian identity and their self-understanding. I learned extensively about the development of Israel—the early Zionist thinkers, the pre-mandate and mandate period, Israel's establishment, the huge waves of immigration from Europe, the Middle East and North Africa in the 1950s, the wars of 1967 and 1973 and their lasting impact, the tumult of the late 1980s and the peace process of the 1990s, the rise of the political party Shas which gave voice to the Sephardi immigrants of the ‘50s, the restarting of negotiations in the early 2000s, and the recent developments that have contributed to the current status between Israel and the Palestinians and the world. I learned that the way forward is marked with difficulty and is predicated on a need for greater understanding and empathy.
Housing situation: I lived on Mount Scopus in the Hebrew University dormitory, known as the Kfar HaStudentim or student village, with locals, Israelis and Palestinians, study abroad students, and international students from around the world.
Best memory: It is hard to pick but one moment; my entire experience studying in Israel comprised one best memory. An experience that was memorable was traveling to Eilat, the southern most city in Israel, with my brother, sister and friends from our study abroad experience. (My brother joined my sister and I in Israel after leading a Taglit Birthright trip for the University of Colorado Boulder.) Being from Colorado we don't get the opportunity to go to the ocean often. In Eilat we had our first experience on a boat.
Greatest challenge: Israel is a contentious place. Though surrounded—in Jerusalem—by tensions and at times toxicity, I chose to be alert, but also aware of the joy, love and spirit that make up the Israel I know and love.
What you know now that you didn't know before: There is so much I learned during my time abroad in Israel. I learned about others. I learned more about myself. And I learned about the preciousness of life.
Fact about (country) that you think people would be surprised to learn: Israel has beaches, seas, forests, mountains, and desert—pretty much every climate imaginable, all in such a small place.