2008 Summer Institute

In August 2008, seven Brandeis University undergraduates joined their peer students at Al-Quds University for a seminar conducted in Istanbul, Turkey with the theme, “What is a good society?”

The ten-day Summer Institute was intensive, with discussions often boiling over beyond the classroom, to the streets of the Sultanahmet district, to the rooms that each student shared with a student from the “other” side. On the last day – an excursion to the islands and villages on the Bosphorus Strait – the Brandeis students discovered that several Palestinian students did not know how to swim; many of them had never seen the ocean. Saghi Sofinzon '11, a French-Israeli, described how some of the Brandeis students taught their Palestinian counterparts to swim for the first time. Surely, the conflict in the Middle East was not solved that day, and discussions were complex and often frustrating. But, as one student put it later, those 10 days gave her “hope for humanity.”

This simple story – while taking place physically far away from the regular classroom lectures and textbooks of everyday university life – is a metaphor for the goals of the Al-Quds University-Brandeis University Partnership and the Summer Institute: Cooperation, learning, and understanding through joint work. Students lived, learned, and experienced a city together; group projects included the creation of original poems and "fairy tales" that conjured up the ideal "good society."

We will be posting more information about the 2008 Institute as the participants complete their work this year. In the mean time, see below for a list of participants and the reading list.


Thursday, August 14:  Fairy Tales: A Selection

“Universal Declaration of Human Rights”

Martin Luther King, “Letter from Birmingham Prison”
Friday, August 15:   Mark Twain, from Innocents Abroad

Kathleen Christison, from Perceptions of Palestine

Saturday, August 16:  Herman Melville, from Journals
Sunday, August 17:   Fyodor Dostoevsky, “The Dream of a Ridiculous Man”

Nadine Gordimer, “Once Upon a Time”

Jhumpa Lahiri, “A Real Durwan”

Monday, August 18:   Constantine P. Cavafy, “Waiting for the Barbarian”

W.B. Yeats, “The Second Coming”

Robert Frost, “Mending Wall”

Tuesday, August 19:  Student projects and final discussions

Participants in the 2008 Summer Institute:

Undergraduate Students

Mohammad Abu-Qabita
Mohammad is studying Medical Imaging. Despite his modest family income, Mohammad is an excellent student. He believes that people can gain power and dignity through education, the most important commodity in developing a civil society. He participated in various social events and hopes to get more knowledge about other cultures, as he has never traveled before. He is very eager to participate in this seminar.

Sinan Abu Shanab
Sinan is studying Information Technology and considers it one of his passions.  He will begin  his third year  at Al –Quds University in Fall of 2008. He was born in UK and then moved back with his family to Palestine. Sinan has a wide knowledge about world cultures. He is very excited to participate in this workshop and hopes to gain more knowledge about other students and other cultures.

Marwan Aqel
Marwan is studying Electrical Engineering; he will begins his fourth year at Al-Quds University in the Fall of 2008. He is a very sociable student who also has many hobbies and skills such as theatrical acting, imitating voices, and writing novels and poems. He believes that in addition to academic achievements, students should be involved in extracurricular activities. He has very good command of the English language and is very eager to participate in this seminar.

Juana Batarseh
Juana is from Bethlehem and she will begin her fifth year in Dentistry at Al-Quds University in the fall of 2008. Juana has chosen this profession because she believes that in this way she will be helping many people in her community that are in need of medical attention. Juana dreams that she can start a project that will help her community in getting the medical attention that they are deprived from due to our country’s situation. Additionally Juana has participated in many workshops internationally. Furthermore she is a member of the Palestinian National Basketball Team for Women. She is very delighted that she can be part of this seminar.

Claire Cooper
Claire Cooper is from Albany, NY and will begin her second year at Brandeis in Fall 2008. She is interested in pursuing a major in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies and has a passion for studying languages. At Brandeis she participates in STAND, a student anti-genocide group, and is learning to design and run lighting for theatrical productions. In her free time Claire tries to take advantage of the many great museums and sites of Boston. Claire's family is very important to her. She is thrilled at the chance to participate in this program and to foster new relationships with the students from Al-Quds.

Holly Devon
Holly Devon is a 19-year-old student from Los Angeles, California. She will be a sophomore at Brandeis in the fall, and is planning on majoring in Comparative Literature.  Holly has always been fascinated by learning different cultural perspectives through studying and making connections.  At Brandeis, she participates in the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, and in her spare time, Holly loves to read, explore Boston with her friends, and go salsa dancing on the weekends.

Jared Hirsh
Jared Hirsh is a 20-year-old student originally from Washington, DC and will be a junior (third-year student) at Brandeis University in the fall of 2008. Jared attended one of the most ethnically diverse high schools in the U.S. where most students are immigrants and 46 different languages are spoken. At Brandeis, Jared is pursuing majors in Politics and International and Global Studies, and an economics minor. Jared studies Arabic and hopes to speak with students from Al-Quds. Jared has worked and/ or traveled in Europe, the Americas, Africa, and the Middle East. Jared’s hobbies include martial arts, community service, and inter-cultural events.

Rawan Kamal
Rawan is studying Business Administration and will start her third year at Al-Quds University in the Fall of 2008. She has participated in many social and cultural activities internationally, and she is also doing her internship at the Middle East Center for Nonviolence. She is volunteering her time to teach English to a group of children. Rawan is eager to participate in this seminar and to represent Al-Quds University.

Diana Marte
Diana Marte is currently an eighteen-year-old first year student attending Brandeis University. She was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to New York City when she was ten years old in the year of 2000. She will be a sophomore in the fall of 2008 and is planning on majoring in History and Politics with a double minor in Legal Studies and Classical Studies. She enjoys hanging out with friends, dancing salsa, and playing volleyball. She is still getting used to the Waltham area (where Brandeis is located), but is beginning to appreciate it. Diana is looking forward to meeting the other students from Al-Quds University and getting to know their stories, the same way they are going to learn hers. She hopes to learn plenty of things and to have a wonderful experience that she will remember throughout her college career and life.

Ban Rafat Muwaswas
Ban is a student in the Faculty of Dentistry at Al-Quds University, and she will start her fifth year in fall of 2008. She has participated in cultural exchanges before. She likes reading, and can speak English and French. She believes that every person should have the right to be free in every aspect of his life while keeping his duties, in a way that will give everyone in the society the perfect place to live in. She is looking forward for this seminar and hopes she can get some experience and make new friends.

Hasan Odeh
Hasan is studying Computer Science.  He will start his fourth year at Al-Quds University in the Fall 2008. He likes computer science very much and has many certificates in computer training courses. He believes that students should make a positive use of technology in a way that can improve the image of Palestinian society.  He has leadership skills and is able to work in teams and under pressure. He has very good command of the English language and hopes to gain more knowledge, experience and also meet new friends.

Stephen Robinson
Stephen Robinson, preparing for his second year at Brandeis University in September of 2008, is a 19-year-old all the way from Seattle, Washington. He is a Politics major and may continue studying Latino and Latin American Studies at Brandeis. He has studied Spanish extensively, and is currently finishing his second semester as a student of the Arabic language. Stephen is an active member of the Brandeis Rugby team and also participates in improvisational comedy theatre. As an engaged student of world affairs, Stephen is very excited to learn with Al-Quds University students.

Danielle Shmuely
Danielle Shmuely is a 20-year-old Brandeis student from Queens, NY. She will be a third year student in the fall of 2008 and is pursuing a major in International and Global Studies. Due to her major and personal background, Danielle is extremely passionate about international relations and being involved in international dialogue in an effort to create more understanding. Aside from academics, Danielle is very involved on campus and is a member of several activist, religious, and dance groups. Danielle hopes to have an amazing experience in Turkey and truly looks forward to meeting all of the students from Al Quds University!

Saghi Sofinzon
Saghi Sofinzon was brought up in France and Israel by Israeli parents. He arrived in Brandeis University this fall after traveling around the world for a year. His degree is still undecided even though he believes that he will specialize in International and Global Studies and philosophy. He hopes it is conspicuous enough that his interests are broad, and that exploring different cultures is something he adore. Being an Israeli, his interests in the Middle East is evident. More importantly, he hopes that he will get to know on a personal level the students of Al-Quds University, whom he believes will offer him a new perspective on a number of subjects. Aside from academics, he likes basketball, soccer, and any other sport involving a ball. He is very excited to embark upon this journey!

Ruba Taha (Sartawi)
Ruba was born in USA, she is a very active student, and is studying Medical Imaging. She is in her second year now at Al-Quds University. She has many hobbies like playing table tennis and reading. She believes that a good society should be built by education, culture, justice and dignity. Her expectation from this workshop is to gain more knowledge about other cultures. She has a very good command of the English language,  and she is excited to participate in this seminar.

Faculty Leaders

Robin Feuer Miller
Robin Feuer Miller teaches a wide range of courses including “The Russian Novel,” “Dickens and Dostoevsky,” and “Children’s Literature and the Construction of Childhood.” She has written several books, including Dostoevsky’s Unfinished Journey, Dostoevsky and The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov:  Worlds of the Novel.  She also co-edited Kathryn B. Feuer’s Tolstoy and the Genesis of War and Peace and The Cambridge Companion to the Classic Russian Novel.   Miller served as Dean of Arts and Sciences for six years and is now the Edytha Macy Gross Professor of Humanities and Chair of the Department of German, Russian, and East Asian Languages and Literature.  Hobbies include gardening, cooking and walking.

Basem L. Ra’ad
Basem L. Ra'ad, Professor of English at Al-Quds University, is returning to teach in Jerusalem after two years as visiting professor of English and Humanities at the Lebanese American University in Beirut. He has held various positions in academic administration, in editing, and in community service. His teaching involves U.S. and British literature, as well as rhetoric, cultural studies, world literature and travel writing. Professor Ra’ad has published on topics ranging from Herman Melville and John Updike to travel writing, tourist information, landscape aesthetics, sacred geography, literary globalization, and identity politics. He organized the first international conference on Palestinian landscape at Birzeit in 1998 and is currently preparing an international conference, entitled “Melville and the Mediterranean,” sponsored by the Melville Society, due to be held in east Jerusalem June 2009. His current book project presents alternative views of the culture and history of Palestine and the region.

Student Affairs Leaders

Alwina Bennett
Alwina Bennett is the Assistant Provost for Graduate Student Affairs at Brandeis University.  She has been affiliated with Brandeis for 25 years and has experience with both undergraduate and graduate student life: new student orientations, student activities, student development and conduct, academic advising, community service, and counseling.  Ms. Bennett participated in the Turkey Institute last year and is looking forward to seeing some favorite sites again, as well as discovering new ones with all the student partners.

Ola Hussein
Ola Hussein is an Admin Assistant for the Al-Quds-Brandeis Project at Al-Quds University. She will join the Al-Quds undergraduate students as Admin Coordinator for the trip to Turkey. Ms. Hussein finished her undergraduate studies at Bethlehem University in Sociology and Administration, and is working now on her thesis to finish her graduate studies in Community Mental Health at Al-Quds University. She likes to play volleyball and table tennis. She is very excited to participate in the Summer Institute because she believes in exchange between cultures and knowing “the other.”  She looks forward to meeting the Brandeis group in Turkey.

Sand Salhout
Sand Salhout is the office manager of the Vice President for Academic Affairs. She has been affiliated with Al- Quds University for seven years. She has B.A in Business Administration from Birzeit University and MA in Business Administration from Al- Quds University; she is also a part time faculty member at the Faculty of Business and Economics. Ms. Salhout has also participated in a number of academic and training workshops in Canada, Spain and Jordan. She is 29 years old; and lives in Jerusalem.