Student Delegation to Al-Quds University

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In May 2009, a Brandeis student delegation visited Al-Quds University, marking the first time that undergraduates visited a partner campus. Designed as a follow-up to the two previous Undergraduate Summer Institutes in Turkey, the Brandeis group was graciously hosted by their Al-Quds student peers to continue discussions on "What is a good society?" In addition, they visited classes, attended seminars, met with faculty, and toured the various parts of Al-Quds University and the surrounding area.

The 10-day visit gave all who participated a fresh, in-depth look at the realities of modern conflict. "It profoundly changed my perspective of conflict and coexistence," said Jared Hirsh '10, one of the Brandeis students. "It is one thing to study from a distance...it is quite another to meet the people whose very lives and livelihoods are at stake and who face the existential choices -- who live the dilemma."

Many Al-Quds students who were new to the partnership had a chance to participate for the first time. "These types of meetings play a major role in strengthening the cultural and religious cross-over, and our relationship with American students," said Al-Quds student Khalid Adawn. "They also made us feel proud of ourselves and Al-Quds University."

At Al-Quds, administrators Sand Salhout and Ola Hussein were invaluable in coordinating the visit and numerous meetings. Al-Quds students from both prior Institutes hosted, conducted tours, and invited students to their homes. The student hosts included Ban Rafat Muwaswas, Hasan Odeh, Marwan Aqel, Abd El-Ruhman Aqel, Sinan Abu Shanab, Ranin Ghazi Hadid, and Munther Muhammad Zahaika. The visiting group consisted of four Brandeis students -- Claire Cooper '11, Garrett Nada '10, Holly Devon '11, and Hirsh -- and was led by Brandeis assistant provost Alwina Bennett. Prof. Said Zeedani, Al-Quds vice president of academic affairs, and Prof. Daniel Terris, Brandeis vice president for global affairs, led academic seminars that included readings on the relationship between identity and society from John Stuart Mill and Kwame Anthony Appiah.

Relationships that had been first formed during the prior Institutes were strengthened by the visit, which included excursions to the Dead Sea and Jericho. During these tours, the group talked with scholars, such as Islamist scholar about the basis for common ground amongst Christians, Jews, and Muslims. The group also spoke with another lecturer about the need for new language to talk across the various religious and cultural narratives. Classroom and department visits included those in literature, art, the Al-Quds University Institute of Modern Media, and the Al-Quds University Community Action Center in Jerusalem's Old City.

Much of the learning took place outside the classroom. "We discussed everything from politics to student life in restaurants and cafes," said Devon. "The trip was not always easy- we did see suffering and anger, and a day did not go by without at least some discussion of the conflict, as it is an inextricable part of their everyday lives."

Reflected Nada: "I honestly met some of the most interesting people and strongest characters that I have ever known. I feel as if I have known the Palestinian friends that I made for years already rather than weeks."