TUESDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2015 – DAY 2
I couldn’t go back to sleep, so I finished uploading pictures to the Google Drive and submitted by CHEM 350 paper with added references. I went through notifications before I decided to take a long shower and get dressed. By the time, I was ready it was 7:00 AM and Adrienne had just woken up. The rooftop pool on the sixth floor was closed, and I couldn’t find a way to ~ break-in~ 😉 so I decided to walk along the Marina and take pictures.
The weather was beautiful: 70 degrees F and slightly breezy. The Marina was indiscernible with jostling blues and concrete sand. A lot people were running around the marina, sometimes alone or in large groups). Some also paddle boarded and canoed in the ocean.A homeless man sat at the bottom of the stairs, watching. I went back to the room and blogged a bit.
9:00-10:15am Overview of Israeli History and Society w. Dr. Einat Wolf, Senior Fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute
After an Israel breakfast, denoted widely for its plentiful vegetables and personally by its chocolate frosting, we spoke with the first speaker. A fascinating woman, Einat, who reminded me of a of mine professor, impressed me with her eloquence.
Einat’s lecture was intricate and detailed. All of the Project Interchange conversations are off the record, so I won’t go into (too much) detail of what anyone said. But Einat did present five concepts about Israel that were useful in framing the seminar.
1) Israel was an idea and a vision – born in people’s minds. If you will it, it is no dream. Einat commented that this was the greatest strength and vulnerability of Israel.
2) The missing link between the idea and reality of Israel is immigration. Israel is an immigrant society and inspires the revolutionary idea to create an egalitarian society. The concept of aliya – ascendance – is essential to Israel. However, diversity brings complex problems.
3) The most misunderstood and complicated aspect of Israel can be phrased in the question, “What does it mean for Israel to be a Jewish state?” Though there is a lot of history to talk about, I’ll keep it brief and simplistic. There are three popular answers.
First, Jewish is a nationality and secular in nature.
Second, Jewish is a religion and modernity is wrong.
Or, third, Zionism is religious where even atheists carry out the will of God.
Does this make sense? Probably not – it’s not supposed to and most Israelis struggle with this question. For Einat, the answer is none of the above; rather she defines the Jewish state as the one place where you can argue what it means to be the Jewish state. And democracy in this state is not a subscription to ideals, but exists as the only mechanism to support this endless debate.
4) Relations with Israel: Jews operate as a numerical majority but as a cognitive minority, and Arab live as a numerical minority and cognitive majority. Both mindsets foster insecurity and will take time to resolve.
5) Relations outside of Israel: Arabs and Israelis operate on the compulsion of their histories, and peace is possible via mutual exhaustion. Arabs must realize that Jews are here to stay and Jews have to realize that they need to compromise.
11:00-12:30pm High Tech in Israel w. Michal Waltner, Program Manager at Google Campus Tel Aviv and Gilad Carni, CEO of Angel Group
The tone of the conversation changed when we then left the hotel to go to Campus Tel Aviv where we visited a tech office sponsored by Google. We first met a hotshot investor about Israelis innovation and role as a start up nation. And more interestingly, from a lovely woman named Michal and Martha (from Philly) about accelerating start-ups and making Israel a useful place to the world. The Campus is distinguished by three facts. It emphasizes partnerships via accelerators, works in the country with the highest start-ups per capita ratio (5000), and focuses on finding a good need. It also doesn’t compete with existing programs but sponsors applicable programming. Israel is a start-up nation because it has few natural resources and real industries. Consequently, invention is innovation. The fact that all Israelis (with some exceptions) are required to work in the IDF exposes many young people to state-of-the-art technology, which fosters high tech experience and a different way of thinking – to question everything. Moreover, failure is not frowned upon in Israel. Israel is also the home to many multinational corporations and their R&D offices.
I found this experience crucial for understanding the idea of usefulness and later on, the BDS movement. Either, you can think that Israel is trying to make itself useful to the international community (like an employee who doesn’t want to get laid off) or is already useful to the community (like an employee who comes in with a long list of credentials). After all, Israel is responsible for various innovations every Westerner uses today: USBs, AutoComplete, Messenger/Chat, AutoTrends, navigation, and medical devices and treatments.
1:00-1:45pm Lunch at Petrozilla
2:30-4:00pm International Law &Israeli Conflicts w. Avd. Daniel Resiner, Head of the Public Internatinal Law, Defense and Homeland Security Division.
After lunch, we walked along Rothschild, passed by birthright groups and saw the modest Independent hall. I spoke with Eli and Jacob about what we learned. We then headed to the law office to speak with Dan Resiner, a rounded man with a nasal voice and interesting ideas. We were joined by the Californian delegation of student leaders – a much larger and diverse group. We kept our introductions to names and majors; the Californians went on to talk about the clubs they had founded and the internships they had done. And as one would expect, the impression created a funny, naïve and surface-level rivalry between our two groups.
Dan was a chief negotiator for many treaties between Israel and its Arab negotiations. For Dan, it didn’t matter who is right, but that both groups were here to stay. “We were here first,” is irrelevant in the face of the law. In that line of thought, no one owned the West Bank or Gaza Right, as legal rights do not necessitate religious or moral rights. Indeed, both claims of Israel and Palestine are legitimate and complex, and the only solution is compromise. All the compromises are justifiable when it comes to the law, and the content sometimes doesn’t matter. Rather, the reason why there isn’t peace in the Middle East because neither side has taken a political chance. For that to happen, Israel and its partners need a historic leader, willing to take a chance and to be followed by others. The current situation needs to also get a lot worse so that the alternative seems better. That is, peace processes in the area are only the product of war. And finally, Israel and Palestine need to have a compromise that finds an incredible amount of international support in terms of money and from the Arabs.
After speaking to Dan, we had a break. With Matt, Eli, Kate, Daniel and Rachel, we walked through the flea markets. It was exactly like what you would picture (but I have pictures for you in case). I haggled down Eli’s halva price to 36 shekels for 0.71 kilos and bought weird dragon fruit. Kate wanted to see the Florentine neighborhood for 20 minutes, so we walked around for 2 hours in suburban Tel Aviv, where the streets sold furniture and house equipment by the category. I, of course, wore the wrong shoes.
7:30pm Beyond the Headlines; The Media in Israel w. Julien Bahloul, News Anchor at i24 News; Gili Cohen, Correspondent at Haaretz, and Matan Hetzroni, Journalist at Channel2 Internet News. Moderated by Shay Zavdi, Director of ACCESS Israel, AJC Jerusalem
After finding the bus, a little sweaty and tired, we joined the rest of the group in front of Kurosawa – a Japanese restaurant. We took the bus to an incredible restaurant for dinner and heard from three young, upcoming journalist with very different perspectives and background. The conversation was casual, given the environment, and it’s a little hard to recreate it eloquently, as most of my notes are poorly written poems and chants about staying awake and the perils of falling victim to jetlag. But what I do remember is that none of the journalists contended they were objective, all differed in their opinions, and all spoke about the power of words. Word selection determines the narrative, and every newspaper in Israel can be deduced down to a political position. And the dichotomy of pro-Palestine/pro-Israel is that of people outside of the Israel. The dichotomy doesn’t exist for Israel’s intellectual – being pro-Palestine didn’t mean you were against Israel.