What We Learned on Our Academic Visit to Israel

Apr 3, 2024 by

By Edward H. Kaplan and Evan Morris, Newsweek:

We represent a group of 25 Yale faculty who have just returned from a five-day visit to Israel. Our mission was to learn from and make meaningful academic connections with our Israeli counterparts. Much of what we learned and observed astounded us.

The environment is challenging, yet the Israeli academic enterprise has proven breathtakingly resilient. Imagine operating a university where a quarter to a third of students, staff, and faculty have been murdered, injured, taken hostage, or are on active military reserve service. Imagine teaching in classrooms with both Arab students (some with family in Gaza or the West Bank) and Jewish students (many just returned from military service or with casualties among family and friends). Imagine trying to manage standard faculty promotion, review, and tenure processes in the face of boycotts and similar discrimination from hostile academics around the world.

Contrary to the apartheid charge leveled against Israel in general and Israeli academic institutions in particular, we saw precisely the opposite. At Hebrew University, we received a presentation from two young female students, one a hijab-wearing Muslim and the other Jewish, just returned from reserve duty. The presentation ended with their heartfelt embrace.

At Ben Gurion-Soroka Hospital, Technion-Rambam Hospital, and the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical Center, we saw how integrated their medical schools and faculty are. The percentage of doctors, nurses, and pharmacists who are Arabs greatly exceeds their share in the total population.

We heard Arab university vice presidents, and their Jewish counterparts take full pride in jointly leading Israeli university life. Unlike the scene on American campuses, Muslim and Christian Arabs, Druze and Jewish students understand that their job is to learn, not to fight each other.

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