A group of 24 Wayne State University student leaders spent 10 days learning firsthand about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

24 Wayne State student leaders spend 10 days understanding both sides of the issue.

Featured photo courtesy of Hillel of Metro Detroit

Over winter break, we participated in a 10-day Maccabi Task Force/Fact Finders trip to explore Israel and the Palestinian territories. Our group had 24 Wayne State University student leaders (five Jewish students and 19 non-Jewish campus leaders).

In Jerusalem, we visited the Jewish, Christian and Muslim quarters of the Old City. Other highlights included visits to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, the Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim and Netiv Haasara, a small Israeli village near the northern border of Gaza.

Amy Benson and Alexander McInnis

After each day of exploration, we heard from an expert, each with a different niche and narrative about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They included social historian Paul Liptz, who gave insight on modern Israeli issues; Arab news anchor Farat Nassar, a living example of what Israeli-Arab integration looks like; and Middle East Studies doctoral student Iftah Burman, who listed important milestones in the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

The most important things we learned are that this conflict and these people are more complicated than the media shows and that we must stay vigilant as we address this on campus.

While much of the trip was spent analyzing the facts of the stories, the bonds we formed with the other students were incredible. Several shared their thoughts:

• I used to be pro-Palestine, but after this trip, I was able, in my best ability, to see both perspectives and blame no one side.

• I enjoy processing sessions and I like listening to other students’ perspectives … after visiting and seeing everything as it is, I am able to explain to my family, friends and community.

• I now understand the tough position of existential terror Israel is in due to witnessing it firsthand.

• All of the assumptions and expectations I had were changed.

In January, we got together for a Shabbat dinner to discuss the trip and plan how to share our new knowledge with the campus community.

At dinner, WSU Dean of Students David Strauss said, “Listening to the students talk about their trip was one of the most moving experiences I’ve had in my 18 years at Wayne State. I am so proud of them. The way these students embodied our university mission of diversity and inclusion and are striving to positively impact local and global communities was both rewarding and heartwarming.”

Amy Benson of West Bloomfield is a Wayne State junior and serves as outreach and engagement coordinator for Students for Israel. WSU junior Alexander McInnis of Swartz Creek is a member of AEPi. Both are part of Hillel of Metro Detroit.@

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