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Trip of a Lifetime

Over winter break, 19 students from Sa’ed Atshan ’06’s Israeli-Palestinian Conflict class spent 10 days in that region of the Middle East, meeting with top humanitarian figures on all sides of the conflict. The journey was free for the entire class, thanks primarily to funding from an anonymous donor.

Though the trip occurred during a break in the academic year, the students found it as demanding as any other Swarthmore experience. 

“They were rigorous, emotionally draining days filled with phenomenal meetings,” says Omri Gal ’19, whose parents are Israelis from Jerusalem. “I can’t even count how many times I’ve been to Israel before this, but this was something else entirely: an all-access, insider’s trip.”

The group’s itinerary swept the region, with stops in Israel and the West Bank: Tel Aviv, Haifa, the Negev, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ramallah, and Hebron. On each day the travelers spoke with about 10 of the area’s most influential peace activists, including Israeli and Palestinian Swarthmore alumni, during meetings that began at 8 a.m. and typically ended around 10 p.m. 

“We really got to see every single aspect of the region’s struggles from the conflict zones, which as a tourist, you’d never be able to do,” says Gal. “The vast majority of students came away from the experience with an incredible amount of hope for the situation, because the people we met were so full of strength and resilience.” 

“One of the inspirations for this trip was to help students better think about how they can be engaged globally,” says Atshan, “and how they can contribute to the amelioration of suffering and creating a more peaceful and nonviolent world.” 

Professor Atshan’s course on the Israel-Palestine conflict is slated again for fall 2016, but funding for another trip has yet to be secured.