Emory Report
August 27, 2007
Volume 60, Number 1

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August 27, 2007
Emory group returns from journey to the ‘Holy Land’

By Mary Loftus

Sitting cross-legged on pillows under a colorful Bedouin tent sipping sweet tea, a group from Emory listened to the patriarch of the Hashem Zaneh village in Israel’s Negev desert. “If a guest comes to us, we never ask immediately, ‘Who are you and why are you here?’ You can eat, sleep and then, in three and a third days, we will ask,” he said, explaining Bedouin hospitality.

The Bedouins live much as they have for thousands of years, keeping camels, goats and sheep on the semi-arid land. Because they are no longer able to navigate across broad areas, their settlements have become more permanent — often tin-roofed stone or block homes rather than tents. Jets from a nearby Israeli Air Force base sometimes fly over Hashem Zaneh, which like many Bedouin villages is “unrecognized” by the government and is under continual threat of having its homes demolished.

“The wish is to force them to live in cities and towns, so this land can be claimed,” said Ye’ela Raanan, a former Israeli military officer who now directs the Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages. “But that is against their culture.”

The visit to the Bedouin villagers was part of a fact-finding trip July 29 to Aug. 8 to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories by 18 Emory administrators, alumni, faculty and staff led by Dean of the Chapel and Religious Life Susan Henry-Crowe. The Journeys program, which began in 1985, takes Emory groups to parts of the world that have experienced conflict or oppression. Previous trips have included South Africa, Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Mexico and Cheyenne and Crow reservations in Montana.

The goal of this Journey was to gain a deeper understanding of the continuing conflict in the region, explore points of contact and cooperation between Jews, Christians, and Muslims, and to witness the work of those seeking peaceful solutions.

It included visits to Bethlehem’s Al Aroub refugee camp, the Palestinian Authority government complex, Makassed hospital in East Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, Haram Al Sharif and the Western Wall, Jerusalem’s Old City, and the Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information — as well as more informal trips to the Dead Sea and “the rose-red city” of Petra, recently named one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.

The group heard from a number of thought leaders, including Hasan Abu-Nimah, executive director of the Royal Institute for Interfaith Studies in Jordan; Anglican Bishop Suheil Dawani in Jerusalem; Farouk Abdul-Rahim, director of Makassed hospital; David Shulman, Israeli peace activist, professor and author of “Dark Hope”; Hanan Ashrawi, founder of MIFTAH, the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy; Gershon Baskin, director of the Israel-Palestinian Center for Research and Information; and Ari Varon, deputy foreign policy adviser to the Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

“This was an extraordinary group of Emory scholars who explored together issues of the region,” said Henry-Crowe. “The intensity and brilliance of this region served to strengthen Emory’s own scholarly interests and deepen its sense of community. Providing opportunities for faculty and young scholars to travel and examine issues related to conflict and peace-building is at the core of the Journeys program.”