January 28, 2008
A meeting of minds
in the Middle East
By carol clark
During the winter break, while many people were relaxing or traveling for fun, a group of Emory students joined a Journeys trip to the Middle East, to get up close and personal with some of the toughest problems facing the world today.
For Jonathan Endelman, a powerful moment was meeting Peter Nasir — a Palestinian, and an Emory alumnus, who served the group lunch at his restaurant in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
“Someone asked him what he would do if all the Israeli checkpoints and soldiers went
away,” Endelman recalls. “He said that he’d been living under that military control for so long
that he couldn’t imagine what that would be like.”The group of nine students and five staff members on the trip spanned Hindu, Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths. During eight days, they visited 24 sites and talked with dozens of people from a vast spectrum of viewpoints in Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories.
“It was rigorous,” says Susan Henry-Crowe, dean of the chapel and religious life, who heads up the Journeys program. “The students were wonderful and definitely engaged. They would get up and watch the sunrise almost every morning.”
“It deepened my understanding of the conflict,” says Endelman, a sophomore majoring in Middle Eastern studies. “It’s not just one side against the other — there are a lot of intricacies and perspectives.”
Surabhi Agrawal was both saddened and buoyed by a visit to a Palestinian refugee camp. “All the children rushed over to meet us and try to understand what we were doing there,” says the Oxford sophomore, who is majoring in international studies. “Amid all the conflicts and problems it was amazing to see the smiles on their faces.”
Jeffrey Schram was moved by visiting a Holocaust memorial, then witnessing the hardships of Palestinians. “Both sides are making a lot of mistakes,” said the junior psychology major. “The big thing I learned is you can be pro-Israel but disagree with some of its policies.”
Since it started the Journeys program in 1986, the Office of Religious Life has taken nearly 500 students, faculty and staff to troubled regions around the world to explore the root causes of conflict and efforts of peacemakers. The trips “help people fall in love with the world,” Henry-Crowe says. “When you see things with new eyes, it helps you see the life you live differently.”