After a life-changing trip to Israel over winter break, three NYU students are looking to begin conversations about the country’s rich complexities in the NYU community.
CAS senior Jackie Retig, Stern junior Liz Beras and Steinhardt senior Alec Foster traveled with a trip organized by the David Project, a nongovernmental organization based in Boston. Thirty other students from eight American universities joined Retig, Beras and Foster in learning about Israel’s intricate social concerns.
The 10-day trip began in Tel Aviv, continued on to the Golan Heights in the north and ended at Masada and Jerusalem. While traveling from one location to another, the delegation of students made stops to talk with various individuals, from an army colonel stationed on the border of Syria and Lebanon to Palestinian peace activists.
“Having a variety of different speakers made the trip a good cross-section of Israel’s society,” Beras said. “I just feel so privileged to have been able to go on the trip because [Israel] is not simply just what people think it is. It is so different to be able to go there and actually talk to these people who have these diverse views.”
The trip offered the students a balanced point of view, allowing them to soak up knowledge and form their own opinions. After visiting sites, the students would discuss their sentiments with one another in a comfortable environment that enabled them to speak freely, an environment that they said was lacking on their home campuses.
“This was exploring how to have a conversation about peace, having some sort of resolution, and how to have more conversations on campus about peace. And it’s hard to do that if campuses can be so one-sided,” Retig said. “Every college student can say that they are pro-peace. But having open discussions are difficult when campuses can be so polarizing.”
Through meeting with a variety of people — fellow students and a wide of spectrum of speakers — the three travelers gained insight into how to have discussions about Israel, as well as other countries.
Now, Retig, Beras and Foster are taking the lessons they learned and applying them to provoke a broader, more expansive conversation. By mingling these lessons with their own interests, they will be holding events on campus to help create relationships between varieties of students.
“Because we all belong to very different communities across NYU, we want to get a good cross section of those different groups to come together and be a part of the conversation,” Beras said.
Currently, they are working with Students for Sensible Drug Policy and TorchPAC to bring Ari Hoffnung — NYC’s Deputy Comptroller for Policy and Budget — to NYU for a discussion on medical marijuana research and its successful use in treating terminally ill patients in Israel. They are also planning a panel event with a key-note speaker that will examine the potential of various industries in Israel.
“One of the themes of the trip was understanding that the conversations shouldn’t just end there in Israel and that each of us, all coming from strong communities on campus and caring passionately about the issues, will come back and make waves,” Retig said.
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Feb. 13 print edition. Avery Chang is a staff writer. Email her at email@example.com.