Photos and Text by Lydia Aisenberg
Students from the United States, Canada and Germany began the third term of the 5-month MASA Givat Haviva Intensive Arabic Semester this week.
The students, pictured left meeting with Givat Haviva teaching and administrative staff in the madaffi (guest room) of the Jewish-Arab Center for Peace & International Department, are settling in at their new home away from home - the neighboring kibbutz of Barkai - and eager to start their studies.
The International Department staff is equally eager to once again pick up the gauntlet of challenge laid down by enthusiastic university graduates with insatiable appetites to learn Arabic, Hebrew, Middle East studies with so many varying topics, to participate in special study tours, engage in community work in neighboring Kfar Kara – and oh so much more.
Following the informal gathering of students and staff, the Arts Center and exhibition halls of Hashomer Hatzair were visited and after lunch, the first introduction to the region surrounding their community of residence, Barkai – a kibbutz founded in the late 1940s by North American members of the Hashomer Hatzair movement and Holocaust survivors from Eastern Europe.
The first port of call for the newcomers was the village of Umm al-Kutuf nestling on 2 hilltops just down the road from Barkai. A village of some 1,000 residence, Umm al-Kutuf commands an impressive view over the Dotan Valley, Harish, Mitzpe Ilan, Barta’a and deep in to the West Bank.
A quick visit to Harish and on to a vantage point where more of the West Bank and view of the course of the security fence in the area; then on to the Barta’a-Reichan checkpoint passing by a group of Palestinians from Yabed creating charcoal in the Dotan Valley.
The opportunity arises to speak with a number of Palestinians either on their way home from a days work somewhere on the Israeli side of the fence, and in the opposite direction folks from East Barta’a returning from a visit to Jenin and Salem – the latter in order to renew a magnetic security card about to run out.
Continuing on to the Shaked settlement bloc, driving by the Reichan forest of natural oak trees, passing through the two hilltops on top of the Amir Mt. range that make up the community of Katzir – and then down the mountain for a refreshing drink and some tasty falafel in Barta’a village – to be visited again in the near future in order to engage in conversation with local residents and learn more of the daily realities of living in a divided village.
A rather long, hot but very successful day, and we promise there will be many more over the coming months. Promise!
Photos and Text by Lydia Aisenberg
Last year when he was visiting Israel Professor Jonathan Golden paid a quick call to Givat Haviva and made a repeat visit recently accompanied by Yehezkel Landau from the Hartford Seminary.
“When I came to visit last year there was a group from an American synagogue participating in a seminar and I sat in on their program and was really disappointed not to have had time to join them afterwards on the tour of the region that was part of their day at Givat Haviva,” reminisced Golden, Assistant Professor, Departments of Religion and Anthropology; Associate Director, Center on Religion, Culture and Conflict and also Director of Hillel at Drew University.
Next year Professor Jonathan Golden and another faculty member will be leading a group of 20 students from Drew University on an in-depth study tour of Israel. Professor Golden came to discuss International Department input to such a program and a seminar will be built together in the interim period.During the visit both Professor Golden and Yehezkel Landau were extremely impressed with the Intensive Arabic Semester program – a new term of which started the same day they visited campus – and expressed not only their interest in the program but also a willingness to share those impressions with others when they return to their respective campuses in the States shortly.
“This is a really exciting program and definitely could be attractive to some of our students,” said Professor Golden as he and Yehezkel Landau collected up pamphlets to take back to the States.Yahezkel Landau is also the co-director of the Open House Center for Jewish-Arab Coexistence in Ramle and a much respected commentator on interfaith and Middle East topics.
“This was an important visit for us here at the International Department,” said Intensive Arabic Semester director Hilit Ben Zvi. “We have a great deal of faith in our program and it is very uplifting indeed to have academic guests like Jonathan Golden and Yehezkel Landau give us such encouraging feedback.”
Jonathan Golden (Ph.D. in Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania, 1998) teaches at Drew University, where he is Associate Director of the Caspersen Centers, working closely with Drew’s Center for Civic Engagement, while serving as Assoc. Director for the Center on Religion, Culture and Conflict. Golden teaches in the Department of Religious Studies, the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies and the Theology School, specializing in the areas of Religion, Anthropology, and the Middle East - ancient and modern. He is the author of Ancient Canaan and Israel: New Perspectives and the forthcoming Dawn of the Metal Age. Golden offers courses and has written on such topics as religious conflict and terrorism, world archaeology, Jewish diaspora communities, ethnography of the Middle East and Latin America, and human evolution, with a special focus on the inter-face between science and religion. Golden is also Faculty Advisor to Drew Hillel and S.T.A.N.D. and is an active member of the Drew Disaster Relief Project; he also serves on the Religious Life Council and Diversity Committee. Golden lives in Florham Park, NJ, where he also enjoys playing soccer and performing/writing music.
Photos and Text by Lydia Aisenberg
Within the space of a few weeks after the second MASA-Givat Haviva Intensive Arabic Semester finished, students began rolling in for the third IAS program. Students, teachers and administrative staff alike are picking up the challenge of yet another five month program involving dedicated educators dealing in the Arabic language and some Hebrew, Middle East studies and host of other topics connected to the wider mosaic of Judaism, Islam, Christianity and much more.
With the heat of the summer not being allowed to affect the beat of preparations, Efrat Hass has been sprucing up the rooms, class and recreation areas and figuring out all the do’s and do not’s for the new folks. Uri Barel pouring over figures literally figuring out logistics and budgets whilst Hilit Ben-Zvi, overall director of the program, has been sitting on top of a pressure pot as last minute hiccups need sorting out. Marketing man Inon Tagner, eager to meet the new students is also already with his head down throwing out his cyber net to trawl in students for the fourth Intensive Arabic Semester due to start 15th January, 2011.
In an emotional last get together before the students of the second IAS went their separate ways, students and staff gathered in the courtyard of the Hass family abode in Kibbutz Barkai for a barbecue, last minute thoughts and a great deal of hugs and promises to stay in touch. Eight of the nine students were present as the ninth graduate William Robbins had to return home to be best man at a friends wedding before the final days of the program. However although not physically present Will was at the gathering, albeit smiling at everybody from the screen of a laptop being held by Matthew Keston, one of the Brits in the group. Even though rather out of it in Birmingham, Alabama, Will heard and saw the goings on in the kibbutz gathering and even added some positive words about the innovative program started in 2009. L’hitraot to our second IAS student group and Shalom to the newcomers and anyone interested in the next Intensive Arabic Semester then please mark your calendars for January, 2011.