It was the best of times, it was the most exhausting of times. “A trip of a lifetime” was how I originally was sold on the idea of going to Israel for my Spring Break. Little did I realize. 27 students ventured to the Promised Land this Spring Break to see the birthplace of three religions, and visit the nexus of one of human history’s longest standing fight over a piece of property. If you thought the Hatfield vs. the McCoys was a long bitter fight, you haven’t seen the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in person. Woops, I digress. I want to tell you about the FUN stuff, and then attempt to convey the dominant sentiment one gets when he/she visits the Holy Land.
We were fortunate enough to have Dan Senor as a task master driving the group to visit many different places including: two leading venture capital firms (Yozma Group, Israel Seed Ventures), the Holy sites in Jerusalem, Mossada, Tel Aviv, the Golan Heights, and the Sea of Galilee. However, no trip to Israel would be complete without the required visit to the Dead Sea to float in water which is so saturated with salt that you can float while sitting in the lotus position as the water comes to your upper chest. Despite waking up at 8:00 am every morning to listen to guest speakers and see religious sites, the HBS group drove hard into the night at local watering holes. Shari Hatch, Frank Baker, Stephanie Smeltzer, Lynn Maloney, Demond Howard, Rohit Malhoutra, and others were faithfully burning the midnight oil absorbing the local culture well into the morning.
Perhaps the highlight of the trip was meeting the Shimon Peres, current Foreign Minister and deputy Prime Minister in the new Sharon Unity government. Mr. Peres answered many questions regarding the current political environment and status of the peace process. At the meeting, Peres was asked by one HBS student about the future of the U.S’ role in the peace process. He responded, saying that “support for Israel in the United States is bipartisan” and that he expects the relationship to remain very close. Peres added that the new president of the U.S. should be advised against becoming the chief negotiator with Israel and the Palestinians, but rather should serve as the “chief mediator. If the president is chief negotiator then he has to take sides and this is not necessarily good for the process…”
Between Josh Neuman, Dan Senor, and our guide throughout Israel, The HBS group definitely achieved a better understanding of the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis. Frequently this debate would spill over to the bus and bar with intense emotion. The most interesting aspect of these debates was seeing first hand how the wide range of perspectives uncovered different angles and viewpoints on the conflict. In some remotely cheesy way, I found myself seeing the power of a diverse group of intelligent people from different countries and different races coming together to try to solve a problem. While we did not come close to resolving any issue, my understanding and empathy for the people of the Middle East was greatly heightened.
If you have not seen the Holy Land, I suggest you go visit. No magazine, textbook, or newspaper will ever convey the richness of history, and level of holiness which this small strip of land embodies.