The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

International

PBPL 85 Visits Dnipro, Ukraine

This past Monday, Professor Shaiko and the Political and Legal Team (Andrew Weckstein, Michelle Li, Kevin Zhang) took a trip to Dnipro, an Eastern city only 100 miles west of the conflict in the Donbas. Although Dnipro is home to nearly 2 million people, the downtown area seemed more like a sprawling town than one of the largest cities in Ukraine. The cold weather, grimy streets, and eerie music on the bus gave Dnipro a somber and Soviet feel.

Our first interview was with a representative from “StopFake,” an organization aiming to identify and refute false information presented in the media. This interview provided an interesting perspective on the “Hybrid War” between Russia and Ukraine and the impact of Kremlin propaganda on the Ukrainian public.

Our next interview was at Dopomoga Dnipra, a local NGO organization that provides social services and supports for those displaced by the conflict in the Donbas. Located in a formerly abandoned building, the run-down infrastructure housed some of the most enthusiastic and passionate civil activists that we have met this trip.

The PBPL 85: Global Policy Leadership Class Travels to Israel and Jordan

PBPL 85 combines the study of public policy with an experiential learning opportunity abroad. The course begins in the classroom with Professor Charles Wheelan ’88 during the fall term. The topic studied this year was the U.S. strategy for revitalizing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The class then spent the first two weeks in December traveling to Israel and Jordan where they met with local policy leaders: politicians, academics, journalists, business leaders, U.S. diplomats, and other in-country experts who help inform their study of the topic.

“The importance of travel is twofold,” explains Wheelan, “One is this marriage of learning in the classroom and talking to people on the ground; and two, testing your hypotheses and listening to people who have very conflicting points of view.”

PBPL 85 at the Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

After a relaxing day spent at the Dead Sea, the class hit the ground running on Monday, December 14th in Amman, Jordan.

We had our first meeting of the day with James Fromson. Fromson works for Mayday Rescue NGO, which trains the Syrian Civil Defense. Fromson has coauthored pieces with one of our previous speakers, Steve Simon, and was able to provide an interesting prospective as an American living in Jordan. After this meeting, we headed on the bus to the Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. At the Foreign Ministry, we had the opportunity to meet with the Director of International Relations and Organizations, Leena AlHadid, and Ibrahim Awawdeh, the Director of the North American Department. Qais Biltaji, the First Secretary to the Private Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, and Mohammed Hindawi also joined us. The panel was able to provide insight into Jordan’s relationship with the U.S. and its role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Once the meeting concluded, we left the Foreign Ministry and went to a nearby sharwma stand for lunch.

PBPL 85 at the Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

After a relaxing day spent at the Dead Sea, the class hit the ground running on Monday, December 14th in Amman, Jordan.

We had our first meeting of the day with James Fromson. Fromson works for Mayday Rescue NGO, which trains the Syrian Civil Defense. Fromson has coauthored pieces with one of our previous speakers, Steve Simon, and was able to provide an interesting perspective as an American living in Jordan. After this meeting, we headed on the bus to the Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. At the Foreign Ministry, we had the opportunity to meet with the Director of International Relations and Organizations, Leena AlHadid, and Ibrahim Awawdeh, the Director of the North American Department. Qais Biltaji, the First Secretary to the Private Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, and Mohammed Hindawi also joined us. The panel was able to provide insight into Jordan’s relationship with the U.S. and its role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Once the meeting concluded, we left the Foreign Ministry and went to a nearby sharwma stand for lunch. 

PBPL 85 at the Dead Sea

On Sunday, Dec 13th we traveled three hours to the Dead Sea. During the bus ride, many members of the class slept or worked on the memo. Once we arrived at the Dead Sea, we changed into our bathing suits and headed down to the beach. We jumped right into the water and were amazed at the fact that we could float in the extremely salty water. The class swam for a while and got covered in Dead Sea mud (it’s supposed to be excellent for your skin). After relaxing at the Dead Sea, we grabbed lunch and drove another hour to Amman. We checked into our hotel at Amman, had dinner, and continued to work on the memo. Tomorrow will be a busy day filled with meetings!

PBPL 85 tours Petra, Jordan

Saturday, Dec 12th was spent being completely enchanted by the ancient city of Petra, the capital of the Nabataeans. One of the world’s largest archeological wonders, Petra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

PBPL 85 visits Amman and Petra in Jordan

Friday, Dec 11th began with a bus ride and tour to learn more about Jordan and its famous sites.

Our first stop was at Mount Nebo, a religious site where Moses (or Prophet Musa) is thought to have seen the Promised Land for the first time. The views from Mount Nebo were spectacular and the class stopped to take many photos. Then, we stopped by a nearby mosaic workshop and store where we learned the process of making Jordanian mosaics. The bus then headed to Madaba, a town not far from Mount Nebo. While in Madaba, we viewed the ancient mosaic map of the region and our tour guide explained the history in detail. By this point it was 2 pm and the class was hungry for lunch (Jordanians eat a late lunch) so we headed to a local shwarma place. After lunch, we got on the bus for a long ride to our next destination, Petra. On the roughly four hour bus ride, the class worked on the memo, listened to the tour guide provide the history of the area, participated in a Disney music sing-a-long, and slept.

PBPL 85 spends the day in Amman, Jordan

Thursday, December 10th was a busy day filled with meetings, learning, and dancing. After breakfast at the hotel, we went to the U.S. Embassy in Amman. The embassy was a gigantic compound and the security was extremely tight. At the Embassy, we met with Alex Taylor, a Foreign Service Officer. Taylor helped explain to us the relationship between Jordan and the U.S., as well as Jordan’s peace efforts in the Middle East.

After departing the Embassy, we headed to King’s Academy, a private Jordanian school that is modeled after Deerfield Academy in the United States (the King of Jordan attended Deerfield). We were able to tour King’s Academy and have lunch with students. Many of us wished we could go back to high school and attend school at this magnificent campus. After lunch in the school cafeteria, we rushed back to the hotel for a meeting with Mouin Rabbani, a Middle East Analyst and Senior Fellow for the Institute for Palestine Studies. Rabbani provided an in depth look at Palestinian politics; a perspective we had not yet heard.

PBPL 85 visits the Jerusalem offices of the World Bank

Wednesday, Dec 9th was a busy day with five separate meetings and a border crossing! After breakfast in our hotel, the class met with our first speaker Anshel Pfeffer, a journalist for both the Economist and Haaretz. His perspective was useful because, Pfeffer is generally tasked with both explaining Israel to the world and explaining the world to Israel. Then, we were able to Skype with Ahmad ‘Azem Hamad, a professor of Palestine and Arabic studies at Birzeit University. He provided an interesting lens into the Palestinian student perspective. After the Skype call, we were able to head to the nearby market for lunch, where we sampled a traditional Syrian dish.

PBPL 85 Tours the Knesset

On Tuesday, Dec 8th, the class set out to fill in some of the gaps of knowledge that we need to fill in order to write our memo. In the morning, after breakfast at our hotel (complete with Hanukkah donuts), we departed for Gush Etzion, a cluster of Jewish settlements in the breathtaking Judean Mountains. Our guide for the morning, Shaul Judelman, took us on a walk through the mountains and explained the history of the place and its significance to the Jewish people (we even got to explore an ancient ritual bath). Then Judelman, a member of the Executive Committee of Friends of Roots, took us to the Friends of Roots headquarters, where he told his story and the story of the organization.

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