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

Public Policy Minor

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.

PBPL 85 Meets with Salam Fayyad

We left early this morning to travel to a Kibbutz about an hour and a half away from Jerusalem. The class toured the Nahal Oz Kibbutz and learned about the daily lives of the people that live there and the losses they suffered during the last conflicts. For lunch, we were welcomed into the Kibbutz dining hall, which was extremely similar to a school cafeteria. After members of the Kibbutz answered the class’s questions, we departed the Kibbutz and traveled back to Jerusalem for a busy evening of meetings.

Our first evening meeting was with Sari Nusseibeh, a professor and the author of “Once Upon a Country.” Having read Nusseibeh’s book during the term, the class was particularly excited to meet an author who voiced far greater optimism for peace than most. Nusseibeh lived up to high expectations (especially for one member of the class who truly couldn’t wait to meet him) and gave us an essential Palestinian perspective. We left the meeting with Nusseibeh with new insights and many signed copies of his book.

PBPL 85 travels to Moshav Na’ama in the Jordan Valley

We woke up early this morning to travel to Moshav Na’ama, an agricultural settlement in the Jordan Valley. At Moshav Na’ama, we were welcomed into Bar Levy’s home and ate a wonderful breakfast (complete with fresh vegetables and dates from the farms) with his family. After breakfast, Bar Levy, an Israeli soldier, allowed us to ask him questions about his life, his family’s history, and his views on the peace process. Our class came away from the discussion with a greater understanding of the differences that exist amongst types of Israeli settlements and the motivations of those that live there. Then, Bar Levy’s brother took us on a tour of his date processing plant, his date fields, and his father’s herb fields. He explained to us the growing process and let us sample dates. He also introduced us to his Palestinian friend and fellow farmer who allowed us to ask him about his life and his interactions with Israelis in the area. The class left the farms with new insights for our memo and 5 kg of dates for snacks on the bus (we will keep you updated on the amount eaten).

PBPL 85 in Jerusalem

Today, our class set out to learn about the heart of Israel, Jerusalem and more specifically the Old City of Jerusalem. We awoke and after breakfast at the hotel, we walked to the Old City. On our way, we passed very few people as it was still Shabbat and stores were not yet open for business. To better understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it was essential that our class get a first hand look at the holy places that lie at the center of the dispute. Throughout the day, we walked through all four quarters; the Armenian Quarter, the Jewish Quarter, the Christian Quarter, and the Muslim Quarter. In the Jewish Quarter, we stopped to put our wishes in the Western Wall and were stunned at the proximity of the Western Wall to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Temple Mount, and Dome of the Rock. In the Muslim Quarter, we explored the markets and stopped for lunch at a restaurant to enjoy more hummus, pita and falafel. In the Christian Quarter, the class was able to venture into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and even go to an underground tunnel underneath the Coptic Church.

PBPL 85 Students in Tel Aviv and Jaffa

Our class’s second full day in Israel brought new places and new experiences! In the morning, we had the chance to walk around Tel Aviv and a lot of our class went to the nearby beach to relax before the day’s activities. After breakfast at the hotel, we departed from Tel Aviv and ventured to Jaffa, an ancient port city. Despite being just a few minutes away from Tel Aviv, Jaffa felt worlds away from the modern Tel Aviv and was our first introduction to the ancient history that lies in the Israeli land. We spent a few hours touring Jaffa and learning about the history surrounding the port and the city. The highlights of the historic tour included the Mahmoudiya Mosque, St. Peter’s Church, the Sea Walls Promenade, and the town’s clock tower. Our class walked through the winding streets of Jaffa and marveled at the beautiful views from the highest point of Jaffa, the archeological pieces in shops, and the ingenuity of filling in corners of buildings so that in ancient times people would be deterred from urinating in the streets. During the tour, we stopped for a delicious lunch at a scenic restaurant and dined family style.

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