It was a warm and early morning when we departed for the modern city of Tel Aviv. We made one particular special stop for the benefit of Professor Sorkin. The King is alive and well and enjoying falafel in Jerusalem. Once we reached the city we had some time before our first meeting to travel to the spot where Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin was assassinated in November of 1995 in response to his efforts to make peace with the Palestinian people. As we know, in the years that have followed the process has become extremely frustrating. However, our first meeting demonstrated that it is not completely hopeless. We met with an Israeli-based not-for-profit group known as Gisha – a legal organization with the goal of promoting and protecting freedom of movement for the Palestinian people, particularly residents of the Gaza Strip, by using the tools of the Israeli legal system and international law. Sari Bashi, the director of Gisha, explained how the organization files petitions with the Israeli High Court of Justice on behalf of citizens in the occupied territories whose right to travel has been unfairly restricted. She indicated that the results have been both positive and heartbreaking, but it is necessary that the group continue to fight the fight.
Our second and final meeting convened outdoors at Lewinsky Park, near the old central bus station. Yiftach Millo, the director of Assaf, gave an informal talk about the dilemma of asylum seekers who enter Israel through the open border with Egypt at the Sinai Peninsula. Having walked hundreds of miles from various African nations, including Eritrea, Ivory Coast, Sudan, Ethiopia, Darfur, and Liberia, these individuals are initially detained in a prison in the southern part of Israel. They are later released to shelters that are run by the City of Tel Aviv while awaiting deportation to their respective countries, if conditions allow for their safe return. Israel has made special efforts for Darfur refugees to remain permanently in Israel. Dean Ruebner and a few of the students toured the living quarters of a refugee shelter where men, women, and children are living in unacceptable conditions. As a result, on our return to the United States we have decided as a group to raise money on behalf of this refugee center.
We then toured the City of Tel Aviv and the ancient City of Jaffa. Many swam in the refreshing Mediterranean Sea, while others shopped in the Carmel market and the adjacent artist’s fair at nearby Nachalat Benyamin. Before sundown, we returned to Jerusalem, cleaned up, and put on our Friday-night best for an enjoyable Sabbath dinner. We ended the evening with a nice walk overlooking the old city together.