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An unexpected opportunity

Student Voices

Photo for An unexpected opportunity

Photo courtesy of Sebastian Feldman

Thanks to a scholarship from the Y&S Nazarian Center, transfer student Sebastian Feldman was able to study abroad in Israel - an experience he hoped for, but didn't expect would be possible.

As a transfer student I wasn’t sure that I would be able to experience everything a college student should. Luckily, I was given the opportunity to study abroad during the summer of 2018.

As I started to research my options, I quickly realized there was only one place that I really wanted to travel to study. I was able to find classes at the Hebrew University Mount Scopus campus in Jerusalem that I was excited about.

And I was able to find a scholarship to help finance my education. If not for the Harry Sigman Scholarship I would not have been able to study at the Hebrew University and grow as a person.

One of the most interesting and engaging courses I took at the historic Hebrew University in Jerusalem was on the Arab-Israeli Conflict. The class was intimate, with no more than 12 students enrolled. There were many students from the UC system with varying levels of knowledge on the topic, allowing interesting and diverse discussions on the complex issue.

Being able to see the locations discussed in class was more powerful than any picture or lecture. An example of this experience lies in the fact that the university itself was a military outpost at one point.

From the international school you can see across the fence into Palestinian villages, representing an openness that extends even into the school’s architecture and encourages students to not turn a blind eye to the East.

The class itself taught me more than any other class I’ve taken on the subject. While we only had four weeks to study the material, we went into details I had never heard before. This not only opened my eyes to different perspectives that I had not previously considered, but challenged my views on the subject and complicated my stance even more.

This is a subject with nuances and complexity, a non-binary issue that encompasses a wide range of narratives throughout its history. I have learned that massacres and kindness can be found at different moments in history and by all sides, and that it is best to approach these subjects with an open mind.

The second class I took over the summer was “Collective Memory & Cultural Myths in Contemporary Israel”. This again made me step outside of my comfort zone, and perfectly complemented the Arab-Israeli conflict course.

This class helped me distinguish between fact and narrative; what happened on the battlefields and what is lore. This class also helped me to look at public sources of information and commemoration such as museums and monuments more critically.

Nothing in this region is “just because” -- there is a reason behind everything. Once I took that class, nothing was the same, as it challenged me to think critically about my surroundings and gain a new understanding of Israel’s history.

Because of the scholarship, I was also able to experience Israel outside of the classroom and to travel to places I’ve wanted to visit for a long time, such as Qumran (where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found). I also ventured to the old crusader city of Acre in the North and spent a Shabbat at the Western Wall in Jerusalem and visited areas in Tel Aviv.

I learned so much and ate even more during my time in Israel. My experience was amazing and it was made possible thanks to the Harry Sigman Scholarship I received from the Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies!

Sebastian Feldman is a transfer student and History major graduating Spring 2019. He is interested in attending law school and dedicating his life to public service. He is most interested in 18th to 21st Century history.