Back in the United States for the summer, my work and connections with Al-Quds University and Palestine have continued.

In July, I had the pleasure of hosting twelve of the Master’s students in American Studies for a two-week study tour in the U.S.  We spent the first week together in Boston, where we walked the Freedom Trail, read from Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience by the shores of Walden Pond in Concord, and volunteered at the “Daily Table” in Dorchester, a community organization providing healthy food for the local neighborhood.   In Washington D.C., we met with journalists at the Washington Post, visited monuments and key buildings of U.S. democracy, and had a lively session with Ambassador Husam Zumlot, the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s representative to the U.S.  In New York City, we visited the 9/11 Museum and Memorial, spent a fruitful day at the United Nations talking about Palestine, and concluded our tour with a visit to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island to talk about issues of immigration.  Along the way, students met with faculty members at Brandeis University who generously gave their time to talk with with them about ideas and topics for their Master’s theses.

I like to think that the students ended their trip with a more complex view of American people, places, and institutions.  It was a special pleasure for me to see this corner of the country through their eyes.  We enjoyed rich discussions about the role of the media in covering U.S. politics, for example, and the role that historical memory (at the 9/11 Museum and elsewhere) plays in American life.  The students filled notebooks with their observations, and I hope and trust that they will be drawing on these notes in their future studies.

The students found, somewhat to their surprise, that they felt warmly welcomed in the United States, both as visitors and as Palestinians.  Everywhere they went, curious Americans engaged them with questions about living in Palestine, and what their hopes are for the future of their region.  When they volunteered at the Daily Table and visited the Boys and Girls Club in Dorchester, they were able to swap anecdotes with Americans who, like them, had stories of living in situations of uncertainty and insecurity.

Naturally, current events on both sides of the Atlantic occupied our thoughts and conversations.  The clashes in Jerusalem and the West Bank following the violence on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif were occurring during the study tour, so students were keeping in touch with home and worrying about family and friends.  And the news cycle in the U.S. continued to provide fodder for discussions about law and justice in American life, although the students were long home before the recent events in Charlottesville unfolded.

During the 2017-18 academic year, I will be returning to Al-Quds University several times to continue my work with the American Studies program.  I will be guiding students through the process of the Master’s theses, in part by matching them up with U.S. faculty members who can advise them virtually and serve as secondary supervisors for their work.  In addition, I will be helping direct a new program called PAYCE (Palestinian American Youth Civic Engagement), which will connect Palestinan students from Al-Quds University and An-Najah University with US students and faculty members who are part of the ENACT network (created by the center that I direct at Brandeis).   I’m also staying in touch with young Palestinian entrepreneurs through my work as a senior adviser to Our Generation Speaks.   So I’ll have a busy year continuing my work in Palestine, in addition to returning with enthusiasm to the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life at Brandeis

With Ambassador Husam Zomlot at the Palestinian Liberation Organization mission in Washington D.C.

At the United Nations with Ambassador Feda Abdelhady-Nasser, Deputy Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations

Brandeis University provost Lisa Lynch offers academic advice to students Samer Makhlouf and Rana Zakarneh.

Executive director Carl Thompson talked to us about urban communities of Boston at the Boys and Girls Club of Dorchester.

State Representative Jay Kaufman hosted the group at the Massachusetts State House — a great window into U.S. legislative and democracy at the state level.

Volunteering at the Daily Table in Dorchester: students Shadi Salameh, Wi’am Hammash, Rana Rishmawi, Helda Ereqat, and Nidal Ayesh, along with Brandeis University student Risa Dunbar, who assisted with logistics for the study tour.