As the sun set over the Old City of Jerusalem this evening, I reflected on all that our Brandeis delegation has accomplished here in just two weeks. It is rare for one experience to be both so moving and satisfying personally, and also so substantive on matters of policy and strategy; but that best-of-both-worlds combination is exactly what characterizes Brandeis’ burgeoning engagement with Israel. Brandeis’ global reach is significant as is evidenced by the 116 countries that send students to our campus. We as a university also stand to be strengthened by sustained, deep and broad strategic engagement with a smaller number of partner countries around the world. The historic ties between Brandeis and Israel make Israel a natural place to begin this mission.
In two weeks, our delegation spent time with leaders and colleagues from all the major research universities of Israel: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, Bar-Ilan University, the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (IDC), Weitzmann Institute of Science, the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa University, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev — as well as Al-Quds University, one of the leading Palestinian universities. At several Israeli high schools, we shared the Brandeis vision with some of Israel’s most inquisitive and energized — I dare say, Brandeisian — students.
We held a number of alumni events as well. As we contemplate enhancing our engagement with Israel, it was inspiring to see the enthusiasm, spirit and support of Brandeis alumni on the ground in Israel, as demonstrated at our two packed alumni events during our time here, one in Jerusalem and one in the greater Tel Aviv area. I know that these members of the Brandeis family will be very helpful to our efforts.
In Haifa, we dined with several members of the Boston-Haifa Connection, the sister city program that binds together Brandeis’ home city with Israel’s most famous hub of multiculturalism. I had the privilege to engage in a public conversation with my old friend, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Aharon Barak of Israel, among the most courageous intellectuals and jurists of our time. We had a fruitful and inspiring visit to Teva Pharmaceuticals. And I represented Brandeis by speaking at the Israeli Presidential Conference, where the theme of the symposium was “Tomorrow,” and where I put forth the Brandeis vision of preparing students not only for the literal tomorrow, with its challenging job market, but also for the figurative “tomorrow,” the next generation, in which skills of rich analysis and clear communication will be more crucial than ever before.
Each place where we went, we were both moved emotionally and energized to find that Israelis always wanted to know more about Brandeis. They wanted to know more about Brandeis’ academic strengths, its strategic foci and its vision for the future. Brandeis’ identity as a nonsectarian, diversity-embracing institution with roots in the Jewish community also resonated with them; many Israelis voiced the idea that Israel too, at its best, aspires to this vision.
I leave Israel profoundly grateful to all the members of the Brandeis delegation, and all the members of our staff back on campus, who worked so hard to make this trip the resounding success that it was. There will be a great deal of follow-up work in the weeks and months ahead, to realize the full potential of the endeavors that we have only just begun. But in the meantime, in this moment, we as a community can take great pride in what we have accomplished — as always, together.
Now, I am off to The Hague, The Netherlands to check in on the passionate, spirited Brandeis students who are hard at work in our Hague program in international law! A good week to you all, and I look forward to continuing to work together in the days to come.