After more than two months of incredible experiences in Israel, I have returned home to reflect upon my time abroad and prepare for my final year of graduate school. But for a few reasons, I feel my work with the ICT is not complete and so I am hesitant to detail my final reflections of the summer. I am still working on my academic article about the future of European counter-terrorism strategy, and more importantly I am awaiting the ICT’s 13th Annual Conference: World Summit on Counter-Terrorism. Having spoken to Dr. James Wilburn, the Dean of Pepperdine’s School of Public Policy, I have secured funding from the Dean’s office in concert with the Glazer Institute to finance my return to Israel for the Conference. I am extremely grateful for their continued support and confidence in me. I plan on representing my benefactors with dignity. Being present to learn from over 75 of the world’s leading terrorism experts and witness them take part in the simulation I helped create is a fantastic opportunity to better prepare myself for a career of international security in service of my country. Prior to my departure, I will write a post about my various travels within Israel and to Istanbul. And following my return from the Conference, I will detail my experience there and wrap up my feelings on the summer as a whole. Until next time…
One of the highlights of my summer in Israel was the ICT’s International Conference on Law and Security. Witnessing panels comprised of some of the leading experts in the field was illuminating and gave me the opportunity to discuss aspects of security policy with them in detail. Many of the attendees were current or former government officials from the military or the intelligence community. It is not often that one is afforded an in-depth discussion with key players in the realm of cyber security, so I took full advantage of the opportunity while being part of the team that ensured the conference ran smoothly. The highpoint of the conference was engaging Professor Michael Schmitt, chairman of the U.S. Naval War College, on various aspects of security policy. I spoke with quite a few academics and professionals about the topics covered in the conference and to gain their guidance on the prudent steps forward in my own academic and professional careers.
Aside from the personal article I have been writing (see previous post), a significant amount of my time at the ICT was spent assisting in the preparation for the World Summit on Counter-Terrorism: ICT’s 13th Annual Conference. The conference is held September 8-11, so there was much work to be done in July and August. I worked with one of my superiors, Stevie Weinberg, to design a war game about the future of Syria and the implications for the State of Israel. The first event in the war game is the fall of Bashar al Assad, followed by a particular reaction by the Israeli government. The players in the game will represent dozens of nations in the regions, the Syrian Free Army, international institutions and terrorist organizations. After the initial Israeli action, the scenario will be simulated to see what all the various reactions will be by all the players, with the end result of seeing how that initial policy affects the future of Israeli and regional security. The simulation will then be repeated in a different round, this time with a different initial action taken by Israel. The point of this war game is to see provide policy guidance to the Israeli government as to which step to take upon the ouster of the Assad regime from power. To determine how exactly Assad will fall and what the different initial actions Israel will take in each round, Stevie and I queried dozens of security experts and academics. Their responses informed our creation of the war game to make it as realistic as possible. The simulation will be conducted during the Annual Conference next month, with over 75 counter-terrorism experts taking part. I am in the process of securing funding to allow me to return to Israel for the Conference to see how the simulation unfolds. I find the scenario to be fascinating, and hope to be there to witness experts in international security play the war game to its conclusion. Perhaps by the time I publish my final post on my overall reflections on my summer experience, I will know with some certainty whether I will return to Israel next month for the Conference.
As I prepare to leave Israel, it seems like the right time to compose my usual Do’s and Don’ts list for the brave traveler making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
- Expect to find anything open on Shabbat, and if it is open, it’s probably not good.
- Be surprised when AK-47 sightings become a daily occurrence
- Try to take a picture with or share a bus seat with the guy in the giant circular fur hat. He is a Haredi Jew and he will not take kindly to your stares.
- Think you can remain “neutral” when it comes to politics – if you didn’t know your opinions before, the Israelis will coax it out of you!
- Go to the Ben Yehuda hookah bars on weekends, unless you enjoy losing your hearing as middle-aged tourists dance awkwardly to Israeli music
- Get in the way of an Israeli policeman, border guard, bus driver, or really any moving vehicle
- Stop asking questions. If you sense a person/organization/taxi driver has an ulterior motive, they probably do.
- Yell at your boss; he’ll think you have chutzpah and give you a smile
- Eat lots of Jerusalem bagels with Zatar, pita and hummus, and of course limonana and iced coffee on a hot day!
- Walk/run/skip around the Old City as much as you possibly can, and yes you can go there at night!
- Learn the numbers in Hebrew. You’ll be much less likely to be cheated by the guy selling you zucchini.
- Make friends with your grocer – he might give you free stuff! Or at least teach you bad words in Arabic.
- Enjoy Shabbat! How often can you find dead quiet and empty streets on a Saturday in the city? In the words of our favorite t-shirt, “Shabbat: Just Do It.”
- Soak in the beautiful diversity of a nation of immigrants; do your best to internalize the little details that make every nationality and religion unique
- Allow yourself to believe in the magic of Jerusalem.
In the words of Tyler Knott Gregson,
What an utter
it would be
to find something
and spend any time
and trying to
it is all
Well, the journey out of Israel today was quite an adventure. Emily and I woke early, confident that our packing skills and planning would make the trip from Jerusalem to the airport a smooth process. We walked out the door right on time, albeit significantly weighed down by our souvenir-stuffed suitcases. Even the few blocks to the light rail station took quite an effort. We hopped on the train to the bus station, but as we pulled in to the train’s first stop I noticed something was wrong. I’ve been riding the train to work every day without a problem, and of course on this day when it really mattered, something was bound to go wrong. We heard a harsh Hebrew voice on the loudspeaker, and watched as 90% of the trains occupants quickly exited. Confused, we asked several people what the message had said, but like us, none of them spoke Hebrew. Finally an orthodox woman told us the situation (through some exaggerated hand gestures) – there was a bomb threat. We weren’t sure if the threat was on the train itself or simply near the tracks ahead, but we knew we had to get off immediately. Of course, the minute we stepped off the train, it pulled away with the rest of its occupants. By this time we had already missed our bus and we were starting to feel panicked about getting to the airport on time. The trains appeared to have stopped running entirely so we desperately hailed a taxi. We managed to make it to our bus with five minutes to spare, but of course the difficulties didn’t end there. After a two long and windy bus rides, we arrived at Ben Gurion to find an absolutely huge line of people trying to get into our security “zone”. Emily and I had anticipated tight security after the Al Qaeda terrorist threat this week (including drone strikes that killed 11 Yemeni terrorists in the two days before our flight), but we had no idea how tight. We had to wait in line for about 40 minutes, then put our checked baggage through a scanner and subsequently have EVERY SINGLE THING meticulously combed through and unpacked. My suitcase was full to the brim, so I’m frankly shocked I got it closed again. I also had a bit of a panic when I realized I had packed two extremely stupid things that I picked up in Israel – a casing from a bullet I kept as a souvenir at the IDF base we visited, and a piece of rocket shrapnel from our trip to Gaza. In my innocent tourist mind, these were interesting souvenirs that would make for great talking points. What I didn’t think about is whatever “dangerous” rocket dust or who knows what else that might be lingering on these objects! As they picked through my suitcase, I anticipated the intense interrogation sure to follow – but lucky for me, my stupidity wasn’t discovered. Needless to say I threw away my “souvenirs” at the earliest opportunity. Once I finally checked my bag, I then had to proceed through another line to screen my carry on luggage, where I was pulled out of line because of my American passport and thoroughly searched once again. After all that, I still had to go through passport control where the agent didn’t think I looked like my picture – apparently an Israeli tan and brown hair makes me look like a different person. But thankfully I made it through all of this madness in time to grab some food (I was dying) and even some duty free perfume.
Can we ever really avoid clichés? All I can think of to say is that this summer has been awesome. When I think back to arriving in Israel, I cannot believe it has only been two months. I have seen, done and learned so much being here, and it has been a truly incredible experience.
I have seen more than I ever could have hoped to have seen, from climbing into an army tank in the hills of the Golan Heights, to swimming in the Dead Sea and hiking Masada, to eating lunch in a Druze home in the Carmel Mountains, to walking through Crusader tunnels in Akko, to sipping coffee in the German Colony in Haifa, to visiting a moshav along the border of Gaza, to soaking up the sun on the beaches of Tel Aviv, and bargaining in the markets of Jerusalem. I’ve met all sorts of people, picked up a rough grasp of basic Hebrew, gained new perspectives, and eaten some of the freshest, most delectable food.
I came, I saw, and I loved every minute of it.
While all of the experiences of seeing, learning about, tasting, and traveling around Israel have been memorable, the part I have enjoyed more than anything else has been my internship. I have been incredibly fortunate to have been afforded the opportunity to work with some of the most wonderful and brilliant people I’ve ever met. Working at the Peres Center for Peace and being surrounded by such hard-working, deeply passionate people has been remarkable and has been hugely inspiring to me. Being able to talk with these people about their experiences and how they’ve gotten to where they are – and what’s more, to actually get to work with them directly in a field and subject area that is of upmost interest to me – has been an honor, a privilege, and a blast! I have learned so much from these outstanding professionals, and have been deeply and profoundly moved by their talent, dedication and passion.
It will be sad to leave this truly amazing place and have this remarkable adventure become only a memory, but I know that this experience will long continue to shape and affect me, and it is certainly a memory I will forever keep with me and cherish.
This post will detail my cultural experiences this summer.
Yes. Jerusalem is beautiful. The Holy Sites are breathtaking and so meaningful to me personally as a God-fearing man. Our trip to the north was great for so many reasons: the IDF base, Akko, the Sea of Galilee. Shabbat is very hard to cope with. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of truly resting your body and spirit for the Lord, but dang, shutting down everything from public transportation to Wi-Fi? That’s just cold.
But the greatest cultural experience I had this summer came from a heart-to-heart with Professor Helfand. He paraphrased a quote of Golda Meir that I believe explains the hardest part of Israeli life: we can forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, but we can’t forgive them turning our sons into killers. That quote really opened my eyes. I’m not a father, so It’s very difficult for me to imagine coping with the fact that my child (even a daughter, not just a son) faces a minimum of three years in the military. I can’t imagine. But what is the Nation of Israel supposed to do? The Arab world wants them west of the sea (generalization), and they’re surrounded by enemies (fact). I’ve done the hawk vs. dove battle in my head a thousand times, and I still can’t pick a side. This past weekend, I got a firsthand experience as life as a Palestinian when the terrible customer service reps of Egged left me stranded in the Dead Sea, and I had to cross the Ramallah border on foot. Palestinians are herded through an abandoned slaughter house at the crossing, using papers that are only attainable if they can show a need to cross (dove POV). But of course they are! Palestinians crossed the border and killed innocent people, and who knows if they can be trusted (hawk POV).
My first post (before I left the states) talked about how I was afraid that I might find a new home abroad. On our trip back from Istanbul, the plane touched down, and I said to myself “ah, home.” I freaked out a little bit after that. It was such a weird feeling. Yes, I left for this trip having never left the states, and now I have five stamps in my passport, but it’s so much more than that. I found a home here. I found a home at Levy Meidan, I found my favorite eateries, my favorite beaches, my favorite bars and I have enjoyed every moment of my time here. I am so grateful to the Glazer Institute for blessing me with this experience. Though I am first and foremost an American, I could not be prouder of my nation’s oath to Israel. I will do whatever I can to defend my second home, and I will miss her greatly.
Because I failed to blog reliably, I have decided to blog in two parts: one post detailing my job, and one post detailing the cultural experiences during my time here. This post will be the one about my job.
Benny Levy, you could not have found a better placement for me. Most of those who read this blog do not know that my placement occurred within a month of our departure. This left me very anxious, and the fact that they never responded to my emails thanking them for my placement only made matters worse. Benny even accompanied me on my first day to make sure everything was still secured. However, my nerves were easily settled once I met the owning partner. Our senses of humor struck a chord, and he assured me that they would have plenty of interesting work for me. The interesting work–two months later–has yet to stop. During the first week of work, my roommates (2 undergrads and one MPP student) were astonished at my long hours: 09:00-20:00. Little do they know of the lawyer’s mantle and the devotion it takes. They asked me, “how can you possibly stay that long?” The answer was simple: “the work is really interesting.”
The interesting work started the very first day. The owning partner informed me that no desk was open yet, so he offered me his office (one with a perfect view of Tel Aviv and the sea) to work for the day. A partner came in with his second-year associate and gave me a project of reviewing a licensing agreement and editing it to give our client more leverage. I can’t really explain how good it felt to only have finished one year of law school, and to get comments from a partner like “ah, that’s an excellent point” and “we definitely should do that.” After that came the landslide of research projects. I’m very proud of one project in particular–some because of my work, but mostly because of the lessons I learned. Our firm represents a client that is very important to Israel’s trade, and a governmental entity of Israel sought to tighten its control over our client. My mentor at the firm charged me with the task of finding American case law to counter the government’s position. He said that they have been searching for weeks, and they needed something immediately since the brief was due the next week. After a brief search, I found something on the topic, scanned the holding, and called my boss with “good news.” Well, a closer reading of the case would have revealed that this recent SCOTUS holding was TERRIBLE for our client. I had to go back to my boss and deliver the horrible news. Lesson #1: be thorough, quick to listen (or read), and slow to speak. My boss didn’t go too hard on me, though he had every right, and instead helped turn my research in a different direction. Lesson #2: don’t be afraid of failure, and be willing to take the heat for a screw-up. With this newfound direction and a lot of digging, I found the on-point MONEY for our client. Slam dunk. Lesson #3: don’t get bogged down in “the answer,” and instead push on for “the solution.” My boss proudly boasted of my research skills to everyone in the office, including the owning partner. Lesson #4: work hard, put in the hours, be coachable, be accountable, and others will want to work with you. After briefing my research and defending it to the associates and partners, a brief was written to the Attorney General of Israel. Skip forward a few weeks, past oral arguments: though the Attorney General ultimately sided with the opposition, he was very impressed with the American law (my research) and the other side had no answer for it. I can’t describe the feeling. MY work impressed and befuddled men who have devoted themselves to law for 20+ years. Wow.
The other research I am proud of involved some American law that worked its way into oral arguments in front of Israel’s Supreme Court. Yes, the oral arguments were all in Hebrew, but it was such an honor to sit behind the lawyers and know that my research helped them answer the justices’ questions.
Those were the highlights of my research projects, but that is not all of the interesting work at Levy Meidan. I have drafted contracts, created tender forms, drafted demand letters, edited license applications, and much more. I billed an average of ten hours a day, and I can honestly say that it never felt like work. After the beatdown that is 1L, I can’t explain how much of a relief it is to know that I enjoy legal work.
My greatest memory of Levy Meidan is certainly attending a pre-trial conference at a district court, and the associate asking the court clerk to enter my name as a member of counsel. I have the original, and it is my greatest keepsake of my time here in Israel. It will hang in my office one day, and I will have a story to tell when my guests ask for an explanation of the paper.
I leave Israel in three days knowing that I have done great work. I leave Levy Meidan knowing that I was an asset on every project I was assigned to. I was not always perfect, but I was coachable and willing to put in the hours. I cannot wait to share my experience across the OCI table and at networking events. I cannot wait to be a lawyer.
My internship has been a great experience. I have been able to conduct a research project with the supervision of experienced and knowledgeable scholars from the Institute. I also had the opportunity to help with and attend a conference on Law and Security. The conference included academics and perspectives from the field, so it had an important range of insights. Furthermore, I have gotten to work with other interns with diverse backgrounds, which has added a level of understanding that is important when analyzing security policy.
On another note, our second program trip to the North of the country was a great experience. We got to visit Lake Tiberius and the surrounding region, the place where Jesus spent much of his life and conducted his ministry. We also visited the border with Syria and a military base on the Golan Heights and then had the opportunity to visit a Druze village in Carmel. We visited an industrial park and then Haifa, where we saw the UNESCO-recognized gardens of the Bahai faith. The best part of the trip was the range of different experiences that it offered, including exposure to religions and cultures that one might not immediately think of when thinking of Israel. Additionally, it covered different facets of Israeli life including business/industry, religion, and politics.
As far as daily life, I have appreciated being surrounded by a different language and culture. Although I would love to learn more, I have enjoyed soaking in some new Hebrew words and phrases and hearing them in conversation. I have especially mastered how to answer the phone in Hebrew, and get a kick out of using this to play jokes on my friends when they call me. On a more serious note, though, being surrounded by people with different experiences presents alternatives that add to my depth of knowledge to help me understand myself and how I wish to live. This has certainly been the case as I have travelled in Israel and the Middle East, and is one of the aspects of my time here that have made it so enjoyable.
Israel is freaking awesome.
The time has flown by since I arrived in Israel almost a month and a half ago, when we embarked on our initial tour of Jerusalem. It seems like not an empty moment has passed since the entire trip has been full of new experiences.
Upon arrival in Ben Gurion airport, I recognized the airport and was reminded of my last trip to Israel. One of our first stops after arriving in Jerusalem was a vantage point of the city. Looking over Jerusalem with the group was amazing; I appreciated it in a very different way having learned what I have throughout my college career, all the time hoping to return and experience Israel anew.
The tour of Jerusalem included explanations by our very informed guide about the geopolitics of Jerusalem as well as talks by academics and other individuals that helped us understand the situation in context. It was important to be able to contextualize intricacies of the political situation here that I have studied about by seeing them in person and by speaking with academics and other locals.
A week later, I took a road trip to the north of Israel with some of my co-interns. We looked out from bunkers on the Golan Heights over into Syria. We hiked some waterfalls, swam in Lake Tiberias, and drove along the Lebanon border to arrive at the grottos at Rosh Hanikra. It was great to discover some hidden away sites and see much of Israel by driving through the country on what was a largely unstructured journey.
During other weekends, I have been able to experience the city of Tel Aviv, which I have embraced as my temporary home. Despite being a busy and thriving city, likely due to its beach culture it maintains a laidback atmosphere conducive to beach excursions during the day and night. I have enjoyed conversations with my friends in the program and work friends from all different backgrounds about life, travel, our experiences here, and of course national security issues (I do intern for a policy institute, after all). The energy of the city contributes to a feeling of unity among city-dwellers that is especially felt during nights such as Laila Lavan (White Night), an all- night festival celebrating the always vibrant nature of the city.
I look forward to sharing even more about my experiences soon, until next time …