Frequently Asked Questions:
UVM Hillel's Perspectives trip to the Middle East.
What was your experience last year?
We found the trip to be an opportunity to engage in complex dialogue across difference for the sake of greater understanding. It was a trip that presented some perspectives on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and gave students a chance to hear directly from Israelis and Palestinians and make up their own minds about their relationship to the Middle East and all it's complexity.
Where did you go, and for how long at each place?
We'd be happy to share last years itinerary with you. Just send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The trip is marketed as presenting different perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Based on your experience last year, is this accurate? How?
Students heard from political figures on the right and the left and everyday individuals representing both Palestinian and Israeli society. We met with the Israeli mayor of Eifrat and we met with the Palestinian mayor of Bethlehem. We went to Israel settlements on the border of Gaza and we went to Rawabi, a planned Palestinian development. Students had the opportunity to explore Palestinian cities like Ramallah on their own and also Jerusalem and Tel Aviv on their own and engage in any conversation they wanted to with whoever they wanted to. We believe that the students who went on the trip are the best people to speak to the question if we delivered on what our marketing promised.
Did you receive any negative feedback from students that went on last year’s trip?
We asked students to fill out a lengthy evaluation so we could learn as much as possible for the coming year's experience. Overall students wanted even more interactions with everyday Israelis and Palestinians and we took that feedback very seriously in conversations with the trip organizer for the year ahead. We had hoped to provide as broad a swath of Israeli/Palestinian society as we could in the limited window we had to do that. One other piece of feedback students wanted to see was more from religious Jews and Muslims to hear about the role religion and faith have in their lives. We're hopeful this year's final itinerary will include that as well.
Is this year’s trip exactly the same as last year’s? Or is anything different?
See above, the final itinerary is not confirmed but we hope to significantly incorporate student feedback into this year's trip.
What was the process of receiving funding this year and last year (did they contact UVM Hillel or vice versa)?
As with all of our existing funders, we are in regular communication about outcomes and planning for the year ahead. We indicated we needed to have a full experience with the trip and evaluate the student experience first and foremost before any other next steps about future years.
Is the funding this year the same amount as last year ($100,000)?
Funding is not confirmed until grant agreements are signed. We believe the general costs of bringing 25 students overseas for a trip is level to last year's level but no amount of funding is guaranteed on a year to year basis. Other Jewish organizations on campus receive funding from the grant like Chabad at UVM but that funding is through their national organizations to their local chapters and Hillel does not have overlap or involvement with the programs they offer with that funding.
How much autonomy did UVM Hillel have in organizing the itinerary of the trip?
UVM Hillel had complete autonomy in organizing last year's trip. We took in feedback from students on campus (both for and against the trip), engaged with students who were critical of the trip including SJP and JstreetU student leadership to listen to their concerns and develop a trip where students with an open heart, an open mind and an open notebook could participate on this trip. An open heart means a willingness to have empathy for others, an open mind is a willingness to think critically and engage in dialogue across difference for the sake of greater understanding, and an open notebook means that we hope students will take this opportunity seriously as a unique chance for them to experience some perspectives on the conflict and develop their own opinions. We wanted to have a trip that reflected that criteria for engagement. Our trip provider was open and amenable to every suggestion we had to craft a trip that tried to meet the needs of student leaders and those wanting to know more about how various sides related to the conflict.
Students have voiced their concerns that UVM Hillel’s acceptance of these funds shows UVM Hillel’s agreement with Maccabee Task Force, or at the very least, complacency with them and their decisions as an organization. Do you think that is accurate?
From our statement to the Cynic last year, "UVM Hillel condemns white supremacy in the strongest possible terms and we denounce any efforts, from any group or individual, to stifle free speech." Both before and following last year's article, our staff has spent hours in conversation with clubs who have opposed this trip to learn more about why they want to prevent students from engaging with this opportunity. We recognize that our organizations may not see eye to eye and that's ok, especially on our college campus where we all share a common ground of respect, integrity, innovation, openness, justice and responsibility no matter our individual or organizational beliefs. There are so many ways for students to learn about various perspectives on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict on our campus and we encourage everyone to learn more about the issues that people feel so passionately about; in classrooms, in student clubs, and with overseas travel. Hillel and this trip is one way, but by no means the only way, to engage with the Middle East at UVM. Our Hillel's vision is that every student is inspired to make an enduring commitment to Jewish life, learning, and Israel. Since 100% of the student participants (20 out of 20) who completed the evaluation believed we should offer this trip again for the UVM community, we believe Hillel should continue to do so for students with an open mind, and an open heart, and a willingness to engage in complexity.
Want to understand more about Israel and Palestine?
Excited about traveling to the Middle East this Spring Break? Interested in meeting with Israeli & Palestinian locals, members of parliament, and world-renouned journalists?
Do you have an open heart, open mind, and open notebook?
If yes, apply for this highly selective, all-inclusive trip to Israel and the Palestinian Territories this Spring Break (March 6-16). This includes free flights from New York City to Tel Aviv.