ConnecTech is a year-long fellowship for MIT and Technion Jewish students. The primary focus is on student interaction—creating personal bonds between small core groups of students at each institute and strengthening a sense of Jewish peoplehood. For more information or to read our Fellows’ bios, visit our website.
Shabbat was a really good chance for us to bond further with the Israelis and spend time with them. One eye-opening experience that happened on Shabbat was a political discussion about Israel, instigated by reading a sermon written 10 years ago. The sermon acts out a discussion between a father and son who disagreed when it came to how one should support Israel and whether one can criticize Israeli politics. Even though it was a little old, the discussion is still relevant today. In high school, my classmates and I had a similar argument with our principal about whether one could criticize Israel and still be pro-Israel. Unsurprisingly, in our conversation after reading the sermon, the Israelis had different views from the American students. The discussion and subsequent smaller conversations that followed let both the MIT and Technion students learn more about each other’s political beliefs, especially after we had already bonded and got to learn more about each other outside of politics.
Over lunch, a few others and I continued the conversation. Interestingly, we got into a more nuanced conversation about Arab students in the Technion. They brought up points that I would have never thought of and gave us a closer look at how Arabs and Jews interact in the school. I hope that I also gave them a view of how similar interactions played out at MIT, which will be strengthened when they come to visit us.
Having these conversations really made me reflect on what I believed and what I wanted to argue about. I grew up in a Zionist home and going to Zionist schools. Support and love of Israel was seen as a given and a necessity. Over the past few years I have been in discussions that argued the opposite side, both from Palestinians and left-leaning Jews. It was an interesting experience to bring what I had heard from these other people into the discussions with the Israelis. It was important to have a devil’s advocate so I was arguing for a side that I didn’t completely agree with. This gave me a really good chance to better understand both perspectives.
One interesting perspective that I learned from the Israelis was how much they value Israel as a homeland for Jews, even as secular Israelis. This was something I had heard from my more religious cousins, but never from secular Israelis who had very little connection to Judaism. One thing I wanted to learn from the Technion students was how they viewed Judaism, and by extension Israel as a Jewish state. While this discussion gave a good perspective, I am excited to further discuss this issue when the Israelis come to visit us.
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