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Jennifer Symonds

I had a wonderful time in Israel. It was exciting to be at the Hebrew University, which is such a special & interesting place and an impressive university. As I walked around I could feel the historic & symbolic significance of the university within the dreams of those who created the vision for Israel. My great grandparents, Morris & Celia Symonds, donated money to the establishment of HU in the 1920s & travelled to Israel for the opening in 1925. I felt a personal connection when I found a plaque acknowledging their contribution at the entrance to what was the main library & is now the law library.

The conflict resolution course had a range of excellent speakers, Jewish, Christian & Muslim, who are committed in one way or another to resolving conflicts & making Israel & the middle east a more peaceful & humane place. Some of the varied situations, which they discussed & had first hand experience of, included the day to day running of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre by several different & competing Christian churches, the capture & eventual release of Gilad Shalit, the siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, an international gathering of Mufti’s in Syria to speak about Islamic approaches to conflict resolution and the clashes between religious & civil law in Israel. The information that was given was quite dense & I think the course participants would have benefitted from more discussion time with each other & with the tutors to deepen our understanding of this information. I finished the course with many things to think about & feeling more optimistic about the possibilities for peace & the commitment to peace in Israel.

The Winter Ulpan was really good, The teachers were excellent & kept up an enthusiasm & intensity that kept me on my toes and allowed my Hebrew to improve dramatically. I was so pleased, towards the end of the ulpan, to be able to listen to a lecture about the history of the alphabet, all in Hebrew, & to be able to understand pretty much all of it. The rest of the students in my class were in their 20s & the teaching was directed towards that age group, so perhaps a class with more people in my 50s age group would have been better for me, but I enjoyed being the class mother & had a lovely group of young fellow students to study with.

I loved the Maiersdorf Faculty Club where I stayed and the staff there, especially Danielle Keduri, looked after me very well.

I cannot thank AFHU enough for facilitating this wonderful once in a lifetime opportunity & I am sure I will use all that I have learnt in the Reconciliation work I do in Sydney in the Jewish & Indigenous Australian communities.