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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Hillel’s Student Leadership Delegation visits Israeli, Palestinian territories

Students emphasize importance of togetherness amid differing views
Cat Carroll

The Student Leadership Delegation from the University of Wisconsin Hillel Foundation visited Israeli and Palestinian territories over spring break, according to UW sophomore Jehona Zeneli, who went on the trip.

The goal of the trip was to bring a diverse group of students from UW to witness the complexities and contrasts of lives in Israel and Palestine, fellow attendee and Hillel Rabbi Judy Greenberg said.

Much of the trip was focused on creating dialogue about the complex conflict between Israel and Palestine, Zeneli said. Zeneli, who is not Jewish, went on the trip in order to gain a better understanding of the situation in the region without the biases of local media and communities.


UW sophomore Wyatt Cirbo, who is Jewish, had similar motivations for going on this trip, saying he appreciated being around people with different ideas on the topic. According to Cirbo, there were four Jewish students on the trip and 15 non-Jewish students.

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“I think we can all be in our own bubble sometimes and going with people who may not have the same viewpoints as me was a big reason to go,” Cirbo said. “I think often, people shut off whenever this topic comes up, so to be in an environment where it’s encouraged to discuss it was probably the chief reason I wanted to go.”

Students on the trip visited Palestinian territories like Ramallah and Bethlehem and Israeli territories like Kfar Azza and Jerusalem — which is recognized as sacred in Islam, Christianity and Judaism — according to Zeneli.

Students also had the opportunity to hear from a variety of Palestinian and Israeli professionals at numerous stops on their trip, including a journalist and a teacher, according to Greenberg.

The trip had significant moments for students outside of planned activities as well, according to Cirbo. The most powerful moment of the trip for Cirbo was sitting in a park with other members of the trip and singing songs together in Hebrew and Arabic — emphasizing togetherness regardless of differing views.

This experience of powerful meaning being derived from a seemingly casual interaction was part of why the Student Leadership Delegation’s trip to Israeli and Palestinian territories differs from other study abroad programs that UW offers, Cirbo said.

“There wasn’t a ton about this trip that was super casual,” Cirbo said. “There’s a lot of fun, but it was hard topics all day long going from place to place.”

The application process for this trip is fairly selective and includes an online application and in-person interview, Zeneli said.

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According to Greenberg, the biggest traits Hillel was looking for from potential candidates for this trip were open-mindedness and being leaders within their communities.

“Some people came on the trip knowing a lot about Israel and Palestine, and some people knew almost nothing,” Greenberg said. “The common thing between everyone was that they’re open minded, willing to learn and willing to be challenged.”

The majority of this trip was funded by Maccabee Task Force, an organization created to fight antisemitism on college campuses, according to Greenberg. But Hillel is still very involved with planning the trip, and Hillel’s leaders conduct interviews with students, pre-travel orientations and post-trip debriefs with faculty, Greenberg said.

Hillel is planning on organizing another trip to Israeli and Palestinian territories next year, though they are unsure if it will happen over winter, spring or summer break, Greenberg said. Information about this upcoming trip will be sent out as it is finalized.

In the meantime, Greenberg said, students are welcome to get involved with Hillel on Instagram or by coming to events. Shabbat is held every Friday and is open to everyone. Students can get more information from Hillel’s Instagram, @uwhillel.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated to include contextual information about the significance of Jerusalem and to include religious identities of sources.

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