While I am extremely excited and grateful to endure my upcoming study abroad experience I have concerns about my choice to study in Tel Aviv as opposed to Jerusalem or an Arab country for that matter. I am tentative about my choice, first and foremost, because I am apprehensive if I will be able to immerse myself in Arabic, especially to the extent that the requirement of the MENA Study Abroad aims to cultivate through direct immersion in the Middle Eastern region. While there are obviously Arabs in Israel, the presence of Arabic and Arab Culture seems to be particularly inconspicuous in Tel Aviv. While Tel Aviv is known to be a ‘liberal oasis’ in the Middle East it is somewhat paradoxically not well integrated, to my knowledge, between non-Jews and Jews. I am also somewhat concerned that my perspective and the information I hold true regarding the Israeli Occupation and the Israeli-Arab Conflict will not be challenged to the extremes that I wish to seek. However, that said I am interested to see how Western culture has manifested in a Middle Eastern context. Simply put, I hope this upcoming opportunity deconstructs the biases I am unaware that I hold as a result of my identity, Ashkenazi Jewish.
My concerns aside my main goals include becoming fairly proficient in the Hebrew language and as a student of music further exploring how music has the potential as a tool for peacebuilding. I am especially interested in improvisational music how it functions in both secular contexts as well as religious contexts, (Jewish, Islamic, Christian) because it is an art form that requires ultimate vulnerability, presence and honesty to most clearly communicate said emotions in a given moment. Pain is overwhelmingly present on both sides of this conflict, which spoken language cannot always convey. Therefore, I hope to learn how I can provide that outlet for communication among individuals involved in the conflict because I believe it will create an opportunity for personal diplomacy. A diplomacy that will create a pathway for collaboration and as a result break down stereotypes that are planted deep within us, watered by governments and institutions who wish to separate us in order to further their violent agendas. I am not naive in that I think music will save the world, but I believe it has the power to transcend individuals, and I believe that in order to truly create change we must understand each other’s unique plights as human beings. If there is empathy the conditions others are in become unbearable and people will feel collectively ignited to implement change.