Harvard student travels world to find common ground for Jews, Arabs

From time to time it requires a straightforward appear all over your environment to know that there is a little something you are lacking. That was the scenario for Isaac Ohrenstein, 20, a to start with-12 months scholar at Harvard University.

Though studying at a Jerusalem yeshiva all through a gap 12 months amongst higher school and faculty, a loved ones pal gave Ohrenstein a tour around the Aged Town, where he lived. Ohrenstein realized that he understood minimal about his neighbors, even although they all resided in just a 10-15 minute wander from him. As a consequence, he resolved he needed to examine the regions from which they hailed and discover about unique cultures, with the objective of seeking frequent floor concerning Jews and Arabs.

In addition to the Missouri native’s US passport, which is stamped with an Israeli visa, Ohrenstein has a British passport (his father has British citizenship), generating it a great deal much easier for him to vacation to other international locations. His odyssey took six months, with visits to 33 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. When no location is the exact when traveling, there ended up common themes, this sort of as an affinity with the Jewish people today and society. Along the way, Ohrenstein made guaranteed to take a look at the nearby Jewish communities, both at a synagogue or at regional Chabad facilities, as nicely as discuss with Israeli envoys and ambassadors.

His travels included a memorable visit to the final Jewish shtetl in the entire world, found in Qirmizi Qasaba, Azerbaijan, which is shut to Iran. Whilst there, he met with the locals and realized about their customs and cultures, this kind of as their language, identified as Judeo-Tat, and their cuisine inspired by the Caucasus.

Traveling to such places and conference with Israelis and Jews gave him an option to gain distinct perspectives on contentious subjects. He recalled one poignant expertise even though in Alexandria, Egypt, as he toured with a female originally from Sudan, who is a professor of Palestinian scientific studies at a Canadian university. They put in the working day conversing, touring, and viewing war monuments from the 1973 War, as the Yom Kippur War is identified in Egypt. He learned about the conflict from her viewpoint, and her family’s history and interactions with Jews. For Ohrenstein, the experience assisted him see the humanity element of conflict.

AT THE Pyramids in Giza. (credit rating: Isaac Ohrenstein)

Encountering antisemitism in states hostile to Israel

Although Touring to states hostile to Israel, he ran the danger of encountering antisemitism. Malaysia, in specific, is a hotbed of Jew-hatred, Ohrenstein said. The “striking moments of antisemitism” performed alone out in a place that in fact has no Jews and no infrastructure for Jewish life. 

In a conversation with the main rabbi of Singapore, he learned that it is practically impossible to do business in Malaysia if you are Jewish. Malaysia is a person of numerous nations around the world that forbid entry to any person keeping an Israeli passport. On this excursion, he produced sure to stay clear of conversations about his Jewishness.

Ohrenstein also observed the major synagogue in Turkey that was attacked by ISIS 2 times. “You could still see the bullet holes,” he recounted. He also mentioned that there are helmets beneath the seats – a scary reality to imagine about.

He was most shocked by the “amazing amount of money of receptivity to Israel and Israeli organization culture” in the Gulf states. “It was unbelievable to wander all over downtown Dubai and see kippot. I didn’t even see that in Brussels,” he recalled. “It is safer to be Jewish in some Arab counties than in Europe.”

“It was unbelievable to walk close to downtown Dubai and see kippot. I didn’t even see that in Brussels. It is safer to be Jewish in some Arab counties than in Europe.”

Isaac Ohrenstein

Concerning Jewish life, he explained there is an remarkable vibrancy that he did not fully grasp right up until arriving, the two in phrases of variety of tactics and communities. He emphasized that the locals appreciated “that somebody Jewish highly regarded their lifestyle,” indicating also that “people hear you are Jewish and connect with you their brother.” Overall, he sensed the heat and group through the Arab planet.

When it came to the problem of Palestinians, Ohrenstein noticed that thoughts depended on the bodily proximity to the conflict. For illustration, he claimed persons in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan did not  care significantly, while in Qatar there is a “real sense of affinity to the Palestinians.” In Jordan, he felt there was a delicate balance in between the want for Israeli vacationer income and a distress with serving Israelis.

In standard, nevertheless, his Jewishness was hardly ever an concern, as he proudly donned a kippah in quite a few nations around the world.

Ohrenstein thinks that the “Western dream remains alive in Arab states,” which see Israel as intangibly associated with that aspiration. “Just appear at the popularity of McDonald’s, KFC and the Really hard Rock Cafe in these nations around the world,” he noted. “The [local population] would like to journey and have the option to retire. Accomplishing business with Israel usually means finding to that put.”

Ohrenstein, who is majoring in social research at Harvard, with a target on politics and economics, hopes to translate his experiences into creating relations in between Jews and Arabs. In individual, he sees hope coming from the Abraham Accords. At some issue he ideas to make aliyah in the meantime, he will be interning in Israel this summer months with a undertaking capital business.

“I actually want people today to see that executing [a trip like this] is achievable. I felt really boxed in at yeshiva and in an American bubble in Israel,” he mentioned. “I recall sitting in the beit midrash (analyze hall) and scheduling flights. This journey truly broadened my horizons and allow me construct relationships. It is a thing that provides hope.”

He joked that folks to begin with imagined he was insane to embark on this journey. They were being worried about his protection and felt he may be throwing away his time. But now, he claimed, they see the electrical power in connecting with other folks and the value of conversation to dispel hate and bring people today throughout the location, and the earth, together. ❖&#13

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