There are many things that bring the NESCAC closer together. The eleven liberal arts colleges and universities interact in a variety of arenas, the most well known being in athletic conferences. Noam Waksman ’15, a dual citizen of the United States and Israel, and Hani Azzam ’15, a Palestinian-American, are students at Connecticut College and Tufts University, respectively. The two have pushed the boundaries of the NESCAC interactions to a global arena, with the hope of peace in the Israel-Palestine conflict.
The two NESCAC students have created a blog called “Until Next Year in Jerusalem,” found at: www.untilnextyearinjerusalem.com. The site discusses and promotes peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The blog is structured as letters written back and forth between Azzam and Waksman discussing the conflict, wherein each writer closes with the phrase “until next year in Jerusalem.” They discuss personal stories, such as their families’ dinner tables, each country’s history and provide honest opinions with their communications. Above all, their ultimate goal is a peaceful solution to the conflict.
The blog reads as letters between two close friends, who are informed of and invested in the conflict. Azzam explains that having these public discussions with Waksman will hopefully “dispel any idea of an inherent hatred between Palestinians and Jews.”
Both Azzam and Waksman have articulated that, by writing the letters to each other, they are able to encourage dialogue about the conflict in a more safe and distant environment, in the United States, where they are separated from the violence.
“Noam and I present an alternative,” Azzam explains, “a simple conversation between two individuals who grew up as friends in a society not already polarized by the conflict.”
Moreover, in Azzam’s first letter to Waksman in the fall of 2010, which eventually inspired “Until Next Year in Jerusalem,” he elaborates, “on one side of the Earth our peoples can fight a generations-long war without an end in sight, and in America, you and I can be close friends.” Their friendly letters show just this; along with encouraging readers to discuss the conflict, Azzam and Waksman have recognized the strong similarities between the Arab and Israeli cultures, such as language, music and foods, and have used these similarities to fuel their fight for peace. Their letters have offered perspective from the “other” side; by sharing each other’s views, Azzam describes, “The future is not as bleak as it seems.”
Nevertheless, solution cannot be found without participation, education and communication among young people. “The role of youth is everything,” Waksman said. “Realistic solutions rely in changing perspectives and education for the current youth.”
Both Waksman and Azzam have stressed the importance of communication among the younger generation, who Azzam describes being in a “malleable state, [only able] to experience the other side through negative engagements.” They realize that communication is not always easy, and often leads to anger or frustration, but still is the necessary first step. In the blog’s most recent post, on November 1, Waksman shows the importance of their communication: “how can we—or anyone for that matter—accomplish anything if we don’t talk to each other.” Their open dialogue encourages honest communication, which gives us open eyes to both perspectives.
In addition to their self-reflection, the two have also posted on their blog about weekly news stories in the Middle East with their own commentary. They have recently covered the Palestinian, Israeli and American elections, all of which are connected and pertinent to the Middle Eastern conflict, always citing various news sources such as The New York Times, BBC News, The Washington Post, as well as the Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz. The two can be contacted on their blog, Facebook page and on Twitter, at @UNYinJerusalem.
Through their strong efforts with the website, Azzam and Waksman have provided a new arena for NESCAC to interact on a more global level, bringing the efforts of two students, two colleges and two cultures together in order to promote an open and honest communication for a lasting and peaceful solution.