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Out in the Field: Students Report from Internships Abroad

Students on the SIS Abroad program in Israel pose in Jerusalem. Photo by Rebecca Bellinger.

Students on the SIS Abroad program in Israel pose in Jerusalem. Photo by Rebecca Bellinger.

Some AU students may be lounging on beaches, waiting tables, or spending their summer relaxing, but many SIS students are out in the field participating in internships.

Any student participating in substantive paid or unpaid internships is eligible for academic credit, provided the positions are full-time and 85% of the students’ time is spent on substantive duties. Faculty members generally oversee the academic component of the internship, which may be a written paper or report to be produced at the close of the employment period. The academic component is factored into the student’s final grade, as is the internship report compiled by the student’s supervisor.

The nine students currently in the Middle East as part of the “Israel: A Mosaic of Cultures, Identities, and Landscapes” program have been sending updates, excerpted below, to their program coordinators throughout their stay in Israel.


"In the first week that I have been at the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism, I have learned much about the phenomenon of anti-Semitism both historically and in current day conflicts. I have access to thousands of publications on a wide range of subjects that my supervisor has encouraged me to read during any free time that I have. I have also learned much about what regions of the world contain the most recent currents of anti-Semitism and how their governments are responding to anti-Semitic acts. A great bonus to following the media on a daily basis is that I am always well caught up on what is happening throughout the world and am able to see how different countries report on events. 

"By developing a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of anti-Semitism, both historically and in the modern day, I am better [equipped] to understand Israeli and Jewish identity and how the sense of victimization affects their views towards their neighbors. I hope in my remaining time here, I will gain a greater understanding of anti-Semitism and how it plays into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

-- Kaitlin McDonald


"This week, Rania, my supervisor at the Mossawa Center in Haifa, picked us up from the bus station and gave us a wonderful welcome to the city. The staff at Mossawa is amazing, friendly people. The center's mission is to advocate the rights of the Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel by engaging with civil society, NGOs, media, and government officials both foreign and domestic. The center is located in the Arab residential neighborhood of Haifa, a city typically described as a city of 'coexistence.' I have learned, however, that this is not the case. 

"On Monday, we were introduced to the entire staff at a weekly meeting where everyone discussed current projects he or she was involved in. They were kind enough to explain each project to us and asked us which projects were of personal interest. Since Monday, I have been working with my co-worker Mbarak on developing a detailed schedule for the center's first summer camp, which will take place from July 20-July 30. The schedule was given to me in Arabic and translated by Mbarak into broken English. I then developed the English schedule and, as 6 camp participants are coming from Spain, my Spanish translation skills helped out. 

"I have learned a great deal about Arab Palestinian rights in Israel and current legislation that jeopardizes human rights. Although I take everything with a grain of salt, I am fascinated by all perspectives. Everyone is very passionate about their political and ethnic identification and it makes for great conversation. I feel very included in all aspects of the center and hope that next week will be just as productive."

-- Nick Acosta


"My internship is at the Oral History Division of the Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry. It located on the Hebrew University campus. I will be creating abstracts of interviews for the new Kestenberg Archive of Interviews with Child Survivors of the Holocaust. Also, I will be finding and writing research grants. This is the main portion of my work. Additionally, I will be organizing archival materials and helping scholars find relevant materials.

"My hope is that this internship will give me some practical skills. I have learned a great deal about writing abstracts for these interviews. In the past I have done grant work; however, these will
be much larger grants than I have worked on before. The interviews are really fascinating, so I am hoping to learn as much as I can about what the people during the Holocaust experienced."

-- Lauren Marx


"Shalom from Tel Aviv! This week has been both a calm and yet very exciting week for me, as it was my first week on my own in Israel and first week of the Internship period! I have safely and successfully moved into the dorms of Tel Aviv University, and the only thing I can say is “WOW.” The dorms are beautiful, the campus even more so, and the rooms come with much more items of everyday use – kitchenware, microwave and a TV with cable! I will finally be able to stay up to date with the world around me. 

"Today, I woke up early and made my first real venture onto campus. My internship is through both the Center for Iranian Studies and the Moshe Dayan Center; several professors, including both Meir Litvak and David Menashri are affiliated with them. Both centers are located on the 4th floor of the Gilman Humanities Building on TAU’s campus. Upon arriving, I met some of the interns from the Moshe Dayan Center, I went on a tour of the campus and became acquainted with the Library and the school’s database.

"When I spoke with Professor Litvak in March, I spoke briefly of a research project I wish to undertake. By agreeing to give me an affiliation with CIS, he also agreed to assist me in my research. I intend to use the resources of both centers to understand the change in Israel’s National Security Strategy following the events of the end of the Cold War and the 1991 Gulf War, assessing both the reasons for the change of policy as well as the implications on the Middle East and, more specifically, on Iran."

-- Matthew Roscher


My internship is with Mossawa, which is located in the Wadi Lisnas neighborhood in Haifa. I am working on issues concerning the Arab citizen minority in Israel. Currently, I am conducting research on the Arab Bedouin population in the Negev desert. The research concerns the Prawer Report, which was written to implement the policy recommendations laid out in the Goldberg Report. The Goldberg report was the output of the Goldberg Commission charged with making recommendations concerning the Arab Bedouins in the Negev desert.

In addition, I attended a J Street U. meeting with a colleague. During informal sessions, I helped answer questions about the Negev Bedouin issues. I will use this internship opportunity to practice Arabic and do some translating.

I hope to use this internship to learn about many different issues concerning the Arab minority and their rights. Now, I am working with the issues on the ground, but there will be more opportunities to explore higher politics concerning legal agreements between Israel and the EU.

-- Nate Wilson


"I am doing my internship at the Yad Izhak Ben Zvi Institute. The Yad Izhak Ben Zvi Institute, or Yad Ben Zvi for short, is located in beautiful Rechavia, Jerusalem. The Rechavia neighborhood was founded in a communal, moshav-like spirit and its architecture and culture reflect those ideals. Rechavia is known for its beautiful gardens and narrow, inviting streets that are conducive for getting to know your neighbors. Yad Ben Zvi is in fact located in the apartment complex that used to belong to Israel's second president, Izhak Ben Zvi. Today the institute has expanded from its original location in that apartment to include parts of three adjacent buildings. They are building a new facility that will house the bulk of the Institute’s offices and archives.

"Yad Ben Zvi's mission to research and do advocacy on behalf of the Jewish communities of the East; that is to say any Jewish community that is not Ashkenazi or of European descent. The focus of my internship with Yad Ben Zvi is looking at how World War II affected the Jewish communities living in North Africa. While the policies of Nazi Europe were not wholly applied to North African Jewry, those communities experienced many hardships during the war and that experience has not been documented as thoroughly as their European counterparts. The aim of the project is to broaden the narrative of the Holocaust in order to foster a more communal response to the Holocaust amongst Jews, while filling large gaps in the academic literature.

"The medium I am primarily using is archival research. I have been reading the journals of soldiers who fought in the North African campaign and recording their multifarious experiences of the war. I have also attended one special lecture at Yad Vashem and have been invited to attend another talk on a related matter at the Hebrew University in the near future.

-- Thomas Tashey


"I am working at the Abraham Fund Initiatives, an organization that seeks to promote coexistence between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel. It does through six different major initiatives: Teaching Arabic language in Jewish schools, improving the treatment of Arab citizens by Israeli police, strengthening the status of Arab women, increasing policy-makers' familiarity with Arab society, developing Central Galilee as a model of shared living, and increasing education that promotes the concept of a shared society. 

"I am working in the Public Advocacy and Government Relations department on a project that researches the early retirement of [working-class laborers] in Arab society. I am writing a report on how other countries throughout the world deal with the issue of men who do manual labor being forced to retire early due to declining health so that Israel can use this as a model for dealing with this problem.

"The Abraham Fund is located in Neve Illan, a town in the Jerusalem Hills about 15 km from Jerusalem. I hope to gain a better understanding of the problems that exist between Jews and Arabs in Israel and how this organization believes these problems can be solved."

-- Ottavia Criss