A group of campus leaders from 16 universities across America traveled to Israel on an Anti-Defamation League (ADL) mission, giving college students an up-close look at the complex issues within Israel and the Middle East.

The 18 pupils in the annual ADL Campus Leaders Mission to Israel spent eight days in Israel from December 30 to January 6 where they visited Christian and Jewish holy sites, met with decision-makers, government and military officials, diplomats, journalists, religious figures, business people, Israeli and Palestinian students, and ordinary Israelis, both Arab and Jewish.

“Our mission enables some of America’s best and brightest campus leaders to better understand modern Israeli politics and society, anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with an appreciation for the complexity and nuances of the region.” said Michael A. Salberg, ADL Director of International Affairs. “Many of the students have a great deal of legitimate questions regarding the intricacies on the ground, and this is an incredible opportunity for them to delve right into it and experience the essence first hand.”

The participants are chosen for their experiences through a rigorous selection process. Students must demonstrate a record of leadership at their respective colleges through political involvement, student activism, or as an editor of a student-run newspaper.

“This mission took place at a particularly complex time in the wake of Israel’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip this past summer,” said David S. Waren, ADL Director of Education. “Our goal is to equip the students with a better understanding of the complicated issues facing Israelis and Palestinians today, and return to their schools as better informed participants in the dialogue on campus.

The group met with Jewish and Arab Israelis from an array of communities, cultures, and backgrounds, and discussed the cultural landscape of Israel and its complex history, and learned about how these factors are entwined with critical political decisions from a variety of perspectives and opinions. The students also visited with their peers at several Israeli campuses. Prominent individuals featured on the itinerary included Israeli journalist Yossi Klein Halevi and i24 News CEO Frank Malol.

The group also traveled across Israel with stops in Jerusalem, Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee, the Syrian border, Golan Heights, and Tel Aviv, and toured Yad Vashem, the Old City of Jerusalem, Old Jaffa, and the Christian holy sites Capernaum and Mount of Beatitudes.

The student participants represented Arizona State University; Cornell University; Duke University; Florida International University; George Mason University; Loyola University, Chicago; Marquette University; Michigan State University; Rutgers University; San Diego State University; University of Colorado; University of Maryland, College Park; University of Pennsylvania; University of Texas, Austin; Washington University in St. Louis, and Wesleyan University.