Last year, the president of Israel, Reuven Rivlin made a now famous speech describing the four tribes living in Israel – Arabs, Ultra-Orthodox, national religious, and national secular – and how the country is being separated by their differences, but needs to form partnerships between each group instead for the future of Israel. I think it sets the stage for where Israel is today.
Our last visit was with Mr. Shai Babad, the Director General of the Ministry of Finance. To be perfectly honest, when I looked at the list of company visits, I wasn’t particularly excited about this one, but after hearing from Mr. Babad, it was an amazing talk. He is one of those people you instantly know is fast-talking, charismatic, and brilliant. One very interesting thing he discussed is the extreme rise in housing costs. The government’s first reaction was to parcel the land out by 100s and bid them with ever increasing prices to generate more revenue. They then realized it was pointless to raise more money to fight the price of housing costs, when they could just take out the middle step and pass on the savings to developers and eventually home buyers. They then reversed tactic and sold the land for cheap to the developer that could build and sell the apartment for the lowest price. I could go into detail more we discussed, but in conclusion of this week, I think what the real takeaway is the balance between the people of Israel.
Personally, this was a trip where I had a lot of questions coming in and thought I would have them answered by the end of the week. But in reality, I’m walking out with a greater understanding, but also more questions that continually wash over me and I know I need some time to digest. I apologize to my group if I came off a bit “radical” by asking polarizing questions on the trip because Israel is that kind of a country. It isn’t a country you can understand the history of and its people by listening passively. Its history is tied so much into why it is the way it is today that you need to ask the hard questions and struggle within yourself to find an understanding and reconcile what you hear with your own opinions and thoughts. Ask a different person about the same events and you’ll get wildly different points of view and you’ll need to take everything with more than a grain of salt. I won’t even pretend that I grasp a significant knowledge of the conflict going on in the Middle East with all its complexities and I definitely have my own opinions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but I can definitely say that everything is in a very grey area, there are never right answers, and any solution will never be easy.
This week has been nothing short of amazing thanks to our tour guide Avi, our student organizers, and Professor Jick. Thank you everybody. It has been an honor blogging to you live from Israel.
– Teresa Lee ’16, Chazen Israel Group B