Eyes on the Middle East

Through The Eisenhower Institute, students get a first-hand look at the contrast and complexity of the contemporary Middle East

Arriving in Israel after a 12-hour flight from the United States, Gettysburg students pile into the bus that will take them to their hotel. A man in T-shirt and jeans greets them. His name is Avi Melamed. Melamed, he will later explain, means “teacher” in Hebrew. The name fits both his personality and profession. He is the group’s teacher and the leader of the Inside the Middle East (ITME) program of The Eisenhower Institute at Gettysburg College.

“Welcome,” Melamed says, gesturing to the first glimpse of Israel’s landscape through the bus windows.

“This is my sky. This is my home.”

Pride lights up his face, and it’s clear the students can feel it, despite their fatigue from the flight. Melamed is an expert on the Middle East—a former Israeli intelligence official and senior official on Arab affairs. Israel is where Melamed grew up and where he lives. It’s home. So, to see Melamed’s sky means to understand that the complexity of the Middle East is not just about learning history or even about understanding conflict. It is also about understanding the people who live there now and the humanity that ties all people together.

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