EUREKA — David Arnold’s first trip to Israel gave him a greater appreciation of the complexity of issues facing that region — and a list of contacts to help increase international educational opportunities for students and faculty.
Arnold, president of Eureka College, spent a week in Israel in late May with a delegation of presidents from seven other colleges and a law school. The tour was led by the America-Israel Friendship League in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel.
“I think there’s a lot of potential there” for faculty exchanges and student travel or internship opportunities, similar to the relationship the college has built with Lingnan University in Hong Kong, Arnold said.
“Our Reagan Fellows always go on a first-year international trip,” Arnold said. In previous years, those trips have been to such places as Italy and Great Britain, but Arnold thinks Israel could be an option.
“The great thing is now I have a network to make more contacts,” he said.
An increasing number of Eureka College students are traveling and studying abroad and the college encourages that.
“Now more than ever we’re living in a global village,” Arnold said. “We want our students to stretch their comfort zone in terms of studying abroad. … There are tremendous lessons to be learned when you travel internationally that you don’t know before you go.”
On a personal level, Arnold found the trip to be very moving.
“You’re walking the Bible. You’re walking where Christ walked,” Arnold said. “The impact of being physically on location for all these biblical places and how emotional that was — that was deeply surprising.”
The trip included visits to five universities and colleges as well as dinners with a Palestinian family and a rabbi’s family.
The group also toured Yad Vashem, Israel’s museum and memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. He brought back special pins for his staff meant to symbolize the tragedy of the Holocaust, the hope that emerged in its wake and a commitment to remember the past to “ensure a better future for our children.”
The visit also brought home the close proximity of several sites, whether seeing where the Bible says Moses received the Ten Commandments or looking at current political hot spots.
While visiting the Golan Heights, he said, their group could hear tank or artillery fire and were told by a soldier, “Oh, that’s Aleppo, Syria.”
Despite the gunfire, presence of armed soldiers and barbed wire, Arnold said, “We felt very secure.”