Dear MEPIN Friends,
For many years I have organized in-depth seminars in the Middle East. Some of my readers have asked to be notified when my next trip is taking place.
It will be from Sunday morning, May 15th, through Saturday, May 21st.
Take a look at the itinerary, and if you are interested, let me know; I will put you in touch with Einav, [email protected], who is arranging the logistics for this year’s seminar.
The cost is approximately $5000-$5800 pp depending on single or double occupancy, not including airfare.
We keep the number of participants small, so there are only a few spaces still available.
Let me know if you have any questions.
Insight Seminar 2022(March 1, 2022 Version)
Led by Dr. Eric Mandel and Yitzhak Sokoloff, Senior Tour Educator
May 15- 21, 2022
For the last 15 years, Keshet/MEPIN has run an annual seminar that opens the world of internal Israeli discourse on core security and societal issues to our select group. Over the course of a very busy week, we conduct field trips and meet with many of Israel’s most influential thinkers and strategists, as well as a cross-section of the social and political activists who are shaping Israeli society in the 21st century.
The format of our sessions is informal to encourage free-flowing conversations that foster an understanding of Israel and the Middle East that goes far beyond what one can learn from the media. The Insight Seminar was initiated by Dr. Eric Mandel, founder of MEPIN (Middle East Public Information Network) and Senior Security Editor of the Jerusalem Report/Post, and Yitzhak Sokoloff, the founder of Keshet Educational Journeys. Our group includes Jewish community activists, journalists, artists, academics, and a wide range of professionals who share a passion for Israel and vast curiosity about its place in the Middle East. Most return year after year, and some have been with us on all fifteen trips.
The 2022 Seminar will look closely at flashpoints with strategic significance for Israel’s future.
- Hamas in the south, and Hezbollah as the linchpin of Iran’s northern border
- The challenge created by outbreaks of violence in Israel’s “mixed cities.”
- Iran (of course) and the nuclear agreement
- The Russian dimension in Syria
- The landmine of competing claims to real estate in Jerusalem and Area C
- The increasingly fractured relationship of Israel and American Jewry
- Israel’s crazy democracy that has given us the strangest government in its history.
Sunday, May 15
FROM GAZA TO TEHERAN AND BACK
- We will meet up for our traditional opening breakfast overlooking the Mediterranean at the beautiful Carlton Hotel in Tel Aviv, followed by an orientation to the program and an introduction to the world of drone warfare by Seth Franzman, military expert of the Jerusalem Post.
- Depart for the Palmachim Air Force base to visit drone and Iron Dome Squadrons and meet with Israeli officers. They will share their methods for protecting the lives of both Israeli and Palestinian civilians – a task made extremely difficult because of the “swarm” tactics adopted by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.
- Lunch with Tomer Glam, the mayor of Ashkelon, a city of 140,000 residents targeted by 960 rockets fired from Gaza last May.
- Visit Rafael for a briefing on the Iron Beam, Israel’s recently revealed laser weapon system with the potential to revolutionize the battlefield.
- Return to Tel Aviv for a meeting with Dr. Sima Shine, one of Israel’s leading Iran experts and former Director of the Research Department of the Mossad.
- Dinner with the former head of the Mossad.
- Overnight: Carlton Hotel, Tel Aviv
Monday, May 16
THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM- THE MIXED CITIES
- Breakfast with Michael Oren, former Ambassador to the United States and Vice Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office.
- Meeting with Professor Dima Adamsky, an international expert on deterrence, Russia, and Ukraine.
- Departure for Lod, the scene of the most significant outbreaks of violence in May 2021.
- Meet with Rabbi Harel Be’eri and students of the pre-Army preparatory program in the Ramat Eshkol neighborhood Lod, the focus of the riots this past spring.
- Meet with municipal officials and visit a synagogue that was torched during the riots.
- Meet with Headmaster Shirin Chafi-Natur, whom we met on the 2018 trip, for her perspective on the future of Jewish-Arab relations in Israel.
- Alternate Choice: Travel north to Nof Hagalil (Upper Nazareth), a mixed city (70% Jewish/30% Arab) where communal relations and municipal initiatives successfully maintained peace during the upheavals of 2021.
- Dinner with activists of Sikui, an organization that promotes Jewish-Arab dialogue and cooperation country-wide.
- Overnight: Nea Hotel, Nehariya
Tuesday, May 17
ISRAEL AND LEBANON IN THE SHADOW OF THE HIZBULLAH
- Visit a tunnel 20 stories underground, built underneath the Lebanese border into Israeli territory by Hizbullah. Continue to the Alma Center for a morning seminar and workshop with Lt. Col. Sarit Zahavi and other security experts, focusing on strategic challenges posed by Hizbullah and the likely script for Israel’s next war in the north.
- Enjoy lunch with family in Bir El Maksur, where service in the IDF has become a significant source of local pride but is subject to the outbreaks of violent crime currently afflicting the Arab sector all over Israel.
- Stretch your legs and explore the Talmudic city of Tzippori, where Yehuda Hanasi edited the Mishna and the site of some of the most interesting mosaics in Israel.
- Continue to Jerusalem for a free evening.
- Overnight: Orient Hotel, Jerusalem
Wednesday, May 18
JERUSALEM IN THE EYE OF THE STORM
Jerusalem seems to be a city that inspires more passions per square foot than anywhere else on earth. For Jews, its unification in 1967 is an ongoing source of pride. For Arabs and particularly for Palestinians, it remains one of the two most explosive issues on their agenda (the other being refugees) and one which regularly rears its head as a source of violence that threatens the peace of the city and the region. Today we will attempt to decipher three aspects of the Jerusalem conundrum: the status of Jerusalem’s 180,000 Arab residents, who live under Israeli sovereignty but who do not automatically receive citizenship, the fate of neighborhoods whose original Jewish residents were expelled and replaced by Palestinian refugees, and the ongoing question of Jerusalem’s status in any future peace agreement.
- We begin our day with Khaled Abu Toemah, a veteran journalist, independent thinker, and leading expert on Palestinian politics. Khaled will bring us up to date on the leadership issues within the Palestinian Authority, the strategy of Hamas, and his perspectives on relations between Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem.
- We continue to the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Studies to meet with Dr. Amnon Ramon and to understand the inner workings of Israeli policies in Jerusalem since 1967, followed by a field trip to the disputed neighborhood of Sheik Jarrah.
- Lunch on the deck of a private home in the City of David and visit one of the underground passageways leading to the Temple Mount.
- Political field trip focusing on E-1 in Area C, a large swath of land between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim, and presently a significant point of contention between Israel, the United States, and the EEC. We will meet Palestinian activists at the “settlement” of Khan Al Achmar. Then we will meet with Meir Deutch, the director of Regavim. This grassroots Israeli organization monitors the activities of the Palestinian Authority, trying to expand its presence into Area C.
- Evening: Dinner with Dr. Dore Gold, former Ambassador to the United Nations and President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Policy.
- Overnight: Orient Hotel, Jerusalem.
Thursday, May 19
BRIDGING THE UNBRIDGEABLE OR “IS THERE LIFE AFTER BIBI”
Since 2019, Israel has undergone four elections, three of which led to almost total paralysis and the fourth resulting in a government that has broken every precedent in Israeli political history.
We will devote our day to understanding the remarkable changes that have taken place in Israeli politics over the last year, including an Arab Islamist party as part of the ruling coalition. The coalition has radically opposing views on policy towards the Palestinians, and most everything else, and the ongoing controversies that impact relations between American Jews and Israel. Truly interesting times.
Coordinating meetings with political figures will require flexibility in our planning and scheduling, and one might ask- why not just attend a conference where they all appear in any case. The answer is the unique ambiance of our seminar, which provides an opportunity for meaningful, informal, off-the-record conversations that go far beyond the “sound-bite” format of most public forums.
It is too early to pin down the schedules of Israeli cabinet members and political leaders, but we will issue invitations to several who played critical roles in the establishment of the new government and whose portfolios include topics of crucial importance to Israeli society and to the relations of Israel and American Jews. We will issue invitations to the following and work as many as possible into our schedule:
- Gidon Sa’ar, the Minister of Justice (New Hope), whose defection from the Likud made the present government possible.
- Yuli Edelstein (or Nir Barakat)- leading candidate to lead the Likud in the post-Netanyahu period.
- Omer Bar-Lev, (Labor), the Minister of Internal Security responsible for addressing the massive problem of violence in Arab communities and for the monthly chaos at the Western Wall caused by the inability of the government to move ahead on the Kotel initiative.
- Dr. Mansour Abbas, the United Arab List leader and the deputy director of the Southern Branch of the Islamic Movement.
- Ayelet Shaked, Minister of Interior and one of Israel’s youngest and most dynamic political leaders.
- Matan Kahane (Yemina), Minister of Religion and a former pilot currently engaged in a momentous battle to reform and reign in the power of the Chief Rabbinate.
- Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) Foreign Minister and the next in line to become the Prime Minister of Israel if the present government continues.
- Overnight: Orient Hotel, Jerusalem.
Friday, May 20
THE LEGACY OF 1948
- Tour of the Talbia neighborhood in Jerusalem with Dr. Anwar Ben Badis, co-founder of “Jerusalem We are Here,” which preserves the history of Arab society in Jerusalem before 1948.
- Meet with Adi Schwartz, who, with Einat Wilf, wrote “The War of Return: How Western Indulgence of the Palestinian Dream Has Obstructed the Path to Peace.”
- Lunch: Perspectives on a life of Jewish struggle and service with Natan Scharansky*.
- Free time to explore Jerusalem and prepare for Shabbat.
- Evening: opportunity to feel the pulse of Jerusalem’s exciting religious renaissance at one of the surprisingly youthful and pluralistic communities sprouting up all over the city—or join us at the Kotel.
- Festive Erev Shabbat Dinner at the Orient
- Overnight: Orient Hotel, Jerusalem.
Shabbat May 21
SHABBAT IN JERUSALEM
- Free morning
- Shabbat lunch
- Afternoon Summary
- Evening dinner and departure
*Speakers and site visits are subject to confirmation.