Alumni Testimonials

Yitz Landes:

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Senior Federation Executive:

After one day of your trip, I felt like I had never been to Israel before, and I am consid­ered a profes­sional Israel expert who trav­els to Israel several times a year.”

Adam Wergeles, IKAR Congregation:

I’ve lived in Israel and visited many times. I consider myself an ardent Zionist. The Encounter expe­ri­ence gave me the incred­i­ble oppor­tu­nity to obtain Palestinian perspec­tives on the possi­bil­ity of peace. It was sober­ing and fasci­nat­ing. I hope and believe that by bring­ing Jews and Palestinians together, Encounter is help­ing to try to end the mutual dehu­man­iza­tion caused by the ongo­ing conflict, which is a neces­sary precon­di­tion to peace.”

Rabbi Marion Lev-Cohen, Central Synagogue:

The power of an Encounter trip is that it gives us the rare oppor­tu­nity to person­ally meet, and listen to the multi­ple narra­tives of Palestinians about the conflict. As a rabbi, I consider it imper­a­tive that we never forget that we are all Jews and Palestinians created b’tzelem Elohim, in God’s image.”

Nathaniel Moses, Yeshivat Maale Gilboa:

A person’s narra­tive cannot be fully under­stood with­out a face to face encounter. Our trip to Bethlehem helped me begin to under­stand these narra­tives in a context that was support­ive and profoundly Jewish.”

Abbie, Modern Orthodox:

My Encounter trip taught me that commit­ted Jews, even in the center, or on the right of the polit­i­cal spec­trum can view the conflict through a Jewish moral and ethi­cal lens. I can care about the secu­rity of Jews in Israel and also care deeply, as a reli­gious Jew, about the Jewish response to the millions of humans on the ‘other side’.”

Marion, Reform Rabbi and Lay Leader:

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Oriel Eisner:

The Encounter program provides an essen­tial expe­ri­ence for anyone who is inter­ested or invested in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. On an Encounter trip you are given the oppor­tu­nity to engage with narra­tives and perspec­tives that are too often over­looked, feared, or disre­garded. These perspec­tives may be chal­leng­ing or diffi­cult to hear, but Encounter does an excel­lent job of provid­ing the space and time for you to process and work through these expe­ri­ences with your peers on the trip, with­out push­ing you toward any given conclu­sions.”

Tzivia Schwartz Getzug, Jewish Funders Network:

To actu­ally stand there and see and hear from people for whom this is their life and their history, gives a unique perspec­tive that cannot be achieved any other way. Also the concept of peace being based in the abil­ity to under­stand the other’s dear and to be able to ‘hold two truths together at the same time’ was profound.”

Hannah Kober, Brandeis University:

I really appre­ci­ated the way Encounter balances, the needs of the North American Jewish Community, our rela­tion­ships with Israel, and the need to better under­stand Palestinian narra­tives and inter­ests. The speak­ers respect­fully shared what mattered to them, and how we, as stake­hold­ers in this issue, can be more respon­si­ble and knowl­edge­able in our commu­nal actions and discourse. The Palestinian speak­ers and hosts were not sugar-coat­ing their feel­ings or convic­tions, but also did not call us to one partic­u­lar action, which left room for me to process and formu­late my own under­stand­ing of what my role is in miti­gat­ing and or ending the conflict.”

Isaac Kurtz, Yeshivat Har Etzion:

“This trip opened up an entirely novel brand of dialogue that I had never thought possi­ble before. When I am discussing the conflict, I will no longer have far fetched ideas of what Palestine is or who the Palestinian people are. Rather I will have the abil­ity to relate the houses I saw, the hands I shook and the narra­tives I heard. Moreover, as I gap-year student I cannot recom­mend this program highly enough. After spend­ing a year immers­ing myself in Israel, it is only right to spend at least two day tour­ing and seeing what is beyond the wall.”

Ali Abu Awaad, Palestinian Peace Activist & speaker on Encounter trips:

Michael, Orthodox Rabbi and Educator:

The trip shouldn’t be viewed as a left wing trip. When people hear that we went to Bethlehem and met with Palestinians, they imme­di­ately asso­ciate the trip with left­ist anti-occu­pa­tion orga­ni­za­tions.  The trip is not a left wing trip.  The trip is not a right wing trip. The trip is for every­one at every place on the polit­i­cal spec­trum. Call it Responsible Zionism. We need to be aware of the issues. Questioning these issues is not an attack on Israel. To the contrary, it is protect­ing the Jewish values of empa­thy and sensi­tiv­ity which we yearn for Israel to repre­sent. If we really want Israel to thrive, we must serve as ombuds­men for the poli­cies in the region.”

Matt, CORO Fellow:

Our time together forever changed my perspec­tive. As a result, I am wise, burn­ing with courage to deeply explore the human condi­tion.”

Larry, Wexner Heritage Fellow, Los Angeles:

Thank you for provid­ing one of the most provoca­tive expe­ri­ences I have had in recent memory. My brain still hurts from all the ques­tions, contra­dic­tions, cogni­tive disso­nance, and my heart is still heavy from the feel­ings of despair and hope.”

Iris, Lay leader:

We take the time to shlep all around the world to hear stories from people and educate ourselves in the name of tikkun olam, in our hopes that we can continue to strengthen the Jewish people. I can think of noth­ing more impor­tant to the future strength of Israel than resolv­ing this conflict — shlep­ping “next door” to gain a better under­stand­ing of the issues and the chal­lenges involved on the ground and on the street can only serve to enhance our educa­tion and our passion for Israel and the Jewish people.”

Steven M. Cohen, Professor, Hebrew Union College:

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Eric, Attorney:

The day we spent with you in Bethlehem…and the intel­lec­tual and emotional chal­lenges it produced were both trans­form­ing and linger­ing, even 5 years later.

You have been an inspi­ra­tional guide in the quest for trac­tion amidst intractable conflict, and a testa­ment to the power of reason in circum­stances that may appear inher­ently unrea­son­able.”

Hannah Spiro, Student, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College:

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Ben, Conservative Rabbi:

The Encounter tour was one of the high­lights of my year in Israel. I believe that as future rabbis we must be able to present the Arab-Israeli conflict in a Jewish, reli­gious context. I am not a politi­cian or a jour­nal­ist. I don’t see my job as being an analyst of the news from the Middle East. But I do believe that I need to create an authen­tic Jewish approach to Israel that takes into account as many perspec­tives as possi­ble. My expe­ri­ences on the trip to Bethlehem have become an essen­tial part of my personal strug­gle with the mean­ing of Israel, partic­u­larly because our group was composed of and designed for other future reli­gious lead­ers with simi­lar goals. As much as one can learn in a class­room or from a book, there is no substi­tute for meet­ing people where they are and listen­ing to their stories.”

Michael, Orthodox Rabbi and educator:

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Rachel, Conservative Rabbi:

This was a turn­ing point in my under­stand­ing. My personal expe­ri­ence was very rich — both in terms of the connec­tions with the Palestinians and with the other rabbinic students on the trip.”

Casey, Student, Yeshivat Bat Ayin:

I have not stopped process­ing and shar­ing the expe­ri­ence with my rabbis, friends in yeshiva, and family in the States since I left. I brought the expe­ri­ence full-force into my learn­ing commu­nity. I was thor­oughly chal­lenged to the point of complete exhaus­tion on all levels in the best possi­ble way. While more conscious of the suffer­ing all around me, I also feel inspired and filled with great hope, from our unity as a diverse group of Jews, to the hand­ful of Palestinians we met who are commit­ted to posi­tive work for peace and justice.”

Talia, Student at Midreshet Ein Ha-Natziv and Harvard University:

My black-and-white picture of Israel suddenly snapped into lurid color… It was very diffi­cult for me to suddenly be snapped into the world of complex ideas, of complex poli­tics, but it was profoundly neces­sary for my personal devel­op­ment… [I seek to] fight for the sort of compli­cated world­view I now more-or-less hold after Bethlehem. I can try to ensure that people like me, open people in general who remain will­fully closed on this issue because it’s just easier, don’t go through life with their heads down; that they think, and think hard, on their own about this issue.”

Charlie, Jewish Life Director, LIST College:

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Ethan, Hebrew University and University of Wisconsin:

The trip was noth­ing short of mind-blow­ing. I feel an urgency to speak out that I have never felt, and the great­est reason for that is because I am a Zionist and I love Israel. In short, I wish that most Jews world­wide and most Israelis (who are forbid­den by law from taking these trips) could go to the terri­to­ries and see what I saw.”

Eleanor, Jewish Funders Network member:

Immersion, heartache, learn­ing, better under­stand­ing, visual provo­ca­tions, mental twists, memo­rable reve­la­tions… You have created an all too neces­sary bridge to the increas­ing isola­tion and assump­tions between people. Encounter’s well-conceived and sensi­tively-crafted program to promote listen­ing and aware­ness will inform my life forever.”

Ruth, Former Associate, Nathan Cummings Foundation:

Before I went on Encounter ‘Palestinian’ was just a word. Now it is a face, a memory, a human being. Go. It is one of those rare expe­ri­ences that can truly change your life.”

Ari, Student, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and board member, Uri L’tzedek

Israel is the most impor­tant thing that has happened to the Jewish people in 2000 years. Deepening our under­stand­ing of Israel, in all its complex­ity, nuance, beauty and pain is a chiyuv for every Jew. Encounter is among the most power­ful Israel educa­tion models I’ve expe­ri­enced. Encounter trans­formed me as a future rabbi, a Jew, and a human being.”

Jay Golan, former President, Birthright Israel Foundation

I am so impressed with your strate­gic growth over this period! If there is ANYONE who can make a convinc­ing case that there’s change on the ground as a real possi­bil­ity, it’s you!”


Our Mission

Encounter is an edu­ca­tional orga­ni­za­tion dedi­cated to strength­ening the capacity of the Jewish people to be construc­tive agents of change in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Moti­vated by the relent­less Jew­ish pur­suit of hokhma (wis­dom) and binah (under­stand­ing), Encounter cul­ti­vates informed Jew­ish lead­er­ship on the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict by bring­ing...

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