Alumni Testimonials

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.”

Ali Abu Awaad, Palestinian Peace Activist:

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

Marion, Reform Rabbi and Lay Leader:

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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!”

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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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