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‘Message of Hope’: 11 Harvard Affiliates Visit Israel in Solidarity Trip

Harvard Medical School professor Gabriel Kreiman led a group of academics on a solidarity trip to Israel earlier this month.
Harvard Medical School professor Gabriel Kreiman led a group of academics on a solidarity trip to Israel earlier this month. By Krystal K. Phu
By Veronica H. Paulus, Crimson Staff Writer

Updated: March 28, 2024, at 12:30 a.m.

Ten Harvard professors and one undergraduate joined a delegation of academics to visit Israel on a solidarity trip earlier this month.

Harvard Medical School professor Gabriel Kreiman led 30 academics — 11 from Harvard and 19 from Stanford and Dartmouth — on a trip to Israel from March 17 through March 21.

Kreiman wrote in an emailed statement to The Crimson that at a time when the region is facing conflict, “we wanted to bring our expertise and knowledge to support, to generate new collaborations and to think of solutions for pressing problems.”

According to Kreiman, the group featured a wide range of expertise, including “faculty at Harvard, Stanford and Dartmouth at the forefront of research in areas such as computer science, economics, psychiatry and more.”

Shai-Li Ron ’24, the only student who attended the trip, wrote in a statement that she “saw this delegation as an opportunity to approach the situation with action.”

“How can we at Harvard, and professors at Stanford, Dartmouth provide help instead of recreating the conflict,” she added.

The visit comes amid lingering tensions on campus since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks on Israel. In December, Congress opened an investigation against Harvard, and six Jewish students brought a lawsuit against the University alleging administrative handling of antisemitism on campus. Late last month, two pro-Palestine student groups reposted an antisemitic cartoon on Instagram.

The trip was funded by donation from the Blavatnik Family Foundation, according to Kreiman. Leonard V. Blavatnik, a billionaire philanthropist and major Harvard donor, stopped donating to the University over its response to Oct. 7.

Discussing antisemitism on Harvard’s campus, Kreiman wrote that he is concerned “the dialogue has stalled, that facts are neglected, and that people have become quite reticent to engage in academic discussion.”

Kreiman wrote that his key takeaway from the trip “was a sense of possibility.”

“Imagine a world where Arab boys and girls, Jewish boys and girls, and US boys and girls can work synergistically to tackle climate change, cure Alzheimer’s disease, or build the next generation of AI algorithms,” he wrote.

During the visit, participants discussed numerous initiatives, including creating a center “fostering academic collaborations among the US, Israel, and Arab countries — creating a nexus of excellence in innovation and cutting-edge research,” Ron wrote.

On the trip, the group also met with academic counterparts at Tel Aviv University, Ben Gurion University, and Hebrew University, as well as visiting sites of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks on Israel.

Kreiman wrote that during one such visit, he was struck by his host’s “message of hope and optimism.”

“He pointed to Gaza, which is two kilometers away, and manifested that he wanted a future with peace, where his children could play with children in Gaza, where he could invite people from Gaza for dinner,” Kreiman added.

“I found it remarkable that despite the dark times, there continues to be a strong consensus to seek peace,” he wrote.

—Staff writer Veronica H. Paulus can be reached at veronica.paulus@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @VeronicaHPaulus.

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