Friday, July 14, 2006

A message from the Middle East

For those who don't know about the Fund for American Studies, we have a program that is based in Crete that brings people from around the Middle East to study free market economics. The institute started yesterday, and we found out that some of our Palestinian students just made it out of the airport before the bombs went off. Here is an email from our Institute coordinator:

I know how worried you must be about the Institute, so I'll try to send more regular updates. Last night was the first orientation. To be honest, I don't think I've ever been as nervous---I just didn't know how things would turn out. It was actually one of the calmest orientations I've ever had. I'm sure that things will get intense soon, but at least there is a basis of friendship now, from the beginning.
After the orientation, so many students came up to me and thanked me
(TFAS) for not cancelling the program, for continuing to push forward.
The Lebanese told me that their parents had told them that even if they wanted to stay home, they would force their children to go to IIPES because they need it now more than ever. The parents hoped that maybe they could do more good for the region here than back home.
Some of our Palestinians have arrived, including a boy from Jenin. This is his third year trying to get here and he finally made it! It was his first time on an airplane, first time out of Palestine, etc., and he is going to be a real asset to the program. He told me "peace is not easy, but it's not hard either." His attitude is incredible. Over the last three years he has never once complained when he was stuck at the border; he always said, I'll try again next year.
There is a Palestinan and an Israeli here who work for cooperating think tanks, and they have researched together, etc. online. They both said in the orientation that they're so angry that they had to come to Crete to meet each other, when they live just moments from each other.
It really does seem to be an incredible group of students. This is going to be a tough month. They're emotional, they're exhausted, and I think they're desperate for any message of hope right now. I hope we can provide even a bit of that.
At least we're here together, which is a start. I'm worried about the alumni, of course. So far, everyone is safe. Some of the message groups are very peaceful, with messages of hope for stopping the violence. Some
('04 especially) are filled with incredibly angry and even hateful messages. No one can blame them, of course. The Israelis, especially in the north, are hiding in shelters. And you know what is going on in Lebanon.
Anyway, that's where we are at this point. We have some more orientation sessions today, and we will have some tours of Chania.
Hope all is well.


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