By Clemens Lambermont, a student of MA program in Peace and Conflict Management, 2016-2017 Cohort.
When you tell people you’re going to study Peace and Conflict Management you probably get a frown and a follow up question of sincere interest. This quickly changes when you tell them that you are going to do that in Israel. Friends, family, colleagues, the people you’re having a casual conversation with at a party, they’re all going to give you that cynical look and utter something like: “yeah, they need that over there.” Maybe if you would’ve told me about this program a few years ago I would have replied with the same sarcasm. But when you think about it, there’s some actual logic when you look beyond the irony. I did quite a while ago, and almost four months into the program I’m really glad I came to the University of Haifa. And no I haven’t been shot (yet).
One of the main issues with Israel, or the Palestinian territories, is that we only hear about it when something awful happens. Suicide bombings, home demolitions, stabbing attacks, that’s the stuff that will make the headlines. A thing that’s often forgotten is that there are also people living here with families, jobs, a cat and their own version of The Voice. Of course this is an interesting region, and a country with a complicated history, but although my dorm has a bunker room I’m not dodging bullets when I’m on my way to the University.
However, if you’re interested in an International MA program like this, why not study in a place where you can get some field experience as well? A lot of the theory discussed in class deals with the way different groups of people interact with each other and how this could lead to conflict. Now Haifa is also different than you might expect from other cities in Israel. Haifa has a large Jewish, Arab and Druze community and there are clear differences between each group and how they perceive and interact with each other.
Unfortunately conflict, and the history of a conflict, has had a large influence on people’s lives here and you’ll notice that everything discussed in the classroom is applicable to the environment you’re now living in. For example, the fact that you’ll share classes with people from Ramallah, a guy who served in the 2014 Gaza war or a priest from Nazareth. I also got asked once how old I was quickly followed by “I thought you’d probably just left the army.”
So although I live in relatively peaceful surroundings, you know there’s also a frustratingly unresolved conflict around the corner. It’s undeniable and sadly something you’ll get confronted with a lot. But this in combination with the huge diversity of ethnicities (and generally likeable and interesting people) makes it also very worthwhile to study the International MA in Peace and Conflict Management at the University of Haifa.