Well, I wonder if it will comfort proponents of academic boycott of Israel to learn that the situation in Palestine is normal – according to someone with whom I communicated at An-Najah University in Nablus. I didn’t know what exactly he meant by “normal” so I sent a second letter asking for clarification. I had already given up on receiving a response, but then just one moment before this article was scheduled to go online, the answer to my latest query found its way into the new email account I created just for this purpose.
Here is the letter of inquiry I sent to them on 22 December 2015 under a pseudonym:
To Whom it May Concern
I am a Canadian. I am not yet a student at university but I am interested in languages and am writing to inquire about the possibility of studying Arabic at your university.
Can you please send me information about the course – times, costs, accommodations, travel instructions and, of course, information for my parents as they are worried about the safety of going to Palestine.
Thank-you very much, (pseudonym)
Here is their response, sent to me on 26 December 2015:
Thank you for considering our Arabic Program for Non-Natives.
This program consists of four levels and runs for 3 hours per day between 9:00 AM-12:30 PM, 5 days a week . . This program provides students with an interactive approach to learning as students will have the opportunity to interact with locals and practice their Arabic and learn the Palestinian culture. we have 3 semesters through the year . 2 semesters 4 months for each one . and 2 months in summer course . we teach all Arabic aspects in program .
The fees for this program for 4 months is for $1,200, but in summer it is $600. university starts from this year help students to renew there visas .
before you come we can arrange your accommodation just we help you to find it ,the fees doesn.t include accommodation. when you arrive you can register . our situation in palestine is normally don,t worry about it . (red font not in original)
usaually we start semesters as follows :
first : from 1-9 to 20-12
second : from 20-1 to 20-5
summer : from 1-6 to 1-8
For more information, kindly visit the following link: http://learnarabic.najah.edu/
My request for clarification, sent out on 4 January 2016:
Thank-you so much for your response. However you did not tell me how I get to the university? How do I enter Palestine? Is there public transportation from the border to the university or do I have to use a taxi (and how much might that cost)?
My parents don’t understand what you mean by “normal” when you write that the situation in Palestine is normal. We hear so many difficult things happening there.
Thank-you again. I look forward to hearing from you – and hopefully to being in your lovely university.
And finally, An-Najah responds on 23 January 2016:
sorry for delay responds i was very sick
when you arrive to airport you can ride a taxi to Nablus or we can send a taxi for you if you want it costs between 300-400 sheikel . when you arrive to Nablus you can call me at 0598****** or tell me when you will arrive exactly to arrange your accommodation . after your arriving you can come to the university to register . when I said ( Normal ) i meant there is nothinj inside nablus some problems happened on checkpoints . any way we live a normal liveو The media exaggerate the news and media amplifies this news . (red fond not in original)
In short – the university can arrange for visas and visa renewals for foreign students and the situation is normal there – they live normal lives and the media for some reason just exaggerates things. And I guess that what the media wants us to believe about how travel is impeded by Israelis and how academic freedom is suppressed are just vicious rumours. Who would have guessed it!
BDS supporters – you have been duped!
(After this brief exchange I actually like this man – do you think if he knew I am Israeli he would still invite me to come there to study Arabic? Maybe if I offer to edit his English correspondence so he doesn’t embarrass himself?)
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Image Credit: Image Credit: By Simz2010 (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
This article originally appeared in Israel Diaries.