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Exploring Lebanon

Exploring LebanonOver spring break, a group of students headed to Lebanon to learn more about a country that plays a pivotal role in the Middle East.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [04.09.07] Understanding the Middle East, a critical and complex region of the world, can be a challenge from thousands of miles away. Seeking greater insight, members of Tufts' New Initiative for Middle East Peace (NIMEP) traveled to Lebanon last month to immerse themselves in the political and cultural issues of that country.

"It is crucial for students of Lebanese affairs to supplement their book knowledge with what I term an 'organic understanding' that can only be gained ... on the ground," Rudy Jaafar, a Ph.D. candidate at The Fletcher School told Lebanon's Daily Star newspaper. Jafar accompanied nine undergraduate members of NIMEP on the trip.

The trip to Lebanon is just the latest fact-finding trip sponsored by NIMEP, which is coordinated by the Institute for Global Leadership (IGL) at Tufts. Past trips have taken Tufts students to Israel, the West Bank, Turkey, Egypt and Iran.

According to the Star article, which was written by Nichole Sobecki (A'07), the Tufts group met with political and religious leaders, including Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, as well as academics, students and journalists.

Jaafar told the Daily Star that visiting the Middle East is key to building American understanding of the situation in the region.

"I would venture to say serious American students cannot but travel to the region and listen to all sides if they wish to construct as accurate and objective a picture as possible of the Middle East and its predicaments," he said. "By transcending the discourse in the U.S. environment and exploring areas outside of the students' comfort zones, I believe the IGL delegation accomplished just that."

Sherman Teichman, director of the IGL, said that such a firsthand experience is particularly useful in helping students understand the recent conflict between Lebanon and Israel.

"It is essential to take students who we believe are young leaders to provide this kind of immersive education, to test their preconceptions, to challenge them, to open their minds, to gain perspective and render their own decisions," he told the Daily Star.

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