Conflict management.

It’s probably only appropriate that at the graduation ceremony for Bar Ilan University’s Conflict Management and Negotiation program, I witnessed my first Israeli-Arab walkout.

I studied in the program the same years as a secularish Arab girl from around Uhm Al Fahm. She’s probably around my age, with an assertive nature and a big, warn smile – the kind that involves her eyes. She participated in class, she joked with the rest of us.

It was nice to see her at the ceremony. We nodded hellos and I noticed her family was present to support her – her religious-looking parents, her secular sisters and her little nephews. With one of her nephews, hanging around where I stood in the back of the room, I played peekaboo. He’s probably a few months older than Koala and just as charming.

As it always goes at the end of an Israeli ceremony, the musicians got ready to play Hatikva, and everyone stood. The Uhm Al Fahm clan stood… and politely, inconspicuously, walked out. As my classmate walked past, I looked up at her and matched her sigh-resembling smile.

Who am I? What do I believe? A degree in conflict management taught me a lot, but living in Israel taught me, perhaps, too much. Even if I left this country tomorrow, I could never go back to who I was before I lived here. I don’t know if it’s living next to the green line. Or that it’s become normal to occasionally shop alongside Israeli-Arabs, stand on line with Israeli-Arabs. I don’t know if it’s being exposed to a class of people who look just like me, only… only…

She chose to attend Bar Ilan, an openly religiously oriented and Zionist institution. She chose to do this degree, and she chose to participate in whatever she had to get to today. But she also chose not to go too far, not to stay for the national anthem. I suppose that’s conflict management after all: peace is a sleepy dream; conflict management is making choices.

Well, my term in Bar Ilan couldn’t have ended on a more appropriate note.

Graduation.

On the day of my ‘graduation ceremony’ from Bar Ilan’s Conflict Management and Negotiation program, I must note that five years ago,when I started, I wasn’t planning to still be at the job that was supposed to pay my way through university.

Yet here I am.

So, the degree was a bit of a disappointment. Maybe the program is better now, who knows. I’m still a bit scarred from one of the professors saying to us at the end of one semester: Don’t bother making mediation your career. It should be a side job, something nice you do aside from the job that feeds you.

Look, he’s not completely wrong, but saying it to students studying the field and not doing anything to better the situation isn’t completely right.

Anyway. I’m very lucky that the job that was meant to feed me through grad school became my career. In Israel, it doesn’t usually happen this way – you come with a profession and settle for less. I came with a bullshit humanities degree and experience in activism and journalism – and learned a lot. Both in mediation and in hi tech. I’m a different person than when I got here.

I was going to blow off the חלוקת תעודות  tonight but in the end decided I have nothing to lose. A good friend will join me; actually, a good friend I made waaay back when I first started the degree and the job.

I think she’s more happy that its completed than I am.

A degree in degree-getting.

So a couple weeks ago I shared the latest Bar Ilan update that standing between me and my diploma was a ptur in English.

One moment; allow me to rephrase that…

Approximately one fortnight ago, yours truly revealed an update on the outstanding situation regarding the university of Bar Ilan, where the accomplishment of a Master’s Degree was halted due to the matter of an exemption in the English language.

After over a month of bureaucratic ridonkulousness (yes, that is English!) I managed to get through to a wonderful angel named Simone, originally from the continent of North America, who speaks – you got it – English. Helpful since everyone else I spoke to was leading me to the wrong offices or telling me they’d call back someday.

Yesterday I checked my mailbox – and lo and behold! – received myself a nice big envelope with my completed transcript and ishur that my degree has been completed. I should be getting the official diploma at a ceremony whoknowswhen, 2010. Or maybe 2017?

No  matter. It’s only taken four years. I can now register for my extra tax credit.

And start my PhD.

Staaaam.

Bar Ilan update.

Haven’t heard from the Bar Ilan front in a while, have you? Were you starting to lose hope? Did you think I gave up?

Well, honestly, there’s been nothing to update. I finished taking courses a year ago. I finished my last paper months ago.

Then why is there no degree hanging proudly on my bathroom wall?

I wondered the same thing a month ago. I started calling administrative offices to find out. What did I find out? What was the missing piece?

A ptur in English.

That’s an exemption for needing to take an advanced English course, folks. Required because, granted, most university students here are not native English speakers. And all you need, at the most basic level, as an immigrant native English speaker, is to have studied your first degree at an Anglo university. You just submit a photocopy of your university diploma, and boom, you’re done with that.

Yes, I did do this five years ago when I applied. Somebody out there must have made an ‘oops’ at some point in the 34856203864 years it’s taken to finish the degree.

So, that’s what I’m working on. Not an overdue paper. Not a thesis.

An exemption in English.

The lizrael update I've been waiting for.

Don’t know about you, but I can speak for myself, my husband, my family, some of my closer friends, and probably some coworkers and ex coworkers when I say that this is the lizrael update I’ve been wanting to share for a long, long time… In fact, I can pinpoint the time. It would be here.

But now I can finally say: I’ve handed in my very last graduate school work. It was actually a couple weeks ago, but it was too good to believe on the spot so I’ve been waiting until it sank in.

Don’t get me wrong; I have no confirmation except my own calculations and last year’s assurance from a department secretary that my student file is ready to be stamped This one’s good to go. I also want to know that my final internship project has passed. As far as I know, I’ve handed everything I can possibly hand in, taken all credits and finals, and paid (or had others pay) all monies to complete my requirements. If this is truly the happy ending, then my official graduation won’t be until the end of this academic year.

But, with a little optimism uncharacteristic of an Israeli student, I will say:

No more teachers, no more strikes.

No more Minhal Studentim hikes.

Some people have already asked me, “What are you going to do now?” And in my head I’m replying, “Think up my next academic feat,” while my mouth brings forth, “Birth a baby and perhaps raise it.”

Progress.

Here’s how you know you’ve developed as a student over years of Israeli grad school:

First semester of Israeli grad school, three long years ago, you were told to write an end-of-term paper using the proper guidelines of the university’s thesis policy. You scrambled to find it after being told it was ‘somewhere on the website.’

After hours of searching through the terribly laid-out university website, you find the downloadable pamphlet, print out all 42 pages, staple it, and then begin to panic. Obviously it’s a Hebrew document. But it’s so official. So wordy. So haughty.

You sit and struggle and manage to pick up whatever little pieces you deem most important and leave the rest behind; you’ll worry about it later when you really need it for the end-of-degree project paper.

And now, three years later, you’ve come dangerously close to the deadline of the last project you’ll have to do in this degree. You’ve got 40-60 pages to write, and somehow have to squeeze that in between work and the holidays before the back-to-school date. You’re not too bothered by it though and the time has come to start.

You dig out that old paper-writing manual and brush it off. You flip through the three-year-old pages and scan for details. Suddenly, there’s so much more to learn here. When to use quotes, when to skip lines. When to spell out terminology in English instead of transliterating in Hebrew (though, that’s not your problem).

This pamphlet of guidelines is quite pleasant at this point, like an old friend who you’ve been weary of but have now learned they like to bake cookies. The 42 pages that seemed scary before seem like just enough. You settle into your chair and begin.

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On second thought, that’s not developing as a student over years of Israeli grad school; it’s actually more like being the student you’ve always been, but developing as the speaker of a second language, making it your own through pamphlets, thick and thin.

Lizrael Update: school keeps on truckin'.

I know it’s been a while since I properly updated with the whole fancy ‘lizrael update’ subject line. And this is likely to be quick, since it concerns school.

Some days I’m soclose to finishing my remaining projects (which these days numbers three) and some days I feel like I will never finish this thing. Fortunately, today was a soclose day. I’ll be done with one paper by the end of the week, starting a new one (ahem… two years over due one) after Shavuot and then I have my big fancy internship project to work on and then write up.

Of course, there is also the official ‘course gishur’ (mediation course) to take, which I still need to sort out dates and details for.

No more classes, no more books… but a lot between me and accomplishing the degree.

The final final.

I don’t want to make promises, because you just never know over here… But I’m %99.99 sure that I just finished my last ever final at Bar Ilan University…

…And I totally rocked it. Take that, Ethical Dilemmas in Mediation!

Here’s a portrait of the calm before the final:

It’s not the end of my degree, of course. I’ve got a lot more work to do and the mediation certification course to take. But I’m enjoying this small triumph until I start writing the next paper…