In economic terms, an externality is the cost or benefit that affects a party who did not choose to incur that cost or benefit. This idea was the basis of the spring study tour to Israel and Palestine. The students who organized the course and trip wanted us to explore the notion that the private sector could have a positive impact on the turmoil between Israel and Palestine.
Our group of 28 students hoped to put our school’s mission statement into practice: The mission of the MIT Sloan School of Management is to develop principled, innovative leaders who improve the world and to generate ideas that advance management practice.
Sloanies are problem solvers by nature and we set out on a mission to understand how business can bring peaceful solutions to areas of conflict. To do this, we met with companies like Cisco, who are investing in the development of Arabs in Israel. We also met entrepreneurs who are building cross-cultural businesses and providing opportunities for underrepresented people in the country. We travelled to Palestine and met students who have grown up through the conflict and have novel ideas of how to find peace. Most importantly, we approached our trip as a solution finding mission, looking for a bright and hopeful future for both Palestine and Israel. We also hoped to find a framework that could be applied to other conflicts around the globe.
Following 6 weeks of coursework, readings, and reflections, we were all excited to arrive in Tel Aviv. Here we are enjoying our first dinner of the trip - one of many delicious and (very) filling meals!
We were lucky enough to be able to visit Ramallah, which was a day filled with meeting interesting people; eating amazing Arabic food; and shopping in the market. Of course, a visit to Ramallah is bound to spark some discussions. Here are a few of us listening to each other's impressions of the day:
No trip to Israel would be complete without a tour of the Holy City of Jerusalem. We spent hours exploring the religious and cultural sites, as well as exploring the various markets.
As I reflect on my trip and everything I learned along the way, I am hopeful, challenged, and fulfilled. Hopeful that there are good people in the region trying to make lasting and positive change. Challenged to continue to strive for answers to difficult questions. Fulfilled in all that I learned and how my perspective has evolved. Two quotes I found to be meaningful as I reflect on the experience:
- “Peace is not a zero-sum game” – This was spoken by an Israeli entrepreneur we met who is creating a code academy for Arabs. The resolution should not be “Arabs won and Israelis lost” or “Israelis won and Arabs lost” – it should be about both sides winning and thriving.
- “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it” (Einstein) The current narrative is too closely to the pain of the past and should instead be focused on the promise of the future.
This course and trip were life changing for me. I encourage any future Sloanie to strongly consider a study tour - either planning one or attending one - as they will challenge you in ways you never expected!