Skip to main content

First Academic Course on the Current War Launched at TAU for International Students

The course aims to present an accurate, fact-based, and complex perspective on the conflict.

Tel Aviv University is offering the first academic course on the Israel-Hamas war that began on October 7, 2023. Targeting international students, the course was launched as early as the first semester of the current academic year to provide a nuanced and accurate perspective on the conflict, countering the distorted and simplistic portrayals often seen these days on many campuses worldwide.   Thousands of students from around the world study at TAU Lowy International School, representing North and South America, Europe, India, China, Australia, Africa, and elsewhere.  
By introducing the newly-designed course, TAU aims to raise the awareness of international students regarding the causes and impact of the war, in the hope that they will present a more nuanced and accurate picture in their respective countries.
  The interdisciplinary course, taught in English, delves into the background to the war and its immediate implications for Israel and the global community, covering various areas such as conflict management, Middle East studies, economics, international law, security studies, national resilience, trauma studies, and more.  
“The horrendous statements heard on many campuses around the world, especially in North America and Western Europe, are often a byproduct of blatant ignorance coupled with the consumption of information from dubious sources on social media,”—Prof. Milette Shamir, TAU’s VP International.
  Prof. Shamir adds: “As a countermeasure, we offer students from all over the world an opportunity to learn about the war through exposure to well-founded facts, responsible research, and complex ways of thinking. This is the appropriate response of academia to the venom propagated on campuses and in the social networks.”   Dr. Nimrod Rosler, Head of the International Program in Conflict Resolution and Mediation comments further: “The horrors we experienced on October 7 and afterwards underline the need for a deep understanding of the dynamics of violent conflicts.”  
“Such an understanding can be obtained from the academic knowledge and experience of the prominent lecturers who will teach in the course, providing participants with tools for dealing constructively with the war now and with its consequences in the future,”—Dr. Nimrod Rosler
  “Positive ways for coping with the horrors are the key to resilience and hope for a better future,” concludes Dr. Rosler.   The for-credit course consists of ten sessions, divided into two sections. The first focuses on the history of the conflict and the socio-political developments on each side leading up to the war. The second part explores the broader concept of war as applied to the current conflict.  

Narrating Truth Amidst Conflict

  The new academic course follows another initiative of the Lowy International School: a task force initiated by international students to assist Israel’s national effort to tell the war’s true and tragic story to the world. Participating students conduct dialogues on social networks with people in other places in the world, providing them with materials and information that present Israel’s narrative from the perspective of international students in Israel.   Members of the task force also conduct interviews with TAU professors on the university’s Global Connection podcast, providing an in-depth look at various aspects of the current conflict. Recent guests include TAU historian Prof. Havi Dreifuss, discussing the surge in antisemitism worldwide, and Dr. Carmel Vaisman, who shared insights on the role of social media in the present war, offering her perspective on the importance of digital platforms for the future of humanity.   The podcast guest host Ben Bright, an international master’s student at TAU, with Dr. Carmel Vaisman, a digital culture researcher and associate lecturer at TAU’s Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas   As Prof. Ronen Avraham, Head of the Lowy School’s Parasol Foundation International LL.M. Program, explains: “This task force is a moving initiative of students, and I am proud that TAU provides it with logistical backing. We have already reached 1.3 million people and have thousands of followers worldwide.”  
“The events of Oct. 7th will enter the history books, not only of Israel and the Palestinians, but also of the entire world. We will not give up our efforts to spread the truth, for the benefit of both our contemporaries and future generations,”—Prof. Ronen Avraham

About Half of Arab Israelis Believe IDF’s Response in Gaza Justified

An in-depth survey of Arab Israelis reveals.

A comprehensive study conducted by the Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University following the outbreak of the Iron Swords war reveals some important new trends among Arab Israelis. The findings indicate that about half of the Arab population (47%) feel that Israel’s response to the Hamas attack on Oct. 7th, 2023 was justified (44% do not). In addition, most Israeli Arabs (57%) believe that the Hamas militants intentionally targeted women and children in the communities near the Gaza border, while 32% do not.   The survey included 502 Israeli Arab citizens aged 18 or over who constitute a representative sample of the adult Arab population. The study was initiated by the Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation, which represents the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, and is part of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at TAU.   According to the data, about half of the respondents believe that the Hamas attack on Oct. 7th did not contribute to a solution to the Palestinian problem. The rest are evenly divided: some think that it did contribute (21%) while others feel that it had no impact (19%).   In addition, a large majority of the Arab population (85%) approve of the initiatives by Arab citizens to help the residents of Otef Aza. About half (54%) also approve of the participation of Arab Israelis in the advocacy efforts to present Israel’s position to the world. However, when asked about solidarity, 70% of the participants responded that solidarity between Arabs and Jews in Israel has weakened following the events of Oct. 7th.   The survey also asked about the participants’ political views and found that the majority (66%) are in favor of an Arab party joining the coalition following the next elections.   Dr. Arik Rudnitzky, the head of the program, notes that the study points to a major shift in the positions of Arab Israelis and greater identification with Israel. “The war between Israel and Hamas, which began almost two months ago, has generated an unprecedented change in the positions of Israel’s Arab citizens. First and foremost, many identify with the communities of Otef Aza, and with Israel’s efforts to present its positions to the world.”  
“Identification with Israel is manifested in the fact that for the first time, and in contrast to all previous surveys, civic Israeli identity plays as strong a role as national Arab identity for Arab Israelis.”
  “The war has led to a head-on clash between the Israeli and Palestinian narratives in the international media and on social media. It is also worth noting that identification with the Israeli narrative with regard to the events of Oct. 7th is higher among the younger generation of Arab Israelis. This is a dramatic finding because relative to their elders, young people are more exposed not only to the Israeli and global media, but also to social media where the Israeli narrative is at a disadvantage.”   Dr. Arik Rudnitzky (Photo: The Konrad Adenauer Foundation)   “At the same time, there is anxiety among Arab Israelis who fear harassment by Jewish Israelis because of the war. Clearly, the violent events of May 2021 resonate in the minds of many, Jews and Arabs alike, but it is important to understand that the war in October 2023 is an entirely different story from the events in May 2021. We should bear this in mind following the conclusion of the war.”  
“The country’s Arab citizens are signaling to the Jewish population and the government that they are an integral part of the State of Israel.”

TAU Volunteers Make Far-Reaching Impact

1,000 University members are helping all affected by the Iron Swords War through a multitude of exceptional initiatives.

When war broke out on October 7th, 6,000 Tel Aviv University students were drafted to reserve duty. With the school year postponed, students left back home wanted to do their part for the country however they could. To this end, 12 driven TAU students and faculty took it upon themselves to create a large number of different volunteering programs and recruited over 1,000 University members to help soldiers, survivors, children, and more.   Initiatives include helping patients at hospitals, making food for soldiers on the front lines, and bringing buses of people down to the border of Gaza to harvest fields and keep factories running at kibbutzim that were evacuated. Agriculture and industry are essential to the economies of these kibbutzim and the country, but their proximities to the fighting make them vulnerable; TAU volunteers continue to show bravery by signing up in droves.   A TAU student volunteers at a factory in southern Israel.   Read below in detail about some of the unique ways TAU is using its resources for the good of the country.   Sapir College Initiative    Sapir College in the south of Israel, like most of the communities in the area, was evacuated and its students scattered around the country. Its administration needed to check up on each of its 8,000 students, but had nowhere central to work from and not nearly enough people for the job. To lend a hand, TAU hosted Sapir’s administration on campus and 60 people volunteered to help call each and every student.   Childcare and Education Initiative     TAU’s Youth University Science Team traveled to evacuation centers to do educational science experiments with evacuated kids. (Photo: TAU)   Hundreds of thousands have been evacuated from the north and south of Israel due to the attacks and heavy rocket fire. This means children are away from school and their usual routines, making childcare particularly difficult. 64 TAU volunteers have come to help take care of children and make them feel at ease, including students from the Constantiner School of Education who are teaching for free at makeshift schools where the families are staying.  
“A lot of the kids are scared or confused. They ask a lot of questions about when they can go home and tell me all about what they experienced.”
  Says Orr Hannes, a second-year Hebrew Language BA student who is getting her teaching license through a special TAU program, “a lot of the kids are scared or confused. They ask a lot of questions about when they can go home and tell me all about what they experienced. I’m teaching kids from Ashkelon where they had tons of rockets, so they’re jumpy every time there’s a siren.” She says she is really glad she got the chance to volunteer doing something she’s passionate about and that gives her professional experience. She also says the atmosphere isn’t all bad: “the children still act like children, and most of the time they are happy to see me and talk to me.”   “Fables in a Suitcase” Theatre Initiative    TAU Theatre students perform for children evacuated from their homes after October 7th. (Photo: Belle Bochlin)   Another important way Tel Aviv University students helped ease children’s minds was through interactive theatre. The TAU Katz Faculty of the Arts and the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music joined forces to create plays of four fairy tales in only two days. Arts, theatre, and music students built and painted portable set pieces, made costumes, wrote scripts, directed the shows, played music, and coordinated performances. They performed the series entitled “Fables in a Suitcase” for survivors in hotels all over the country.  
“This project helped me see how important theatre really is.”
  Says Belle Bochlin, a third-year Community Theatre student who helped produce the plays, “it’s kind of therapeutic. We were able to give the children a bit of escapism from the war, as well as an outlet for some of their strong emotions. They cried, they laughed, they yelled at the actors; some of them were happy to see us, while others wanted the chance to express their anger.” Students worked very hard, coordinating and performing at multiple hotels a day with different groups of children.   Bochlin says the project helped her feel confident that her chosen career is a meaningful one. “I was really scared and confused because of the war, but this project helped me see how important theatre really is. Seeing how much we were able to help these children made me feel a little better, and it’s all thanks to TAU.”   Legal Clinic Initiative    At the outset of the war, much of the country shut down and left many people out of work and without some of the services they rely on. To help them stay on their feet, members of the TAU Buchmann Faculty of Law initiated a network of over 150 volunteer law students, lawyers and interns both within the TAU bubble and around the country. They set up an online form and immediately started getting requests for help with things like accessing National Insurance funds, navigating the fallout of injury, and dealing with rental contracts and housing. So far they have worked on almost 300 cases.   A legal volunteer works with a resident of Ofakim on a legal issue.   In the war-ravaged town of Ofakim, volunteers went door-to-door helping out and eventually set up a center in a shelter where residents could come ask for help even as rockets rained down. For example, tells volunteer and TAU Legal Clinic for Holocaust Survivors instructor Yael Havassy-Aharoni, “there was one woman, an Ethiopian mother who lost her oldest son in the attacks. Her younger son has Down Syndrome, and the oldest had been the one helping her and taking care of him. It wasn’t easy to care for him on her own, especially as he was in distress missing his brother. However, when special education classes came back in session, the town wasn’t providing transportation so she still couldn’t send him to school. We brought the problem to the mayor’s office and after a few days they got the buses back up and running.”   On a larger scale, the volunteers identified common issues and have been going regularly to the Knesset to try to promote policies that will mitigate these problems.   TAU Dental School Initiatives    The Goldschleger School of Dental Medicine contributed to both the war and the community in a large number of ways.   MEDICAL SUPPLIES: As a medical school, the Dental School were well-equipped to respond to the shortage of medicine and medical tools needed for the huge influx of soldiers. “At the beginning, a lot of our students were drafted. They started calling the school and saying they were missing a lot, not only dental instruments but all supplies,” says School Head Prof. Rachel Sarig. “So we started collecting what they needed and sending them to the front lines.