After leaving Zurich a week ago on Thursday, I traveled to Israel to meet my parents. I arrived at the airport in Tel Aviv and went directly to interview Malka, the sister of Bertha who I had met and interviewed at the Warsaw conference last summer. It’s been over a year since I found out I received the Fulbright, and a little less than a year since I started interviewing and information collecting. It’s amazing to see how far I’ve come this year, when I give myself the chance to stop and reflect on my time in Lausanne. However, I have not spent most of the time in Lausanne. I’ve traveled- Paris, London, Amsterdam, Israel, Bern, Zurich, Uster, Bex, Geneva, Bienne, all over to conduct interviews and to work in archives. I am thankful for all of the help I have received from other historians, scholars, archivists, community members, and the survivors. After a lovely interview with Malka, I traveled from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and stayed overnight with Dina and Benjamin in Katamon, a very mixed but beautiful community. On Friday morning I met my parents and Seth, and we went to the market at Machane Yehuda to get ready for Shabbat. We spent Shabbat in Jerusalem, Sunday touring Jerusalem, including the Kotel tunnel tours and a walking tour of the four quarters of Jerusalem. It was Yom Yerushalayim and there were thousands of people, including families and kids, all over the city, marching, singing etc. It was amazing to see so many scouts and kids celebrating. On Shabbat, I also went to see Sara, and sat with her for a while. I met Jules there, and he told me he was rescued into Switzerland during the war. He is Sara’s neighbor, and it was pure luck that we were visiting her at the same time! He gave me many resources and contacts, including the story of his family written/translated into French.
On Monday, my parents and I joined Gideon, our guide, for two days up north. We went along the Jordan river, visited Tsfat, the Galilee, the Golan, a Syrian bunker and the border, and the Kinneret. We stayed overnight on a kibbutz (Ginosaur) in Tiberias and ate an amazing dinner at The Decks on the water. On Tuesday, my dad visited Lageen, and my mom and I went to Rosh HaNikra and Akko. Then we went to Haifa and saw the Bahai Gardens, visited Caeseria, and returned back to Jerusalem. I met Amichai for dinner in Tel Aviv, and met my parents later back in Jerusalem. On Wednesday my parents went to the Dead Sea and Masada, and I went to Hertzlya to conduct an interview with Nadine. It was a great interview and I was very glad to meet her. I met my parents back in Jerusalem on Wednesday night.
On Thursday, I woke up early and went to Yad Vashem, where I gave my presentation to the research fellows at the International Institute for Holocaust Research. There were about 20 people in attendance. About half were the fellows, and the other half were interested in the subject- people who lived in Switzerland, or who had Swiss parents, etc. The round table was very intense, but I think I handled myself well and gave good answers. The overall outcome was positive. The main critique at this point was that I need to focus my research question/problamatique, which is something that I can definitely do! I need to find some help with it, as I’ve basically been working on my own, without a close adviser, and have been doing a lot of “information collecting” this year. I now feel ready to focus myself, look through the material I have, and move forward with a new framework and methodology before I sit down to write. (As you can see, this post is as much for me as it is for everyone else!) The feedback I received was positive, and I did manage to impress some of the toughest professors. Overall, I’m satisfied. My parents gave me a wonderful gift on the occasion of my presentation, and I am forever thankful to them for their ongoing support and love.
I am now back in Lausanne for the weekend. I am going to Strasbourg from Tues-Fri to conduct an interview and attend a conference at the Conseil de l’Europe. Then I’ll be in the archives in Bern for a week, and June 14 is my presentation at the US Embassy in Bern and at the Jewish Community in Lausanne. I also am still hoping to visit Le Chambon before I leave Europe.
I can’t believe I only have about a month left of my scholarship. It’s amazing to see how far I’ve come, and to feel humbled by the experience. Now I need to find a way to fit this research into a focused framework and work with a good adviser to help me continue. It’s no longer about the Fulbright name, it’s about the research and what I am able to do with it in the end. I will post photos on this blog soon, from my trip!
I will end with one reflection. I am lucky enough to have an American passport, and a Swiss carte de sejour for the year. However, I still have experienced some difficulties when exiting and entering the country. When coming back to Zurich from Tel Aviv, there was a man with a lot of small papers with Arabic writing on them. He had just flown in from Egypt. He was being questioned by the security guards, and they looked through his briefcase and papers at least three times while I was in line. I don’t know what ended up happening with him. I was also reminded when I left Israel that I only had 20 days left on my carte de sejour, even though I have been reassured three times by the Canton of Vaud that with an American passport it will not be a problem if I leave 15 days after my card ends. I’m still looking into this. All of these difficulties make me imagine what it must have been like for Jewish refugees during the Nazi period, fleeing their countries, with false papers or no papers at all, and how scared they must have been while traveling to get to safety. I am thankful for the freedom I have today, and pray that one day all people will experience such freedom around the world.