SWRK 749: Civil Society Addressing Conflict in Israel/Palestine

Taught partially at Penn, partially at Hebrew University’s Mt. Scopus campus, and partially on excursions in Israel, this course examines multiple facets of the Israeli/Arab conflict and explores the ways in which diverse sectors of civil society are working towards peace and coexistence. Students may choose virtually any topic for their pre-departure presentation, enabling them to customize their focus within the course to an issue related to their major or degree, as it relates to peace and conflict in the region. Students from across campus, including but not limited to the following fields of study, are invited to apply: Political Science, Religious Studies, History, Non-Profit Leadership, Education, Public Health, Urban Planning, International Relations, Social Work, Organizational Dynamics, Government, Social Policy, Environmental Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, and Law.


This course is not currently scheduled.


There is no application available at this time.

Course Description

View from Mt. Scopus Campus

SWRK 749 offers a unique opportunity to experience the challenges and complexities of coexistence in Israel, the Holy Land for Christians, Jews and Muslims; a key point of interest and dispute for the international community, and the homeland shared and claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians. The course will focus on activities carried out by nonprofit organizations operating within the Israeli civil society, dealing with issues related to co-existence and to the protection and advancement of the civil and social rights of different populations, with special emphasis on the Arab-Palestinian population in Israel. These activities include educational and social services programs, community work, and advocacy activities, aimed at creating dialogues and building co-existence among the different populations in the Israeli society and in Palestine. The course includes 2.5 days of getting to know the country and organized tours around Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley. The onsite program is a combination of lectures, guest speakers, tours, and discussion groups.

Sample Itinerary for Israel Visit

This is a sample itinerary based on previous course arrangements. Speakers and excursions for 2020 will be finalized prior to departure and may differ from previous years’ courses.

Day 1: Arrival and First Activities

Visit to Yad Vashem

Dinner at Ima Restaurant

Day 2: Getting to Know Jerusalem

Israel Museum

Machne Yehuda Market

Home visit to discuss negotiations of energy policy between Israel, Palestine, and Jordan

Dinner at Majda Restaurant

Day 3: The Jordan Valley

Masada (cable car, time to explore the site, lunch at Masada cafeteria)

Swimming in the Dead Sea

Q’Sar el Yahud

Dinner in Settlement of Tomer

Day 4: Opening Course Session

Greetings by the Dean of the School of Social Work

Speaker: Overview of Arab Society in Israel

Speaker: The Challenges of Co-Existence: Intergroup Contact Theory

Film Screening and Discussion with movie director

Discussion with Hebrew University doctoral student: Experience being an Arab woman in Israel

Tour of the Old City of Jerusalem

Day 5: Trip to Neve Shalom

Tour of Neve Shalom (“Oasis of Peace”), a bi-national community of co-existence

Geo-Political Tour of Jerusalem Hills Region by Ir-Amim

Optional Group Dinner

Day 6: The Challenge of Co-Existence: Responses from Civil Society

Speaker: Civil Society Promoting Co-Existence in Israel

Speaker: Promoting Shared Society through Equal Employment Opportunities: the case of the high-tech field in Israel

Speaker: Overview of the Conflict: Jewish and Arab Perceptions of the Conflict

Speaker: Promoting Co-Existence through Education

Working Groups/Discussion: The Challenges of Co-Existence: The criticism on civil society organizations promoting co-existence and mutual society

Day 7: Responses from Civil Society

Speaker: The power of women to wage peace

Speaker: Promoting Human Rights from the Other Side of the Political Map

Speaker: Shared Society

Working Groups/Discussion

Day 8: Responses from Civil Society (Con’t)

Workshop: Effective Peacebuilding and Training: challenges and spoilers in people-people dialogue projects

Speaker: Promoting Shared Society at the Policy Level

Speakers: Parents’ Experiences

Discussion: Final Reflections and Farewell

Assignments and Grading

Full attendance at all classroom sessions at Penn and an Israel, and on field excursions and activities (10%)

Pre-departure presentation and written summary on chosen topic (25%)

Daily Journaling (25%)

Final Paper (40%)


Any Penn graduate student may apply for this course.

Students must be open-minded and have an appreciation for different worldviews and opinions.

Students do not need to speak a foreign language in order to participate in this course.

Enrollment Requirements

In order to participate in this course, students will need to:

Have a valid passport. Most students from Western countries do not need a visa.

Submit an ID photo and information to Hebrew University as requested.

Prior to departure, students will need to submit the following to SP2:
  • Health Review Form
  • Liability Form
  • Create a MyTrips profile
  • Copy of passport

Costs & Fees


Students are charged regular course tuition from their home program for this course

Program Fee: $975

In addition to tuition, there is a program fee of $975 per student to covers the costs of guides, lecturers, transportation in Israel, tours, and approximately three meals that are part of the official course itinerary.

Additional Expenses

(not included with the program fee):

  • Airfare from the United States (or your point of trip origin) to/from Ben Gurion Airport (Tel Aviv, Israel)
  • Local Transportation: to/from the airport (there are a number of options, which range in price, including a bus, the train, a shared taxi, or a private car) and taxis to one or two group activities in the Old City (price varies depending on time of day and number of students in a cab, but usually range between $15 and $30 each way).
  • Entrance fees not included in the program fee: Students buy their own ticket to Masada (about $18 with the student discount), and pay any entrance fees associated with visiting the Dead Sea (prices vary depending on where the group decides to go, but can range from $0 to about $30).
  • Visa Application (if required for students from non-Western countries)
  • Meals/Snacks that are not part of the official course itinerary. The course includes 2-3 dinners and 1-2 lunches. The hotel offers a daily breakfast at no cost. All other meals and snacks are the responsibility of the student.
  • Hotel: the cost varies based on the number of guests per room, but is in the range of $60-$100 per night
  • Tips (voluntary): students may want (and are encouraged) to tip the van driver and/or the Old City tour guide. Tips can range from a few dollars to $20 or more, depending on students’ satisfaction with services.
  • Incidental Expenses: souvenirs, taxis to/from  personal excursions outside of class activities (e.g., nights out in the Old City) or any entrance fees for any sites students wish to visit separate from class activities.
Billing and Financial Aid

This course is part of the Spring 2020 schedule and will be billed accordingly. Financial aid is applied to the Spring 2020 term.

SP2 Student International Travel Fund

SP2 students may be eligible to receive an award from the SP2 Student International Travel Fund to offset a portion of the cost of airfare/program fee if they have financial need. Students apply for a travel award when they apply for the course, and they will be notified of their travel award amount before they need to commit to the class. Students who receive this award will have it distributed as financial aid and it is posted to the student’s financial aid account in the term in which the course is offered.


Arrival and Departure

Students fly into Ben Gurion airport and are responsible for getting to Jerusalem. There are shared taxis (“sheruts”) and buses that run between the airport and Jerusalem. Transportation options will be reviewed during the on-campus sessions.

All students need to be in Jerusalem for the start of course activities by 10:00 on Thursday, January 2. Many students choose to travel on their own before or after the course dates; in fact, arriving early is recommended to account for flight delays and provide time to recover from jet-lag. The course concludes by 16:00 on Thursday, January 9. It is recommended that students do not choose a flight departing before 20:00 on January 9.


Students stay at the Meiersdorf Guest House Hotel on Mt. Scopus. There is a choice of single or double rooms; students wishing to reduce costs by sharing a room may coordinate room arrangements with other students during the first on-campus session. The hotel includes a free, full daily breakfast, wi-fi, laundry machines, private en-suite bathrooms, and air-conditioning.


A full breakfast is included with the hotel. At least three additional meals are included as part of the itinerary. Lunches can be purchased at the Hebrew University cafeteria or at local venues close to excursions. Snacks may be purchased at the convenience store on campus, and the students usually choose to eat dinner as a group in or near the Old City on nights without class activities.

Additional Information

MSW Program

This course fulfills a general elective requirement in the MSW program. It does not count as a clinical practice elective, macro practice elective, policy option, or research option.

Global Human Rights Certificate

As of September 2018, this course is pre-approved to count towards the Global Human Rights certificate.

Questions about financial aid

Office of Financial Aid

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