NMU prof returns from Israel sabbatical

Maggie Shepeard

Going to Stucko’s for their fish fry was what NMU professor Gabriel Brahm missed the most during his time in Israel. He explained that in Marquette, a great restaurant was just down the street; to him, Marquette is comfortable, but Jerusalem had a lot of experiences to offer. He then explained that just outside of his home there in Israel, he was able to walk out the door and down the very street where Jesus Christ hauled his cross. For him, the historical symbolism of that place is very much alive today.

Q: Was the reason for your trip faith-based?

A: I was invited to be a visiting professor in the School of Philosophy and Religions at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I did research on a book I’m writing about Israel and taught a seminar on contemporary anti-Semitism as it relates to campaigns to destroy Israel by terrorists and their supporters who deny Israel’s right to exist.

Q: Why Israel?

A: Most basically, the answer to that question is that I grew up in a Zionist home, raised by refugees from Hitler’s regime in Nazi Germany. I was taught to believe that all people […] have a right to national self-determination. If more had been done sooner—if Jewish sovereignty in Israel had been reestablished by, say, 1928 instead of 1948—the Holocaust might have been averted.

Q: How do you think your mind has changed due to this trip, culturally speaking?

A: Israelis love the U.S. and most speak English as well as Hebrew. As two of the world’s great multiethnic, multicultural secular democracies that guarantee religious freedom for Christians, Muslims, Bahai, as well as Jews and others, Israel and America have a great deal in common.

Historically, both have given and continue to provide shelter to refugees, as part of their basic self-definition. They are the two countries where Jews seem to do well, also. Both places are liberal, progressive, exciting and wonderful places to live for men and women of all faiths or none.

Q: How has going helped prepare you for your upcoming class load?

A: This is something I’m really excited about! I’ve been asked to prepare to offer a unique summer school class online in the second summer session. It’s a course I created while in Israel, and it’s called EN311Z: Israel.* If you ever wanted to understand anything about the “Holy Land,” then this is the class for you. It should be fun, too.

Q: What did you learn at NMU that made your trip to Israel the most beneficial?

A: After six years here, it was very clear to me that there is a wish to know more about the Middle East on this campus. I have also been impressed by the supportive curiosity about Israel in particular expressed by many of my Christian students.

At NMU, I have been reminded again and again by the citizens of this community of the importance of patriotism and traditional values. Many Israelis share those values in their own way, so I was glad to be able to tell them about Marquette when they asked me where I was from in the U.S.

*Brahm’s special course offering for the summer semester, EN311Z, will cover Israeli literature and history, popular culture and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and prospects for peace between Arabs and Jews.