When most people were relaxing with family and winding down from the Christmas holiday, Assistant Professor Andrew Dickerson embarked on a two-week journey across Israel as part of the Jewish National Fund’s 2019-20 Winter Faculty Fellowship Program.
Dickerson was the first person from UCF to participate in the program, which offers a fully paid trip to Israel for U.S. based academics from a recognized university.
He, along with 24 other program award recipients, spent two weeks traveling to Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem and Bathsheba, where they met with faculty members within their discipline. The goal was to foster community building, international exchange programs for faculty and students, and international research collaborations.
Dickerson expects to collaborate with at least one faculty member from Ben Gurion University, but the personal connections he made on the trip were just as meaningful as the academic associations.
“I learned that no matter the field of expertise, people just want to laugh and have fun,” Dickerson said. “There are other academics out there like me that don’t take life all too seriously and are at peace where they are in their careers, both on big and small stages. That’s refreshing. Life is not about how high you can climb, but the quality of the journey along the way.”
The trip wasn’t purely academic – the group also spent time sightseeing in Israel. While nearly every experience was meaningful to Dickerson, the most impactful moment was praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
“It was neat to see Jewish worshipers praying and chanting in the place they have done so for thousands of years, and in the shadow of the Dome of the Rock,” he said. “The experience represented reverence, devotion, and tolerance. I was able to put on a kippah and go to the wall to pray myself, no questions asked.”
Dickerson describes the trip as incredible, and recommends that any faculty, from any discipline, participate in it.
“It was eye-opening, refreshing, fun, and informative. You cannot believe the sights you will see, people you will meet, and the food you will eat!” Dickerson said. “I loved Israel more and more as the trip drew on, and came away with a greater understanding of its cultural amalgamation and political challenges.”