Over the summer, Prof. Ed Wright, Director of the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies, lead the 2014 Magellan Circle Excursion on a tour of Israel and Palestine. The Magellan Circle is a society for donors created by the University of Arizona College of Social & Behavioral Sciences to raise money that supports the Dean’s Fund for Excellence, which provides for student travel, visiting scholars, faculty research, excellence-in-teaching awards, as well as student scholarships. The Excursions are group trips to destinations guided by professors and scholars from the College.
From May 25-June 10, Prof. Wright and Dean John Paul Jones III led 16 travelers for the purpose of introducing them to Israel and Palestine in all their diversity. They visited ancient sites important to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, met with distinguished political and educational leaders who spoke to the group about the Modern Israeli/Palestinian situation. These leaders included Dr. Anwar Abu Eisheh, the Palestinian Authority Minister of Culture, as well as Dr. Khalil Shikaki, the Director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Social Research, and Dr. Asher Susser, Senior Fellow of the Moshe Dayan Center of Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University and now Prof. of Israel Studies at the UofA. The participants were given an inside look at the regional situation in the region as it is viewed by various sectors of both Palestinian and Israeli society. Roy and Rowene Medina noted, “Our Magellan Circle trip to Israel / Palestine was amazing and brought home to us the complexity of issues that the Israeli and Palestinian peoples face on a daily basis. Ed Wright’s knowledge of the history, the peoples, the religions and politics of the entire area heightened our experience. We feel fortunate that we could participate in such a great travel and educational adventure.”
Dr. Wright’s expertise in ancient history of the region, and his 10 years as trustee and 6 years as president of the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in East Jerusalem enabled the group to received first-hand experience at biblical and archaeological sites. As noted by Ken and Linda Robin, "This was one of the best trips we have ever taken, and we do a lot of travel. Ed Wright added so much information and color commentary to everything we saw and our traveling companions were the nicest group of people one could ever imagine sharing the experience with.” Dean John Paul Jones III said, “Ed Wright, Jennifer Bailey, and each of the travelers on this Magellan Circle trip made it a memorable event. From the historic Holy Lands to the contemporary geopolitical situation, last May’s trip will go down as one of the most enlightening I’ve ever taken. Ed earned the admiration of everyone.”
For Dr. Wright and the Arizona Center for Judaic Studies, the importance of the trip was to educate the group about the faiths and lives of those who live in Israel and Palestine, for the purpose of providing better informed perspectives both at the University of Arizona, as well as in the broader Tucson community. This experience was to help actualize that vision. “We want the Center to be a source of reliable information and knowledgeable perspectives on Israel, Palestine, and their neighbors.”