​June 14, 2018


Welcome to the end of year ceremony at the Ben-Gurion Research Institute!
Honored to be standing here as a graduate representative, I would like to take this opportunity to share my experience with the Woodman-Scheller Israel Studies International Program and to pay my sincerest gratitude to our teaching committee, Ben-Gurion archives, administration and my fellows at the institute.

I still have a vivid memory when I first came here to see Paula after my skype interview with Paula and Arieh. I was late for about an hour because I got off at the kibbutz Sede Boqer, confused by “a big yellow gate,” and felt like I got lost in a different country from Tel-Aviv. With a help from a stranger, which I later learned is not uncommon – rather normative – here in Sede Boqer, I finally made it to the campus and overwhelmed by the scenery of the Negev Desert. Once I talked with Paula and looked around “the cliff,” I somehow felt right as what I wanted was history-oriented interdisciplinary studies on citizenship and immigration in the Israeli context. I was also extremely fascinated by the life in Sede Boqer: what did David Ben-Gurion see from this place and what does “make the desert bloom” entail? The Negev Desert was indeed the place to feel the aspiring dream of Jewish sovereign state and the spirit of early “pioneers.” Determined to fulfill my newly-found curiosity, I soon joined the MA program here in the Sede Boqer campus, and it is one of the best decisions I have ever made – recorded!

For the past three years, I have greatly enjoyed the almost other-worldly patience and attentiveness of my supervisor Ben, incredible support from the teaching committee and administration, the privilege to access to the one-and-only Ben-Gurion Archives, and extremely supportive communal spirit of our institute. Continuing my research further with the institute now pursuing a PhD degree, I can’t possibly be grateful enough.

Also, now looking back at my MA years, I can’t help but see from our international student body - what a selective group we are. From China, Turkey, Armenia, the States, Korea, India, Germany

and so on, we – a very small number of us – are embarking on a journey that is, a road not taken. “Taking a road less traveled by” is not always all-rosy or promising; it can be as rewarding as, for lack of a better word, lonely. “Taking a road less traveled by” can make us feel lost, and hence the cynical or witty joke goes: I took the road less taken and now, I don’t know where the heck I am! That feel is bound to come and go during the courses of our studies – because, in many ways, we too are pioneers.

Think about it – we really are, the pioneers.

We do know that all the challenges during the courses of Israel Studies eventually push us to be more in-depth and mature – not only academically but personally as well – and to make us appreciate those who accompany with us, the Ben-Gurion Research Institute for the Study of Israel and Zionism and our fellow international students. All the international students in the institute share a common goal and vision: understanding the dynamic and complex of Israeli society beyond popular narratives and media representation, and making a positive and pragmatic relation with the state of Israel. And it is a long journey and a bumpy-road indeed, to gear ourselves up with knowledge and insights and ultimately integrate ourselves into the wider world.

And this journey is fostered by our Woodman-Scheller International Israel Studies Program. Here we delve into Israeli history and learn, experience, and ponder more - under the top-notch guidance that the Ben-Gurion Research Institute offers – and we stand with pride.

Thank you all so much for making this journey possible, and congratulations to those who are graduating today!

Yuri Keum
Graduate of 2018, cum laude

The Woodman-Scheller Israel Studies International Program (WSISIP)
Ben-Gurion Research Institute for the Study of Israel and Zionism (BGRI)
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev