On January 26th a group of students from Westmont College in Santa Barbara came to visit the City of Ariel. Westmont is a Christian liberal arts institution for higher learning. The group came to Israel for several weeks to understand current events in the Middle East and to appreciate the geographic and historical points of reference of their faith.
Unlike most of the Christian groups that the City of Ariel is accustomed to hosting, this group had spent considerable time in Arab communities under Palestinian Authority rule. It was clear that the students had a significant number of misconceptions regarding the Israeli cities and communities across Judea and Samaria. Those misconceptions dissipated over the course of their 3 ½ hour visit to Ariel.
The visit to Ariel included the Ariel Regional Center for the Performing Arts, the Lowell Milken Family Sports and Recreation complex, the Ariel National Leadership Development Center, the Netzarim community – formerly of Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip, the Ariel University Center and the Ariel and Barkan industrial parks.
After lunch at the local commercial plaza the group had a question and answer session with American Friends of Ariel Executive Director Avi Zimmerman. The questions ranged from regional interaction with Ariel’s Arab neighbors to the Biblical roots and prophecies regarding the ingathering of the exiles and the rebirth of the State of Israel. As with all groups, Westmont’s brief visit to Ariel provided the students with a fresh perspective on the strategic value and the socially progressive nature of the City of Ariel.