Exchange Program in Berlin - Part 2

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Andres Knobel is a lawyer from Argentina who is very interested in international matters, from his current work in international taxation and its effects on developing countries, to broader issues of international relations (especially related to Israel) and fostering understanding among Arabs, Muslims and Jews.

I applied for a Go Professional! Micro Grant to come to Berlin as an exchange student for the summer semester, as part of the masters in Law and Economics I’m doing back in Argentina.

After settling down in Berlin, and right before the World Cup craziness started, I decided to organize one the of cultural-exchange dinners for Arabs, Muslims and Jews that I have been hosting in Argentina. I thought it would be much easier to meet Arabs and Muslims interested in joining, since Berlin is filled with people from the Middle East - I lived in a neighborhood called Neukölln where Turkish and Arabic was more spoken than German. Still, it is never that easy. Interestingly though, I met many Germans with a strong interest in the Middle East, majoring in Islamic studies and also learning Farsi (many had also traveled to Iran). The highlight of the dinner was thus an Iranian girl studying in Berlin, who answered all of the questions of a very curious audience which included one Israeli guy from Haifa. I was surprised by the questions of (non-Jewish) Germans who were quite concerned about the interest, support or even praise for Nazis within many people in the Middle East, where apparently the name Adolf is oddly common. It was great being able to discuss Holocaust denial, Ahmadinejad and what people in Iran thought of him. It was a very informative dinner!

Another interesting experience was Christopher Street Day (gay pride) in Berlin. There were “official” events the whole week, including an LGBT “Shabbat for all” at a synagogue in the neighborhood of Prenzlauerberg. It was great meeting French, Israeli, Russian, German and Italian people over Shabbat dinner there, and then going out together to a “Meschugge” party (Gay club with Israeli music), only to wake up early on Saturday morning to march on CSD with the Israeli/Jewish delegation. We all had Israeli rainbow flags and stickers to give away during the parade, but I wondered how many people would actually take them - on the contrary, we ran out of them in just a few blocks. People would approach us asking for them, and then they would gladly hold Israeli flags while watching the rest of the parade go by - it was a very happy and fun event.

The other moving experience was visiting the Berlin Jewish museum. You could spend hours in this place, which is a must-see in most tour-guides of Berlin. However, it isn’t only tourists, but especially German students of all ages who visit this museum daily. With many interesting exhibitions (especially the Exile Garden) you can learn how vastly rich (and ancient) Jewish history in Germany was. These were just a few of the reasons why I agree that “Berlin, du bist so wunderbar!”