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Home > Language, Culture, and Terrorism: PHC Students Weather Israeli-Lebanon War

Language, Culture, and Terrorism: PHC Students Weather Israeli-Lebanon War

September 8th, 2006

F O R   I M M E D I A T E   R E L E A S E

CONTACT:  David Halbrook
Patrick Henry College
(540) 338-8727



Randy Wanis, Nat Kurcab, and Chris Tuggle studied in Israel this summer
Randy Wanis, Nat Kurcab, and Chris Tuggle studied in Israel this summer. Photo courtesy of Nat Kurcab.
Italy. Spain. Israel. Russia. Costa Rica. Many PHC students spent their summers studying abroad, but in most cases the countries in which they sojourned did not happen to go to war during their stay. Senior Nathanael (Nat) Kurcab and junior Taylor Sandoval were among several PHC students who had the unique opportunity to experience language, culture, and terrorism in Israel.

Kurcab lived in Jerusalem for over seven weeks. As a foreigner, he says, “I stuck out like a sore thumb. Not a bad sore thumb. Just a sore thumb. I probably saw one other blond person all summer.”

Kurcab traveled to Israel to study Arabic and terrorism with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy (FDD) -- a nonprofit, nonpartisan research institute that provides fellowships to educate people on terrorism and terrorism prevention.

The FDD program includes classroom sessions with experts on terrorism as well as field sessions, in which students met the Prime Minister’s assistant, undercover units, and the Israeli Killer Dog Squadron. The FDD students watched fully muzzled dogs beat men to the ground at a command from their handlers, or run alongside moving vehicles in imaginary drive-by shootings to jump through the window and viciously attack the driver.

Suffice it to say, “Fido can kill,” Kurcab said.

Since he does not know the languages, he had little access to news sources. So how does someone who cannot understand either Hebrew or Arabic find out the country is at war? They don’t. If he hadn’t checked his email a few days after the war began, Kurcab wouldn’t have known of it at all. Almost nothing changed for anyone but himself.

“The school tried to tell us there was no safer place in the world than the middle of Jerusalem. Hah. Yeah, there was stress.” Stress from pressure to return to the safety of the states, stress of finding out what was happening along the Israel-Lebanon border to the north, having to interpret and process the information, and accurately pass it on to friends and family.

Kurcab said the best word to describe the Israelis is ‘resilient.’ “The Israelis are very tough. [Terrorism] doesn’t shake them. If there was fighting in Virginia Beach, we’d be like, ‘It’s only four hours away!’ In Israel, it’s four hours away. No problem.”

Taylor Sandoval studied Arabic in Israel this summer, as well. She said the effect of the war on daily life was minimal because all the necessary security precautions were already in place.

“Everyone was aware that they needed to be extra careful, but it’s just part of their culture. It’s how they live.” Besides language skills, Sandoval gained a new level of sympathy and appreciation for the Israelis’ situation.