From Wellington to Tel Aviv

Markus McCraith, an Irwin Cotler Fellow for 2023-2024 from New Zealand, is driven by a passion for Jewish culture and history and a commitment to conflict resolution.

Born and raised in Wellington, New Zealand’s windy capital, Markus studied cultural anthropology at university and decided to pursue a master’s in conflict resolution and mediation in Israel due to his goal of promoting peace and a keen interest in the country. This fascination was born out of his experience as a research intern at the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand, where he investigated and photographed historical artifacts from that period that had been donated to the Centre. Studying at TAU and participating in the Fellowship offers Markus the opportunity to engage with Israel and its conflicts with its neighbors in a more substantive and meaningful way that goes beyond sound-bites and buzzwords to gain a deep and well-grounded understanding.

After arriving in Israel in January 2023, Markus has attempted to further his understanding of Jewish life by taking intensive Hebrew lessons and exploring some of the country’s remarkable historical sites, such as the Old City of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. Joined by his family, he also visited several Kibbutzim in northern Israel, including Kfar Blum and Sde Nehemia, and was amazed by their distinct sense of community and strong social cohesion. During his travels across the country, Markus has also appreciated the beauty of its unique natural sites, such as Mount Bental and the Jordan River. For example, he described with great enthusiasm the magical experience of floating in the salty water of the Dead Sea while reading a book at the same time.

Encounters with Jewish food and Israelis have also been central to Markus’ experience of the country. An Iraqi-Jewish dish comprising a pita stuffed with deep-fried eggplants, hard-boiled eggs, and many other ingredients known as Sabich has left a lasting impression on his palate. As for people, Markus was struck by the sharp contrast between the extreme forwardness of Israelis and the politeness of New Zealanders and believes that his travels have greatly enriched his perspective. While acknowledging the uniqueness, special charm and culture of Tel Aviv and Wellington, he notes they share an amazing coffee and café culture that he is grateful to have experienced.